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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch -14 February

by Nomad Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:29:47 PM EST

 A Daily Review Of International Online Media 

Europeans on this date in history:

1869 - birth of Charles Wilson, a Scottish physicist and meteorologist who received the Nobel Prize in physics for his invention of the cloud chamber. (d. 1959)

More here and here

 The European Salon is a daily selection of news items to which you are invited to contribute. Post links to news stories that interest you, or just your comments. Come in and join us!

The Salon has different rooms or sections for your enjoyment. If you would like to join the discussion, then to add a link or comment to a topic or section, please click on "Reply to this" in one of the following sections:

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  • LIVING OFF THE PLANET - is about the environment, energy, agriculture, food...
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  • PEOPLE AND KLATSCH - this is the place for stories about people and of course also for gossipy items. But it's also there for open discussion at any time.
by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 08:03:02 AM EST
Monsanto found guilty of chemical poisoning in France | Environment | The Guardian

A French court has declared the US biotech giant Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning of a French farmer, a judgment that could lend weight to other health claims against pesticides.

In the first such case heard in court in France, the grain grower Paul Francois, 47, said he suffered neurological problems including memory loss, headaches and stammering after inhaling Monsanto's Lasso weedkiller in 2004.

He blames Monsanto for not providing adequate warnings on the product label.

The ruling was given by a court in Lyon, south-east France, which ordered an expert opinion of Francois's losses to establish the amount of damages.

"It is a historic decision in so far as it is the first time that a [pesticide] maker is found guilty of such a poisoning," Francois Lafforgue, Francois's lawyer, told Reuters.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:28:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Two convicted in asbestos-linked deaths trial in Italy

An Italian court has convicted a Swiss tycoon and a Belgian baron of negligence over some 2,200 asbestos-related deaths.

Stephan Schidheiny and Jean-Louis de Cartier each got 16 years in prison.

The Turin court said the two had failed to comply with safety rules at building firm Eternit, where they were key shareholders. They denied the charges.

Prosecutors argued that thousands had died from contact with asbestos fibres processed in four of the firm's plants.

Swiss Schmidheiny, 64, and Belgian De Cartier, 90, were sentenced in absentia on Monday.

Their charges carry a maximum 12-year term, but during the trial the prosecutors had pushed for a harsher punishment, arguing that the fallout continued to affect victims.

They also said Eternit's plants had spread asbestos fibres over parts of northern Italy by allowing powder left over from production of roof coverings and pipes to waft through the air.

Some 1,500 relatives and supporters of the victims watched the final day of the trial on large TV screens set up in Turin.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:35:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Baltasar Garzón cleared of bribery by Spanish supreme court | World news | The Guardian

Spain's supreme court has thrown out bribery charges against the crusading human rights investigator Baltasar Garzón, days after he was disbarred as a magistrate for overstepping his authority while pursuing a politically charged corruption case.

Garzónwas being investigated for allegations of corruption relating to sponsorship deals obtained by New York University for conferences he helped run while on sabbatical there.

It was one of three separate cases allowed against him by the court in aflood of cases against the magistrate.

The other two dealt with his investigation of the killing of 114,000 people under Franco and with the wire-tapping of conversations between remand prisoners and defence lawyers in a case involving the People's party of prime minister Mariano Rajoy.

Garzón is still awaiting judgment on the former, and was barred for 11 years on the second case last week.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:36:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Food flown into snowbound Romanian villages - WEATHER - FRANCE 24

Military planes flew in tons of emergency food Monday to towns and villages in eastern Romania where thousands have been stranded by blizzards. Some people had to cut tunnels through 15 feet (4 meters) of snow to get out of their homes.

Since the end of January, Eastern Europe has been pummeled by a record-breaking cold snap and the heaviest snowfall in recent memory. Hundreds of people, many of them homeless, have died and tens of thousands of others have been trapped by blocked roads inside homes with little heat.

Authorities declared an alert Monday in eastern Romania, where 6,000 people have been cut off for days. About a dozen major roads were closed, 300 trains canceled and more than 1,000 schools shut down.

In addition to the food flights, the defense ministry said 8,000 soldiers were clearing roads across Romania and helping people trapped by the snow.

The airport in the southern city of Craiova was closed after a plane with 48 people on board skidded during takeoff Monday into a pile of snow, breaking its propellers. A female passenger broke her leg after she jumped from the plane.

A tugboat on the Danube river, one of Europe's key waterways, was breaking up ice between the Romanian ports of Sulina and Tulcea in eastern Romania. The boat was also bringing food to remote communities in the Danube Delta, where supplies have been affected after 700 kilometers (440 miles) of the river froze over last week in Romania alone. The Danube winds 1,785 miles (2,872 kilometers) through nine European countries to the Black Sea.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:36:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU slams Dutch website for instigating intolerance | EurActiv

Viviane Reding, European Commission vice president responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, has vigorously condemned a website launched by a xenophobic Dutch party that collects complaints against Polish, Romanian and Bulgarian nationals who cause "nuisance" to society.

On her official web page, Reding stated that the website, launched last week by the Dutch Freedom party (PVV), "runs totally counter" to EU principles according to which citizens can move, work and study wherever they like.

