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6/30/13

European Car Industry: A fleet of Fiat 500's are spotted 'swimming' off the coast of Miami's South Beach - by Jaymi Mccann

They are designed for navigating Italy's winding, narrow, streets.

But it seems Fiat 500's are equally at home in the water after a fleet was seen racing a boat in the ocean off Miami Beach. 

The cars were driven by models and taken around some of the luxurious islands off the coast of Miami.

See the Video and Read more: Fasten your life jackets! A fleet of Fiat 500's are spotted 'swimming' off the coast of Miami's South Beach | Mail Online

Country Reputation Report: After Canada, Sweden 'second most reputable country' in the world: study shows

Sweden is the country with the second best reputation worldwide, according to a new study from the US-based Reputation Institute.

The Reputation Institute is a global consultancy with main offices in New York and Copenhagen and has recently produced its fourth annual list of 50 countries ranked by reputation.

"To achieve a strong reputation it is crucial to manage the reality and the perception of a varied group of attributes, which refer not only to economic factors, but also to political, social, and cultural aspects," said Nicolas Georges Trad in an institute statement.

"A balance of these variables is what gives personality to a country as well as the competitiveness to attract tourists, talent, and investments," he added.

The list is topped by Canada for the third year running and runner-up is Sweden, climbing one place from last year. Completing the top three is Switzerland.

Europe leads the world in reputation, boasting 7 of the 10 highest-ranked countries in the 2013 Country RepTrak Report. This includes the second-most reputable country this year: Sweden. The rest of Scandinavia also made it to the top 10, with Norway in 5th place and Finland in 8th.  

The United States had the 22nd-best reputation this year, one position higher than last year. It boasted the second-highest reputation for well-known brands and 6th-highest for culture.

Read more: Sweden 'second most reputable country': study - The Local

PRISM: Snooping claims add new complication to tough EU-US trade talks and could put it on ice - by Joshua Chaffin

A German newspaper report about alleged US spying on EU institutions has threatened to complicate further an already challenging effort to forge a transatlantic trade agreement.

The first round of formal negotiations for the transatlantic trade and investment partnership, known as TTIP, are to begin in Washington next week. The pact is being counted on not only to boost sluggish economies but also solidify EU-US relations for another generation.

But the report in Der Spiegel, the German weekly, could make them more difficult by further inflaming EU-US disputes over data protection rules that have proved highly troublesome in recent years.

If proven true, the report would also damage the trust necessary to undertake such a complex and ambitious negotiation – a point made by Viviane Reding, EU justice commissioner, on Sunday.

“Partners do not spy on each other,” Ms Reding said, responding to a question at a citizens’ meeting in her native Luxembourg. “We cannot negotiate over a big transatlantic market if there is the slightest doubt that our partners are carrying out spying activities on the offices of our negotiators. The American authorities should eliminate any such doubt swiftly.”

Elmar Brok, chairman of the European parliament’s foreign affairs committee – and a member of the centre-right European People’s Party – expressed similar frustration. “The spying has taken on dimensions that I would never have thought possible from a democratic state,” he told Der Spiegel. “How should we still negotiate if we must fear that our negotiating position is being listened to beforehand?”

Read more: Snooping claims add new complication to tough EU-US trade talks - FT.com

6/29/13

Spain - the Netherlands: Jobless Spanish nurses jump at Dutch opportunities - by Marcelo del Pozo and Sara Webb

Nurse recruiting firm Roca-BHR in Spain drew more than 800 applicants in Spain last year when it offered guaranteed jobs in the Netherlands caring for the elderly to those who were willing to take an intensive course in Dutch.

Of the 20 young nurses accepted to the programme - financed by Dutch companies that need nurses - 11 completed the seven months of training and tests in the southern city of Seville and flew to The Hague, where they start work in July.

Read more: Jobless Spanish nurses jump at Dutch opportunities | Reuters

PRISM SPY PROJECT: German Press Reactions to Tempora Data Surveillance Scandal


In Germany, a country with a long, troubled history of state surveillance, the revelation that British and American intelligence agencies have been spying en masse on European data communications has not gone over easily.

Last Friday, London's Guardian newspaper published the contents of leaked documents confirming that Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the American National Security Agency (NSA) have been tapping directly into fiber-optic cables to collect vast stores of information that they can then access as needed. Among these cables was the TAT-14, which carries a large share of data communication in and out of Germany, the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung and public radio station NDR reported on Tuesday after viewing documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

According to media reports, neither the German government nor the country's foreign intelligence service, the BND, was apparently aware of the British surveillance operation, dubbed "Tempora," which was reportedly made possible with the cooperation of two telecommunications companies: Vodafone and British telecoms giant BT. Vodafone released a statement saying it abides by the laws of the countries in which it operates, but it declined to give further information, citing "national security." BT has refused to comment.

The ongoing surveillance controversy, which began last month following the disclosure of the NSA's Prism program, has been a heated topic in Germany, where the massive state surveillance of Communist East Germany is still present in the memories of many citizens.

Spiegel magazine has also said that a September 2010 "top secret" document of the US National Security Agency outlines how the agency bugged offices and spied on EU internal computer networks in Washington and at the UN. The document explicitly referred to the EU as a "target", the magazine reports.

Read more: German Press Reactions to Tempora Data Surveillance Scandal - SPIEGEL ONLINE

PRISM SPY PROJECT: US and Ecuador discuss Snowden's bid for asylum

Joe Biden held talks with President Rafael Correa on Friday, the two countries confirmed.

According to Mr Correa, Mr Biden asked him to reject the request but Washington gave no details.
In a new development, a German magazine says a document leaked by Mr Snowden shows the US bugged EU offices.

Spiegel magazine says a September 2010 "top secret" document of the US National Security Agency outlines how the agency bugged offices and spied on EU internal computer networks in Washington and at the UN. The document explicitly referred to the EU as a "target", the magazine reports.

Read more: BBC News - US and Ecuador discuss Snowden's bid for asylum

German Retailing Giant Aldi could open US West Coast DC by 2015 - by Pamela Riemenschneider

ALDI food market store in Fort Lauderdale
Battavia, Ill.-based Aldi Inc. is mulling locations for a base for its West Coast expansion.
According to an article in the Moreno Valley Press-Enterprise, Aldi officials are considering building a 935,000-square-foot distribution in the Southern California town just east of Riverside.

The article says Aldi’s Southern California division could open stores by 2015.

The company opened the first 10 of the 30 stores it plans for the Houston area in April and May, and has opened nearly 40 stores total in 2013, according to its website. Aldi opens 50 to 80 stores per year, without merger or acquisition.

The retailer operates more than 1,200 stores in 38 states focused on deep discounts and private label goods, offering 1,400 of the most commonly purchased items in a supermarket.

Read more: Aldi could open West Coast DC by 2015 - The Packer

Turkey's Erdogan: His own worst enemy?

At a gathering in a park in Istanbul, dozens of people communicate with hand signals so as not to disturb the neighbors.

At another, they quietly discuss Turkey's political future. At Taksim Square, people stand silently to avoid provoking police, but their message is clear: "We are not done."

The refusal by protesters across Turkey to go home after weeks of demonstrations has posed the biggest threat to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan since he took office more than a decade ago.

