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7/31/13

Eurozone unemployment falls for first time in more than 2 years.

Unemployment fell in the euro zone for the first time in over two years, according to data released Wednesday.

The figures from June show that 24,000 fewer Europeans were considered unemployed as compared to May, despite unemployment remaining at record highs.

The jobless rate in the 17-member euro zone remained high at 12.1 percent, and a decrease in spending by shoppers in France Germany, and Spain is expected to mar the promising new data.

Domestic demand across Europe remained weak due to the downturn and the austerity measures implemented by many nations.

In the 27-member European Union, the unemployment rate was 10.9 percent, down from 11 percent in May.

 Read more: Euro zone unemployment falls for first time in more than 2 years. But it's still awful there | GlobalPost

China-Russia Military Cooperation: Chinese soldiers leave for anti-terror drills in Russia

China on Saturday began to send military personnel and armaments to Russia, where they will join 20-day joint anti-terrorism drills held by both parties.
The transfer of Chinese troops for the exercise will be completed by Aug. 2, according to Zhang Yan, deputy commander of the 646 Chinese military personnel participating in the drills.
The Chinese officers and soldiers will be sent to the drill venue in seven batches, with four traveling by air and three by train, Zhang said.
With 72 people on board, two Mi-171 military transport helicopters and four Z-9 armed helicopters from the Chinese side took off from an airport in Hailar in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on Saturday morning.
They will travel more than 5,000 km with several stopovers and are expected to arrive at the drill venue in five days.
In addition, 119 officers and soldiers set out by train at noon on Saturday from the border city of Manchuri in Inner Mongolia. And two other trains are expected to leave later on Saturday and Sunday respectively, carrying more soldiers.
According to the schedule, five fighter-bomber JH-7A jets will set out from an airport in Urumqi in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on July 31 and are expected to arrive in Russia the same day.
The exercises, dubbed "Peace Mission 2013" and scheduled to run from July 27 to Aug. 15, will be carried out in Chelyabinsk in Russia's Ural Mountains region.
The Chinese troops attending the drills include an infantry combat group of 350 people, an air force combat group of 50 people, a logistics group with 196 people, a 20-member planning panel, and a 30-member command.
The 600 troops from Russia are of similar composition.


Read more: Chinese soldiers leave for anti-terror drills in Russia- China.org.cn

European Aircraft Industry: Military Airbus A400M achieves first military standard acceptance

Airbus A400 Military Transport
Today the Airbus Military A400M new generation airlifter has received its Type Acceptance at the contractual Initial Operating Clearance (IOC) Standard from OCCAR, the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation, on behalf of the Launch Nations (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom). It represents a historic milestone of the A400M programme after 10 years of development and more than 5,000 flight test hours.

This first military standard acceptance is the last step prior to the aircraft acceptance of MSN7, the first serial aircraft, by the French Defence Procurement Agency DGA and its subsequent delivery to the French Air Force in the coming days.

The common basis for Military certification was approved on 19 July following a recommendation by representatives of the seven launch nations known as the Certification and Qualification Committee (CQC). And Airbus Military accordingly received on 24 July the Military Type Certificate (Certificat de Type) for A400M aircraft from DGA. 


Read more: EADS : Airbus Military A400M achieves first military standard acceptance through Initial Operating Clearance (IOC) | 4-Traders

French Economy: Is France Heading South? - by Jeanne Park

Despite French president François Hollande's recent declaration that a recovery is under way, many policymakers continue to regard the country's troubled economy, the second-largest in the eurozone, as a growing liability for the troubled currency union. For Dominique Moïsi, special adviser at the French Institute for International Relations, the question is whether France has fundamentally shifted away from healthier countries in the North of Europe "and moved in the direction of its Southern European neighbors."

He describes Hollande as a moderate constrained from pursuing bold reforms by both his political left and eurozone requirements. Regarding nascent EU-U.S. free trade talks, he defends France's insistence on cultural exception, but believes that "the Asian challenge should force us to go beyond our differences."

Read more: Is France Heading South? - Council on Foreign Relations

German Elections: Senegal-born chemist hopes to become Germany’s first black lawmaker - by Frank Jordans

Karamba Diaby makes his way through the historic heart of Halle with the speed of a seasoned politician: slowly. More than two decades involvement in local politics means the 51-year-old immigrant can’t go more than a few steps without being stopped for a chat.

Two months before Germany’s general elections each handshake and greeting carries added significance because Diaby is intent on becoming the country’s first black member of Parliament. He listens patiently to his constituents and responds in fluent German with a strong Franco-African accent, courtesy of his Senegalese origins.

“I didn’t throw my hat in the ring,” he said, a touch apologetically. “I was asked by others.”
The decision to place him near the top of the ticket is all the more remarkable because, like other states in the former East Germany, Saxony-Anhalt has a reputation for being more hostile toward immigrants — especially those from outside Europe — than western parts of the country.

While the trained chemist is reluctant to criticize his adopted home — he moved to Halle in 1986 and gained German citizenship in 2001 — Diaby nevertheless acknowledges that he was once physically attacked because of the colour of his skin.

Read more: Senegal-born chemist hopes to become Germany’s first black lawmaker - The Globe and Mail

7/30/13

Internet: Defending an Open, Global, Secure, and Resilient Internet

Antidote For NSA Spying On Europe
A CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force warns that "escalating attacks on countries, companies, and individuals, as well as pervasive criminal activity, threaten the security and safety of the Internet." The number of "state-backed operations continues to rise, and future attacks will become more sophisticated and disruptive," argues the Task Force report, Defending an Open, Global, Secure, and Resilient Internet.

With the ideal vision of an open and secure Internet increasingly at risk, the Task Force urges the United States, with its friends and allies, "to act quickly to encourage a global cyberspace that reflects shared values of free expression and free markets."

The Task Force concludes that "the most pressing current threat is not likely to be a single, sudden attack that cripples the United States," but rather "a proliferation of attacks that steal strategically important or valuable data and destroy confidence in the safety and trustworthiness of the Internet." The U.S. administration has named China as a major source of cyber espionage, and the Task Force also finds China to be a serious cause of concern.

The Task Force finds that improved cyber defense and greater resiliency are necessary, but not sufficient. "Offensive capabilities are required to deter attacks, and, if deterrence fails, to impose costs on the attackers." It calls on the United States to launch an "interagency economic counterespionage program that will help prevent foreign services and corporate competitors from stealing secrets from U.S. industry."

The Task Force is chaired by John D. Negroponte, former deputy secretary of state and director of national intelligence, and Samuel J. Palmisano, former chairman of the board and CEO of IBM, and is directed by Adam Segal, CFR's Maurice R. Greenberg senior fellow for China studies. It includes experts representing a variety of sectors, including high-tech industry and hardware and software companies, as well as leaders on cyber issues.

The report notes that the number of people online will double to five billion by the end of this decade, and the Internet economy will continue to grow. In the United States alone, the Internet economy, now $68 billion, or 4.7 percent of GDP, is projected to rise to 5.4 percent in 2016, so any successful policy response will have to include the business community and civil society.

A number of governments are using the threat of cyberattacks to justify restrictions on the flow of information, data, and knowledge and are territorializing the Internet based on narrow national interests. The outcome of blocking and filtering is "a fragmented Internet and decline in global free expression." Therefore, the report urges leading nations to agree on a set of norms for activity and engagement in cyberspace. "Now is the time for the United States, with its friends and allies, to ensure the Internet remains an open, global, secure, and resilient environment for users," says the Task Force.

The report criticizes the United States for "a lack of a coherent vision, the absence of appropriate authority to implement policy, and legislative gridlock." It says, "For the past four decades, the United States was the predominant innovator, promoter, and shaper of cyberspace, but the window for U.S. leadership is now closing."

