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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 11 December

by Nomad Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 05:08:28 PM EST

 A Daily Review Of International Online Media 


Europeans on this date in history:

1282 - death of Llywelyn the Last, the last prince of an independent Wales, killed in battle during the conquest of Wales by Edward I.

More here and here

The Llywelyn Monument at Cilmeri

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by Nomad on Sun Dec 9th, 2012 at 10:33:57 AM EST
Romanian leftist alliance wins absolute majority | EurActiv
Exit polls showed Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta's USL social-liberal alliance won a clear victory in the parliamentary election yesterday (9 December), strengthening his position in a power struggle with the country's rightist president.

Ponta's leftist Social Liberal Union (USL) won 54-58% of votes according to three exit polls and is headed for a majority, but his opponent President Traian Băsescu has the power to ask someone else from the USL to form a government.

The USL alliance consists of Ponta's Social Democratic Party (PSD, PES-affiliated) and Crin Antonescu's National Liberal Party (PNL, ALDE-affiliated).

The future of Băsescu as head of state also appears uncertain after the election. Though his term ends in November 2014, it is widely expected that the USL coalition would try to repeat their summer effort to impeach him. Under the coalition agreement, Antonescu has been promised the presidency.

That may yet unnerve markets, as any prolonged period without a new administration in place would raise questions about how Romania would obtain a new International Monetary Fund deal once the current agreement expires in early 2013.

Ponta tried to impeach Băsescu in July, a campaign that brought harsh criticism from the European Union and United States and has left the two men in an uncomfortable power share. The president has previously said he would never appoint Ponta again, though his language has softened in the last two weeks.

"Starting tomorrow, we can talk projects for the next four years ... because we have peace and stability," Ponta, a 40-year-old lawyer, told reporters in his Tărgu Jiu constituency, a few hours from Bucharest.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:06:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mixed response to Romanian parliamentary elections: theparliament.com
The outcome of the parliamentary elections in Romania is met with a mixed response in Europe.

Romania's centre-left government swept to a strong majority of seats in the election, setting the stage for a clash with president Traian Basescu who says he will not reappoint the prime minister Victor Ponta

The pan-European party of European socialists (PES) said it "warmly welcomes" the victory of Ponta's social-liberal union (USL) in the weekend elections.

But Graham Watson, the leading liberal MEP, warned that left and right parties in Romania would still have to collaborate in the coming weeks.

He told this website, "The Romanian economy is very important, far more important and bigger than the Greek economy and I hope both sides have the wisdom to concentrate on managing the economy properly."

The centre-left alliance led by Ponta won nearly three-fifths of the seats in the legislature, trouncing Basescu's group, with 81 per cent of votes counted.

Despite the clear victory, Basescu has indicated he would not appoint Ponta. The two are bitter rivals after the government tried to remove Basescu from office in an impeachment vote in July, a bid that failed as too few people voted to make it valid.
by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:06:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Italy's Monti `yet to consider' election run - ITALY - FRANCE 24

Italian Premier Mario Monti said on Monday he has not yet decided whether to run for office in elections early next year because he is concentrating on his job.

"I am not considering this particular issue at this stage," he said. "All my efforts are being devoted to the completion of the remaining time of the current government." The Italian leader was in Norway to attend a ceremony awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union.

Monti told a press conference that the nervous reaction Monday by financial markets to his decision to step down as soon as Parliament passes the 2013 budget law later this month "shouldn't be dramatised".

"I understand market reactions [..]. I am very confident that the Italian elections, when they come, will give room to whatever coalition. The government will be, in my view, a highly responsible one," he told a news conference.

Monti's term was due to end by April, and his resignation would move up elections by about two months. Monti, an economist appointed last year to save Italy from succumbing to the eurozone debt crisis, announced Saturday he is resigning early because Silvio Berlusconi's party, Parliament's largest, yanked its support for his economic policies.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:08:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Italy: Monti refuses to be Berlusconi's scapegoat | Presseurop (English)
From: La Stampa

Mario Monti took a day to reflect. Then he did the only thing he could do that was consistent with his character, his life and his way of governing: ensure the 2013 budget would pass, and resign.

It was not merely that he could not accept accusations from the person who had handed over to him a country in shambles. Nor did he intend to beg for weeks for the confidence of Italy's parliament in each measure he proposed.

Simply put, he had no desire to take one more step with the one who has now concluded that the fault of all the evil lies in the single currency. "I'm not going to Brussels to shield those who are making anti-European declarations. I want nothing to do with them," Monti stated very clearly to the President of the Republic on December 8 when he announced his intention to resign.

It was a clear and transparent gesture, which obliges everyone to take responsibility, and leaves Berlusconi alone with his convulsions and his flip-flopping.

Intolerable behaviour

No one wants to discuss the right of "The Cavaliere" to run again (even if, for a year, he insisted he had no such intention), but it is intolerable that the majority shareholder in the technocratic government - which, let's remember, still includes the ex-prime minister who had left Italy on the brink - should wake up one morning and wash its hands of it.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:09:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Leaders Cringe at Prospect of Berlusconi Return - SPIEGEL ONLINE
Not again! Just 13 months ago, European heads of state and government joined forces to usher Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi into retirement. Chancellor Angela Merkel and then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy marshalled all of their persuasive powers to clear they way for a reform government in Rome under the leadership of Mario Monti.

Now, with Prime Minister Monti having said over the weekend that he would resign as soon as he pushes through a key budget law, Italy's least serious politician is back. And Europe is groaning in displeasure. The French leftist paper Libération wrote "The Mummy Returns," a reference to a 2001 movie of the same name. And the otherwise dour German radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk noted, "It is like a horror film: The undead keep coming back."

European political leaders, of course, tend to avoid such drastic formulations. Officially, capital cities on the continent were mum in response to Berlusconi's weekend pledge that he would seek a fifth term as Italian prime minister now that Monti is leaving. After all, diplomatic custom forbids meddling in other countries' internal affairs.

But it was difficult to miss the concern hidden between the lines of statements issued on Monday. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told SPIEGEL ONLINE that the situation in Italy threatened to spark renewed financial problems in the euro zone. "Italy can't stall at two-thirds of the reform process," he said. "That would just cause turbulence not just for Italy, but also for Europe." His counterparts from Sweden and Austria, Carl Bildt and Michael Spindelegger, were just as blunt. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned that Italy must continue on the reform path and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy emphasized that "Monti was a great prime minister of Italy" and that he hoped "the policies he put in place will continue after the elections."

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:18:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU accepts Nobel prize amid criticism - Europe - Al Jazeera English

The European Union has accepted the Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo's City Hall, despite criticism from past winners that the bloc is based on "military power".

A number of Europena leaders were in attendance, including Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and Francois Hollande, the French president, who were seated beside each other.

The prize was received jointly by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Parliament President Martin Schulz and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

The prize was awarded for the stability and democracy brought to the continent more than five decades after two world wars.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won the prize in 1984 for his campaign against South African apartheid, said it was wrong to recognise the EU as it was an organisation based on "military force".

