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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 13 November

by Nomad Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:21:29 AM EST

 A Daily Review Of International Online Media 

Europeans on this date in history:

1868 - death of Italian composer Gioachino Rossini, who wrote 39 operas of which his best-known include Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) and La Cenerentola

More here and here

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by Nomad on Mon Nov 12th, 2012 at 03:11:32 PM EST
Spain in turmoil ahead of general strike | Europe | DW.DE | 12.11.2012

Spanish trade unions have called a general strike for Wednesday. Some Spaniards fear "Greek conditions;" others are convinced the country needs radical reforms.

For 40 years, Alberto Lopez, a retired history teacher, has been trying to instill in his students the fragility of Spain's democracy as a result of the ongoing repercussions from the civil war and the long years of General Francisco Franco's dictatorship: "I think that deep down, we all knew the situation would explode some day."

The transition from a dictatorship to a democracy was no guarantee for prosperity and peace, Lopez told Deutsche Welle: peace came at a price. "We must completely reorganize our state and start anew," he says.

Fundamental changes

In Madrid, on Valencia's university campus and the squares of Barcelona, many thousands of people are braving wind, rain and cold weather almost daily as they protest and demand reforms. They include civil servants demanding more transparency, justice and secure jobs. Spain's public administration is under fire for having too many apparently useless foundations, universities, schools and overlapping authorities.

Oscar Vigiola, head of production at Spain's 529 film production company, is one of the few Spaniards at management level who support the planned mass protests on Wednesday (14.11.2012). "Our government did not fulfill its election pledges - they lied," he says. The Spanish people did not legitimize the cuts and austerity measures at the ballot boxes: "They have a right to influence the government's course in this manner."

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's course includes a shake-up of the state health-care system. He plans to introduce reforms which are common in many parts of the world, including Germany: patients would have to pay additional fees to consult certain doctors and receive prescriptions, many drugs would no longer require prescriptions and hospital administrations would be privatized. The government also plans massive cuts in the education sector: almost 40,000 teachers would lose their jobs.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 01:47:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Spanish banks suspend evictions in extreme cases - SPAIN - FRANCE 24

Spain's banks announced Monday they will freeze mortgage-related evictions for two years in cases of extreme need as a public outcry mounted over suicides by desperate homeowners.

The lenders reacted after two suicides in 15 days by indebted homeowners facing expulsion in Spain, where both banks and borrowers were hammered by a 2008 property crash.

The deaths shocked a country already weary of tough austerity measures in the midst of recession and record unemployment, and the news sent thousands into the streets in anti-bank protests.

As the uproar grew, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's right-leaning government was to hold a rare meeting with the opposition Socialists to discuss proposals to combat the evictions crisis.

The Spanish Banking Association noted "social alarm created by mortgage-related evictions" and said it had informed the government on November 8 of its members' decision.

The banks had agreed "for humanitarian reasons and within a framework of social responsibility, to halt reposessions during the next two years in those cases that involve extreme need," it said in a statement.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 01:48:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"in those cases that involve extreme need might create bad PR"


I'm trying to think of a repossession situation that doesn't involve extreme need. I suppose some people can move back in with their parents, and there may be a public option.

But that's not going to stop the suicides.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 08:09:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The focus of the reform will be to stop evictions, which are bad PR.

Mortgages will remain full-recourse loans. I have seen a suggestion that bankrupt people will be asset-stripped before being repossessed and then having their mortgage cancelled and given a 'social rental' of their former home, or of another one. At best, they won't remain indentured to their creditors after that, though that isn't guaranteed.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 12:56:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Business Leaders Warn Catalan Independence Could Wreck Its Economy - SPIEGEL ONLINE
Two weeks before the Spanish region of Catalonia holds an election, business leaders are warning against a secession from Spain, which is favored by the region's president, Artur Mas, the head of the nationalist party, Convergence and Union (CiU).

Opinion polls show Mas might get an absolute majority in the November 25 election. He wants to hold a referendum on independence from Spain, even though the Spanish government has said such a vote would be against the constitution.

Catalans argue that they are unfairly treated by the central government and could better manage their finances on their own. Mas called an early election after his demands for more fiscal autonomy were rejected by the central government in September.

But Catalonia's business elite fears a secession would lead to major losses. Some economists have caluculated that independence could cut the region's GDP by as much as nine percent, even if the new state were allowed to remain in the EU and in the euro zone. But the EU Commission has warned that wouldn't be possible.

The head of Spain's biggest publishing company has already said the company would move its headquarters away from Barcelona if Catalonia seceded. International investment banks like JP Morgan and UBS have said Catalonia would face a "potentially disastrous" future if it leaves Spain.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 01:56:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yea, because Spain's government policies aren't already wrecking the economy anyway at all

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 03:27:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"We must completely reorganize our state and start anew,"

Why, of course, it's the state and public services that are all wrong. No need for complete reorganisation of the private sector which is by definition efficient.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 05:49:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If it's cutting taxes and making wages as low as possible - pretty much, yes.

I'm bemused that the collective ET hive mind may not have realised that these people are the local equivalent of the Republicans in the US.