"The bottom line is clear: digital foreign policy must begin with domestic policy," the report concludes. "Successfully meeting the challenges of the digital age requires a rethinking of domestic institutions and processes that were designed for the twentieth century."

Report: Defending an Open, Global, Secure, and Resilient Internet - Council on Foreign Relations

Australia: Wind acquisitions soar in 2013 - by Darius Snieckus

Acquisition activity for wind farms leapt to its highest level since 2010 during the second quarter, with five buy-ins worth $1.3bn leading the way in a 36-project shopping spree across the global industry, according to consultancy Mercom Capital. 
The largest deal by value was PG&E’s acquisition of Puget Sound Energy’s 267MW Lower Snake River phase II wind farm in the US for $535m, followed by SSE’s take-over of Scotland’s 99MW Dunmaglass project from RES for $305m.

Palisade and Northleaf’s joint purchase of a 75% stake in Australia’s 111MW Waterloo project from EnergyAustralia for $227m, Lukerg Renew buy-up of the 70MW Gebeleisis development in Romania from Vestas for $144m, and Denmark’s Pension Fund Administrator compatriot energy outfit SE’s take-over of Dong’s 196MW onshore wind business for $133m,
Read more: Wind acquisitions soar in 2013 -Recharge News

Aircraft Industry: Distress beacons could be on the blink in Airbus and Boeing Aircraft

Boeing and rival Airbus said Monday they would check distress beacons made by Honeywell on their planes, after the device was identified as the likely cause of a fire on a Boeing Dreamliner.

Some 6,000 so-called emergency locator transmitters (ELT), designed to help localise the plane if it crashes, have been installed on Boeings like the 787 Dreamliner as well as Airbus aircraft, though none have been involved in a blaze before.

British authorities have recommended that the beacons on Dreamliners be disabled, after identifying the devices as the likely cause of the fire that took place on an empty Ethiopian Airlines plane in London’s Heathrow on July 12. No one was injured.

Read more: Beacons on the blink : TTR Weekly

The Middle East Turmoil Trap - by Javier Solana

Instability continues to spread in the Middle East, with the military coup in Egypt the latest episode to trigger political tremors throughout the region. With its 85 million people and strategically vital location, Egypt is the most important country on the Mediterranean’s southern shore. Continuing the democratization process that began there in 2011 is urgent.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamist government, led by Mohamed Morsi, demonstrated all too well its incompetence and incapacity to ensure an inclusive democratic transition. But the solution offered by Egypt’s military is far from ideal. Coups always tend to exacerbate problems, not solve them, and this one is no exception.

The first consequence is that Egyptian society is even more divided over the question of political legitimacy. Morsi’s supporters cite the legitimacy of his victory in a democratic election a year ago – and the illegitimacy of the army’s coup and detention of the deposed president – while his opponents defend the legitimacy of the massive, countrywide protests against him.

The Muslim Brotherhood tried to go too far too fast. Its Islamist agenda put crucial state institutions – namely, the army and the judiciary – on edge and clashed with the liberal, modernizing demands of its opponents. The Tamarod movement, which organized the protests that led to Morsi’s ouster, celebrated the military’s decision to intervene.

That precedent is, without doubt, dangerous for a fledgling democracy. The Islamists must have representation in order to ensure that they do not renounce the ballot box as a means of pursuing their objectives.

Neither the Islamists nor the military can build a new regime against the will of a significant part of the population. Despite Morsi’s poor performance in office – a year in which he presided over grave economic deterioration – a solution that served the cause of national and regional stability would have been preferable.

Read more: The Middle East Turmoil Trap by Javier Solana - Project Syndicate

EU-US Trade Negotiation: Transparency name of the game: France wants mandate for EU-US trade talks published

France called on Monday for the European Commission to make public its mandate to negotiate EU-U.S. free-trade talks, citing what it said was an atmosphere of mistrust over efforts to forge a landmark pact.

The U.S. and EU launched the negotiations earlier this month despite European concerns about U.S. spying that had threatened to delay the start after nearly two years of preparation. France moreover only agreed to the talks after securing assurances that its entertainment industry would be ring fenced.

"The first week of discussions on a transatlantic partnership agreement closed in a climate of doubt," Trade Minister Nicole Bricq wrote in French newspaper Liberation.

"The U.S. once again showed its splendid ambivalence. It is a country where everything seems possible and whose dynamism and energy we French envy. At the same time it is a prickly power incapable of resisting the temptations its supremacy gives it."

Stressing the need for transparency in the talks, Bricq said she had asked EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht to break with usual procedure and make the EU's negotiation mandate public.

"It doesn't contain any secrets. It's a political statement that calls for an agreement that respects our values and interests. It deserves to be debated," she said.
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The Commission said it would gladly publish the mandate, but noted any such decision could only be taken by the EU Council - the body composed of the EU's 28 member states.

Note EU-Digest: Transparency is the name of the game especially given the stakes which are at hand and the reputation of the US as a "steamrolling super power".


Read more: France wants mandate for EU-US trade talks published | Reuters

Spain: Gibraltar border delays end amid Spain row

Traffic is flowing normally at the Gibraltar-Spain border after three days of delays due to increased vehicle searches by the Spanish authorities.

The Foreign Office says the delays stopped after Foreign Secretary William Hague called his counterpart in Madrid.

Spain has lodged a complaint with the UK over the creation of an artificial reef in the waters off Gibraltar.
Gibraltar said the delays were linked to the reef. Spain says it has a duty to prevent smuggling.

Read more: BBC News - Gibraltar border delays end amid Spain row

Canada -EU: PM urged to send ministers to Europe to save trade talks

Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs to quickly dispatch his top ministers to Europe to salvage the stalled free-trade talks before it's too late, says the head of Canada's most influential business group.

Canadian Council of Chief Executives head John Manley, a top-shelf minister in the Jean Chrétien government, says he is growing increasingly concerned that the four-year talks with the world's biggest economic grouping might fail — and he no longer accepts assurances that a deal is just around the corner.

The talks need a "push," he said in an interview Monday, adding that sending a high-level ministerial delegation consisting of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Trade Minister Ed Fast might provide the kick-start needed at a critical time.

"The size of the gains in this are significant and the risk of not having a deal is great," he said.

Read more: PM urged to send ministers to Europe to save trade talks - Business - CBC News

Germany - International Port Activities: the Elbphilharmonie concert hall a new addition to Hamburgs trendy HafenCity district.

Hamburg’s latest flagship construction project is the Elbphilharmonie concert hall, which is situated in the recently redeveloped former harbour area that is now the trendy HafenCity district. The whole area has a strong emphasis on sustainability, as Hamburg was named European Green Capital for 2011, with a special certification system set up for buildings. 

The concert hall development will house 4,000sqm of retail space, a 2,150-seat concert hall, which can be used for conventions and events, a 500-seat recital hall with flexible staging and seating, a musical museum, a 14-storey hotel with 250 bedrooms, conference centre, spa and 45 flats. 

Summer will be busy for the northern German city as one of the largest international conventions in the world, the International Lions Convention, is being held in July and is expected to attract 23,600 delegates to the Congress Center Hamburg (CCH).  

The CCH celebrates 40 years in 2013 with the hosting of such events as the 8th World Congress of Melanoma and the 24th German Evangelical Church Congress for 100,000 delegates.

"Some 130 global conventions have been held at the CCH to date, says Director of the centre, Edgar Hirt. “The top conventions included the World Cancer Convention in 1990 with 10,000 delegates and the World Computer Convention in 1994".

Recent convention wins in the city include the International Association of Port and Harbors, which will attract 1,000 delegates in June 2015. 

Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany and is also  the second largest port in Europe after Rotterdam 

 EU-Digest

European Alternative Energy Programs: Trial run for biggest "battery" in Europe that could help power Britain

A trial of the largest battery in Europe, which proponents hope will transform the UK electricity grid and boost renewable energy is due to start in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire.