The PVV of Geert Wilders has invited Dutch citizens to report nuisance caused by Europeans citizens coming from Poland, Romania and Bulgaria [more]. Types of nuisance that can be reported include pollution, problems related to housing or simply competition on the job market.

"The citizens of the 27 EU member states should feel at home no matter where they decide to move," Reding states, adding that the PVV website "is openly calling for people to be intolerant".

"Europe is facing difficult times. We will only solve our problems by increasing solidarity, not by denouncing fellow citizens. We call on all citizens of the Netherlands not to follow this intolerance. Citizens should instead clearly state on the PVV's website that Europe is a place of freedom. Intolerance has no place on our Continent," Reding states.

PVV is the third largest party in the Netherlands. Although it is not in the government coalition, PVV has been an active supporter of Prime Minister Mark Rutte's conservative cabinet, a cooperation which was laid down in a "support agreement".  The PVV has an alliance with the minority government, which it supports on economic policy in return for tougher immigration rules. The two parties in the cabinet are Rutte's People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), which ranked fourth in the 2011 elections.

Sigh. Wilders response via Twitter: ,,Brussels can sod off.''

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:40:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Turkmenistan's president wins 97% of vote - Europe - World - The Independent

President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov won a new five-year term by
capturing 97 per cent of the vote, election officials said today, but a
Western expert called the vote a democratic sham.

All of Berdymukhamedov's seven opponents praised his leadership in their campaigns, making the authoritarian leader's victory in yesterday's election a mere formality. Berdymukhamedov improved on his 2007 performance, in which he secured his first term in this Central Asian nation with 89 per cent of the vote.

Central Election Commission chief Orazmyrat Niyazliyev called the vote democratic and said it contributed to national unity.

But Annette Bohr, an expert on Turkmenistan at the London-based Chatham House institute, said the election presented only the facade of a democratic process.

"It is the typical faux democracy that you see in so many countries," Bohr said.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:41:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmm. The political consultants who engineered such an amazing victory should look for jobs in the U.S. of A. Their expertise is sadly needed here--particularly on the Republican side where nobody can break through the 25% barriers...
by asdf on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 07:05:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This kind of thing used to be called "a Bulgarian Congress". I'm not sure what Communist Party event motivated this.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 07:30:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Professoren in Deutschland sollen mehr verdienen | Süddeutsche
Die Bezahlung von Hochschullehrern war 2005 bundesweit neu geregelt worden (Az.: 2 BvL 4/10). Hessen zahlt nicht die höchsten, aber auch nicht die niedrigsten Gehälter. Ein Chemieprofessor aus Marburg war mit Unterstützung des Deutschen Hochschulverbandes vor Gericht gezogen. Er war 2005 mit einem Grundgehalt von zunächst 3890,03 Euro eingestellt worden. Dazu kamen sogenannte Leistungsbezüge in Höhe von 23,72 Euro.

Die Karlsruher Richter erklärten im konkreten Fall die Bezahlung der Hochschulprofessoren in Hessen in der zweithöchsten Besoldungsgruppe W 2 für verfassungswidrig. Sie verstoße gegen das im Grundgesetz verankerte Alimentationsprinzip, wonach Beamten lebenslang ein angemessener Lebensunterhalt gezahlt werden muss. "Die gewährte Besoldung ist evident unzureichend", heißt es im Urteil. Die Grundgehaltssätze der W-Besoldung seien "zu niedrig". Der Gesetzgeber müsse verfassungskonforme Regelungen treffen, die spätestens am 1. Januar 2013 in Kraft treten.

The German university reform of 2005 introduces lower salaries, while "making it up" by performance-based supplements. The high court just ruled that this is unconstitutional, since they are supposed to be paid an "appropriate" salary. They don't say where the states are supposed to get the money from. In case you were expecting a similar ruling about, say, cleaning staff, they explain
Da Beamte nicht streiken dürfen, können sie vor Gericht um eine höhere Besoldung kämpfen. Derzeit liegen in Karlsruhe auch Klagen gegen die Richterbesoldung und die allgemeine Beamtenbesoldung vor. Das Urteil dürfte hierfür Signalwirkung haben.  
Since they are not allowed to strike, they can fight in court for higher pay. Cleaning staff, on the other hand can strike. Good luck with that. Pending: a similar court case concerning judicial pay. Does anyone see a conflict of interest here?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Feb 14th, 2012 at 03:33:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Monti non firma garanzia addio Olimpiadi Roma 2020 | La Repubblica
Ora è ufficiale: cade la candidatura di Roma per le Olimpiadi del 2020. Il presidente del consiglio Mario Monti ha comunicato ai rappresentanti del comitato organizzatore che non firmerà la garanzia finanziaria richiesta dal Cio.
Monti refuses to sign the financial guarantees demanded by the IOC, so Rome will have to withdraw its bid for the 2020 Olympics. Will Madrid follow suit?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Feb 14th, 2012 at 03:54:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 08:03:07 AM EST
Greece passes austerity measures amid protests - GREECE - FRANCE 24

The Greek government came under pressure on Monday to convince sceptical European capitals that it would stick to the terms of a multi-billion-euro rescue package endorsed by lawmakers during violent protests on the streets of Athens.