Tutu was joined by past winners Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Adolfo Perez Esquivel from Argentina in their opposition to the EU receiving the award.

Arguing the bloc contradicts the values associated with the prize because it relies on military force to ensure security, they demanded that the prize money of $1.2m not be paid this year.

Others have criticised the decision because the bloc is mired in economic and financial crisis.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:10:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also see Frank Schnittger's diary.
by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:19:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU rebuffs critics as it accepts Nobel peace prize | Reuters

The Nobel prize money of 930,000 euros ($1.25 million) will be given to projects that help children struggling in war zones, with the recipients to be announced next week. The EU has said it will match the prize money, so that a total of 2 million euros will be given to the selected aid projects.

That decision went some way to silence critics on Twitter and other social media sites who initially joked that if the award was for all Europeans then they should all share the prize money - which would equal about 0.2 euro cents each.

Commentators on social media haven't been the only critics of the award going to the EU.

Tutu was joined in his opposition by two other recipients, and on Sunday around 1,000 members of left-wing and human-rights groups marched through Oslo in protest, saying the EU was not a rightful beneficiary under the terms Alfred Nobel laid down in his 1895 will.

"Alfred Nobel said that the prize should be given to those who worked for disarmament," said Elsa-Britt Enger, 70, a representative of Grandmothers for Peace. "The EU doesn't do that. It is one of the biggest weapons producers in the world."

The biggest challenge for the EU, beyond maintaining the peace and security it has helped foster, is to keep itself relevant and meaningful in a rapidly changing world.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:23:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Parliament to Debate Own Database for Flight Passengers - SPIEGEL ONLINE
A proposal to require European Union members to store huge amounts of data on flight passengers entering or leaving the EU will soon be up for debate, and the discussion is likely be fierce. Critics say the measure violates travelers' right to privacy.

European parliamentarians next week are to debate a controversial draft law that would create massive national police databases of flight passengers entering or leaving the 27-nation European Union, including everything from addresses to meal preferences.

The proposal for a "passenger name record" (PNR) would require airlines and booking agencies to hand over passenger data to national authorities, which would then routinely search for anything conspicuous. The data would be saved for five years and would include names, seat assignments, travel destinations, phone numbers, hired travel agencies and potential re-bookings, among other details.

In order to process the enormous amount of information, each individual member state would be required to delegate a national police unit to gather, save, evaluate and, when appropriate, forward the information onto other relevant authorities. The bill states that its purpose is to root out not just known terrorists, but also people "previously unsuspected of involvement in serious crime and terrorism" whose data suggests they "may be involved in such crime," like human trafficking or the drug trade.

The law would apply exclusively to flights entering and leaving the EU, not within its borders. However the European Commission said an inclusion of intra-EU flights remains a possibility.

The proposal cites the aborted terrorist attack in December 2009, when a Nigerian national attempted to detonate explosives sewn into his underwear while on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, as evidence that existing laws are not enough to prevent such crimes. It also cites a 2009 Standard Eurobarometer, the European Commission's biannual public opinion survey, which found that four out of five EU citizens want to see stronger EU action against organized crime and terrorism.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:24:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European renewable power grid rocked by cyber-attack | EurActiv

A German power utility specialising in renewable energy was hit by a serious cyber-attack two weeks ago that lasted five days, knocking its internet communications systems offline, in the first confirmed digital assault against a European grid operator.

"It was a DOS (`Denial Of Service') attack with a botnet behind it," Boris Schucht, the CEO of 50Hertz told EurActiv on the fringes of a Brussels renewables conference. "It blocked our internet domains so that in the first hours, all email and connectivity via the internet was blocked."

DOS attacks involve thousands of requests being sent to a server each second to clog up a system's functioning.

Electricity supplies were not affected in the onslaught, which was "serious but not dangerous," Schucht said. Email services were quickly repaired, although a fix to the problem was only discovered five days later.

EurActiv has learned that the security breach has already been discussed at an assembly meeting of the European Network of Transmission Systems Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), which brings together bosses of the continent's transmissions industry operators (TSOs).

The association is understood to be communicating closely and regularly with the European Commission about potential cyber-security threats to Europe's grids.

However, beyond flagging their critical systems protection working group, ENTSO-E will not comment on the details of particular incidents like the 50hertz attack, or even whether similar attacks have occurred before.

A recent report claimed that one in four of the world's power companies had suffered extortion from criminals who had gained access to their system's utilities.

Cyber-attacks on power grids have the power to disrupt critical electricity infrastructure and until now have been the stuff of science fiction, with a gallery of villains stretching from criminals and rogue states to cyber-terrorists.

The US National Academy of Sciences said last month that a terror attack on the US power grid could cause thousands of deaths and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:26:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Olli Rehn: Europe must stay the austerity course (December 10, 2012)
The principal beneficiaries of greater German demand would be the central European economies closely integrated into Germany's supply chains. Our analysis suggests that a 1 per cent increase in German domestic demand would improve the trade balance of Spain, Portugal and Greece by less than 0.05 per cent of gross domestic product. This would not get us very far, which is why policies to enhance competitiveness - both structural and cost-related - remain crucial for the adjustment and rebalancing of the eurozone.

The case for a significant fiscal stimulus in Germany, as some call for, is also weak. The country will de facto have a much less restrictive fiscal stance in 2013 than the rest of the eurozone: the structural budget balance is expected to be little changed in Germany but to increase by 1 percentage point of GDP in the eurozone as a whole.

Berlin's fiscal stance is also fully in line with the recommendations made by other organisations, such as the International Monetary Fund, and promotes growth-friendly components of spending such as education and research, as consistently called for by the European Commission.



I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 04:30:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurointelligence Daily Morning Newsbriefing: Monti's political options (11.12.2012)
The Financial Times reports that Mario Monti is in discussions to head a centrist alliance, with the support of the chairman of Ferrari; Monti is to decide within a week; the markets reacted fiercely to the political upheavals in Italy, with bonds and shares down; Monti's announcement that he would step down caused shockwaves all over Europe, where politicians reacted with horror at the prospect of a return of Silvio Berlusconi; Italy's political and business establishments signs a petition in support for Monti; Pier Luigi Bersani said Monti should not run in an election, but he wants him include as part of a coalition under his leadership; Berlusconi says there is a conspiracy by international finance and media to drive down Italian share prices to make foreign takeovers of Italian companies easier; Matteo Renzi says No to Berlusconi's offer to join him; the Italian Senate effectively rejected an important structural reform proposal by the Monti administration - the reorganisation of the provinces; the latest data show that almost 30% of Italians risk poverty and social exclusion; Reuters reports that the Ecofin/European Council may this week only reach a political agreement on banking union, with the details to be worked out later; Germany worries about the rotation principle on the ECB's governing council, which will be triggered with further eurozone enlargement; the Frob has filed a criminal complaint against the head of a former Caja; Catalan's left separatists signal acceptance of an austerity budget; Luis de Guindos says that Spain may still apply for a rescue package, but the timing was important; continued falls in house prices are weighing on the Spanish bad bank; Hugo Dixon says the banking union currently under discussion does not go far enough, and addresses only half of the vicious circle; the Greek debt exchange offer saw €26.5bn tendered at an average price of 33.4% of face value; the UMP did surprisingly well in a series of by-elections over the weekend; Patrick Honohan says he is confident about a deal on Ireland's promissory notes; the Belgian central bank says austerity programme is not enough to reach the 2013 fiscal targets; Gerard Depardieu has chosen the country of Manneken Pis for his tax exile; Nicolas Berggruen and Nathan Gardels argue that the German middle classes have an existential interest in saving the euro; a sequel, meanwhile, has appeared to a hilarious video about a Greek-German couple.


