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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 3 April

by Nomad Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 05:13:36 PM EST

 A Daily Review Of International Online Media 


Europeans on this date in history:

1897 - death of Johannes Brahms, a German composer and pianist, one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period.

More here and here

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by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 03:13:43 PM EST
A third of French may abstain from presidential vote - FRENCH ELECTIONS 2012 - FRANCE 24

Three weeks ahead of the first round of voting in the French presidential election, a record number of voters are thinking of abstaining, testimony to widespread frustration with a lack-lustre campaign.

An Ifop poll Sunday said 32 percent of voters could abstain in the first round -- a record, up three percentage points compared to two weeks ago.

Political analyst Vincent Tiberj, writing in the left-leaning Le Monde daily, suggested that voters were bored with the campaign that had "failed to live up to its promises".

Neither President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has yet to announce his manifesto ahead of the April 22 first round of voting, nor Socialist Francois Hollande, his main rival whose early lead over Sarkozy is slipping, have excited much passion.

With neither candidate likely to win an outright majority in the first round of voting, a second round, with just two candidates, will take place on May 6.

But fewer than half of voters (43 percent) look forward to that straight fight, according to the Ifop poll published by the Journal du Dimanche on Sunday.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 03:42:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Surprise surge for hard left could scramble French election results - Europe - World - The Independent

Three weeks from the first round of voting, a surge in support for the hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon threatens to scramble forecasts for the French presidential elections.

An opinion poll published yesterday put Mr Mélenchon, 60, in third place with 15 per cent of the vote - the highest for a candidate of the anti-capitalist left since the heyday of the French Communist party 30 years ago.

The rise of Mr Mélenchon, a kind of Gallic George Galloway who fulminates eloquently against the mainstream élites of both centre-right and centre-left, has relegated Marine Le Pen's far right National Front into fourth position. For President Nicolas Sarkozy and his principal challenger, the Socialist candidate François Hollande, the emergence of Mr Mélenchon is a double-edged sword - helpful but dangerous.

Yesterday's poll by LH2 for Yahoo! showed Mr Hollande retaining a narrow lead of 28.5 per cent to Mr Sarkozy's 27.5 per cent in the first round on 22 April. Other recent polls have suggested that Mr Sarkozy, boosted by his hard-right rhetoric and exploitation of the Toulouse murders, has taken a one or two-point first-round lead.

All polls still show Mr Hollande winning the two-candidate run-off on 6 May by a 10-to-six point margin.

But two factors threaten to throw the machinery of electoral strategy and political forecasting into a spin: the growing disenchantment of the French electorate with all mainstream politicians and a campaign that has failed to grapple convincingly with national, European and global economic crises.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 03:42:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Two things:
  • It seems that this 32% abstention was only polled by ifop. None of the other polls are even near that number.
  • I like George Galloway. I was happy with the spanking he delivered to the zombie Labor party the other day. However it is so many varieties of unfair to Mélenchon to be compared to Galloway, that it hurts. Mélenchon is a vastly more serious politician.


The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 09:00:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why would you like Galloway ? Whilst he appears to have some glamour, and is capable of putting on a good public show as he did in front of the US Senate where puffed up poppinjays such as Norm Coleman or drunks like chris Hitchens were easily dismissed, but that was the equivlaent of Ali's "bum of the month" tours in the 60s. Put a hardened street debater in front of the complacent, the drunk and the weak thinker and a pleasingly bloody but ultimately meaningless victory ensues.

What does he achieve as a politician ? Famously one of the more grievous absentees from Parliament, he's also not well known for dealing with his constituents once they've voted for him, apart from his local power bloc who are flattered but largely left to their own devices.

I admit to minority tastes, but generally I like my politicians to do more than rabble rouse. I want them to propose solutions that cohere, I want them to want my country to succeed rather than just their faction. Here Galloway is always found wanting because he's too much the egotist; the only faction that wins with him is himself and his need for attention. Everything else that happens is by the by.

That's not to say that the Labour Party doesn't deserve to receive a good kicking till it renounces Blairite neoconservatism, but there is no place in the world facing such trouble that George Galloway is the man best paced to lead them to a better place.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 02:44:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I like George Galloway, despite his obvious shortcomings for two reasons:
  • he seems to be an exception among politicians of any country by even bothering to engage and beat to a dialectical pulp the complacent, the drunk and the weak thinkers, who otherwise continue their evil without criticism, or without any publicly visible or notable criticism.
  • he is a seriously popular politician among the British lower classes and to the left of Labor. It isn't that one has a broad selection of such left politicians to choose from. The fact that he defeated Labor pretty much just by showing up in Bradford West  is significant (as Richard Seymour points out).

On the other hand the fact that I feel shocked by the comparison between Galloway and Mélenchon, is indicative of the fact that I'm not too fond of gorgeous George :-)

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 05:00:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What does it mean if 1/3 of a population declares that their democracy/govt. isn't working?

The good news ... it's only a life sentence. You eventually leave this planet of idiots.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 06:33:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is a puzzle, given that it's the first round and there are plenty of parties to choose from...
by asdf on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 11:42:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yes, but considering blair, clegg, obama et al, few people believe pols will really change anything when they get in power, no matter how promising their campaign rhetoric.

the public has cottoned on to this, been fooled too many times now.

this is actually what right and fake left want... for people to tune out and/or keep the discontent limited to grumblings round the water cooler.

the less people vote, the less they have to worry about dashed hopes, and the pols get less scrutiny. the less people vote, the more leaders move into a rarefied zone of unaccountability. little fringe parties are easy to manipulate, the pseudo-duopoly keeps the fix firmly in. one side gets to operate till they screw up too bad, (or at least too obvious) and up pops tweedledee with 'change you can believe in'.

it's enough to make you wonder if these guys really want democracy...

/snark

electorates are fed up to the back teeth with false choices. they don't want self-serving egomaniacs as leaders, but corrupt systems select for them.

to live up to its hype, democracy needs an informed populus to hold leaders accountable, right now it's the opposite, bad faith governments punish aggrieved citizens and call it security.

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 04:22:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds like a lowish fraction, under normal circumstances.

There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 01:33:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com / Justice & Home Affairs / Greece to complete anti-migrant wall 'very shortly'

Greece has said it will quickly finish construction of a controversial wall designed to keep out migrants, claiming that the thousands of people coming into the country each year threaten "social peace."

"The construction will begin very shortly and will also be completely very shortly," the country's citizen protection minister Micalis Chrisochoidis said during a visit to Brussels on Monday (2 April).

The three-metre-high barrier is to block a 12.5km-long strip of land between Turkey and Greece. The rest of the border between the two countries is formed by the Evros river.

Athens says almost 130,000 immigrants entered Greece via the land crossing last year.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 03:47:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So... this is the only Greek public works project to survive the cuts?

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 02:40:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No they're building concentration camps ("immigration detention centres") for illegal immigrants as well

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 05:04:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Andrea Masiello confesses over match-fixing in Serie A | Football | The Guardian

At the climax of his football team's fiercely contested clash against local rivals Lecce last year, defender Andrea Masiello committed what appeared to be a ghastly error, poking a cross into his own goal instead of hoofing it clear.

Masiello, 27, collapsed dejectedly on the grass after his own-goal sealed a 2-0 defeat for Bari, which was already facing relegation from Italy's Serie A.

But the player has now admitted to investigators that he was offered at least €50,000 (£41,600) to turn the ball into the net to ensure Bari lost and help secure Lecce's survival in Serie A.