They prefer to hide behind Buba and the IMF rather than Ayn Rand and the deficit cliff. But it's clearly the same agenda with the same aims, wrapped up in a slightly different narrative - only far more dangerous, because even the wackiest Randians would never have been allowed to push their luck to the extent Team Vile have managed in Spain, Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 08:13:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wouldn't be surprised that the hive mind does recognize who these people are. They may not look so dangerous, because Yurp has had such an aristocracy/kleptocracy for how long now?, that they blend in a bit more.

Shock doctrinaires? Shark doctrinaires? Elegant Locusts?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 08:47:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The argument there is that 'the State' was not reorganised after Franco died, and the oligarchy survived the transition unscathed.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 12:57:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com / Economic Affairs / Cyprus bailout only next year, Germany says

Links with Russia and other "questions" regarding the Cypriot financial sector are likely to delay a bailout decision until 2013, the German finance minister has said.

"So far discussions between the troika and Cyprus have advanced very slowly. That is why we will probably be able to look deeper at the bailout request only in 2013," German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told Welt am Sonntag on Sunday (11 November).

He singled out the "relationship to foreign lenders, including Russia" as one of the issues that need to be "clarified."

Cyprus is seeking a bailout of up to €15 billion after its banks were hit hard by the Greek crisis.

But a leaked report from the German foreign intelligence service (BND) last week warned against giving German taxpayers' money to a country where Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs launder their money.

Nicosia already received a €2.5 billion bailout from Moscow after the 2008 financial crisis and for a while claimed it could do without EU help, hoping Russia would once again come to its aid.

Schaeuble refused to comment further on the money-laundering concerns, but said "all questions need to be clarified" in order to take "responsible decisions" which he can defend to the German public.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 01:59:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Venice notches up another historic day as floods hit new peaks - Europe - World - The Independent

Heavy rains and seas whipped up by strong winds have flooded Venice and brought the lagoon city's high tide mark to its sixth-highest level since records began being kept 150 years ago.

Italian news reports said the same weather system that put 70 percent of central Venice under water on Sunday was wreaking havoc elsewhere in north and central Italy, with some 200 people evacuated from their homes in hard-hit Tuscany. 

Flooding is common in Venice this time of year and Sunday's high tide mark of 150 centimeters (59.06 inches) marked the sixth highest level since 1872, according to the ANSA news agency. 

Moveable barriers that would rise from the sea bed to protect Venice from high tides have been in the works for years but will not be operational before 2014.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:07:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Top German and EU Politicians Blast Britain and France over Budget - SPIEGEL ONLINE
The European Commission and top German politicians are becoming increasingly exasperated with both France and Britain as the summit in Brussels to determine the EU budget for the seven-year period from 2014 to 2020 approaches.

Both countries have been insistent on getting their way as member states position themselves for what promise to be difficult talks -- and both London and Paris have threatened to veto the budget if it doesn't meet their expectations. In response, European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, Germany's representative on the EU's executive body, has harshly criticized the two countries.

In a speech before the German association representing magazine publishers in the country, Oettinger warned against "cheap populism" when reporting on Greece, before saying "my problem children are France and Great Britain." By way of explanation, he said that with its anti-EU course, London has "taken leave of its senses." He added that tabloids such as The Sun appear to be trying to force Britain out of the EU. Turning to France, he said the country had too little industry and innovation.

Oettinger's comments were echoed on Friday by a close confidant of Chancellor Angela Merkel in an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE. Volker Kauder, head of Merkel's conservatives in parliament, said that "Europe will not make progress without a functioning Franco-German axis."

Kauder was critical of France's socialist leadership, saying that "we can only hope that President François Hollande moves a bit closer to the chancellor" when it comes to combating the euro crisis. He added: "It would be good if the socialists there undertook real and courageous structural reforms. That would be good for the country and good for Europe."

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:08:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurointelligence Daily Morning Newsbriefing: Greece gets the extension - at the price of more austerity in 2015 and 2016 (13.11.2012)
The eurogroup reached a partial agreement on Greece, under which it accepted the two-year deadline extension for deficit reduction; but Greece will have to find additional austerity measures in 2015 and 2016; discussion on the funding of the two-year extension and the IMF's involvement has been put off until next week; a German newspaper reports that the ECB will after all extend the ELA to help Greek banks fund the financing gap; Olli Rehn says even if the ECB says No, Greek banks should still be in a position to fund the government's temporary financing gap; Jean-Claude Juncker and Christine Lagarde openly disagree about the extension of the 2020 debt target, with Juncker favouring an extension to 2022; the euro falls and bond spreads rise as investors are becoming more sceptical about the eurozone' s prospects; the FT got hold of the leaked troika report, which shows a significant scaling down of the privatisation programme; Angela Merkel has visited Portugal, advocating more reforms; a Portuguese newspaper criticises her for conducting science experiments on Portugal; Portuguese activists have created a video explaining Portugual to Germans, but it was banned for political reasons; the inter-banking market is showing signs of revival; Italian prosecutors are bringing charges to rating agency analysts over Italy's downgrade; the ESM explains is debt issue strategy in some detail; Spanish banks pre-empt a legal change on eviction laws through a two-year moratorium on the eviction of poor families; Spain is pondering a change in the laws for personal bankruptcy that might include the notion of non-recourse mortgages;  the Spanish authorities reveal the details of the bad bank; Louis de Guindos says Spanish banks will be able to support the real economy by the end of this year; also says EU should switch from nominal to structural deficit targets; the Spanish regions are due to cut their deficits by 6% in 2013; Pierre Moscovici says German papers should stop French-bashing; some French editorialists agree with the Germans; Jakob Augstein, meanwhile, explains why Peer Steinbruck is the wrong man to challenge Angela Merkel.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 03:51:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Nov 12th, 2012 at 03:11:35 PM EST
BBC News - Eurozone gives Greece more time on budget targets

Eurozone ministers have agreed to give Greece two more years, until 2016, to meet its deficit-reduction targets.

