Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here
Wed Jan 22nd, 2014 at 03:23:48 AM EST
Ever since I read a glowing review of Steven Spielberg's Lincoln (which I still haven't seen), I longed to read its main basis: Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. This biography used the novel approach to put the personal histories of the main contestants in the 1860 Republican Party presidential nomination race side by side, to show how and why Lincoln rose above all of his rivals.
I finally got to read the book during the holidays. It is a difficult read, with over 750 pages even without footnotes (it takes 250 pages just to get to Lincoln's nomination on the Republican ticket), and the author's style is at times annoying (frequent reproductions of insubstantial praise for personal qualities, descriptions of the vanity festival that was Washington social life, the first-person plural focus on an American-only audience and the need to 'excuse' Lincoln's weak religiosity), but I highly recommend it for the broad and detailed view of the age and its issues. There is also some modern relevance in relation to centrist politics. I thought I share some of the insights I came away with.
Tue Jan 21st, 2014 at 09:25:10 AM EST
[Update] Syria 'smoking gun' report warrants a careful read - CS Monitor Tears Apart Qatar Funded Torture Report.
This report was funded by the Government of Qatar who gave a contract to the London law firm Carter-Ruck & Co. I read the report, I did not find any mention the funding by Qatar. The London law firm has represented the State of Qatar on numerous occasions. The firm also represented the late Russian oligarch Berezovsky.
Wikipedia: Carter-Ruck - The Libel Reform Campaign
The Libel Reform Campaign cite many instances where the application of the libel laws by Law Firms like Carter-Ruck is effectively gagging the freedom of expression and free speech in the England and Wales leaving only the wealthy anywhere in the world able to seek justice in the UK where it would be denied in their own country. The most recent example of Carter-Ruck acting on behalf of a client to stifle criticism was reported in the Guardian newspaper on 19 January 2011. Carter-Ruck on behalf of Midland Pig Producers issued a warning letter to the Soil Association threatening libel proceedings after the SA objected to a MPP planning application. Threatening such proceedings, which are rarely followed through, is a typical modus operandi of Carter-Ruck (and other law firms) to minimise scrutiny and adverse publicity of their clients.
I saw three "prominent" members of international fame in an interview by Amanpour on CNN.
Exclusive: Gruesome Syria photos may prove torture by Assad regime
(CNN - Amanpour) - A team of internationally renowned war crimes prosecutors and forensic experts has found "direct evidence" of "systematic torture and killing" by the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, the lawyers on the team say in a new report.
Their report, based on thousands of photographs of dead bodies of alleged detainees killed in Syrian government custody, would stand up in an international criminal tribunal, the group says.
CNN's "Amanpour" was given the report in a joint exclusive with The Guardian newspaper.
"This is a smoking gun," said David Crane, one of the report's authors. "Any prosecutor would like this kind of evidence -- the photos and the process. This is direct evidence of the regime's killing machine."
Continued with report below the fold ...
Mon Jan 20th, 2014 at 12:19:58 PM EST
For decades, many academics and pundits have pronounced that the 70s conclusively proved that Keynes had been completely wrong, and that it proved that Friedman had been completely right.
You see, there was a recession, and it should have created deflation, except if inflation was actually determined by expectations based on previous experience, in which case it would not be brought down by depression. Friedman went on to state that "inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon" which, if you think twice about it, is the most laughable statement.
And to this day, I keep reading articles, even by professors of economics in the UK, saying that the episode of inflation over 2% in the UK in the early years of the current Government is a clear indication that any stimulus would have had little to no effect, being swallowed by inflation.
That's what happens when you start believing that your model matters more than reality.
front-paged by afew
Sat Jan 18th, 2014 at 06:49:59 PM EST
Help empower coastal Caribbean communities with a solar sailboat that will provide workshops and materials for solar electric modules, solar cookers and phone chargers. Campaign now going on at Indiegogo: $18,000 over the next 40 days.
This is a project of Dr. Richard Komp, a solar scientist who has worked since 1977 empowering rural communities with solar energy projects around the world, providing both hands-on teaching and renewable resources.
Fri Jan 17th, 2014 at 07:52:53 PM EST
Cross-posted from The Court Astrologer.
I saw something in the Financial Times which is screaming for an SFC treatment...
Beyond BRICS blog: Brazil: net debtor to the world (Jonathan Wheatley, January 15, 2014)
It has been a proud boast of Brasília for several years that it is a net creditor to the world because it holds more in foreign exchange reserves than it owes in overseas debt. However, it is far from clear that this is still the case. The issue is just one example of the vulnerabilities investors must include in their calculations of how Brazil and other emerging markets will fare as monetary policy in the developed world becomes less accommodating.