Magistrates who arrested Masiello and placed eight of his former Bari team-mates under investigation are now studying the team's final games of last season. They suspect matches thrown by the side from Puglia, in southern Italy, may have determined which teams went down and which qualified for Europe.

The investigation is the latest twist in a rumbling match-fixing scandal which threatens to throw Italian football into disarray.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 03:47:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Kiev-Berlin Negotiations: Ukraine May Release Tymoshenko for Care in Germany - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

For weeks, the German government has been negotiating with Ukraine over the fate of the country's best-known prisoner: former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Now, according to information obtained by SPIEGEL, her release for much-needed medical treatment in Berlin may be imminent.

OAS_RICH('Middle2'); Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is set to instruct Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka to change criminal legal regulations to allow Tymoshenko to be taken to the Charité hospital in the German capital. According to foreign doctors, including Charité head Karl Max Einhäupl, who were allowed to examine Tymoshenko in February, the former hero of Ukraine's Orange Revolution is suffering from severe back problems and needs urgent medical care of the kind not available in Ukrainian prisons.

"She badly needs treatment," Einhäupl said over the weekend, according to the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel. "Her condition has now become chronic." Following his examination of Tymoshenko, Einhäupl said that an operation was no longer possible and that she needed a "multifaceted therapy."

Ukraine appears to have taken a step toward providing Tymoshenko with at least some specialized medical care on Monday. Kiev authorities announced that she will be taken to a clinic in the eastern city of Kharkiv, the city in which she is imprisoned, for treatment of what her family has described as a herniated disc.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 03:47:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ukraine opposition leader: Yanukovych is in 'deadlock' | EurActiv

Ukrainian opposition politician Arsenyi Yatseniuk criticised the country's President Viktor Yanukovych for having fallen in several traps, some of them "self-created". Yatseniuk, who was himself candidate for president in 2010, has created a party, which is in alliance with the political force of jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. 

Yatseniuk, who visited Brussels recently, recently created 'Front Zmin' (Party of Change), allied with Batkivshchyna, the party of Yulia Timoshenko, in view of the parliamentary elections, due on 28 October. The Party of Change calls itself `social democrat and social liberal', but has not chosen a European party affiliation yet.

In a joint interview for EurActiv and Gazeta Wyborcza, given in the margins of the Brussels Forum organised by the German Marshall Fund, Yatseniuk, a former foreign minister under Tymoshenko, presented his views on transforming Ukraine in Europe, between Russia and the EU.

Yatsenyuk said the traps in which Yanukovich had fallen included the more assertive Russian policy toward is 'near abroad', as well as his move to trade prices Ukraine pays for gas, imported from Russia, in exchange for a 25-year extension of the lease of its Black Sea fleet based on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 03:49:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Russian anti-corruption campaigner wins mayoral election by landslide | World news | The Guardian

An anti-corruption campaigner has won a landslide victory in a city mayoral election in Russia, dealing a blow to the pro-Kremlin party and energising the opposition.

Yevgeny Urlashov won 70% of Sunday's vote in Yaroslavl, a city of about 590,000, easily defeating the acting mayor, who was the candidate of Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.

Urlashov's victory reflects growing public irritation with official corruption and social inequality. It gives new hope to Russia's opposition, which has struggled to maintain momentum after Putin won a third presidential term last month.

Opposition leaders have urged their supporters to focus on local elections, and Urlashov's victory is likely to bolster that strategy.

"People of Yaroslavl have grown tired of corruption and nepotism. They want changes," Urlashov said on Monday on Ekho Moskvy radio.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 03:49:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If this guy gets into office don't be surprised if there's a sudden suicide. These things seem to happen in Russia with curious regularity.

The good news ... it's only a life sentence. You eventually leave this planet of idiots.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 06:35:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If my memory does not deceive me, this is how Edogan and the AKP got their start.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 02:42:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Erdogan, of course.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 02:43:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Latvian becomes commissioner for human rights | Europe | DW.DE | 02.04.2012

Working to secure human rights has been part of Nils Muiznieks' career for 20 years. He is the Council of Europe's new commissioner for human rights, and expectations for the Latvian scholar are high.

Nils Muiznieks has six years as the new commissioner for human rights to lend new direction to an office that is relatively unknown internationally. Combating racism and supporting equality are the 48-year-old's priorities. He aims to focus on groups that often lack mechanisms for support and protection, like children, women and the elderly.

The rights of social groups - from state-recognized minorities to illegal immigrants - will also be a focal point.

"Issues relating to the Roma will certainly be on the agenda," Muiznieks said.

But the political scientist also wants to establish new priorities for the office, which Muiznieks assumed on April 1.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 03:49:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurointelligence Daily Briefing: Eurozone unemployment reaches new record
Total unemployment rises to 10.8% in February, with more than 17m people out of work; the main drivers of the increase were Spain and Italy; youth unemployment in Spain exceeds 50% for the first time; Germany, the Netherlands, and Germany meanwhile are close to full employment; Belgium will have to save another €24bn to reach a balanced budget in 2015; Lucas Papademos is trying to control a flood of last minute parliamentary amendments ahead of the elections; the new Greek programme is already falling behind schedule, requiring additional austerity to be implemented by the new government in June; the IBOE think tank forecast a 5% decline in Greek GDP this year; Moody's calls for a joint bond issuance in Spain to help the  autonomous regions; Italy's favourite cash flow fiscal measure improves during March; Mario Draghi is odds at with the Commission by insisting that member states need flexibility in implementing the Basel III capital requirements; high gas prices add to inflation fears in Germany; Nouriel Roubini and Arnab Das argues that the best option for the eurozone would be an amicable divorce; Martin Sandbu says the eurozone should stick together; Mohamed El-Erian, meanwhile, says the US and the eurozone might make a dirty deal, whereby the US supports more IMF aid to the eurozone in exchange for eurozone support of Jim Yong Kim for the World Bank.


There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 04:15:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ESRB picks a fight with the Commission

The European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB) is challenging the Commission over how the Basel III capital requirements are implemented, Financial Times Deutschland reports. In his capacity as ESRB chairman, Mario Draghi yesterday published a letter in which he asked that individual countries have a sufficient degree of flexibility in implementing the common Basel rules, for example to account for a diverging economic situation of member states - when some are subject to bubbles, while others are in a recession. In this case the common monetary policy is not effective. The ESRB wants national governments, supervisors and central banks to be able to apply macro-prudential tools swiftly. The Commission is opposed and argues that it should have the last word on whether or not EU and euro members apply those tools.

European Central Banking: flexible on banking regulation, inflexible on state fiscal policy.

There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 04:18:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Das and Roubini on how a euro breakup might happen

Nouriel Roubini and Arnab Das argue in a special FT comment series on a potential eurozone breakup on how this could be managed. They say that the process needs to be as carefully managed as the adoption of the euro itself. It require what they describe as a consistent legal framework, a kind of reverse EMS, and a high degree of cooperation between the ECB and national central banks to avoid disaster.

Martin Sandbu says a break-up is harmful

Martin Sandbu of the FT holds out against this, and argues that a eurozone breakup would be very harmful. He said there was no evidence that external devaluation is to be preferred over internal devaluation, and that the latter would keep up reform pressure. He said the future of the euro will not depend on politics, not economics. The best proposal so far, to turn the EFSF/ESM into a bank, has been frustrated by political opposition. He compares this to a hypothetical US government ban on quantitative easing.

(We disagree with both authors. We think that Roubini/Das are right on the economics, but they omit to say that a amicable breakup would require a full-blown treaty revision, which would require unanimity, and would take time to implement. We believe that the two most likely options are either a messy breakup, or a depressed marriage. We also disagree with Sandbu's argument about the benefits of internal devaluations. We think that structural reforms may be desirable for other reasons, but they unrelated to the current crisis.)



