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5/31/13

McDonald's creates highest calorie menu item ever - by Andrew Trotman

The limited edition serving of chips is twice the size of a large portion and contains a whopping 1,142 calories - more than half the recommended daily calorie intake for women.

As a result, it dwarfs other items on the fast food giant's menu: Large French Fries contain 460 calories; a hamburger 250; double cheeseburger 440; McChicken Sandwich 385. Even a Double Sausage and Egg McMuffin with cheese only has 565 calories.

According to Japan Today, the Mega Potato is being advertised as "perfect for sharing" and is launched after the director of nutrition for McDonald's insisted that its menu can be good for you.

When The Salt Lake Tribune asked Dr Cindy Goody in March if her company's food was healthy, she replied: "I do."

It is possible to eat from the recommended USDA My Plate food groups when visiting McDonald’s. It’s about choice. It’s about customization. It’s about looking at the calories on the menu board," she added.

Read more: McDonald's creates highest calorie menu item ever - Telegraph

France, Germany want permanent position to run EU economic policy and Dijsselbloem could be on way out

France and Germany have thrown their weight behind creating a permanent president for economic policy in the euro zone, a role that would mark a fundamental overhaul of how the currency bloc is managed.

Their backing calls into question the performance of Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who was appointed chairman of the Eurogroup of finance ministers of the 17-nation currency area in January, to serve initially for 2-1/2 years.

Dijsselbloem, who succeeded Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, has unsettled financial markets since taking office, especially with comments about Cyprus and how bank depositors could finance future bailouts.

Those views, while supported by some at the European Central Bank and the European Commission, have irked other officials in Paris, Berlin and Brussels.

At a meeting in Paris on Thursday, President Francois Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to propose to fellow leaders appointing a permanent Eurogroup head, which France has long favoured.

Read more: France, Germany look to shake up euro zone leadership - The Economic Times

German banks start mortgage war in the Netherlands

Mortgage War in Holland
Consortium of 20 German financial groups, including Deutsche Bank and Allianz, is entering the Dutch mortgage market by offering a repayment mortgage with an interest rate of around 2.8 per cent, Dutch newspaper Volkskrant reported Friday.

Dutch banks will thus be highly challenged as the average rate for a standard repayment mortgage in the Netherlands range between 3.9 percent and 4.5 percent.

The German mortgages will be for sale through 20 independent mortgage advisors spread across the country.
Rob Jansen, Director of Adfinis, one of the companies involved, said the phone had been constantly ringing since the news was published in the national newspaper.

"We wanted to keep the news local but house buyers from all over the country have been phoning us," he told the paper.

According to the newspaper, the consortium possesses around 200 billion euros (260 billion U.S. dollars), which is four to five times the total annual mortgage production in the Netherlands.

A German anonymous financial advisor told the Volkskrant that the German banks are "swimming with money and looking for new markets."

"Unlike Dutch banks, the Germans are not in financial difficulties," he said, adding "in Germany everyone repays their mortgage. There is no such thing as an interest-only loan." 

Read more: German banks start mortgage war in the Netherlands - Xinhua | English.news.cn

Hungary: Gliding to success – a commentary on Hungary’s economic performance - byTamás Nánási |

Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched, says the proverb but certain signs indicate that Hungary’s maverick economic policy is on track to succeed. Not even optimistic pundits predicted the favorable figures that have been made public over the past two days. Last month inflation dropped to a historical low and it seems to stay there throughout the rest the year. Never in the past two decades was inflation 1.7 percent in Hungary. Such a low figure could only be in the much-envied West, where currency can retain its value. 
 
Now it could as well be time for the West to praise us. But that is far from being the case. The European Union’s attitude to Hungary is anything but praise, which is due to the grievances foreign companies have suffered in Hungary. Data that were published yesterday about the growth of the GDP in Hungary in the first quarter of 2013 could be praised by Brussels. In the eurozone GDP growth in the first quarter of 2013 was down from that in the last quarter of 2012 by 0.2 percent; the figure was -0.1 percent for the 27 EU member states put together, while in Hungary it was definitely in the black. In Hungary it was growth of 0.7 percent despite the predictions of some pessimistic observers. After some minor positive signs, this is the first real surprise. This is good news not just for those who are obliged to be optimists by their position.

Yesterday even analysts of the Japanese Nomura investment bank, who had recently predicted a bleak future for Hungary, welcomed this development. They have a good reason to be pleased if they have a look at other countries of Europe. The German economy, Europe’s powerhouse, could only produce a GDP growth of a meager 0.1 percent. The other major European player, France had -0.2 percent. Hungary finished third in Europe and was only outpaced by two Baltic states.

Granted, statistics attract little public attention until the benefits of a low inflation and higher growth are not felt in daily life. This welcome tendency needs to prove itself not just in statistics but in daily practice. Although the initial results are fragile, there is hope that with time they will bring higher living standards. Let us not forget that a crucial source of lower inflation is the governmental measures to reduce household utility costs. If inflation decreases, in time all of us can buy more goods for our salaries. Hopefully growth will also mean more jobs and an even more stable central budget – due to higher revenues of the treasury and a faster reduction of the government debt.

In sum, these developments can bring an economic turnabout – and that will have been achieved without Hungary yielding to international pressure to return to policies that only favor the interests of capital and reduce the tax burden of multinational companies. “Such an economic policy can never produce growth,” cried the detractors of Hungary’s course but time has proved them wrong.

In the meantime our eastern neighbor, Romania, which had gone along IMF instructions without questions, is now begging to multilateral organizations for a safety net, and Bucharest’s proposals submitted to the IMF to ease the burdens of its citizens have been turned down one after the other. It is worth comparing the situation of Romania with that of Hungary and put the question: which model will be more successful in the long run?

Read more: Gliding to success – a commentary on Hungary’s economic performance

Alternative Energy - Morocco: Kingdom of sun - Emilie Cochaud, Juliett Lacharnay , Mairead Dundas, Marina Bertsh

Solar Power
Morocco may have little to no fossil fuel resources, but the kingdom has its eyes on a brighter future. By 2020 the country plans to produce 42 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, a large portion of it thanks to energy from the sun.

With 3,000 hours of sunlight each year and high irradiation, Morocco, the North African country is perfectly placed to tap into this inexhaustible resource.

In the southern city of Ouarzazate, famous as the door to the desert, King Mohammed VI has just approved the construction of a 500 megawatt solar plant, "the biggest project known in the world today", according to Mustapha Bakkoury of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy. It's the first of five similar projects with an estimated price tag of seven billion euros. Critics have questioned whether the cost is extraordinarily exorbitant, but Morocco is confident it has made the right choice by banking on solar power.

Read more: Morocco: Kingdom of sun - FRANCE 24

Shipping industry faces rough economic waters

The world's largest cargo ship, the "Alexander von Humboldt," was christened in Hamburg. But crisis continues to grip the shipping industry, and many German companies could go under before the situation improves.

The brand new "Alexander von Humboldt" has been a tourist attraction in Hamburg harbor for days: The almost 400-meter-long (1,312-foot-long) giant belongs to the French shipping company CMA CGM and can hold close to 16,000 containers. It was christened in the northern German city on Thursday (30.05. 2013).

Together with its sister ship "Marco Polo," the "Alexander von Humboldt" shares honors as the world's largest cargo ship. Looking at the skyscraper-sized ship up-close, it's hard to believe that the German sea freight industry is still facing a crisis.