His violent crackdown against them has damaged his political standing and international stature, affected his future plans for Turkey and already significantly impacted Turkish society, analysts say.

"Erdogan still refuses to listen to the people protesting, and he still isn't admitting any mistakes," said political analyst Ahmet Insel at Galatasaray University in Istanbul. "Instead, he used all his power against them and still didn't manage to quiet them — but they have managed to somewhat wear down his authority."

Read more: Turkey's Erdogan: His own worst enemy?

APPS: six percent of Android apps in Google Play store are malware - by Phil Moore

Six percent of all Android apps in the Google Play app store are Malware, according to a new definition of malware from a security firm called lookout. While “malware” has up to now been more strictly defined as apps which contain or exhibit virus-like features aimed at taking over or sabotaging a computing device, Lookout is now adding what it calls adware to the malware mix.

Adware is defined as apps which display ads outside of the app, try to nab your personal information, or do things they’re not supposed to when a user taps on an ad. The unsettling part: on the other Android app stores not run by Google itself, the percentage is even higher.

Read more: Lookout: six percent of Android apps in Google Play store are malware - Stabley Times | Stabley Times

Praise for Irish presidency tempers criticism of Anglo at EU summit - by Arthur Beesley

Biting criticism in Brussels of the Anglo tape disclosures was tempered by high praise for Ireland’s outgoing presidency of the Council of the EU.

Although German chancellor Angela Merkel took an unforgiving swipe at errant bankers after the opening session of the summit, she paid tribute yesterday to the Irish presidency.

“I would like to give my heartfelt thanks for an unusually successful presidency in which many dossiers were brought to a successful conclusion,” said Dr Merkel., “I thank Enda Kenny and the whole Irish Government.”

For his part, the Taoiseach praised the “many thousands of hours put in by people whose names are not known publicly in the interests of moving major files across the line”.
Every minister and minister of state did their job exactly as expected, Mr Kenny said. “In that sense I have to say, while the presidency won’t come to Ireland again for many years, this has been a rewarding and challenging experience.”

The baton passes to Lithuania on Monday ahead of a key vote by MEPs on the EU budget. With both the Commission and the Parliament now into the final year of their current mandate, the Irish presidency was under pressure from the off to advance several key initiatives through a complex legislative procedure.

The final act of the presidency is on Tuesday when Mr Kenny addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg. In addition to the budget deal, he is likely to cite agreements on banking supervision and resolution, a negotiating mandate for EU-US trade talks and the reform of the agricultural and fisheries policies.

Read more: Praise for Irish presidency tempers criticism of Anglo at EU summit - Irish News, World News & More | The Irish Times - Sat, Jun 29, 2013

6/28/13

PRISM: NSA Surveillance Prompts Several Bills But Little Action In US Congress - by Sabrina Siddiqui

In the three weeks since Edward Snowden revealed the National Security Agency's widespread surveillance programs, the legislative response to his revelations on Capitol Hill has slowed to a glacial pace and public obsession has noticeably shifted from a debate on national security versus privacy to Snowden's latest whereabouts.

Civil liberties advocates in Congress introduced a slew of bills in response to reports that the NSA has been collecting phone records from millions of Americans and mining electronic communications from nine major Internet companies:
But the one thing they lack is a timeline for when, or if, anything will actually get done. While the need to address the scope of the NSA programs has been raised in Judiciary committee hearings held by Leahy, none of the bills aimed at doing that has progressed beyond picking up a few cosponsors.

Read more: NSA Surveillance Prompts Several Bills But Little Action In Congress

Finland Weather: Warning issued as more than 22,000 lightning bolts rain down on Finland

The Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) issued a warning shortly before 3pm Thursday of potentially dangerous thunderstorms in Central Finland, Southern Ostrobothnia and Central Ostrobothnia over the next few hours.

By 5pm more than 22,000 strikes had been recorded. "A record for this year", said FMI meteorologist Tuomo Bergman.

Meanwhile the temperature has climbed above 30 degrees Celsius in many areas. However Wednesday’s reading of 32.4 degrees in Liperi, North Karelia, still stands as the hottest of the year so far.

Read more: Warning issued as lightning bolts rain down on Finland | Yle Uutiset | yle.fi

Turkey: how long can the Erdogan government still hold on to its present course ? by RM

Our history professor at University, talking about revolution told us many years ago that a well-mannered social revolution is one doomed to fail. 

In the current Turkish circumstances, polite, rules-abiding, social media orchestrated challenges to authority have been basically rendered irrelevant by the government. Regardless of the fact that these demonstrations have shown the world that not everything is hunkydory in Turkey, people will eventually forget. 

If the Turks really wish to challenge the authorities in a serious manner, they must be prepared to provoke an unholy, chaotic, extremely messy scene, where everyone, including the government becomes mortified and humiliated.

People must be driven by a ruthless urge to radically want to establish democracy, justice and change, regardless of the personal consequences or cost. Even Gandhi who was known as a "peaceful revolutionary" understood this and used similar tactics to get the British out of India. 

Turkey might not be at this point yet, but the situation could probably quickly change if the government continues on its present authoritarian course and the country becomes even more polarized.

EU-Digest

The Deeper Implications of the Snowden Revelations - by Chris Floyd

"No one, anywhere, has been writing about the deeper and wider implications of the Snowden revelations than Arthur Silber. (I hope you’re not surprised by this.) In a series of powerful, insightful essays, Silber has, among other things, laid bare the dangers of the oddly circumscribed ‘gatekeeper’ approach of the journalistic guardians (at, ironically, the Guardian) of Snowden’s secrets, particularly their slow drip-feed of carefully self-censored tidbits from the famous Powerpoint presentation that Snowden secreted from the bowels of the United Stasi of the American intelligent apparat. 

Eschewing the Wikileaks approach, the guardians at the Guardian have not let us judge the material for ourselves, opting instead to adopt, unwittingly, the same approach of the apparat: “we are the keepers of knowledge, we will decide what you need to know.”

As Silber notes, this doesn’t vitiate the worth of the revelations, but it does dilute their impact, leaving gaps that the apparat — and its truly repulsive apologists all through the ‘liberal media’ — can exploit to keep muddying the waters. He explores these ramifications, and others, in “In Praise of Mess, Chaos and Panic” and “Fed Up With All the Bullshit.”

In his latest piece, “‘Intelligence, Corporatism and the Dance of Death,” he cuts to the corroded heart of the matter, the deep, dark not-so-secret secret that our secret-keepers are trying to obscure behind their blizzards of bullshit: it’s all about the Benjamins.

After noting the gargantuan outsourcing of “intelligence” to private contractors like Booz Allen — the very firm that employed Snowden — Silber gives a quick precis of the essence of state-corporate capitalism
Read more: Follow the Money: The Secret Heart of the Secret State. The Deeper Implications of the Snowden Revelations | Global Research

The Netherlands: Austerity support frays at edges among EU smaller fiscal hawks - by James Shotter and Matt Steinglass

Since the financial crisis swept through Europe four years ago, the bloc’s triple-A rated economies have been vociferous backers of controversial austerity measures as the solution to the continent’s woes.

Yet as the crisis drags on, unemployment rises and growth remains elusive, there are signs that among Europe’s smaller fiscal hawks, such as the Netherlands, Austria and Finland, the appeal of austerity is beginning to wane.

