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4/30/13

European Auto Industry: First official 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class exterior image leaked

Mercedes S class 2014
Thanks to some quick-triggered spy photographers in the right place at the right time, we've already seen our first undisguised images of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Now, BlogAutomobile from France has managed to get a hold of what appears to be the first official image showing the exterior design of the big luxury sedan. Of course, Mercedes-Benz has already released a select batch of images showing the car's interior.

The car in this image appears to be identical to the car photographed back in March right down to the color, multi-spoke wheels and even the license plate. With the extra effect added into this image, it practically confirms that it is a leaked press photo. 

Read more: First official 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class exterior image leaked

Festival of Europe - European Parliament open day

To mark the Festival of Europe, the European Parliament and other EU institutions will open their doors on Saturday 4 May 2013 in Brussels and Luxembourg. The festival continues on 19 May in Strasbourg. Discover the European quarter, how Members of the European Parliament work, debate and decide together...

In fact, 2013 has been officially named the “European Year of Citizens”. Citizens are not always aware that European citizenship gives them rights. These include the right to move and live freely in another EU member state, the right to vote and stand as a candidate in European elections, and the right to petition the European Parliament.

In Brussels: the celebrations will feature, from 10.00 to 18.00, concerts, brass bands, artistic events, fun activities, tours of the official buildings, quizzes, debates with Members of the European Parliament (also to be web-streamed) and meetings with its political groups and services.

For younger visitors, the children’s village on the European Parliament esplanade will host a series of activities, craft projects and interactive games, so that children can have fun learning about Europe.

In Strasbourg: on 19 May you are invited to attend an official opening ceremony at 09.30. Come and debate your issues with your Members of the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman in the plenary chamber and meet the political groups and directorates-general of the European Parliament and other EU institutions. There will be festive activities and shows throughout the day.

The European Year of Citizens therefore aims to inform everyone, and in particular young people, of the existence of these rights.

Read more: Festival of Europe - European Parliament open day

The Netherlands: 12 things you never knew about the Dutch royal family - by Luke Harding, Jon Henley and Leo Benedictus

Willem-Alexander the new Dutch King spent two years living in rainy Wales in the mid-1980s when he was a student at an international sixth-form college. His mum, Queen Beatrix, came to Atlantic College near Bridgend to drop her son off. Dutch TV crews were invited along to record the moment and were occasionally spotted afterwards lurking in bushes. The college, known as AC, is home to students from more than 90 countries. (There was a relatively big Dutch contingent; its slogan went: "If you're not Dutch, you're not much.")

AC has a strong idealistic ethos, with an emphasis on international understanding; most students are on scholarships. The campus boasts a Harry Potter-style medieval castle, a jousting field, and sweeping views of the Bristol Channel. Students study the International Baccalaureate. The teenage prince joined AC's student-crewed RNLI lifeboat service, which was sometimes called out for rescues; you had to sew your own wetsuit.

 He was also a pretty decent squash player. A laidback figure, Willem had a reputation as a party-lover and a bit of a Romeo. He dated several female students from Latin America and nobody was very surprised when he later married an Argentinian woman. LH

Read more: 12 things you never knew about the Dutch royal family | World news | The Guardian

Spain's economy contracts for seventh consecutive quarter

The country's gross domestic product fell by 0.5% compared with the previous quarter, according to the National Statistics Institute.

On an annual basis, Spain's economy shrank 2% in the quarter - the worst fall since the end of 2011.
Last week, Spain's government cut its forecast for 2013, saying it now expected the economy to shrink by 1.3%.

Its previous estimate had put the rate of contraction at 0.5%.
"We don't see Spain returning to growth until some time next year," said Nomura analyst Silvio Peruzzo.

Read more: BBC News - Spain's economy contracts for seventh consecutive quarter

Air Trafic Safety: Airbus plane came close to crashing into possible 'UFO' flying over Glasgow - by Rob Cooper

A passenger plane came within 300 feet of crashing into a 'UFO' flying over Glasgow, an official investigation has found.

The plane was less than 10 seconds away from hitting the object as it flew over Baillieston on the outskirts of Glasgow at 3,500ft and prepared to land.

Despite an extensive investigation, the UK Airprox Board - which investigates reports of near misses - was unable to identify the 'blue and yellow' object which passed below the Airbus 320.

The pilot said: 'We seemed to only miss it by a couple of hundred feet it went directly beneath us - wherever we were when we called it in it was within about ten seconds; couldn't tell what direction it was going but it went right underneath us.'

Asked if he thought it was a glider, the pilot replied: 'well maybe a microlight - it just looked too big for a balloon.'

But the board ruled out any such aircraft and were baffled.

Read more: Airbus pilot on moment passenger plane came close to crashing into 'UFO' flying over Glasgow | Mail Online

Bangladesh: The Terror of Capitalism - by Vijay Prashad

On Wednesday, April 24, a day after Bangladeshi authorities asked the owners to evacuate their garment factory that employed almost three thousand workers, the building collapsed. The building, Rana Plaza, located in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, produced garments for the commodity chain that stretches from the cotton fields of South Asia through Bangladesh’s machines and workers to the retail houses in the Atlantic world. Famous name brands were stitched here, as are clothes that hang on the "satanic" shelves of Wal-Mart. Rescue workers were able to save two thousand people as of this writing, with confirmation that over three hundred are dead. The numbers for the latter are fated to rise. It is well worth mentioning that the death toll in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City of 1911 was one hundred and forty six. The death toll here is already twice that. This “accident” comes five months (November 24, 2012) after the Tazreen garment factory fire that killed at least one hundred and twelve workers.

The list of “accidents” is long and painful. In April 2005, a garment factory in Savar collapsed, killing seventy-five workers. In February 2006, another factory collapsed in Dhaka, killing eighteen. In June 2010, a building collapsed in Dhaka, killing twenty-five. These are the “factories” of twenty-first century globalization – poorly built shelters for a production process geared toward long working days, third rate machines, and workers whose own lives are submitted to the imperatives of just-in-time production. Writing about the factory regime in England during the nineteenth century, Karl Marx noted, “But in its blind unrestrainable passion, its wear-wolf hunger for surplus labour, capital oversteps not only the moral, but even the merely physical maximum bounds of the working-day. It usurps the time for growth, development and healthy maintenance of the body.

It steals the time required for the consumption of fresh air and sunlight…. All that concerns it is simply and solely the maximum of labour-power that can be rendered fluent in a working-day. It attains this end by shortening the extent of the labourer’s life, as a greedy farmer snatches increased produce from the soil by reducing it of its fertility” These Bangladesh factories are a part of the landscape of globalization that is mimicked in the factories along the US-Mexico border, in Haiti, in Sri Lanka, and in other places that opened their doors to the garment industry’s savvy use of the new manufacturing and trade order of the 1990s. Subdued countries that had neither the patriotic will to fight for their citizens nor any concern for the long-term debilitation of their social order rushed to welcome garment production. 

The big garment producers no longer wanted to invest in factories – they turned to sub-contractors, offering them very narrow margins for profit and thereby forcing them to run their factories like prison-houses of labour. The sub-contracting regime allowed these firms to deny any culpability for what was done by the actual owners of these small factories, allowing them to enjoy the benefits of the cheap products without having their consciences stained with the sweat and blood of the workers. It also allowed the consumers in the Atlantic world to buy vast amount of commodities, often with debt-financed consumption, without concern for the methods of production. An occasionally outburst of liberal sentiment turned against this or that company, but there was no overall appreciation of the way the Wal-Mart type of commodity chain made normal the sorts of business practices that occasioned this or that campaign.

 Read more: The Terror of Capitalism » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

European Car Industry: Fiat First-Quarter Profit Falls on Chrysler Earnings Drop - by Tommaso Ebhardt & Mark Clothier

Fiat the Italian automaker that controls Chrysler Group LLC, said first-quarter profit fell 23 percent on costs for new Jeep model rollouts.

