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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 25 December

by Nomad Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:46:05 AM EST

 A Daily Review Of International Online Media 

Europe on this date in history:

1950 - Theft of the Stone of Scone, an oblong piece of stone, used for centuries in the coronation of the monarchs of the United Kingdom, taken from Westminster Abbey by Scottish nationalist students.

More here and here

A replica of the Stone

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by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 04:55:33 AM EST
BBC News - Eastern Europe deadly freeze leaves hundreds dead

Freezing weather in eastern Europe has claimed at least 220 lives this month, most of them in the former USSR.

Temperatures in Russia have been 10 to 15 degrees below average, with -50C (-58F) recorded in Siberia. At least 88 deaths have been reported.

Ukraine reported 83 deaths on Friday and Poland 49, while heavy snow caused disruption in the Balkans.

However, conditions have begun to ease, with Moscow expecting to see temperatures of around 0C by Thursday.

The harsh weather has been attributed to a high pressure front over Russia and Kazakhstan.

Many of the victims across Europe were homeless people while in Poland, most of the deaths were caused by carbon monoxide inhalation as a result of faulty heating.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 05:03:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Scores die in Ukraine cold spell - Europe - Al Jazeera English

More than 80 people have died in Ukraine from cold weather that has been gripping the country, local media reported.

An official from Ukraine's health ministry said on Monday that 85 people were known to have died from the cold. Most of the victims have been found on the streets.

Temperatures as low as minus 23 degrees Celsius and heavy snowfall this month have left the capital Kiev and most of the country under a thick frozen layer.

Residents reported that there was no place for homeless people in Kiev to hide from the weather.

'Heating shelters'
"If those [frozen] are homeless, then it's probably true that they've got nowhere to go in such conditions to warm up," said a woman who gave her name as Tatiana.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 05:04:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Italians take a whiff of weed on a walk outside | Environment | DW.DE | 25.12.2012

People in eight Italian cities unknowing snort cocaine and other drugs every time they go outside, a study reveals. But the low levels at which the drugs occur means no one is getting high walking around the block.

Air in eight Italian cities is riddled with drugs, according to a recent study conducted by the Institute of Atmospheric Pollution Research at the National Research Council in Rome. The study analyzed the air for the presence of two legal drugs: caffeine and nicotine, and two illegal drugs: cocaine and cannabinoids.

Commissioned by Italy's anti-drugs department, contents of the air from six cities were analyzed every day for a year, while two cities had their air studied on seven random days per month. The researchers tested for each of the substances using samples taken from the cities' air quality monitoring stations.

A hazy combination of smoke and fog blurs the view of Bologna from the mountains above the northern Italian city, which scored high in the environmental survey. The smog is made up of what the scientists call particulate matter or fine particles suspended in the air.

While particulate matter - or PM - can be produced by natural sources like volcanoes and dust storms, the PM found in cities is usually caused by people, such as factories and cars.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:01:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Italians take a whiff of weed on a walk outside | Environment | DW.DE | 25.12.2012
PM found in cities is usually caused by people, such as factories and cars.

That's right, that's where the real problem lies (though who knew factories and cars were people?).

In other news, a survey of dumbshit particulates revealed a shockingly high concentration.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 11:39:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A factory is a corporation, isn't it? That should answer your first question. I don't know about cars.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 11:43:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A factory may be run by a corporation, which is a legal person. A car may be owned and driven by a person. But neither of them are people.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 11:53:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They mean "caused by human activity".

Or are you going to claim that global warming is "not caused by people" because people are not open fires, cow farts, power plants, vehicles or factories?

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

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 03:51:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, no, I'm not going to claim that.

Can I claim that journalists should write "caused by human activity" when that's what they mean?

Otherwise, it was just an aside.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 04:37:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
New German party has its eye on the far-right torch - Europe - World - The Independent

Christian Worch claims to be proud of his family's far-right credentials. His father was a member of Adolf Hitler's Waffen SS fighting force. His grandmother is said to have helped the infamous Gestapo torturer Klaus Barbie - "The Butcher of Lyon" - escape capture. His grandfather was a devoted Nazi party member.

Worch's own track record is almost as disturbing. He has spent more than five years in jail for incitement to racial hatred and Holocaust denial. He has campaigned for the return of the Nazi party and attended rallies where participants brandished banners with the slogan: "I am such a donkey that I still believe the Jews were gassed in the concentration camps."

The 56-year-old, the educated son of a doctor, is described in Germany's authoritative "Far Right Handbook" as one of the "most experienced neo-fascists in Germany". Yet although he has been written off as a figure without a following, Worch could experience his long hoped-for political breakthrough in 2013.