The gist of the argument is that the Brazilian Central Bank has been using currency swaps to try to drain domestic demand for dollars in an attempt to support its exchange rate. Analysts at BNP Paribas argue that the short sollar position accumulated by the BCB in the process must be subtracted from the foreign reserves, which now (after a few months of sliding Real exchange rate and increasing swap positions) means that Brazil is no longer a Dollar creditor.
Below I argue that this is wrong: Brazil remains a net creditor to the world since the swap positions with the domestic economy cannot affect the external balance (a point on which the BCB is correct). The conclusion I draw is that swaps is not a viable way to support the exchange rate. But we know a central bank cannot support its exchange rate indefinitely in any case. All this shows is that currency swaps with the domestic economy, however "clever", still cannot affect the exchange rate. You need to use reserves for that.
by Frank Schnittger
Thu Jan 16th, 2014 at 08:39:00 AM EST
Why do religious gay bashers claim they are only preaching the Gospels when in fact they generally quote St. Paul rather than Jesus in support of their homophobia and misogyny?
McAleese and church stance on gays - Letters | The Irish Times - Thu, Jan 16, 2014
Sir, – Fr Patrick McCafferty (January 15th) states, “The church unequivocally proclaims the message of the Gospel ” and goes on to quote twice from Romans in support of his argument concerning homosexuality and church teaching. As he is no doubt aware, Romans is not, in fact, a gospel. Why is it that the opponents of gay rights generally quote St Paul rather than Jesus? Could it be because Jesus never actually condemned homosexuality, and indeed healed the centurion’s sick pais (male servant/lover)? – Yours, etc, FRANK SCHNITTGER
Former President Mary McAlease has stirred a bit of a hornets nest with her comments on the Catholic Church and homosexuality:
by A swedish kind of death
Thu Jan 16th, 2014 at 01:27:47 AM EST
The EU informs us that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that is presently being negotiated under much secrecy will have positive results.
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) - Trade - European Commission
Independent research shows that TTIP could boost:
- the EU's economy by 120 billion;
- the US economy by 90 billion;
- the rest of the world by 100 billion
That should be, according to Dean Baker:
Research by a pro-deal think tank shows that TTIP could in the best case scenario boost:
- the EU's economy by 120 billion;
- the US economy by 90 billion;
- the rest of the world by 100 billion
in the year 2027, in 2027 euros. However it also shows that the more likely scenario is about 50 USD per person and year.
The US-EU trade deal: don't buy the hype | Dean Baker | Comment is free | theguardian.com
As growth policy, this trade deal doesn't pass the laugh test, but that doesn't mean that it may not be very important to a number of special interests and, for this reason, bad news for most of the public. Since conventional barriers to trade between the US and EU are already very low, the focus of the deal will be on non-conventional barriers, meaning various regulatory practices.
front-paged by afew
Tue Jan 14th, 2014 at 09:30:57 AM EST
This is a complementary diary to an article posted by Richard Silverstein at Tikun Olam this morning ..
Israeli WMD Institute Used Soldiers as Guinea Pigs in Untested Anthrax Experiment.
(Tikun Olam) - A six year struggle by a group of IDF soldiers and officers for justice has ended with the State agreeing to pay them $6-million (Yossi Melman's Hebrew story and the English version, which has been replaced on the Jerusalem Post site by a far more IDF-friendly story by Yaakov Lapin) for their participation in a medical experiment conducted under false pretenses. Between 1999-2005, the ministry of defense, IDF, and the Israeli chemical and biological weapons institute at Nes Ziona collaborated with their American counterparts in research to find a suitable anthrax vaccine.
Read on for more ...
Research and development of an anthrax vaccine started years earlier, see article!
Israel develops anthrax vaccine Dec. 24, 2001
The Israel Institute for Biological Research in Nes Ziona. Israel has recently completed development of an anthrax vaccine that would be more effective and safer than the vaccine currently in use in the United States. The vaccine was developed at the Nes Ziona Biological Institute over the course of nearly ten years at the cost of millions of dollars.
According to a report published today in Yediot Aharonot, the Israeli vaccine was developed in one of the country's most secretive research programs and just finished initial clinical testing. The vaccine, given in the form of a shot, is not yet available for commercial use. But the minute approval is given, medical sources say, sufficient quantities of the vaccine could be produced for the entire Israeli population within a matter of months, the paper reported.