I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 04:32:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Council only to reach a political decision on banking union, Reuters reports

When the European Council cannot agree on something, they usually pretend that they have reached a "political agreement" with detailed to be worked out later. Reuters reports from Oslo that the Ecofin/European Council may not after all agree the technical details on the banking union, but only settle for a political agreement, with details to be worked out later. If true that would be a bit of a shock. But we are not exactly sure what the story meant by as it referred to delays due to parliamentary ratification. The article quotes Herman van Rompuy as saying that he was still hopeful of an agreement on the legal basis of a banking union (which would mean an actual agreement because the legal basis is what the discussions are about.) We suppose, but are not quite sure, that the story says that there may not even be a legal agreement, in which case Ecofin/ European Council would have to return to the subject in 2013. But in this case, the delay would not be due to parliamentary procedure, but simply to a failure to agree in time.



I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 04:34:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the light of your Rehn quotes above is this any surprise?  

It seems the majority of EU economic policy advisers, policy writers, and Decision Makers are suffering from psychosis, defined as: "loss of contact with reality."  Unfortunately for the EU they have a "functional" form, meaning they are not claiming Martians have appeared and are eating all the bricks on the Unter den Linden but, rather, are hazing public awareness, through public ignorance of things economic, by claiming scruffy, improvident, southerners are eating all the euros in Frankfort.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 12:08:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Guardian: Greek opposition leader calls for European debt conference:
"It is quite clear that the latest agreement was a compromise that will only perpetuate the uncertainty ... Merkel has to say to her people before [the 2013 German] elections that the programme is not working," [Tsipras] told the Guardian.

"The only viable solution is a haircut not only for Greece but the entire southern periphery," said the leader, emphasising that the longer creditors postponed writing off a significant portion of Athens' staggering debt the greater the cost both socially and economically.

"That is why we are proposing a conference along the lines of the one that took place in London in 1953, which relieved Germany of around 60% of its debt. We want to agree with our lenders on a credible solution. It doesn't matter where it takes place but it should happen as soon as possible."



The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 12:33:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Proper link. Damn the Guardian fb app!

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 12:51:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And speaking of the 1953 London conference:

LQD: 'Germany Was Biggest Debt Transgressor of 20th Century'

by Bernard on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 05:17:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Sun Dec 9th, 2012 at 10:33:59 AM EST
EUobserver.com / Economic Affairs / Banking union: The German way or no way

A deal on the planned single supervisor for banks in the eurozone will come about only if it meets German demands limiting the European Central Bank's (ECB) responsibility.

EU ambassadors in Brussels were set to meet Monday evening (10 December) for what diplomats said would most likely be an "all-nighter" in a last attempt to thrash out a compromise on the banking supervisor before a gathering of finance ministers on Wednesday dedicated to the topic.

At the core of the dispute is Germany's view that the ECB should not be made responsible for overseeing all 6,200 banks in the eurozone, as the EU commission, France and the ECB are advocating for, but rather for national supervisors to bear the responsibility for things going wrong in the smaller banks and for the ECB overseeing just the lager ones.

Non-eurozone countries have also raised concerns about voting rights and a level playing field between banks inside and outside the new supervision scheme. But according to an EU source, "if Germany agrees, others like Poland, will follow."

Initially, the idea of having a single supervisor came from no other than German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Back in June, when Spain and Italy were struggling with sky-high borrowing costs and pressuring Merkel to agree for the eurozone bailout fund to be used for bank bailouts without governments having to pile on more debt, she agreed, but only if banks would first be put under the supervision of the ECB.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:04:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Schäuble ready to compromise on banking union | EurActiv

German Finance Minster Wolfgang Schäuble has signalled a readiness to compromise on the EU's planned banking union and said leaders are working intensively to agree on a legal framework by Christmas, German media reported.

His comments will revive hopes that European leaders can finish planning a single supervisory mechanism for eurozone banks under the European Central Bank (ECB) by the end of the year as originally planned.

EU finance ministers had been at odds over how the mechanism should be structured and how much power the ECB should have, particularly if it conflicts with its monetary policy aims.

"We are working intensely to get the legal framework for a banking supervisor settled before Christmas," Schäuble told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, in an interview published on Sunday.

"We can start building up the supervisory body in 2013," he added.

Spiegel magazine reported that Schäuble was prepared to seek a compromise with France by suggesting the supervisory body could be domiciled in Paris, rather than at the ECB's headquarters in Frankfurt.

Finance ministers are due to meet on Dec. 12, the day before a European Union summit, to try and reach an agreement before EU leaders gather.

Once the legalities are worked out, the ECB is expected to steadily take over responsibility for overseeing all 6,000 eurozone banks, taking up to a year to complete the process.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:04:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spiegel magazine reported that Schäuble was prepared to seek a compromise with France by suggesting the supervisory body could be domiciled in Paris, rather than at the ECB's headquarters in Frankfurt.

Schaüble, by flattering the vanity of the French, will obtain concessions on substance. It will be an empty shell, but a French empty shell.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 08:56:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
US and UK unveil failing banks plan - FT.com

US and UK regulators will unveil the first cross-border plans to deal with failing global banks on Monday, outlining proposals to force shareholders and creditors on both sides of the Atlantic to take losses and to ensure sufficient capital exists in the banks' headquarters to protect taxpayers.

Writing in the Financial Times, Martin Gruenberg, chairman of the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and Paul Tucker, deputy governor of the Bank of England, say this represents the first concrete steps to end the "too big to fail" problem of large international banks.

With Mr Tucker leading international efforts to devise emergency resolution plans, the US-UK template for their 12 large international banks will be a template for the 16 systemically important banks (GSifis) based in other countries.

"All countries share a very strong public interest in developing the capacity to resolve global systemically important financial institutions in a credible and effective way," the two bank regulators write.

The strategy paper says shareholders should expect to be wiped out and unsecured bondholders "can expect that their claims would be written down to reflect any losses that shareholders cannot cover", which did not happen when the US and UK had to prop up their international banks in the 2008 crisis.