He is the founder and leader of Germany's latest far-right political party, Die Rechte ("The Right"). The name is a deliberate play on the socialist Die Linke ("The Left") party, which is an established feature of the reunified Germany's political scene. Launched in the summer, "Die Rechte" threatens to become the outright political winner of a new legal battle to impose a nationwide ban on the vociferously racist and anti-immigrant National Democratic Party (NPD), which has been around for the best part of 40 years.

Germany's upper house of parliament, which represents the leaders of the country's 16 federal states, has begun legal proceedings to ban the NPD at the constitutional court following the emergence of new data which allegedly exposes the party as fundamentally unconstitutional, overtly racist and a threat to German democracy.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:04:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because what the world needs right now is yet another nazi party

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 08:13:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Russian prosecutors seek innocent verdict in Magnitsky's death | World news | guardian.co.uk

Russian prosecutors have dropped their accusations against the only person being tried in connection with the prison death of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, asking a court to find a former prison official not guilty.

The surprise move in the trial of Dmitry Kratov came in the midst of a row between Moscow and Washington over US legislation meant to punish Russians seen as linked to the death of Magnitsky and other alleged human rights violations.

If the court clears Kratov, a former deputy head of a jail where Magnitsky spent part of a year, it will fuel accusations by Kremlin critics that the Russian government has no intention of seeking justice.

"We have not determined what happened, and the biggest tragedy here is that ... this may have been our last chance to ask questions" of people who may have been involved, said Dmitry Kharitonov, a lawyer for Magnitsky's widow and family.

Barack Obama signed a law on 14 December known as the Magnitsky Act, which directs his administration to bar accused Russian human rights violators from entering the United States and freeze any assets they have in US banks.

Russia is retaliating with a bill expected to be approved by the upper house of parliament this week. It would apply similar measures to Americans accused of violating the rights of Russians and also bar Americans from adopting Russian children.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:05:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Only Crisis Can Show True Colors of French President Hollande - SPIEGEL ONLINE
Is French President François Hollande a reformer or a traditional leftist? He's a man who enjoys his role as France's leader, but many voters are asking themselves who it is they elected. He's a staunch opponent of Angela Merkel's austerity measures and has made combatting them a priority. His true political agenda may only become apparent as the euro crisis continues.

There are many different images of François Hollande and many of them contradict each other. There's the pudgy jokester who headed France's Socialist Party, then the slimmed-down candidate who transformed himself over the course of his election campaign from a bore to a fiery speaker.

Hollande outdid Nicolas Sarkozy in aggressiveness and eloquence during the presidential debate, yet he also spent his first months in office seemingly paralyzed, stuck somewhere in between his party's different ideological factions. He's also the man who came off as an passive bystander in the jealous drama that played out very publicly between his current partner and his former one, Valérie Trierweiler and Ségolène Royal.

There's the Hollande whose aides describe him as a pragmatic Social Democrat, and there's also the man who not only promoted Socialist pet issues like reducing the retirement age for some French workers back down to 60 and increasing taxes on income above €1 million ($1.3 million) to 75 percent, but also quickly implemented those promises once he was in office.

There are many Hollandes and it isn't easy to know which one of them will govern France in the coming years. And although the French have been familiar with the man for decades, many find themselves wondering who exactly they have elected: A reformer? A traditional Socialist? Or someone who will do nothing but hesitate?

The biggest question of all is: Who is François Hollande?

Even those who have known him the longest find it hard to answer this question. One of Hollande's oldest friends, Bernard Poignant, who is mayor of Quimper, says, "I feel the same way about him, he has this mysterious side. He's always been that way." Hollande's domestic partner, Valérie Trierweiler, told author Laurent Binet during the election campaign, "Even I don't know."

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:11:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He's a staunch opponent of Angela Merkel's austerity measures and has made combatting them a priority.