Trading profit, or earnings before interest, taxes and one- time items, declined to 618 million euros ($809 million) from 806 million euros a year earlier, the Turin, Italy-based company said today. That missed the 691 million-euro average of six analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer for both automakers, said today he’s leaning toward a primary listing in New York once the Italian carmaker buys the 41.5 percent Chrysler stake it doesn’t own. “It’s the most efficient capital market I can get my hands on,” Marchionne said on Chrysler’s earnings call when asked about the likelihood of a main listing in New York and a secondary listing in Milan after the combination.

Fiat stuck to a target to increase full-year profit to between 4 billion euros and 4.5 billion euros from 3.81 billion euros in 2012, even after the European auto market plunged 9.7 percent in the first quarter. The automaker expects deliveries in the region to decline 3 percent to 5 percent in 2013.

Read more: Fiat First-Quarter Profit Falls on Chrysler Earnings Drop - Bloomberg

Space tourism: Supersonic flight brings Virgin Galactic closer to space tourism -By W.J. Hennigan

Virgin Galactic Spaceship 2
With a sonic boom that resounded above the Mojave Desert, a rocket plane belonging to British billionaire Richard Branson's commercial space venture Virgin Galactic got one step closer to carrying tourists into space.

On Monday the company's SpaceShipTwo ignited its rocket motor in mid-flight for the first time and sped to Mach 1.2, faster than sound, reaching about 56,000 feet in altitude.

The test flight is the biggest milestone in Virgin Galactic's 8 1/2-year endeavor to be the world's first commercial space liner, which would make several trips a day carrying scores of paying customers into space for a brief journey.

Branson first hoped he would blast tourists into space by 2007, but the date has repeatedly slipped. Space experts wonder whether even 2014 is too ambitious. Virgin Galactic still needs to clear regulatory hurdles, particularly satisfying safety concerns with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Marco A. Caceres, space analyst for the aerospace research firm Teal Group Corp. of Fairfax, Va., said that he wouldn't be surprised if there was a delay beyond 2014, but that the key is not one single launch. He said Virgin Galactic needs to get into a routine of launching multiple times a year.

Read more: Supersonic flight brings Virgin Galactic closer to space tourism - latimes.com

4/29/13

European Aircraft Industry: China agrees $8bn Airbus plane deal

A350 Airbus
China has agreed to buy 60 planes from European firm Airbus, in a deal worth $8bn (US $10.47b) at list prices.

It is the first such deal since the European Union suspended the inclusion of foreign airlines in its controversial Emissions Trading Scheme.

China had voiced its opposition to the scheme, which charges airlines for the carbon they emit.
Last year, Airbus had alleged that China blocked firms from purchasing its planes amid the row over the scheme.

The deal was signed as part of a series of agreements during French President Francois Hollande's two-day visit to China.

It includes an order for 42 Airbus A320 aircraft and 18 A330 planes.


Read more: BBC News - China agrees $8bn Airbus plane deal

China, EU 'to renew ties' - by Fu Jing

China and the European Union on Saturday pledged to promote their mid- and long-term cooperation plan, address disputes and strengthen coordination over international affairs, as the first top-ranking EU official visited China under its new leadership.

China values relations with the EU, and will continue supporting the integration of the 27-member bloc, and deepen the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership, Foreign Minister Wang Yi told visiting EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

"You are the very first head of an EU institution to visit China after the inauguration of the new government in China," said Wang, adding the visit's timing was symbolic of the importance "placed by both the EU and you yourself on the Chinese-EU relationship".

Ashton, who is also a vice-president of the European Commission, said the European side would like to expand cooperation with China in the field of green economics and global security.

Before departing Brussels, Ashton had said in a statement that given China's recent change in leadership, it was time "to renew ties".

Read more: China, EU 'to renew ties' |Politics |chinadaily.com.cn

Syria: Veteran Italian war correspondent missing in Syria

An Italian journalist has been missing in Syria for 20 days, his newspaper La Stampa says.

Domenico Quirico, 62, an experienced war reporter, entered Syria from Lebanon on 6 April saying he would be out of touch for a week.

La Stampa says there was sporadic phone contact until 9 April since when nothing has been heard.

The conflict in Syria has made it one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work in.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Syria was the most deadly country for reporters in 2012.

Read more: BBC News - Veteran Italian war correspondent missing in Syria

Netherlands counts down to royal handover

Willem-Alexander and his future queen Maxima,
Today is officially Queen's Day in the Netherlands, and this year's party will be about celebrating the arrival of the nation's new 46-year-old King and the abdication of his 75-year-old mother, who is retiring after 33 years in the job.

On Monday, Willem-Alexander, his future queen Maxima, and their three young daughters arrived to cheers from onlookers and press at Amsterdam's Nieuwe Kerk for a final dress rehearsal.

The 600-year-old church will be the scene of Willem-Alexander's investiture, which will become official once his mother signs her abdication at 11am local time (5:00am EST).

Following this, the new King, his wife and the former queen, who will become a princess once again, will appear on the palace balcony to wave and address the crowds in Dam Square.

They will then head from the palace to the 600-year-old Nieuwe Kerk, or New Church, next door where the King will swear an oath to uphold the Dutch constitution before lawmakers.

Today's ceremonies will be attended by those waiting in line for thrones around the world, including Britain's Prince Charles, Spain's Prince Felipe and Japan's Prince Naruhito and his wife Crown Princess Masako, who is on her first trip abroad in nearly seven years.

Nearly 1 million people are expected to join the street party with dancing, bands and DJs helping create a carnival atmosphere.

Read more: Netherlands counts down to royal handover - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

In Europe, widening doubt over austerity hits politicians hard - by Edward Cody

With economic growth stuck near zero and unemployment rising, Europeans are becoming increasingly impatient with the budget discipline imposed as part of the European Union’s showcase anti-crisis pact.

In France, the doubts have spread to President Francois Hollande’s own Socialist Party and government, with officials suggesting the debt-ridden continent needs to stimulate growth at all costs — even more debt — if it is to climb out of the economic and financial crisis that began unfurling in 2008.

But conservatives, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the lead, have objected that abandoning the efforts to pare back deficits could lead to a renewal of pressure on the euro, the European Union’s common currency, and revive the sense of impending disaster that gripped the continent two years ago. Interest rates have stayed low for the last six months, they warn, but that could change again fast, with uncontrollable consequences for heavily indebted governments.

\Read more: In Europe, widening doubt over austerity hits politicians hard - The Washington Post

Iceland: Crisis-battered Iceland seen halting EU talks

The European Union's economic woes most likely helped Iceland's eurosceptic centre-right opposition oust the leftist government as voters in the crisis-battered nation failed to see the value in joining the bloc.

The Icelandic electorate on Saturday shunned the Social Democratic Alliance Party, which submitted an EU membership application in 2009 and campaigned on the issue, claiming it would tame the North Atlantic country's persistently high inflation.

The election's winning duo -- the conservative Independence Party and the centrist-agrarian Progressive Party -- have long wanted to end the bid.

Although Icelanders are still feeling the aftershocks of the 2008 financial crisis in the form of sliding living standards and ballooning mortgages, the benefits that come from losing some of their sovereignty to Brussels are hard to see for many.

The country already has a free trade agreement with the EU, and is part of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Europe's visa-free Schengen zone.

Moreover, the Icelandic economy has largely recovered from the banking system's spectacular collapse, while Europe has continued to grapple with its debt woes.

The Independence Party, with 19 seats in the 63-seat parliament after garnering 26.7 percent of the vote, has pledged to hold a referendum on whether to continue accession talks with Brussels.