Senior management would be removed, but critical business functions would continue and healthy operating subsidiaries, both foreign and domestic, would be allowed to keep operating, limiting the damage to the broader economy, the regulators write.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:05:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Banking Industry Squirms Over European Rate Probe - WSJ.com

The scandal over banks' attempted manipulation of interest rates has mostly centered on the London interbank offered rate. But Libor's lesser known cousin, the euro interbank offered rate, or Euribor, is facing mounting attacks.

The European Union is expected soon to accuse multiple banks of attempted collusion in the setting of Euribor, according to people briefed on the probe. Barclays has already acknowledged trying to rig the rate, and other banks are likely to be pressed by regulators in the U.S., U.K. and elsewhere into similar admissions, according to industry and regulatory officials.

The organization behind Euribor, the European Banking Federation, is waging a campaign to retain control of the rate, which serves as the basis for interest rates on trillions of dollars of financial products, everything from mortgages to corporate loans to derivatives. But making that case is complicated by the fact that EBF officials were long aware of potential shortcomings in how the rate is calculated but didn't take decisive action to address the weaknesses, according to people involved in setting Euribor and internal EBF documents and emails.

While Euribor has largely avoided the unfavorable spotlight shining on Libor since Barclays settled rate-rigging allegations in June, documents released by regulators and interviews with banking and regulatory officials point to widespread efforts by banks to inappropriately influence Euribor by submitting false data and collaborating with each other.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:07:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
U.K. Is New Recruit on Europe's Sick List - WSJ.com

There is no shortage of current candidates for the uncoveted title Sick Man of Europe: Greece, obviously, since it's in the midst of a deep depression and has just defaulted on its debts for a second time in a year via its deeply discounted debt buyback; Portugal and Ireland, since they are still subject to euro-zone bailouts; Spain, where unemployment is running at over 25%; Italy, whose economy has barely grown for 20 years and whose dysfunctional politics have returned to center stage now that former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has withdrawn his party's support for Mario Monti's government, potentially triggering elections in February.

But to this unglamorous list, one must now add the U.K.

The depth of the hole into which the U.K. has now sunk was laid bare in last week's Autumn Statement by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

Since the government took office in May 2010, the economy has grown by just 0.9%, compared with its original forecast of 5.7% growth. Over this time, the U.K. has actually underperformed the euro zone as a whole and the economy is now expected to shrink by 0.1% this year.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:09:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Given that most financial reporting is politically biased and that ratings agencies decide your "solvency" based not so much on the country's economic prospects but on how readily it can be plundered by the markets, I can't help but wonder what lies behind the WSJ's sudden turn.

Could it be that Murdoch is putting some pressure on Cameron for some reason ?

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 03:53:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, good question.
And France is not even mentioned on the sick list, which is highly suspicious....

Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 05:21:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Japan enters recession before election - FT.com

Japan has entered its fifth recession in 15 years just days before the December 16 election, which is expected to sweep the Democratic Party of Japan and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda from power.

Shinzo Abe, leader of the opposition Liberal Democratic party, has attacked the and the central bank for failing to stir demand in an economy that has shrunk in three of the past four years, while calling for further fiscal stimulus and "unlimited" monetary easing.

Government data on Monday showed Japan's gross domestic product shrank an annualised 3.5 per cent in the three months through September, as the country joined Italy and Spain in recession. The government also revised down its GDP estimate for the quarter, saying the economy shrank an annualised 0.1 per cent.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:11:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Signals of a More Open Economy in China - NYTimes.com
In a strong signal of support for greater market-oriented economic policies, Xi Jinping, the new head of the Communist Party, made a visit over the weekend to the special economic zone of Shenzhen in south China, which has stood as a symbol of the nation's embrace of a state-led form of capitalism since its growth over the last three decades from a fishing enclave to an industrial metropolis.

The trip was Mr. Xi's first outside Beijing since becoming party chief on Nov. 15. Mr. Xi visited a private Internet company on Friday and went to Lotus Hill Park on Saturday to lay a wreath at a bronze statue of Deng Xiaoping, the leader who opened the era of economic reforms in 1979, when Shenzhen was designated a special economic zone. Mr. Deng famously later visited the city in 1992 to encourage reviving those economic policies after they had stalled following the violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 1989.

"Reform and opening up is a guiding policy that the Communist Party must stick to," Mr. Xi said, according to Phoenix Television, one of several Hong Kong news organizations that covered the trip. "We must keep to this correct path. We must stay unwavering on the road to a prosperous country and people, and there must be new pioneering."

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:13:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Sun Dec 9th, 2012 at 10:34:02 AM EST
.:Middle East Online::Egypt political crisis worsening:.

Rival mass protests have been called for next Tuesday in Egypt over a bitterly disputed constitutional referendum, raising the potential for more violent street clashes in a sharpening political crisis.

President Mohamed Morsi's chief foes, the opposition National Salvation Front, late Sunday called for huge protests in Cairo to reject the December 15 referendum on a new charter.

The Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, said that it and allied Islamist movements would counter with their own big rallies in the capital in support of the referendum.

If the duelling demonstrations go ahead, there is a risk of vicious further clashes like the ones that erupted between both sides outside the presidential palace last Wednesday, killing seven people and wounding hundreds.

Egypt's powerful army, which is trying to remain neutral in the deepening struggle, warned on the weekend it "will not allow" a worsening of the crisis. It said both sides must start dialogue.

Morsi has made a key concession to the opposition on the weekend by rescinding a decree giving himself wide-ranging powers free from judicial challenge.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:35:53 PM EST
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Egypt army given arrest powers before referendum | World news | guardian.co.uk

There has been growing concern in Cairo about a decree issued by President Mohamed Morsi that gives Egypt's armed forces powers of arrest and detainment during Saturday's constitutional referendum vote.

The decree, which lasts until the result of the referendum is announced, has reignited the issue of detainment of civilians in Egypt and their subjection to military trials. During the transitional period overseen by the military junta, some 12,000 civilians were tried and sentenced in military tribunals.

Amnesty International called the decree a "dangerous loophole" that could once again lead to detainment of civilians. "Considering the track record of the army while they were in charge, with more than 120 protesters killed and in excess of 12,000 civilians unfairly tried before military courts, this sets a dangerous precedent," said Amnesty's deputy Middle East and north Africa director, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

The constitutional referendum comes at a polarised time in Egyptian politics, after Morsi issued a decree granting himself extraordinary powers, which he partially rescinded on Saturday after protests. The opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) has rejected the referendum and called on Egyptians to stage peaceful protests on Tuesday .

Opposition forces were considering whether to boycott the referendum or mobilise for a "no" vote if it is not postponed. NSF member Hassan Moanis told Associated Press: "For now, we reject the referendum as part of our rejection of the draft constitution."

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:36:38 PM EST
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Morsi scraps Egyptian tax increases - FT.com

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Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's Islamist president, has scrapped tax increases hours after they were announced, in an apparent bid to woo the electorate ahead of Saturday's controversial referendum on a new constitution.

An overnight statement on the president's official Facebook page said he "does not accept that the Egyptian citizen carries any extra burdens without consent".

"His Excellency has decided to halt [the tax] decisions until the level of public acceptance is made clear."