Parliament backed drastic cuts in wages, pensions and jobs on Sunday as the price of a 130-billion-euro ($172 billion) bailout by the European Union and International Monetary Fund, as running battles between police and rioters outside parliament drove home a sense of deepening crisis.

The EU welcomed the vote, but told Greece it had more to do to secure the funds and avoid a disorderly default next month that would have "devastating consequences".

Euro zone finance ministers meet on Wednesday, and the fragile ruling coalition of Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has until then to say how 325 million euros of the 3.3 billion euros in budget savings will be achieved.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:43:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Greek bailout crisis: Brussels welcomes austerity vote

The European Commission has welcomed the Greek parliament's decision to approve tough new austerity measures.

Economics commissioner Olli Rehn urged Greek officials to "take ownership" and fully implement the reforms, demanded by the EU in return for a huge bailout.

But the measures attracted massive protests throughout Greece. Buildings were set on fire in Athens and police used tear gas to disperse the crowds.

The government confirmed later that an election would be held in April.

Analysts say the biggest party in the governing coalition, the socialist Pasok, is likely to suffer at the hands of the electorate.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:43:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Greeks clean up after riots against austerity vote - Europe - World - The Independent

Firefighters doused smoldering buildings and cleanup crews swept rubble
from the streets of central Athens today following a night of
rioting during which politicians approved harsh new austerity measures
demanded by bailout creditors to save the nation from bankruptcy.

At least 45 buildings were burned, including one of the capital's oldest cinemas, while dozens of stores and cafes were smashed and looted.

The stench of tear gas still hung in the air this morning, choking passers-by. More than 120 people were hurt in the rioting which also broke out in other Greek cities. Authorities said 68 police needed medical care after being injured by petrol bombs, rocks and other objects hurled at them, while at least 70 protesters were also hospitalised.

Police arrested at least 67 people, while in several cases they had to escort fire crews to burning buildings after protesters prevented access.

The rioting began yesterday afternoon ahead of a landmark vote in Parliament on yet more austerity measures. The drastic cuts debated in parliament include axing one in five civil service jobs over the next three years and slashing the minimum wage by more than a fifth.

Politicians approved the bill in a 199-74 vote -- to the relief of investors who pushed the Athens stock index up 5 per cent today.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:44:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One step closer to nowhere | Presseurop (English)

There is no doubt: Greece must remain in the eurozone. Any other perspective would be a tragedy. Comparing the troubles of today's society with the problems of an uncontrolled bankruptcy smacks of political frivolity. A serious policy would be one that, leaving aside partisan choices, could also take nuances into account. The "split" (either/or, left/right) is a poor advisor.

In this sense, the question is not whether to be "in or out" of the euro. The response of every conscientious citizen is "in". The real question is: beyond its unacceptable severity, can the new austerity plan imposed on us by our creditors - with all it will bring for better and worse - get us out of the crisis? Or is it the swiftest path to uncontrolled bankruptcy?

Basically, we are being asked to undertake an extreme devaluation in our domestic economy which, as things stand, will bring more harm than good. More generally, no economic plan without social viability, accompanied by uncontrolled bankruptcy and rampant unemployment and recession, can either stabilise the economy or restart it - let alone whip up a new production model geared to exports. The Germans have "yanked too hard on the rope"

It "punctures the tyres" with an incredible thoughtlessness, all the while assuring us that the car will go faster this way in 2012 and 2013. What is worse is the fact that when this is mentioned to those who have brought the country to this impasse, they tell us: "Well, give us an alternative," as if theirs was a viable and serious one.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:45:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
SPIEGEL Interview with George Soros: 'Merkel Is Leading Europe in the Wrong Direction' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

SPIEGEL: German Chancellor Angela Merkel is praised globally as "Mrs. Europe" and at home she is more popular than ever in polls -- partly thanks to her strong refusal to constantly pledge more German money to the euro rescue effort. Why do you feel her policies are wrong?

Soros: I admire Chancellor Merkel for her leadership qualities, but she is leading Europe in the wrong direction. To solve the euro crisis, I advocate a two-phase policy -- which is first austerity and structural reforms as Germany implemented them in 2005, but then also a stimulus program. If you do not provide more stimulus in Europe, you will push many European countries into a deflationary debt spiral. And that would be extremely dangerous.

SPIEGEL: Are the new austerity guidelines for countries like Spain, Italy or Greece too tough?

Soros: They create a vicious circle. The deficit countries have to improve their competitive position vis-a-vis Germany, so they will have to cut their budget deficits and reduce wages. In a weak economy, profit margins will also be under pressure. This will reduce tax revenues and require further austerity measures, creating a vicious circle. Markets do not correct their own excesses. Either there is too much demand or too little. This is what the economist John Maynard Keynes explained to the world, except that he is not listened to by some people in Germany. But Keynes explained it very well -- when there is a deficiency of demand, you have to use public policy to stimulate the economy.