The vaccine was tested on volunteers from the IDF, who were not exposed to the disease but rather were checked for side effects from the drug. During testing the volunteers were inoculated with the vaccine, and weeks later were checked for the presence of anthrax antibodies in the blood. The presence of such antibodies was proof that the vaccine was successful.
Yediot Aharonot reported that the existence of an Israeli vaccine has surfaced in the media a number of times. According to media reports, the vaccine was developed through genetic engineering in cooperation with the IDF and the Israeli Ministry of Health.
Reports of the initial success of the Israeli vaccine appeared in the American Society of Microbiology's journal, Infection and Immunity, in August 2000. A study conducted at Nes Tziona and led by institute director, Dr. Avigdor Shafferman, tested the affect of the vaccine on guinea pigs and concluded that it led to immunization against anthrax spores.
"We believe, therefore, that [the use of genetically engineered anthrax spores] represents a platform of a prototypic, safe, and efficacious recombinant vaccine for further development and evaluation against a variety of virulent B. [anthrax] strains," concluded the abstract of the Nes Tziona study.
Continued below the fold ...
Mon Jan 13th, 2014 at 03:41:43 PM EST
Here it is.
On July 26, 1976, Jack Dougherty, a newly minted MBA from the College of William and Mary, dressed in adark blue suit and bursting with resolve, reported for his first day at W. L. Gore & Associates. He presented himself to Bill Gore, shook hands firmly, looked him in the eye, and said he was ready for anything.
What happened next was one thing for which Jack was not ready. Gore replied, "That's fine, Jack, fine. Why don't you look around and find something you'd like to do."
Whether this is a paradigm for trains or power generation depends, I guess, on the comparative value-weight of actually getting trains chugging down the track on time or the whirly-things shoving electricity down some wires versus one's relative Power position in a Top/Down hierarchy.
Sat Jan 11th, 2014 at 09:10:11 PM EST
Susan Murcott, Bob Lange, and Richard Komp are three grassroots environmental activists who are changing lives all around the world. Susan is a water researcher whose work on simple water filters has benefitted the lives of hundreds of thousands of people from Guatemala to Ghana. Her latest project is building a block of toilets for a school in a village in Ghana, the second project of this kind she has been involved with. Bob is a physics professor who has been doing science education in Africa for many years, an activity that morphed into installing small solar systems for villages in Tanzania and now into designing, building, and installing efficient cookstoves with the Maasai people. This year, his work is expanding into Uganda. Richard is a solar expert who has worked on everything from the physics of solar electricity to building solar stoves from scrap. He has been teaching people all around the world how to do solar as a cottage industry for about three decades now. His latest idea is to outfit a sailboat as a floating solar workshop that can teach people throughout the Caribbean how to better their lives with simple solar technologies. You can read his reports on his international work at http://www.mainesolar.org/Komp.html
I consider myself immensely privileged to know all three of these remarkable and remarkably effective people.
Sat Jan 11th, 2014 at 08:41:15 AM EST
Ariel Sharon, former Israeli prime minister, dies at 85
(Haaretz) - Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon died Saturday after a significant deterioration in his medical condition over the past two weeks. Sharon, who was 85, was comatose for past eight years.
On January 4, 2006, Ariel "Arik” Sharon was at the height of his political power: His newly founded Kadima party had just beat the rival parties to a pulp in pre-elections polls, which predicted it securing 40 Knesset seats in the approaching election.
Then in a single moment, the 78-year-old Sharon fell from the political stage, suffering his second serious stroke within two-and-half weeks and bringing his electoral blitz to a halt. Israel's prime minister was brought to Jerusalem's Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Karem, and his illness soon became the focus of world attention in the frenzied 2006 Israeli elections campaign.
JPost - Former prime minister Ariel Sharon dies at 85
My most recent diary about Sharon - The Bulldozer at the Gates of Hell.
My diary about Sharon in 2006 - Ariel Sharon Suffered Cerebral Hemorrhage ¶ Rushed Into ER.
After Gaza withdrawal, an astute plan - Breaking: Sharon Readies Plan for Total West Bank Pullout by '08 ¶ Secret EU Report Nov. 25, 2005
Fri Jan 10th, 2014 at 09:18:28 PM EST
Obama to nominate Stanley Fischer, 2 others to Fed seats.
WASHINGTON -- President Obama will nominate Stanley Fischer, the former head of the Bank of Israel, to be vice chair of the Federal Reserve, and also tapped two other people for seats on the central bank's Board of Governors, the White House said Friday.
Lael Brainard, who recently stepped down as Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, was chosen to fill one of the vacant seats on the seven-member Fed board.