A decree signed by Mr Morsi, who holds legislative power in the absence of parliament, was published on Sunday afternoon detailing increases to taxes on a range of services and goods including cigarettes, soft drinks, oil, beer, cement and fertiliser, mobile calls, water and electricity.

Observers were stunned by the timing of the new levies ahead of the referendum which Mr Morsi and his Islamist allies hope to win by a large majority in the face of a vocal campaign by the liberal and leftist opposition.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:37:35 PM EST
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Syria rebels 'seize key Aleppo army base' - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

Syrian rebels have captured parts of a large army base in the country's north, just west of the city of Aleppo, activists say.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels entered the sprawling Sheikh Suleiman base on Sunday afternoon, after weeks of fighting.

The development indicates the rebels are strengthening their grip on northern areas near the Turkish border. Last month, they captured another large base near Aleppo.

Amateur videos released by activists showed fighters walking inside the base. The footage also shows rebels driving around in a captured tank and manning heavy anti-aircraft machine guns. 

Meanwhile, the Syrian military carried out an air strike on suburbs of Damascus, the capital, as rebels clashed on the ground with soldiers on Monday, the Observatory said.

"A fighter bomber carried out a raid on Daraya as rebels and soldiers fought on the ground, while artillery bombed Moadamiyet al-Sham," it said, referring to two towns south of Damascus.

The air force also overflew Eastern Ghouta, an area where rebels have set up rear bases amid its orchards, the Observatory said.

The military has for several days bombarded rebel strongholds in the suburbs from ground and air, raising fears of a looming ground assault by the army to try to establish a secure cordon around the capital.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:39:23 PM EST
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Caution urged over Syria chemical weapons - FT.com

What exactly is the intelligence that the US is seeing that makes it believe chemical weapons (or CW) might be used? And if chemical weapons are deployed by the regime, or fall into the hands of militants fighting Mr Assad, what can the US do about it?

Few independent arms control analysts doubt that Syria possesses one of the world's largest stocks of chemical, and possibly biological, weapons. The regime admitted to possession of such stocks last summer. Its stockpile was built up as a strategic deterrent against Israel over decades.

Last week, unnamed US officials were cited in the American media as saying parts of the stockpile was being moved, and that Mr Assad's forces were mixing the precursors for sarin gas. The FT has been told by one western official that the regime has moved CW stocks to areas under the regime's control, including several air bases.

Even so, US officials refuse to spell out precisely what intelligence they have seen, making some analysts cautious. "The US may have good inside information," says Greg Thielmann of the Arms Control Association, a US think-tank. "But we have seen in the past, such as in the Iraq war, how the intelligence community has overstepped the bounds of what is known."

Some analysts argue that it may be in Washington's interest to play up the possibility of Mr Assad using CW to put more pressure on Russia to shift away from its strong support for the Syrian leader.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:41:33 PM EST
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Bashar al-Assad, Syria, and the truth about chemical weapons - Comment - Voices - The Independent

And now, the coup de théâtre. Someone from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation called me up this week to talk about the use of chemical weapons by Hafez al-Assad in Hama during the Sunni Muslim uprising in the city in 1982. Their sources were the same old UMIS. But I happened to have got into Hama in February 1982 - which is why the Canadian was calling me - and while Hafez's Syrian army was very definitely slaughtering its own people (who were, by the way, slaughtering regime officials and their families), no one ever used chemical weapons.

Not a single soldier I saw in Hama carried a gas mask. No civilians carried gas masks. The dangerously perfumed air which I and my colleagues smelt after chemicals were used by our (then) ally Saddam against Iranian soldiers in the 1980s was not present. And none of the dozens of civilian survivors I have interviewed in the 30 years since 1982 ever mentioned the use of gas.

But now we are to believe that it was used. And so the infantile new fairy tale has begun: Hafez al-Assad used gas against his own people in Hama 30 years ago. So his son Bashar may do the same again. And wasn't that one of the reasons we invaded Iraq in 2003 - because Saddam had used gas against his own people already and may do so again?

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:42:44 PM EST
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Google trends: The moment Syria's `revolution' became a `civil war'

Google trends tracks the frequency with which Google users enter certain search terms over time. It's an imperfect but revealing indication of how particular stories are perceived. And, based on the program's data, it looks like the world (or the cross-section that uses Google, anyway) is coming to see the 21-month conflict in Syria as more civil war than revolution or uprising.

For most of the conflict, Google users were far more likely to search for information on the "Syrian revolution" than "Syrian conflict" or "Syrian civil war." Maybe that was a legacy from the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, where mostly peaceful protests largely drove events. For months, this was true in Syria, as well. As of April 2011, when mass protests began in Syria, "revolution" accounted for 99 percent of the searches among the three terms. That share remained high for most of 2011, but began declining as more Syrians started taking up arms toward the end of last year.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:54:25 PM EST
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Israel suspected over Iran nuclear programme inquiry leaks | World news | The Guardian

Israel is suspected of carrying out a series of leaks implicating Iran in nuclear weapons experiments in an attempt to raise international pressure on Tehran and halt its programme.

Western diplomats believe the leaks may have backfired, compromising a UN-sanctioned investigation into Iran's past nuclear activities and current aspirations.

The latest leak, published by the Associated Press (AP), purported to be an Iranian diagram showing the physics of a nuclear blast, but scientists quickly pointed out an elementary mistake that cast doubt on its significance and authenticity. An article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists declared: "This diagram does nothing more than indicate either slipshod analysis or an amateurish hoax."

The leaked diagram raised questions about an investigation being carried out by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors after it emerged that it formed part of a file of intelligence on alleged Iranian nuclear weapons work held by the agency.

The IAEA's publication of a summary of the file in November 2011 helped trigger a new round of punitive EU and US sanctions.

Western officials say they have reasons to suspect Israel of being behind the most recent leak and a series of previous disclosures from the IAEA investigation, pointing to Israel's impatience at what it sees as international complacency over Iranian nuclear activity.

The leaks are part of an intensifying shadow war over Iran's atomic programme being played out in Vienna, home to the IAEA's headquarters.

The Israeli spy agency, the Mossad, is highly active in the Austrian capital, as is Iran and most of the world's major intelligence agencies, leading to frequent comparisons with its earlier incarnation as a battleground for spies in the early years of the cold war. The Israeli government did not reply to a request for comment and AP described the source of the latest leak only as "officials from a country critical of Iran's atomic programme".

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:45:02 PM EST
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Iran's nuclear programme: the holy grail of the intelligence world | World news | The Guardian

As the international stakes rise, so have the pressures on the IAEA. Yukiya Amano, currently director general, was elected in 2009 by a very narrow margin after a divisive contest in which Amano was widely perceived as being the west's candidate. The leaks have emerged as he is seeking re-election and at the same time trying to strengthen the investigative powers of the safeguards department - the part of the IAEA devoted to verifying the declarations made by states - in the face of resistance led by Russia and about a dozen other countries.