There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 04:25:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
El Pais: The Spanish Government presents the most restrictive budget in 35 years of democracy



There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 05:46:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]

(The yellow header says Draft Law on General State Budget, 2012)

There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 06:37:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 03:14:27 PM EST
Eurozone recession fears raised by jobs and industry data | Business | The Guardian

The human cost of the eurozone's prolonged debt crisis was laid bare on Monday as data showed unemployment had soared and manufacturing slumped, indicating the region has sunk back into recession.

The figures showed that more than 17 million people in the eurozone were out of work in February, the highest level since 1997 - two years before the single currency was created in January 1999.

Eurozone manufacturing figures for March were also poor, as problems in troubled states, such as Greece and Spain, infected the likes of France and Germany.

Howard Archer, economist at IHS Global Insight, said it was now "odds-on" that the eurozone would slip into recession at the end of this quarter.

Eurozone unemployment rose for the 10th month running, reaching 10.8% in February, although rates differed wildly between countries. Spain was hit hardest with 23.6% unemployment, compared with Austria at 4.2%.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:02:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurozone unemployment rate hits all-time high - EUROZONE - FRANCE 24

Eurozone unemployment jumped to an all-time high in February, hitting southern nations the hardest as the social toll from the debt crisis grips the 17-nation bloc, official figures showed Monday.

The jobless rate rose for the 10th consecutive month, hitting 10.8 percent to set a 15-year record for the 17 nations sharing the single currency, according to the Eurostat agency.

Eurozone leaders have vowed to pursue growth and jobs strategies to fend off a looming recession but they insist that unpopular budget cuts and structural reforms must continue in order to restore market confidence after two years of crisis.

In another sign that recession is gripping the region, a key survey showed that manufacturing activity dropped to a three-month low in March, with the "malaise" spreading to top economies Germany and France.

"It looks odds-on that Eurozone GDP contracted again in the first quarter of 2012 after a drop of 0.3 percent quarter-on-quarter in the fourth quarter of 2011, thereby moving into recession," said Howard Archer, chief European economist at IHS Global Insight.

"The prospects for the second quarter of 2012 currently hardly look rosy," he said, adding that unemployment also appears "odds-on" to top 11 percent in 2012.

The Eurostat data agency estimated that more than 17.1 million men and women were out of work in February, 162,000 more than a month earlier and 1.48 million more than a year ago.

The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate also rose to a record in the wider, 27-nation European Union, hitting 10.2 percent in February compared to 10.1 percent the previous month.

An estimated 24.55 million people were unemployed in the EU, an increase of 1.87 million from February 2011.

"Soaring unemployment is clearly adding to the pressure on household incomes from aggressive fiscal tightening in the region's periphery," said Jennifer McKeown, senior European economist at Capital Economics research firm.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:03:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
DutchNews.nl - Dutch consumer confidence plummets below EU average

The Dutch consumer confidence index fell to -23.6 in March, compared with +8.1% a year ago and is now lower than the EU average, the national statistics office CBS said on Monday.

'This is extremely unusual,' the CBS said, adding that there has only been a similar fall once in the past 25 years.

In March last year, Dutch consumers were among the most confident about the economy.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:05:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Somebody find a way to compete with China. If you don't we're all fucked. Need I cite an analogy of a cancer killing off the body if we wait too long? Or maybe a fungus, and not a nice one.

The good news ... it's only a life sentence. You eventually leave this planet of idiots.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 06:40:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
International Socialism would be a start. How about changing the working conditions in Chinese factories by an AFL or a IG Metall labor action?

Seems to me that if the businesses can be international, and the money can be international, but the workers are stuck in their home country, then the least the unions could do is try to coordinate internationally. Unfortunately, "blue collar" and "nationalist" seem to go hand-in-hand...

by asdf on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 11:47:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Investors expect another bond swap in Greece | Business | DW.DE | 02.04.2012

Following the first economic haircut, Greece is expecting improvements in its debt situation. However, some investors remain skeptical.

In early March, after months of talks, Greek authorities negotiated a debt swap with private investors. One of the participants in the discussion was Hans Humes, president of Greylock Capital Management, an investment firm that specializes in emerging markets and distressed assets. He described the mood as similar to "a family falling-out at the dinner table," although "a bit more formal."

A lot was at stake for Humes, as 10 percent of Greylock's investments had been poured into Greek bonds. This is yet another in a series of debt restructuring programs that the firm has contributed to in the last 20 years - it also provided its assistance in Mexico, Argentina, Ecuador, Yugoslavia, Russia and the Philippines.

The problems in those countries were similar to those currently affecting Greece.

"When a country can no longer carry its debts and when it can't find a way to get hold of new money, then the investors have no choice but to look for a solution," said Humes, pointing out that, from an investor's perspective, breaking negotiations with Greece and demanding a full payback of the debt would be "completely irrational."

"The alternative is the collapse of their economy, and then they won't be able to pay us any money for 20 years."

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:10:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The trillion-euro illusion | Presseurop (English)

In fact, there are no 1,000 billion dollars for the European Stability Mechanism (MES), the emergency fund that Spain and Italy will have to fall back on if bankruptcy threatens.

There are no 800 or 700 billion euros either, which are the amounts that the official declaration of the Ministers cites with pride. What De Jager and his European colleagues have rolled out is a sham. It's a way of juggling numbers that undermines from the start the credibility of the relief fund, which will become operational on 1 July.

The foundations of this mathematical magic were laid down by the European heads of government. Last autumn, they decided that the combined lending capacity of the existing relief fund [the European Financial Stability Fund, EFSF, created in 2010] and the one yet to be created should be limited to a maximum of 500 billion - in their joyful message, they decided, particular emphasis would be placed on the number 500. Bluff and leftovers

That there were only 300 billion euros of fresh money - since 200 billion from the older fund had already been used to save Greece, Portugal and Ireland from a rout - was passed over in silence.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:11:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU Lenders Kick Troubles Down Road - WSJ.com

Even as the European banking crisis shows signs of easing, lenders across the Continent are engaging in a variety of maneuvers to avoid, or at least delay, coming to terms with potential problems lurking on their books.

Some banks are concocting unorthodox structures designed to improve all-important capital ratios, without raising new capital or moving unwanted assets off their balance sheets. Others are engaging in complex transactions with struggling customers to help temporarily avoid loan defaults--but possibly exposing the lenders to future problems.

Banks now have greater flexibility to pursue such tactics because of the roughly €1 trillion ($1.33 trillion) of cheap three-year loans that the European Central Bank recently handed out to at least 800 lenders. The program, known as the Long-Term Refinancing Operation, or LTRO, is widely credited with averting a possible catastrophe as banks struggled to pay off their maturing debts.

But by granting the new lease on life, the ECB program also has enabled the industry to delay its cleanup process, according to some bankers, investors and other experts.

"The LTRO has allowed for an extension of the period before which bank reconstruction is embraced, and the damage for the euro area could be material," said Alastair Ryan, a banking analyst with UBS.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:13:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why do bankers get to decide who pays for the mess Europe is in? | Aditya Chakrabortty | Comment is free | The Guardian

Cast your mind back to the euro crisis talks last year, when the future of Greece was being decided. How much Athens should pay its bailiffs in the banks, on what terms, and the hardship that ordinary Greeks would have to endure as a result.

There were times when the whole of 2011 seemed to be one long European summit, when you heard more about Papandreou and Merkozy than was strictly necessary. Yet you probably didn't catch many references to Charles Dallara and Josef Ackermann.