Read more: Crisis-battered Iceland seen halting EU talks - FRANCE 24

Russia cracks down on U.S.- linked NGOs : by Kathy Lally

Two months ago, a civic-minded history professor in the picturesque city of Kostroma invited a U.S. diplomat to take part in a roundtable about Russian-American relations. The event was open, the conversation spirited — and Monday the professor’s organization goes to court, accused of being a foreign agent.

The Kostroma Center for the Support of Public Initiatives has run afoul of a new law requiring organizations that receive funds from abroad and engage in political activity to register as foreign agents.

The center’s chairman, and civic activists across Russia, says his group is neither political nor in the pay of foreign governments.

The law, they say, is being used to silence advocacy groups and frighten supporters, and it reminds some of the Cold War era, especially since many of the targets have U.S. connections.

Note EU-Digest: Most US states require individuals and organizations (NGO's) to register before soliciting contributions there. nternational organizations might qualify for more funding opportunities if they work with fiscal sponsors or start their own 501(c)(3) charities. This is especially true if they want to solicit tax-deductible charitable contributions from individual donors, who cannot claim this benefit if they donate to most foreign organizations. However, these new charities should be formed to support a mission and not act only as a conduit to send funds abroad.

 Read more: Russia cracks down on U.S.-linked NGOs - The Washington Post

Euro zone lending conditions deteriorate again

Lending conditions in the euro zone deteriorated in March and the economic gap separating Germany from the bloc's problem debtors widened, data released by the European Central Bank showed today. 

Lending to euro zone companies levelled off month-on-month in March after rising €4 billionin February, data showed, while companies borrowed 1.3 percent less than a year ago, the ECB said.

Speculation is rising that the ECB will cut interest rates next week on evidence that an economic recovery is faltering and as government austerity efforts meet mounting opposition.

Read more: Euro zone lending conditions deteriorate again - European Economic News | EU Budgets, Trends & Spending | Irish Tim - Fri, Apr 26, 2013

4/28/13

ICELAND: Center Right Wins Elections

After some 4 years out of power Center Right looks to be back in control of government. Votes are still being counted but the numbers favor the Center Right.

Read more: Iceland center-right takes commanding lead in elections http://www.dw.de/iceland-center-right-takes-commanding-lead-in-elections/a-16776893?maca=en-rss-en-all-1573-rdf

ITALY: Berlusconi still popular in Italy, even while asleep

Berlusconi might have lost the election or be in and out of court - he still knows how to capture an audience - even while asleep.

Read more:World Photo Caption Contest: Silvio Berlusconi Falls Asleep http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/25/world-photo-caption-contest-silvio-berlusconi-falls-asleep_n_3157495.html

Hamas teaches Palestinian schoolboys how to fire Kalashnikovsn - by Phoebe Greenwood

The scheme has been criticised by Palestinian human rights groups, who point out that Hamas has previously banned sport from the school curriculum on the grounds that there is not enough time for it.

Hamas authorities introduced the 'Futuwwa', or youth programme into the state curriculum last September for 37,000 Palestinian boys aged between 15 and 17, conceiving it as a scheme intended to initiate a new generation of Palestinian men in the struggle against Israel.
Izzadine Mohamed, 17, was among the students who attended the weekly school classes, which covered first aid, basic fire fighting skills and how to fire a Kalashnikov rifle. He wasa also one of 5,000 boys across Gaza who also signed up for an optional two-week camp held at a Hamas military base.
"I was excited to learn the right way to use a weapon," said Mr Mohamed. "It's important because of the occupation. I feel stronger and more confident with the knowledge, which I could use against the occupier."

Read more: Hamas teaches Palestinian schoolboys how to fire Kalashnikovs - Telegraph

Europe's royals feel the pinch - "the party is over" - by Charlotte McDonald-Gibson

He may be a member of one of Europe's more popular royal families, but Crown Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands has not had the easiest few weeks. First there was a movement to cut his salary to the level of a bank manager's. Then his future subjects rebelled against the jarring song released to celebrate his accession to the throne.


But as he takes over from his mother, Queen Beatrix, on Tuesday in all the pomp and pageantry of a coronation, he can find comfort in the fact that matters are far worse elsewhere in Europe.

King Juan Carlos of Spain's daughter may have to appear before a magistrate next month to answer questions about her husband's tax dealings. The Swedish king's alleged penchant for nude dancers has sent his support plummeting to less than 50 per cent. Belgium's dowager queen has had her allowance slashed after plans to squirrel her inheritance away tax-free provoked uproar.

As unemployment soars across the continent and the recession forces households to tighten their belts, royal displays of opulence are simply no longer acceptable. Many Europeans back the abdication of ageing monarchs – whether they be alleged philanderers, spendthrifts, or simply out-of-touch – and are demanding increased scrutiny of exactly where the royal millions go.

Read more: Europe's royals feel the pinch - Europe - World - The Independent

4/27/13

Soccer: Madrid and Barcelona can they still turn the tide?

Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona suffered crushing semi-final losses but, as both know from experience, even two or three-goal first leg defeats can be turned around.

It appears to be mission impossible for FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF next week as they seek to overturn semi-final first-leg defeats of 4-0 and 4-1 respectively. Only five teams have overcome a first-leg deficit of two or more in the UEFA Champions League as UEFA.com discovers – though Barcelona have some previous.

Read more: Great UEFA Champions League comebacks - UEFA Champions League - News - UEFA.com

Italy PM-designate Enrico Letta agrees new government

A deal on the formation of a new government has been reached in Italy, two months after the general election was held.

The agreement was announced after Prime Minister-designate Enrico Letta met President Giorgio Napolitano.

Mr Letta, deputy leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), was asked on Wednesday to forge a coalition.

It includes former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party (PDL).
Mr Berlusconi says he will not be a minister, but had pushed for leading figures from his party to be given top posts.

Angelino Alfano, the PDL's secretary, will become deputy prime minister and interior minister in the new government.

Among the other key appointments proposed, Bank of Italy director general Fabrizio Saccomanni will head the powerful economy ministry and former European Commissioner Emma Bonino will become foreign minister.

Read more: BBC News - Italy PM-designate Enrico Letta agrees new government

4/26/13

Your Europe - Information for Citizens And Potential Immigrants

An important site for you, the European citizen and for your family, to know your rights and to find practical tips to help you move around the EU.

If you are a non-EU national and want to move to the EU, you can find information on the conditions to migrate to an EU country.

For general questions about the EU, you can contact Europe Direct

Read more: Your Europe - Citizens - EUROPA

Turkey: Turkish PM vows harsh action against alcohol - by Sevim Songün Demirezen

 Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed today to introduce new measures in the fight against the consumption of alcoholic beverages including price increases. However, he also said this should not be considered an “obstacle” to particular lifestyles or secularism.

“If the prices are increasing, excuse us, but we have to. In the ÖTVs [the Special Consumption Tax], this [taxation on alcoholic beverages] is our most important source of income, as we don’t have any oil wells. That’s why we are working on this,” Erdoğan said, speaking at the Global Alcohol Policy Symposium held in Istanbul on April 26.

He also revealed that the government was working on increasing the penalties for those who cause death by drink driving, increasing the prices of alcoholic beverages, introducing warning signs on alcoholic beverages, and limiting alcohol advertising.

“We are working on measures to limit the advertisement of alcoholic beverages in newspapers. It will soon be accomplished,” said Erdoğan, adding that such advertisements were “misleading for the youth.” He said the 58th article of the Constitution ordered such measures to be taken, saying that the state must take the necessary measures to protect youth from alcoholism, speaking at the Haliç Congress Center.

The prime minister said the government was working on a study to implement warning signs on alcoholic beverages similar to those already implemented on tobacco products in Turkey.