The trial of cutting-edge energy storage technology will test new methods of capturing electricity for release over long periods, evening out the bumps and troughs of supply and demand that plague the electricity grid. Finding ways of storing power from wind and solar generation is key to maintaining a constant source of energy.

But storage technology has been difficult to translate from small devices such as batteries and laptops to the enormous scale needed to balance demand and supply on the national grid.

At the electricity substation serving Leighton Buzzard, three companies are hoping to deploy one of the biggest batteries ever constructed, using lithium manganese technology. The euro 22M project ($29M) will form the centrepiece of a trial of energy storage that could have far-reaching implications for the renewables sector.

The three companies – SandC Electric Europe, Samsung SDI and Younicos – have gained euro 15M ($20M) backing from the UK taxpayer for their 6 megawatt capacity battery installation, which will absorb and release energy to meet the demands of the grid. The first results are not expected until 2016.

Andrew Jones, managing director of SandC Electric Europe, said that Leighton Buzzard had been chosen as it had the necessary infrastructure to hold the trial, including good grid connections and capacity for a large scale battery installation.

He said: "The major grid challenges from the UK's decarbonisation can be met through energy storage's inherent ability to reinforce the network. But currently there are limited large-scale energy storage projects here, leaving a confidence gap. This practical demonstration promises to show the strengths and limitations of storage and unlock its potential as a key technology for the transition to low carbon energy."
If successful, the battery technology and networking knowhow that goes along with it will be spread around the world.

Britain alone could save £3bn a year in the 2020s through large scale energy storage, according to research from Imperial College London.

Read more: Trial run for biggest battery in Europe that could help power Britain | Environment | The Guardian

7/29/13

European Women's Soccer Championship: Germany 1-0 Norway

Germany won the women's European Championships for a sixth consecutive time as Norway saw two penalties saved and another goal ruled out for offside in a narrow defeat in Solna, Sweden.

Anja Mittag got the goal for Germany when she capped a fine passing move in the 49th minute, but goalkeeper and captain Nadine Angerer was the hero as she saved a penalty in either half.

Norway knew it was not to be their day when they then saw Ada Hegerberg's strike ruled offside midway through the second half.

Germany had looked the most threatening side throughout. Celia Okoyino da Mbabi had two great openings within the space of two minutes, first scuffing a shot when it was laid on a plate by Nadine Kessler and then heading wide when she met Simone Laudehr's corner at the near post.

Read more: Germany 1-0 Norway | Football | guardian.co.uk

Advertising Industry - the Netherlands: World's largest ad agency to open headquarters in the Netherlands

The world's largest communication, pr and advertising agency is to locate the headquarters of its holding company in the Netherlands.

The announcement came on Sunday, shortly after the US Omnicom and the French Publlcis agencies declared their intention to merge.

The choice of the Netherlands for the holding company headquarters is because the country is 'neutral terrain' and not because of the favourable tax climate, Publicis CEO Maurice Lévy told news agency Bloomberg.

The operational headquarters and the stock exchange listings will remain in New York and Paris.
The two agencies have a joint turnover of €17.7bn and a market value of €26.5bn. Together they will form the world's largest communications agency.

The finalisation of the merger is expected later this year or early in 2014.
Earlier this year, Publicis took over the Amsterdam internet marketing company LBi for €400m.

Read more: DutchNews.nl - World's largest ad agency to open headquarters in the Netherlands

Insurance Industry: Iranian Insurance Industry Flourishing due to Western Sanctions

“The domestic insurance companies undertook to insure oil tankers despite its high risks and the possibility of their failure, and they succeeded,” Seyed Nasser Mousavi Laregani told FNA on Tuesday.

He noted that the West has failed to prevent Iran from exporting its oil by its ban on insurance coverage for oil tankers carrying Iranian crude cargos.

“The sanctions imposed against the insurance industry actually paved the way for the flourishing of Iran's domestic insurance companies,” he added.

European Union sanctions against Tehran have stopped European insurers, who dominate the marine insurance sector, from offering cover on Iranian crude. The sanctions, which prevent EU member states from purchasing Iran's oil or extending insurance coverage for tankers carrying Iranian crude, came into effect on July 1, 2012.

On August 1, 2012, the US Congress approved more illegal embargoes against Tehran, which seek to punish banks, insurance companies and shippers that help Tehran sell its oil. But the lack of shipping cover has failed to disrupt the flow of Iranian oil to Iran's major customers in Asia - China, India, South Korea and Japan.
Iran announced in July, 2012 that the country has set up a domestic consortium to provide insurance cover for the oil tankers which carry Iran's oil for exports.

"A consortium consisting of the internal insurance companies led by Bimeh Iran (insurance company) has been set up to provide insurance cover for the oil tankers which are tasked with exporting Iran's crude and oil derivatives (products)," Deputy Manager of Bimeh Iran Company for Technical Affairs Siavash Saeedian told FNA last July.

Iran has also voiced preparedness to provide insurance cover for all foreign ships and oil tankers.
In relevant remarks, Managing-Director of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) Mohammad Hossein Dajmar also voiced Iran's preparedness in July, 2012 to provide insurance cover for all foreign and Iranian ships and oil tankers, in a move to push back the US-engineered EU embargos against Tehran, and said Iran has managed to break Europe's monopoly on the shipping insurance industry.

Read more: Farsnews

Which Citizens Are Under More Surveillance, U.S. Or European? - by Tom Gjelten

The disclosure of of previously secret NSA surveillance programs has been met by outrage in Europe. The European Parliament even threatened to delay trade talks with the United States.

Yet U.S. officials have dismissed much of the complaining as hypocrisy. Before the that would have limited the data the NSA can collect last week, U.S. intelligence officials argued that regulation of government surveillance programs is actually tighter in the United States than in many other countries.

Stewart Baker, formerly the NSA's general counsel, told the House Judiciary Committee this month that Europeans are more likely to be spied on by their governments than Americans are by theirs. And he had data to back that up.

"According to the Max Planck Institute, you're 100 times more likely to be surveilled by your own government if you live in the Netherlands or you live in Italy," Baker said. "You're 30 to 50 times more likely to be surveilled if you're a French or a German national than in the United States."

Those numbers are generally accurate, says Joris van Hoboken of the Institute for Information Law at the University of Amsterdam. But he points out that many of the surveillance orders are issued by police departments, not by intelligence agencies like the NSA. He cites his own country.

"It's quite known that law enforcement in the Netherlands uses wiretapping to a great extent, and that has to do with a certain tradition in the Netherlands of using that instrument," he says, as opposed to using, for example, undercover agents.

But U.S. officials also argue that the legal restrictions on surveillance are tighter here. Christopher Wolf, a lawyer specializing in privacy, recently co-wrote a study comparing the extent to which spy investigations have to get outside approval, in the United States and in Europe.

Read more: Which Citizens Are Under More Surveillance, U.S. Or European? : NPR

7/28/13

Summer storms leave thousands without electricity

Fierce summer storms battered parts of France for a second consecutive night, leaving at least 135,500 homes without electricity Sunday morning and injuring 30 people in the country’s northeastern Haute-Marne region.

Many of those who lost power overnight were in the country’s northern Normandy and Champagne regions, as well as along the Spanish border in the Midi-Pyrénées.

ERDF said that it had deployed 1,000 technicians and providers to help restore electricity to affected areas as soon as possible.

Read more: Summer storms leave thousands without electricity - FRANCE - FRANCE 24

While people are dying from food starvation European pet owners spending € 24 b. annually on feeding and grooming their house pets - by RM

Are we losing perspective?
It was reported by the Federation of European Pet food industry that the pet food industry and related supply and services represent a combined annual turnover of about € 24 billion. 