SPIEGEL: In the end, as the economically strongest country, Germany would have to carry the greatest burden of such programs. Many Germans no longer agree that should be done. Why should Germans now provide more money to the countries that have obviously cheated on the euro stability criteria?

Soros: This is a very righteous position taken by Berlin. But it is not exactly correct, because Germany was among the first countries to break the euro-zone rules.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:46:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no doubt: Greece must remain in the eurozone. Any other perspective would be a tragedy.
by Andhakari on Tue Feb 14th, 2012 at 02:47:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is Portugal Next? German Finance Minister Suggests Lisbon Bailout Flexibility - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

First Greece and then Portugal? That is what many skeptics of Europe's handling of the ongoing debt crisis have long been saying. And on Thursday evening in Brussels, they appear to have received high level confirmation.

OAS_RICH('Middle2'); In a video clip apparently made without his knowledge at the meeting of euro-zone finance ministers, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble told his Portuguese counterpart Vitor Gaspar that Berlin would be willing to make adjustments to the Portugal bailout package. It was the first time that a high level euro-zone official had admitted that such changes may become necessary.

"If then there would be a necessity for an adjustment of the Portugal (program), we would be ready to do that," Schäuble says in the video, which was posted on YouTube and on the website of the Portuguese television station tvi24. Gaspar responds: "That is much appreciated."

The comments were made on the sidelines of the Euro Group meeting called to discuss the planned second bailout package for Greece worth €130 billion ($172 billion). Schäuble made clear that the Portuguese aid package could only be revisited once a "substantial decision on Greece" is made and with the support of the German parliament.

The German Finance Ministry has declined comment. Gaspar told Portuguese reporters that Lisbon is not currently seeking an adjustment to the bailout package.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:48:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
'Co-Co' Debt Finds Favor in Euro Zone - WSJ.com

A new breed of bank debt that turns into equity if a lender hits trouble is becoming the instrument of choice for some Southern European governments as they prop up their ailing banks.

The instruments, known as "contingent convertibles," began to get attention following the financial crisis and have been issued by a few banks. "Co-cos," as they are called, are sold as interest-bearing debt that has to be paid back. But they convert to equity in the event that a bank's capital ratios fall below certain levels.

Rest behind a subscription wall.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:48:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
France to push on with trading tax - FT.com

France is determined to press ahead with a financial transaction tax inspired by the UK's stamp duty and supported by at least eight other eurozone countries, the country's finance minister has said.

François Baroin, French finance minister, said the the tax will be levied at 0.1 per cent, raising €1bn a year on share trades. By contrast, the British stamp duty on shares stands at 0.5 per cent, and raised £2.7bn in the 2010/11 tax year.

In an interview with the Financial Times on Monday, hours before parliament was due to kick off a debate on a so-called Tobin tax announced by President Nicolas Sarkozy last month, Mr Baroin said he hoped the initiative would put pressure on the European Commission to accelerate the implementation of a controversial Europe-wide levy which is staunchly opposed by the UK.

Asked whether the tax would end up bolstering the position of London's financial services sector, Mr Baroin said: "We don't think about it like that. But it is difficult for the UK to criticise this tax as madness, since stamp duty served as its inspiration."

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:48:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 08:03:11 AM EST
BBC News - Syria 'emboldened by UN inaction'

The failure of the UN security council to take action has emboldened Syria to make an "all out assault" on opponents, the UN's human rights chief says.

Navi Pillay told the UN the lack of agreement encouraged Damascus to use "overwhelming force" against protests.

Activists say more than 400 people have been killed since security forces launched an assault on opposition-held areas in the city of Homs this month.

Earlier, the Arab League called for a joint Arab-UN peacekeeping force. 'Simply deplorable'

Ms Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, referred to the decision of Russia and China earlier this month to veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to step down.

She told UN delegates in New York: "The failure of the Security Council to agree on firm collective action appears to have emboldened the Syrian government to plan an all out assault in an effort to crush resistance with overwhelming force.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:53:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Russia balks at Syria peacekeeping plan - Middle East - Al Jazeera English
Russia's foreign minister has made it clear  that Moscow would not support a plan to send United Nations peacekeepers to Syria unless there was a halt to violence by both government forces and their armed opponents.

Serei Lavrov said on Monday that Russia was studying the proposal for a joint UN-Arab peacekeeping force in Syria, announced on Sunday at an Arab League meeting in Cairo, and wanted more details.

But his remarks suggested his country, which has veto power at the UN Security Council, would use the proposal to
underscore its own argument that the government's armed opponents are no less of an obstacle to peace than Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

UN peacekeeping missions "need to first have a peace to support," Lavrov told a news conference after talks with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister.

"In other words, it is necessary to agree to something like a ceasefire, but the tragedy is that the armed groups that are
confronting the forces of the regime are not subordinate to anyone and are not under control," Lavrov said in Moscow.
by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:55:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cameron and Sarkozy to discuss help for Syrian rebels | Politics | The Guardian

David Cameron and the French president Nicolas Sarkozy are to meet in Paris on Friday to discuss a possible increase in help to Syrian rebels, including giving them military advice.