However the finance ministers delayed a decision on releasing the latest 31.5bn euro (£25.2bn; $40bn) tranche of bailout funds.

Differences also emerged among Greece's lenders on how to make its debt sustainable into the next decade.

Greek PM Antonis Samaras has warned that without the new funds Greece will run out of money within days.

The ministers meeting in Brussels endorsed a proposal to extend from 2014 to 2016 a deadline for Greece to reduce its budget deficit, as demanded by international lenders.

The proposal was contained in a report for the ministers which also said the extension would add 32.6bn euros ($41.4bn) to the cost of the bailout.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 01:42:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurointelligence e-mail briefing re the Greece decision:

The  EU-IMF spat went public when Jean- Claude Juncker told a post-meeting press conference the debt target would be moved to 2022, prompting Christine Lagarde to insist the IMF was sticking to the original timeline, the FT reports. When Juncker again insisted it would be moved - "I'm not joking," he said - Lagarde appeared exasperated, rolling her eyes and shaking her head. "In our view, the appropriate timetable is 120% by 2020," Lagarde said. "We clearly have different views." Officials will meet again November 20 in an effort to reach agreement.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 05:55:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
German UBS clients raided on suspicion of tax evasion | World news | The Guardian

German tax investigators on Monday carried out searches of hundreds of clients of Swiss bank UBS on suspicion of tax evasion. The raids, carried out by around 50 tax investigators across the country, were ordered by the state prosecutor's office in the city of Bochum.

"There is an investigation into several hundred domestic customers of the Swiss bank UBS on suspicion of tax evasion," spokesman Norbert Salamon said.

Prosecutors based their investigation on data contained on a computer disk purchased by the authorities in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where Bochum is situated. The finance ministry in the state, which is ruled by the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens, has purchased a total of six CDs since 2010 in order to track down tax evaders.

Back in 2007, the German foreign intelligence agency paid a thief €4.6m (£3.7m) for information on German tax evaders with accounts in Liechtenstein. The most high-profile tax dodger exposed was the chief executive of Deutsche Post, Klaus Zumwinkel.

State prosecutors in the city of Mannheim said last week they were investigating UBS employees on suspicion of helping clients to evade tax.

The bank has denied any wrongdoing. "UBS fully supports the concern for German clients to be tax compliant," UBS spokesman Yves Kaufmann Lobato said in an emailed statement. "In 2009, UBS undertook a thorough scrutiny of its cross-border business and adapted the rules where necessary. UBS takes disciplinary action against any employee who commits infractions against these rules, up to dismissal."

Members of the SPD have warned that the latest developments concerning UBS could further undermine the German government's attempt to secure a tax deal with Switzerland.

The treaty, which was negotiated by the German finance minster, Wolfgang Schäuble, and is supposed to come into effect on 1 January, would see an amnesty for Germans with assets in Swiss banks in exchange for a retroactive taxation rate of between 21% and 41%.

The Bundestag has already approved the deal but it needs to also pass the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat in which the federal states are represented and where Chancellor Merkel's centre-right government no longer enjoys a majority.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 01:44:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Italy charges S&P, Fitch with market manipulation - ITALY - FRANCE 24

An Italian prosecutor filed charges of market manipulation against Standard & Poor's and Fitch ratings agencies on Monday over downgrades of Italy's credit rating that helped fuel the euro debt crisis.

"We have filed charges against Standard & Poor's and Fitch," said Prosecutor Michele Ruggiero, who filed charges against seven people, five of whom worked at S&P's, while two worked at Fitch at the time of the alleged crime.

Among those charged are Deven Sharma, the head of S&P's from 2007 and 2011, and the operational director for Fitch, David Michael Willmoth Riley.

The charges have to be confirmed by a judge for any trial to go ahead -- a process which could take months under the Italian judicial system.

The ratings agencies have cooperated with the inquiry but insist their economic evaluations were independent and based on objective factors.

The investigation began after an Italian consumer group lodged a complaint against Moody's in 2010 for a downgrade of Italy's sovereign rating which rattled the financial markets and pushed up the country's borrowing costs.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 01:47:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Irish homes draw buyers after Europe's worst crash - Europe - World - The Independent

In Dublin, the epicenter of Western Europe's worst housing-market crash, signs of life are emerging for those with access to cash.

A five-bedroom, Victorian-era home near the center of Dublin was sold last month for 2.05 million euros ($2.6 million), 17 percent more than the reserve price. At the other end of the market, apartments are being snapped up at auction for as little as 50,000 euros in cash. Even prices for homes requiring mortgages across the country rose for a third straight month in September, the Central Statistics Office said.