The debate is particularly heated in the Netherlands. On Wednesday, following a bitter face-off in parliament, the leaders of both parties in the country’s coalition government, the centre-right Liberals and the centre-left Labour party, took a step back from their commitment to austerity.

They acknowledged that if their latest cuts fail to meet the EU’s budget deficit limit of 3 per cent of national output in 2014, they would give up on meeting the limit that year. “Three per cent is not holy for us. We are letting that go,” said Diederik Samsom, the Labour leader.

The Dutch government has already carried out tens of billions of euros worth of austerity measures. But with the economy shrinking 1.8 per cent last year, a government proposal for a further €6bn in austerity measures in 2014 has encountered fierce resistance.

A so-called “social accord” on austerity measures reached in April between the government, labour unions, and business groups has unravelled, with both labour and business leaders coming out against new cuts or tax raises. Meanwhile, unemployment has risen to 6.6 per cent, housing values and household spending are falling, consumer confidence is near record lows, and bankruptcies hit the highest level ever recorded in May.

Much of the ire is centred on the very EU budget rules that the Netherlands and its triple-A allies strongly advocated the bloc adopt two years ago.

“Why are we cutting €6bn? Only because Brussels says we have to,” said Sybrand van Haersma-Buma, leader of the Christian Democrats.

Note EU-Digest: the proof, however, that these painful austerity measures work is Germany which already put these painful measures in effect about 10 years ago ( when they could not meet the EU prescribed maximum 3% inflation level) and is now benefiting from the results. Germany trimmed its civil service costs, social and welfare and military expenditures.

In the corporate world, austerity, as some corporations believe, certainly does not mean that labor costs have to be brought down to the level of China or India in order to be competitive. It means a smarter, better educated and more efficient high- tech workforce and an industry focusing on high-end export products and knowledge.

Read more: Austerity support frays at edges among EU smaller fiscal hawks - FT.com

6/27/13

Food Safety: Labeling genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Maine approved by legislature.

Thanks to thousands of Mainers speaking up, both their House and Senate voted to pass LD 718, which will label genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Maine.

The Maine House of Representatives in favor of the bill. The Maine Senate voted The bipartisan support for this issue has been incredible!

The success of this bill is now in the hands of the Maine governor LePage who must legalize the bill by signing it.

 EU-Digest 

European Labor Market: Unemployment means young entrepreneurs leaving southern Europe - by Nigel Cassidy

Record unemployment has led to a rise in the number of young entrepreneurs leaving southern Europe and heading north to seek their fortunes.

Across the EU, nearly a quarter of people aged 18 to 25 have no job. In Greece and Spain more than half the people in that age group are jobless.

Youth unemployment will be the focus of attention at a two-day EU summit in Brussels.

Note EU-Digest: EU leaders gathering in Brussels today Thursday (27 June) for a two-day summit will again turn to measures aimed at helping young people to get jobs, as unemployment figures soar in southern countries.

The summit which kicked off at 4.30pm local time this afternoon with a meeting between leaders, trade unions and employers' associations, to hear what actions they are taking to boost youth employment.

EU leaders will also meet with the head of the European Investment Bank (EIB), Werner Hoyer, and look at ways to increase the bank's lending capacity after it received a €10 billion capital increase earlier this year.

Read more: BBC News - Unemployment means young entrepreneurs leaving southern Europe

Tax Evasion: "Our Bucks Not Starbucks" - Starbucks pays UK corporation tax for first time since 2009

Coffee giant Starbucks has paid euro 5.85 million in UK corporation tax - its first such tax payment since 2009 - the company has announced.

A company spokeswoman said it had listened to its customers and would pay another £5m later this year.

The move follows pressure from politicians and campaigners, and an agreement by world leaders last week to clamp down on corporate tax avoidance.

Starbucks has only reported taxable profit once in 15 years in the UK.

It announced late last year it would pay more corporation tax after a public outcry and an investigation by MPs .



Read more: BBC News - Starbucks pays UK corporation tax for first time since 2009

Agriculture: EU Reaches Deal Reshaping Bloc’s Farm Policy in Next 7 Years - by Rudy Ruitenberg

European Union negotiators agreed on the bloc’s future common agricultural policy, after two years of discussions on how to spend what may total 373.2 billion euros ($485 billion) over seven years. 

The new policy will cut some subsidies in the 27-nation bloc and tie others to environmental measures, the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, wrote in an e-mailed statement today. A plan by farm ministers to trim payments above 150,000 euros for a single farm was left out of final talks as there was no consensus, Paolo De Castro, chairman of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee, said at a news conference in Brussels yesterday.

The EU’s common agricultural policy sets the direction from 2014 to 2020 for farmers who produce 20 percent of the world’s wheat, milk and pork, 11 percent of its sugar and beef and account for 30 percent of global cheese exports. Agriculture would make up 39 percent of the EU’s total budget of 960 billion euros proposed for 2014-2020.

Read more: EU Reaches Deal Reshaping Bloc’s Farm Policy in Next 7 Years (1) - Businessweek

EU reaches deal on 2014-2020 budget

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has announced a political deal on the EU's hotly contested 2014-2020 trillion-euro budget.

Barroso said a deal had been reached at emergency talks between the commission, which is the EU executive, the European parliament leadership, and Ireland, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency. But the accord on the budget, which has been disputed for months, must still be formally approved by parliament's 754 MPs.

Barroso had called high-level breakfast talks in hopes of unlocking the European Union's next seven-year budget just hours before the bloc's 27 heads of state and government gather for a two-day summit.

"Today we have agreed on this budget that will make investment in Europe possible," Barroso said on Thursday. "This is the growth fund for Europe."

The top item on the summit agenda is to agree quick spending on jobs and training for the 5.6 million under 25-year-olds currently unemployed across the EU, victims of the years of tough austerity policies enforced to beat Europe's debt crisis.

Read more: EU reaches deal on 2014-2020 budget | The Australian

EU ministers agree rules on bank collapses - by Benjamin Fox

Bank shareholders and creditors will be first in line to suffer losses if their bank gets into difficulties, according to draft rules agreed by ministers in the early hours of Thursday morning (27 June).
EU Banks to be held accountable

Ministers had been hoping to seal a deal last Friday (21 June) in Luxembourg but nearly 20 hours of talks broke up with disagreement on how much flexibility governments would have to fire-fight in a crisis.

However, with the final EU summit before the summer recess just hours away, and with the European Commission anxious to table its delayed proposal for a single resolution mechanism (SRM), finance ministers managed to agree a compromise

Under the new regime, banks' creditors and shareholders would be the first to take losses. But if this proves insufficient to rescue the bank in question, savers holding uninsured deposits worth more than €100,000 would also take a hit.

Read more: EUobserver.com / Economic Affairs / EU ministers agree rules on bank collapses

6/26/13

European Financial Industry: EU Finance Chiefs Struggle Over Deal on Handling Failing Banks - by Rebecca Christie, Jim Brunsden and Andrew Frye

European Union finance ministers struggled for consensus as they took up an Irish-drafted compromise proposal for assigning losses at failing banks, extending a deadlock that doomed talks last week.