The meeting, held in the context of the annual Anglo-French summit, will occur the day after Sarkozy is expected formally to declare his intention to run for a second term as French president.

The two leaders are likely to discuss what practical help they can give the Free Syrian Army, and how best to progress ideas for a UN-Arab League peacekeeping force.

A string of defence deals, including for drones, are also due to be announced involving co-operation between BAE Systems and Dassault. Sarkozy is currently badly trailing the French Socialist candidate for president, François Hollande, by 10 points in the polls, and has enlisted the help of the German chancellor Angela Merkel in an effort to gain momentum.

Hollande has said he wanted to woo Britain back into the heart of Europe and sought to reassure the City of London it should not fear his drive for more regulation of the financial world.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:57:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh noes, not the dreaded military advisers. We know where that's headed

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Feb 14th, 2012 at 01:33:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama Projects Lower Deficit by Taxing Rich - NYTimes.com
In the last annual budget of his term, President Obama for the first time projects a deficit below $1 trillion and foresees the federal shortfall declining to sustainable levels by 2017.

To help reduce deficits and offset the costs of his proposed spending on job-creation initiatives for infrastructure, job-training and innovation, Mr. Obama uses his budget for fiscal year 2013 to call for raising $1.5 trillion over 10 years from the wealthiest taxpayers and from closing some corporate tax breaks, chiefly for oil and gas companies. For the first time he proposes a higher tax on dividend income of the wealthiest taxpayers, which would raise about $206 billion over 10 years. The budget proposal leaves him short of his goal to cut the deficit in half by 2013.

Later this month, the administration will propose an overhaul of the corporate tax code to root out many tax breaks and lower the 35 percent rate, but Mr. Obama is proposing that the change would not raise any more revenues than the current system, despite the nation's chronic deficits.

Until now, Mr. Obama has proposed to keep the tax rate for dividends at 20 percent for the wealthiest 2 percent of taxpayers, which was the only exception to his effort to end the Bush-era tax cuts for those with taxable income above $250,000 a year. Now he calls for taxing dividends as ordinary income, which was the level that existed until the Bush administration; that would mean a 39.6 percent tax rate for dividends starting next year, though Republicans are certain to try to block the increase as they have the others that Mr. Obama has sought.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:57:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Venezuela opposition picks Chavez challenger - Americas - Al Jazeera English
Henrique Capriles, state governor, has won a primary vote to become the single candidate who will challenge Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, launching a race to try to dislodge a leader who after 13 years in power still has a loyal following.

Teresa Albanes, the opposition election chief, announced the preliminary results, saying that Capriles won about 62 per cent of Sunday's vote, beating Zulia state governor Pablo Perez by a margin of more than 30 percentage points.
Chavez's opponents lined up to vote in many areas, surpassing most expectations with a turnout of about 2.9mn ballots cast out of Venezuela's 18mn registered voters.

Capriles had been the front-runner in pre-election polls among five contenders. The 39-year-old governor of Miranda state has attracted a large following as a charismatic, youthful alternative to Chavez.

"He's going to be the candidate who can get us out of this giant hole we're stuck in," Carmen Gloria Padilla, a 66-year-old telephone company employee who voted for him, said.

Hundreds of supporters celebrated the win outside Capriles' campaign headquarters, holding small flags emblazoned with the slogan "There is a way." Some revelers stood on cars to get a view.
by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 04:58:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
More from The Pan-American Post.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 06:10:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
DR Congo president's aide killed in crash - Africa - Al Jazeera English
Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila's chief adviser has been killed in a plane crash, along with a co-pilot, near the eastern town of Bukavu, an interior ministry official said.
The official, Richard Ilunga, confirmed the death of Augustin Katumba Mwanke and said the accident occurred on Sunday.

Ilunga said said finance minister Matata Ponyo Mapon and Marcellin Cishambo Rohuya, governor of the South Kivu province, who were travelling with the aide, survived the crash.

"We've extracted two bodies from the plane, that of the honourable Augustin Katumba Mwanke who has just been moved to the morgue, and that of a co-pilot," said Laban Kyalangalilwa, a provincial transport minister.

He said there were two pilots and 10 passengers on the private jet.
by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:03:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Can the Afghan army take the lead in battle?

On a chilly winter morning just before daybreak, in northern Helmand, hundreds of Afghan soldiers are on the move.

The Afghan National Army is in the lead. Around 900 Afghan soldiers and police have flooded into this dusty corner of Helmand, just south of Highway One. They are searching for Taliban fighters; the Afghans outnumber their British advisors, nine to one.

The man in charge is Brig Gen Sheren Shah. He stands on the battlefield, brimming with self-confidence.

"Our foreign friends are in the back giving us support, but we know this place better, we know the language and only we can search the people and houses, not the foreigners," he said.