They're two of the most senior bankers in the world - among the top 1% of the 1%. Dallara served in the Treasury under Ronald Reagan, before moving on to Wall Street, while Ackermann is chief executive of Deutsche Bank. But their role in the euro negotiations, and so in deciding Greece's future, was as representatives of the International Institute for Finance.

The IIF is a lobby group for 450 of the biggest banks in the world, with members including Barclays, RBS and Lloyds. Dallara and Ackermann and their colleagues were present throughout those euro summits, and enjoyed rare and astounding access to European heads of state and other policy-makers. EU and IMF officials consulted the bankers on how much Greece should pay, Europe's commissioner for economic affairs Olli Rehn shared conference calls with them.

You can piece all this together by poring over media reports of the euro summits, although be warned: you'll need a very high tolerance threshold for European TV, and financial newswires. But Dallara and co are also quite happy to toot their own trumpets. After a deal was struck last July, the IIF put out a note bragging about its "catalytic" role and claiming its offer "forms an integral part of a comprehensive package".

By now you'll have guessed the punchline: that July agreement was terrible for the Greeks, and brilliant for the bankers.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:25:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why do bankers get to decide who pays for the mess Europe is in?

Why does the heavily armed cop get to smash in the head of the unarmed protester?

The good news ... it's only a life sentence. You eventually leave this planet of idiots.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 06:44:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Economics and Politics by Paul Krugman - The Conscience of a Liberal - NYTimes.com

Jonathan Portes has a righteous rant about Eurocrats talking to the wrong people -- namely, rating agencies:

These agencies have repeatedly been proved wrong; they have flawed and frequently conflicted business models; and their ratings have no predictive power. All this is well established. Moreover, when it comes to assessing sovereign debt "credit risk" they - and I mean this quite literally - do not know what they are talking about. By that, I mean they quite simply don't understand what they themselves are saying.

And he directs us to a blog post making that case very effectively.

Obviously I share that view. We saw very dramatically what the rating agencies are worth when S&P downgraded America -- nothing. Bond yields actually fell.

The point is that while maybe, maybe, S&P or Moody's or Fitch know something about corporate debt, they know less than any competent macroeconomist about sovereign debt.

In other news, great results from European austerity:

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:27:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brad DeLong

Fiscal tightening is the watchword all across Europe. The measures adopted so far have not yet proved to be a cure-all for financial market concerns about debt sustainability. They have, however, coincided with renewed economic slowdown or even contraction. This brings into question the desirability of fiscal austerity....

Ten years from now some observers will deride the belief that the `confidence fairy' would be summoned by belt-tightening; others will declare that their conservative fiscal attitude saved the countries from Greece's fate. With only one economic path visible to historians and firm evidence in scant supply, we may never know. The solution is a vigorous debate - which this column hopes to contribute to by launching a new Vox debate on the issue of austerity....

The question is whether governments should relent in their efforts to reduce deficits now, when the global economy is still weak, and policy credibility is far from granted. Under what circumstances would be wise to do so?... At one extreme we have countries already facing a high and volatile risk premium.... At the other extreme we have countries with strong fiscal shoulders, actually enjoying a negative risk premium. A third category includes countries not facing a confidence crisis, yet with inherent vulnerabilities.... The question of how to ensure debt sustainability is vastly different across these....

The ranks of commentators who view austerity as potentially self-defeating have swollen (Cafiso and Cellini 2012, Cottarelli 2012, Gros 2011, Krugman 2012). These authors argue that the weak output growth caused by fiscal austerity may itself fuel market doubts about government solvency. Higher funding costs, combined with lower activity, might thus worsen the fiscal position, defeating the very purpose of the initial tightening measures. As observed by Olivier Blanchard, the "damned if you do it, damned if you don't" attitude on fiscal austerity by financial markets may appear quite schizophrenic (Blanchard 2011).... Destruction of jobs and firms today may be expected to have persistent effects on potential output in the future. These effects in turn translate into a fall in permanent income, and hence demand, today (see DeLong and Summers 2012 and Rendahl 2012).

In a liquidity trap, this creates a vicious self-reinforcing circle.... The empirical evidence indeed weighs towards large multipliers at times of recession (Auerbach and Gorodnichenko 2010) or at times of crisis (Corsetti et al 2012).... This is why, with a constrained monetary policy, there is little doubt that governments with a full and solid credibility capital should abstain from immediate fiscal tightening, while committing to future deficit reduction (the virtues of this policy are discussed by Corsetti et al 2010 and Werning 2012).

The problem is that, in the current context, promising future austerity alone may not be seen as sufficiently effective....

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:28:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pension Funds Making Alternative Bets Struggle to Keep Up - NYTimes.com
Searching for higher returns to bridge looming shortfalls, public workers' pension funds across the country are increasingly turning to riskier investments in private equity, real estate and hedge funds.

But while their fees have soared, their returns have not. In fact, a number of retirement systems that have stuck with more traditional investments in stocks and bonds have performed better in recent years, for a fraction of the fees.

Consider the contrast between the state retirement fund for Pennsylvania and the one for Georgia.

The $26.3 billion Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System has more than 46 percent of its assets in riskier alternatives, including nearly 400 private equity, venture capital and real estate funds.

The system paid about $1.35 billion in management fees in the last five years and reported a five-year annualized return of 3.6 percent. That is below the 8 percent target needed to meet its financing requirements, and it also lags behind a 4.9 percent median return among public pension systems.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:30:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 03:14:45 PM EST
Gunman opens fire at Oakland college, fatalities reported | Reuters

A gunman opened fire at a private Christian college in Oakland, California, on Monday, killing at least two people and wounding at least four, authorities said.

Oakland police said in a brief written statement that a possible suspect was in custody after the shootings at Oikos University.

"No imminent public safety threat appears to exist in immediate area," police said.

Local television reports had shown police evacuating Oikos students and loading them into a SWAT vehicle as other armed officers took up positions around the school.

Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson told reporters there were fatalities but she did not give a specific number. A spokeswoman for Highland Memorial Hospital in Oakland said the facility was treating four shooting victims.

Oikos describes itself on its website as having been started to provide the "highest standard education with Christian value and inspiration."

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:29:33 PM EST
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BBC News - Fatalities in California university shooting

A number of people have been killed and several injured in a shooting at a university in California, police say.

TV footage showed wounded people emerging from buildings at Oikos University in the city of Oakland.

Police and armed response teams have surrounded the buildings, and a suspect has been detained. A nearby hospital said it was treating four victims.

Oikos University is a private religious institution offering courses in theology, music and nursing.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:29:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Syria Agrees to Cease-Fire on April 10, Annan Says - NYTimes.com
Syria's government has promised that its armed forces would stop shooting and withdraw from population centers by April 10, the special emissary attempting to end the violent year-old uprising in Syria told the United Nations Security Council on Monday.

The special emissary, Kofi Annan, also told the Security Council that his team had held constructive talks with anti-government forces in the Syria conflict as part of an attempt to gain their adherence to his cease-fire plan. It is widely expected that rebels would wait for the Syria government's forces to stop shooting before they would agree to reciprocate.

It was unclear whether the latest diplomatic scrambling represented a meaningful breakthrough in efforts to halt the Syria conflict, which has left more than 9,000 people dead since President Bashar al-Assad moved to crush political opposition inspired by the Arab Spring movement in March 2011.

The Syrian government's commitment came a day after a large gathering of nations, including many Arab nations and the United States, moved closer to a direct intervention in the conflict by agreeing to provide equipment and money to the array of rebel forces seeking to end President Assad's grip on power.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:31:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
.:Middle East Online::Violence tears Syria despite peace moves :.