There are presently approximately 70 million pet owning households in Europe with the European Pet food annual pet food production reaching of over 8 million tons. And this is for Europe alone. Just imagine if we would put these figures together for all domestic pet owners around the world.

Obviously no one is trying to stop Europeans or anyone else for that matter from taking in and caring for a pet, but  it obviously would also be a good exercise to put this into a more specific global perspective, especially when we hear some people complaining about the cost of foreign development aid and food programs . 

Below are some facts which underscore the above point and maybe can provide pet owners in the industrialized world with some incentives to also earmark a part of their income as a donation to one of the many organizations which actively seek to eradicate poverty and malnutrition around the world.
  • 870 million people do not have enough to eat — more than the populations of USA and the European Union combined.
  • 98% of the world's undernourished people live in developing countries.
  • Two-thirds of the world's hungry live in just 7 countries: Bangladesh, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia and Pakistan.60 percent of the world's hungry are women.
  • 50 percent of pregnant women in developing countries lack proper maternal care, resulting in over 300,000 maternal deaths annually from childbirth.
  • 1 out of 6 infants are born with a low birth weight in developing countries.
  • Malnutrition is the key factor contributing to more than one-third of all global child deaths resulting in 2.6 million deaths per year.
  • A third of all childhood death in sub-Saharan Africa is caused by hunger.
  • Every five seconds, a child dies from hunger-related diseases.
  • Where is hunger the worst?
    • Asia and the Pacific: 578 million
    • Sub-Saharan Africa: 239 million
    • Latin America and the Caribbean: 53 million

     EU-Digest

US Politics: Compromise a dirty word in polarized U.S. House - by Rebekah L. Sanders

U.S. Reps. David Schweikert and Ann Kirkpatrick, among other members of Arizona’s congressional delegation, last month opposed a multibillion-dollar federal lifeline to farmers at risk of crop failure and to families in need of help putting food on the table.

Without the support of those members and many others, the farm bill, normally renewed every five years with little fanfare, was defeated. Though leaders of both parties wanted to reach a deal, Republicans like Schweikert and Democrats like Kirkpatrick voted “no” to hold out for concessions.

The opposition to what was considered for years a non-controversial bill demonstrated just how little middle ground remains in the U.S. House of Representatives.

House members are less willing to compromise, experts say, as districts across the country have become more polarized and partisan primaries more important for most members’ re-elections.

Read more: Compromise a dirty word in polarized U.S. House

Christian Tragedy in the Muslim World

Few people realize that we are today living through the largest persecution of Christians in history, worse even than the famous attacks under ancient Roman emperors like Diocletian and Nero. Estimates of the numbers of Christians under assault range from 100-200 million. According to one estimate, a Christian is martyred every five minutes. And most of this persecution is taking place at the hands of Muslims. Of the top fifty countries persecuting Christians, forty-two have either a Muslim majority or have sizeable Muslim populations.

The extent of this disaster, its origins, and the reasons why it has been met with a shrug by most of the Western media are the topics of Raymond Ibrahim’s Crucified Again. Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an associate fellow of the Middle East Forum. Fluent in Arabic, he has been tracking what he calls “one of the most dramatic stories” of our time in the reports and witnesses that appear in Arabic newspapers, news shows, and websites, but that rarely get translated into English or picked up by the Western press. What he documents in this meticulously researched and clearly argued book is a human rights disaster of monumental proportions.

In Crucified Again, Ibrahim performs two invaluable functions for educating people about the new “Great Persecution,” to use the label of the Roman war against Christians. First, he documents hundreds of specific examples from across the Muslim world. By doing so, he shows the extent of the persecution, and forestalls any claims that it is a marginal problem. Additionally, Ibrahim commemorates the forgotten victims, refusing to allow their suffering to be lost because of the indifference or inattention of the media and government officials.

Second, he provides a cogent explanation for why these attacks are concentrated in Muslim nations. In doing so, he corrects the delusional wishful thinking and apologetic spin that mars much of the current discussion of Islamic-inspired violence.

Ibrahim’s copious reports of violence against Christians range across the whole Muslim world, including countries such as Indonesia, which is frequently characterized as “moderate” and “tolerant.” Such attacks are so frequent because they result not just from the jihadists that some Westerners dismiss as “extremists,” but from mobs of ordinary people, and from government policy and laws that discriminate against Christians. Rather than ad hoc reactions to local grievances, then, these attacks reveal a consistent ideology of hatred and contempt that transcends national, geographical, and ethnic differences.

Read more: Christian Tragedy in the Muslim World | FrontPage Magazine

7/27/13

NSA Spying On EU Citizens: Public Opinion May Give Russia An Edge In Snowden Case

Russian President Vladimir Putin keeps insisting that he doesn't want the case of a fugitive American intelligence contractor to harm relations between Russia and the United States.

But Edward Snowden remains an irritant, stuck in diplomatic limbo in the transit area of a Moscow airport.

A Putin spokesman said Friday that the issue is being discussed by the Russian federal security service — the FSB — and the FBI, but it may be that Snowden has become a problem that can only be solved at the top of the two governments.

For its part, the Obama administration seems to be trying to chip away at Russian objections to returning Snowden to the United States.

Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter to Russian officials this week in which he gave assurances that Snowden would not face the death penalty and would not be tortured if Russia sends him back. He said the former NSA contractor would have the full protection of the U.S. civilian court system.

Some Russia officials who favor giving asylum to Snowden have cited all those concerns as reasons why he should be given refuge. But some Russian commentators say those aren't the real barriers to giving Snowden up.

"It's quite clear that it's morally impossible for Russia to turn Snowden in to the United States because it would look like Russia is weak and can be easily manipulated or pressured by the United States," says Dmitri Babich, political analyst for Voice of Russia Radio. "On the other hand, Snowden is clearly disliked by Putin, and he is seen as a liability."

Read more: Public Opinion May Give Russia An Edge In Snowden Case : NPR

Corporate Fraud: Halliburton to plead guilty to destroying Gulf spill evidence

Halliburton Energy Services has agreed to plead guilty to destroying evidence in connection with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Department of Justice said Thursday.

Federal officials said in a news release that a criminal information charging Halliburton with one count of destruction of evidence was filed in federal court in Louisiana.

Halliburton has agreed to pay the maximum fine, be on probation for three years and continue to co-operate with the government's criminal investigation, according to the news release, which did not list the amount of the fine.

The Houston-based company has also made a $55 million voluntary contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. It was not a condition of the court agreement, the news release says.

The company said in a statement Thursday night that it had agreed to plead guilty "to one misdemeanor violation associated with the deletion of records created after the Macondo well incident, to pay the statutory maximum fine of $200,000 and to accept a term of three years probation."

Read more: Halliburton to plead guilty to destroying Gulf spill evidence - Business - CBC News

Egypt: Turkey's Erdogan slams EU for stance on Egypt bloodshed

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, an outspoken supporter of Egypt's ousted President Mohamed Mursi, lashed out at the European Union and others for failing to condemn strongly enough the killing of dozens in Cairo earlier on Saturday.


The EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said she "deeply deplores" the deaths and called for a halt in violence.

But Erdogan, who has recently faced large street protests calling for his own government to quit, accused the EU of double standards for questioning the use of police teargas in Turkey but not the shooting deaths of protesters in Cairo.

Note EU-Digest: Mr. Erdogan should probably be the last person to question the suppression of freedom of speech or police brutality given the activities which are taking place in Turkey under his Premiership. 
 


Read more: Turkey's Erdogan slams EU for stance on Egypt bloodshed | Reuters

Airbus Pushes Higher-Density A380 to Counter Luxury Image - by Andrea Rothman

Airbus is pushing airlines to view its A380 superjumbo as a high-density workhorse rather than a luxury flagship as it targets orders from mass-market carriers in countries such as China, Japan and Indonesia.

