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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 22 January

by Fran Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 04:02:45 PM EST

 A Daily Review Of International Online Media 

Europeans on this date in history:

1891 – Birth of Antonio Gramsci, an Italian philosopher, writer, politician and political theorist. A founding member and onetime leader of the Communist Party of Italy, he was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime. (d. 1937)

More here and here

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by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 10:54:48 AM EST
France24: GM to close Belgian Opel plant amid massive job cuts in Europe

AFP- German car company Opel will close its plant in Antwerp, Belgium this year, GM Europe announced on Thursday.

"We must make this announcement now so that we can secure a viable future for the entire Opel and Vauxhall operations," GM Europe President Nick Reilly said in a statement.

The Opel site, which will close "in the course of 2010," employs 2,600 workers, the statement said.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 12:28:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC: Germany chided for limit on Poles

The EU's highest court has told Germany to ease a restriction on Polish workers, calling it "discriminatory".

The EU's Court of Justice objects to a rule which says that only German firms or foreign firms with a branch in Germany can hire Polish workers.

The case against Germany was brought by Poland and the European Commission.

The court however upheld Germany's right to maintain limits on the number of hired workers from ex-communist states. The limits run until May 2011.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 12:40:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Having already absorbed an entire "former communist state" would seem to be an acceptable reason to allow them to control immigration a little bit tighter for a temporary period.
by paving on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 11:37:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Al Jazeera: Rwanda genocide suspect arrested in France

French police say they have arrested a Rwandan doctor who is wanted in his homeland on charges of genocide and war crimes.

Sosthene Munyemana was detained by police on Wednesday in Bordeaux, in the southwest of France, under an extradition warrant issued by Rwanda.

The 45-year-old, who had been working in a hospital emergency ward in the region for eight years, had been on an Interpol list of wanted men since 2002.

Munyemana denies taking part in the 1994 genocide, in which an estimated 800,000 people died in the space of around three months.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 12:47:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Deutsche Welle: Smooth sailing for vetted EU Commission nominees

The European Parliament is poised to accept the new European Commission, following the resolution of a dispute involving the Bulgarian nominee.

Rumiana Jeleva withdrew her candidacy for the post of EU commissioner for humanitarian aid after fellow politicians accused her of  incompetence and dubious business practices. Bulgaria has named World Bank official Kristalina Georgieva to replace her.

The parliament cannot veto an individual commissioner-designate, but can threaten to block the team as a whole if it has doubts about one or more nominees.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 01:10:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Independent: New justice bill may halt Berlusconi trials

Italy's parliament gave its first nod yesterday to a draft law drastically cutting the duration of trials, a measure critics say is tailor-made to stop pending court cases against Silvio Berlusconi.

The Senate, where the Prime Minister has an ample majority, approved the so-called "short trial" draft bill - one of the most radical reforms of Italy's snail-paced justice system since the end of the Second World War - by 163 to 130 votes. It will now go before the lower house, where it is all but certain to get the green light.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 01:13:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The article in no way conveys the gravity of the situation created by this bill. It is a classical case of "straight reporting," which ultimately misrepresents events in a misguided attempt to be "neutral."

The law is being passed to cancel berlusconi's pending trials, totally. Otherwise, it would not be retroactive. Mills will consequently beat the rap. Ironically, another case of "subsequent corruption," for by passing this law berlusconi gives Mills yet another gift for his false testimony. (I'm aware that after the first two stages of judgement, which are the proper core trial, we're still supposed to use the term "alleged" according to Italian law. The final stage is a meta-judgement on the conduct of the trial. One recalls that 110 mafia bosses were liberated by a final stage ruling because a stamp had not been properly cancelled on one of the prosecution's documents.)

In the meantime, over 100,000 criminal cases will also be killed, much to the pleasure of the innumerable victims. "Critics" consider the bill to be the death knoll for justice in Italy.

The Independent straight-facedly asserts that it is "one of the most radical reforms of Italy's snail-paced justice system." This is a deplorable use of the term "reform" for it is nothing more than a radical amnesty for all crime that was not previously condoned by Prodi's plenary indulgence law. Real reform would consist in eliminating all of berlusconi's and the Left's previous legislation expressly designed to draw out trials until statutory limits kill a trial. Real reform would consist in giving the judiciary branch manpower and resources to modernize rather than promulgate decrees and laws that drastically cut manpower and resources. Since berlusconi has taken power two years ago, the Procura of Palermo has had its investigators cut by a quarter. There are entire procuras, especially in Calabria, where there is simply no investigative power or judiciary power left on the ground to handle crime of any sort.  A few weeks ago an antiquated cop car used to protect a judge broke down while escorting the judge and the agents had to get out and push the car.

If that is not enough, the government has decreed that judges can be transferred without reason to other procuras to cover vacancies, a thinly veiled ploy to get rid of any judge making a highly sensitive investigation: transfer him.

As the so-called "Senate" voted this execrable law, berlusconi saw fit once again to attack the Milan Procura, asserting that the judges there are "a firing squad," arms pointed against him.

There is only one grave judiciary problem in Italy. It is berlusconi.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 05:24:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EUObserver: Piracy killing non-anglo music, says record industry

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The record industry has for the first time played the nationalism card in its efforts to battle online piracy.

Hoping to up the pressure on governments to introduce harsh French-style anti-piracy laws - which include imposing fines, cutting off internet access and even jailing - offenders, the record industry has warned that illegal downloading and streaming is killing off non-anglophone music in countries such as Spain, France and Brazil, which until now had vibrant music scenes.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 01:14:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Anecdotal - I've been gone from the Netherlands for some 2 years, and in the Netherlands I've the impression it's the exact opposite - with young and upcoming groups merrily embracing the new tools available. I can't recall I've ever seen so many talents appearing the past year. This goes for groups predominantly performing in Dutch and for those preferring English.

But I don't have hard numbers.

In the meantime, this is no. 3 in the charts :)

Good morning!

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 05:48:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Right.  Encouraging music by allowing it to be performed, enjoyed and celebrated by the public is how you nurture local musicians.  People always love the music that comes from their home territory.