Earlier, in a briefing room, Afghan officers plotted the operation on a mud and rock map on the floor. Ramshackle affair

British officers might be looking over their shoulders, but for the first time this is an operation that is Afghan-conceived and executed. With most British troops leaving at the end of 2014, this is the shape of things to come.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:09:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Piece by piece, in backpacks and carry-on bags, American aid contractor Alan Gross made sure laptops, smartphones, hard drives and networking equipment were secreted into Cuba. The most sensitive item, according to official trip reports, was the last one: a specialized mobile phone chip that experts say is often used by the Pentagon and the CIA to make satellite signals virtually impossible to track.  The purpose, according to an Associated Press review of Gross' reports, was to set up uncensored satellite Internet service for Cuba's small Jewish community.

Colombia Reports: Ex-President Alvaro Uribe knew about the 2006 "false demobilization" plot, according to former guerrilla "Biofilo" in an interview with Colombia's Noticias Uno Sunday. Felipe Salazar, alias Biofilo, a former FARC guerrilla who acted as the leader of the fictitious Cacica Gaitana Front, has outlined how former Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo acted as emissary for Uribe, in an alleged plot funded by a drug trafficker and designed to lend credibility to the government's demobilization efforts.
More HERE.

(AP): A mysterious epidemic is devastating the Pacific coast of Central America, killing more than 24,000 people in El Salvador and Nicaragua since 2000 and striking thousands of others with chronic kidney disease at rates unseen virtually anywhere else. Scientists say they have received reports of the phenomenon as far north as southern Mexico and as far south as Panama. (...) "The thing that evidence most strongly points to is this idea of manual labor and not enough hydration," said Daniel Brooks, a professor of epidemiology at Boston University's School of Public Health, who has worked on a series of studies of the kidney disease epidemic.  Because hard work and intense heat alone are hardly a phenomenon unique to Central America, some researchers will not rule out manmade factors. But no strong evidence has turned up.

(Reuters): The secrets from a vault of moldy documents long covered in bat and rat droppings could soon help to put former top Guatemalan officials behind bars, years after the country's brutal civil war ended in 1996.
More HERE.

AP - LA PAZ, Bolivia: Bolivia's long-downtrodden indigenous majority adored President Evo Morales as he championed a new constitution that promised the nation's 36 ethnicities unprecedented autonomy.  But three years after voters overwhelmingly approved that document, making poor, landlocked Bolivia a "plurinational" republic, the country's first indigenous president is under attack for essentially ignoring it.  Lowlands Indians have quit his Movement Toward Socialism over his insistence, without seeking their consent, on building a road across a virgin jungle preserve and for forging ahead with natural-gas projects on their traditional lands.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 06:07:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
sometimes i get tired of clicking a +4 for the man who brings us just as important briefs. What's constantly posted here is really valuable, and i for one am glad to have the chance to be more informed.

Gracias, maracatu.

(though it often hurts to read, see Bolivia.)

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

by Crazy Horse on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 06:14:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are all welcome!

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Tue Feb 14th, 2012 at 05:38:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 08:03:16 AM EST
BBC News - Vega launcher makes first flight

Europe's new Vega rocket has completed a flawless first flight.

Controllers at the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana ignited the rocket at 07:00 local time (10:00 GMT), and it completed its mission 70 minutes later.

The 30m-tall vehicle has been designed to put small scientific and government satellites in orbit.

For its first outing, Vega carried nine payloads into space, including a physics experiment to test Einstein's theory of general relativity.

"A new member of the launcher family has been born," said Jean-Jacques Dordain, the European Space Agency's (Esa) director general.

Member states of Esa, together with their industries, are investing more than a billion euros in the introduction of Vega.

The vehicle is intended to guarantee access to space for an increasingly important class of satellite weighing less than 2.5 tonnes.

At the moment, these smaller spacecraft, which include many Earth observation satellites, tend to ride decommissioned Russian nuclear missiles to get into orbit.

European operators can sometimes wait many months to get a launch slot on these converted ICBMs, however.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:10:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Nasa budget slashes Martian funds

President Barack Obama's 2013 budget request for Nasa would slash spending on Mars exploration and shift funds to human spaceflight and space technology.

As reported by BBC News last week, this means the US will pull the plug on its joint missions to Mars with Europe.

If approved by Congress, the budget request would reduce funds available for planetary science by about 21%.

But spending on human exploration and space technology would rise by 6% and 22% respectively.

"There's no doubt that tough decisions had to be made," Nasa's administrator Charles Bolden told a news conference in Washington DC.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:12:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Air industry raises warnings over EU emissions charge | EurActiv

Airbus joined a chorus of concern that a European scheme to charge airlines for carbon emissions risks triggering a full-blown trade war, with implications for aircraft deals and even Europe's crippling sovereign debt crisis.

The EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS) for airlines, introduced on 1 January, has drawn howls of protest from airlines around the world, with China banning its carriers from taking part.

The escalating row comes just ahead of a summit between Chinese and EU leaders in Beijing on Tuesday, with the EU looking to China to dip into its huge foreign exchange reserves to help the eurozone tackle a debt build-up that threatens its economic stability.

Tom Enders, Airbus chief executive, said he was increasingly concerned at the potential fall-out if tensions are not defused.

"I am very worried about the consequences of that. What started out as a solution for the environment has become a source of potential trade conflict and that should be a worry for all of us," he told an aviation conference ahead of the Singapore Airshow on Monday.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:12:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - EU 'risks trade war' over carbon trading scheme

The European Union's carbon trading scheme may spark a trade war, according to one of the world's biggest planemakers.