And Jerome H. Powell, a former Treasury official and investment banker who has served on the Fed board since 2012, will be renominated. Powell was confirmed to an unexpired term that expires on Jan. 31.
Thu Jan 9th, 2014 at 07:05:55 PM EST
Berlin's 'poor but sexy' appeal turning city into European Silicon Valley
A decade ago Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit tried to attract creative types to the city by declaring "Berlin ist arm, aber sexy" (poor but sexy).
It worked. The City's astonishingly low rents compared with other European capitals - a one-bed flat a short walk from Alexanderplatz in the centre of town can still be picked up for as little as 450-a-month (£373) - have helped draw arty people from across the world and made Berlin a major centre for artists, writers, musicians and, increasingly, technology and web entrepreneurs.
Berlin has more going for it than cheap rent but a low Cost of Living is a big help in fostering Creativity and it's blood-sister Innovation.
Tue Jan 7th, 2014 at 09:51:05 AM EST
Some time in the middle of last year, political theorist József Böröcz wrote a blog post regarding the direction of Hungarian society, and it was pretty powerful stuff.
Arguably, Hungary is showing some powerful symptoms of a fascist transformation. Special thanks for that to the elites--both the right wing and the middle (there is of course no "left" visible in politics in Hungary)--that managed the transformation from a somewhat bureaucratic and perhaps a bit boring, upwardly mobile state socialist society, producing, at its peak, food for twice its population, with better-than-expected scores on the quality of life, culture, health, etc., engaged, at the time of the collapse of state socialism, in bold and extremely creative experimentation in many areas of social and economic life to a small, insignificant, desperate, self-hating, xenophobic, classist, racist, sexist, ageist snake pit with widening social inequalities.
front-paged by afew
Mon Jan 6th, 2014 at 07:36:15 PM EST
I'd like to participate in an ongoing on and off line brainstorm using Buckminster Fuller's World Game design criteria, "How can we make the world work for 100 percent of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone?" and one of Bill McDonough's Ecological Design Principles, "Use only available solar income."
Here are some free resources that are edging, gingerly, towards that possibility.
"Age of Sustainable Development (https:/www.coursera.org/course/susdev) gives students an understanding of the key challenges and pathways to sustainable development - that is, economic development that is also socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable."
free 14 week course taught by Jeffrey Sachs
starting January 21
Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided (https:/www.coursera.org/course/warmerworld )
"It is now becoming clear that without necessary climate action, the world may become 4°C warmer by the end of this century. As this threatens to roll back decades of development progress, this is a `make or break' point. This course presents the most recent scientific evidence as well as some of the opportunities for urgent action."
free World Bank MOOC [Massive Open Online Course] on climate change
starting January 27
Mon Jan 6th, 2014 at 05:17:31 PM EST
It's been a while since I posted anything, here is a quick link to the most recent summary of books I read. As before, (+) indicates a particularly good or (-) not so much book.
There may be some train blogging, of the model variety, in the future.
Wed Jan 1st, 2014 at 01:17:31 PM EST
[Update] I've added a comment with breaking news of his "unfortunate" demise below the fold.
The group claimed the responsibility for the recent bombing of the Iranian Embassy in Beirut and is affiliated with Al Qaeda terror. The stolen car in the recent assassination of Muhamad Chatah, was traced to the Palestinian Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp.
Mohamad Chatah had a long career and not only an advisor to Saad Hariri. He was affiliated with the Hariri 'Future Movement' political group, although he officially remained an independent figure in Lebanese politics.
For the MSM it's nice to tie Chatah in with Hariri and the enemy of the state Hezbollah. Nothing but speculation, perhaps the Syrian intelligence of Assad did it?
From local reports I understand there would be a large gathering of the party in the home of Saad Hariri, who is a resident of Saudi Arabia lately. The bomb could have been intended for dozens of other persons like the former PM Fouad Siniora.
○ Saad Hariri in Saudi Arabia to seal $3bn deal with Hollande for arms to Lebanon
○ Saad Hariri and the Saudi Money Riddle
Al-Qaeda-affiliated emir arrested in Lebanon
(Al-Monitor) - Majid bin Mohammad al-Majid, the emir of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades in the Levant, was undergoing kidney treatment at the Almakased hospital in Beirut, when he suddenly found himself face to face with the Lebanese army. A security source told Al-Monitor that the al-Qaeda-affiliated emir was arrested after Lebanese military intelligence received information that he was about to leave for an unknown destination.