"It's the first time I've bought in Ireland," said Neil Cotter, 47, an accountant based in Gibraltar who last month bought three Dublin apartments at a sale of distressed real estate. "I just had a look at all the markets in Europe and it seemed the most attractive."

Since the end of the Celtic Tiger boom that made Ireland the fastest-growing economy in the euro region in the decade ending in 2007, property prices have fallen by 50 percent, ruining the country's banks and forcing the government to follow Greece and seek an international bailout. While bankers and analysts are split on calling the bottom, they agree any further recovery depends on a revival in mortgage lending, which the Irish Banking Federation says dropped 95 percent from the peak.

"I'm not calling any massive recovery, but people are going to look back and see a lot of missed opportunities in Ireland if they had the cash," said Keith Lowe, chief executive officer of Dublin-based property broker Douglas Newman Good. "Banks must understand that in order to have a proper recovery, they must lend."

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 01:50:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Congress comes back Tuesday to confront fiscal cliff | Reuters

Amid a global fright over Washington's political brinkmanship, U.S. lawmakers return to the capital on Tuesday with a seven-week deadline to reach agreement on scheduled tax hikes and budget cuts that threaten to trigger another recession.

The post-election battle over the so-called fiscal cliff is shaping up as an extension of the political campaign with Democrats trying to rally support for raising taxes on the wealthy as part of any deal, and Republicans countering that such an approach would devastate "job creators" across the country.

President Barack Obama has scheduled high-profile White House meetings with business, civic and labor leaders in advance of a summit set for Friday of top Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

Republican leaders, among them former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, have planned their own round of television appearances and news conferences to make their case.

Both sides generally agree on the need to avoid the jolt of $600 billion in draconian deficit-reduction measures they all agreed to in August 2011. They also agree on a need for long-term deficit reduction and revisions of the tax code.

They are at odds, as they were during the election campaign, over how to get over the immediate crisis, with the main disagreement focusing on whether to extend tax cuts for everyone, as Republicans want, or just for those earning below $250,000, as the president wants.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:20:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Nov 12th, 2012 at 03:11:38 PM EST
Syrian opposition says west has promised military aid | World news | The Guardian

The Syrian opposition says it has been promised western military support in return for forming a united front, in advance of a donors' conference in London on Friday intended to consolidate the new rebel coalition.

British diplomats said Friday's expert-level meeting would discuss purely non-lethal aid to the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, formed on Sunday in Doha, but neither the UK nor French governments are ruling out arming the opposition in the coming months in an attempt to break the bloody deadlock in Syria.

The conflict showed more signs of spreading as Israeli tanks fired at Syrian positions for the second time in as many days in response to Syria mortar fire landing on the Israeli-held Golan Heights, and a Syrian government jet bombed a rebel-held village just yards from the Turkish border.

Turkey has raised the possibility of asking Nato to deploy Patriot anti-aircraft missiles along its southern border. It has yet to put a formal request to the alliance, but Turkish officials said the latest bombing showed it was necessary for it to strengthen the defences on its southern flank. Turkey, which has about 120,000 Syrian refugees on its territory, is also pushing for expanding western backing for the rebels.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:11:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Syria Comment
Ten countries promised recognition of the new "National Coalition for Revolutionary Forces and the Syrian Opposition", including Saudi, UAE, Jordan, Egypt, US, German, Italy, France.

Mouaz al-Khatib, a former imam at the famous Umayyad mosque in Damascus, was voted as president. Riad Seif, who proposed the initiative to form the new group, and female activist Suhair al-Atassi were chosen as deputies. All three have served time in Syrian prisons and left the country recently. (See BBC's Excellent profile of Khatib)

It is a big day for the Syrian opposition. Defying naysayers and skeptics, the opposition came together in Doha to follow the outlines of the Riad Seif plan. Opposition members the world over are electrified by the outcome and moving speeches given by the opposition's new leadership. Assad regime must be worried, as it has survived for 42 years thanks to Syria's fragmentation.

Now the challenge will be to unite the militias on the ground in Syria behind the new civilian leadership. The role of Qatar, the US, France and Britain have been central in encouraging unity.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:12:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
.:Middle East Online::New clashes along Israel-Syria border: Is Assad playing Golan card?:.

Israeli troops fired tank shells into Syria on Monday, confirming "direct hits" on the source of a mortar round that struck the Golan Heights as tensions flared along the ceasefire line.

The exchange marked the second straight day that Israeli troops have been drawn into the Syrian conflict and came just hours after an appeal for restraint from all sides by UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

On Sunday, Israeli troops fired a warning shot across the UN-monitored ceasefire line in response to Syrian fire, in the first instance of Israeli fire directed at the Syrian military in the Golan Heights since the 1973 war.

Monday's incident came shortly after a Syrian mortar round struck near an army post in the Israeli-occupied Golan, the military said, warning that any further shooting would be answered with "severity."

A military statement said that a mortar round hit an open area near an army post in the central heights, causing no damage or injuries.

"In response, IDF (Israel Defence Forces) soldiers fired tank shells towards the source of the fire, confirming direct hits," it said.

"Syrian mobile artillery was directly hit," a military source added, without elaborating.

The military statement warned that any further shooting from Syria "will not be tolerated and shall be responded to with severity."