"What started out as a solution for the environment has become a source of potential trade conflict," Airbus boss Thomas Enders said.

The Emissions Trading System levies a charge on flights in EU airspace based on carbon emissions.

But the US and China are opposed to their airlines joining the scheme.

The EU scheme, which began on 1 January, creates allowances for carbon emissions and allows airlines to "cap and trade" their allowances.

The number of allowances is reduced over time, so that the total output of carbon from airlines in European airspace falls.

China has banned its airlines from joining the scheme and the US tried to block the introduction of emissions charges late last year, in a case heard by the European Court of Justice.

However, the court ruled that they were legal.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:13:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Notice how we never hear from the 'responsible' types how "What started out as a solution for the [City] has become a source of potential [damage to the environment], and that should be a worry for all of us."
by Andhakari on Tue Feb 14th, 2012 at 03:26:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Climate Feedback: a blog from Nature Climate Change

Climate change will pose a number of challenges to food safety in the coming decades, from boosting the rates of food- and water-borne illnesses to enabling the spread of pathogens, researchers reported Monday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Depending on the greenhouse gas emissions scenario, global average temperature is expected to rise between 1.1° and 6.8° Celsius by the end of the century. And warmer temperatures are known to increase rates of some diseases: According to a recent study of salmonellosis in Europe, frequency of the ailment rises about 12 percent for every 1°C that air temperature increases beyond a baseline of 6°C, said Cristina Tirado, an environmental scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. The precise cause for this trend isn't clear, said Ewen Todd, a bacteriologist at Michigan State University in East Lansing. It's possible that warmer temperatures cause bacteria to grow more quickly, or people may prepare food differently in warmer weather (grilling outdoors vis-à-vis cooking in a kitchen, for example).

Climate change can increase disease risks in several ways, Tirado added. The concentration of methyl mercury in fish increases about 3.5 percent for every 1°C rise in water temperature. Warmer sea-surface temperatures can boost the frequency of harmful algal blooms, leading to an increased incidence of paralytic shellfish poisoning. Higher water temperatures also enable the spread of pathogens to higher latitudes: An outbreak of vibriosis on an Alaskan cruise ship in 2005, later linked to oysters that had been harvested near one of the ship's ports of call, represents the spread of the disease-causing Vibrio parahaemolyticus to a locale more than 1,000 kilometers north of its previous known range. Dust storms, which are expected to increase in some regions due to climate change, could wreak their own havoc, because iron-rich mineral dust can drive a 10- to 1,000-fold increase in the growth rate of Vibrio bacteria.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:14:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is protecting the environment incompatible with social justice? | George Monbiot | Environment | guardian.co.uk

Bringing everyone above the global absolute poverty line ($1.25 a day) would need just 0.2% of global income.

In other words, it is not the needs of the poor that threaten the biosphere, but the demands of the rich. Raworth points out that half the world's carbon emissions are produced by just 11% of its people, while, with grim symmetry, 50% of the world's people produce just 11% of its emissions. Animal feed used in the EU alone, which accounts for just 7% of the world's people, uses up 33% of the planet's sustainable nitrogen budget. "Excessive resource use by the world's richest 10% of consumers," she notes, "crowds out much-needed resource use by billions of other people."

The politically easy way to tackle poverty is to try to raise the living standards of the poor while doing nothing to curb the consumption of the rich. This is the strategy almost all governments follow. It is a formula for environmental disaster, which, in turn, spreads poverty and deprivation. As Oxfam's paper says, social justice is impossible without "far greater global equity in the use of natural resources, with the greatest reductions coming from the world's richest consumers".

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:16:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A friend of mine just won the International Peace Film prize for his movie on his project to teach the developing countries how to build solar panels (yes, really, he does it).  The movie is Burning in the Sun and it's lovely.

Here's his acceptance email:

Dear Everybody,

     I am writing this from Berlin, Germany.  Last night at the big Konzerthaus the Cinema for Peace Award Gala was held and the International Peace Film Award was won by Burning in the Sun, a movie about my solar work in Mali, west Africa.  Angelina Joli handed me the heavy glass cubical award.  Morgan Robinson, the director of the movie and Claire Weingartein, one of the producers were also there and we got together give a short thank you speech and get photographed by lots of still and video cameramen.

Lots of movie stars were also there congratulating us.  The Cinema For Peace group flew me all the way from Nicaragua and put me up in a fancy hotel here for the event, but later this Tuesday morning I fly back to Managua.

    Tomorrow I meet up with John Webster, a minihydro expert from Maine who is working on a project up in the Nicaraguan mountains and on Thursday I go up to Sabana Grande to work with the Solar Women of Totogalpa (part of the Grupo Fenix) to start the construction of a new design portable, light weight solar oven that will fold down to a flat bundle able to be carried on a burro (Or a llama in the Andes or a camel in the Sahara Desert, all places where I have been working lately).  I also will teach part of the CELL college semester abroad course (organized by David Oakes of Maine) that Susan Kinne is currently teaching.