But because the hard times began five years ago, after the banking- and economic crisis, Ralf Nagel of the Association of German Ship Owners (VDR) said the industry is, in fact, stuck in "an extraordinarily deep crisis." Back then, there were suddenly significantly fewer goods to be transported and way too many ships.

Read more: Shipping industry faces rough economic waters | Germany | DW.DE | 31.05.2013

Record unemployment, low inflation underline Europe's pain - by Robin Emmott and Martin Santa

Unemployment has reached a new high in the and inflation remains well below the European Central Bank's target, underscoring just how severe a challenge EU leaders face to revive the bloc's sickly economy.

Joblessness in the 17-nation currency area rose to 12.2 percent in April, statistics agency Eurostat said on Friday, marking a new record since the data series began in 1995.

With the euro zone also in its longest recession since its creation in 1999, consumer price inflation was far below the ECB's target of just below 2 percent, coming in at 1.4 percent in May, slightly above April's 1.2 percent rate.

That rise may quieten concerns about deflation, but the deepening unemployment crisis is a threat to the social fabric of the euro zone, with almost two-thirds of young Greeks unable to find work exemplifying southern Europe's threat of creating a 'lost generation'.

Read more: Record unemployment, low inflation underline Europe's pain | Reuters

5/30/13

Swiss government lifts veil over bank secrecy to give other countries more info

The Swiss government is reportedly going to allow banks in the nation to share some information with U.S. authorities. U.S. officials want to determine which Americans are using offshore bank accounts to hide their money and avoid taxes.

Many people use Swiss banks to store their money because the financial establishments in the country have long been known for secrecy and discretion. But, it looks like this may be about to change in a big way. In the near future, information about those on-the-quiet bank accounts overseas may find its way its way to the U.S. government.

U.S. authorities have long been trying to get access to information about Swiss bank accounts held by Americans. In recent years, there has been some success from certain banks, however, the U.S. has still been trying to obtain more information about Americans holding bank accounts in the European country.

After negotiation, it appears the Swiss government is going to allow its banks to "reveal some customer information" to U.S. officials, reported CNN Money. This agreement is a big step in settling disputes between the U.S. and Switzerland over tax issues.

Read more: Swiss government weakens bank secrecy to give US officials info

Russian Su-35 Could Steal Paris Fighter Limelight - by Bill Sweetman

Russian Sukhoi Su-35S
Combat aircraft are the traditional Paris air show scene-stealers. But it has been a long time since there was an undisputed vedette to hog the limelight—a gap that the Sukhoi Su-35S fighter could fill this year as it makes its debut outside Russia.

Even two years ago, at the MAKS show in Moscow, the Su-35S—combining the proven aerodynamics of the T-10 family with a new integrated flight and propulsion control system including 3-D thrust-vectoring—showed some moves that no other aircraft has emulated in public, including a seamless transition from a dynamic deceleration (“Cobra” maneuver) into a low-airspeed turn, and flat spins—inverted and upright—under full control.

Any such demonstrations will be followed by a chorus of the usual suspects noting that “air show maneuvers” don't equate to air combat capability. However, flight demonstrations are not aerobatic tricks. Unpredictable flight paths challenge the guidance algorithms of any missile system and rapid nose-pointing can permit a short-range missile launch with a greater kill probability.

As for other fighters, naturally the Rafale will be on static display and flying, and while Dassault is not disclosing any specific plans, it will be surprising if some of Thales's work on an active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar for the fighter is not on display.

An Italian air force Eurofighter Typhoon is due to be on display, and may be flying. Consortium leaders regard last year's Farnborough air show as a milestone, with a visit by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron marking a renewed commitment to the fighter's future. There may be some more news about the Typhoon's new AESA radar: Eurofighter provided the sponsor governments with a full-scale development proposal for AESA in November, and revised it in January, at customer request, to improve its air-to-surface and electronic attack capability.

Read more: Su-35 Could Steal Paris Fighter Limelight

Outer Space: Huge Asteroid 1998 QE2 Sails By Earth on Friday

Asteroid passing earth
A massive asteroid nearly 2 miles wide will zip by Earth on Friday (May 31), in a cosmic event that has grabbed the attention of stargazers, scientists and even White House officials. The asteroid poses no threat of hitting Earth during the flyby, NASA officials assure.

The huge asteroid 1998 QE2 is the size of nine cruise ships, about 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) across, NASA scientists say. While the asteroid makes its closest approach to Earth on Friday, traveling within 3.6 million miles (5.8 million km), you don't have to wait that long to see it. NASA chief Charles Bolden will host live telescope views of the asteroid today (May 30) at 1:30 p.m. EDT (1739 GMT) during a one-hour broadcast from the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

You can watch the asteroid webcast live on SPACE.com courtesy of NASA. Later tonight, NASA will host a webchat about the asteroid with the agency's meteor expert William Cooke at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. That discussion begins at 8 p.m. EDT (0000 GMT) and can be accessed here: http://www.nasa.gov/chat

In its closest approach for at least the next two centuries, 1988 QE2 will whiz by at a harmless distance millions of miles from Earth.

The space rock was first discovered on Aug. 19, 1998, by MIT's Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) Program near Socorro, N.M. The moniker 1988 QE2 was assigned by the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., which names each newfound asteroid according to an established alphanumeric scheme that lays out when it was discovered.

NASA keeps a close watch on asteroids that could pose a potential threat to the planet, and President Barack Obama's 2014 federal budget request sought to ramp up those efforts by including funds to kick-start a new mission to capture a small asteroid and park it near the moon.

Earthlings were reminded of the danger of space rocks this past Feb. 15. On that day, skywatchers were waiting for an asteroid about half the size of a football field (2012 DA14) to pass by the planet at a distance of just 17,200 miles (27,000 kilometers). But hours before its closest approach, a different, 55-foot (17 m) object exploded without warning over Russia, damaging hundreds of buildings and injuring more than 1,000 people.

Read more: Huge Asteroid 1998 QE2 Sails By Earth on Friday - Yahoo! News

European Union and Britain Wrangle Over Social Security Rules - by Andrew Higgens and Stephen Castle

In a move certain to stoke British frustrations with the European Union, the 27-nation bloc’s executive arm is taking Britain to court over restrictions on who can receive social security benefits.

The European Commission, announcing its decision on Thursday, took issue with Britain’s tight criteria for residency benefits, which differ from a Europe-wide standard meant to ensure support for any citizen of a European Union country who lives in another member country. As a result, it said, Britain has denied child support and other benefits to “potentially tens of thousands” of foreign citizens.

The British government promised to contest the case before the European Court of Justice, based in Luxembourg, saying it believed its rules complied with European Union laws. The case is unlikely to be heard for many months, but if the court rules against Britain, the country will have to amend its rules or face large fines.
The British standard for benefits, called “right to reside,” has been challenged in its own courts for years. The dispute with the commission has been brewing since 2010, and the decision to initiate court action is likely to stir the growing debate in Britain over its relationship with the European Union. 

If re-elected in 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to loosen British ties to the bloc, bringing back more decision-making to home legislators, and to hold a referendum by the end of 2017 on whether to remain a member.

Read more: European Union and Britain Wrangle Over Social Security Rules - NYTimes.com

Netherlands divided over Dutch Islamists fighting in Syria - by Peter Cluskey

A survey of attitudes in the Netherlands towards Dutch Islamists who travel to Syria to fight the Assad regime shows that 75 per cent of Muslims regard them as heroes – while almost half the non-Muslim population believe they should be stripped of their citizenship.