Shutting down bars, ticketing people for being outside and enjoying music, etc, are a bigger problem for music worldwide.

by paving on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 11:39:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU Observer: EU commission 'embassies' granted new powers

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The EU has converted 54 out of the European Commission's 136 foreign delegations into embassy-type missions authorised to speak for the entire union.

The move follows the coming into force last year of the Lisbon Treaty, which has the creation of a new EU diplomatic corps as one of its main provisions.

    * Print
    * Comment article

All 136 commission delegations were renamed "EU delegations" on 1 January. But only the 54 placements were at the same time quietly given fresh powers in line with their new names.

The super-delegations have taken on the role previously carried out by the national embassies of the member state holding the six-month EU presidency at any given time.

As such, they now co-ordinate the work of the member states' bilateral missions to the countries in question. The heads of the 54 delegations are also empowered to speak on behalf of the EU as a whole. But their statements have to be pre-approved by the 27 EU countries during meetings in Brussels.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 02:22:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Poland to Deploy U.S. Missiles Near Russia - NYTimes.com

BERLIN -- Three months after the United States announced a reformulated missile-defense plan for Poland, the Polish defense minister has announced that American surface-to-air missiles will be deployed near Russian soil.

The minister, Bogdan Klich, said Wednesday that an undisclosed number of missiles would be deployed in the vicinity of Morag, in northern Poland, just 35 miles from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. He said the missiles could arrive as soon as late March or early April.

He said the decision to base the missiles near Morag, and not Warsaw, had no political or strategic significance. "The only reason was the good infrastructure," Mr. Klich said.

by Fran on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 05:21:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver / MEPs call for delay on US bank data deal

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek is planning to send a letter to the Council of Ministers, the EU institution representing member states, calling for a suspension of a recent agreement that was to enable the continued transfer of EU citizens' banking data to US investigators.

The US screens certain data held by Swift as part of its fight against terrorism

The decision to call for a delay to the interim deal, scheduled to enter into force on 1 February, was made by leaders of the parliament's different political groups during a meeting in Strasbourg on Thursday (21 January).

MEPs were infuriated when the Council agreed the interim deal with the US on 30 November last year, just a day before the EU's new rulebook, the Lisbon Treaty, came into force, which handed the euro-deputies a greater say over data protection issues.

The controversial deal was negotiated to help the US out of a legal hole, following the relocation of the US database of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) to the Netherlands on 1 January.

by Fran on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 05:23:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Europe vs the US: seven reflections

It's been a year since Barack Obama was inaugurated president of the United States on 20 January. But despite his inspiring speeches, he is no Franklin Roosevelt, and even if he were, he needs 60 out of 100 votes in the US Senate to pass anything. Since the end of world war two, a power has emerged with the real potential to carry the world forward


by steven hill

When I first began travelling to Europe for research in the late nineties, I was trying to understand differences between the political systems and democratic institutions of the United States and Europe. I interviewed politicians, leaders, journalists, bureaucrats, political party leaders, union officials and business leaders. I had conversations with shop vendors, business owners, CEOs, taxi drivers, young people, people on buses, in elevators, restaurants, and cafés, in their homes and in the street, sometimes whether they wanted to talk or not. It was not only the political systems in Europe that were quite different. Europe's institutions had been slowly taking shape during the cold war years. It was a fertile incubation period thanks to the Pax Americana which allowed each nation to take slow steps down its own development path. Europe's brand of `social capitalism' proposes a bold new path for human development, its leadership manifesting in the following ways:

by Fran on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 05:30:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU ministers postpone US request for body scanners | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 21.01.2010
EU justice ministers have put off a request by the US to install full-body scanners at airports across Europe. Studies must first confirm that the devices are safe and don't invade privacy, the ministers say. 

Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said the European Commission was currently conducting such studies.

"Once we have these studies on the table we will make a decision," he told Janet Napolitano, US Homeland Security Secretary, at a press conference following Thursday's talks in Toledo, Spain.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said  Berlin could reach a decision about installing full-body scanners at German airports by the middle of this year.

by Fran on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 05:31:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Beppe Grillo's Blog

Usefulness - The current international line between Turin and Modane is used at 30% of its actual capacity and the motorway is used at less than 50% capacity.
Traffic forecast - Up until now the traffic forecasts made by the project workers have turned out to be erroneous. They are based on the concept of infinite growth that says that for every extra point of GDP, there'll be a growth in traffic of 1.4 points. According to the estimates, the current line should be saturated already by this year. This has not happened. Growth still does not exist and goods transport decreases constantly and consequently the need for transport.
According to LTF {Lyon Turin Ferroviaire} the future line would find stability on its balance sheet with 40 million tons of transported goods a year. The current line can transport at least 20 million. Today 4.8 million are carried. Even by transferring all the goods currently transported on the motorways to the railways that would get to the utilization of the current railway of about 50% of its capacity.

Costs - Mauro Moretti , the CEO of Trenitalia has declared that the estimated cost of the line is 120 million per kilometre, that's 3 or 4 times more in relation to the average costs in France (see the article in "Il Sole 24 ore" on 13 January 2010). Furthermore, the estimated costs generally increase 2 to 3 times by the end of the work. Italy has also signed up to an economic agreement by which 65% of the international part would be charged to our country.

'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 Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 08:07:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the current line should be saturated already by this year. This has not happened. Growth still does not exist

We are in a recession, which hit the kind of transports in which rail has the highest share the hardest... The growth estimates fit growth in the time before on other transalpine routes. And it's not just GDP growth (the assumed infinite continuation of which is rightly challenged): note that traffic grew/shall grow further on the long term because of increased cross-border flows in the EU's common market (which is still relatively young and growing together).

The current line can transport at least 20 million. Today 4.8 million are carried.

Beyond the recession, that has something to do with a lack of policy to force traffic on the rails, e.g. the special transit or highway fees imposed on truckers in Switzerland. Another factor is that the current mountain line is slow. Yet another factor is that the line also carries passenger traffic, for which its slowness is even more critical.

Mauro Moretti , the CEO of Trenitalia has declared that the estimated cost of the line is 120 million per kilometre, that's 3 or 4 times more in relation to the average costs in France

I have no clue what average costs Moretti or the journo are refering to. There aren't any other new rail lines with large tunnels in France to make an average of. If he refers to high-speed lines, France's average is even lower (more like a sixth), but that wouldn't be a fair comparison.