The European planemaker has begun pitching the double-decker as carrying 558 people, 33 more than the average stated for the past six years, and could add a further 30 berths by introducing 11-abreast seating in coach class. It’s also exploring ways of making the setup more responsive to seasonal variations in traffic.

“We’re working to optimize the aircraft, and that means giving airlines some ideas to move the capacity up,” Keith Stonestreet, the A380’s marketing director, said in an interview from Toulouse, France, where the jet is built.

Read more: Airbus Pushes Higher-Density A380 to Counter Luxury Image - Bloomberg

Netherlands: Multi-National Corporations in the Netherlands accused of human rights violations - by Alexandra Gowling

Amsterdam-based non-profit research company SOMO has released a report that claims that the Netherlands is home to companies involved in human rights violations.

The report investigated large multinational companies in the resource industry that have a subsidiary in the Netherlands.

It claims that of the eight companies it investigated, all were involved in human rights violations abroad, including environmental pollution in populated areas, militia violence, displacement and murder.

It also claims that the Dutch government so far has been unsuccessful in fully regulating these companies.

The Dutch government’s recently released policy statement on corporate social responsibility (CSR), states that CSR is no longer non-committal, while still emphasizing its voluntary nature and the importance of corporate self-regulation. Yet, according to the report, this is an insufficient response as there are no "effective measures" against violations.

The companies investigated are not strictly Dutch companies, but are what the report calls “mailbox” companies with only a small operation in the Netherlands that allows them to pay tax here, rather than in the source countries where the tax rates would be higher.

The report goes further, stating that the Netherlands play a crucial role in global tax avoidance. The company calculated that 28 developing countries lose at least 771 million euros annually in tax income on interest and dividend payments only as a result of Dutch tax treaties.

For a copy of the report and an executive summary  click here.

EU-Digest

7/26/13

U.S. will not declare whether coup occurred in Egypt says U.S. official

The Obama administration told lawmakers on Thursday it does not intend to make a determination on whether a military coup occurred in Egypt, a senior U.S. official said, in a move that avoids a decision that would automatically force the cut-off of U.S. aid.

Read more: U.S. will not declare whether coup occurred in Egypt: U.S. official | Reuters

Weather: European Heatwave Hits Germany

Germany is hurtling towards the hottest point of the year this weekend, national weather service the DWD said on Thursday. With highs of nearly 40C, experts are warning everyone to take care.

On Saturday and Sunday Germany will have a fever,” said Andreas Friedrich, spokesman from the DWD. Temperatures will build over Thursday and Friday, before in places hitting around 39C. Behind the extreme weather is a high pressure system from northern Africa.

After seeing off residual cloud cover from Thursday in the north, the whole of the country will be looking up at blue skies on Friday. Aside from along the Baltic coast and in higher parts of mountainous regions, temperatures will be over 30C. In the Upper Rhine area they will likely hit 35C. 

Read more: - The Local

NSA Spying on European Citizens: German president says whistleblowers like Snowden merit respect - by Madeline Chambers

Germany's president, who helped expose the workings of East Germany's dreaded Stasi secret police, said whistleblowers like U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden deserved respect for defending freedom.

Weighing in on a debate that could influence September's federal election, President Joachim Gauck struck a very different tone from that of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has assured Washington that Berlin would not shelter Snowden.

Gauck, who has little power but great moral authority, said people who work for the state were entitled to act according to their conscience, as institutions sometimes depart from the law.

"This will normally only be put right if information is made public. Whoever draws the public's attention to it and acts out of conscience deserves respect," he told Friday's Passauer Neue Presse newspaper.

Read more: German president says whistleblowers like Snowden merit respect | Reuters

Google does not have to delete sensitive information, says European court - final judgement not before the end of 2013 - by Juliette Garside

The European court of justice, where judges were asked to rule on whether Google should be treated under law as a publisher of information or simply a host. Photograph: Image Broker/Rex Features
Google is not obliged to delete personal information from its search results, even when that information damages an individual's reputation, an adviser to the European court of justice has decided.

In a long-running case about the "right to be forgotten" by search engines, judges have been asked to rule on whether Google should be treated under law as a publisher of information or simply a host.

The case is not due to conclude before the end of 2013 but if the court backs the adviser's findings it will spare Google from a flood of legal claims seeking the retraction of material from its searches.

The case is based on a complaint by Mario Costeja, a Spaniard who made a Google search of his name and found a newspaper announcement from 15 years earlier saying a property he owned was up for auction because of non-payment of social security contributions.

Costeja asked for the sensitive information to be deleted from Google's search results, arguing that his debts had been repaid and it was disproportionate that information that could damage his reputation with clients, employers or friends was so prominent so long after the event.

One of Spain's top courts upheld his complaint, deeming Google to be making money out of Costeja's personal data, and the case was referred to the European court of justice in March last year after Google challenged the decision.

Niilo Jääskinen, an advocate general of the European court of justice, said that companies operating in the European Union must adhere to national data protection legislation, but that did not oblige them to remove personal content produced by others.

Read more: Google does not have to delete sensitive information, says European court | Technology | The Guardian

European Airline Industry: Air France-KLM Loss Narrows on Recovery Plan - by David Pearson

Franco-Dutch airline Air France-KLM said Friday its Transform 2015 efficiency plan is starting to pull the company out of the red, but said it needs to take new, tough measures to deal with its unprofitable medium-haul and cargo operations.

The airline said its recovery plan introduced more than a year ago to slash fixed costs, reduce head count and win back paying customers has helped to shrink its operating losses so far in 2013, and predicted that the improvement will continue through the remainder of the year.

Read more: Air France-KLM Loss Narrows on Recovery Plan - WSJ.com

7/25/13

Russia’s military: Heading for Cyprus? - by Amanda Paul

Russia and Cyprus have close ties both economically and politically. In a recent interview by the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS, Cypriot Parliament Speaker Yiannakis Omirou expressed his gratitude to the Russian government for its solidarity with Cyprus over the past five decades, particularly “the support that Russia has been giving within the framework of the UN Security Council in the light of threats on the part of Turkey.”

Meanwhile, Cyprus has stood by Russia even on sensitive issues — for example, during the recent annual vote on the UN Resolution regarding the status of refugees and internally displaced people from Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region. The main elements of this resolution include: the recognition of the right of all refugees and internally displaced persons to return to their homes, respect of the property rights of those persons, the prohibition of forced demographic changes, etc. These elements match Greek Cypriot demands vis-à-vis its own refugee/internally displaced persons (IDP) issue in the context of the decades-old Cyprus problem, yet Cyprus abstained — pure realpolitik!

Since returning to the presidency, Russian President Vladimir Putin has stressed the importance of a strong military, including Russia seeking a greater presence in the Mediterranean. Russia has been strengthening its presence, establishing a floating Mediterranean naval flotilla — consisting of some 16 warships — for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In June Putin stated, “This is a strategically important region, and we have tasks to carry out there to provide for the national security of the Russian Federation.” It is speculated this deployment is partially meant to deter any NATO move towards Syria.

With the future of Russia’s Tartus naval base on Syria’s Mediterranean coastline looking uncertain (Moscow recently evacuated all personnel), Russia is looking for other opportunities to maintain and strengthen its foothold in the Middle East. Therefore, increased speculation over a possible military presence on Cyprus is not surprising.

According Russia’s ambassador to Cyprus, Moscow has not raised the issue of a permanent base on Cyprus. This is just as well because even with the cozy ties it would be highly controversial and unlikely to happen.

Not least, it would upset a number of parties including the EU, the US and Turkey, creating further waves in all these relationships. It could stop Cyprus from joining NATO’s Partnership for Peace Program. Cyprus is currently the only EU member not part of this program, although President Nikos Anastadiades had indicated an interest.