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:13:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If Assad goes, Hezbollah will be alone in the Levant - much to the delight of Israel - Comment - Voices - The Independent

Hezbollah was once the Lebanese "resistance", the tough, courageous, self-sacrificing guerrilla army which drove Israel's occupation soldiers out of Lebanon 12 years ago.

Today, it looks more like yet another Arab "security" institution - or insecurity institution - as it flies drones over Israel and continues to support, to the increasing condemnation of many Lebanese, the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader - famous for wind-milling between Syria and its opponents - is one of several Lebanese politicians to ask why Hezbollah does not give its military and political support to the Syrian "resistance" rather than the regime it is fighting. Hezbollah is not, as the US State Department claims, fighting alongside Assad's men: but it has assumed "security" duties on the Syrian side of the Lebanese border - effectively keeping the Lebanese-Syrian frontier out of rebel hands - and uses its formidable intelligence services in the regime's favour. At least four Hezbollah "martyrs" have been returned from Syria for burial in Lebanon.

No-one doubts the fire-power or tenacity of this most-efficient of guerrilla movements. If it did not win the 2006 war against Israel - more than a thousand Lebanese civilian dead did not equal the "Divine Victory" which its leader, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, claimed - then Israel certainly lost it, retreating back across its frontier after fierce, face-to-face combat with Hezbollah fighters. Israel - along with America - regularly refers to Hezbollah as "terrorists", but Israeli troops who have fought the guerrillas have talked of them with something approaching respect. Hezbollah doesn't run away.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:13:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
AFP: Officials pilfer billions in Zimbabwe diamonds: report

Around $2 billion worth of diamonds have been siphoned out of Zimbabwe in the past four years by a network of government ministers and military officials aligned with President Robert Mugabe, an Ottawa-based global watchdog said on Monday.

"Conservative estimates place the theft of Marange goods at almost $2 billion since 2008," Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) said in a report that coincided with the start of an international diamond conference held to boost Zimbabwe's diamond sector.

PAC referred to diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe.

The report singled out Mines Minister Obert Mpofu by saying that he had cleared mining concessions for security chiefs.

"Far from defending the best interests of Zimbabwe, Minister Mpofu has presided over a ministry that has awarded concessions to dubious individuals with no prior mining experience, often under very questionable terms or circumstances," it said.

"He has solicited and approved applications from members of Zimbabwe?s security forces, including those implicated in human rights abuses in Marange," the report added.

Zimbabwe's diamond industry has been tarnished by allegations of graft, and labour and human rights violations since Harare deployed security forces to drive away illegal miners from the Marange diamond fields.

Global watchdog Kimberley Process suspended exports from the area at the time, but lifted the ban after the government said it had pulled the security forces out of the area.

In an interview with the state-controlled newspaper The Herald ahead of the conference, Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa denied the charges that diamond profits had been funnelled out of the country by people close to Mugabe.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:14:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Top U.S. commander in Afghanistan under investigation, scandal widens | Reuters

he top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, is under investigation for alleged inappropriate communication with a woman at the center of the scandal involving former CIA Director David Petraeus, a senior U.S. defense official said on Tuesday.

The shocking revelation threatens to fell another of the U.S. military's biggest names and suggests that the scandal involving Petraeus - a former four-star general who had Allen's job in Afghanistan before moving to the CIA last year - could expand much further than previously imagined.

The U.S. official said the FBI uncovered between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of communications - mostly emails and spanning from 2010 to 2012 - between Allen and Jill Kelley, who has been identified as a long-time friend of the Petraeus family and a Tampa, Florida, volunteer social liaison with military families at MacDill Air Force Base.

It was Kelley's complaints about harassing emails from the woman with whom Petraeus had had an affair, Paula Broadwell, that prompted an FBI investigation, ultimately alerting authorities to Petraeus' involvement with Broadwell. Petraeus resigned from his job on Friday.

Asked whether there was concern about the disclosure of classified information, the official, on condition of anonymity, said: "We are concerned about inappropriate communications. We are not going to speculate as to what is contained in these documents."

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement given to reporters flying with him to Australia that he had asked that Allen's nomination to be Commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe be delayed "and the president has agreed".

Allen, who is now in Washington, was due to face a Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday, as was his slated successor in Afghanistan, General Joseph Dunford.

The FBI referred the case to the Pentagon on Sunday and Panetta directed the Defense Department's Inspector General to handle the investigation. Panetta informed the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee during the flight to Australia. The House Armed Services Committee was also notified.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:17:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Is Linked to Petraeus Scandal - NYTimes.com
Gen. John Allen, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, is under investigation for what a senior defense official said early Tuesday was "inappropriate communication" with Jill Kelley, who was seen as a rival for David H. Petraeus's attentions by Paula Broadwell, the woman who had an extramarital affair with Mr. Petraeus.

 In a statement released to reporters on his plane en route to Australia early Tuesday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that the F.B.I. had informed him on Sunday of its investigation of General Allen.

Mr. Panetta turned the matter over to the Pentagon's inspector general to conduct its own investigation into what the defense official said were 20,000 to 30,000 pages of documents, many of them e-mails between General Allen and Ms. Kelley, who is married with children and lives in Tampa, Fla.