The survey shows that while there is broad agreement in both communities – 87 per cent of Muslims and 66 per cent of non-Muslims – that Bashar al-Assad should be removed as Syrian president, on virtually every other question there is significant divergence.

For instance, on the question of arming rebel fighters, 49 per cent of Muslims were in favour, while just 6 per cent of the majority population supported the decision.

The poll was carried out for the TV documentary Alitjd Wat and compared the attitudes of Dutch Muslims of Moroccan and Turkish origin with those of “native” non-Muslim families.

The Counter-terrorism Coordinator in The Hague confirmed recently that about 100 Dutch-born jihadists, including at least two young women, have so far joined armed opposition groups, making the Netherlands the largest European recruiting ground for anti-Assad militants. Three are believed dead.

Read more: Netherlands divided over Dutch Islamists fighting in Syria - European News | Latest News from Across Europe | The Irish Times - Thu, May 30, 2013

Croatia's EU membership spells trouble for Bosnia's farmers | Europe | DW.DE | 30.05.2013

Croatia is set to join the EU in July, but when it does, neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina will lose its main market for its farming exports. And without it, the country’s already fragile economy may falter. 

In the hills of Visoko, some 30 kilometers (19 miles) outside of Sarajevo, Nihad Dokso works on one of the three farms he owns in Bosnia. He raises 100,000 chicks every 40 days using state-of-the-art technology that' relatively new to the region.

The chicks are housed in a long and spacious barn, and are fed by a mechanized system that also warms and ventilates the space. Dokso sells the grown chickens to a nearby slaughterhouse, which manages their export to neighboring Croatia.

He's invested about 600,000 euros ($777, 800) in his business and employs five people. So far, the farm has provided Dokso with a good standard of living, but he's worried about what will happen when Croatia becomes the newest member of the European Union in July.

"If we're not able to export food to Croatia, then we'll shut down the farm because we don't have anyone else to sell to," he told DW. "We don't yet have reliable information about what the government is doing about this issue. But if no solution is found by July, it will be a difficult time for chicken farmers."

Read more: Croatia's EU membership spells trouble for Bosnia's farmers | Europe | DW.DE | 30.05.2013

Europe to tackle Spain in health insurance row

The European Commission is launching legal action against Spain over the refusal of some hospitals to recognise the European Health Insurance Card.

The EHIC entitles EU citizens to free healthcare in public hospitals.

But some Spanish hospitals rejected the card and told tourists to reclaim the cost of treatment via their travel insurance, the Commission says.

Read more: BBC News - Europe to tackle Spain in health insurance row

US Insurance Industry: Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund now has $ 12 billion in its coffers

A Florida state-created fund that backs up private insurers in Florida appears to be in the best financial shape it has been during its 20 years of existence.

New projections show that the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund should have nearly $12 billion available for the upcoming hurricane season that starts on June 1.

An advisory panel for the fund will be given new estimates Thursday from Wall Street firms. Those estimates show that the fund should be able borrow enough money to cover all of its claims.

The financial health of the fund is important because the state can place a surcharge on most
insurance policies if the "Cat Fund" runs out of money. Critics have called this a "hurricane tax."
New England and Rhode Island seeking double-digit increases im insurance premiums.

Health insurers in Rhode Island are seeking double-digit increases in the premiums that individuals and small businesses will pay for coverage next year. This is the largest increase in years as the federal health care law takes full effect. 


5/29/13

Drug abuse in Europe under mysterious assault

The European Union’s drug agency has warned that new substances may pose unknown dangers to public health. It also says austerity budget cuts and high youth unemployment are a growing challenge in the fight against drug abuse. The addiction monitoring centre informs governments about the relevant context, evolution and influences.

The observatory in Lisbon has just presented its annual report, mostly about problems but with some hopeful signs as well, our correspondent added: “… such as fewer heroin users and less being taken by injection. In some countries cocaine and cannabis use has also fallen.”

Consumption has either stabilised or dropped for more ‘traditional’ substances, and around half of Europe’s 1.4 million opiate users are getting treatment. That’s encouraging, but the centre said newly-developed and less-plant-based drugs had appeared, as Internet-selling continues to transform the market – including what people take and how they get it.

As part of the social cost, drug-users impose a heavy burden on health structures when they fall ill; as many as 80 percent of them, for example, are infected with hepatitis C, which attacks the liver.

The death rate among users is ten to twenty times higher than among people who don’t take illegal drugs.

Read more: Drug abuse in Europe under mysterious assault | euronews, world news

Europe Warns Google It Could Face Further Concessions - by James Kanter

The European Union’s top antitrust official warned Google on Tuesday that the American company might need to make further concessions to settle a case concerning its hugely lucrative online search and advertising businesses.

Without those additional concessions, Joaquín Almunia, the European Union competition commissioner, told a committee meeting at the European Parliament that Google could face formal charges for violating European competition law. 

Mr. Almunia’s comments, in response to a question during scheduled testimony at Parliament, highlight the pressure from rival companies like Microsoft to devise a tougher set of remedies with Google. Those proposed solutions were made public last month by the European Commission. 

If critics of Google in Europe remain dissatisfied with the settlement, they could go to court. They could sue the European Commission at the General Court of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, accusing the commission of failing to push hard enough for an effective solution. Final judgments in such cases can take years.

Read more: Europe Warns Google It Could Face Further Concessions - NYTimes.com

Russia: Space exploration: International Crew Takes Short Cut to Space Station

Russian Soyuz in docking maneuver with Intl. Space station
A Russian spaceship took a shortcut to the international space station on Wednesday, delivering a veteran cosmonaut, a rookie Italian astronaut and an American mother on her second flight to the outpost in less than six hours.

The capsule slipped into its berthing port early Wednesday about 400 kilometers above the south Pacific Ocean. "Everything went very well," NASA mission commentator Kelly Humphries said during a televised broadcast of the docking.

Typically, the journey takes two days, but Russian engineers have developed new flight procedures that tweak the steering maneuvers and expedite the trip.

One other crew capsule and several cargo ships previously have taken the fast route to the station.

The express ride to the station began when a Soyuz rocket soared off its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and deposited the crew's capsule into orbit. The spaceship circled around the planet less than four times before catching up to the station, a $100 billion project of 15 nations.

To watch departure click here.

Read more: International Crew Takes Short Cut to Space Station (Video) | News | The Moscow Times

EU repeal of Syria arms embargo criticised

Several countries have warned the EU against arming Syrian rebels, saying more weapons will lead to more deaths as the conflict spreads to neighbouring countries.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said on Tuesday that there would be "more violence, more deaths and more destruction" in Syria if the EU goes through with allowing an arms embargo to expire on Saturday.

"My strong view is that the only way to end the suffering of the Syrian people is a political solution," he told reporters.  "Flooding the country and the region with more arms will lead to more violence, more deaths and more destruction, so certainly Canada has no intention of following suit," he said.

Russia said the EU's decision was "illegitimate" and would harm peace efforts, while insisting that its own delivery of sophisticated missiles to Syria was a deterrence against foreign intervention.

The EU agreed late on Monday to lift its embargo on arming the Syrian opposition after much debate and a strong push by France and Britain.

Read more: EU repeal of Syria arms embargo criticised - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

Eurozone eases restrictions on Spain, France and the Netherlands

Holland will be given an extra year to reduce its deficit to 3%, while France and Spain will be given an extra two years. Italy will also be granted absolution from ‘intensive fiscal monitoring’ – despite a decision by its new prime minister to reverse a series of tax increases brought in by his predecessor.