Opponents of Amano's plan are concerned that the proposed reforms would make the IAEA increasingly reliant, in cases like Iran, on intelligence and information supplied by the west and Israel.

In a report on the new safeguards plan, Mark Hibbs, a nuclear expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Russia's stance on the IAEA board was being dictated directly by President Vladimir Putin, who sees it as an arena for confronting US influence.

"Currently, Russia's intelligence agencies are heavily intervening in IAEA safeguards matters, and they fear the IAEA could become a tool of the United States and its allies, countries that have supplied nearly all of the intelligence pointing to military and nuclear weapons activities in Iran," he wrote.

Yossi Melman, the Israeli co-author of Spies Against Armageddon, described Vienna as a "nest of spies".

"There is a great volume of traffic of senior officials and nuclear scientists coming to the IAEA, particularly when there is a board meeting. So they are targets while they are there for break-ins, bugging or recruitment," he said. His book describes a Mossad operation to break in tothe Vienna flat of the head of the Syrian atomic energy commission, Ibrahim Othman, in March 2007, in which Israeli spies are alleged to have found details on a laptop computer about Syria's covert construction of a nuclear reactor at al-Kibar. The site was bombed six months later.

Mossad also explored ways of trying to compromise the former IAEA director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, whom Israel believed was overly sympathetic to Iran. One plot, never carried out, was to deposit funds in his bank account that he would not be able to explain and then to spread rumours he was in the pay of Tehran.

Insightful reading.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:45:59 PM EST
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Who Could Have Predicted?

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 06:50:04 AM EST
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EU to train Mali army to fight northern militants | Reuters

The European Union approved plans on Monday to send some 250 trainers to Mali to help the army defeat Islamists who have taken over the country's desert north.

The force, which would not join Malian troops in battle, is part of a wider international effort against the militants, as fears grow that the African country could turn into a platform for attacks on Western states and their allies.

The EU Training Mission's goal is to help Mali's armed forces function more effectively, while respecting the rule of law and international standards of conduct, EU foreign ministers said in a statement.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:49:04 PM EST
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BBC News - Venezuela's Hugo Chavez in Cuba for more cancer surgery

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has arrived in Cuba for more cancer surgery, after speaking openly for the first time about a possible successor.

He was welcomed by his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, at the airport in the capital, Havana, state media report.

At the weekend, Mr Chavez named Vice-President Nicolas Maduro as his choice to replace him should anything happen.

This will be his fourth operation in 18 months.

Mr Chavez had returned from cancer-related treatment in Cuba on Friday.

He left again from Caracas early on Monday after being granted permission by the National Assembly to leave the country for treatment. Successor nominated

In a televised address on Saturday, the president said tests undertaken during his stay had detected more cancerous cells and that he needed surgery.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:54:30 PM EST
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Nicolas Maduro, bus driver turned vice president, could succeed Hugo Chavez - The Washington Post

He once drove a bus across the gritty streets of Venezuela's capital, Caracas, while rising through the ranks of the trade union movement.

Now Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's tall, broad-shouldered 50-year-old vice president, has been anointed as the possible successor to President Hugo Chavez, should Chavez's recurring cancerous tumor force him from power.

The president's decision to name Maduro as his heir astonished the oil-rich country, where many people have become accustomed to viewing Chavez as a messiah-like leader with no equal.

But in a dramatic televised address Saturday, Chavez extolled Maduro as having the "heart of a man of the people." With Maduro seated at his left, Chavez said he had proved his mettle by loyally serving the government for years, the past six as foreign minister, hopscotching the globe.

"He is a complete revolutionary, a man of great experience despite his youth, with great dedication and capacity for work," Chavez said.

Political analysts said the announcement appeared designed with two purposes in mind: to signal Chavez's strong support for one man and to quell Maduro's rivals. Twenty-seven hours later, early Monday, Chavez boarded a flight to Cuba, where he is to undergo his fourth operation in 18 months on the stubborn cancer that has stricken his pelvic region.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:58:08 PM EST
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by Nomad on Sun Dec 9th, 2012 at 10:34:05 AM EST
IPS - Doha Climate Summit Ends With No New CO2 Cuts or Funding | Inter Press Service

The United Nations climate talks in Doha went a full extra 24 hours and ended without increased cuts in fossil fuel emissions and without financial commitments between 2013 and 2015.

"This an incredibly weak deal," said Samantha Smith representing the Climate Action Network, a coalition of more than 700 civil society organisations.

"Governments came here with no mandate for action," Smith said in a press scrum moments after the meeting known as COP 18 ended and the 195 parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) approved a complex package called "The Doha Climate Gateway".

The Doha Gateway creates a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol to cut fossil fuel emissions by industrialised nations from 2013 to 2020 but does not set new targets. There is also no financial support to help poor countries adapt to impacts of climate change - only agreement for more meetings in 2013. Talks will also begin next year to create a "mechanism" to assess damages and costs for countries suffering losses from climate change.

Finally, the Doha Climate Gateway has an agreed outline for two years of negotiations on a new global climate treaty that would go into legal force in 2020.

"It is impossible to get everyone here to smile....I too am disappointed," said Qatar's Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, the COP18 president. Al-Attiyah told Tierramérica he was surprised countries wanted to make so many changes throughout the two weeks and right up to the final hours.

However, this is a "historic" agreement, Al-Attiyah insisted.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:17:14 PM EST
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EU told to 'rethink' its climate policy in wake of 'disappointing' Doha talks: theparliament.com
The EU has been urged to "rethink" its energy and climate policy in the wake of the UN climate change negotiations in Doha.

At the 2009 Copenhagen negotiations, developed countries committed to pay €77bn per year by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to climate change and lower their emissions.

But the Doha agreement on Sunday failed to commit nations to scaling up their climate finance from next year.

Reaction to the Doha talks was mixed, with the BusinessEurope director general Markus Beyrer calling for a "rethink" in EU climate policy.

Speaking on Monday, he said, "We need more ambition from all major economies to reach a comprehensive climate agreement and create a level playing field for business across the globe.

"We remain committed to the fight against climate change but in light of the lacklustre results from UN climate negotiations, the EU must rethink its own energy and climate policies."

As I understand it so far, the EU has committed itself to a 20% decrease in emissions by 2020, compared to 1990 emissions. Considering the EU is already at 18 percent reduction compared to 1990, this means the EU has agreed to a rather challenging reduction of two percent for the coming seven years.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:25:03 PM EST
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Tree-Saving Climate Negotiators Sacrifice Two Million Pages - Bloomberg

When 17,600 representatives from 194 nations criss-cross the globe to fight climate change, they make themselves vulnerable to certain charges of hypocrisy: How much fuel did they burn to get there? What about the carbon pollution from all the hotel air conditioners? How big, really, is the anti-global-warming footprint? 

There's one barb that's lost its edge this year: paper consumption. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is on a mission to make the global body paperless by 2015. The efforts are saving hundreds of trees at this year's climate treaty talks in Doha, Qatar, while creating headaches for many of the envoys.