Asked if the F.B.I. had determined that there was criminal action involved, the defense official replied, "That is for the F.B.I. to discuss.'' The official, who briefed reporters on Mr. Panetta's plane, said that "there is the distinct possibility'' that the e-mails were connected to an ongoing F.B.I. investigation into Mr. Petraeus and Ms. Broadwell.

The defense official said that General Allen, who is also married, told Pentagon officials he had done nothing wrong. Mr. Panetta's statement praised General Allen for his leadership in Afghanistan and said that "he is entitled to due process in this matter."

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:18:35 AM EST
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Felipe Calderon calls for review of drug policy in wake of US cannabis vote | World news | guardian.co.uk

Outgoing Mexican president Felipe Calderon joined three Central American peers in calling for a review of regional drug policy Monday following the legalization of marijuana possession by two US states last week.

Calderon was speaking in Mexico City after a previously planned meeting on drug policy with the leaders of Honduras, Belize and Costa Rica.

Calderon made no direct mention of the election-day results in the United States. He said that "organized crime poses the most serious threat currently facing the states and societies of our region" and delivered a list of 10 resolutions for combating the drug trade.

"[We] urge the authorities in consumer countries to explore all possible alternatives to eliminate exorbitant profits of criminals," Calderon said.

US citizens consume 3,700 tons of marijuana annually, with at least 40% of that amount coming from Mexico, according to a report by the independent Mexican Institute for Competitiveness. The report, called "Si los vecinos legalizan" ("If the neighbours legalize"), estimated that Mexican drug cartels would lose more than $1bn in annual income if Washington state alone legalized marijuana.

Under the new laws in Washington and Colorado, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is legal. Regulations pertaining to the growth and sale of marijuana are to be put in place over the next year.

The possession of marijuana remains illegal under federal statutes, and the Obama administration has given no sign that it plans to curtail drug arrests or the prosecution of drug crimes.

The call Monday by Mexican President Felipe Calderon and the presidents of Belize, Costa Rica and Honduras is the most significant Latin American reaction yet to the 6 November decisions by voters in Colorado and Washington.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:19:15 AM EST
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China dodges politically sensitive questions at key congress | Reuters

In 2007, a year before Beijing hosted the Olympics, China's Communist rulers made a special effort at a five-yearly congress to show the world transparency and grant rare open access to foreign media.

This year's conclave is however overshadowed by China's biggest political scandal in three decades enveloping former high-flyer Bo Xilai and a tricky leadership transition, and that effort has gone into reverse, at least as far as political policy is concerned.

Zhang Gaoli, the party boss of the northern city of Tianjin and somebody tipped to be raised to the elite decision-making Standing Committee, sat through a so-called "open session" of his delegation last week, hardly uttering a word.

When he did eventually speak, answering a question about his promotion prospects, Zhang refused to be drawn.

"I am currently Tianjin Party secretary. My responsibilities are, along with all the other representatives, to earnestly study and discuss the spirit of the 18th Party Congress report, and studiously carry out Tianjin's work well, so that the people of Tianjin can truly attain the benefits, that the masses can feel they nurture us, so we must work for the people. Since I am still in Tianjin, I can only tell you this sentiment."

At the last congress, top officials took one-on-one interviews, overseas reporters were encouraged to ask questions on whatever subject they wished and government media handlers went out of their way to be helpful, hoping to burnish China's global image ahead of the 2008 Games.

This year, while economic officials and business leaders have generally been willing to talk, provincial leaders and rising political stars have largely shunned international media, and in some cases tried to avoid talking in public at all. Those who have spoken have been exceedingly cautious.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:20:59 AM EST
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by Nomad on Mon Nov 12th, 2012 at 03:11:46 PM EST
EU suspends extension of plane emissions trading rules | EU Reporter
The European Union has postponed a planned extension of rules that require airlines to pay for their carbon emissions to include flights to and from non-EU destinations.

The rules had been unpopular with the US, China and India among others.

Climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said she had proposed "stopping the clock for one year".

She said the suspension was due to progress being made in negotiations on a global emissions deal.

But she added that if the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) did not make progress towards a global deal by this time next year the European tax would be reintroduced.

The EU brought in the Emissions Trading Scheme on 1 January.

The EU rules currently only apply to internal flights, that begin and end within the 27-country bloc.

India and China have been among the most vocal opponents of the ETS, with India banning its airlines from complying with it in April.

The European Commission's recommendation came after last Friday's general meeting of the ICAO, which agreed to move towards a market-based mechanism for emissions trading.
by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:00:11 AM EST
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Without Dalli, GMO foes hope for tougher EU policy | EurActiv

Environmental groups frustrated by Commissioner John Dalli's outward support of the genetically modified food industry are hoping his successor will take a tougher line.

The Commission has frozen requests to authorise more than 20 GM seeds for cultivation that were in the pipeline before Dalli abruptly resigned as health and consumer commissioner on 16 October amid allegations implicating him in a bribery case. Meanwhile, the biotech industry says such delays threaten Europe's food supplies and economic competitiveness.

Mute Schimpf, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe whose organisation clashed with Dalli over GMOs, said the former commissioner "had a clear pro-GM agenda". But she's hopeful his replacement will be more responsive to what she called staunch public opposition to GM foods.