What nonsense.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 11:42:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe not so much nonsense as a hidden agenda: paint Hollande as much pinker than he really is in order to intimidate him (along with Ayrault) into giving up much of his "controversial" policies and curbing him into the EPP policies mold. Hey, it's been working so far. To wit:  Hollande: Colours To The Mast
by Bernard on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 03:00:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
L'eldorado belge de Bernard Arnault menacé - Libération Bernard Arnault's Belgian Eldorado threatened - Liberation
La lune de miel entre Bernard Arnault et la Belgique serait-elle en train de tourner court ? Après avoir rendu un premier avis négatif à la demande de nationalité du milliardaire, le gouvernement belge envisagerait de transmettre à la France le dossier fiscal du patron du groupe LVMH, leader mondial du luxe. «Si Bernard Arnault travaille en Belgique avec de véritables sociétés boîtes aux lettres, nous devons le signaler au fisc français», a déclaré samedi au quotidienl'Echo le secrétaire d'Etat (socialiste) à la Lutte contre la fraude, John Crombez. Il a fait une demande en ce sens au ministre des Finances, Steven Vanackere (chrétien-démocrate). Lequel n'a pas souhaité faire de commentaire.Could the honeymoon between Bernard Arnault and Belgium be petering out? After giving an initial unfavourable decision to the billionaire's request for citizenship, the Belgian Government is apparently considering sending France the world luxury leader LVMH boss's tax file. "If Bernard Arnault is really working in Belgium with letterbox companies, we must report this to the French tax authorities," said Secretary of State for Fighting Fraud John Crombez (Socialist), on Saturday to the daily Echo . He has made a request to that effect to the Minister of Finance, Steven Vanackere (Christian Democrat). Who did not wish to comment.
Crombez s'exprimait dans le cadre d'une enquête publiée le même jour par l'Echo sur les holdings de Bernard Arnault et de LVMH en Belgique, dont l'objectif est de payer moins d'impôts qu'en France. Le quotidien les qualifie de «sociétés boîtes aux lettres», car neuf d'entre elles sont domiciliées dans le même bureau, situé dans un immeuble anonyme de la banlieue de Bruxelles.Crombez spoke in the context of an inquiry published on the same day by the Echo on the holdings of LVMH and Bernard Arnault in Belgium, whose goal is to pay less tax than in France. The daily calls them "letterbox companies" because nine of them are domiciled in the same office, located in an anonymous building in a suburb of Brussels.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 01:31:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ha ha ha ha ha
by stevesim on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 02:06:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 04:55:37 AM EST
Barack Obama 'eager' to fall off fiscal cliff, says senior Republican senator | World news | guardian.co.uk

President Barack Obama has been accused by a senior Republican of being eager to take the US over the fiscal cliff for political gain, as Washington edges closer to a year-end deadline with no deal in sight.

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Senator John Barrasso, the third-highest ranking senator in the GOP, suggested that the president "sensed victory at the bottom of the cliff".

Earlier, Obama called on Congress to "cool off" over the holiday break, amid rising rhetoric on both sides. On Friday, the White House raised the prospect of settling for a stopgap measure to avert the punitive tax rises and swingeing spending cuts which are due to come in effect on 1 January. The president had previously pushed for a grand compromise to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

But with just nine days to go until the year-end deadline, Democrats and Republicans are seemingly still some way off from any agreement, be it to a comprehensive deal or short-term measures.

Asked if he believed that the US was heading towards missing the deadline, and thus falling off the fiscal cliff, Barrasso said: "I believe we are. I believe the president is eager to go over the cliff for political purposes. He senses a victory at the bottom of the cliff. I think it hurts our county and it hurts our economy."

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:26:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bullish Wagers Drop to Six-Month Low on U.S. Budget: Commodities - Bloomberg
Investors cut bullish commodity bets to the lowest in almost six months as U.S. budget talks stalled, increasing concern that lawmakers' failure to reach an agreement with push the world's biggest economy back into a recession.

Hedge funds and money managers reduced net-long positions across 18 U.S. futures and options by 5.6 percent to 758,256 contracts in the week ended Dec. 18, the lowest since June 26, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. Gold holdings dropped to the lowest since August, while those for silver tumbled 14 percent, the most since July 24. Traders turned bearish on wheat for the first time in six months.

House Republican leaders scrapped a plan to allow higher taxes on Dec. 21. Lawmakers won't vote until after tomorrow's Christmas holiday on ending the showdown over $600 billion of automatic tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to start in January. U.S. consumer confidence fell to a five-month in December as Americans grow more concerned about the possibility of higher taxes, figures showed the same day.

"What you have is a re-pricing of risk on concerns of no resolution to the fiscal cliff," said Jeffrey Sherman, who helps manage more than $50 billion of assets for DoubleLine Capital in Los Angeles. "By going over the cliff, for the consumer, you have less money in the system and therefore less economic growth."

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:30:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
how to reach to the this wholly artificial and, in actual economic terms, completely pointless charade.

Obama, please, repeat after me : The dollar is a fiat currency and cannot go broke.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 08:23:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The dollar is a fiat currency and cannot go broke.

True, but government fiscal policy has a strong effect on how much money people have in their pockets. Raising taxes on the rich will not have too much of an effect because they weren't spending much of their money in the US anyway, but failing to renew unemployment benefits and allowing taxes to go up on middle and low income workers will have a negative effect. But a lot will depend on how long such tax increases and expenditure cuts are in effect.