In addition, it's not clear whether €120 million per kilometre is for the entire line, or just the 52 km main tunnel. If the latter, we can take a fair comparison: the Gotthard Base Tunnel, 57 km for CHF 9.645 billion = €6.55 billion, that's €115 million per kilometre. If the entire line, even considering that a good portion of the Turin-base tunnel section is in tunnels, €120 million per kilometre is too high (those tunnels are shorter and geologically less challenging).

:: :: :: :: ::

As a general comment on this anti-TAV movement, which goes on there for almost a decade now. From the distance and across the language barrier, I'm not sure what is at its origin. It appears to have emerged locally and as a genuine civic movement, not a truckers' self-defense movement like in Greece or some astroturfing. (Then again, the truckers angle should still be discused: Italy has many trucking companies which form a strong lobby; in the battle Austria lost for limiting truck traffic volumes across the Brenner pass, the EU Commission defended their interests.)

But a line hiding mostly in tunnels, and with a potential to reduce noisy truck traffic on the parallel highway, shouldn't be seen negatively in itself -- indeed I haven't heard anything similar for the Unterinntalbahn doubling near Innsbruck in Austria (which is similar to the protested Turin to base tunnel section). But, for locals, there is also: construction taffic, as well as geotechnical mistakes during construction leading to subsistence or loss of water table. TAV has a history of such mistakes, so maybe the original issues were something like this? Or, was the fear of noise from the non-tunnel sections first?

At any rate, they way I see it, this is now a grown and politicised 'issue', in which people (including Beppe Grillo) argue from within frames that were developed and hardened for years. E.g. every news about the line is interpreted in the context of another senseless megalomaniac construction project, and there is no serious look beyond Italy or a serious consideration of how to shift cargo from road to rail.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jan 23rd, 2010 at 08:25:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks, Dodo, you're amazing. that certainly adds perspective. would you mind if i quoted you?

'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 Sat Jan 23rd, 2010 at 09:20:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, but again, I said all this based on scant information, without knowing the positions of No TAV in-depth :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jan 23rd, 2010 at 04:30:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Whatever It Is, I'm Against It
Mircea Geoana, who lost the Romanian presidential election in December, getting 49.66% of the vote, blames witchcraft, specifically a "negative energy attack" during a debate that caused him to perform badly. And in fact, President Traian Basescu did go to that debate with a parapsychologist slash clairvoyant slash mind-control expert.

between him and alistair campbell, hmmm. i dunno.

'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 Sat Jan 23rd, 2010 at 09:25:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
oops heres the pic

'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 Sat Jan 23rd, 2010 at 09:28:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
funny it's not coming through, twice, surely some negative energy.


'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 Sat Jan 23rd, 2010 at 09:29:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 10:55:38 AM EST
Al Jazeera: China 'recovers' from global slump

China has declared itself the first major economy to recover from the global economic downturn as data showed economic growth accelerated to 10.7 per cent in the final quarter of 2009.

GDP for the whole year totalled 8.7 per cent according to government figures released on Thursday, easily beating targets.

However, the raft of data released by the National Bureau of Statistics also showed inflation picking up, adding to pressure on the government to prevent overheating in the economy.

"China has become the first, on the whole, to achieve recovery and stabilisation in its economy," Ma Jiantang, the bureau's commissioner, told reporters in Beijing.

But he added that in the face of ongoing "uncertainties" and a weak global outlook, the government would avoid major changes in economic policy.

The figures put China's total gross domestic output for 2009 at $4.9 trillion, bringing it closer to overtaking Japan as the world's number two economy after the US.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 12:51:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Xinhua News: China's GDP expands 8.7% in 2009

BEIJING, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- China's economy expanded 8.7 percent in 2009 from a year earlier, exceeding the government's annual growth target of 8 percent, according to the official data.

Gross domestic product (GDP) reached 33.54 trillion yuan (4.91 trillion U.S. dollars) in 2009, Ma Jiantang, director of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), told a press conference Thursday.

China's economy rose 10.7 percent year on year in the fourth quarter. This compared with 6.2 percent growth in the first quarter, 7.9 percent in the second, and 9.1 percent in the third.

Zhuang Jian, senior economist of the Asian Development Bank, said the fourth quarter growth rate was higher than previous market expectations, with most economists expecting an increase of 10 percent year on year.

"The accelerating GDP growth in the fourth quarter was due to a low basis of the same period in 2008, when the quarterly GDP expanded 6.8 percent from a year earlier, also indicating that the country's economy is on a strong rebound," Zhuang said.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 12:53:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Guardian: Obama announces dramatic crackdown on Wall Street banks

President Barack Obama today declared his intent to take on Wall Street by announcing plans for stringent rules on the banking sector that prompted comparisons with the draconian regulations introduced after the Great Depression.

In the boldest move taken by any government around the world to respond to the financial crisis, Obama told banks they would no longer be able to take risky bets with their own capital to make money on the financial markets.

Banks which take deposits will not be allowed to use their own money to take bets on markets, run hedge funds or make private equity investments through what he called the "Volcker rule" after former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker.

He also wants to prevent further consolidation of the financial system in the US and will ban takeovers and mergers among American firms in the sector.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 12:58:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Independent: Shares tumble as Obama takes on banks

Bank shares slid and the dollar fell against other currencies after Obama's announcement.

JPMorgan Chase & Co fell 5.8 per cent, helping push the Dow Jones Industrial average lower.

Citigroup Inc fell 6.36 per cent and Bank of America Corp fell 7 per cent while Goldman was down 5.5 per cent despite posting strong earnings Thursday.

"This is going to have a tremendous impact on big-name brokerage firms like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan," said Ralph Fogel, investment strategist at Fogel Neale Partners in New York.

"If they stop prop trading, it will not only dry up liquidity in the market, but it will change the whole structure of Wall Street, of the whole trading community."