The bloc’s 27 finance chiefs remained “quite far away” from agreement as they convened in Brussels at about 6 p.m. today, Sweden’s Anders Borg told reporters. Ireland’s Michael Noonan, chairing the meeting, held preliminary talks earlier to get a deal he says is key for keeping EU crisis-fighting on track.

“We can and even must reach an agreement,” French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said. It’s “indispensable” for France and Germany to “advance together to find a solution.”

Talks last week foundered on the question of which creditors face writedowns when banks fail. Some countries demanded more flexibility for national authorities, while others sought strict rules across all 27 EU nations. Ministers considered several ways to set thresholds for losses that would need to be assigned via strict formulas before national discretion would be allowed.

An updated plan, circulated by Ireland, a week away from the end of its six-month rotating EU presidency, would hand regulators different degrees of flexibility depending on how they plug gaps that arise when some creditors are exempted from writedowns.

Read more: EU Finance Chiefs Struggle Over Deal on Handling Failing Banks - SFGate

Italy: Berlusconi sentenced to prison in ‘Rubygate’ sex trial

A Milan court found former PM Silvio Berlusconi guilty on Monday of paying for sex with a minor and sentenced him to seven years in prison. Berlusconi, who is also barred for life from holding public office, will remain free pending an appeal.

Read more: Berlusconi sentenced to prison in ‘Rubygate’ sex trial - ITALY - FRANCE 24

PRISM SPy Program: Venezuela: Chavez successor praises Snowden, offers to consider asylum - by Alastair Jamieson and Peter Alexander

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has hailed NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s “courage” and offered to consider an asylum application.

Maduro, speaking in Haiti on Tuesday, said someone should “protect” Snowden, who is believed to be in a transit zone at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

The Obama administration insisted late Tuesday there was a “clear legal basis” for Russia to hand over the fugitive leaker.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed suggestions his country is helping Snowden as “ravings and rubbish.” Officials there say there is nothing they can do because Snowden has not formally crossed into Russian territory.

Read more: Chavez successor praises Snowden, offers to consider asylum - World News

Ford’s first electric vehicle arrives in Europe

Ford Focus Electric
Ford has begun production of its first fully electric car in Europe. The new Focus Electric is now being manufactured from the firm's plant in Saarlouis, Germany, where it is being integrated into the existing production line, alongside the Focus combustion model and Ford Kuga.

he electric version of Ford's top selling car has been on sale in the US since April last year, where it is known as one of America's most energy-efficient cars. Economy is rated as strong as 110 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) for city driving and 99 MPGe on the highway, according to the US' Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

With manufacture now commencing in Germany, the firm is gearing up for the European launch, with the first customer delivers expected to start this July. Production levels will be set to match consumer demand, with orders fulfilled on a case-by-case basis. Prices have yet to be confirmed but are expected to be in the region of euro 28.000 after a (UK) grant worth euro euro 5,900 is deducted.

The model is fitted with an advanced electric motor and lithium-ion battery powertrain that produces 145PS and a top speed of 84 mph. Driving is around 100 miles per charge. It can then be recharged in about three to four hours with the 240-volt charge station.

Read more: Ford’s first electric vehicle arrives in Europe | TheGreenCarWebsite.co.uk

How Electric Vehicles Can Help Europe's Economy

President Barack Obama on Tuesday invoked his executive authority to undertake a slew of measures aimed at curbing climate change and preparing America for its costly impacts. The speech was hailed by environmentalists who've seen their policy priorities largely ignored since the president promised to address climate change in his State of the Union address earlier this year.

"The question is not whether we need to act," Obama said in a speech at Georgetown University. "The question is whether we will have the courage to act before it's too late."

Environmental activists were particularly pleased with the president's comments on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which the president was not expected to discuss. In the speech Obama asked the State Department not to approve the construction of the pipeline unless it can first determine that the pipeline will not lead to a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more: How Electric Vehicles Can Help Europe's Economy | EarthTechling

Climate Change: Obama Climate Change 2013 Policy Speech Outlines Executive Orders

President Barack Obama on Tuesday invoked his executive authority to undertake a slew of measures aimed at curbing climate change and preparing America for its costly impacts. The speech was hailed by environmentalists who've seen their policy priorities largely ignored since the president promised to address climate change in his State of the Union address earlier this year.

"The question is not whether we need to act," Obama said in a speech at Georgetown University. "The question is whether we will have the courage to act before it's too late."

Environmental activists were particularly pleased with the president's comments on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which the president was not expected to discuss. In the speech Obama asked the State Department not to approve the construction of the pipeline unless it can first determine that the pipeline will not lead to a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more: Obama Climate Change 2013 Policy Speech Outlines Executive Orders

Britain bans two anti-Islam U.S. bloggers

The British government has banned two prominent U.S. anti-Islam bloggers who had planned to enter the United Kingdom to speak at a far-right rally, the Home Office said Wednesday.

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, co-founders of Stop Islamization of America, were planning to appear at a march by the far-right English Defense League in Woolwich, the site in southeast London of the hacking death of a British solider in May.

On their blogs, Geller and Spencer posted copies of a letter from the British Home Office issuing the ban.
A government spokesman said individuals whose presence "is not conducive to the public good" could be excluded by the home secretary, the BBC reported.

"We condemn all those whose behaviors and views run counter to our shared values and will not stand for extremism in any form," he added.

Read more: Britain bans two anti-Islam U.S. bloggers

Turkey: EU delays Turkey membership talks delayed for 4 months after German pressure

The EU-Turkey talks had been scheduled to resume this Wednesday. But Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have criticized Turkey's crackdown on anti-government protests.

Turkish police arrested at least 20 people in the capital Ankara on Tuesday, suspected of attacking police during the recent unrest in Istanbul.

Turkish media say the suspects are also accused of belonging to a "terror organisation".
Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle played down tensions with Turkey on Tuesday, saying he had had a "really good, constructive" discussion with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday evening.

Mr Davutoglu was upbeat, saying he saw "no obstacle" to reopening Turkey's talks with the EU eventually.

Read more: BBC News - EU delays Turkey membership talks after German pressure

Poland Needs Action at Home to Match Influence in E.U. - by Judy Dempsey

Not far from Warsaw’s bustling city center is an oasis where cars are few and lawns are deep green. It is here, on Zbyszka Cybulskiego Street, that the stately headquarters of Lewiatan, the Polish Confederation of Private Employers, is based.

After the decades of Poland’s isolation from Western Europe during Communist rule, one would imagine that the president of Lewiatan would be delighted with the influence Polish foreign and security policy now has in the European Union.

But Henryka Bochniarz does not pull her punches. “The Polish economy is out of sync with Poland’s foreign policy,” Ms. Bochniarz said in an interview in Lewiatan’s handsome villa. “Polish foreign policy could hit a wall unless there are big changes made to the economy.”

Read more: Poland Needs Action at Home to Match Influence in E.U. - NYTimes.com

6/25/13

Internet: Sony Introduces its New Android-Powered SmartWatch 2

Sony updated its smart watch Tuesday, introducing the Sony SmartWatch 2 at Shanghai's Mobile Asia Expo.
Designed to be used as a second screen for your Android smartphone, the water-resistant smart watch has NFC (near-field communication) connectivity, and can be personalized with apps based on how you want to use it.