"I'm optimistic ... I'm always optimistic," she said. "For us it's a responsibility and a task for a consumer commissioner to listen to the needs and the wishes of the consumers instead of following a handful of biotech companies' interests."

Benedikt Haerlin, who heads the Foundation on Future Farming in Berlin, said "at a minimum" there should be a moratorium on GMOs until disagreements over policies and safety can be sorted out.

The next commissioner, he said, should start out by convincing Germany or France to drop their national bans on GMOs and accept a common EU approach.

"Politically that's the most important thing for a commissioner because only if that happens will the scientific assessment of GMOs become a little less politically loaded," Haerlin said.

The incoming commissioner should move swiftly to reconsider make-up of the European Food Safety Authority's GMO review panel, Haerlin added. EFSA recently announced reforms amid allegations of cosiness with industry trade groups and research, but Haerlin said it did not go far enough.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:01:39 AM EST
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Pressure mounts for MEPs to reject would-be commissioner: theparliament.com
Pressure is mounting on parliament to reject approval of Tonio Borg as the new EU health commissioner.

Several organisations have joined forces saying that Borg is "unfit" to replace his compatriot John Dalli on the executive.

Dalli recently quit amid accusations that he may have known about a possible attempt by an associate to alter EU tobacco legislation in return for payment.

Now the man who has been nominated by the Maltese authorities to fill the post also finds himself engulfed in controversy.

Borg, a government minister in Malta who is due to appear before MEPs at a nomination hearing in parliament on Tuesday, faces questions about his political record on abortion, homosexuality and immigration.

Among the various groups voicing concern is the Brussels-based European public health alliance (EPHA).

It says his nomination "raises questions on the compatibility of his personal beliefs and values, and his public duties as commissioner".
by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:02:03 AM EST
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EU leaders urged to 'stand up and fight' for overseas aid: theparliament.com
A new report says the EU's proposed post-2014 budget for development aid to the world's poorest would "more than pay for itself" by 2020.

The report claims that the €51bn earmarked through the EU's development cooperation instrument (DCI) and the European development fund (EDF) for 2014-2020 would be "completely recouped".

It says there would be a net gain in EU gross domestic product (GDP) of €11.5bn, while sub-Saharan Africa would see a GDP boost of 2.5 per cent.

The appeal is timed to coincide with a summit of EU leaders and heads of state on 22/23 November where the long-term EU budget will top the agenda.

The commission and parliament want a five per cent increase in the post-2014 budget, but there are mounting fears that the budget may be frozen or even cut.

If that happens, some believe that the overseas aid budget could suffer.

Such concerns were underlined last week when the Cyprus EU presidency published figures suggesting average cuts to so-called 'external spending instruments' of at least 7.3 per cent.

This comes despite a recent survey saying that 85 per cent of EU citizens believe that Europe should continue helping developing countries despite the economic crisis.
by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:04:27 AM EST
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Germans get hooked on SlowFisch | Environment | DW.DE | 12.11.2012

This year's SlowFisch convention in Bremen celebrated local fishing traditions and artisanal food production. It's an extention of the Slow Food movement, which began in Italy as a reaction to industrial food production.

Uwe Sturm lives in northern Germany, on the shores of the Baltic Sea. He says locals often visited the coast, hoping to buy fresh fish - but usually left empty-handed. "There were often no fisherman, or there were no fish. Or not the right fish," he said in an interview with DW.

"A lot of consumers stopped shopping at the harbor."

Sturm saw an opportunity to connect consumers with artisanal fishermen. He built a website called `Fisch vom Kutter' which means `fish from boats' in German. The site gathers SMS messages from fishermen who are returning to shore with their day's haul. Customers can go online and find out what kind of fish is for sale at which port. The project is now two years old and the site tallies around 600 hits a day. Samples of cod on display at the SlowFisch 2012 convention in Bremen

Sturm says the program is helping preserve traditional fishing culture in northern Germany. Fisch vom Kutter now has a Danish site and European Union funding. He hopes to expand the service to other ports in Germany and then across Europe.

Sturm was one of 163 presenters at SlowFisch 2012, an exposition in Bremen devoted to strengthening local fishing traditions and encouraging artisanal food production. The project is part of the Slow Food movement, which began in Italy about twenty years ago as a reaction to industrial food production.

Meet what you eat

Germans are consuming more fish today than they did ten years ago, with the average person eating 15.6 kilograms in 2011. Fish consumption in Germany is highest in northern, coastal areas and lowest in southern regions. But despite their growing appetite for fish, SlowFisch spokesperson Sabine Wedell says Germans import more than 80 percent of the seafood they eat.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:09:52 AM EST
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by Nomad on Mon Nov 12th, 2012 at 03:11:49 PM EST
Dutch teenagers sentenced in "Facebook murder" - Yahoo! News

Two Dutch teenagers were sentenced to two years in juvenile detention and three years of compulsory therapy on Monday for ordering the death of a girl after an argument on Facebook.

The case, known in the Netherlands as the "Facebook murder", has caused widespread debate about the role of social media in violent crime.

The victim, identified only as 15-year old Winsie, was fatally stabbed in January at the request of the boy and girl, who were aged 17 and 16 respectively at the time.

Winsie had argued for weeks with the girl, and they had swapped insults on the social networking site.