Obama targeted banks for taking big risks while assuming taxpayers would bail them out if they failed.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 02:27:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How's he gonna get it through the Senate ? And if he can get the resurrection of Glass-Stengall through, how come he could do it for the insurance company payout ? Yoda, he say, "look bad, make him"

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 08:16:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Telegraph: Firms investing again as access to finance improves

In news that economists described as "very encouraging", the CBI reported in its quarterly survey of the industrial sector that the level of businesses' optimism for the coming year has hit the highest level in 15 years, while orders to factories are starting slowly to recover.

The business lobby also found that companies' access to finance is improving, and that they are slowly starting to invest again.

The news will come as a relief, since the past year saw the biggest fall in industrial and business investment since the 1930s, as companies nationwide cancelled their expansion plans in the face of the credit crisis. Since then, there has been scant evidence that businesses are starting to invest again.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 02:46:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sweden's `Stability Fee' on Banks Gains Global Attention - NYTimes.com

PARIS -- When it comes to rescuing banks, the Swedes are earning a reputation as trendsetters. First they set a standard for recovering from disaster; now they want to export their idea for how to pay for it.

The country went through its own crippling banking crisis during the early 1990s, after the bursting of a domestic credit bubble. It rebounded relatively smoothly through an aggressive bailout policy built around nationalization and carving banks' troubled assets off into a so-called bad bank.

That blueprint was followed to varying degrees over the past year or so in the United States, Japan, Britain, the Netherlands and other countries.

by Fran on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 05:22:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
France24 - EDF and Veolia boss Proglio gives up smaller salary
Henri Proglio, the newly appointed president of French public electric company EDF, who is also chairman of private water management firm Veolia, has given up the smaller of his two salaries amid mounting public criticism.

Henri Proglio, the new head of French energy company EDF, has chosen to give up the smaller of the two salaries he was receiving amid fierce criticism from French opposition politicians.

Proglio was to be paid 1.6 million by EDF and a further 450,000 by Veolia, a water and waste management company, where he remains chairman of the board after joining EDF management. He has given up the smaller, Veolia payments. What sparked public anger was not so much the amounts in question (130 times the French national average), but more that Proglio has fingers in both pies: speculation is rife that EDF and Veolia could merge in the future, presenting an obvious conflict of interests.

by Fran on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 05:26:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Typical Sarkozy's MO:

Step 1 - Announce something really, really outrageous: in that case, H.Proglio appointed CEO of EDF with a salary 45% above that of his predecessor -- EDF is majority owned by the state, but Mr Sarkozy and his friends have never seen a CEO compensation package they didn't like. At the same time, Mr Proglio is remaining chairman (although non-exec) of Veolia with another EUR 450K pay for that second job (EDF supposedly needs a full-time CEO).

Step 2 - Public outcry ensues. At the same time, Sarkozy's people get around the media explaining how there is absolutely no cause for outrage, need to retain the best talent, and so on...

Step 3 - After a quick talk with Sarkozy, H.Proglio "spontaneously" gives up his second salary (but not his second job), and all the Serious PeopleTM rush around the media explaining this was the reasonable decision, all objections have been fully addressed  and everything is just fine now.

Results - Sarkozy's main decision - stitch state-owned EDF and privately owned Veolia together for a future alliance (and "liquidity event" for the friends), has been achieved.
Opposition has been distracted. Public opinion has been hoodwinked -- this may not be good, but look at what we escaped.

Last, but not least, foot soldiers like Ch.Lagarde (Finance Minister) or L.Chatel (Government Spokeman) have been played for fools, forced to defend the indefensible on the media over the past weeks before the tactical turn, thus preserving their boss from any unpleasant backlash. What's not to like?

Next installment of Sarkozy's three-card monte: the proposed burqa ban legislation or maybe pension reform; stay tuned...

by Bernard (bernard) on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 08:27:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is the Fed Timing Its MBS Purchases To Add Liquidity to the Banks at Monthly Options Expiration?   Jesse's Café Américain

Our friends at ContraryInvestor have published some remarkable data this evening in their twice weekly (subscription) analysis of the economy and the markets. This is one of the best analysis sites we follow, and highly recommend that you at least take advantage of their complimentary monthly newsletter.

This data suggests that the Fed's purchases of Market Backed Securities from the banks serves not only to artificially depress mortgage rates and the long end of the yield curve. The purchases occur, with a remarkably high correlation of 86%, during monthly stock market options expiration weeks in the US.

The data is intriguing to say the least. As you may recall, option expiration in the US stock indices occurs on the third Friday of every month. We have pointed out in the past that this monthly event is often the occasion of some not so subtle racketeering by the funds and prop trading desks of the banks in separating the option players from their positions, and pushing prices around to maximize the pain.


It might not be a coincidence, but there could be some unrelated event in the mortgage markets that also occurs on the third Friday or Thursday of each month. We are not aware of it, but that does not mean it does not exist. Anyone who might know of such a cross correlation would be kind to let us know of it.

But otherwise, it would be a good question to ask of the Fed. Are they in fact supplying extra liquidity to the banks at certain intervals to support a manipulation of the market to boost their prop trading results? (Bold added)

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 10:30:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama Moves to Limit `Reckless Risks' of Big Banks  NYT

Can anyone find Bernake in this photo? I see Goolsby, Roemer, Geithner, Frank, Volker, Orzag, Summers, Dodd, one who I can't identify and one hidden behind Obama, but no one who could be Bernanke. Scheduling conflict?

WASHINGTON -- President Obama wants to cut down to size those too-big-to-fail banks. But his vow on Thursday to rewrite the rules of Wall Street left many questions unanswered, including the big one: Would this really prevent another financial crisis?

The president's proposals to place new limits on the size and activities of big banks rattled the stock market, but banking executives were perplexed as to how his plan would work. Indeed, many insisted the proposals, if adopted, would do little to change their businesses.

Moreover, it was unclear if the twin proposals -- to ban banks with federally insured deposits from casting risky bets in the markets, and to resist further consolidation in the financial industry -- would have done much if anything to forestall the crisis that pushed the economic system to the brink of collapse in 2008.

Mr. Obama appeared to be leaving crucial details to be hashed out by Congress, where partisan tussling has already threatened another reform the president supports -- the creation of a consumer protection agency that would have oversight over credit cards, mortgages and other lending products.