“Competitors are only now launching first-generation devices, while we are already launching a third-generation device with all the insight gained from over half a million customers combined with Sony’s wealth of technology expertise to create the best ever smart-watch experience,” Stefan K Persson, head of companion products at Sony Mobile Communications, said in a press release announcing the watch.

“We have over 200 unique apps dedicated for Sony SmartWatch, with over one million downloads to date, and we are continuing to work with our strong developer network to deliver ever more compelling smart-watch experiences."

Read more: Sony Introduces its New Android-Powered SmartWatch 2

TURKEY: Germany, Netherlands block opening new EU policy talks with Turkey

The EU ambassadors of Germany and the Netherlands on Thursday refused to give a green light to the opening of a new negotiation "chapter" or policy area in Turkey's membership talks with the European Union.

At the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) of the EU ambassadors, 25 of the 27 countries adopted a common position to open the negotiation chapter on "regional policy and coordination of structural instruments" on June 26, while the German and the Dutch ambassadors opposed it.

"The Netherlands demand more time to discuss the issue at the national parliament where the foreign minister will also attend. It looks like Germany will block the decision," EU sources told the Anadolu Agency.

The EU ambassadors reported that the decision over the chapter on "regional policy and coordination of structural instruments" was suspended until the beginning of next week. It was expected that the decision will be discussed at the meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers this coming Monday in Brussels.

If the chapter is opened it's expected that the Turkish government will give a strong response by cancelling a meeting of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) set for June 27-28, as well as by recalling Ambassador Selim Yenel, leader of the Permanent Delegation of Turkey to the EU, and suspending all high level meetings.

Read more: Germany, Netherlands block opening new EU policy talks with Turkey | Politics | World Bulletin

Europeqn Aircraft Industry: Airbus Explores A380 Superjumbo Refresher to Help Rekindle Sales - by Robert Wall & Andrea Rothman

Airbus A380
Airbus SAS said it’s starting to explore ways to refresh its flagship A380 to improve performance toward the end of the decade and keep the double-decker plane competitive as newer long-range jets draw customers.

“We really need to think about how we keep the A380 sharp,” Tom Williams, Airbus executive vice president for programs, said in an interview at the Paris Air Show. Newer planes from Boeing Co. (BA) and others Airbus itself is building mean the economics of the A380 need further improvement, he said.

Airbus has seen lackluster demand for the A380, with 262 orders for its largest plane since it was given authority to sell. The competitive landscape is getting more difficult as Boeing pushes a new family of wide-bodies, including the 777X update of its best selling twin-engine wide-body due around the end of the decade, while Airbus sales of its A350-1000 outpace superjumbo bookings.

Read more: Airbus Explores A380 Superjumbo Refresher to Help Rekindle Sales - Bloomberg

Global Economy: China's 'Shadow Banks' Fan Debt-Bubble Fears - By LingLing Wei

 In a 52-story office tower overlooking the leafy streets of this city's embassy district, some 400 deal makers at Citic Trust Co. arrange financing for property developers, steel mills and other businesses starved for cash and shunned by China's traditional banks.

The lenders at Citic and other institutions that make up China's "shadow banks" have created the closest thing China has to the culture of Wall Street. They take risks that traditional banks won't, going so far as to create investment funds for assets like top-shelf liquor and mahogany furniture. Their top executives drive luxury cars and frequent expensive clubs.

Now, China's shadow banks—a mélange of trust companies, insurance firms, leasing companies, pawnbrokers and other informal lenders subject to limited oversight—are at the center of mounting concerns over whether the country's slowing economy could trigger a debt crisis.

In recent days, the Chinese government has moved to crack down on undisciplined lending. Chinese stocks posted their worst one-day loss in nearly four years on Monday after China's central bank released a statement signaling it was moving to contain runaway credit growth. Markets fell further in early trading Tuesday.

Read more: China's 'Shadow Banks' Fan Debt-Bubble Fears - WSJ.com

PRISM creates concern in Europe as William Hague urges calm

European disquiet over how the US's PRISM snooping campaign has affected citizens on this side of the Atlantic is growing, despite repeated attempts from some officials to draw a line under the affair.

According to the leaked documents about the US National Security Agency (NSA), officials at the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) spy centre received 197 intelligence reports from the PRISM system in the past year.

But William Hague, the foreign secretary told Parliament that GCHQ and the British intelligence agencies operated within the rule of law.

“To intercept the content of any individual’s communications in the UK requires a warrant signed personally by me, the home secretary, or by another secretary of state,” said Hague. “This is no casual process. Every decision is based on extensive legal and policy advice. Warrants are legally required to be necessary, proportionate and carefully targeted, and we judge them on that basis.”

But members of the European Parliament are also concerned that the US has overstepped the mark with its systematic cyber snooping campaign.

Note EU-Digest: unfortunately so far little action on the part of the European Parliament or national European Governments

 Read more: PRISM creates concern in Europe as William Hague urges calm - IT News from V3.co.uk

6/24/13

Human Rights Watch Letter to High Representative Catherine Ashton on EU Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions on Russia

Click on the link below for content of this letter
For the complete letter content Human Rights Watch Letter to High Representative Catherine Ashton on EU Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions on Russia | Human Rights Watch

EU-Digest

Global Economy: Paul Krugman: Greg Mankiw Forgets 'We Are A Much More Unequal Society Now'

Paul Krugman thinks Harvard economist Greg Mankiw forgot an important detail in his new paper, "Defending The One Percent": Social inequality just keeps growing.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist wrote in blog posts Saturday and Sunday that rising social inequality makes it less likely for children born into poor families to earn more money later in life. Krugman illustrates this point with a chart from Miles Corak, an economics professor at the University of Ottawa, that shows a widening gap between how much money the rich and poor spend on their children.

Earlier this month, Mankiw wrote that the top 1 percent of society is richer because they contribute more to society and in essence earn more as a result. But, as Krugman points out, the former economic adviser to President George W. Bush fails to acknowledge how much society has changed in the last 50 years and how those changes lead to differing opportunities for children, depending on the family into which they are born.

"It was a different country, one in which ordinary public high schools were often pretty good, in which good higher education was available cheaply at state universities, in which almost none of the vast apparatus of tutors and private instruction now used by the elite existed," Krugman wrote, referring to how America has changed since 1958, when Mankiw was born.

As Krugman notes, he is not the first to take aim at Mankiw's defense of the richest members of society. Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, points out that even if the top 1 percent deserve to earn more because of their contributions to society, policy plays a large role in deciding how much they are rewarded for those contributions.

Read more: Paul Krugman: Greg Mankiw Forgets 'We Are A Much More Unequal Society Now'

Turkey's Protests Are An Impediment For Its Prime Minister

After more than three weeks of anti-government protests, Turkey's leaders insist they will restore order and quickly bounce back from any damage to the country's economy or image abroad. The crisis comes at a delicate time for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

He is in the midst of a fragile peace initiative with the Kurdish minority, dealing with an escalating war next door in Syria, and trying to convince parliament to strengthen the office of the president, which he is expected to run for as his final term as prime minister winds down.

Read more: Turkey's Protests Are An Impediment For Its Prime Minister : NPR

Are EU optimists right about European Economy?