What is being discussed is an agreement that would allow Russia to use Limassol port for its navy (comparable to the agreement that Germany has that allows Berlin to dock warships and carry out land exercises) and Andreas Papandreou Air Base at Paphos for its military aircraft (presently only France has such permission). Foreign and defense ministers have met to discuss details.

Read more: Russia’s military: Heading for Cyprus? « Wider Black Sea

Turkey:Fall of ‘Islamic model’ in Egypt has Erdogan fearing coup in Turkey - by Miles Yu


Turkish PM Recep Erdogan on the way out?
Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, alarmed by the military coup in Egypt, was said to fear a similar scenario in Turkey.

Diplomatic sources said Erdogan was the only NATO or Middle East leader to have openly sided with the Muslim Brotherhood against Egypt’s military. They said the prime minister sent a series of harsh messages to Egypt’s military to restore ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

“For the last year, Erdogan bragged that Egypt was following his Islamic model only to see how the military destroyed everything,” a diplomat said. “He fears that the Turkish military will do the same in the name of stabilizing the country.”

Since the July 3 coup against Morsi, Erdogan has been waging a war of words with the European Union for failing to condemn the ouster of Egypt’s first Islamist president. On July 10, Erdogan explained his concern over a military coup and the repercussions for Turkey.

 Read more: Fall of ‘Islamic model’ in Egypt has Erdogan fearing coup in Turkey | World Tribune

European Drone Aircraft: EU should build its own drones,and not rely on US for them insists top official

Europe's Neuron Drone
Europe should build its own unmanned aircraft and not rely on imported drones from the US, a leading EU official has said Michel Barnier, the EU's Internal Market Commissioner, was speaking days ahead of the launch of new proposals from the European Commission designed to strengthen European collaboration and boost the European defense industry which employs some 400,000 people.

There was a need to "identify areas where Europe can develop its own capacities," he said, according to reports.

"Europe should build its own drones, rather than importing them."

Barnier also reportedly said EU member states could procure refueling aircraft for pooled use. "European defences can't just be about French-British cooperation," he said.

The first stealth drone developed in Europe has made its first flight from a test base in France last year.

The terrifyingly-named "nEUROn" Drone has been built through a collaboration between France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Sweden and Switzerland.

It has taken five years of development and testing before the first flight was able to take off from Dassault Aviation company's base in Istres, France.

The large craft is 10 meters long, has a wingspan of about 12.5 meters and weighs five tons without weapons. It is powered by a Rolls-Royce Turbomeca "Adour" engine, and is intended to carry precision missiles controlled by a human operator.

Read more: EU should build its own drones, insists top official - Defence Management

Spain train crash driver under investigation amid questions over speed - by Giles Tremlett

Spain's AVE
As Spain mourned the 80 dead in Europe's worst rail crash this century, questions were being asked about how the train had been able to hit a tight curve at such a speed that it spun off into a concrete security wall.

Analysis of video of the accident in the northern city of Santiago de Compostela suggested the train was going faster than 85mph on a bend where drivers are supposed to slow down after a straight stretch that allows them to reach up to 125mph.

"We were going strongly when we got into the curve," one driver was reported to have admitted shortly after surviving the accident on Wednesday, which killed more than a third of the passengers and left 168 injured.

A spokeswoman for the Galicia supreme court said the driver, who was only slightly injured, was under investigation.

The man, who has been named, is not believed to be under arrest but is expected to face questions from a judge with access to the train's data recording black box.

While trapped in the cab, the driver was reported to have given an account over the radio to officials at Santiago station. He was quoted saying, "I hope there are no dead because they would fall on my conscience" and having repeated over and over: "We're human. We're human."

Read more: Spain train crash driver under investigation amid questions over speed | World news | The Guardian

U.S., Canada and Mexico could share border security, envoy says - by Steven Chase

Mexico’s foreign envoy, visiting Ottawa Thursday, says his government seeks a much deeper “more strategic” relationship with Canada – one that some day might include a North American border security deal between all three NAFTA partners.

José Antonio Meade Kuribreña, Secretary of Foreign Affairs in the new Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s government, is meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. It’s his first visit to Canada as foreign affairs envoy.

Canada-Mexico relations suffered a setback in 2009 when the Harper government imposed entry restrictions on Mexicans seeking to enter Canada. And Canada in turn is frustrated at Mexico’s slow pace in lifting a partial ban on Canadian beef shipments because of mad-cow disease outbreaks in years past.

Canada and Mexico are partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement but efforts at deeper one-on-one ties are frequently overshadowed by each countries’ separate relationship with the United States, the third NAFTA partner.

Read more: U.S., Canada and Mexico could share border security, envoy says - The Globe and Mail

European Railroads: Recent deadly train derailments in Europe

At least 77 are dead and 140 injured following a train derailment in northwestern Spain on Wednesday night. Following are some recent deadly train accidents in Europe.

Railway traffic nevertheless remains the most modern, efficient, safe and affordable way of transportation in Europe.

Read more: Recent deadly train derailments in Europe - Yahoo! News

7/24/13

Global Warming: Melting Arctic ice called 'economic time bomb'

The rapidly melting Arctic is an “economic time bomb” that will cost $60 trillion or more over the next 10 years, say a group of European economic and science researchers.

That staggering number approaches the $70 trillion value of the entire world economy in 2012, the scientists say in a comment in the journal Nature.

The researchers — Gail Whiteman, of the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University in the Netherlands, Chris Hope of the Cambridge Judge Business School and Peter Wadhams, a professor of ocean physics at University of Cambridge, both in Britain — are urging creation of an economic model for the impact of climate change.

Much of the cost – about 80 per cent — will hit developing nations, who don’t have the infrastructure to deal with natural disasters, Hope said.

He called on world leaders to “kick-start investment in rigorous economic modelling” that calculates the impact of a changing Arctic landscape.

The economic damage all nations face will outweigh any “short-term gains from shipping and extraction” even if the pace of emissions is slowed, the article says.

Read more: Melting Arctic ice called 'economic time bomb' - Business - CBC News

NSA Spying On Europe: Edward Snowden plans to stay in Russia, says lawyer - by Alec Luhn

National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has not had his asylum status resolved and he intends to remain in Russia long-term, his lawyer has said. Previously, Snowden told local officials he planned to move on to South America as soon as possible.

Anatoly Kucherena, who was visiting Snowden at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on Wednesday, said he was staying in the transit zone "for now". According to the lawyer, migration officials had said that they are looking at his asylum request, but had not issued the expected confirmation certificate that would allow Snowden to leave the airport. The process of issuing it has been drawn out, he said.

"Unfortunately the current situation is a truly unique one for Russia, and we have to account for the bureaucracy [involved in the process], so his documents are still being looked over," Kucherena told the many journalists assembled at the airport.

Law enforcement and airport sources had earlier said Snowden had been issued documents confirming his asylum request was being considered, and state news agency Interfax reported that he had submitted them at the border control. Instead, the lawyer had only brought Snowden books and clothing, he said.

Snowden is seeking to remain in the country and "wants to find work in Russia, travel and somehow create a life for himself," Kucherena told the television station Rossiya 24. He said the whistleblower had already begun learning the Russian language.

Read more: Edward Snowden plans to stay in Russia, says lawyer | World news | guardian.co.uk

Britain's economy better off inside EU - government study - by Peter Griffiths

France and Germany have signalled they want to keep Britain in but will resist "cherry-picking" EU policies, while U.S. President Barack Obama suggested Britain should try to fix its relationship rather than walk away.
Before the start of renegotiation, Cameron ordered a review of how the EU affects British life across 32 areas, from health and education to the economy, tax and immigration.

The first six reports were published on Monday, looking at areas including the single market, taxation and foreign policy.