It will be interesting to see how things shake out. All that is needed is about 18 Republican members of the House to vote for a bill to restore the benefits and tax cuts for those making under $250K, but the problem will be getting a vote that would permit them to bolt the party. For the Republican House members, having sown the wind, this is the 'reaping the whirlwind' part. If they persist in their obstinace it will likely result in a Democratic House in 2014, but getting there will be very ugly.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 04:14:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It will be interesting to see how things shake out. All that is needed is about 18 Republican members of the House to vote for a bill to restore the benefits and tax cuts for those making under $250K, but the problem will be getting a vote that would permit them to bolt the party.

Can't the democrats introduce a bill?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Dec 26th, 2012 at 07:56:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The procedure involves submitting a bill, which normally would first go to a committee, if anywhere. But to get a vote on the bill it has to be brought to the floor. That requires the approval of the Speaker of the House, currently John Boehner. And, per the US Constitution, all revinue bills must originate in the U.S. House of Representatives, but there may be ways around that. Or the calls by Republicans for the Senate to break the impasse may be purely disingenuous. Or both.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Dec 27th, 2012 at 12:15:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Greece Should Write Off Billions of Overdue Taxes, Report Says - Bloomberg

Greece should write off part of the 53 billion euros ($70 billion) of outstanding taxes owed to it as it will only be able to collect up to 20 percent of that amount, a report by the European Union and International Monetary Fund showed.

More focus is needed on collection from the 1,500 biggest debtors, which make up two-thirds of the total amount owed to the state, according to an e-mailed copy of the November report from the Athens-based finance ministry today. More staff should be allocated to auditing those cases and specific targets for 2013 should be set, it said.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:32:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, the 1% believe that private taxes should be waved, but public debt must be paid in full.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 08:28:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 04:55:46 AM EST
Israel endorses first university in West Bank - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

Israel has upgraded a college in a West Bank Jewish settlement to a university, reflecting a determination to keep control of the enclave in any peace deal with the Palestinians.

The decision on Monday gives the Ariel campus, established in 1982 near the city of Nablus, the same status as universities inside Israel, in a move that could trigger international condemnation and enrage the Palestinians.

Palestinians consider the West Bank to be part of their future state. Most of the international community agrees and considers Israel's West Bank settlements illegal and an obstacle to peace.

The move comes after Israel announced plans to expand other settlements on occupied land, drawing protest from European governments and the United States.

"For the first time in decades, Israel has a new university," Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement.

In September, Israel's Council for Higher Education, which regulates the seven universities in the Jewish state, opposed the move, branding it political and filed a petition against it to the High Court of Justice.

Final approval came from military chiefs, who formalised a cabinet decision in September. Their decision was delayed while experts examined legal challenges from other universities that opposed the upgrade.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:13:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
IPS - The `Flattening' of Gaza | Inter Press Service

On Nov. 17, four days into Israel's eight-day assault on the Gaza Strip, deputy Israeli Prime Minister Eli Yishai publicly called for the Israeli army to "blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water".

The following day, Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, called for Israel to "flatten entire neighbourhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing", adding, "there is no middle path here - either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip."

Now, nearly a month after the Israel-Hamas cease-fire, the government and international bodies in Gaza are still assessing the total damage caused by Israeli bombings on infrastructure throughout the Strip.

Preliminary estimates put direct damage at 250 million dollars, with another 700 million dollars in indirect damages, according to Hamas Government Spokesperson Taher al Nanu.

In more tangible terms, the vast destruction and varying levels of damage include: bridges, thousands of homes, hundreds of U.N. shelters, tens of mosques, many government buildings, media offices, financial institutions, hospitals and health centres, two stadiums, a training centre for disabled athletes, water and sewage and electricity networks, over 100 schools,  Gaza's "life-line" tunnels, and innumerable roads.

During the Israeli bombings, Al Jazeera reported that 400,000 people were without electricity after five different transformers were hit.

After the cease-fire, the extent of damage on the electrical network became clearer.

In addition to the five known damaged transformers, another 32 throughout the Strip were destroyed or damaged by Israeli bombings, according to the Gaza Electricity Distribution Corporation (GEDCo).

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:14:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Islamists Claim Win in Vote That Splits Egypt - WSJ.com

Egyptians girded for a new season of political discord after opposition leaders slammed a constitutional referendum they said was rigged by Islamists and that has unsettled the nation's Christian minority.

Islamist campaigners led by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood claimed an unofficial victory over the constitution on Sunday based on its observation of the vote count, a day after a second-round vote raised the total "yes" votes to about 64%. The government didn't say when it would release official results.