Does Obama's proposal solve the problem? Not according to R C Whalen:

If you accept situations such as AIG and other cases where Buy Side investors (and, indirectly, the US taxpayer) were defrauded through the use of OTC derivatives and/or structured assets as the archetype "problems" that require a public policy response, then the Volcker Rule does not address the problem. The basic issue that still has not been addressed by Congress and most federal regulators (other than the FDIC with its proposed rule on bank securitizations) is how to fix the markets for OTC derivatives and structured finance vehicles.

What would have been a slam dunk a year ago to the day, eleven or even ten months ago may now be impossible. Way to go, Obama.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 11:31:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That photo looks like a funeral, the yellow couch the casket.
by paving on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 12:07:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama officiating at his own political funeral.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 12:43:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the one behind Obama might be Biden, and I don't recognize the other guy next to him, but it sure ain't Bernanke.  It's starting to sound like Bernanke is toast.

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 02:54:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
consumer credit PSA

Between now and Feb. 22 when the new credit-card rules go into effect, you'll see a lot of excited media types talking about all of the good to come out of those regulations, but as a consumer you should worry about what's still on the menu. The card issuers have been cooking up all kinds of new things that their bottom line will find appetizing, but that may make you sick....

Not surprisingly, lenders are using fees as a main weapon. About 80% of all credit cards carry no annual fee, but many issuers are starting to put fees in place. Even if they don't charge an annual fee, issuers are adding "inactivity fees" for consumers who don't use the card to make purchases or those who don't make a certain amount of purchases in a 12-month period. Lenders are also hiking balance-transfer fees, and removing caps and limits that might otherwise make transfer offers more consumer-friendly. Issuers also are raising minimum finance charges, so that if your balance is so much as a penny, the lender is guaranteed a charge of, say, five bucks.


Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 11:52:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 10:56:15 AM EST
Independent: Robert Fisk: The tree-lined bunkers that could change the face of the Middle East

Benjamin Netanyahu and his colleagues in the Israeli government have been announcing that the only "army" of Lebanon is the Hizbollah, the Iranian-armed and Syrian-assisted guerrilla force whose bunkers and missiles north of the Litani river might just tip the balance in the next Hizbollah-Israeli war. And Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the chairman of the Hizbollah, has been making some even more interesting threats: that his forces will "change the face of the Middle East region" if there is another war with Israel. No-one is in much doubt about what this means. The newly resurfaced Lebanese roads near the border - courtesy of Hizbollah money - suggest that someone might want to move men at high speed towards the frontier. Perhaps even to cross the border.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 01:22:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Al Jazeera: Israel 'needs West Bank presence'

The Israeli prime minister has said that Israeli security forces must be allowed to operate inside any future Palestinian state.

Binyamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that Israel would need to maintain a "presence" along the West Bank's eastern border to prevent weapons being smuggled to Palestinian fighters.

Referring to sporadic rocket attacks which are currently launched from Lebanon and Gaza, Netanyahu said Israel must be able to prevent such weapons from being brought into a Palestinian state based on the West Bank.

"We cannot afford to have that across from the centre of our country," he told a news conference in Jerusalem.

"In the case of a future settlement with the Palestinians, this will require an Israeli presence on the eastern side of a prospective Palestinian state," he said.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 02:11:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Al Jazeera: Nigerians homeless after clashes

Up to 18,000 people are homeless after days of fighting between Christians and Muslims in the Nigerian city of Jos.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that people have been sheltering in colleges, hospitals and schools since clashes began on Sunday.

More than 460 people in and around the central Nigerian city have been killed.

Nigerian authorities have relaxed a 24-hour curfew in the northern city to allow thousands of residents whose houses have not been destroyed to return home.

The strong presence of troops and police has helped restore calm in the capital of Plateau state, with no reports of major violence for nearly 24 hours.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 01:25:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
AllAfrica.com: Jos - Senate Rejects Emergency Rule, Curfew Relaxed

Abuja -- A prayer by a member of the Senate seeking to declare a state of emergency in Plateau State was yesterday thrown out by the upper house.

Senator Umaru Argungu asked the Senate to urge the Federal Government to invoke Section 305 of the 1999 Constitution by declaring a state of emergency in the crisis-ridden state.
Click to learn more...

Section 305(1) of the 1999 Constitution reads: "Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the President may by instrument published in the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation issue a Proclamation of a State of emergency in the Federation or any part thereof."

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 01:27:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Independent: The Big Question: Is Nigeria teetering on the brink of a major crisis?

Upto 265 people are reported to have died in the Nigerian city of Jos after fighting between Muslims and Christians. Calm has now been restored but only after a 24-hour curfew imposed by the government which has sent soldiers armed with machine guns to patrol the streets in pick-up trucks. But there are reports that the violence has now spread to Pankshin, 60 miles to the south-east.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 02:06:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Guardian: Haiti homeless reach 2 million

Long backlogs of patients injured in the Haiti earthquake are building at medical clinics as aid workers warn of more deaths from untreated injuries and disease in overcrowded makeshift camps.

The warnings come as the US prepares to send 4,000 more troops to Haiti to help the relief effort. The new contingent of soldiers and marines diverted from deployments in the Gulf and Africa will take the US presence to about 16,000 troops.

Earth-moving equipment is being used in an effort to speed up the burial of 200,000 people estimated to have died in last week's disaster while estimates of those made homeless have leapt by a third to 2 million.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 02:00:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC: Haiti to relocate 400,000 homeless outside capital

00,000 earthquake survivors in new tented villages outside the capital, Port-au-Prince, officials have announced.

Interior Minister Paul Antoine Bien-Aime said 100,000 people would initially be sent to 10 settlements near the suburb of Croix Des Bouquets.

He gave no timeframe, but said the moves would start as soon as possible.

An estimated 1.5 million people were left homeless by the 7.0-magnitude quake, which killed as many as 200,000.

At least 75,000 bodies have so far been buried in mass graves, the government has said. Many more remain uncollected in the streets.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 02:13:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Telegraph: Haiti earthquake: exodus from Port au Prince as time runs out

More than a week after the earthquake that devastated the city, thousands are now fleeing the rubble-strewn streets of Port-au-Prince each day.