Access to a market of 500 million people means Britain's gross domestic product is "appreciably greater" than it would otherwise have been, the review found. However, it noted the opposition to EU regulation and "constraints on policy-making".

The document offered no figure for the gain in economic output due to the single market but it cited six other studies, five of which said membership was worth up to 6.5 percent in extra GDP. The sixth said GDP was 3 percent lower due to the EU.

Read more: Britain's economy better off inside EU - government study | Reuters

Europe in the global economy: Surprising external strength amid domestic weakness

Daniel Gros is director for the Centre for European Policy Studies and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Europe says, "EU has maintained its share in global exports over the past decade, whereas other mature economies have seen theirs decline considerably, most notably the US and Japan.

The EU exports almost three times as much to the fast-growing BRICs than the US does. In fact, the EU has increased its exports much more than the US over the last decade, and this holds true whether one looks at exports of goods, services or manufacturing. The performance of the EU is particularly striking in the latter, where exports have increased by about 150%, compared to about 50% for the US.

But it is services that could emerge as Europe’s hidden champion. It is widely assumed that Europe is not competitive in this market – numerous studies have shown that services are the sector in which productivity performance in the EU has been weakest and that the continent has been comparatively slow in adopting information technologies.

In reality Europe’s exports of services are performing well. Here, too, the EU has outperformed the US, whose exports have increased by 100% over the last decade, compared to Europe’s 150%. In 2011 extra-EU exports of services amounted to over €570 billion, 40% higher than those of the US.

That the EU is competitive in services can also be seen from the fact that it is continuously recording a surplus, which rose to about €100 billion in 2011. This strong trading position is astonishing, since services constitute the sector in which productivity growth in the EU has been most disappointing (both in absolute terms and relative to the US).

Read more: Europe in the global economy: Surprising external strength amid domestic weakness | EurActiv

EU-Economy: Is an end to Europe's misery in sight? by:Larry Elliott

The latest news from the eurozone is as upbeat as it has been for 18 months. Snapshots of activity in the manufacturing and services sectors are consistent with the long recession in the single currency area – which has been entrenched for the past six quarters – coming to an end. If the evidence from purchasing managers is to be believed, Germany is looking good and France is clawing its way back to normality.

A better performance by the eurozone's Big Two – accompanied by a lessening of recessionary pressure in Spain and Italy – should, with luck, eke out some growth across the region in the second half of 2013.

Analysts put the recent improvement down to the growth stimulus provided by the European Central Bank, the slower pace of austerity in 2013 compared with 2012, and the help that last year's pickup in the global economy provided to Europe's export-dependent economy.

So is this it? Are the PMIs (purchasing managers' indices) proof that an end to Europe's misery is at last in sight? The good news is that Wednesday's report was no flash in the pan: the eurozone PMIs have been improving for the past five months. It is also encouraging that the pace of job shedding is easing, given that record unemployment has been a significant drag on activity.

Read more: EU Economy: Is an end to Europe's misery in sight? | Larry Elliott | Business | guardian.co.uk

7/23/13

NSA SPYING SCANDAL: Edward Snowden Hopes To Leave Moscow Airport By Wednesday sways lawyer

Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden hopes to be granted papers by Wednesday allowing him to end his month-long stay in the transit area of a Moscow airport and move to the city centre, his Russian lawyer said on Monday.

Anatoly Kucherena, who helped the American file his bid for temporary asylum in Russia on July 16, said Snowden believed it would be unsafe to try to travel to Latin America soon because of U.S. efforts to return him to the United States to face espionage charges.

"He should get this certificate (allowing him to leave the airport) shortly," he said.

Snowden's bid for temporary asylum in Russia may take up to three months to process, but he can pass through customs based on the initial response to his request, Kucherena added.

Note EU-Digest: participate in the EU-Digest Poll and voice your opinion if you believe the EU Commission and the EU Parliament have been sitting on their hands when it comes to protecting EU citizens privacy rights from US "snooping activities".

Read more: Edward Snowden Hopes To Leave Moscow Airport By Wednesday: Lawyer

Iraq: Operation Iraqi Freedom - 10 year anniversary - disaster at the OK Corral ?

On 29 January 2002, in his first State of the Union address, President George W. Bush named 3 countries as the "Axis of Evil." One of these nations was Iraq. On 10 October 2002, the US Congress adopted a joint resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. On 17 March 2003, in an address to the United States gives Saddam Hussein and his regime 48 hours to leave Iraq. Military operations against Iraq, conducted by the United States and an allied Coalition, began at around 9:30 PM EST on 19 March 2003. This operation was known in the United States as Operation Iraqi Freedom. By 1 May 2003, President George W. Bush declared Major Combat Operations over, signaling a transition to operations to stabilize Iraq and support its reconstruction.

Note EU-Digest: and the rest is history -  disaster at the OK Corral ?

Read more: Iraq Occupation and Reconstruction

Israel: Aldi Netherlands says Occupied Territory boycott info was 'a mistake'

The Dutch branch of international supermarket group Aldi has withdrawn comments made in support of a boycott of goods made in the Occupied Territories.

Dutch newspaper Trouw, which produced the initial news article, says an Aldi spokeswoman has since said ‘incorrect information’ was supplied. The withdrawal of the comments followed international commotion about the claims, Trouw stated.

Trouw says it made inquiries into Aldi’s policy following a report published by research group Profundo in April in which an Aldi staffer said the supermarket ‘no longer wanted to sell products from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories’ and had ‘informed its suppliers’.

The supermarket group said on Friday this position remained unchanged but on Monday evening said a mistake had been made.

The German company is said to have been shocked by the international reactions to the boycott, particularly in the Israeli papers. The issue is also particularly sensitive in Germany.

The other two supermarkets which are avoiding products from the Israeli settlements – Jumbo and Hoogvliet – have not changed their positions, Trouw said.

Read more: DutchNews.nl - Aldi Netherlands says Occupied Territory boycott info was 'a mistake'

Ponography: Why Britain’s anti-porn mega-filter is great (no, really) - by Peter Nowak

"So British Prime Minister David Cameron is keen to ban online pornography. Please sir, can I have some more? Seriously.

Against the odds, I’m pulling for the filter to actually work. That said, I’m not optimistic about this plan – which will require Internet service providers to enact default filters – and I’m also unhappy about all the free speech the attempt will inevitably trample. But this likely failure is too bad because it’s actually the kind of jolt the world sorely needs at this specific moment in time."

Brits will still have access to this cornucopia of online porn under Cameron’s plan, but they’ll have to have an embarrassing conversation with their ISP wherein they’ll have to ask to keep it turned on. It’ll be the modern-day equivalent to furtively buying a Playboy at the corner store, with similar “I read it for the articles” justifications: “Uh, why yes, Mr. ISP, I’d like the filter turned off so I can read National Geographic’s studies on mating habits in primitive societies.”

Young people’s habits, meanwhile, won’t be fazed. As soon as the filter is cracked – the smart money has it happening within hours of activation – the instructions on how to do so will be available to anyone who can type words into Google. And then what? Will the British government ban search engines from listing that information? It may as well jump on banning instructions on how to do pretty much anything illegal. It’s the slippery slope argument that free speech advocates will have a justifiable field day with.

It’s also why Australia dumped a similar plan last year in favour of a much more limited content blacklist, as determined by Interpol. Even that filter, known as Delimiter, can be defeated by a “trivial” change to the user’s settings, Australian ISP Optus admitted back in 2011.

Read more: Why Britain’s anti-porn mega-filter is great (no, really) - The Globe and Mail

Tourism: EU plans “flexible” visas for Chinese tourists

Antonio Tajani, Vice President of the European Commission, was reported telling a press conference in Beijing on Friday that the plans for the new rules are still being drawn up, but the aim is to ease the visa application process for mainland Chinese tourists.