The National Salvation Front, a coalition of political parties and former presidential candidates that represents the opposition, issued a stinging retort on Sunday that pinned the vote's results on widespread "falsifications, violations and breaches of organization."

But the opposition stopped short of calling for a rerun vote as it did after the first round last week, and seemed to accept the results. After a month of protests, Cairo's streets were mostly quiet Sunday.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:15:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Egypt to announce result of constitution vote on Tuesday | Reuters

The creation of a new constitution is a vital step in Egypt's transition to democracy almost two years after the fall of military-backed strongman Hosni Mubarak.

But the opposition says the text, crafted mostly by President Mohamed Mursi's Islamist allies, fails to guarantee personal freedom and the rights of women and minorities. It says it will lead to more trouble in the most populous Arab nation.

Unofficial tallies from the Muslim Brotherhood - which catapulted Mursi into the presidency this year - indicated that 64 percent had approved the charter. An opposition tally had a similar result.

"The Supreme Elections Committee will announce on Tuesday at 7 P.M. (17:00 GMT) the results of the referendum on the new constitution," judge Samir Abu el-Matti told state radio and TV late on Monday.

Matti also said that the committee, which is led by judges, had spent the last two days investigating opposition and rights' groups accusations of voting fraud.

Mursi's critics said the vote, conducted in two stages in a process that ended on Saturday, had been marred by a litany of irregularities, and have demanded a full inquiry.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:20:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As Envoy Meets Syria's Assad, Russia Signals New Pessimism - NYTimes.com
Lakhdar Brahimi, the special envoy seeking an end to the Syria crisis, held an urgent meeting with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Monday as new signs emerged that Russia, Mr. Assad's most important foreign backer, was moving forward with plans to evacuate Russian diplomats and other expatriates.

 Mr. Brahimi, the Algerian statesman who has been the special Syria representative for the United Nations and Arab League for three months, did not specify the substance or tone of his discussion with Mr. Assad, describing it only in general terms in brief remarks afterward.

"The president expressed his view regarding the current situation, and I briefed him on the meetings I had in several capitals with officials from different countries inside and outside the region," Mr. Brahimi told reporters, according to an account posted on the United Nations' Web site. "I also told him about the steps that, in my view, need to be taken to help the Syrian people find a way out of this crisis."

But one member of Syria's political opposition who said he had spoken with Mr. Brahimi's aides said the envoy had intended to advocate a plan for a negotiated solution first proposed in June. The opposition member, Mohamed Sarmini, said the proposal would temporarily leave Mr. Assad in power, but curb his authority -- an arrangement that some members of the opposition had previously rejected as inadequate.

Another prominent opposition member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the talks, said he understood that Mr. Brahimi had been intending to deliver a "final proposal" to Mr. Assad to leave with members of his intelligence and security services.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:40:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Syria opposition activists expect rocky transition after Assad's fall - The Washington Post

Planning for the day after the anticipated fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has become a race against time that many proponents of a pluralistic, democratic Syria fear they are losing.

In Washington, Istanbul and elsewhere, opposition activists and their supporters are establishing databases and drafting the outlines of an interim structure to govern Syria until something more permanent can take its place.

But even those who have been working on the plans doubt they will serve as more than suggestions in a post-Assad atmosphere that they predict will be characterized at best by conflict and chaos. At worst, they see a sectarian bloodbath and a possible takeover by extremists fighting on the side of rebel military forces.

Many Syrian activists believe the United States and Europe have exacerbated the challenges by forbidding interactions with the armed opposition in the country while Assad is still in power.

"What we really need is to work with the most prominent and moderate leaders in the Free Syrian Army to make them national leaders, to create a strong organization for them under political leadership," said Rami Nakhla, executive director of the Istanbul-based Day After organization, which is providing technical support to the U.S.-backed Syrian Opposition Coalition.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:42:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ABC News.
A conservative U.S. senator from Idaho who has said he doesn't drink because of his Mormon faith has been charged with drunken driving.

Sen. Michael Crapo, a three-term Republican with a reputation as a social and fiscal conservative, registered a blood alcohol content of .11 percent after police pulled his car over in this suburb south of Washington, D.C., authorities said.

Next thing we know, it will turn out that he even drinks coffee.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 01:07:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Delhi gang rape protests policeman dies

A policeman who was injured during violent protests over the gang rape of a woman in the Indian capital Delhi has died in hospital.

Subhash Tomar, 47, was injured in clashes at the weekend in which more than 100 people, including at least 60 officers, were injured.

The rape, which happened on a bus, has left the woman in a critical condition and caused outrage in India.