The government is identifying sites to erect a series of temporary villages for up to 400,000 in the countryside, each holding up to 10,000 people.

But many can't wait that long and are piling on to the roofs of brightly painted buses or boarding dangerously overcrowded boats in an attempt to get to Cuba, the Bahamas, Miami or the Dominican Republic.

Thousands have flooded the port area to try to get on the government-funded ferry, the Trois Rivieres, which was bound for Jeremie in the west of Haiti.

They swamped the vessel after taking to tiny rowing boats to reach it a mile out and then forming a human chain to pass children on board.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 02:18:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Xinhua News: UN hires Haitians to jumpstart economy

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- As search and rescue operations shift gears to immediate assistance for the survivors, the UN Development Program (UNDP) announced on Wednesday that it will employ over 1,000 Haitians in an attempt to kickstart the economy.

"Time is of the essence in getting early recovery after a major disaster," said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, who visited Haiti on Sunday.

By the end of the week, 1,100 Haitians will be paid about 5 U.S. dollars a day for work that includes removing rubble, doing street repairs and bringing essential infrastructure, such as electricity, back online.

The first phase of the cash-for-work program will focus on Carrefour-Feuilles, a neighborhood just south of the nation's capital, Port-au-Prince.

The initiative will soon be rolled out to other earthquake- stricken locations, including Leogane and Jacmel. Once fully operational, the project will employ 220,000 people, indirectly benefiting around 1 million Haitians, according to the UNDP.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 02:33:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC: Pakistan snubs US over new Taliban offensive

Pakistan's army has said it will launch no new offensives on militants in 2010, as the US defence secretary arrived for talks on combating Taliban fighters.
Army spokesman Athar Abbas told the BBC the "overstretched" military had no plans for any fresh anti-militant operations over the next 12 months.
Our correspondent says the comments are a clear snub to Washington.
The US would like Pakistan to expand an offensive against militants launching cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 02:07:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The New York Times: Justices Overturn Key US Campaign Contribution Limits

WASHINGTON -- Sweeping aside a century-old understanding and overruling two important precedents, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

The ruling was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment's most basic free speech principle -- that the government has no business regulating political speech. The dissenters said allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace will corrupt democracy.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 02:26:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
le sigh...
by paving on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 12:11:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Considering the number of Americans who have told me that the definition of $$free speech$$ is being able to buy it, I'm not sure I see the inconsistency with existing values.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 06:55:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From CNN:
The U.S. military is gearing up for a possible influx of Haitians fleeing their earthquake-stricken country at an Army facility not widely known for its humanitarian missions: Guantanamo Bay.

Soldiers at the base have set up tents, beds and toilets, awaiting possible orders from the secretary of defense to proceed, according to Maj. Diana Haynie, a spokeswoman for Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 06:04:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Someone has a sense of humor clearly.
by paving on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 12:11:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama Pays The Price For Impotence  (H/T Yves Smith for link)

The upset results of the Massachusetts US Senate special election are being widely dissected by pundits looking for explanations and ramifications coming out of this election. The obvious culprit  is "Obamacare" but as with most things in life, the explanation is not so singular. However, make no mistake: President Obama bears nearly full blame for the debacle last night in MA.

I endorsed Obama but wasted little time tearing into him for appearing too deliberate and calculated during times of financial crisis even before he took office. While many will point to the epic health care reform battle as the key turning point (and the fact that Republicans managed to gather public support by defending MEDICARE borders on a comedy of errors to rival any Bush-ism), Obama made key mistakes long before the special election. The most egregious of these was to steadily demoralize his fervent support base with constant back-tracking on election promises and actual change.

The most glaring blunder was Obama's failure to put the wood to Wall Street. Speaking from a realpolitik view, Obama should have chopped Wall Street heads whether or not those heads deserved to roll -- the American public would have supported a nice lynching and Republicans would have been hard-pressed to defend the bankers and their brethren. Instead, Obama made a decision very early in his administration to continue Bush's financial sector policies for the most part, partly due to the fact that much of Obama's campaign money came from there -- thus, my post in June of last year, calling the new President the same as the old one. Now, of course, Wall Street is headed for record bonuses despite 10% unemployment and Obama cannot deflect the blame onto W. Bush -- at least during the twilight of Bush's administration, both Wall Street and Main Street truly felt the pain. Under Obama, Wall Street flourishes while Main Street flounders. This is now Obama's cake and the voters in Massachusetts made him eat it last night.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 10:15:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Latest storm brings tornado-like winds, floods roads and causes small mudslides in foothill communities  LA Times

The latest winter storm moved through Southern California with a wallop this afternoon, flooding roads, causing tornado-like winds in Ventura and Santa Barbara and causing small mudslides in foothill communities.

The storm brought winds of up to 80 mph and waves recorded at up to 20 feet. The brunt of the storm has moved to the east, but more showers and isolated thunderstorms are forecast through Friday.

[Updated 4:16 p.m.: Acting Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today proclaimed a state of emergency in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Francisco and Siskiyou counties due to the series of storms. In a prepared statement, Brown cited the loss of human life, injuries, flooding, heavy snows, loss of power and mudslides as reason for the state of emergency. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger  is currently in Washington D.C.]

Ventura County fire officials said that they had received reports that a tornado touched down in the eastern end of the city of Ventura near North Bank Drive and Montgomery Avenue, downing power lines and causing damage to cars, outbuildings and agriculture, as well as toppling a tree into a home.

A quirk of the California Constitution requires that the governor be in the state or that the governing authority be transferred to the Lt. Governor or designated alternate. When these are of different parties hilarity often ensues.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 12:03:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There was a tornado warning issued for Santa Clara county on Wednesday which blew my mind (I think it was radar indicated and nothing touched down).

My motorcycle training class runs this Saturday and Sunday, rain or shine. Weeeeee!!!

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 04:26:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There actually was a (small) tornado that touched down in Sunnyvale back in 1998.
by Bernard (bernard) on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 08:38:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Haiti effort to get a boost from added airfields, seaport reopening  LA Times

Reporting from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, and In Mexico City -- U.S. military officials in Haiti said the use of three additional airfields and the capital's seaport beginning today will boost of the flow of food, water and medical attention to earthquake victims, while Haitian officials began to lay out plans for housing hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, said the military has begun using two airfields in the neighboring Dominican Republic and another south of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital, which was devastated in the Jan. 12 quake.