Hope springs eternal in the hearts of the European optimists. Despite the fact that Europe is still mired in its longest post-war economic recession and despite every sign that austerity fatigue now characterizes Europe’s beleaguered periphery, the optimists cling to the hope that an economic recovery is just around the corner and that somehow Europe will muddle through its economic and political crisis.

Sadly this optimism is not well grounded. Rather it rests on a series of myths, which time will tell are no different from the wishful thinking entertained by European policymakers over the past three years.

Today the economic policy mix in the European periphery is little different from its immediate past. Although there has been some relaxation in the budget austerity being required of euro members by the European Commission, one still has countries deep in recession being forced to pursue budget austerity within a euro straitjacket. And they are now being required to do so at a time that Europe’s credit crunch persists, the external economic environment has deteriorated, and the euro is now appreciating.

Read more: The Washington Post

Central Banks Criticize Europe for Political Gridlock on Economy - by Jack Ewing and James Kanter

 For European officials, it may have been an especially untimely — and embarrassing — example of political gridlock.

Their failure early Saturday to agree on a crucial pillar of the euro zone’s new banking architecture, despite 18 hours of haggling, occurred just as the world’s central bankers were about to criticize politicians for exactly that kind of dithering. 

The Bank for International Settlements, a group representing central banks including the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, warned political leaders on Sunday that they should not expect central banks’ cheap-money policy to hold the global economy together forever. The organization, based in Basel, Switzerland, said in its annual report that politicians should do their share of “the hard but essential work of adjustment.” 

“Returning to stability and prosperity is a shared responsibility,” Jaime Caruana, the general manager of the organization, said Sunday in Basel, according to a text of his remarks. “Monetary policy has done its part.”

Read more: Central Banks Criticize Europe for Political Gridlock on Economy - NYTimes.com

6/23/13

Energy Supplies: Norway and Russia agree to joint oil and gas exploration

Norway's Statoil and Russia's Rosneft have signed agreements that will result in their Joint Venture to explore offshore frontier areas in the Sea of Okhotsk and in the Barents Sea.

The companies have also concluded a Heads of Agreement to explore shale oil opportunities in the Samara region.

The agreements were signed by Statoil CEO Helge Lund and Rosneft Chairman and President Igor Sechin in St. Petersburg during the International Economic Forum, and Statoil and Rosneft have made another significant step forward in the partnership entered into on 5 May 2012 between the two companies.

 Read more: Norway and Russia agree to joint oil and gas exploration

Majoritarianism: Zombie democracy

I’ve won three elections!” Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s embattled prime minister, growls at his critics. On the face of it, his case is compelling: surely, many people in Turkey and beyond would agree, popularly elected leaders can govern as they please? That’s what democracy means.

Well, no. Majoritarianism—the credo of an expanding group of elected but autocratic rulers around the world, which holds that electoral might always makes you right—is not true democracy, even if, on the face of it, the two things look alike. It is worth explaining why.

To begin with, democratic legitimacy isn’t merely a correlative of a ruler’s share of the vote. Few candidates in the West nowadays win more than half of the votes, still less a majority of the electorate. Most are obliged to govern with slim electoral mandates. That doesn’t, of itself, make them illegitimate. Indeed, huge landslides of the kind “won” by, say, Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus are often undemocratic. They tend to be achieved fraudulently; even when they are not, they can be precursors to persecution by the regal “victor” of opponents or to triumphal overreach, as in the case of Viktor Orban, Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister. Mr Erdogan’s party took almost 50% of the vote at Turkey’s 2011 election: impressive, but not absolute proof of democratic virtue.

If broad support does not automatically qualify a leader as a democrat, nor does strong opposition disqualify him. Margaret Thatcher’s reforms were contentious, to say the least. The heat and vitriol of politics have intensified in the Fox News, shock-jock, bile-blogging era: Barack Obama is often lambasted as tyrannical or traitorous. Tough decisions, such as spending cuts or tax rises, can provoke widespread anger, as the past few years have demonstrated. Bold reforms, which The Economist applauds, often do the same. That doesn’t make the leaders who impose them undemocratic, either.

The issue is how the relationship between supporters and opponents is managed. In part this is a matter of rules and institutions to constrain a leader’s power and to allow the aggrieved to find redress. These should include a robust account of citizens’ basic rights, independent courts to enforce them and free media to monitor them. From a democratic perspective, these are the areas where Mr Erdogan has most seriously erred: not in introducing controversial or wrong-headed policies (that is his prerogative), but in capturing the courts, silencing media critics and attacking peaceful protesters. His talk of tinkering with the constitution to perpetuate his own rule, as both Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and Russia’s Vladimir Putin did, is another warning sign.

Read more: Majoritarianism: Zombie democracy | The Economist

European Aircraft Industry: Paris Air Show crowd greets third Airbus A350 test flight - by by Stephen Shankland

AIRBUS A350 flyover at Paris Airshow
The Airbus A350's maiden voyage on June 14 and its second flight Wednesday were from Toulouse, France's fourth-largest city. Its third test flight on Friday, though, took the energy-efficient aircraft over the nation's capital, where a crowd at the Paris Air Show greeted the important new jet.

The jet made a conservative pass above the runway at Le Bourget Airport here, forsaking the steep ascents and sharply banked turns common as manufacturers show off the abilities of their aircraft. For a look at the event, check CNET's photo gallery of the A350 XWB flyover at the Paris Air Show.

Read more: Paris Air Show crowd greets third Airbus A350 test flight | Cutting Edge - CNET News

PRISM NSA SPY PROGRAM: Snowden requests asylum in South America

The former National Security Agency contractor wanted for revealing classified secrets is seeking asylum in the South American country of Ecuador, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said Sunday.

The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks also announced that Edward Snowden “is bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisers from WikiLeaks.” The organization’s founder Julian Assange, was granted asylum by Ecuador last year and has been staying at the country’s embassy in the United Kingdom.

Snowden was on an Aeroflot flight from Hong Kong that arrived in Moscow Sunday and was booked on a flight to Cuba on Monday, the Russian news agencies ITAR-Tass and Interfax reported, citing unnamed airline officials. The reports said he intended to travel from Cuba to Caracas, Venezuela. There was also speculation that he might try to reach Ecuador.

Read more: Snowden requests asylum in South America - The Globe and Mail

Turkey: Erdogan says same forces behind Brazil and Turkey protests

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, has suggested that the same outside forces are behind protests in both his own country and Brazil, as Turkish authorities continue their crackdown on overwhelmingly peaceful protesters.

Mr Erdogan was speaking hours before police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse thousands of flower-bearing protesters who gathered in Istanbul’s central Taksim square to commemorate four people who have died since the Turkish unrest erupted on May 31.

“The same game is being played in Brazil,” Mr Erdogan told a large rally of his supporters in the town of Samsun on Saturday. “There are the same symbols, the same posters. Twitter, Facebook is the same, so are international media. They are controlled from the same centre. They are doing their best to achieve in Brazil what they could not achieve in Turkey. It is the same game, the same trap, the same goal.”

While Mr Erdogan says the Turkish protests are linked to terrorism, an international plot against his country and “an interest rate lobby” disturbed by its recent high rates of growth, the protesters say they are motivated by increasing levels of authoritarianism under his government.

Some protesters waved Brazilian flags on Saturday night, in what they say is recognition of the mutual inspiration that the protests in Brazil and Turkey have caused.