Read more: POLITICS - Turkish PM vows harsh action against alcohol

Russia detains 140 suspected Islamic extremists

AP reports Russian police and security agents have detained 140 people at a mosque in Moscow on suspicion of involvement with Islamic extremism.

A statement from the Federal Security Agency reported by Russian news agencies said among those detained in the Friday action were 30 citizens of unspecified foreign countries.

The detentions come a week after the two suspects in the fatal Boston Marathon bombing were identified as originating from the Russian region of Chechnya and sympathizing with Islamic extremists.

Read more: Russia detains 140 suspected Islamic extremists

Aircraft Industry: FAA order formally lifts Boeing 787 Dreamliner grounding

Federal regulators are telling airlines they can fly Boeing's 787 Dreamliners again as soon as they replace its problematic lithium-ion batteries with a revamped battery system.

A Federal Aviation Administration safety order posted online Thursday applies to all U.S. airlines, but only one airline - United - currently has 787s in their fleet. They have six. The FAA estimated the repair costs for those planes at $2.8 million.

The planes have been grounded since mid-January, following a battery fire on a 787 parked at Boston's Logan International Airport, and a smoking battery that led to an emergency landing by another 787 in Japan.

There are 50 of the planes in service worldwide, but Boeing has purchase orders 840 more planes. Newly delivered will come with the revamped system.

Read more: FAA order formally lifts Boeing 787 Dreamliner grounding

EU Economy: Europe's Bonds Rally While Economies Continue to Slide - by Charles Forelle

The bond markets and the economies of Europe's struggling countries tell two very different stories this year: One is rallying; the other, sinking.

In July 2012, Italian 10-year bonds yielded more than 6%; this week they fell below 4%. Falling yields mean rising prices. The Italian economy, meanwhile, has been ugly. Gross domestic product in the fourth quarter of 2012 slid 2.8% from the same period in 2011, the sharpest quarterly fall since 2009. Italian unemployment was 11.6% in February, up from 10.6% in July. The tale is similar in Spain.

The bond-market rally has broad implications for the euro zone. At a basic level, access to financing is the measure of the crisis. Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus ultimately needed bailouts because they couldn't persuade investors to lend them money. Spain and Italy can avoid similar fates so long as investors are buying bonds.

Right now, demand seems robust: Wednesday, Italy sold €2.5 billion ($3.25 billion) of two-year zero-coupon bonds at the lowest yield it has received for the instrument since the introduction of the euro. Such bonds are sold at below face value and repaid in full upon maturity.

Read more: Europe's Bonds Rally While Economies Continue to Slide - WSJ.com

4/25/13

Dutch royal family most expensive in Europe to local taxpayers

Queen Elizabeth II's cost to the taxpayer has fallen as result of austerity measures which have been deeper and faster than reductions to the Dutch monarchy's annual bill at a time when belt-tightening is affecting all of Europe's royal families.

Prof Matthijs's research found that the cost of British monarchy, praised as one of the most open about its finances, had been reduced by 16 per cent, falling from euro 42.12 million to eurom over the last year.

The euro 36.42 million Dutch bill for Queen Beatrix and her children, including euro 16.62m in personal allowances, is four times the cost of keeping the Spanish royal family, a country that is at heart of the eurozone's debt crisis.

Moreover, the burden to taxpayers of the Dutch royal family, Europe's most expensive, is proportionately heavier because the population of the Netherlands is almost a third of the size of Spain's and a mere quarter of Britain's.

Even though some Royalist might say that having a President would be more expensive than a King or Queen, the difference is that we usually can elect a President and also vote him or her out of office, while those who have a King or Queen are stuck with them, if they like it or not.

EU-Digest

Military Industry: China and Russia catch up with USA in rearms race

World spending on defense for the first time in 15 years fell by $1.75 trillion in 2012, which marked a 0.5-percent reduction in comparison with 2011, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The share of the U.S. has fallen below the level of 40 percent for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia and China entered the top three of the countries that increased their military spending. 

The research of the institute is based on public expenditure on the maintenance of armed forces, namely, military exercises, salary or remuneration for troops, as well as other employee benefits, operating costs, procurement of weapons and equipment, military construction, research and development works, administrative costs, etc. The total military spending of the world in 2012 in comparable prices made up 1.753 trillion dollars, which was 2.5 per cent of global GDP.

The Institute has also published the list of 15 countries with largest military budgets. The first place still belongs to the United States with its 682 billion dollars, accounting for 4.4 percent of GDP. The second place is taken by China with $166 billion (2 percent of GDP), and the third place - by the Russian Federation with $90.7 billion (4.4 per cent). The statistics on the U.S. is official. Then comes the United Kingdom - $60.8 (2.5) and Japan - $59.3 (1.0). The top five accounts for 60 percent of world military spending - 1.06 trillion dollars.

Fifteen heavyweights close the list (in billions of dollars): France (58.9), Saudi Arabia (56.7), India (46.1), Germany (45.8), Italy (34.0), Brazil (33.1), South Korea (31.7), Australia (26.2), Canada (22.5) and Turkey (18.2). Fifteen countries provide 82 percent of global military spending (1.43 trillion dollars). The United States continues to take the lead in military spending in absolute terms. The country spends more on defense than the following ten countries combined. Although in 2012, the U.S. military budget has decreased by 6 percent, the new index marked a 69 percent increase vs. the indexes of 2001 - the year that became the beginning of the "global war on terrorism," SIPRI experts wrote.

Read more: China and Russia catch up with USA in rearms race - English pravda.ru

France: Record levels of unemployment in France

The French jobless total has hit an all-time high with 3.22 million people seeking work. Following a wave of industrial lay-offs, the figure is the highest since 1997.

The number of days spent out of work has also beaten records at 485 days on average.

The news puts the government’s pledge to reduce unemployment by 2013 in question.

Though not as dire as neighbouring Spain, the number of jobless has contributed to an all-time low in President François Hollande’s popularity.

Read more: Record levels of unemployment in France | euronews, world news

Tourism: European Austerity Measures - Europeans cutting back on clothes, technology but not on traveling

The crisis has not stopped wanderlust European tourists. This is apparent from the results of online travel agency eDreams' latest study, "Travelling in times of crisis: Travel trends in Europe in the current economic situation".

The study was launched to find out how travel habits have changed over the past four years. Results show buying in advance, taking advantage of offers and discounts, and saving on restaurants and shopping at the destination are the most common ways tourists cut back to avoid giving up their holidays.

The study carried out by eDreams reinforces the data in reports representative of the tourism industry: Europeans like to travel. During 2012 alone, eDreams clients travelled in total more than 17,000 hours in which they came to go around the Earth’s circumference more than 400,000 times and more than 40,000 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon. Co-founder and Marketing Director of eDreams,

Mauricio Prieto, states that "the online channel has democratized the travel industry, and is responsible for the phenomena we see in this study: it offers more freedom when searching for destinations and allows more transparent buying without intermediaries, advantages that have caused 50% of trips to be booked online."

The World Tourism Organization also highlights the online tourism boom, a trend that, according to Travel Weekly, has caused the sale of airline tickets and dynamic packages (flight + hotel packages) to increase significantly over the last five years.

The eDreams study included more than 2,500 participants from Spain, Italy, France, Portugal, the UK, and Germany that have acknowledged that their spending habits have changed since the start of the crisis. These changes are noticed even before the holidays: most said they prefer to spend less on clothes (25%) and technological devices (21%) throughout the year to be able to travel.

EU-Digest

US Port Infrastructure outdated: ranks 32nd in the world as to infrastructural investments

Port Of Miami Container Terminal
There were lots of critical sounds coming out of the  Port and Intermodal Finance and Investment Summit meeting last week at the Hyatt Regency in Miami attended by some 50 port directors,  consultants, bankers, and representatives from maritime-related corporations.