Those extra airports are aimed at taking some of the burden from the Port-au-Prince airport, which has been swamped by aid shipments and military flights since the earthquake. The airport, now run by the U.S. military, is handling 120 to 140 flights a day, but there is a waiting list of 1,400 flights, Fraser said.

Fraser said the seaport, which was closed after being heavily damaged in the quake, would reopen today on a limited basis -- handling about 150 containers daily -- with the arrival of a landing craft with "port-opening" capabilities. The port should be able to handle up to 250 containers a daystarting Friday, when a commercial ship is to arrive.

Seaborne shipments are expected to dramatically increase the quantities of goods and equipment for the relief and recovery effort.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 12:12:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A Justice Department-led task force has concluded that nearly 50 of the 196 detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be held indefinitely without trial under the laws of war, according to Obama administration officials....

"We're still moving forward and in a much more deliberate and less haphazard manner than was the case before," said an administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the recommendations have not been made public. "All policies encounter reality, and it's painful, but this one holds up better than most."

The task force has recommended that Guantanamo Bay detainees be divided into three main groups: about 35 who should be prosecuted in federal or military courts; at least 110 who can be released, either immediately or eventually; and the nearly 50 who must be detained without trial....

Moving a significant number of detainees to the United States remains key to the administration's now-delayed plan to empty the military facility. The federal government plans to acquire a state prison in Thomson, Ill., to house Guantanamo Bay detainees, but the plan faces major hurdles....

The task force comprised officials from the departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security and Justice, as well as agencies such as the CIA and the FBI. Officials said that the process of assessing the detainees was extremely challenging and occasionally contentious, but that consensus was reached on each case in the end....

Some European officials, who would like to see Guantanamo Bay closed without instituting indefinite detention, are advocating the creation of an internationally funded rehabilitation center for terrorism suspects in Yemen and possibly Afghanistan. They say such a facility would gradually allow the transfer of all detainees from those countries back to their homelands, according to two sources familiar with the plan...

"There is lots of really good expertise on rehabilitation, and the administration needs to invest in it."


Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 10:14:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 10:57:47 AM EST
Guardian: Monbiot: Winner of climate change denial's premier award revealed

The rules of the competition are simple: the award goes to whoever in my opinion -- assisted by climate scientists and specialists -- managed in the course of 2009 to cram as many misrepresentations, distortions and falsehoods into a single online article, statement, lecture, film or interview about climate change.

The first contestant was the man after which this beautiful trophy was named, the famous strangler of facts, the Telegraph Terror, Christopher Booker. In just one short column in the Sunday Telegraph, he managed to drop six and a half clangers. I thought that would set a high bar for the other contestants. How wrong I was.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 12:38:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Telegraph: Indonesia sells tigers to the rich

The Indonesian government has announced plans to sell tigers as pets for £67,000 a pair in what it claims is a move to protect the critically endangered species.

However, environmental groups have criticised the scheme as a money-making scam that will do nothing to save tigers, which face an increased risk from poachers on the eve of the Chinese Year of the Tiger.

Three people have already applied to follow in the footsteps of Michael Jackson and Mike Tyson and keep a tiger as a pet.

The criteria for taking ownership of 30 available tigers is having a spare billion rupiah (£67,000) and a minimum of 5 sq kilometre of land on which to keep the animals.

The government said the tigers would be constantly monitored in their new homes and any mistreatment would be punished by fines or jail.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 02:31:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC: Emissions targets set for delay

The future of the EU's Low Carbon Revolution hangs in the balance as it becomes likely its emissions targets will be delayed again.

The ongoing uncertainty is rooted in the EU's offer to the Copenhagen climate summit of a 30% emissions cut.

But this was dependent on "comparable effort" from other big polluters.

Observers say there is a world of difference between the upper and lower targets - but Europe still hasn't decided how high to aim.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 02:37:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Timesonline: Britain finally waves farewell to radioactive waste from abroad

A cargo of highly radioactive nuclear waste set sail for Japan last night, after a breakthrough agreement that will cut Britain's stockpile of high-level waste by almost 40 per cent over the next decade.

After years of planning, a programme to repatriate all 925 tonnes of foreign atomic waste from Britain to Japan and four other countries began yesterday.

Under heavy security, 28 steel canisters of waste, each weighing half a tonne but sheathed in 100-tonne steel flasks, were moved by rail from the Sellafield plant in west Cumbria, where they have been held in temporary storage since the 1990s, to the port at Barrow-in-Furness. There they were loaded on to the Pacific Sandpiper, a custom-built, double-hulled ship that will be protected by armed guards throughout the six to eight-week sea journey to the Far East.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 02:43:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So the Japanese ran out of cash and refused to keep paying for distant storage?

Bizarre to see 'repatriation' used there, when it's also being applied to dead soldiers being shipped back from Afghanistan and Iraq.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 06:59:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reversing Germany's Atomic Phase-Out: Negotiations Begin for Extending Nuclear Plant Lifespans - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Members of the German government and leading utility providers are set to begin negotiations in Berlin on Thursday over a possible extension of the lifespans of the country's nuclear power plants. The government says it would funnel profits from the reactors towards promoting renewable energies.

One of the biggest poker games in recent German history was set to begin on Thursday in Berlin as the government begins to negotiate a partial retreat from the country's 2001 move to abandon nuclear energy.

Ronald Pofalla, Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, invited the executives responsible for nuclear power at Germany's top four energy utility companies as well as senior officials from the Economics and Environment ministries for top-level meetings about the future of atomic energy in the country. The government is playing down the importance of the meeting, with the Economics Ministry describing it as "routine." Participants belong to the so-called Monitoring Group, a panel formed by the former government of Gerhard Schröder's center-left Social Democrats and the Green Party to monitor Germany's atomic energy phase-out at regular intervals.