President Bashar al-Assad's regime pressed its deadly bid to crush dissent Monday, reportedly targeting rebels near Turkey as it brushed off an Istanbul meeting of the "Friends of Syria" as a failure.

Violence across the Middle East country killed at least 18 people Monday, as peacebroker Kofi Annan was set to brief the UN Security Council after Western and Arab nations sought a deadline for Damascus to implement his peace plan.

But Russia rejected the idea, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying "ultimatums and artificial deadlines rarely help matters," as Moscow sent a navy destroyer to the Syrian port of Tartus.

The rebel Free Syrian Army accused the global community of failing to protect Syria's people, saying it was ignoring the Assad regime's "massacres" by refusing to arm the insurgents to fight the bloody clampdown.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:32:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Syrian refugees: In their own words | World news | The Guardian

Abu Ali had to leave his home in Azmareen, a small town of about 5,000 inhabitants just across the border, eight months ago. He owns several acres of olive groves and a farm that he can see from the hills on the Turkish side, but that he cannot reach. "If I return, they'll kill me," he says. Abu Ali used to work as a singer at village weddings, but a year ago he started to use his talent to sing anti-Assad songs at rallies in Hama. Both of his children had been in university when they had to leave, now he lives with them and his wife in a Turkish refugee camp. "I have sold my car to get by, and I have only $100 left." He sighs. "I will have to start selling my land."

Abu Ali is in constant phone contact with his fellow Azmareen residents. "The Syrian regime has interrupted the mobile phone coverage," he says. "But we all use Turkish SIM cards - Turkcell covers up to 10km across the border. Bless them."

He explains that at night the river crossing is used to smuggle food and medical supplies into Syria, and that people come to Turkey this way too. "I help as much as I can," he says. "These are all my countrymen."

To get to the river, you have to wade through knee-deep mud. The military police station of Hacipasa is close by, but only a pack of dogs take notice of people approaching the border, marked solely by the river. Some people have lit fires on the Syrian side of the river. Despite it being a mild spring day, the water is still very cold, and several young men take turns diving, while others try to warm up again. When they notice Abu Ali, they swim to the Turkish side to greet him. Squatting in the mud, clad in nothing but white briefs, they describe the death of their friend.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:32:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com / Justice & Home Affairs / Allegations of Syrian intelligence activity in EU capital cause alarm

The Belgian foreign ministry is to investigate allegations that Syrian intelligence services are terrorising Syrian opposition expats in the EU capital.

Foreign minister Didier Reynders told Belgian Liberal MEP Louis Michel on Friday (30 March) that he will personally look into claims that Syrian diplomats in Brussels have threatened people who take part in anti-regime rallies that their families in Syria will be harmed unless they stop.

"We don't have any evidence at this stage. But the minister and I believe this really is happening. He believes there could be problems in other EU capitals as well, so he will ask his colleagues in the EU Council to investigate ... He promised me to be very engaged on this," Michel, a former Belgian foreign minister and EU commissioner, told this website.

Michel spoke to Reynders after meeting privately with Syrian activists who made the accusations.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:33:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Suu Kyi upbeat about post-poll Myanmar - Asia-Pacific - Al Jazeera English

Pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has struck an optimistic note about Myanmar's future, saying this week's by-elections, which her party claimed to have won overwhelmingly, could be the harbinger of a "new era".

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) says it won all 44 parliamentary seats it contested, including the one Suu Kyi was standing for.

The veteran activist's election to political office, if confirmed, would mark the latest change in the country after decades of outright military rule ended last year. It would also be the Nobel laureate's first foray into parliament.

"This is not so much our triumph as a triumph for people who have decided that they must be involved in the political process in this country," Suu Kyi said in a victory speech at her party headquarters in Yangon on Monday.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:34:02 PM EST
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Mali rebels attack Timbuktu - News - Mail & Guardian Online
Residents and rebels say separatist insurgents are besieging the ancient town of Timbuktu as they take their fight for a homeland for the nomadic Tuareg people to one of the last government holdouts in northern Mali.

Residents reported gunfire on Sunday and army soldiers abandoning their bases, as rebels pressed ahead with their lightning campaign to carve out a desert homeland.

The alliance of Tuareg and Islamist rebels already claimed control of the garrison town of Gao on Saturday, a day after seizing another regional centre, Kidal. The ancient trading town of Timbuktu is the third and last major centre in their sights.

"It's our turn now. There is gunfire everywhere," local Mohamed Ould Ali said by telephone.

A second resident said the gunfire started around 5am, adding however it was local militia shooting in the air rather than the start of fighting. The location of rebels who have been gathering near the town for days was not clear.

Other local sources said the regular army had fled its main positions there.

"The [military camp] is empty. Most of the soldiers from the south [of Mali] have fled. It is only the Arabs who are defending the town," a Malian source in contact with local residents and the military said of Arab-origin Malians both in the regular army and who have formed a local militia.
by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:35:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
allAfrica.com: Mali: Under Pressure, Coup Leaders Reinstate Constitution

Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo, who led other low ranking military officers that ousted Mali's democratically elected President Amadou Toumani Toure last month and scrapped the nation's constitution made a public reversal yesterday, declaring amid enormous international pressure that he was reinstating the 1992 constitution and planning to hold elections.

Sanogo promised to organise a national convention to reach an agreement on a transitional government which would arrange free and fair elections. He did not say when the convention or elections would take place.

In his declaration, Sanogo said: "We take a solemn promise to re-establish from this day on the constitution of the Republic of Mali of February 25, 1992, as well as the institutions of the republic."

"Taking into account the multidimensional crisis that our country is facing," he added, "we have decided that ... we will engage in consultations with all the actors of society in the context of a national convention in order to put in place a transitional body with the aim of organising calm, free, transparent and democratic elections in which we will not participate."

When he was asked by reporters, if he considered himself the president, the coup leader quickly left the scene of his press briefing.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:36:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Marc Lynch | FOREIGN POLICY

The Muslim Brotherhood resolved months of speculation this weekend by announcing its intention of nominating Deputy Supreme Guide Khairet al-Shater for Egypt's presidential election. It may not seem so surprising for a country's largest political force and the largest parliamentary faction to field a Presidential candidate. But it was. The announcement sent an earthquake through Cairo's already wildly careening political scene. I'm happy to admit that I was taken by surprise. 

What was the Brotherhood thinking? The nomination of Shater seems to have been a response to threats and opportunities a rapidly changing political arena, rather than the hatching of a long-term plan. But many Egyptians would disagree, seeing it instead as the culmination of a long-hatching conspiracy with the SCAF. I think it will reveal itself to be a strategic blunder which has placed the Brotherhood in a no-win situation. But clearly they had their reasons for making such an uncharacteristically bold move. How will it affect the endlessly turbulent and contentious Egyptian political transition? And could Khairat al-Shater really replace Hosni Mubarak as the president of Egypt?

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:38:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب
Muslim Brotherhood sources reveal that Ash-Shatir (the Ikhwan presidential candidate) had discussed his candidacy with John McCain.
by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:39:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Insight: The man who would beat Hugo Chavez | Reuters

Tired and hungry after hours of working crowds under a blistering Caribbean sun, Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles needs a rest and some food back in his campaign bus.

Yet the sports-loving folk of Baralt, a hard up and dusty district in Venezuela's western oil belt, seldom see VIPs and urge him to join a local basketball game.

Capriles needs little persuading. Tearing up and down the court, scoring several times and picking himself up after being knocked off his feet, the man who wants to be Venezuela's next president is cheered after his side wins the hour-long game.