“ The US ranks 32nd in the world in our infrastructure investments — just  behind Greece. It is an embarrassment.’’ said John Vickerman, president  of Vickerman and Associates, a Virginia-based firm that provides port  master planning and design.

The American Society of Civil  Engineers recently gave America’s infrastructure — its ports, airports,  transit and rail systems, bridges, and roads — a grade of D+. Ports  earned a C, or mediocre.

Meanwhile, Asia, Europe and the Middle East have been investing heavily in huge ports with the latest automated technology.

Vickerman  said the 10 bussiest ports in the world are all in Europe and Asia and when you put Shanghai and  Singapore together they are larger than all the ports in North America combined.

The three ports in the world as regards to the largest tonnage handled per year are: 1) Shanghai, 2) Singapore 3) Rotterdam.

Among the top 15 container ports eleven are in Asia, three in Europe and one in the Middle East.

EU-Digest

European Space Adency: ATV-4 scheduled for June liftoff

ESA ATV enroute to Intl. Space Station
ESA's space freighter ATV Albert Einstein will be the heaviest spacecraft ever launched into space by an Ariane rocket when it lifts off to the International Space Station on 5 June.

Albert Einstein is the fourth in the five-vessel Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV)-series of space cargo freighters and is undergoing final integration and cargo loading at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou French Guiana.

It will launch on board an Ariane 5 ES launcher, delivering over 2500 kg of dry cargo to the International Space Station. It will also haul fuel, water, and oxygen to space, as well as carrying its own fuel to reboost the Station's orbit.

The total mass of ATV Albert Einstein with all its cargo is 20 235 kg, making this spacecraft the heaviest ever lofted into orbit by an Ariane rocket, beating the previous Ariane launch record by over 500 kg set last year by its predecessor ATV Edoardo Amaldi

Read more: ATV-4 scheduled for June liftoff

4/24/13

European Airctraft Industry: British Airways order won by Airbus

Airbus A350
International Airlines Group – the parent company of British Airways and Iberia – has unveiled firm orders for 18 Airbus A350 long-haul jets for BA, with options for 18 more.

It also said it was talking with both Airbus and Boeing about buying more planes for the Spanish side of the business. Firm orders would only follow when Iberia is in a position to grow profitably after restructuring, IAG said.

One industry watcher called it a blow for Boeing in the lucrative “mini-jumbo” plane market, which is almost entirely dominated by the US manufacturer’s wide-bodied 777.

That comment came from Adam Pilarski, senior vice president at aviation consultants Avitas and former chief economist at Douglas Aircraft, which is now part of Boeing.

Read more: British Airways order won by Airbus | euronews, corporate

Environment - USA: Another bad year for Florida’s fragile environment - by Paula Dockery

It’s always been a lonely fight as a Republican in the Florida Legislature when it comes to environmental policy. Only a few Republicans see the value in preserving our natural resources and ensuring a clean and adequate water supply.

It’s hard to fathom, as Florida's economy is dependent on these resources for our top three economic drivers: tourism, agriculture and development.

In survey after survey of potential businesses looking to relocate, the decision makers indicate that quality of life in the courting state is one of the major considerations. Most manufacturing endeavors require considerable water resources, including electric generation. Families looking to relocate expect clean water to flow when they turn on the spigots.

It seems foolish to allow pollution of our vital resources. This will be very costly to clean up — not to mention the resulting invasive plant proliferation that taxpayers will have to fund to eradicate. This seems to fly in the face of fiscal responsibility, which is a cornerstone of conservative ideology.

The concept of local government decisions being closer to the people and addressing local needs over a statewide, one-size fits all statute was once a principle embraced by my fellow Republicans.

What’s dangerous about these and other bills is the legislators’ mindset that anything we can do short-term to aid development and address concerns raised by the special interests (ever-present during the legislative session) should supersede any potential long-term damage to our natural resources and quality of life.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/23/3360624/another-bad-year-for-floridas.html#storylink=cpy


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/23/3360624/another-bad-year-for-floridas.html#storylink=cpy
Read more: Another bad year for Florida’s fragile environment - Other Views - MiamiHerald.com

Russia: Populist Zhirinovsky urges media to stop talking about killers - irresponsible press spreading mass murder

Populist Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the nationalist LDPR party, called on the media on Tuesday to stop covering mass killings in order to avoid sparking copycat incidents.

Zhirinovsky's appeal comes a day after an armed man in the southwest city of Belgorod shot at least six people dead. The killer has since gone on the run, and the incident has been headline news in the Russian media.

“I’ve always said: close this information. You are spreading mass murder,” Zhirinovsky told reporters on Tuesday.

“They [criminals] see that the whole world is in a fuss, and they want to be part of this process,” said Zhirinovsky, who has a history of making controversial remarks.

He cited last week's bombings at the Boston Marathon which left three people dead and almost 200 injured.
“We will never stop such crimes, because there is an unhealthy vanity to die in a way that would make everyone talk about you for a week, two or three,” he said.

Note EU-Digest: Bravo Mr. Zhirinovsky. You are absolutely right. Unfortunately the often very irresponsible "corporate media" is totally obsessed in making money and hardly or ever in good solid reporting. They are mainly responsible for all the copycat "terrorist" killings and mass hysteria.  

Read more: Populist Zhirinovsky urges media to stop talking about killers | RUSSIA | The Moscow News

The Netherlands: Government cuts will hit national security, minister confirms

Cuts the government is planning to make on spending on the security services will affect national security, home affairs minister Ronald Plasterk said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the presentation of the AIVD's annual report, Plasterk said he had round ways to cut €25m from the department's budget. But it will be tricky to find a further €50m, the minister told reporters.

Asked if this would have a negative effect on national security, Plasterk said: 'You cannot remove a third of the budget without affecting security. It remains to be seen by how much, but that is what we have to study carefully.'

It could mean that the monitoring of left and right-wing radical groups in the Netherlands is stopped and that spending on IT, legal services and building security is reduced.

Note EU-Digest: quite simple your excellency Mr. Plasterksaid a member of the opposition - " cancel the purchases of the F35 and get completely out of Afghanistan". 

Read more: DutchNews.nl - Government cuts will hit national security, minister confirms

Portugal to lower taxes in effort to revive flagging economy

Portugal's government plans to lower company tax rates "significantly" as part of a wider plan of incentives to drag the economy out of its worst recession since the 1970s, economy minister Alvaro Santos Pereira said.

He also promised to step up the financing of the economy by state-owned bank CGD that will provide €1 billion euros this year and €2.5 billion in 2014, and later to create a development bank to boost such funding further, especially for exports-oriented small and medium-sized companies.
\
"We want more investment and the main instrument here is the reform of the company tax that we intend to carry out via a significant decrease in tax rates to make investment more attractive," Mr Santos Pereira told a briefing.

Read more: Portugal to lower taxes in effort to revive flagging economy - European Economic News | EU Budgets, Trends & Spending | Irish Tim - Wed, Apr 24, 2013

4/23/13

The Netherlands: the place to be for foreign investors - but how long can this still last ?


the Netherlands-  "Still waters run deep"
The United States is the largest foreign investor in the Netherlands – ahead of the UK and Luxembourg – and  the Netherlands is the third largest foreign investor in the United States, after the UK and Japan.

The Netherlands is also a major and active center for international headquarters and holding companies.  At the same time there is a growing number of important and large Dutch corporations that have a global reach.

Dutch business culture can claim a long global trading tradition. Hundreds of years ago the Dutch were an impressive colonial power, especially in terms of trade and the Dutch were the first Europeans to develop formal trade with Japan, in 1609.

Today the Netherlands continues to boast an open economy with a very competitive tax system for international business. Add to that its strategic location – the Netherlands can truly call itself the gateway to Europe – in addition it has a focused Government policy to attract foreign investments.