For context, a common feature of COPs (as the annual meetings are called: it stands for Conference of the Parties) are the hundreds of harassed-looking negotiators carting around wheelie suitcases filled with documents covering the progress of discussions on greenhouse gas emissions reductions, finance, technology and -- yes -- reducing greenhouse gases by saving trees. 

I arrived at the two-week conference on Nov. 26 to find the huge array of documents that fuel the talks wouldn't be made freely available in printed form. I'll confess that I felt a little bereft without a copy of the daily program to inform me of the day's plenaries, conferences, meetings and side events. (There really are a lot in a conference with 17,000 attendees.)

...

While actual paper is less visible, statistics about paper use are not. Daily updates on screens along a moving conveyor greet the hordes of delegates funneling into the conference center from the car park. Today, the screen said 1,938,283 sheets of paper have been saved, a 92-percent reduction on usage at the same stage of last year's meeting in Durban South Africa.

A lot of paper has been saved. It translates to 231 trees still standing, according to the screens. That may end up being the most concrete carbon-cutting result of the conference.  

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:35:18 PM EST
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Carnegie scientists unveil initial data on Amazon drought : Nature News Blog

Scientists were still debating the satellite signal of the megadrought that struck the Amazon Basin in 2005 when another megadrought hit in 2010. That work continues, but this time around the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California, was ready with a new tool that goes beyond blurry pixels and provides a detailed view of individual trees - and indeed large branches.

Early results provide a new window into the Amazon's response to drought, which some scientists fear is a harbinger of a warmer world ("The Amazon basin in transition"). After using satellite data to gauge the severity and extent of the drought, Carnegie's Greg Asner flew a new aerial observing system over some 500,000 hectares of the Peruvian Amazon in July 2011 ("A new eye on biodiversity"). The team ran transects into areas hardest hit by the drought, in eastern Peru along the border with Brazil, and then compared the results against data collected using an earlier version of the system in 2009.

Speaking at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in San Francisco on Friday, Asner provided an initial analysis of the damage, from broken branches to partial crown loss to downed trees. Limb loss increased as much as four-fold as the team flew into the epicenter of the drought, while the rate of downed trees increased by about 50 percent. But trees are big and take time to come down, which means the rate of downed trees will increase in the coming years.

To get a sense of what the data looks like and how the team is able to make these assessments, take a look at animated tour (embedded below) through a digitally reconstructed swath of the Amazon. The imagery is based on "hyperspectral" data collected across more than 400 frequencies of light, which are then overlaid onto a three-dimensional map constructed using a separate laser-based instrument (details here).


by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:38:49 PM EST
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Onion soaks up heavy metal: Bioremediation with waste food
Onion and garlic waste from the food industry could be used to mop up hazardous heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, iron, lead, mercury and tin in contaminated materials, according to a research paper published in the International Journal of Environment and Pollution.

Biotechnologists Rahul Negi, Gouri Satpathy, Yogesh Tyagi and Rajinder Gupta of the GGS Indraprastha University in Delhi, India, explain how waste from the processing and canning of onion (Allium cepa L.) and garlic (Allium sativum L.) could be used as an alternative remediation material for removing toxic elements from contaminated materials including industrial effluent. The team has studies the influence of acidity or alkalinity, contact time, temperature and concentration of the different materials present to optimize conditions for making a biological heavy metal filter for industrial-scale decontamination.

They have found that at 50 Celsius (122 Fahrenheit), the efficiency of the clean-up process is largely dependent on pH (acidity or alkalinity) and equilibration time usually occurs within half an hour; a pH of 5 was optimal. They demonstrated the maximum extraction was achievable for lead, one of the most troublesome metallic environmental pollutants. They could extract more than 10 milligrams per gram of Allium material from a test solution containing 5 grams per liter of mixed metal ion solution, amounting to recovery efficiency of more than 70%. The absorbed metals can be released into a collecting vessel using nitric acid and the biomass reused.

The team experimented with Allium biomass to demonstrated effective removal of heavy metals from both simulated and actual industrial effluents. "The technique appears to be industrially applicable and viable," they suggest. "This may provide an affordable, environmental friendly and low maintenance technology for small and medium scale industries in developing countries," they conclude.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:41:43 PM EST
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BBC News - Rhino poaching: South Africa and Vietnam sign deal

South Africa has signed a deal with Vietnam to help curb the rising number of illegally slaughtered rhinos, officials announced on Monday.

The price of rhino horn - used in traditional medicine in Asian countries - has soared.

Rhino poaching is already banned under international conventions but figures show the number of rhinos killed in 2012 was nearly double the 2010 figure.

South Africa is home to about 85% of Africa's estimated 25,000 rhinos.

Conservation groups have welcomed the move as the first official co-operation between the two nations on the issue.

The trade in rhino horn has been banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) since 1980.

At least 618 rhinos have been poached in South Africa in 2012, nearly double the number of those killed in 2010, latest official figures show.

Most of the killings took place in the world-famous Kruger National Park.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:42:29 PM EST
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Send Salads to Ethiopia, and Solar Panels to Senegal

Imagine the United States sending low-calorie food aid to Ethiopia in response to the global obesity epidemic. Absurd, right? Even if global waistline trends are worrisome, Ethiopians didn't create the problem. Such a policy would be futile since it would have no noticeable impact on the global aggregate.

Worse, while obesity may be a very real concern, Ethiopians are understandably more focused on undernourishment. The United States should aim instead to increase caloric intake in that part of the world. To punish those we should be helping when we can't even tackle the obesity problem at home makes the policy not only misguided, but also morally dubious.

Sadly, that is pretty much what the United States does on energy. In response to rising global carbon dioxide emissions, the U.S. government put restrictions on the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a federal agency that is a principal tool for promoting investment in poor countries. A recent rule, added in response to a lawsuit brought by Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, imposes blind caps on the total CO2 emissions in OPIC's portfolio, which ends up barring the agency from nearly all non-renewable electricity projects.

Even if global carbon emissions are worrisome, it seems misplaced to ask people in poor countries to bear the costs of a problem they didn't create. Ethiopians emit less than 1 percent of what Americans emit on a per capita basis, and Americans still get most of their electricity from non-renewable coal and natural gas.

OPIC's carbon cap is also largely pointless since it could have no conceivable impact on global emissions. While climate change is a very real concern, Africans are understandably more focused on the problem that seven in ten people living on the continent have no electricity at all. Because energy poverty is harmful to health, education, and prosperity, the United States should aim to increase access to electricity in Africa. To punish those we should be helping when we can't even implement a carbon cap at home makes the policy not only misguided, but also morally dubious.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:47:06 PM EST
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by Nomad on Sun Dec 9th, 2012 at 10:34:08 AM EST
River Limia runs through it: Aceredo villagers view waterlogged homes | World news | guardian.co.uk

They last saw their homes 20 years ago, as the waters of the river Limia swelled against the wall of a new dam and slowly filled the valley where Aceredo village had stood for centuries.