But the EC is adamant it isn’t entirely abandoning is hard line on austerity: the report will criticize ‘several governments’ for their inability to take the necessary steps to bring about fiscal reform, including France, Spain, Belgium and even the UK – although its position outside the eurozone means we will avoid the lion’s share of the EC’s wrath.

Some economies could even face sanctions under new ‘macroeconomic imbalances’ rules granted to the EC earlier this year, which give it the power to override governments and impose its own economic reforms. If they don’t co-operate, it will hand them a substantial fine instead. Slovenia could be the first country to come under the EC’s spotlight – although there’s a good chance it will get off with a warning.

Needless to say, European markets have reacted with all the enthusiasm of a Frenchman at a British chippie. The FTSE 100 has dropped by 1.13%, while Germany’s Dax is down 0.97% and the French Cac is down 1.01%.

That probably hasn’t been helped by a series of depressing International growth forecasts. The International Monetary Fund kicked things off this morning by cutting its Chinese growth forecast from 8% to 7.75% - after which the OECD trimmed its forecast for global growth to 3.1% for this year and 4% next year – down from its November forecasts 

Read more: Eurozone eases restrictions on Spain, France and the Netherlands

European Cyber Security directive in the works

According to a recent report by the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, intellectual property theft cost the US around 300 billion dollars per year, a staggering figure equal to America's total exports to Asia. Somewhere between half and 80 percent of that theft is believed to have come from China.

At the end of March President Obama signed a bill restricting the use of Chinese products by federal agencies including NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Commerce and Justice departments.

The law blocks these agencies from buying information technology that has been “produced, manufactured or assembled” by a company with ties to the Chinese government unless the FBI or a similar agency determines the purchase would be in the national interest.

Europe is also concerned about this issue and a new cyber security directive is currently being reviewed  by the European Parliament. The directive also includes a section on defending European interests by not relying too heavily on foreign technology for obvious reasons.

The new European cyber security directive will attempt to set standards on cyber security issues and aims to make European security technology a world leader. With the E.U. security industry valued between €26 billion and €36.5 billion with around 180,000 employees. This obviously is also of great importance as the directive is being launched. 

Read more: International cyber security - economics or security | New Europe

Sprint, SoftBank reach US security deal to curb Chinese infiltration of national and corporate infrastructures

Ahead of SoftBank's takeover of Sprint, the companies have agreed to allow U.S. authorities the power to regulate Sprint's national security protocols.

For $20.1 billion, Sprint agreed to give Japanese carrier SoftBank a 70 percent stake in the U.S. carrier. According to Reuters sources, in order to have the deal pushed through, SoftBank has agreed to give U.S. authorities power on Sprint's board to oversee national security concerns.

If the plan to merge the two companies goes ahead, the U.S. government will be able to veto new equipment purchases made by Sprint. The demand has been made in light of the recent scrutiny given to foreign networking equipment -- especially when manufactured in China -- which has the potential to threaten national and company infrastructure.

Chinese telecoms manufacturers Huawei and ZTE have come under particular scrutiny. Not only have the companies been accused of anti-competitive behavior and flooding European markets by the European Commission, but last year, the House of Representatives' Intelligence Committee warned U.S. businesses to avoid using their products due to cybersecurity worries.

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son has agreed to strip out equipment made by ZTE from Sprint networks if required. Removing and replacing these components could cost the firm up to $1 billion.

In addition, the U.S. government will be permitted to establish a four-member supervision committee "to make sure the companies abide by their national security promises." A Sprint board member will also be present on this panel.

Read more: Sprint, SoftBank reach US security deal | ZDNet

Europe’s leaders starting to move away from austerity but remain weary about quantitative easing

Austerity is out after the euro-area recession extended to a sixth quarter, but stimulus isn’t in.

That was the something-for-everyone message from European leaders at a summit in Brussels on Monday.

All touted a previously announced €6 billion ($7.7 billion), seven-year initiative to fight youth unemployment, now at 24%.

 “National governments won’t put up more cash,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. “It’s not a matter of money,” Merkel told reporters after the summit. “It’s a matter of looking at how to spend this money most productively.”

 In an interview Dieter Wemmer, Member of the Board of Management of Allianz SE, Europe's largest insurer which has assets totaling more than 500 billion euros said: "Basically today financial markets are being manipulated by the central banks".

"Although terms like "quantitative easing" and "financial repression" sound more moderate, this is essentially what they boil down to. But it will be tricky to break with the current monetary policy any time in the near future, especially since Japan has now also taken interest rate measures to join the global race to secure export opportunities by maintaining a currency that is as weak as possible."

"In the US, two-thirds of the financing for private companies comes from bonds and one-third from bank loans. In Europe, the ratio is the exact opposite. This is an area in which investors with a long-term focus could play a particularly significant role in supporting European trade and industry.”

EU-Digest
 

5/28/13

Sweden Riots, Immigration, Inequality and Race - by April Salchert

As a person who has been a resident foreigner in two countries, I've learned a few things about when I hear the word 'immigrants' in the news. When people in politics use the term immigration they are not talking about naturalization or long lines for residence visas, they are talking about race and inequality, all nicely baked into a politically hot topic.

A Korean Times article recently discussed the growing issues in Korea regarding race discrimination and lack of multicultural education in schools. Korea has an increasing population of immigrants and children from mixed ethnic and racial backgrounds. The reaction to this new population is severely polarized. Moreover, the Korean government will probably be rejecting a bill that would put a legal boundary on racial discrimination: "Although an anti-discrimination bill was presented in the National Assembly in March, it is unlikely to be passed due to opposition from right-wing lawmakers."

Here in Korea, I'm a waygookin (외국인). Waygookin essentially means "foreigner" and it applies to anyone who is not Korean. We waygookins have adopted this term into our own expat vernacular and shortened it to "waygook." In fact, there's even a site, waygook.org, which is a forum for foreigners.

The term itself doesn't bother me, but the reactions associated with it do. There's pointing, laughing, and staring. After a few months, it's easy to become paranoid, frustrated, and agitated. Also, you start noticing things you didn't notice initially: An employee waiting outside a restaurant to make sure you pay, or being denied service altogether, for no apparent reason. Being a target of every pointing finger feels like Chinese water torture some days. Just little drops of ignorant behavior. No wonder some people go crazy and start burning cars. Not that I condone violence, but I'm starting to understand where it's coming from.

Read more: April Salchert: Sweden Riots, Immigration, Inequality and Race

World's Happiest Countries: Australia Tops OECD Better Life Index and Turkey lowest- by Andy Reinhard

The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is the latest institution to jump into the happiness-rating business with its new Better Life Initiative, a detailed survey of 24 indicators in 11 categories--ranging from civic engagement to environmental quality--across its 34 member states plus Brazil and Russia.

When all of the categories are weighted equally, the top-performing country in the world is Australia, cited for its strong community spirit and high level of life satisfaction. The lowest-ranked country among those studied was Turkey, whose weak scores on the same two criteria dragged it below Mexico, Chile, and Brazil. The US placed 3rd after Norway.

The OECD emphasizes on its Better Life Initiative web site that the rankings aren't absolute: By changing weightings on the criteria--say, to emphasize education or housing--users can alter the overall country scores according to their areas of interest.