The gathering in Taksim square was the largest since the prime minister ordered police to clear the adjoining Gezi Park a week before – but many protesters were nevertheless surprised when police ordered them to leave Taksim and then water-cannoned them.

Note EU-Digest: Mr. Erdogan has it right, except  for the reasons of these protests around the world. People are protesting corrupt, authoritarian governments, police brutality, and the lack of freedom of expression.

Read more: Erdogan says same forces behind Brazil and Turkey protests - FT.com

NSA PRISM SPY PROGRAM: Wistleblower Snowden arrives at Moscow airport

Edward Snowden
A Russian plane carrying whistleblower Edward Snowden has landed at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. It is reported that the former CIA contractor, who left Hong Kong in a bid to elude US extradition on espionage charges, is on his way to a ‘third country’ via Russia.

Earlier, a spokesperson from the Hong Kong government confirmed that Edward Snowden had "legally and voluntarily" left the country.

“Mr. Edward Snowden left Hong Kong today (June 23) on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel,” said the Hong Kong government in a press release. The statement also said the documents for Snowden’s extradition submitted by Washington “did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law.”

“As the HKSAR Government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for a provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.”

It is not clear yet if Mr. Snowdon will remain in Europe or to which other third country he will be going. 

EU-Digest 

Germany Justice Mininister says: "UK tapping Europe’s data flows is like ‘Hollywood nightmare’'

Big Brother Is Watching
The German Justice Minister has called the British spy agency’s massive eavesdropping of international fiber-optic cables 'a catastrophe'. Sabine Leuthesser-Scharrenberger insisted European institutions should seek clarification “straight away”.

The exposure by former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden of the global eavesdropping capabilities of the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have sent European capitals into a stupor.

Having revealed the NSA’s PRISM global surveillance program, Snowden told the UK’s Guardian newspaper information about Britain's top secret Tempora surveillance project under which the UK's GCHQ spying agency intercepts and stores for 30 days huge volumes of data, like emails, social network posts, phone calls and much more, culled from international fiber-optic cables.

Read more: UK tapping Europe’s data flows is like ‘Hollywood nightmare’ – Germany — RT News

6/22/13

Turkey: An Islamic voice against Erdoğan - by Mustafa Akyol

Turkey is a very divided nation these days, in the face of the public protests that began in Taksim’s Gezi Park and spread across the whole country. Yet everybody knows that the park is just a symbol and the real issue is the governing party and especially its leader. The real dividing line, in other words, is whether you support or oppose Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

It is also true that this division roughly overlaps with the secular-religious divide in Turkish society. Most Erdoğan supporters are religious conservatives who have found more rights, prosperity and pride under his rule. On the other hand, most anti-Erdoğan groups are secular, and they find his assertive moral conservatism repulsive.

However, there are also voices that defy such a simple religious-vs.-secular divide. One of them is that of the “anti-capitalist Muslims,” a left-leaning Islamic group led by theologian İhsan Eliaçık. They condemn Erdoğan not for his religiosity but his hubris and his “neo-liberalism,” or what they see as crony capitalism.

About a week ago, another voice came from a more prominent and mainstream Islamic circle: “The Labor and Justice Platform.” At a meeting in the offices of Mazlumder, a leading Islamic Human Rights Organization, the members of the platform announced a declaration which condemned the “state arrogance” that the AKP government has shown against the protestors in Gezi Park. They argued:

“Ignoring Gezi Park protestors’ demands, and subsequently labeling them as ‘plunderers,’ reflects the arrogance of a political power that mistakes itself to be the country’s landlord. Ravaging of the environment, cars and stores were triggered by the rough treatment of the police, whenever police violence stopped, protests took a peaceful turn.”

Read more: MUSTAFA AKYOL - An Islamic voice against Erdoğan

The Netherlands: US 2013 TIP Report Recognizes Dutch Efforts to Combat Human Traffiicking

The Netherlands has held the highest ranking in the TIP Report since it was first published in 2001.

The TIP Report states: “The Government of the Netherlands fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to employ a multidisciplinary, whole-of-government approach to its anti-trafficking efforts and maintained an effective and independent national anti-trafficking rapporteur. It used creative methods to detect and proactively identify both foreign and domestic trafficking victims in the country and mobilized a range of governmental, non-governmental, and private entities in this endeavor.”

“The Netherlands is thankful that Ambassador CdeBaca and his team continue to value the efforts our country makes in this endeavor. The Tier 1 Ranking is reflective of all the effort the Netherlands puts into the fight against human trafficking,” said Ambassador Rudolf Bekink. “At the same time, this ranking is no reason to retreat. As in prior years, the Netherlands is determined to invest in new methods and creative ways to prevent and combat this modern form of slavery. And we will continue to work with the international community on this issue.”

The Netherlands uses a multi-disciplinary and pragmatic approach to combat human trafficking, working together with law enforcement, municipalities, NGOs and organisations providing shelter and support to victims, as well as organisations like the Chamber of Commerce, hotels and airlines.

The news comes on the heels of a report on the Netherlands’ human trafficking efforts by Corinne Dettmeijer-Vermeulen, the country’s independent National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings. The Dutch report reveals that for the third year in a row, the Netherlands is investigating and prosecuting more cases of human trafficking.

The Netherlands works closely with the United States on trafficking by exchanging information and arranging delegation visits. For more information on the Dutch approach to combat trafficking click here

Read more: US 2013 TIP Report Recognizes Dutch Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking | The Netherlands Embassy in Washington, D.C., United States

Poland - Banking Sector: Finance Ministry wants more information about bank accounts

Poland's Finance Ministry wants to increase the range of information that financial institutions will be obliged to give to tax authorities, Deputy Finance Minister Maciej Grabowski stated in reply to an MP's query. The new rules are meant to limit tax fraud, he said.

According to the draft law prepared by the Finance Ministry, financial institutions will have to provide information about an account's plenipotentiaries, inflows and outflows with data on the senders and receivers of the money.

In addition to that, banks would have to reveal all the details regarding loans, bank deposits and even bank lockers rented by tax payers. Tax authorities would be able to get every information from financial institutions if they deem it helpful to evaluate tax statements.

Currently banks, credit unions, brokerage houses and investment funds are obliged to give information about customers' accounts to tax authorities, but the range of information is very limited, Mr Grabowski said.


Read more: Finance Ministry wants more information about bank accounts - Warsaw Business Journal - Online Portal - wbj.pl

USA - Poll: Only 35% Have Favorable Opinion of Federal Government, 60% Unfavorable

Americans view local governments more favorably than their state and federal government, and generally prefer state and local solutions rather than turning things over to the federal government. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 35% of American adults have a favorable impression of the federal government. Sixty percent (60%) voice an unfavorable view. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Note EU-Digest: world-wide this seems to be the trend. Trust in Government and the political establishment at the lowest it has ever been. Participate in this month EU-Digest poll on this issue.  

Read more: 35% Have Favorable Opinion of Federal Government, 60% Unfavorable - Rasmussen Reports™

Germany: President Obama hits a wall in Berlin - by George F. Will

What is he saying?
The question of whether Barack Obama’s second term will be a failure was answered in the affirmative before his Berlin debacle, which has recast the question, which now is: Will this term be silly, even scary in its detachment from reality?