The victim continues to be on life support and in a critical condition in a city hospital, doctors say.

Six people, including the bus driver, have already been arrested in connection with the incident.

Delhi Police have highest number of errant cops - Hindustan Times

The Delhi Police, which take pride in the 'With you, for you always' slogan, have earned the dubious distinction of facing the maximum number of complaints from the public.

Under fire for the manner in which they handled outrage - especially the current one after a 23-year-old woman was gangraped - the Capital's police force is leading all the state police forces in the number of complaints registered against them.
A senior Delhi Police officer admitted on condition of anonymity: "The departmental complaint-action ratio is low because pressure is put on complainants to withdraw complaints, and mind you, only a few come forward and succeed in complaining against men in uniform. Half the time the complaints are simply not lodged."
by Bernard on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 03:23:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FreedomWorks tea party group nearly falls apart in fight between old and new guard | Washington Post
The day after Labor Day, just as campaign season was entering its final frenzy, FreedomWorks, the Washington-based tea party organization, went into free fall.

Richard K. Armey, the group's chairman and a former House majority leader, walked into the group's Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide holstering a handgun at his waist. The aim was to seize control of the group and expel Armey's enemies: The gun-wielding assistant escorted FreedomWorks' top two employees off the premises, while Armey suspended several others who broke down in sobs at the news.

The coup lasted all of six days. By Sept. 10, Armey was gone -- with a promise of $8 million -- and the five ousted employees were back. The force behind their return was Richard J. Stephenson, a reclusive Illinois millionaire who has exerted increasing control over one of Washington's most influential conservative grass-roots organizations.

(h/t TPM)
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Dec 26th, 2012 at 09:55:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a very strange story which says interesting things about the melodramas happening in the inner circles of the republican party.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Dec 26th, 2012 at 11:40:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
FreedomWorks, the Washington-based tea party organization billionaire funded think tank, most known for their 2009 tea party campaign

one of Washington's most influential conservative grass-roots astro-turfing organizations

Proofreading is hard.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Dec 26th, 2012 at 01:15:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Krugman notices something.

Protecting Freedom(Works) - NYTimes.com

The problem, clearly, is that despite its Tea Party status, FreedomWorks had failed to implement the security measures libertarians have been recommending for schools. If only the staff had been carrying concealed weapons, and those not armed had been trained to launch human wave attacks on gunmen, none of this would have happened, right?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Thu Dec 27th, 2012 at 02:50:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Boston Globe
"He wanted to be president less than anyone I've met in my life. He had no desire to . . . run," said [Romney's son] Tagg, who worked with his mother, Ann, to persuade his father to seek the presidency. "If he could have found someone else to take his place . . . he would have been ecstatic to step aside."
Did he try Gingrich? Sartorum? Palin?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Dec 26th, 2012 at 09:58:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've never read such self-serving hogwash in my life. that's what kids say when they've lost a game at school, "well I didn't want to win your stupid game, anyway".

Their sense of entitlement is over-powering them. Not that they ever had much dignity, but this is degenerating into farce

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Dec 26th, 2012 at 11:38:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Map of gun permit holders here.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Dec 26th, 2012 at 10:03:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 04:56:41 AM EST
Biomass Industry 2012 Review: A Mixed Bag | Renewable Energy News Article

The U.S. biomass industry suffered a frustrating year in 2012, with EPA regulatory uncertainty the dominant theme. The Presidential Election heavily influenced the pace of EPA regulation and the time of writing the long-awaited Boiler MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) Rule and its companion the Non-Hazardous Secondary Material (NHSM) Rule, which are still incomplete, while the EPA's Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule may not be completed until 2014.

Yet the most important factor impacting biomass in 2012 was not Washington, D.C. but natural gas prices. As a result of an abundance of natural gas from shale gas fracking, several coal plants - which may otherwise have been potential candidates for biomass co-firing or conversions - were closed, often to be replaced with combined-cycle gas turbine power plants.

USA's Largest Biomass Plant Operational

A number of major biomass projects made significant headway in 2012. Southern Company's 100 MW Nacogdoches plant in Texas began commercial operations in mid-July, making it the USA's largest dedicated biomass facility.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:35:18 AM EST
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Paleo-ocean chemistry: New data challenge old views about evolution of early life
A research team led by biogeochemists at the University of California, Riverside has tested a popular hypothesis in paleo-ocean chemistry, and proved it false.

The fossil record indicates that eukaryotes -- single-celled and multicellular organisms with more complex cellular structures compared to prokaryotes, such as bacteria -- show limited morphological and functional diversity before 800-600 million years ago. Many researchers attribute the delayed diversification and proliferation of eukaryotes, which culminated in the appearance of complex animals about 600 million years ago, to very low levels of the trace metal zinc in seawater.