Read more: World's Happiest Countries: Australia Tops OECD Better Life Index - Bloomberg

Germany - Study: New immigrants are better qualified than Germans

Many Germans have a wrong image of immigrants. Long gone are the days when unskilled laborers came to Germany. Today, the country attracts top talent and it’s a win-win situation, says a Bertelsmann Foundation study. 

It's a two-hour drive from Shuo Chen's birth place to Shanghai. In order to enable him to get a good education, his family decided to have him live with relatives and go to school in the mega-metropolis. Shuo Chen was six years old at the time.

At the age of 19, Shuo took an even bigger leap: He left the high-rise buildings and moved to the German countryside. In Worms, in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, he studied economics. Today, 35-year old Shuo Chen has a leadership position in a German mechanical engineering company. Success stories like his are actually quite common in Germany, experts say.

Read more: Study: New immigrants are better qualified than Germans | Germany | DW.DE | 26.05.2013

European Aircraft Industry: Air China orders 100 Airbus A320 aircraft valued at $8.8 billion - by Kelli Dugan

Air China announced Friday it has ordered 100 Airbus A320 family aircraft worth $8.8 billion at list price, The Economic Times reports.

According to a statement issued by Air China, 60 of the single-aisle planes will be used by the airline itself, while the other 40 are being purchased for its subsidiary Shenzhen Airlines.

The Times report also stated an Air China notification sent to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange indicates the purchase will not only expand the group’s overall fleet capacity but its structure as well.

Read more: Air China orders 100 Airbus A320 aircraft valued at $8.8 billion | al.com

Economics: Wall Street versus Main Street

Three rounds of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve have produced record-high stock prices, but
real economic growth still remains below the levels expected in an economic recovery. An encouraging
uptick in housing prices and the gradual decline of the unemployment rate have helped bolster household
wealth and consumer spending, but with fiscal tightening weighing on economic growth, inflation falling,
and corporate earnings flat, the current rise in stock prices is unsustainable.

The US economy might be headed for another midyear “swoon,” and after three doses of easy money from the Fed, it is unclearwhether another round of quantitative easing would help produce the sort of robust growth policymakers and consumers seek.

Household savings rate fell to 2.6% in the first quarter, down from 5.1% in 2010. As Mr Makin points out, this is ominously similar to the pre-2007 pattern of high consumption based on the hope that asset prices would stay high. The potential long-term problem here is that asset prices tend to revert to the mean; people may be saving too little for their retirement on the view that markets will do all the work. As in 2007 and 2008, they may get a nasty shock later on.

Read more: Investing and economics: Wall Street versus Main Street | The Economist

Germany fears revolution if Europe scraps welfare model - by Fiona Ortiz i

Germany, along with France, Spain and Italy, backed urgent action to rescue a generation of young Europeans who fear they will not find jobs, with youth unemployment in the EU standing at nearly one in four, more than twice the adult rate.

"We need to be more successful in our fight against youth unemployment, otherwise we will lose the battle for Europe's unity," Germany's Schaeuble said.

While Germany insists on the importance of budget consolidation, Schaeuble spoke of the need to preserve Europe's welfare model.

If U.S. welfare standards were introduced in Europe, "we would have revolution, not tomorrow, but on the very same day," Schaeuble told a conference in Paris.


In March 2013, nearly 40 percent of under-25-year-olds in Portugal were jobless, and in Greece youth unemployment shot to a record 64 percent in February, while it was below 8 percent for Germany and Austria.

Following up on an idea aired earlier this month, French President Francois Hollande urged the euro zone to work towards a joint economic government with its own budget that could take on specific projects including tackling youth unemployment.


Read more: Germany fears revolution if Europe scraps welfare model | Reuters

5/27/13

Ten European far-right parties to cooperate in upcoming EU parliamentary elections

European extreme right-wing parties want that each EU member country controls its own immigration policy and wants those countries which have financial difficulties, such as Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland to take their care of their own business.

"We have already been working together informally in the European Parliament, but now want to intensify this cooperation," said Philip Claeys of the "Vlaams Belang" right-wing party and board member of European Freedom Alliance.

Vlaams Belang also wants to start talking with the Dutch anti-Muslim and anti-immigration "Freedom Party" of Geert Wilders "We want to explore how we can work together in the future.I'm sure this would provide for and excellent opportunity", said Claeys of Vlaams Belang.

Presently 10 European Right-Wing parties have already signed the so-called "Joint Manifesto" recently in Paris

Read more: Vlaams Belang: 'Samenwerking met Geert Wilders biedt mogelijkheden' - Buitenland - Nieuws - Knack.be

China - USA: The Unstoppable Force vs. the Immovable Object - by Noah Feldman

 Are we on the brink of a new Cold War? The question isn't as outlandish as it seemed only a few years ago. The United States is still the sole reigning superpower, but it is being challenged by the rising power of China, just as ancient Rome was challenged by Carthage, and Britain was challenged by Germany in the years before World War I. Should we therefore think of the United States and China as we once did about the United States and the Soviet Union, two gladiators doomed to an increasingly globalized combat until one side fades?

Or are we entering a new period of diversified global economic cooperation in which the very idea of old-fashioned imperial power politics has become obsolete? Should we see the United States and China as more like France and Germany after World War II, adversaries wise enough to draw together in an increasingly close circle of cooperation that subsumes neighbors and substitutes economic exchange for geopolitical confrontation?

This is the central global question of our as-yet-unnamed historical moment. What will happen now that America's post-Cold War engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan have run their courses and U.S. attention has pivoted to Asia? Can the United States continue to engage China while somehow hedging against the strategic threat it poses? Can China go on seeing the United States as both an object of emulation and a barrier to its rightful place on the world stage?

Read more: The Unstoppable Force vs. the Immovable Object - by Noah Feldman | Foreign Policy

EU lifts arms embargo on Syria rebels

European Union foreign ministers have agreed not to renew the union's arms embargo on the Syrian opposition.

But there was "no immediate decision to send arms" to Syrian rebels and all other sanctions remained in force, the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a tweet.

The decision came after lengthy talks in Brussels.

A far-reaching package of sanctions against the government of Bashar al-Assad was due to expire on 1 June.

Read more: BBC News - EU lifts arms embargo on Syria rebels

German railways to test anti-graffiti drones

Germany's national railway company, Deutsche Bahn, plans to test small drones to try to reduce the amount of graffiti being sprayed on its property. 

The idea is to use airborne infra-red cameras to collect evidence, which could then be used to prosecute vandals who deface property at night.

A company spokesman said drones would be tested at rail depots soon.

But it is not yet clear how Germany's strict anti-surveillance laws might affect their use.
Graffiti is reported to cost Deutsche Bahn about 7.6m euros (£6.5m; $10m) a year.

Read more: BBC News - German railways to test anti-graffiti drones

USA: Memorial Day Parade In Boston Suburb Canceled Due To Lack Of Veterans

Veterans in suburban Boston gathered in a park to mark Memorial Day this year rather than hold a parade because of failing health and dwindling numbers.

The city of Beverly called off its parade this year because so few veterans would be able to march. The parade has been a fixture in the town since the Civil War.

Jerry Guilebbe is the city's Director of Veterans' Services. He says it can be difficult for older vets to take part.

Vietnam veteran Ron Innocenti tells WBZ-TV he hates canceling because of the message it sends to current service members. But he does understand the reason.

World War II Navy veteran Bill McPherson tells NECN he's upset about parade cancellation but "there aren't that many of us left."