"The army knew that Majid left his hiding place in Sidon, 40 kilometers [25 miles] south of Beirut, on the evening of the attacks on the army two weeks ago [Dec. 15]." The source was citing the Sidon attacks -- which left four attackers and one Lebanese soldier killed after a triple attack on checkpoints around the city -- that Al-Monitor reported on in detail.
Shortly after being appointed, Majid posted an audio message addressing Lebanese Shiites in general and Hezbollah and the Amal movement in particular. Later, Majid was said to have moved to Syria, but sources in the Palestinian Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon -- where he used to live -- denied these claims, insisting that the only time Majid moved from the camp was in mid-December.
What is obvious is that Majid's arrest will unveil the real role the Abdullah Azzam Brigades played for years, and whether they were part of the global jihad or serving a regional agenda that was aimed at shaking Lebanon's fragile security.
Salafist leader Ahmad al-Assir and worshippers of the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque in Sidon
A bs story from Saudi Arabia linking a Salafist terrorist Saleh al-Qarawi to Iran and Hezbollah: Online jihadists discuss fate of al Qaeda operative held by Saudi Arabia.
Continued with update below the fold ...
by das monde
Mon Dec 30th, 2013 at 05:16:35 AM EST
The Economist has a provoking article in the Christmas issue on French noir moods. It should stir some discussion here.
ONE of the most perplexing questions of the early 21st century is this: how can the French, who invented joie de vivre, the three-tier cheese trolley and Dior's jaunty New Look, be so resolutely miserable? [...] polls suggest that the French are more depressed than Ugandans or Uzbekistanis, and more pessimistic about their country's future than Albanians or Iraqis ....
[...] Le Monde ran three pages under the title "Liberté, Égalité, Morosité", in a bid to decode its fellow countrymen's "persistent melancholy". France, it turns out, has the highest suicide rate in western Europe after Belgium and Switzerland. An American psychiatric study showed that, among ten rich countries, the French were the most likely to have a "major depressive episode" at some point in their life. Even the French language seems to be particularly well stocked -- morosité, tristesse, malheur, chagrin, malaise, ennui, mélancolie, anomie, désespoir -- with negativity.
front-paged by afew
Sun Dec 29th, 2013 at 01:50:44 PM EST
I think that the previous Chiralkine Accounting thread which I kicked off back in April must have generated more comments, heat and acrimony than almost any in ET's history.
But I thought then, and continue to think, that Martin Hay is on to something important, and I promised at some point to post my own thinking on the subject.
I've been pondering the discussion and assimilating Martin's work ever since within my own analysis and world view, and I understand from him that he and his collaborators gained a great deal from the ET experience.
My instinct was that the problem was that Martin's foundational assumptions were mistaken as to the basis of our modern financial system, and this instinct was reinforced by the discussion that took place.
A seasonal update from Martin today gave rise to an 'Aha!' moment when the penny dropped and I was finally able to pull my thoughts together, as follows. This is the responsible extract from Martin's e-mail.
I have realised that if you "resolve" account balances into right and left components, then you can in effect keep a complete history of all currency created, exchanged and redeemed by a person in just a left and a right balance.
Sun Dec 29th, 2013 at 08:54:54 AM EST
Another protest from freedom fighters in the Caucuses?
Suspected female suicide bomber kills 14 in Russia's south (VIDEO)
MOSCOW (RT News) - At least 14 people were killed in a blast at a railway station in the city of Volgograd, southern Russia. A female suicide bomber is suspected to have carried out the attack, says the National Anti-terrorism Committee.
Follow RT's Live Updates on the blast
"According to preliminary reports, this was a terrorist act. Fourteen people have lost their lives, 34 were injured, 30 of them more critically than others. An Emergencies plane is waiting to be dispatched from Moscow," Russia's Investigative Committee said.
However, the Health Ministry confirms that 27 people have been taken to hospital. According to the Investigative Committee, a child of 9 was among the injured.
The incident is being treated as an act of terrorism, the committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said.
The blast took place at 12.45 local time inside the building of the railway. It is "thought to have been carried out by a female suicide bomber," according to the anti-terrorism committee's statement.
Watch RT's Egor Piskunov report
President Vladimir Putin has ordered that all the necessary measures be taken to assist survivors and provide security in Volgograd, the Kremlin reported.
Continued below the fold ...
by afew - Mar 7
by DoDo - Mar 1
by marco - Mar 3
by Oui - Mar 5
by afew - Mar 7
by Oui - Mar 5
by Oui - Mar 4
by marco - Mar 3
by vbo - Mar 1
by DoDo - Mar 1
by vbo - Feb 27
by gmoke - Feb 26
by vbo - Feb 25
by Oui - Feb 24
by Oui - Feb 22