As it is for humans, zinc is essential for a wide range of basic cellular processes. Zinc-binding proteins, primarily located in the cell nucleus, are involved in the regulation of gene transcription.

Eukaryotes have increasingly incorporated zinc-binding structures during the last third of their evolutionary history and still employ both early- and late-evolving zinc-binding protein structures. Zinc is, therefore, of particular importance to eukaryotic organisms. And so it is not a stretch to blame the 1-2-billion-year delay in the diversification of eukaryotes on low bioavailability of this trace metal.

But after analyzing marine black shale samples from North America, Africa, Australia, Asia and Europe, ranging in age from 2.7 billion years to 580 million years old, the researchers found that the shales reflect high seawater zinc availability and that zinc concentrations during the Proterozoic (2.5 billion to 542 million years ago) were similar to modern concentrations. Zinc, the researchers posit, was never biolimiting.

Study results appear online Dec. 23 in Nature Geoscience.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:35:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
brewers add zinc to a brew to aid yeast propagation

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 08:31:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
West Antarctic Warming Faster Than Thought, Study Finds - NYTimes.com
West Antarctica has warmed much more than scientists had thought over the last half century, new research suggests, an ominous finding given that the huge ice sheet there may be vulnerable to long-term collapse, with potentially drastic effects on sea levels.

 A paper released Sunday by the journal Nature Geoscience reports that the temperature at a research station in the middle of West Antarctica has warmed by 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1958. That is roughly twice as much as scientists previously thought and three times the overall rate of global warming, making central West Antarctica one of the fastest-warming regions on earth.

"The surprises keep coming," said Andrew J. Monaghan, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., who took part in the study. "When you see this type of warming, I think it's alarming."

Of course, warming in Antarctica is a relative concept. West Antarctica remains an exceedingly cold place, with average annual temperatures in the center of the ice sheet that are nearly 50 degrees Fahrenheit below freezing.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:41:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Diabetes remission possible with diet, exercise | Reuters

(Reuters Health) - One in nine people with diabetes saw their blood sugar levels dip back to a normal or "pre-diabetes" level after a year on an intensive diet and exercise program, in a new study.

Complete remission of type 2 diabetes is still very rare, researchers said. But they added that the new study can give people with the disease hope that through lifestyle changes, they could end up getting off medication and likely lowering their risk of diabetes-related complications.

"Kind of a long-term assumption really is that once you have diabetes there's no turning back on it, and there's no remission or cure," said Edward Gregg, the lead author on the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 10:02:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
7 of 11 people with early stage type 2 diabetes cured with 600 calorie a day diet of 2 months duration


by stevesim on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 10:19:20 AM EST
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Le PDG d'EDF visé par une enquête sur un contrat nucléaire avec la Chine - Libération CEO of EDF under investigation on a nuclear agreement with China - Liberation
L'Inspection générale des Finances a engagé «il y a quelques jours» une enquête sur les conditions dans lesquelles le PDG d'EDF Henri Proglio a signé en novembre 2011 un partenariat entre EDF et son homologue chinois CGNPC, affirme Le Canard Enchaîné à paraître demain.The General Inspectorate of Finance launched "few days ago" an investigation into the conditions in which the CEO of EDF Henri Proglio signed in November 2011, a partnership between EDF and CGNPC his Chinese counterpart, says The Chained Duck (sic) out tomorrow.
«Henri Proglio est visé par une enquête de l'Inspection générale des finances déclenchée il y a quelques jours à la demande du gouvernement», écrit l'hebdomadaire. "Proglio is under investigation by the General Inspectorate of Finance requested by the government" a few days ago, writes the weekly.
Bercy cherche à «élucider les conditions dans lesquelles Proglio a signé en novembre 2011 un drôle de partenariat nucléaire entre l'électricien français et son homologue chinois China Guangdong Nuclear Power Company (CGNPC)», poursuit le journal.Bercy seeks to "clarify the conditions under which Proglio signed in November 2011 a strange nuclear partnership between the French electrician and its Chinese counterpart China Guangdong Nuclear Power Company (CGNPC)" , the newspaper said.
L'hebdomadaire satirique ajoute que «de leur côté, les services de renseignement s'efforcent d'établir la nature des liens entre certains dirigeants d'EDF et leurs partenaires chinois».The satirical weekly adds that "on their side, the intelligence services are trying to establish the nature of the relationship between some leaders of EDF and their Chinese partners."
EDF et Areva avaient démenti en octobre des articles du Nouvel Observateur et du Canard Enchaîné selon lesquels EDF avait cherché à négocier un accord sur le nucléaire avec CGNPC dans le dos du gouvernement français et d'Areva, et qui aurait été très défavorable à ce dernier. EDF and Areva had denied in October articles in the Nouvel Observateur and Chained Duck according to which EDF sought to negotiate a nuclear deal with CGNPC behind the back of the French government and of Areva, which would have been very unfavorable to the latter.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 01:13:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 04:56:43 AM EST
U.N. approves new debate on arms treaty opposed by U.S. gun lobby | Reuters