Read more: Memorial Day Parade In Boston Suburb Canceled Due To Lack Of Veterans

5/26/13

Britain: Blaming the EU is an easy way out. Leaving it would be bad for Britain - by Phillip Souta

Britain an Island again
Nigel Lawson’s conversion to the UKIP agenda on the pages of the Times must have made Nigel Farage’s day.

It is undeniable that the two Nigels’ message on Europe is getting more of a hearing now than it has in the last ten years. In the same way that UKIP’s rise has caused commentators and the mainstream parties to show their spending plans do not stand up to scrutiny, the better off out camp is facing the same challenge. “Welcome to test cricket,” as John Major said.

For the last 40 years, the British people have always voted for parties in favour of our EU membership.

Whilst those who support membership must continue to explain why, there is arguably a much heavier burden of proof on those who would take us out. Where is the evidence it would be good for us, and what are the alternatives.

The argument is often put forward that the UK is a net contributor to the EU (equivalent to roughly £750 per household each year) and therefore makes us worse-off financially. That contribution gives us access to £11 trillion worth of economic activity and free trade which has generated around £3,300 per British household per year over the last 30 years. If we were to leave, we would no longer have unfettered access to the largest market in the world, and one that is on our doorstep. For the foreseeable future, approximately half of Britain’s trade will be with Europe.

The UK is home to large numbers of foreign companies who choose to locate here to avail of the EU market access that our membership provides. If we left, so would many of those companies.

Departure would also jeopardise the 49 per cent of foreign direct investment stock in the UK that comes from other EU countries, which was worth £465bn in 2009. British goods would incur significant import taxes (55 per cent in the case of dairy produce) to reach the EU market, making them less competitive. Half our corporation tax revenue from financial services would be at risk, and the possibility of the EU erecting non-tariff barriers to the free movement of services would jeopardise London’s place as a global financial centre.

Read more: Blaming the EU is an easy way out. Leaving it would be bad for Britain | Left Foot Forward

The Netherlands: State to scrap up to 18,000 civil servant jobs in five years, 25% of budget to go

The national government apparatus will be slimmed down radically between now and 2018, saving €4.2bn, government services minister Stef Blok said in a briefing to parliament on Wednesday evening.

In total, between 12,000 and 18,000 of the 150,000 national civil service jobs will go, offices will be closed and policy areas streamlined, Blok said. The government currently spends some €17bn on running the country.

'In a financial crisis, it is unavoidable that the government offers fewer services,' Blok said in the briefing. 'The government must also work more efficiently at a time when we are asking the same of a lot of people.'

Read more: DutchNews.nl - State to scrap up to 18,000 jobs in five years, 25% of budget to go

Syria conference should be held ‘as soon as possible,’ Ban says during visit to Russia

Stressing that a political solution is the only way to end the Syria crisis, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that an international conference proposed by Russia and the United States should be held as soon as possible so as not to lose momentum.

“It is my sincere hope that we can convene an international conference on Syria as soon as possible to help parties come to the negotiating table,” Mr. Ban said at a joint press conference in Sochi with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Last week, following talks in Moscow between Mr. Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry, the two countries announced they would work together to achieve a political solution to the Syria crisis, and agreed to convene an international conference aimed at achieving this goal.

“I thanked the Foreign Minister for working with US Secretary of State Kerry on finding a way forward,” said Mr. Ban. “Now our challenge is to build on the momentum that Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry have helped to generate.”

Note EU-Digest: a political solution to the crises is the only way out of this mess. If President Assad  can convince hardliners he inherited from his father to become less autocratic and more democratic he could probably succeed in holding the country together under his leadership. The alternative is total chaos, risk of regional conflict, and Syria splitting up into several ethnic and religiously dominated regions.

Read more: United Nations News Centre - Syria conference should be held ‘as soon as possible,’ Ban says during visit to Russia

Food Industry: Fighting “Gastronomic Colonialism”

The FAO and Slow Food aim to promote the indigenous cuisine of Africa, which has been subjected to a kind of “gastronomic colonialism” in which local cooking was cast aside for British, French or Italian cuisine.

Rather, the goal is to promote traditional food crops including cassava, yam, plantain, sweet potato, millets, sorghum and legumes. Some traditional crops — yams in Nigeria and the grain teff in Ethiopia — have become so scarcely planted that they are now considered a luxury.

It can be argued that gastronomic colonialism is very much still continuing, as companies introduce the very aspects of the Western diet — packaged and processed foods, soft drinks — that many in the developed world are seeking to wean themselves from.

As studies have shown, younger people in Japan who prefer a Western-style diet instead of one based on traditional foods (sushi, seaweed) have health problems (obesity, high blood pressure) like those of people in Western countries. In Mexico, eating fast food is regarded as a “sign of status” and not among the wealthy, but the middle class.  China is certainly wary of Western beliefs regarding free speech and human rights, but its citizens (especially those who have recently joined the middle-class) have not hesitated to embrace fast food.

As Petrini says, “gastronomy is not just about beautiful food.” It is also about eating good food in the sense that your diet is beneficial for your health, whatever it looks like. We know that a Western-style diet can be detrimental to health. Efforts like the UN’s and Slow Food’s to stop the spread of “gastronomic colonialism” are worth getting behind.

Read more: How Cooking the Way Your Ancestors Did Can Fight Food Insecurity | Care2 Causes

Tourism - Cruise Industry: Cruise Technology of the Future: 5 New Ships with Big Ideas

This summer the cruise industry is continuing to break ground. With new technology, bigger entertainment and higher-end restaurant innovations, here’s how Viking, Royal Caribbean Princess, NCL, and MSC are competing among many “firsts” in the industry.

Viking announced that it will straddle both the ocean and river cruise markets. Starting in 2015, the Viking Star will cruise the ocean in Scandinavia, the Baltic and the Mediterranean. A second ship is scheduled for delivery in 2016, with the potential of four more ships built by Italian company Fincantieri. Viking aims to recreate the river cruising experience on the ocean: small ships of under 1,000 passengers; longer periods at shore with included shore excursions; beer and wine included with meals; and even free Wi-Fi..

It’s also no surprise that Princess Cruises’ new Royal Princess is getting regal treatment; the ship will be christened by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge (aka Kate Middleton) on June 13 in Southampton, England. The royal legacy of the ship is in no way the coolest feature. Most interesting is the Sea Walk, a new engineering feature that’s a glass-enclosed walkway cantilevered 128 feet above the ocean offering unobstructed views.

The Breakaway sails out of New York, but manages to bring the city attractions along with it. The Rockettes are the godmothers of the ship and the dancers have their own fitness class for cruisers. Entertainment is a big part of the mega-ship, including Broadway shows like Rock of Ages, as well as comedy shows, a jazz club, a nightclub, and a dueling piano bar. Entertainment is also a big part of the food offerings with restaurants  from Food Network celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian, and baked goods from “Cake Boss” Buddy Vlasto. Focusing on outdoor dining, the ship has a multi-restaurant outdoor area called the Waterfront.

Read more: Travel News You Can Use – Cruise Technology of the Future: 5 New Ships with Big Ideas

The Future Of Technology Isn't Mobile, It's Contextual - by Pete Mortensen

In the coming years, there will be a shift toward what is now known as contextual computing, defined in large part by Georgia Tech researchers Anind Dey and Gregory Abowd about a decade ago.

Always-present computers, able to sense the objective and subjective aspects of a given situation, will augment our ability to perceive and act in the moment based on where we are, who we’re with, and our past experiences. These are our sixth, seventh, and eighth senses.