"Man, he can really play! That wasn't your usual politician's photo opportunity," says one admiring local, 24-year-old Johan Arismendi, watching from the sidelines.

In an uphill battle to end President Hugo Chavez's 13-year grip on the South American nation at an election in October, Capriles has an ace card - youth - and he knows how to play it.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:40:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Chavez back to Cuba for cancer treatment - Americas - Al Jazeera English

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has said he is travelling back to Cuba for another round of cancer treatment.

"I leave this afternoon for Havana... to continue with my radiation treatment," Chavez said in a televised speech on Saturday before leaving the Miraflores Palace.

"There are five sessions of radiotherapy ... for five consecutive days, then two days of rest ... With this I have faith that [the cancer] inside my body will not return."

The 57-year-old leftist president, in office since 1999, has vowed to overcome cancer to win another six-year term in elections on October 7.

Chavez completed the first round in Havana, where he had surgery last month to remove a malignant tumor in the same area where another tumor was excised in June 2011.

Officials in Caracas have never specified the type of cancer the president has, but insist it has not spread to other organs.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:42:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oil, national pride at stake in the Falklands | World | DW.DE | 01.04.2012

Interests in oil and other natural resources have led to renewed tensions over the Falkland Islands. The confrontation between Argentina and Great Britain is about strategic interests - and wounded pride.

It's become a kind of ritual: with each major anniversary of the 1982 Falklands War comes renewed saber rattling. The months ahead of the 30th anniversary of Argentina's occupation of the disputed archipelago on April 2 have been no exception.

Argentina and Great Britain trade off in charging one another with colonialism or imperialism, both insisting on their right to the small group of islands that are shared by around 3,000 residents, 1,200 British military troops and half a million sheep. London recently sent its HMS Dauntless destroyer and, according to media reports, a nuclear submarine to the South Atlantic.

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner responded by issuing a protest to the United Nations that the British deployment represents "a major risk to international security."

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:44:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I've said before, it is entirely probable that the Falklands' future is tied to that of S America, but it is entirely impossible to imagine discussions with Argentina until they have won the trust of the people who live on the islands.

Yet Argentina's constant provocations and sabre rattling is doing the exact opposite of what is needed to create trust, they sow anxiety and attempt economic damage and then seem surprised that the Falklanders want nothing to do with them.

In fact, their current behaviour is so obviously counter-productive that it raises fears of another invasion simply becuase it suggests there are domestic problems within Argentina that such beligerence is intended to cover.

Try a generation of open freindship and economic co-operation, make the Falklands economy practically a part of that of Argentina and then concepts of ownership and sovereignty will be less fractious.

But now they have to be joking...

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 03:12:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yesterday John Carlin wrote a provocative piece in El Pais arguing that Argentina should be grateful to Thatcher for precipitating the fall of the Argentinean dictatorship. It has caused quite a stir.

There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 06:23:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colombia Reports: All ten of the FARC-held hostages will be released in the first recovery operation, Gloria Cuartas, spokesperson for hostage mediators Colombians for Peace, told local media Monday.

Colombia Reports: Google shut down the Youtube account of a key witness in the trial against Colombia's former chief prosecutor who is accused of having ties to paramilitary groups.

Honduras Culture and Politics: More than half of the 13 dead accounted for in San Pedro Sula's prison fire, 7 people, had not been convicted of a crime.  Contrary to English-language press reports, they did not all die from the effects of the fire set during the uprising.
Original report HERE.

JOINT TASK FORCE-VULCANO, Colombia--The top U.S. military officer is pushing to expand the Pentagon's advisory role in Colombia's fight against insurgents and narcotics traffickers, but made clear he is wary of rushing to supply the country with drones and other hardware Bogota says it wants to accelerate the campaign..
Related ITEM.

Tim's El Salvador Blog: In 2010, the Salvadoran government contracted the services of the Spanish consulting firm the Tau Group, to perform a "Strategic Environmental Evaluation" of the issues surrounding the metallic mining industry in El Salvador.   The report was to provide a basis for the Funes government to develop its own policy. (...) A copy of the evaluation report has now been made public by the Roundtable Against Mining (the "Mesa").   The Mesa delivered the report to El Salvador's National Assembly, arguing that the legislature no longer had an excuse not to take up legislation which would ban all mining in the country.  

LAHT -SANTIAGO - Twenty-two people were hurt and 228 arrested in this capital and other Chilean cities amid disturbances associated with the annual Day of the Young Combatant, authorities said Friday.

Mexico: The Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity will lead another caravan in August and September of this year, Javier Sicilia announced at yesterday's anniversary event in Cuernavaca. "We will do this because it is important that Central Americans, immigrants and Mexicans radicalized in the United States understand that American arms are strengthening the ability of Mexican organized crime to kill," Sicilia said. "Only through working together can we put an end to this and construct a unity based on our humanity that extends beyond our borders, political ideologies and differences."


"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 05:37:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hot off the presses!
Colombia Reports: Colombia's largest rebel group FARC has releases the last of its security force hostages, a group of ten men who have been held for more than 12 years, the Red Cross announced Monday.  The four soldiers and six police were surrendered into the care of hostage mediators and the International Red Cross at an undisclosed location near the central Colombian town of Mapiripan, Meta department.


"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 06:08:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
at an undisclosed location

Was Dick Cheney there?

There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 01:29:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Was anyone shot in the face ?

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 03:13:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 03:15:04 PM EST
Biomass 'insanity' may threaten EU carbon targets | EurActiv

The EU's emissions reduction target for 2020 could be facing an unlikely but grave obstacle, according to a growing number of scientists, EU officials and NGOs: the contribution of biomass to the EU's renewable energy objectives for 2020.

On 29 March, a call was launched at the European Parliament for Brussels to reconsider its carbon accounting rules for biomass emissions, and EurActiv has learned that the issue is provoking widespread alarm in policy-making circles.

"We're paying people to cut their forests down in the name of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and yet we are actually increasing them. No-one is apparently bothering to do any analysis about this," one Brussels insider told EurActiv.

"They're just sleepwalking into this insanity," he added.

Around half of the EU's target for providing 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020 will be made up by biomass energy from sources such as wood, waste and agricultural crops and residues, according to EU member states' national action plans.

Wood makes up the bulk of this target and is counted by the EU as `carbon neutral', giving it access to subsidies, feed-in tariffs and electricity premiums at national level.  

But because there is a time lag between the carbon debt that is created when a tree is cut down, transported and combusted - and the carbon credit that occurs when a new tree has grown to absorb as much carbon as the old one - biomass will increase atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the interim.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:51:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU countries failing on 2020 waste target | EurActiv

Europeans dump the bulk of their rubbish in landfills and many EU countries appear to be falling well short of 2020 targets for recycling municipal waste, new data from the EU statistical agency show.

Eurostat figures show that the 10 countries that have joined the Union since 2004 send the vast majority of their waste to landfills. But the data also shows that older member countries - including financially troubled Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain - dump more than half their rubbish.

All of the municipal waste in Bulgaria is sent to landfills, and nearly all in Lithuania and Romania, according to the Eurostat data.

Europeans generate on average more than 500 kilograms of waste per year, some 300 kilograms of which is food and plant rubbish, according to EU figures.

"Proper waste management is vital for our environment, but it also makes economic sense; waste is a valuable resource if it is well managed," Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said in a statement emailed to EurActiv on Friday.

"Our main piece of European legislation on waste - the Waste Framework Directive - prohibits uncontrolled disposal of waste and sets a clear waste management hierarchy, obliging member states to promote waste prevention, re-use and recycling over landfilling and incineration," he said.

Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden have eliminated all or nearly all their landfill disposal through incineration, recycling and composting, figures compiled by Eurostat show.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:51:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Incineration is often problematic with the emissions and ash potentially more capable of spreading toxins in the environment than non-combusted waste. I don't see that the broad categories of incineration=good and landfill=bad are particularly accurate. A mismanaged or antiquated incinerator is probably the worst waste management option.
by Andhakari on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 05:16:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Senegal's fishing community will act on foreign fleets if government doesn't | Global development | guardian.co.uk

Abdoulaye Gueye cannot see any Chinese, Russian or European trawlers as he lands his meagre catch of sardinellas and mackerel into waiting horse-drawn carts on the beach at Joal. But he knows there are 30 or more of them just over the horizon, hoovering up the fish he cannot reach.

A decade ago he could catch enough in a three-day trip to fill his 30ft-long wooden pirogue; today, he and his colleagues say they are lucky to earn enough to pay the diesel for their vessels. They are angry at what is happening to their fishing grounds and are demanding change from the new government.

Now, in a move aimed to put pressure on the developed countries to curb their fleets, community leaders in Joal and across Senegal have warned that overfishing by foreign fleets could lead to piracy and violence on the scale of Somalia, as well as a flood of economic migrants leaving west Africa to find work in Europe.

"Catches are 75% down on 10 years ago," said Samb Ibrahim, manager of Joal's fishing port. "In 2004 we landed 220,000 tonnes, now we catch only 120,000 tonnes year. It's a very serious situation." The port is the biggest in the country, with 1,500 fishermen competing to land declining catches.

"At this rate, in 10 years time there will be no fish left. So, unless something changes there will be a catastrophe for livelihoods, employment and food security," added Ibrahim.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:51:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Forage Fish Catches Should be Reduced, Report Says - NYTimes.com
An international group of marine scientists is calling for cuts in commercial fishing for sardines, herring and other so-called forage fish whose use as food for fish farms is soaring. The catch should be cut in half for some fisheries, the scientists say, to protect populations of both the fish and the natural predators that depend on them.

"The message is, if you cut back on harvesting of forage fish, there will be benefits," said Ellen K. Pikitch, director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University and chairwoman of the task force that produced a report on the issue that was released Sunday.

The report, "Little Fish, Big Impact," financed by the Lenfest Foundation through the Pew Charitable Trusts, details how fishing has increased for these fish, which now account for 37 percent, by weight, of all fish harvested worldwide, up from about 8 percent half a century ago. The consumer market for forage fish is relatively small; most of the fish are ground and processed for use as animal feed and nutritional supplements and, increasingly, as feed for the aquaculture industry, which now produces about half of all the fish and shellfish that people eat.

Forage fish are an important link in the food chain, eating plankton and being consumed, in turn, by large fish like tuna and cod, as well as by seabirds and dolphins and other marine mammals. The task force estimated that as a source of food in the wild for larger commercially valuable fish, forage fish were worth more than $11 billion, or twice as much as their worth when processed for aquaculture and other uses.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:56:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
New Ship Recycling Rules | EU Reporter
The Commission last week proposed new rules aimed at ensuring that European ships are recycled in facilities that are safe for workers and environmentally sound.

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal regulates the disposal of ships at the end of their operational life when they need to be dismantled and recycled. The Waste Shipments Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006 implements the Basel Convention in EU law, as well as banning the export of hazardous waste to countries outside of the OECD (an amendment to the Basel Convention that has not yet entered into force internationally).

Enforcement of international rules have not proven ineffective in practice and not prevented unsafe ship dismantling Many European ships end up in ship breaking yards South-East Asia which lack basic safety measures needed to manage the dismantling of ships and the disposal of hazardous materials they contain. This results in risks for workers and extensive environmental pollution.

The proposal would transpose the 2009 Hong Kong Convention for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships with the aim of implementing the Convention quickly, without waiting for its ratification and entry into force, as this will take several years. This would set up a system of surveys, certification and authorisation for large commercial seagoing vessels that fly the flag of an EU Member State, covering their whole life cycle from construction to operation and recycling. It should be noted that the Commission separately proposed that Member States ratify the Convention within 3 years of the entry into force of this proposal).

Rest of the proposal at the link.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:51:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Corals 'could survive a more acidic ocean'

In new research published in the journal Nature Climate Change, an international scientific team has identified a powerful internal mechanism that could enable some corals and their symbiotic algae to counter the adverse impact of a more acidic ocean.

As humans release ever-larger amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, besides warming the planet, the gas is also turning the world's oceans more acidic -- at rates thought to far exceed those seen during past major extinctions of life. This has prompted strong scientific interest in finding out which species are most vulnerable, and which can handle the changed conditions.

In groundbreaking research, a team of scientists from Australia's ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, at the University of Western Australia and France's Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, has shown that some marine organisms that form calcium carbonate skeletons have an in-built mechanism to cope with ocean acidification -- which others appear to lack.

Abstract here.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:55:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Disaster data suggests climate signal | Environment | DW.DE | 02.04.2012

Reinsurance costs and IPCC data suggest a growing climate link to natural disasters, although natural variations may account for many of last year's costs.

Recent data on the risks of natural disasters suggests a growing climate connection, yet pinning the blame definitively on global warming remains a risk in itself.

Natural disasters like last year's floods in Thailand or the earthquake in Japan cost the world economy $370 billion (278 billion euros) in 2011, the world's second-biggest reinsurer, Swiss Re, said last week.

It estimated that insured catastrophe losses doubled last year to $116 billion, somewhat more than the $105 billion estimated by the world's leading reinsurer, Munich Re, in January. The figures are the second highest for the industry to date - Hurricane Katrina helped contribute to record damages of $123 billion in 2005.

In its first report on the subject last week, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said climate-related disasters will almost certainly rise this century, despite gaps in knowledge.

snort

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:58:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]

NASA - NASA Sees Fields of Green Spring up in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is drilling for a resource possibly more precious than oil.

Over the last 24 years, it has tapped hidden reserves of water to grow wheat and other crops in the Syrian Desert. This time series of data shows images acquired by three different Landsat satellites operated by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The green fields that dot the desert draw on water that in part was trapped during the last Ice Age. In addition to rainwater that fell over several hundred thousand years, this fossil water filled aquifers that are now buried deep under the desert's shifting sands.

Saudi Arabia reaches these underground rivers and lakes by drilling through the desert floor, directly irrigating the fields with a circular sprinkler system. This technique is called center-pivot irrigation.

Because rainfall in this area is now only a few centimeters (about one inch) each year, water here is a non-renewable resource. Although no one knows how much water is beneath the desert, hydrologists estimate it will only be economical to pump water for about 50 years.

Incredible NASA images of Saudi Arabia's careless use of water | Grist

To put this in perspective, two-thirds of the water used to produce the goods and services consumed by Saudi Arabians every year comes from outside the country. Saudi Arabia has been able to tamp this down by using fossil water to grow crops in the desert, but in a short time, the country will be even more dependent on other people's water to satisfy the needs of its citizens.
by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 05:09:16 PM EST
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The fun question is how big the fire will be when Saudi burns down. I can't think of a more obviously unstable system.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 05:16:55 PM EST
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It beats Los Angeles and the central valley by...a lot.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 08:44:37 PM EST
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Maybe, although the fossil water the Saudis are pumping is at least a fairly predictable supply. One year without snow in Colorado and the entire southwest of the U.S. of A. would be abandoned ghost towns...
by asdf on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 11:56:53 PM EST
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I can't find that quickly my commentary on posts in ~2010 that hints of a similar fate looming for the South West of the USA - if memory serves me well, aquifers are a necessity there too for agriculture and what not... Does Phoenix have water police yet?