Another incentive for business is a system of tax rulings that allows companies to map out long-term tax plans. The Dutch Revenue Service has a team that is specifically mandated to accommodate foreign investors and to issue tax rulings. These tax rulings cover all relevant taxes in the Netherlands.

In general the Dutch Revenue Service is very accessible, and rulings can usually be obtained in a relatively short period, even within weeks when necessary.  For instance, investors who decide to establish operations in the Netherlands can get certainty on the transfer pricing, the availability of certain tax breaks and the exemptions for foreign source income very quickly.

But for how long can this dream still last?  As Europe, the US, and other countries continue to face sluggish economies in the midst of extraordianarily high corporate profits, substantial accumulation of new wealth in the hands of even fewer people, and inordinate influence of corporatist approaches on democratic governance, a public backlash is growing and legislatures are beginning to notice.

Unfortunately many of the Dutch companies created by Multi-National Enterprises (MNEs) like Yahoo, Google, Merck, and Dell are so-called "sham companies" that “only exist on paper”.  In 2010 around $10.2 trillion dollars went through 14,300 of those sham companies.  The well know Merck pharmaceutical company has 54 subsidiaries in the Netherlands and routed more than 7 billion euros in royalties between 2002 and 2010 through an Amsterdam subsidiary that has no employees.

Indeed, the Netherlands, in the heart of a continent better known for social welfare than corporate welfare, has emerged as one of the most important tax havens for multinational companies.

This can not go on forever. The Dutch Labour Party (PVDA) and the  People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), which are in power now have said they are “fed up with these so-called PO Box companies". Reality is that so far they have done very little to "rock the boat".  The "groundswell", however, from a variety of sources in the Netherlands and around the EU  in calling for action is growing.

They are accusing the Dutch Government for on one hand imposing harsh austerity measures on the local population, while on the other hand providing multinationals with "legal loopholes" to avoid taxes.

How long this can still last is anyone's guess. 

EU-Digest

Cybersecurity: EU Parliament votes to strengthen EU cybersecurity - by Clare Murphy

"The leak was worse than we first thought"
EU MEPs voted to ensure continued cybersecurity across the EU on 16 April by granting the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) an extended seven-year mandate to strengthen and modernize their system.

The plenary vote (646 for, 45 against) is the result of extensive political debate between Council members and Parliament. With further support being handed to ENISA, the newest regulation that was adopted on February 8 can go into effect. The goal of this regulation is to help the EU, it’s member states and private stakeholders develop their capabilities and preparedness to prevent, detect and respond to cyber-security challenges. Furthermore, ENISA will play a greater role in the EU Cybersecurity strategy that was adopted in January.

"Today's vote offers a new start for a new ENISA: with expanded tasks, a more agile and efficient organization and governance,” said Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes. “This will help secure European networks and information systems, in line with our cybersecurity strategy."

Read more: Parliament votes to strengthen EU cybersecurity | New Europe

Cyber Security: U.S. and China Hold Military Talks, With Cybersecurity a Focus - by Jane Perlez

The United States and China held their highest-level military talks in nearly two years on Monday, with a senior Chinese general pledging to work with the United States on cybersecurity because the consequences of a major cyberattack “may be as serious as a nuclear bomb.

Cybersecurity has become a sudden source of tension between the two countries. China has bristled over the growing body of evidence that its military has been involved in cyberattacks on American corporations and some government agencies. Last month, the Obama administration demanded that the Chinese government stop the theft of data from American computer networks and help create global standards for cybersecurity. 

At a news conference on Monday after talks with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the Chinese general, Fang Fenghui, said he would be willing to set up a cybersecurity “mechanism,” but warned that progress might not be swift.

Note EU-Digest: the question one could ask about the above issue: "whom is kidding whom ?"

Read more: U.S. and China Hold Military Talks, With Cybersecurity a Focus - NYTimes.com

Germany rejects EU hint at easing austerity drive

Germany on Tuesday defended the policy of tightening the budgets in a number of European countries despite a blunt warning from a top European Union official that the 27-nation bloc's austerity drive "has reached its limits."

"If we were to give up the policy of consolidating the budgets in Europe, if we were to fall back to the old policy of taking on new debt, then we would cement mass unemployment in Europe for many years to come," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Tuesday in Brussels.

His warning followed an admission from the head of the EU's executive arm, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, that the austerity prescription of higher taxes and lower spending, though correct in principle, may have hit the limits of public acceptance and effectiveness amid rising unemployment and recession.

"Even if the policy of correction of the deficit is basically correct, we can always discuss the fine-tuning, the rhythm or the pace, but that will not be sustainable politically and socially," Barroso said Monday, according to an official speech transcript. He added the deficit reduction "has to be complemented by a stronger emphasis on growth and growth measures in the shorter term."
 
Read more: Germany rejects EU hint at easing austerity drive | Breaking Tampa Bay, Florida and national news and weather from Tampa Bay Online and The Tampa Tribune | TBO.com

European shares post biggest one-day gain in seven months

The European share index recorded its biggest one-day gain in more than seven months on Tuesday, buoyed by strong earnings and as a downbeat German survey raised expectations of a rate cut by the European Central Bank (ECB).

Read more: European shares post biggest one-day gain in seven months - Independent.ie

Poland to step up ritual animal slaughter regulations to minimize suffering

Poland’s prime minister says his government has drafted new regulations that would reduce the suffering of animals during ritual slaughter for the needs of religious groups, including Jews and Muslims.

Poland is covered by European Union laws allowing for ritual slaughter, but the country’s own regulations say an animal must be stunned before it can have its throat slit and bleed to death.

PM Donald Tusk said Tuesday his government wants to reconcile these approaches and ban the most drastic slaughter methods.

Ritual slaughter of animals is an important export earner for Poland, with markets in Israel and Muslim countries. It also offers thousands of jobs.

Read more: Poland to step up ritual animal slaughter regulations to minimize suffering - The Globe and Mail

Global Economy: World's Richest Countries


The top six richest countries in the world  by 2011 GDP - the GDP per capita is an average based on population size.

1) Quatar
2) Luxembourg
3) Singapore 
4) Norway
5) Brunei Darussalam
6) Hongkong

For the complete report and statistics: World's Richest Countries

Gay Rights: France Legalizes Gay Marriage After Harsh Debate - by Lori Hinnant and Sylvie Corbet

France legalized gay marriage today Tuesday after a wrenching national debate and protests that flooded the streets of Paris.

Legions of officers and water cannon stood ready near France's National Assembly ahead of the final vote, bracing for possible violence on an issue that galvanized the country's faltering conservative movement.

The measure passed easily in the Socialist-majority Assembly, 331-225, just minutes after the president of the legislative body expelled a disruptive protester in pink, the color adopted by French opponents of gay marriage. "Only those who love democracy are here," Claude Bartelone, the Assembly president, said angrily.

Read more: France Legalizes Gay Marriage After Harsh Debate - ABC News

4/22/13

Renault teases a mysterious new concept, promises to be an F1-inspired

Renault has released the first teaser image of an upcoming concept that will be unveiled at their Valladolid plant on April 25th.

Little is known about the model but Renault says it will feature muscular styling and "impressive performance credentials." The company also hinted the concept will provide a "bridge between the world of Formula 1 and that of electric vehicles."

The concept was apparently developed by Renault Sport and will feature a window that provides a glimpse at the inner working of the car.

Read more: Renault teases a mysterious new concept, promises to be an F1-inspired EV

Greece - Tourism: European Tour Operator Association ETOA and Athens Collaborate to Boost Tourism

The European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) and the city of Athens are joining forces to stimulate tourism to the capital of Greece, often referred to as the ‘cradle of Western civilization’. On 22nd April a delegation of nearly 60 professional tour-operator-buyers, recruited by ETOA, will come to Athens for a familiarisation visit and to take part in a workshop where each buyer will have a series of up to 32 meetings with relevant local suppliers, such as hotels and visitor attractions.