Hints of this shift are already arriving. Mobile devices with GPS deliver location-based services, which sets a baseline for the many ways your phone can gather information it will use to make your life easier down the line.

Amazon’s and Netflix’s recommendation engines, while not magnificently intuitive, feed you book and video recommendations based on your behavior and ratings. Facebook’s and Twitter’s valuations are premised on the notion that they can leverage knowledge of your acquaintances and interests to push out relevant content and market to you in more effective ways.

Read more: The Future Of Technology Isn't Mobile, It's Contextual | Co.Design: business + innovation + design

China’s premier Li Keqiang warns Europe over trade war - by Joshua Chaffin

China’s premier has waded into an intensifying trade dispute with Europe, warning that EU investigations into Chinese-made solar panels and telecommunications equipment would backfire by hurting European consumers.

“The cases over these two types of products will hurt Chinese industries, business and jobs and also damage the vital interests of European users and consumers,” Li Keqiang said en route to Berlin on Sunday during his first foreign trip since becoming premier. “We express firm opposition.”

Mr Li’s comments mark the first time that China’s top leadership has weighed in on the trade disputes, and come as the solar case – the EU’s biggest ever trade investigation – enters a critical phase.

The EU must decide before June 6 whether to go ahead with a proposal from Karel De Gucht, trade commissioner, to impose provisional duties averaging 47 per cent on imported Chinese solar products for dumping, or selling goods below cost.

Read more: China’s premier Li Keqiang warns Europe over trade war - FT.com

5/25/13

Soccer - European Champions League: Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben nets winner 2 against Borussia Dortmund 1 - by Daniel Taylor

Matchmaker Arjen Robben
It was a night of outstanding drama, fully reaffirming everything that has been said and written about the illuminating standards of German football, and when it was all done Bayern Munich had moved alongside Liverpool with their fifth European Cup and the Borussia Dortmund players were on their knees.

Jürgen Klopp's players had been quick to the ball, strong in the tackle, and utterly determined to show they should not feel inferior in any sense.

They played with drive and ambition and what a terrible pity it would be now if a side with this drive and ambition is now to be broken up.

Yet this is some Bayern team and the Bundesliga champions had been the more dangerous side when the goals arrived in the second half, culminating in that moment after 89 minutes when Arjen Robben (Dutch National Soccer Player) ran on to Franck Ribéry's half-blocked back-heel and clipped in the late, decisive winner.

They had taken the lead just before the hour when Robben set up Mario Mandzukic but Dortmund, so dignified in defeat, will probably always wonder what might have happened if Dante had been sent off for the challenge that gave Ilkay Gundogan the chance to equalise from the penalty spot.

Read more: Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Bayern Munich | Champions League final report | Football | The Observer

EU leaders talk tough on tackling Amazon, Google over taxes

Tax evasion and money laundering
Britain, France and Germany called for stricter rules to stop companies such as Google, Apple and Amazon aggressively avoiding taxes in austerity bitten Europe, while acknowledging they had done nothing unlawful.

At a summit to discuss energy and tax policy, the leaders of the three largest EU countries took theopportunity at news conferences to lament the impact of corporate tax avoidance, following several cases involving U.S. firms.

The issue has hit a nerve in Europe where many countries are cutting back on social spending and squeezing workers in order to reduce national deficits and debt.

Most recently a U.S. Senate report found that Apple Inc had paid just 2 percent tax on $74 billion in overseas income, largely by exploiting a loophole in Ireland's tax code.

"We cannot accept that a certain number of companies can put themselves in situations where they escape paying taxes in ways that are legal," French President Francois Hollande said.

"We must coordinate at a European level, harmonize our rules and come up with strategies to stop this."
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has put tax at the top of the agenda for a meeting of the G8 in Ireland next month, was equally clear about the need for coordination steps.

"There is a real chance of seeing the sort of international action that we need to fix this problem," he said. "You can't do it on your own, you have to have that international action and that is why I think today has been a bit of a breakthrough."

France and Britain in particular have grown concerned by the sheer scale of the legal tax schemes.


Read more: EU leaders talk tough on tackling Amazon, Google over taxes | Reuters

European Military Aircraft Industry:EADS Offers $2 Billion Investment In South Korea Eurofighter Deal

Eurofighter
EADS is offering a $2 billion investment as it gears up to compete against U.S rivals for a contract to provide 60 advanced fighter planes to South Korea.

This offer is focused on South Korea's KF-X program aimed at developing an indigenous multi-role combat fighter.

 EADS officials announced Thursday that they would invest separately into the South Korean project to develop its own advanced fighter jets, if it is chosen for the combat aircraft contract valued at $7.2 billion.

Read more: EADS Offers $2 Billion Investment In South Korea Eurofighter Deal

Military Aircraft Industry: France to buy American drones for Mali operation

Two of America’s medium-altitude Reaper drones will be sold to France as backup for the country’s operations against Islamist rebels in Mali. The news comes from the ‘Air et Cosmos’ specialist magazine, which reported online that a deal had been reached between France and the United States for the sale of two non-armed MQ-9 units.

The French air force had already deployed a European-made Harfang drone to Mali, with the country now wishing to acquire more modern models quickly, although any purchase of the US Reapers directly from the manufacturer (as was done with Harfang) is expected to delay delivery by seven months.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is presently on a visit to the US, where he is expected to make the announcement, according to Air et Cosmos. The defense ministry has declined to comment.

Read more: France to buy American drones for Mali operation — RT News

Tourism: Saudi Arabi Tourist are the highest rollers when it comes to tourism

Saudi Arabians are the highest rollers when it comes to global travel, spending an average of about $6,670 USD per trip, followed by Australian and Chinese globetrotters.

That's according to a recently released report from Visa's Global Travel Intentions Study 2013, described as a barometer of travel trends around the world.

After surveying 12,630 travellers from 25 countries, the report found that Saudi Arabians are the top spenders, shelling out an average of $6,666 per trip.

Aussies spend an average of $4,118 while abroad, while Chinese holidaymakers spend $3,824.
On a global scale, the average travel budget is projected to spike from $2,390 per trip to $2,500 this year.


Where that differs dramatically, meanwhile, is within Asian markets -- particularly in Singapore, Thailand, and Hong Kong -- where travel budgets are expected to nearly double (46%) that of their last trip.

The results of the report suggest either economic recovery or a growing appetite for larger travel budgets, says Visa.

Read more: CANOE Travel - Travel Trends - Top tourism spenders in the world: report

Drones EU: Study warns that drones pose a threat to int'l. security system

European Neuron Drone
The European Parliament warned in a study that the rapid development and proliferation of drone and robotic technology and lack of transparency and accountability of current policies could "destabilizing the international security environment as a whole." The 51-page study titled "human rights implications of the usage of drones and unmanned robots in warfare" was published by the Directorate-General for External Policies of the EU Parliament.

The study notes that in the course of the last decade, the use of armed drones has increased a lot, beginning with the Second Intifada in the Israeli-occupied areas (since 2000), continuing in the Second Gulf War (2003-2011), and reaching its current peak in the course of the United States' confrontation with Al-Qaeda and affiliate groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

What is new today, it points out, is the systematic use of armed drones for the targeted killing of pre-selected individuals in the territory of other states.

By 2012, the US had some 7,000 drones flying roughly 20,000 sorties per year, with a total of 1 million "combat hours" achieved already in 2010.

The study estimates that, between 2004 and 2012, drones operated by the CIA have carried out approximately 350 attacks in Pakistan alone, killing between 2,000 and 3,000 individuals.