But now the people who were ejected from their homes in 1992 have been able to view their old properties again - as the reservoir water recedes to reveal the mud-clogged outline of what was once a living, if tranquil, area.

"The water has never been this low before," said María del Carmen Yáñez, mayor of a dozen villages and hamlets along the banks of the Limia on the frontier with Portugal. "It is amazing to see how well-conserved some houses still are. One of the fountains has reappeared - and it still has water running from it."

Families evicted from this village in north-western Galicia were among those who travelled to view the ruins over the weekend.

"I can see this might be interesting for visitors from elsewhere, but for those of us whose roots are there it is hard to see it like this," neighbour Francisco Villalonga told the local La Región newspaper. "Seeing the houses where they were born and raised has made people very nostalgic for the past. That is a very Galician thing," explained Yáñez.

Villagers fought eviction orders and occupied the town hall, but 250 people were eventually forced to move to a village above the Lindoso reservoir amid complaints that the valley's best farming land was being drowned.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:49:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dutchman builds replica Noah's ark | World news | guardian.co.uk

A full-scale replica of Noah's ark has opened its doors to the public in the Netherlands.

Stormy weather on Monday could do nothing to dampen the good mood of its creator, Johan Huibers, who is Dutch. In fact, the rain was appropriate.

In the Biblical story, God orders Noah to build a boat big enough to save animals and Noah's family while Earth is flooded.

Johan interpreted the description given in Genesis to build his ark. It measures a whopping 130 metres (427ft) long, 29 metres across and 23 metres high.

Huibers says he realised a 20-year dream to educate people about history and faith. The ark has received permission to host up to 3,000 visitors a day.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:51:30 PM EST
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BBC News - C. diff spread 'fast and easy'

Two closely-related strains of Clostridium difficile became antibiotic resistant and were able to rapidly spread to hospitals around the world, a study says.

Researchers were able to show how the bacterium travelled by forensically analysing its genetic code.

The strains of the hospital infection seemed to become more severe after they became resistant.

The findings were published in the journal Nature Genetics.

The US Centers for Disease Control say C. difficile is linked to 14,000 deaths in the US each year.

The infection has been in hospitals for decades. However, there was growing concern in the last decade after large outbreaks in Europe, the US and Canada.

They were caused by a once rare variant of C. difficile which has become the most common cause of the infection in North America. Tracking

The genetic code of C. difficile mutates rapidly. By comparing the genetic code of batches of C. difficile, researchers can work out how related different batches of C. difficile are.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:53:07 PM EST
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A true pioneer: Rare photo of Ham, the first chimp is space set to be auctioned | Mail Online

He is the pioneer history often forgets.

But Ham was one of the first heroes of the space race - boldly going where no chimp had ever gone before.

This rare image, revealed for the first time, was taken of Ham in his capsule during his 17-minute voyage into space.

He was the first chimp to make the mission - paving the way later for humans to do the same.

Ham was only three years old at the time, and made the journey wearing nothing but a nappy and a pressurised suit.
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Scientists kept track of his progress using an automatic camera which took photographs of his face at regular intervals.

Experts at Bloomsbury Auctions, who are selling off the £100 image on December 12, said his serene expression demonstrated Ham's bravery during his mission.

Sarah Wheeler, head of photographs, said: `He was the first chimp in space. He must have been pretty bewildered but I think he also looks very proud in the photo we have.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:58:52 PM EST
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Satellite eye on Earth: November 2012 - in pictures | Environment | guardian.co.uk
Volcanoes' snow-covered peaks, India lit up by Diwali lights, and damage from superstorm Sandy were among the images captured by European Space Agency and Nasa satellites last month


The Guadalquivir River empties into the Golfo de Cádiz (Gulf of Cádiz) along Spain's south-western coast. In November 2012, the river delivered a heavy load of sediment to the gulf. Thick sediment gave the Guadalquivir River a tan hue, and that same color dominated the water near the river delta.


Every autumn, Hindus around the world light lamps, candles, and firecrackers as part of a five-day festival known as Diwali. The celebration, which has roots as a harvest festival, usually falls between mid-October and mid-November. In 2012, it began on 11 November. This is a nighttime view of southern Asia on 12 November. Most of the bright areas are cities and towns in India, the country with the world's largest Hindu population.


As the large Hurricane Sandy moved north along the US east coast, the waves it generated churned up sediments from the continental shelf and left turbid water in its wake. Meanwhile, the remnants of the storm were battering the north-eastern states


by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 05:05:36 PM EST
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by Nomad on Sun Dec 9th, 2012 at 10:34:11 AM EST
Strauss-Kahn Settles Maid's Suit, Ending New York Legal Saga - Bloomberg

Dominique Strauss-Kahn agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the maid who accused him of trying to rape her, resolving a legal saga that ended his term as head of the International Monetary Fund and derailed a potential French presidential bid.

Lawyers for Strauss-Kahn and the hotel maid, Nafissatou Diallo, told New York State Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon in the Bronx today that they have reached an agreement to end the suit, which accused the former IMF head of "violent and deplorable acts" during an encounter at the Sofitel in midtown Manhattan.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:15:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tax exile? Gerard Depardieu to leave France for Belgium - Europe - World - The Independent

Gerard Depardieu is to leave his French homeland for Belgium in order to pay less tax.

The actor is the latest high profile figure to leave France after a series of wealth tax hikes by President Francois Hollande.

According to the local mayor Daniel Senesael, Depardieu has bought a house in the Belgian village of Nechin near the French border. He has also apparently enquired about procedures for acquiring Belgian residency.

Senesael said Depardieu would join some 2,800 French living in the same area a few minutes' drive from the border, including the Mulliez family, owners of French hypermarket chain Auchan and Decathlon sports stores, who have lived there for years.

Belgian residents do not pay capital gains tax on the sale of shares or wealth tax.

In France, however, individuals with assets over €1.3 million have to pay a hefty wealth tax.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:16:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's hope Gérard enjoys getting legless with the Mulliez family. What larks!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:21:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
PPP Poll: Stephen Colbert Frontrunner To Replace DeMint - Business Insider
Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert is the leading choice to replace retiring Republican Jim DeMint in the U.S. Senate, according to a poll from Public Policy Polling.

DeMint, a Republican and Tea Party conservative, announced last week that he would step down from his Senate seat to take over the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

The poll finds that 20 percent of South Carolina voters want Colbert, a Palmetto State native, to take over that seat. Rep. Tim Scott, the leading choice of many conservatives, comes in second at 15 percent. Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy is right behind him at 14 percent, and former South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster comes in fourth with 8 percent of the vote.

Colbert's popularity is likely the result of wide name recognition throughout the state. More people have an opinion on Colbert, the left-leaning satirist, than any other candidate PPP tested.

by Nomad on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:59:30 PM EST
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I want to see Colbert running Heritage.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 04:17:48 AM EST
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Do I know anyone in Zurich?

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 05:58:41 PM EST
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Your private banker?

Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 05:47:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe you can introduce me to yours?

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 06:05:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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