The event, branded Travel Trade Athens, employs ETOA’s appointment system, which offers a schedule of one-to-one meetings based on the specific requirements of suppliers and buyers. For Athens to incorporate this workshop element is a major development in the engagement between a destination and the people who sell it around the world.

As well as such structured networking Travel Trade Athens is providing delegates with a familiarisation visit that includes stops at the Benaki Museum, National Gardens, Greek Parliament and the new Digital Planetarium. Lunch is served at the Aegli Zappiou restaurant.

Read more: European Tour Operator Association ETOA and Athens Collaborate to Boost Tourism - eTurboNews.com

The Environment: On Earth Day 2013, a planetary report card on global warming - by Pete Spotts

Since that first Earth Day, the air over major cities is cleaner. Lake Erie is healthier. So is the Cuyahoga River, which groups in Cleveland would like to turn into a centerpiece of urban life. The improvements have come with "yes, but ..." as other environmental challenges have elbowed their way to the fore. But for the most part, tools are in place to deal with them.

So, how are we doing on global warming, now widely seen as the century's most pressing environmental issue?

Most climate scientists trace global warming to the relatively rapid buildup of atmospheric CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels long sequestered deep underground.

Though only 0.04 percent of all the gases in the troposphere, where weather happens, CO2 is second only to water vapor as the most abundant greenhouse gas. And where a water molecule may remain airborne for up to 10 days before returning to the surface as rain, a newly emitted molecule of CO2 can remain in the air for centuries.

"From the grossest physical indicator, we're not getting the job done as a planet," says Alden Meyer, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists office in Washington, of the steady rise in CO2 levels.

If warming of 1.5 to 2 degrees C above preindustrial levels is the goal, he says, it's still salvageable. But time is running ou

Read more: On Earth Day 2013, a planetary report card on global warming - CSMonitor.com

Russia: Six Dead in West Russia Shooting Spree

Six people were shot dead in the city of Belgorod in southwest Russia on Monday afternoon, police said.
Police said the assailant opened “random fire” at about 2 p.m. (10:00 GMT), before fleeing in the vehicle in which he had arrived at the scene.

The state-run Rossiya 24 TV channel said the assailant was armed with a rifle and had begun shooting on the street before moving into a nearby store.

The car was later found by police, who identified the suspect as a man of around 30 years of age with a criminal record. Special forces officers have been deployed to the address the suspect is believed to be holed up at, a law enforcement source told RIA Novosti.

Read more: Six Dead in West Russia Shooting Spree | Crime | RIA Novosti

Elites May Finally Realize Austerity Isn't the Answer - "but neither is borrowing your way out" - by Allison Kilkenny

In the past week, political officials and economic experts in several countries have indicated they believe austerity is not, and indeed never has been, the answer to pulling the world's economies out of recession.

First, everyone found out Paul Ryan is super bad at math (shocker). As it turns out, the paper the House Budget Committee chairman has been using to make the case for austerity was discredited after it became known that essential data was excluded from the study, leading to "serious errors that inaccurately represent the relationship between public debt and growth."

The Harvard professors who produced the paper have acknowledged their grave error.

Of course, Ryan's quest for austerity was never really about accurate figures or projections. His was an ideological battle that might as well have been waged by plucking random numbers from the ether for all that "facts" actually figured into the debate. The people at the bottom rungs of our society know austerity doesn't work. They've known that for years. After all, it is the people relying on public services like schools who see the direct impact of austerity in their day-to-day lives.

However, it seems as though at least some societal elites are finally waking up to the fact that budget cuts don't work during recession.

Bill Gross, manager of the world's largest bond fund for Pimco, and widely considered one of the most influential voices in the bond market, launched a harsh attack on the euro zone's severe austerity measures.

"The U.K. and almost all of Europe have erred in terms of believing that austerity, fiscal austerity in the short term, is the way to produce real growth. It is not," Mr Gross told the Financial Times. "You've got to spend money."

Note EU-Digest: austerity might hurt growth, but we can't keep borrowing our way out - that is what got the world into this economic jam in the first place.

Read more: Elites May Finally Realize Austerity Isn't the Answer | The Nation

Belgium: Aluminium Company Aleris praises Flanders’ business climate

Following the opening of a new production unit worth EUR 53 million at its existing site in Duffel (Flanders), US-based aluminium giant Aleris praised the ‘extremely business-friendly environment’ in the region. 

To meet the growing demand for aluminum in cars, Aleris has installed a brand-new cold rolling mill at its site in Duffel, Flanders. CEO Steve Demetriou, who was present for the inauguration, was enthusiastic about the business climate in the region: “It was a pretty easy choice. 

Not only is Flanders located in the heart of the European automotive industry, it is also a very entrepreneurial region that promotes inward investment and offers talented and highly-skilled employees.” Andy Ishmael, Managing Director of the site in Duffel, concurs: “We have an excellent relationship with the Government of Flanders, and immediate access to fantastic engineers and employees.”
 
And what about the labor costs? “They are rather high”, said Roeland Baan, CEO of Global Rolled and Extruded Products at Aleris. “But we can perfectly counter that by focusing on highly innovative technologies that are difficult to copy.”

EU-Digest

4/21/13

Eurozone: Rehn promises less austerity as economic outlook worsens

The euro zone will slow its budgetary belt-tightening to help reinvigorate economic growth, EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn has said.

Mr Rehn's comments are being viewed by some as an admission that fiscal adjustments linked to the troika programmes in Europe are having a greater-than-expected impact on growth.

The pace of fiscal tightening around the globe is set to dominate talks by finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of 20 advanced and emerging economies, who are meeting today in Washington.

Read more: Rehn promises less austerity as economic outlook worsens - European Economic News | EU Budgets, Trends & Spending | Irish Tim - Fri, Apr 19, 2013

Facial-recognition tech played no role in ID'ing bomb suspects

While surveillance video provided key images of the men suspected of planting bombs at the Boston Marathon, police use of facial-recognition software proved unhelpful in revealing their identities.

Despite several images of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from the scene of the deadly bombings and the existence of images of the brothers in official government databases, facial-recognition software was unable to put names to their faces, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis told the Washington Post in an interview published Saturday. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has a Massachusetts driver's license, while Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the elder brother who died Friday after a shootout with police, had been the subject of an FBI investigation, the Post noted.

After a dozen forensic experts spent days combing through hundreds of hours video and thousands of still images to construct a timeline of events, law enforcement use of facial-recognition software "came up empty," according to the Post. Conducted in a sprawling warehouse in Boston's Seaport district, the work was "painstaking and mind-numbing," according to the Post, with one agent reviewing the same segment of video 400 times.

Read more: Facial-recognition tech played no role in ID'ing bomb suspects | Internet & Media - CNET News

Security, Terrorism, Crashing passenger jet with Android phone?

There’s now another reason to be aerophobic after a German hacker demonstrated how to remotely hijack and bring down an airplane using an app for the Android phone.

The presentation called ‘Aircraft Hacking: Practical Aero Series' by Hugo Teso has become the highlight of the Hack In The Box security conference in Amsterdam on April 10-11, terrifying most of those, who attended it.

Teso, who currently works as a security consultant at the German n.runs IT-company, has used his experience of being a commercial pilot to create the software, which grants him full control of a passenger aircraft.

It took the researcher three years to come up with the PlaneSploit app for Android based on his SIMON code, which proved that – despite the tightened security in airports and on-board – air carriers are completely defenseless when it comes cyber-attacks. 

Teso’s presentation revealed that the Automated Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), which is a surveillance technology for tracking planes, is unencrypted and unauthenticated.

