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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 21 February

by Nomad Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 02:13:01 PM EST

 A Daily Review Of International Online Media 

Europe on this date in history:

1971 - In Vienna the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, a UN treaty designed to control psychoactive drugs, is signed.

More here and here

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by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 02:14:48 PM EST
Angela Merkel 'bitterly opposed' Joachim Gauck appointment | World news | The Guardian

The German chancellor Angela Merkel was bitterly opposed to the appointment of "Stasi hunter" Joachim Gauck to become the next president of Germany - even though the two are friends, having both grown up under the same communist dictatorship, it has emerged.

Members of Merkel's own government admitted on Monday that she only agreed to Gauck's candidacy in order to stop her government from collapsing, after coming under huge pressure from her young vice chancellor, Philipp Rösler, also the head of the Free Democrats (FDP), the junior party in her coalition.

Michael Kretschmer, an MP from Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, spoke of a "massive breach of trust" by the FDP that would have serious consequences for future co-operation. Bavarian finance minister Markus Söder of the CSU, Bavarian sister party to the CDU, accused the FDP of "extortion".

Gauck, a 72-year-old former pastor and human rights activist from East Germany who was instrumental in both the fall of the Berlin Wall and allowing members of the public to read their own secret police files, was unveiled as the joint presidential candidate by the German government and the two main opposition parties on Sunday evening.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:18:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obviously no sitting Chancellor wants an early election, but surely the FDP's general decline in the polls should have put them in a weaker negotiating position?
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 05:46:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the FDP are desperate to show that they matter.

Angela Merkel 'bitterly opposed' Joachim Gauck appointment | World news | guardian.co.uk

Wolfgang Kubicki, the leader of the FDP in Schleswig-Holstein, a state where a crucial election will be held in May, said the confrontation showed that his party was no longer inclined to rubber-stamp decisions by Merkel's conservatives.

"A coalition doesn't work when the conservatives make the calls and the FDP has no say in the matter," Kubicki told Reuters.

The FDP, which has slumped in opinion polls to between 2% and 3%, has been pushed around by the conservatives many times in the last two years but seems to have reached its limit in the Gauck affair.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 06:17:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The FDP have nothing left to lose. Also the first signal of the future possibility of a jamaican coalition, Red Green Yellow.

Would be better if they were cast into Hell.

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

by Crazy Horse on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 06:36:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hehe, the FDP would have to jump the 5% hurdle before there can be a Jamaica coalition. Forget them.
by Katrin on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 06:40:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From the polls, coalition poker might get interesting if - as it stands - FDP is out, Pirates are in and SDP+Greens are less then 50%. I would assume that the untested Pirates would not be a first choice for coalition partner, but would the SDP still prefer grand coalition over doing a deal with Linke? Or could a CDU+Greens coalition be a possibility on the federal level?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 07:19:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Schleswig-Holstein (which was the starting point of this sub thread) SPD and Greens will easily have the majority of seats. I don't expect any difficulties in their reaching a coalition agreement.

On the federal level: well, so far Merkel has not resigned. The next government will be a grand coalition or black and green, I think. We won't be rid of the CDU and the opposition is no opposition, because they think of their chances of a coalition with the CDU. This is why nobody attacks Merkel.

by Katrin on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 03:18:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I meant the federal level, and that explains quite a lot so thank you.

In Sweden, grand coalitions are out of the question, all parties prefers minority governments over grand coalitions, even going so far as having a liberal minority government in 78-79 that only held 39 out of 349 seats in parliament.

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

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Feb 22nd, 2012 at 04:48:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, from the polls it appears that the future prospects of a coalition is not what FDP should worry about.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 06:12:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EU readies economic sanctions against Hungary | EurActiv

Hungary is set to become the first country hit by the EU's new economic sanctions as the European Commission prepares to announce proposals to suspend part of the country's regional funding for failing to correct its excessive deficit.

The Commission will propose on Wednesday (22 February) to suspend a share of Hungary's Cohesion Funds over its failure to take "effective action" to curb its excessive deficit.

The suspension will take effect from 1 January 2013, EurActiv Slovakia reported, quoting EU sources.

Commission spokespeople contacted by EurActiv.com in Brussels did not contest the information.

Last month, Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said Hungary was the sole country on the Commission's excessive deficit `caution list' and warned that cohesion funds could be frozen if Budapest fails to trim its deficit.

Amadeu Altafaj, Commission spokesperson for economic affairs, told EurActiv that the Cohesion Fund regulation allows a partial or total suspension of regional money committed as of the following year (in this case, 2013). He mentioned no figures, but stressed that according to EU legislation, the sanction has to be "proportionate".