The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Monday to restart negotiations on a draft international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global trade in conventional arms, a pact the powerful U.S. National Rifle Association has been lobbying hard against.

U.N. delegates and gun control activists have complained that talks collapsed in July largely because U.S. President Barack Obama feared attacks from Republican rival Mitt Romney before the November 6 election if his administration was seen as supporting the pact, a charge U.S. officials have denied.

The NRA, which has come under intense criticism for its reaction to the December 15 shooting massacre of 20 children and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, opposes the idea of an arms trade treaty and has pressured Obama to reject it.

But after Obama's re-election last month, his administration joined other members of a U.N. committee in supporting the resumption of negotiations on the treaty.

That move was set in stone on Monday when the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly voted to hold a final round of negotiations on March 18-28 in New York.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:34:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
'Ugly' metal Christmas tree riles many Belgians | Europe | DW.DE | 23.12.2012

It's the Christmas disaster that's rocking Belgium: an 80-foot (24-meter) art installation instead of a traditional Christmas tree. Some Belgians see in it an anti-Christian conspiracy. Others see an ugly piece of metal.

Over the past few weeks, Brussel's City Hall has experienced unusually heavy protest - over a tree. The council's decision to swap its traditional pine tree on the city's central square with a modern art installation has resulted in a minor national scandal.

Online petitions have garnered twenty-five thousand signatures and a Facebook group with some 4,500 followers demanded the return of the traditional "Sapin de Bruxelles." Protests spread from the online petitions and social networks to debates on national television.

"We want to change the image of the Christmas market of Brussels. The image from ten years ago is very boring," said Brussels Councilor for Tourism Philippe Close. He says the "tree" was a daring move to give Christmas a modern spin.

Abies Electronicus

The 80-foot tall steel structure is called the Abies Electronicus, or electronic tree. At night, it's the centre of attention in a spectacle that lights up the whole central square at the Grand Place. Music blasts through speakers as the tree's many spotlights display flashy light effects in and around its base. In the daytime, visitors climb the stairs to an 80 feet high balcony with an astonishing view on the city centre.

The juxtaposition of the Christmas tree against market square's old buildings is artistically interesting. Not everyone appreciates the new aesthetic, though.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:37:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Real and Virtual Firearms Nurture Marketing Link - NYTimes.com

The video game industry was drawn into the national debate about gun violence last week when the National Rifle Association accused producers of violent games and movies of helping to incite the type of mass shooting that recently left 20 children and six adults dead at a school in Newtown, Conn.

While studies have found no connection between video games and gun violence, the case of Medal of Honor Warfighter illustrates how the firearms and video game industries have quietly forged a mutually beneficial marketing relationship.

Many of the same producers of firearms and related equipment are also financial backers of the N.R.A. McMillan, for example, is a corporate donor to the group, and Magpul recently joined forces with it in a product giveaway featured on Facebook. The gun group also lists Glock, Browning and Remington as corporate sponsors.

Makers of firearms and related gear have come to see video games as a way to promote their brands to millions of potential customers, marketing experts said. Magpul and Electronic Arts made a video posted on YouTube about their partnership.

"It is going to help brand perceptions," said Stacy Jones, the president of Hollywood Branded, a company that specializes in product placement in movies and television shows.

Assault-style rifles made by Bushmaster Firearms have a roster of credits that any actor would envy, including appearances in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, a part of the popular Activision series.

The gunman in the Connecticut killings, Adam Lanza, used a semiautomatic rifle made by Bushmaster, which is a unit of the Freedom Group.

The most recent entry in the Call of Duty franchise, Black Ops II, featured models of weapons that are also made by Barrett and Browning. Another popular game sold by Electronic Arts, Battlefield 3, depicts assault rifles and pistols similar to those made by Colt, Heckler & Koch, Glock and Beretta.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:44:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 04:57:00 AM EST
Merry Christmas all!
by Nomad on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 06:45:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and to you

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 08:35:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
RIP Charles Durning.

In memorium:

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Dec 25th, 2012 at 11:28:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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