“It is very important for the EU to have more Chinese visitors,” Tajani was quoted saying by China’s Xinhua news agency, noting that the eurozone crisis increased the importance of Chinese visitors.

He admitted however, that the current visa application process for Chinese citizens is “very time-consuming”, opening the possibility that the EU may introduce an electronic visa system in future.

While details of the new visa processes were not revealed, Tajani said the EU hoped to roll out the new policy in November this year. He also proposed a pilot visa project to encourage more Chinese tourists to visit the EU during the 2015 Expo in Milan. The 2010 Shanghai World Expo was extremely popular, attracting an estimated 73 million over five months.

Read more: EU plans “flexible” visas for Chinese tourists | Travel Daily Asia

Tourism: Netherlands : Substantial increase tourist tax revenue over the past five years

Almere City lake - photo EU-Digest
In 2013, tourist tax is anticipated to put 162 million euros in the municipal coffers, i.e. an increase by 36 percentrelative to 2008. Of all taxes imposed by municipal authorities, tourist tax has increased most over the past half decade.

The higher revenue from tourist tax is mainly due to higher rates. The proportion of municipalities imposing tax on tourism has also grown over the past five years. These two factors account for approximately one tenth of the tourist tax revenue increase of 43 millioneuros over the years 2008-2013. The growth in the number of nights spent in hotels in this period also contributes to the increase. Lastly, some municipalities have expanded the target group to include, for example, migrant workers.

This year, 76 percentof Dutch municipalities impose tourist tax, versus 72 percentfive years ago. Since 2008, 24 municipalitieshave (re-)introduced tourist tax, while five municipalities have abolished tourist tax. Municipal re-divisions have reduced the number of municipalities imposing tourist tax from 319 in 2008 to 312 in 2013.

Read more: CBS - Statistics Netherlands : Substantial increase tourist tax revenue over the past five years

7/22/13

Aircraft Industry: Dreamliner 'not reliable' says Airbus Executive

A senior Airbus executive hit out at rival Boeing's troubled Dreamliner on Friday, saying the aircraft was clearly not reliable and suggested it was rushed to market.

"It's pretty obvious that this airplane is not reliable and does not have mature systems," Airbus sales chief John Leahy told reporters at a ceremony to mark the 1 000th delivery of the company's A330 plane, to Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific.

"You can keep it flying but it's going to cost you a lot of maintenance," Leahy said, in the first comments by Airbus management about the Dreamliner's difficulties.

"What they've got is an architecture that is not mature and that will eventually become mature. It's going to take a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of cancelled flights. And maybe redesign quite a few systems onboard."
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner has suffered from a string of problems this year, including a fire on board an empty Ethiopian Airlines plane at London's Heathrow airport last week.

Read more: Dreamliner 'not reliable' - Airbus | News24

Syria: 75 Syria rebels dead in Damascus battles

Syrian activists say government troops have killed at least 75 rebels over 24 hours in battles for control of the capital, Damascus.

The death toll reported by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Monday included 49 rebels killed in an ambush in Damascus' northeastern suburb of Adra early Sunday. The group says an elite unit loyal to President Bashar Assad ambushed the rebels as they were trying to push into the city.

Syrian state news agency SANA reported the ambush Sunday, without giving a casualty figure.

The Observatory reported that another 17 rebels died in fighting Sunday in central Damascus, while another nine were killed in its suburbs.

It was one of the deadliest days for the opposition in the 2-year-old conflict, which has killed 93,000 people.

Read more: Activists: 75 Syria rebels dead in Damascus battles

Global Economy: How Modern Economics Is Built On 'The World's Dumbest Idea' - BY Steve Denning

The idea that the entire intellectual edifice of modern economics no longer fits the world we live in has yet to enter the academic mainstream or to be accepted by the economic establishment. Those who do question the fundamental assumptions tend to be marginalized, so that the status quo can be maintained.

This obviously has to change. The profession needs to get beyond further refinements of an increasingly irrelevant paradigm and instead reinvent the economics that we need for the new age.

For the complete report go to: : How Modern Economics Is Built On 'The World's Dumbest Idea' - Forbes

Expat lives: from the Netherlands to the US - by Nisa Qazi

 Erick Janssen has what he calls his “Baseball Theory of Social Life” to explain one of the fundamental differences between his native Netherlands and the US, and it has to do with making friends. He came up with it 18 years ago, just a few months after moving from Amsterdam to Bloomington, Indiana, home of the Kinsey Institute where he is senior scientist and director of education and research.

“In the US it’s very easy to get to first base,” he says. “You’re invited in, and there’s a big reception for you, and it’s one of the most wonderful things about this country. But it’s hard to get to second and third base. In the Netherlands, it’s the other way around. It’s really quite hard to get to first base as a stranger. It’s a small country, and people are so protective of their lives. But once you get in, it’s like a home run.”

Janssen, 49, was born and raised in the industrial town of Oss, where his sense of humour and rebellious streak were forged. “I played electronic organ in the church band,” he says. “Our priest didn’t speak English, so we managed to play songs that had nothing to do with religion, like Supertramp’s Lord Is It Mine. We performed that one with the whole youth choir.” Oss is in the southern province of North Brabant, where the pace of life is slower, giving its residents a somewhat unflattering reputation. “Every country has its ‘south’,” says Janssen, and while he is proud of his origins, it was with some relief that Janssen found that in the US he was not a southerner, but simply Dutch.

Janssen’s roster of things he misses about home reads much like most expats’, composed of friends and special places and, predictably, foods. “I love raw herring and Dutch fries,” he says. “And I miss foods I rarely ate while living there, like croquette or bitterballen. And frikandel – you don’t even want to know what’s in those things. It’s the first thing I eat when I get back, and after I’ve had one, I remember why I never used to eat it.”

Having been away from the Netherlands for nearly two decades now, Janssen worries that his identity as a Dutch person is being eroded and replaced by something else, a more American side. On the other hand, he is not entirely sure what it means to be Dutch. “I suppose it’s that we love apple pie, riding bikes, our language,” he says. “And we will defend to our deaths our Zwarte Piet, or Black Peter,” Saint Nicholas’s velvet-clad, black-faced sidekick. “When you tell Americans about this, their mouths fall open. You do what for Christmas?” Janssen’s wife, who is of Haitian descent, was no less dismayed: “When Nadine first saw it, we had to give her electric shocks to revive her. She almost went into a coma.”

In the end, Janssen settles on another theory, modelled on a principle of sex research: becoming more American doesn’t necessarily mean becoming proportionately less Dutch. Ever the scientist, he is comforted by this solution. Still, some hard data continue to elude him. “Being Dutch is like beauty or art or quality,” he says. “It’s hard to define, but you recognise it when you see it.”

Read more: Expat lives: from the Netherlands to the US - FT.com

European Weather: Britain Heatwave hits By Surprise

Heatwave hits Europe
Britain's first prolonged heatwave in seven years has taken the country by surprise, with rails buckling, shops selling out of electric fans, and scientists estimating the surge in temperature could have caused hundreds of premature deaths.

After a washout summer in 2012 and the coldest spring for over 50 years, temperatures have soared across the country due to a northward shift in the high-altitude jetstream, prompting several authorities to issue public warnings over the heat.

Figures released by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on Thursday estimated about 650 people may have died prematurely due to the heat over the past nine days, producing data based on deaths during previous heatwaves.

"The excess is likely to have been overwhelmingly among the elderly, especially those over 75, some of which may have been among people who would have died just a few weeks later if there had been no heatwave," Ben Armstrong, an epidemiological statistician, told Reuters.

The research followed warnings from police about taking excessive risks to escape the heat after four people died in separate incidents on Wednesday.

Read more: Britain Taken By Surprise By Heatwave | Stuff.co.nz