     Next week I go to Honduras to work on a Canadian Falls Brook Centre project with unemployed banana pickers to make PV modules and wire up their little casas for electricity; and then in March I teach a solar course at the Universidad Nacional de Ingeneria in Managua, as well as finally get my new teeth fitted.  Having only upper teeth, I tried not to smile too broadly last night in front of all the cameras.

     I am keeping myself busy, Rich

by njh on Tue Feb 14th, 2012 at 12:42:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 08:03:23 AM EST
Music industry looks to cloud for new business | EurActiv

Cloud computing is paving the way to access music online legally, boosting new revenues for major and independent labels alike. But in Europe, national licencing systems may pose a hurdle to the development of cloud music, experts say.

Cloud music is quickly becoming a market reality because of the added value that it brings in terms of music portability. Users who subscribe to one of the available services can listen to music stored in remote servers regardless of the devices they use.

Listening to music is gradually shifting from a devise-based system (for instance with iPods) to an access-based approach, where what matters is the subscription to so-called digital music lockers, huge libraries stored in the cloud.

The industry welcomes these new developments, as record companies expect a traffic increase on their digital boutiques if customers turn to use the cloud to store or access their music.

"The market is showing that consumers are willing to pay for the portability of music," said Charles Caldas, chief executive of Amsterdam-based Merlin, which represents independent record labels.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:20:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spotify: 1 million plays, £108 return - News - Music - The Independent

It promised to revolutionise the way we bought and listened to music, heralding a golden age of cheap and legal on-demand tracks from the world's biggest rock and pop stars. And for once, the hype has been matched by the reality.

Since being launched last year, the music website Spotify has grown at an astonishing rate - signing up more than 7 million customers to its free service and recruiting nearly 300,000 subscribers willing to fork out £9.99 for the privilege of listening to the likes of Lady Gaga, Tinie Tempah and Rihanna without the interruption of adverts.

The company, founded by the Swedish entrepreneur Daniel Ek, plans to stream 36 billion songs by the end of this year when it launches in the United States. Yet not everyone is singing along to this happy tune.

Songwriters have grown increasingly frustrated at what they say are the minuscule payments made available to them through the streaming process. Yesterday, they called on Spotify and other online music services to come clean and explain exactly how much they are willing to pay creative talent for the right to use their material.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:21:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
rather than finding more creative ways to re-flog the same old back catalogue, maybe they could try something radical like finding new, interesting and exciting musics to sell

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Feb 14th, 2012 at 01:37:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com / Creative Industries / EU parliament chief joins anti-Acta camp
European Parliament chief Martin Schulz has spoken out against a new intellectual property regime, amid growing signs it will face problems getting past MEPs.

Speaking on a German TV show - the ARD channel's Report from Berlin - on Sunday (12 February) Schulz said: "The necessary balance between the two - protection of copyright on the one hand and fundamental rights of [Internet] users on the other - is very poorly enshrined in this treaty."

He added: "I do not think that with the current draft treaty ... progress has been made."

The so-called Acta agreement is to create a new global body outside the UN or the World Trade Organisation to govern the sale of generic medicines and to stamp out counterfeit products and illegal file-sharing on the Internet.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:21:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Science behind ponytail revealed

Physicists have come up with an equation that explains and predicts the shape of a ponytail.

The report in Physical Review Letters journal could help scientists better understand natural materials, such as wool and fur.

The new equation takes into account the stiffness of hairs, the effects of gravity and the presence of random curliness or waviness.

The work was carried out by a British team of researchers.

"It's a remarkably simple equation," explained Prof Raymond Goldstein, who is the Schlumberger Professor of Complex Physical Systems at Cambridge University.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:22:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 08:03:28 AM EST
Lightning kills an entire football team - News - The Independent
FOOTBALL FANS in the central African state of Congo were hurling accusations of witchcraft at each other yesterday after a freak blast of lightning struck dead an entire team on the playing field while their opponents were left completely untouched.

The bizarre blow by the weather to all 11 members of the football team was reported in the daily newspaper L'Avenir in Kinshasa, the capital of Congo.

"Lightning killed at a stroke 11 young people aged between 20 and 35 years during a football match," the newspaper reported . It went on to say that 30 other people had received burns at the weekend match, held in the eastern province of Kasai. "The athletes from Basanga [the home team] curiously came out of this catastrophe unscathed."

The suspicion that the black arts might be involved arose firstly because the opposing team emerged unharmed and then again because the score at the time was a delicately balanced one all.

"The exact nature of the lightning has divided the population in this region which is known for its use of fetishes in football," the newspaper commented.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 05:22:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is that a picture of Crop Circles I see before me here?

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Mon Feb 13th, 2012 at 07:08:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]

'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 Feb 14th, 2012 at 05:16:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I saw a whole series of these this week, was that in Rolling Stone, or somewhere else?

But yes, Frank's parents gave him his intro to weird.

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

by Crazy Horse on Tue Feb 14th, 2012 at 07:52:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
so the big Q, is it his pad or theirs?

'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 Feb 14th, 2012 at 03:23:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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