Would be a fun analysis to find, the production and the amount of water wells in the  South West States shown over the past decades. Whiffs of doom in the air.

by Nomad on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 04:16:43 AM EST
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Oh i think anyone who spends a minute looking at the evidence would conclude that SW USA is pretty much doomed.

Lake Mead is shrinking and will be empty by 2020. At which point......

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 05:36:06 AM EST
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Which is less problematic than an entire country.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 07:00:08 PM EST
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20 years ago I visited a luxury hotel in Phoenix in the summer, complete with enormous swimming pools, hot and COLD tubs, and misting sprays over the outdoor bars. Profligate abuse of limited water supplies seemed to be the running theme, although I suppose any ol' desert golf-course would be as absurd.
by Andhakari on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 06:10:55 AM EST
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Oh, yeah, you would so LOVE Las Vegas.  I've been once (1979) and will be there a few days this summer just to break up the driving and introduce the grandkids to obscene displays of love of money, indifference to decency and conservation, and, on the positive side, bits of entertainment that kids would enjoy.

The building of a city in a water-deprived area is an arrogant human idea in the first place.

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 06:34:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've only been there once, in 1968, on a classic movie road trip along Route 66 from Chicago to LA. (With Tony Scott BTW!)

And one visit was enough.

Now Oklahoma I really enjoyed. We had a great 3 weeks there shooting a jeans commercial for Finland. The brand was Beaver - so we had every quarter horse cowboy in the state on our side, and the then Governor, George Nigh, facilitated amazing stuff such as filming on freight trains, providing small plane trips around the state, getting into historic jails etc - all at zero cost because they were promoting their new State Film Board.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 08:32:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Beaver jeans? Surely you jest.
by sgr2 on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 03:21:54 PM EST
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I do not - my old friend Matti Majava (the guru of denim) started the company. Majava means beaver (the animal) in Finnish, but in 1969, when he and his wife started the company, other connotations were unknown in Finland.

He now runs a jeans museum.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 03:32:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay. I now see that back in the day Beaver jeans were quite the thing. Thanks for expanding my fashion knowledge.
by sgr2 on Wed Apr 4th, 2012 at 11:28:15 AM EST
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If you go to Las Vegas, you might be interested in getting off the main nightclub strip. (FYI, Circus Circus is really cheap and an ok place to stay.)

There is a "normal" downtown area, and also an older area where the African American segregated strip was. Also there is a new bridge over the dam if you have not been there within the last couple of years. And the little construction city there by the dam is worth a visit.

Also a small railroad museum and some other stuff. Seriously, if you get off the strip there is a completely different city there...

http://museums.nevadaculture.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=409&Itemid =414

by asdf on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 08:59:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When water restrictions are in effect, the regular police enforce the rules. Lawn watering is the first thing they go after, partly because it's a big water user and partly because it's easy to observe. Typically there will be "odd-even" watering days depending on house number or something like that.

This year, the snow in Colorado was sufficient to keep the river water supplies at close to their normal level, so we have been informed in Colorado Springs that there will be no restrictions. We are always encouraged to minimize water use, and there are rewards for replacing old toilets and shower heads, and to do low-water-use gardening, for example.

http://www.csu.org/residential/water/Pages/waterefficiency.aspx

by asdf on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 09:58:59 AM EST
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Phoenix is the least sustainable city one can imagine.  It'll be the first one to dry out.
by paving on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 12:22:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 03:15:37 PM EST
One Muslim's fight to marry Islam with homosexuality - FRANCE - ISLAM - FRANCE 24
Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed is an intellectual, an expert on the Quran and an AIDS activist. The 35-year-old also has the distinction of being the first gay man to be married in a Muslim wedding ceremony in France. "I am sure that if the Prophet Muhammad were as still alive, he would marry gay couples," Zahed confidently told FRANCE 24.

His marriage last February -presided over by an aspiring imam in the Parisian suburb of Sevres- has brought Zahed much attention, even if his marriage is not officially recognised by French authorities.

Zahed has made the reconciliation of Islam and homosexuality his life's pursuit. That battle has been fought through his gay rights group, HM2F (Homosexual Muslims in France), but also through rigorous academic research.

A student of anthropology and psychology at the prestigious Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales university in Paris, Zahed is currently preparing his doctoral thesis on Islam and homosexuality.

His first book, The Koran and the Flesh (Le Coran et la chair, Editions Max Milo), which hit French bookstores on March 29, promises to further shine a spotlight on this unique man.

The new book is a poignant account of the difficulties of growing up as a gay Muslim; a journey that takes the author across continents and confronts him with constant bouts of humiliation and personal doubt.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 04:59:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - What are spies really like?

Most people have watched a spy film, but few have ever met someone from the intelligence community. So how close are real spies to the Bournes and the Bonds? Peter Taylor looks at the world of the modern day secret agent.

From James Bond to Spooks, from Jason Bourne to Tinker Tailor, spying is big box office business. Its vocabulary has become familiar to us all, from "stings" and "moles" to "dead letter drops" and "honey traps".

The fact is that the image of such operations as depicted on the big and small screens - and in airport blockbusters too - is firmly rooted in reality. The "tradecraft" is common to both the fictional and real world of spying.

But those who actually carry out these covert and potentially dangerous operations could not be further removed from their imaginary counterparts, as I found out when I interviewed serving officers from MI5 (the domestic Security Service) and MI6 (the overseas Secret Intelligence Service).

Recruiting and running agents is the most dangerous and demanding part of being a modern spy. That's what Michael does for MI6. He works in al-Qaeda's heartlands - the precise locations of which are confidential for security reasons.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 05:01:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Taking dogs to work 'reduces employee stress'

Bringing pet dogs to work can reduce stress and make the job more satisfying for other employees, a study suggests.

US researchers found those with access to dogs were less stressed as the day went on than those who had none.

The preliminary study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management looked at 75 staff.

The researchers suggested access to dogs boosted morale and reduced stress levels, whether people had access to their own pets or other people's.

The study was carried out by a team of researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University who looked at a manufacturing company where people are allowed to bring their pets to work.

They compared those who brought in their own pets, with those who had dogs - but left them at home - and staff who did not own pets.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 05:04:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For China's driving test, be ready for almost anything - The Washington Post

Okay, answer quickly: If you have to suddenly jump out of an overturning vehicle, in which direction do you jump? And then once you hit the ground, what's the best way to roll?

Here's another one: When your car is suddenly plunging into water, what's the best way to escape? Do you immediately open the door and jump out? Wait until the car hits the water and open the doors? Stay inside and call for help? Or use your feet to smash out the windshield?

These are not questions on the application for a stuntman's position on a movie set or the final exam for a hostile environment training course before being dispatched to a conflict zone.

Rather, these are real questions from the written test to obtain an ordinary driver's license in China, and they offer a bizarre, rather frightening window into the world's most populous and car-craving country.

The computerized test, available in English, Arabic, French and several other languages to foreign residents who want to obtain a Chinese driver's license, gives 100 randomly generated questions from a seemingly endless list. The topics range from arcane traffic signs and police hand signals to the amount of various fines and penalties. To pass the test, a would-be driver needs to get at least 90 questions out of 100 correct, and many test-takers fail on the first few attempts.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 05:06:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 03:15:58 PM EST

New production from 2 Finnish companies I know quite well. Active Ark shot on Red, Rinki did the 3D and compositing.

I never knew these facts about the Mint of Finland.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 05:47:03 AM EST
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