"The defendants are guilty of a particularly serious criminal offence. The fact that a friendship between two young girls can turn into deep hate and ultimately into murder being incited is shocking and hard to comprehend," a court in the city of Arnhem said in a statement.

The killer, who Dutch media named only as Jinhua and who was 14 when he committed the crime, was sentenced in September to one year in juvenile detention.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 01:41:21 AM EST
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EUobserver.com / Enlargement / Turkish PM moots reinstating death penalty

A total ban on the practice is a pre-condition to join EU ranks, but Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday (11 November) said he would consider lifting it anyway, reports AFP.

Erdogan had already floated the idea during a panel discussion on democracy in Bali on Friday.

"Capital punishment was lifted in Europe but was it lifted in the United States, Japan and China? So death penalty can be legitimate in some cases," he said.

Turkey's spokesperson to the EU told EUobserver that: "it was just a statement by the Prime Minister. There is nothing concrete to reinstate this."

Erdogan cited polls that indicate a large number of Turks are in favor of state-sanctioned killing.

He noted strong popular support to execute imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan. Both the United States and Europe view the PKK as a terrorist group.

"Today, a lot of people are in favour of reinstating capital punishment, according to polls, because parents of the dead suffer while others party and eat kebabs," said Erdogan.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:03:09 AM EST
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BBC News - Popular physics theory running out of hiding places

Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider have detected one of the rarest particle decays seen in Nature.

The finding deals a significant blow to the theory of physics known as supersymmetry.

Many researchers had hoped the LHC would have confirmed this by now.

Supersymmetry, or SUSY, has gained popularity as a way to explain some of the inconsistencies in the traditional theory of subatomic physics known as the Standard Model.

The new observation, reported at the Hadron Collider Physics conference in Kyoto, is not consistent with many of the most likely models of SUSY.

Prof Chris Parkes, who is the spokesperson for the UK Participation in the LHCb experiment, told BBC News: "Supersymmetry may not be dead but these latest results have certainly put it into hospital."
Supersymmetry theorises the existence of more massive versions of particles that have already been detected.

Their existence would help explain why galaxies appear to rotate faster than the Standard Model would suggest. Physicists have speculated that as well as the particles we know about, galaxies contain invisible, undetected dark matter made up of super particles. The galaxies therefore contain more mass than we can detect and so spin faster.

Researchers at the LHCb detector have dealt a serious blow to this idea. They have measured the decay between a particle known as a Bs Meson into two particles known as muons. It is the first time that this decay has been observed and the team has calculated that for every billion times that the Bs Meson decays it only decays in this way three times.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:06:28 AM EST
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BBC News - Vegetative patient Scott Routley says 'I'm not in pain'

A Canadian man who was believed to have been in a vegetative state for more than a decade, has been able to tell scientists that he is not in any pain.

It's the first time an uncommunicative, severely brain-injured patient has been able to give answers clinically relevant to their care.

Scott Routley, 39, was asked questions while having his brain activity scanned in an fMRI machine.

His doctor says the discovery means medical textbooks will need rewriting.

Vegetative patients emerge from a coma into a condition where they have periods awake, with their eyes open, but have no perception of themselves or the outside world.

Mr Routley suffered a severe brain injury in a car accident 12 years ago.

None of his physical assessments since then have shown any sign of awareness, or ability to communicate.

But the British neuroscientist Prof Adrian Owen - who led the team at the Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario - said Mr Routley was clearly not vegetative.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 02:19:40 AM EST
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by Nomad on Mon Nov 12th, 2012 at 03:11:53 PM EST
Judit Polgar: 'Everything was about chess' | Sport | The Guardian

Judit Polgar is a phenomenon. She is not just the best woman chess player of all time; she is the best by a mile. Chess grandmasters (note master! - traditionally, chess barely recognised the existence of women) have official ratings. Polgar is the only woman in the world's top 100; at her peak, and before she had two children, she was in the top 10.

In December she will pay a rare visit to the UK for the London Chess Classic and do what she has always done - play as the lone woman against eight top male players, including world champion Vishy Anand and world No 1 Magnus Carlsen. Aggressive at the board and now getting back to her best after a mid-career slump when her results were poor following the birth of her second child in 2006, she will give as good as she gets.

Does it feel odd to be playing against a field of men? "For me it is very natural," she says. "I started when I was five, and grew up playing against adults and against men most of the time." She never accepted the path many leading female players take, competing in separate women's events and aiming at the women's world title. She took on all-comers from an early age, became the then youngest ever grandmaster (male or female) at the age of 15, and didn't bother competing for the women's world championship because she could have won it in her sleep. She simply aimed to be the best in the world, regardless of gender.

Polgar, who was born in Budapest, is one of three chess-playing sisters. The eldest, Susan, was women's world champion; the middle sister, Sofia, was an international master; but Judit, hard-working and with an immense will to win, proved the strongest of all. The three were part of a controversial experiment conducted by their teacher father Laszlo, whose contention was that "geniuses are not born, but made". He taught his daughters at home - the curriculum included Esperanto - and drilled chess into them from an early age.

by Nomad on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 01:45:31 AM EST
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Strong compendium, Nomad.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 03:21:16 AM EST
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yes, very strong, thanks Nomad.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Nov 13th, 2012 at 09:47:07 AM EST
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