The report says that approximately 50 states currently either possess drones or are in the process of developing or acquiring them for purposes of reconnaissance, intelligence-gathering and targeting, thus illustrating a trend towards the worldwide proliferation and acceptance of this technology.

States, such as Israel, the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany are already known to have conducted or contributed to armed drone attacks, others including Russia, Turkey, China, India, Iran, and France, are reported either to have or to be seeking to acquire drones capable of being armed with laser-guided missiles.

The report also underlines that drones are also increasingly employed for domestic law enforcement purposes, including border and road patrols infrastructure protection, and the detection, identification and surveillance.

The study urges the European Union to make the promotion of the rule of law in relation to the development, proliferation and use of unmanned weapons systems a declared priority of European foreign policy.

It also calls on the EU to launch a broad inter-governmental policy dialogue aiming to achieve international consensus on the legal standards governing the use of drones and to work towards the adoption of a binding international agreement aiming to restrict the development, proliferation or use of certain unmanned weapon systems.

Read more: KUNA :: Advertise

Turkish Cypriots still keen on EU says PM

Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) Prime Minister Irsen Kucuk said TRNC government would keep reforms going in order to achieve harmonization with European Union legislation, as the Greek Cypriot administration continues to put obstacles in the way to EU membership for both Turkey and TRNC.

Prime Minister Kucuk released a message on the occasion of the May 9 'Europe Day', saying Turkish Cypriots, who was the side that voted in favor of the famous 'Annan plan' in 2004 and thus greenlighted the unsuccessful initiative of the then United Nations Secretary General to reunite the island, remain devoted to the idea of a resolution in Cyprus and its EU membership as one state.

"A comprehensive solution in Cyprus will create beneficial opportunities for both peoples in the island, and will help bring to fruition the incomplete EU integration process," Kucuk said in his statement.
It was upsetting that Turkish side's calls for an urgent start to negotiations were left answered after Nicos Anastasiades was elected the new leader of southern Greek administration, the prime minister said.

Read more: Turkish Cypriots still keen on EU: PM | Europe | World Bulletin

German invasion of London begins as fans of Munich, Dortmund descend on Wembley - Joe Prince-Wright

The Germans are coming.

If you’re walking around Trafalgar Square or outside Buckingham Place this weekend, expect a few more people dressed in Lederhosens or eating Sauerkrauts than you would usually see.

But they are in London for a reason, to witness one of the worlds greatest sporting events.
At 2:45pm ET on Saturday, two bitter rivals from the Bundesliga will square off under the arch at Wembley Stadium.

Ever since Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund defeated Barcelona at Real Madrid respectively, attentions in London switched to what could be a troublesome match up.

Read more: German invasion of London begins as fans of Munich, Dortmund descend on Wembley | ProSoccerTalk

5/24/13

ESA - Auto Industry: Space drives e-mobility

Toyota i-Real Electric armchair car
A European Space Agency (ESA) business incubation start-up company is helping major car manufacturers to develop electric vehicle concepts and improve safety systems by turning ideas quickly into virtual prototypes.

Foreseeing products by modelling and simulations can provide big jump-starts ( cost savings) for companies,” explains Johannes Gerl, founder and CEO of German start-up company Modelon GmbH.

They reduce their development efforts by saving on the number of prototypes. In addition, they often reduce the time to market.”

Supported during their start-up phase by ESA Business Incubation Centre Bavaria, their Modelica simulation libraries are now used by industry in several countries for modelling the behaviour of complex automotive and energy systems.

The company’s simulation approach has been used by car manufacturers to develop a wide range of novel e-mobility designs such as more efficient hybrid and electric automobiles.

Engineers at Japan’s Toyota company use Modelon’s simulation libraries in developing novel e-mobility vehicle concepts such as their i-Real for easy city transportation and short commuting.

Small, electric and lightweight, i-Real is almost an armchair controlled by two joysticks.  Toyota modeled, simulated and optimized it with Modelon’s Vehicle Dynamic libraries.

Another customer is Sweden’s Volvo. Here, engineers use Modelon’s libraries for improving car safety systems. Real-life testing using physical prototypes is time-consuming, expensive and often unsafe for the test drivers.  "If you can represent the vehicle behaviour with a mathematical model, you have a great platform for active safety system development,” said Per Ola Fuxin, Manager, Active Safety Functions at Volvo Cars.

Complete vehicle models can be created from construction data and physical tests, and the results can be validated against similar real-life test cases.

"The overall aim is to help our customers save money by using virtual simulation methods and save the number of real prototypes, thereby reduce the development effort,” says Magnus Gäfvert, CEO Modelon AB.

Read more: Space drives e-mobility

Technology: SU University Summit Europe on exponential technology, Budapest, Hungarym Nov. 15-16, 2013

Singularity University (SU) will hold its first European summit in Budapest, Hungary on November 15-16, 2013 to spark a public discourse on the role of technology in the future. For this Summit SU will convene thought leaders and breakthrough companies to explore exponential technologies and their impact on generating further new developments.

The Singularity University (SU) Summit Europe will also bring the best of the SU classrooms, showcasing what has changed in the world of exponential technology and what companies have emerged from SU Labs over the last 12 months.

Syria: Russia Says Syria Will Attend Geneva Peace Talks - by David Herszenhorn

 The Syrian government has agreed to participate in an international peace conference coordinated by Russia and the United States, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

“We note with satisfaction that Damascus has confirmed its readiness in principle to participate in an international conference in the interest of the Syrians themselves finding a political path to a settlement of the conflict that has been devastating for the country and the region,” the spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich, said in a statement.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry had agreed during a meeting in Moscow earlier this month to pull together the peace conference, with Russia responsible for bringing the government of Bashar al-Assad to the table and the Americans focused on securing the participation of the Syrian opposition.

Read more: Russia Says Syria Will Attend Geneva Peace Talks - NYTimes.com

Solar Energy: EU not coordinating with Washington on China solar dispute

Europe's top trade official said on Tuesday there were no coordinated talks with the United States to negotiate an end to a trade dispute with China over the dumping of solar panels onto their respective markets.

The European Union has until June 5 to decide whether or not to impose duties averaging 47 percent on Chinese manufactured solar panels. The United States has already imposed duties of about 30 percent on Chinese manufacturers.

"We do not have a common battle plan. We have not discussed it," EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht told a meeting of New York finance, business and academic communities sponsored by the European American Chamber of Commerce and the State University of New York. "We have not teamed up. We have not done so."

De Gucht was responding to a New York Times report that said the United States and the European Union have each decided to negotiate settlements with China to resolve anti-dumping and countervailing duty cases against Chinese solar products.

Read more: EU not coordinating with Washington on China solar dispute

Russia Earthquake: Powerful Temblor Hits Off East Coast In Sea Of Okhotsk - by Nataliya VasIiyeva

A powerful earthquake on Friday hit Russia's Far East with tremors felt as far away as Moscow, about 7,000 kilometers (4,400 miles) west of the epicenter.

Marina Kolomiyets, spokeswoman for Obninsk's seismic station of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told The Associated Press the epicenter was in the Sea of Okhotsk, east of the Russian coast and north of Japan. She said the quake registered 8.0 on the Richter scale.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported a magnitude of 8.2. The epicenter was in the Kuril-Kamchatka arc, one of the most seismically active regions in the world.

Read more: Russia Earthquake: Powerful Temblor Hits Off East Coast In Sea Of Okhotsk