Before Berlin, Obama set his steep downward trajectory by squandering the most precious post-election months on gun-control futilities and by a subsequent storm of scandals that have made his unvarying project — ever bigger, more expansive, more intrusive and more coercive government — more repulsive. Then came Wednesday’s pratfall in Berlin.

There he vowed energetic measures against global warming (“the global threat of our time”). The 16-year pause of this warming was not predicted by, and is not explained by, the climate models for which, in his strange understanding of respect for science, he has forsworn skepticism.

Regarding another threat, he spoke an almost meaningless sentence that is an exquisite example of why his rhetoric cannot withstand close reading: “We may strike blows against terrorist networks, but if we ignore the instability and intolerance that fuels extremism, our own freedom will eventually be endangered.” So, “instability and intolerance” are to blame for terrorism? Instability where? Intolerance of what by whom “fuels” terrorists? Terrorism is a tactic of destabilization. Intolerance is, for terrorists, a virtue.

Read more: George F. Will: Obama hits a wall in Berlin - The Washington Post

Solar Panels: China, EU start trade talks aiming to resolve disputes

The European Union said Friday it had started ministerial-level talks with China, where they are expected to discuss rows over solar panels and other products, as tensions between the two risk escalating into a trade war.

Gao Hucheng, China's Minister of Commerce, and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht are in attendance at the annual meeting of the joint economic and trade commission, William Fingleton, spokesman for the EU side, said in an e-mail.

Chinese commerce ministry spokesman Shen Danyang told reporters this week that the talks would "seriously review what happened over the past year in bilateral trade relations and study how to resolve problems, including the dispute over photovoltaic (solar panel) trade".

EU Trade spokesman John Clancy said the solar panel issue would not be on the official agenda of the meeting, but De Gucht and Gao were expected to discuss it on the sidelines.

Read more: China, EU start trade talks aiming to resolve disputes - Channel NewsAsia

European Banking Sector: EU spent a third of its economic output on saving its banks between 2008 and 2011, using taxpayer cash

Europe failed to agree on how to share the cost of bank collapses on Saturday, as Germany resisted attempts by France to water down rules designed to spare taxpayers in future crises.

Almost 20 hours of talks late into the night could not forge a way for countries to set up an EU-wide regime that would first impose losses on shareholders and bondholders when a bank fails, followed by depositors with more than 100,000 euros ($132,000).

Ministers will make a fresh attempt to break the impasse at a meeting on Wednesday, on the eve of an EU leaders summit, and resolve one of the most difficult questions posed by Europe's banking crisis - how to shut failed banks without sowing panic or burdening taxpayers.

"I think we can reach a deal if we take a few more days," said Michel Barnier, the European commissioner in charge of regulation. "We are not far off now from a political agreement."

The European Union spent the equivalent of a third of its economic output on saving its banks between 2008 and 2011, using taxpayer cash but struggling to contain the crisis and - in the case of Ireland - almost bankrupting the country. 

Read more: Europe unable to break impasse on who pays when banks fail

6/21/13

Mobile Phones: How to Tell if a Cell Phone Is Being Monitored

With all of the latest hullabaloo about cell phones being used as bugging devices, you may be feeling a bit creeped out at the prospect of being monitored without your knowing it. Although some cell phones can be remotely programmed, most modern cell phones would require physical access to your phone to tamper with it.

Luckily, when cell phones are transmitting, certain tell-tale signs can be a dead giveaway that your phone is being monitored.

Read more: How to Tell if a Cell Phone Is Being Monitored | eHow

The Netherlands - Cost of Living: Food prices in the Netherlands cheaper than EU average

Food in the Netherlands is 4% cheaper than the European average, according to new figures from EU statistics agency Eurostat.

Food prices in Denmark, the most expensive country, are twice as high as in Poland, which is the cheapest. Prices in the Netherlands are slightly cheaper than Slovenia and slightly more expensive than Spain, the Eurostat figures show.

Alcoholic drinks in the Netherlands are slightly cheaper than the EU average while cigarettes are 8% more expensive.

Read more: DutchNews.nl - Food prices in the Netherlands cheaper than EU average

Obese People Should Be Charged For Additional Seats On Planes Says Poll

In the last EU-Digest Poll conducted from May thru June on the question "Should obese people be charged for additional seats on airplanes, buses and trains?" 77% of those polled said Yes and  23 % said No.

The new June -July EU-Digest Poll asks the question: "How do you rate your governments performance" and gives you 4 different options to answer that question.

EU-Digest

Germany lobbying to suspend Turkey's EU membership talks

Germany is looking for ways to suspend EU membership talks with Turkey after the Gezi Park protests in central İstanbul.

The membership talks are scheduled to resume on June 26 after three-year hiatus and they are largely seen as a hope to revive long stalled negotiations between the two sides. But Germany is seeking to delay the talks with Turkey, the Financial Times reported on Friday.

One day after his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government raised the prospects of holding a referendum or plebiscite in a bid to resolve the two-week-long Gezi Park conundrum, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued his last call to the protestors on Thursday, saying that they will be removed from the park within 24 hours.

Erdoğan said he asked for the park to be cleared within 24 hours. “We will clean the square,” he said.
"Our patience is at an end. I am making my warning for the last time. I say to the mothers and fathers please take your children in hand and bring them out... We cannot wait any more because Gezi Park does not belong to occupying forces but to the people," Erdoğan told an AK Party meeting in Ankara.

The report quoted a senior German diplomat as saying that it is not exactly a good moment to be giving Erdoğan any reward, referring to the restart of the negotiations.

Read more: Germany lobbying to suspend Turkey's EU membership talks | Politics | World Bulletin

6/20/13

Afghanistan’s Karzai shuns US-Taliban peace talks - by Philip Crowther

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Wednesday his government would not join U.S. peace talks with the Taliban and halted negotiations with Washington on a troop pact, underscoring the fragile nature of hopes for a negotiated peace in Afghanistan.

“As long as the peace process is not Afghan-led, the High Peace Council will not participate in the talks in Qatar,” Karzai said in a statement, referring to a body he set up in 2010 to seek a negotiated peace with the Taliban.

Underlining the importance of the process to the United States, the State Department said Secretary of State John Kerry would travel to Doha for meetings with senior Qatari officials on Friday and Saturday. A U.S. delegation had arrived in Qatar earlier for the Taliban negotiations, a diplomatic source said.

Read more: Afghanistan’s Karzai shuns US-Taliban peace talks - AFGHANISTAN - FRANCE 24

Space exploration: Russia May Land Probe on Jupiter's Moon Ganymede with Europe's Juice Mission

A Russian probe being designed to land on Ganymede, Jupiter's largest moon, could launch toward the gas giant with a European spacecraft being developed to explore Jupiter's icy ocean-covered satellites, according to European space officials.

The benefits of such a joint launch arrangement, including sharing reconnaissance and mapping from Europe's Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE), are not lost on scientists. But more Earthly concerns, such as government finances and the realities of technical developments, could thwart the proposal.

"It all depends on if the Russians are ready to fly at the same time as us," said Alvaro Gimenez Canete, director of the European Space Agency (ESA)'s science and robotic exploration programs.

Read more: Russia May Land Probe on Jupiter's Moon Ganymede with Europe's JUICE Mission | Space.com