But Thursday's meeting is actually far more spectacular because the exact opposite of the Schröder government's policy will be at issue: reversing the phase-out, an issue that divides Germany like few others. The meeting isn't scheduled until Thursday evening, but anti-nuclear organizations planned protests in front of the Chancellery in the capital throughout the day.

by Fran on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 05:24:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cement, glass firms agree to add pollution controls    McClatchy

WASHINGTON -- For the first time in the history of the Clean Air Act, the federal government has reached settlements that will require a glassmaker and a cement company to add pollution controls at all their plants across the country.

Lafarge, the nation's second largest maker of Portland cement, and Saint-Gobain Containers, the second largest manufacturer of glass containers for beverages and foods in the U.S., agreed to add up-to-date pollution control devices, accept emissions limits and pay penalties to settle complaints that they violated the law.

There have been similar company-wide settlements for air pollution violations for coal-fired power plants, the largest source of air pollution, but this was the first such settlement in the cement and glass sectors, which also rank near the top as big pollution sources.

The settlement will require the companies to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. The pollutants are known to trigger asthma and other respiratory problems, contribute to heart disease, cause acid rain and damage water quality.

The Environmental Protection Agency has targeted coal plants, oil refiners, and cement and glassmakers for enforcement of air pollution rules known as "new source review," which require companies to add modern pollution controls when they expand or upgrade.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 12:21:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 10:58:31 AM EST
BBC: Carbon nanotubes used to make batteries from fabrics

Ordinary cotton and polyester fabrics have been turned into batteries that retain their flexibility.

The demonstration is a boost to the nascent field of "wearable electronics" in which devices are integrated into clothing and textiles.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 12:26:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Guardian: UK's free data website 'is a world showcase'

The UK has become a world showcase for open government data, with the launch today of a government website hosting 2,500 public data sets - more than the best-known rival, data.gov in the US.

The official launch by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, and Nigel Shadbolt, professor of computer science at Southampton University, comes just under a year after Berners-Lee met prime minister Gordon Brown, who was hosting a dinner for recipients of the Order of Merit.

"Gordon Brown said to me, 'How should the UK make the best use of the internet?' and I replied that the government should just put all of its data on it," Berners-Lee recalled. "And he said 'OK, let's do it'."

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 12:56:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Independent: France joins race to digitize world's books

Amid the flat, wide fields of central France, a team of re-trained secretaries and IT experts is packaging Europe's literary heritage for the digital era.

Put less grandly, they turn pages for a living.

The company they work for, Safig, is one of the few European firms to digitize books, using automatic and human page-turners. That places them right at the center of France's plan for a massive online library, and its attempts to negotiate a digital books deal with US internet giant Google.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 02:03:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're getting on my goat
They say that the French are the biggest moaners in Europe, and it's no lie! They have several expressions for when they need to let off steam. Whilst the Poles go into a `white fever', the Spaniards `turn black' - it's the saying of the week

When Poles get mad, they go into a cobbler's fury (doprowadzać do szewskiej pasjil); according to national stereotype, they drink a lot. The drinking connection follows through in France. You know that a native is going through a delicate emotional phase when they groan ça me saoule. Literally, it means `it's making me drunk,' but it's the equivalent to the English expression (accompanied by hand to head gesture) `I've had it up to here': they've had their measure (`dose') - and it's not of alcohol. You can also be accused of getting on general French nerves by hitting one's system (taper sur le système), running on the bean (courir sur le haricot - here the vegetable meaning toe in French slang) or simply blowing one up (ça me gonfle). If a Frenchie comes out with the words bollocks (couilles), balls (burnes) or arse (cul), leave them be and scuttle on your way - you're clearly being a nuisance. 

by Fran on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 05:39:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 10:59:50 AM EST
Independent: John Edwards says he fathered child in affair

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards finally came forward today to admit that he fathered a child with a woman that he hired before his second White House bid.

Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina and 2004 vice presidential candidate, confirmed this in a statement released to The Associated Press, after initially denying that he'd fathered a child during his affair with videographer Rielle Hunter.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 01:00:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Melbourne Age: Ask a stupid question: tourists' dumbest requests

Teachers like to say there are no dumb questions.

Teachers need to work in tourism offices.

Travellers are expected to be curious. But some might be better off doing a tiny bit of research before they open their mouths.

We contacted several tourism offices and asked for the oddest questions they've received. Teachers, take note.

According to Jennifer Haz, of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, one inquiring mind asked: "Can you tell me which beach is closest to the ocean?"

Paul Gauger, of the VisitBritain.com office in New York, responded to our inquiry with a list of questions that included: "Why did they build so many ruined castles and abbeys in England?"

And a visitor to Scotland wanted to know what time the Loch Ness monster was fed.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 01:08:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Telegraph: 'Antiquities Theft in Israel' exhibition robbed

Organisers of the "Antiquities Theft in Israel" in Jerusalem could not have chosen a more fitting name for their exhibition.

On Wednesday burglars broke into the a museum in Ashdod where hundreds of artefacts recovered from the black market were on show and snatched several valuable items, including a silver ring belonging to Alexander the Great.

by Sassafras on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 02:39:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
including a silver ring belonging to Alexander the Great.

I guess they forgot to take his wife's ceramic flocked rollers.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Jan 21st, 2010 at 05:33:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For anyone in Paris, GreenDrinks Paris is having their first get-together of 2010 this coming Monday:

   When:             Monday, January 25 from 19:30
   Where:            Le Café Epicerie
   Location:         38, rue Sambre et Meuse (10th arrondissement)
   Métro stations: Belleville or Colonel Fabien)

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Went to a couple of GreenDrinks Beijing get-togethers, and it was a good way to meet other people (from NGOs, corporations, entrepreneurs, media, government, just interested individuals) who were concerned about and/or active in environmental sustainability and social reform.  This will be my first time to go to a GreenDrinks Paris get-together.  Apparently they have a get-together on the last Monday of each month (same time, same location).

La Chine dorme. Laisse la dormir. Quand la Chine s'éveillera, le monde tremblera.

by marco on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 03:08:43 AM EST
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Is there one in London?

Yes there is.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 07:02:32 AM EST
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There's one in chelsmford, about 15 miles from me. But the journey is so awkward by public transport that my only realistic method is by car. which I think misses the point.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Jan 22nd, 2010 at 01:56:46 PM EST
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