He said that the possible attacks on this system can “range from passive attacks (eavesdropping) to active attacks (message jamming, replaying, injection)”.

Read more: Crashing passenger jet with Android phone? — RT News

Germaqny: Chancellor Merkel Rejects Findings Of ECB Wealth Report

According to a survey released by the European Central Bank (ECB) in early April, Germany is at the bottom of the list of the euro zone's wealthiest households. The Household Finance and Consumption Network (HFCN) published figures showing that the median German household has the lowest wealth in the euro zone, with countries like Spain and Italy appearing to be three to four times wealthier.

It was a finding that proved controversial, and one that Chancellor Angela Merkel has a vested interest in disproving as elections loom later this year.

Merkel is confident that Germans are better off than the ECB report suggests. In Southern Europe, the general public is more likely to invest in property as a pension plan, she pointed out. "Germany has robust statutory social security and occupational pension schemes, but Germans' high pension entitlements are not factored into the survey, and neither are overseas properties or assets." she said. "This makes their average assets look more modest than they actually are."

Read more: Chancellor Merkel Rejects Findings Of ECB Wealth Report - SPIEGEL ONLINE

The Internet: In Case You Missed It: the US Congress Takes Your Internet Privacy - by Kristina Chew

To the disappointment of advocates for civil liberties and internet freedom, the controversial Cyber Intelligence and Protection Act (CISPA) passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday by a vote of 288-127. 196 Republicans voted for the measure and almost half the House Democrats.

Few would dispute that cybersecurity is not a concern. A rapid flurry of recent cyberattacks of government and corporate websites has highlighted the issue. But as Internet security experts argue, CISPA approaches the problem in a wrongheaded manner, allowing companies to share information to make their networks more secure but at a cost to users’ rights.

To protect the U.S. against hackers, CISPA allows companies, including internet service providers, to share information, the better to coordinate efforts in the event of a cyberattack. But CISPA is vague about precisely what sort of information will be shared. As a result, “in theory everything from e-mails to medical records could end up being shipped to intelligence agencies, even if it is not needed,” the Economist points out.

Read more: In Case You Missed It: Congress Takes Your Internet Privacy | Care2 Causes

Italy's 87 year old President Napolitano Re-Elected in Bid to Resolve Crisis

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano was elected to a second term after accepting a last- minute appeal from party leaders to run again, a step that may resolve the nation’s political crisis two months after inconclusive elections.

The 87-year-old incumbent got 738 votes, easily surpassing the 504 needed in Parliament, winning the backing of parties led by former premier Silvio Berlusconi, caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti and outgoing Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani. His re-election yesterday came in Parliament’s sixth attempt to elect a president this week.

Napolitano, who earlier this year rejected requests to seek another seven-year term, said after yesterday’s appeal from party leaders that he couldn’t “ignore responsibility toward the country.” His first task will be to try and break the political impasse after the Feb. 24-25 elections produced a hung parliament.

Read more: Italy President Napolitano Re-Elected in Bid to Resolve Crisis - Bloomberg

Europe's sun rises from Istanbul, Turkish EU minister says - "not so sure" says CPJ and Reporters Without Borders

The sun rises for Europe in Istanbul, Turkish EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış said today, addressing the audience at an Erasmus student exchange program meeting in the city.

"A European Union without Turkey is a poor, plain and simple one," Bağış said.

"The sun of Europe rises from Istanbul every morning nowadays," he added, in an indirect reference to the current economic problems of the union.

The minister was speaking at the debut meeting of a project to unite the millions of one-time Erasmus students across the continent, the "Garagerasmus."

Note EU-Digest: Given some of the facts that are available Turkey certainly is not meeting EU standards when it comes to 'freedom of the press'. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) recently reported that Turkey jailed the most journalists in 2012 - ahead of Iran and China. Based on the latest figures there are now some 76 journalists in prison, at least 61 in direct relation to their work. The evidence against the other 15 journalists was less clear

Turkey recently also ranked 154th out of 179 countries - behind Iraq, Afghanistan, and Russia - in the 2013 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders. The group also called Turkey "the world's biggest prison for journalists". Article 301 of the Turkish penal code makes "insulting Turkishness" a criminal offense, though what this law really means, or how it is applied, remains subjective at best.

Read more: POLITICS - Europe's sun rises from Istanbul, Turkish EU minister says

Globalization :IMF and World Bank walk an economic tightrope

The director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, is not content with global economic developments. There are different speeds at which individual regions are moving towards recovery.

Developing and emerging nations have seen their economies expanding, while the United States has posted only moderate growth. Europe and Japan are lagging behind.

"Such an uneven, three-speed recovery is not healthy," Lagarde said. "We need a global economy that's growing at full speed." Lagarde added growth had to be solid, sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Her vision may sound nice, but present-day realities are different. That's why Lagarde made many different recommendations. Addressing the rapidly growing developing and emerging countries, she warned against excessive financial operations and urged a strengthening of regulatory bodies.

She advised poorer nations to invest more in infrastructure, health and education with the help of the international community. Lagarde called on the United States to get its finances organized in a more orderly and well-communicated fashion.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim also faced challenging situation as he prepared for the spring conference with the IMF in Washington. His institution aims to end extreme poverty in the world by 2030 and finance development projects for this purpose. At the same time, growth the programs generate should be environmentally friendly.

Read more: IMF and World Bank walk an economic tightrope | Globalization | DW.DE | 19.04.2013

4/20/13

Russia: Islamic Fundamentalists in the Kremlin - by Michael Bohm

The wave of anger in North Africa and the Middle East over the anti-Islam video "Innocence of Muslims" underscores several troubling similarities between anti-Americanism in Russia and the Muslim world. Injured pride is at the top of the list.

Prominent journalist Maxim Shevchenko has suggested that the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama may have stood behind the production of "Innocence of Muslims." Shevchenko, who made his remarks on Sept. 13 on Ekho Moskvy radio, isn't alone in embracing this conspiracy theory, which has been circulated in the Russian blogosphere. The motive behind provoking the Muslim world with the video, Shevchenko reasoned, was to boost Obama's popularity two months away from the U.S. presidential election by creating a major crisis, much like the 9/11 attacks initially consolidated Americans around President George W. Bush and increased his ratings. This, Shevchenko said, may explain why there was so little security protecting the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and why the ambassador and three other Americans ended up dead.

Russians' fondness for conspiracy theories is exceeded perhaps only by Muslims'. In Egypt, for example, 75 percent of Muslims believe U.S. authorities carried out the 9/11 attacks, according to a 2011 Pew poll. In Russia, the figure is 16 percent, according to a 2008 Levada poll, with 20 percent having difficulty answering.

Al-Nas, a Salafist pan-Arab television station based in Cairo, translated the video several days before the 9/11 anniversary and distributed it in Egypt and other Muslim countries. The Arabic version then went viral in days, with 10 million Muslims watching it, which led to violent protests at U.S. embassies and consulates in more than a dozen cities around the globe.

The political goal of the Salafist fundamentalists — presumably with a silent nod, or even the active participation, of Egypt's ruling Muslim Brotherhood — was clear: to mobilize angry, poor Muslims against a time-honored foreign enemy, the United States, to deflect attention from the region's domestic problems.

The Muslim world's steady 300-year decline has arguably played an important role in shaping its worldview and, specifically, anti-Americanism. Of course, Russia's decline from its superpower status is more recent and less severe but hardly less painful.

Still, Russia should take a lesson from Britain on how to recover gracefully from lost-superpower status. Much of Russia is, indeed, stuck in the nostalgia of the past — in an overglorified version of Soviet power and influence.

The past is a bad place to be. There is no future in it.

Read more: Islamic Fundamentalists in the Kremlin | Opinion | The Moscow Times