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:18:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Medvedev to meet with Russian protest movement leaders - RUSSIA - FRANCE 24

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will on Monday meet the organisers of opposition rallies for the first time since the start of protests that pose a growing challenge to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Medvedev will meet former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, left-wing leader Sergei Udaltsov, liberal politician Vladimir Ryzhkov and other Kremlin critics to discuss political reforms, the opposition leaders and Russian media said.   The meeting is the first known direct high-level contact between the opposition and the Kremlin since the protests began in December.   "Maybe this meeting will be another imitation (of dialogue) and, if so, it will be a big shame," Ryzhkov told Reuters. "But even if there is just a small chance of peaceful and well-conceived reforms being carried out in the country, we should use it."   Putin, who is expected to win a presidential election on March 4, has announced no plans to meet the protest leaders.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:18:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heading towards a general strike? | Presseurop (English)

"First massive protest against labour law reform," headlines Spanish daily La Vanguardia, following demonstrations on Sunday in 57 cities protesting against labour law reform introduced by the government of conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Tens of thousands of people marched to the call of the major national trade unions, UGT and CCOO. It was the "first step towards an attack that could lead to a general strike," notes the Barcelona daily paper, for which this possibility would be "a serious mistake".

The government cannot and must not back down on this issue because it would endanger its credibility towards the European Union and financial markets which demand that Spain put an end to the strict labour laws that make it difficult for businesses to adapt to adverse economic conditions thus leading to higher unemployment than would be desirable.

For El País, however, "the success of yesterday's demonstrations is a warning that the government would be wrong to ignore". The paper approves the trade unions' "correct and moderate strategy" -

The question is whether this reform, imposed by Brussels and the markets, is the most adequate. What is clear, is that is has generated a climate of insecurity within large sections of the population.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:18:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brussels frowns at limits on Bulgarian, Romanian workers | EurActiv

Arguments presented by nine EU countries that have decided to maintain labour restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian nationals are "unconvincing", said Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner László Andor.

Andor, speaking Friday following a meeting of EU ministers responsible for employment and social policy, said he would request the nine countries to provide better argumentation, or change their decision.

Austria, Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands have all decided to keep restrictions on the access of Bulgarian and Romanian nationals to their labour markets until the final possible date - 31 December 2013.

According to EU rules, the countries still maintaining restrictions need to notify the Commission of the reasons why they consider that opening of their labour market would threaten their national economies.

"I will have to ask some of these countries to look more seriously at the matter," Andor is quoted as saying by Dnevnik, EurActiv's partner publication in Bulgaria. He added that he would advise the nine countries to open their labour markets partially, taking Germany as an example.

Germany has eased access to Bulgarian workers, Dnevnik reports. The Bulgarian Labour and Social Affairs Ministry says seasonal workers and Bulgarians with a university education can work for in Germany for up to six months each year, Dnevnik reports.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:18:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Anti-Polish site boosts Wilders' popularity | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Despite widespread condemnation of Geert Wilders' recently-launched website urging the public to file complaints against immigrant workers from Eastern Europe, his Freedom Party (PVV) has regained its popularity amidst all the commotion, according to a leading Dutch opinion poll.

The PVV would win 24 seats in parliament if elections were held today , the number of seats the party currently holds, says pollster Maurice de Hond. Geert Wilders' populist far-right party is the third largest party in the Netherlands.

A week ago, the PVV stood at 20 seats, but following the enormous response to the site - which has angered Central and Eastern European governments - the party gained four seats in one week. More than 40,000 people have responded since its launch on 8 February.

The homepage displays news clippings with bold headlines blaming foreigners for petty crime, noise nuisance - and taking jobs from the Dutch. "Are immigrants from Central and Eastern countries bothering you? We'd like to hear from you," it says.

Besides criticism from ten European ambassadors and the European Commission, the Dutch public ha

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:19:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nicolas Sarkozy: I saved France from economic catastrophe | World news | The Guardian

Nicolas Sarkozy told his first major rally in his re-election campaign on Sunday that he had saved France from "catastrophe" during the financial crisis and the only way to save the country from economic meltdown was to give him a second term.

The 7,000-strong meeting in Marseille marked a return to the political showmanship and verbal violence of Sarkozy's campaigning style. There was sea of tricolore flags, dramatic music, a new election slogan - "a strong France" - and a cheering Carla Bruni at her first political rally.

Despite four years of record unpopularity, disappointment in his reforms and the fact most French view his tenure negatively, Sarkozy tried to position himself as the "protector" of the nation while launching personal attacks on the Socialist frontrunner François Hollande, whom he accused of downplaying the crisis.

The presidential election is certain to be fought on economic issues. Unemployment is nearing 10% and there are around 1 million more people out of work than when Sarkozy took office. Public debt is huge, France has lost its triple-A credit rating and the government has been forced to cut spending and raise taxes.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:26:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, compared with Flash Gordon Brown's "I saved the world" Sarko is being unusually modest.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 03:05:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Zapatero said the same in what was effectively his farewell statement at the recent PSOE party congress (where the candidate who lead the party to a resounding defeat won the internal contest to become General Secretary).

Basically, ZP claims that the reforms and cuts that were implemented since May 2010 were necessary and sufficient to prevent "a rescue of Spain".

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 04:26:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, he's not pitching this to people who actually care about the rest of the world.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 04:54:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurointelligence Daily Briefing: Hurrah, Crisis over! Or Not!
Eurozone finance ministers reached a deal in the early hours this morning on a second Greek loan programme; haircut to be increased to 53.5%, and debt to stabilise at 120.5% in 2020 if all reforms are implemented (and in the absence of any negative shocks); there will be an enhanced and permanent presence of the Commission  in Greece; Greece agreed to pay three months of debt repayments into escrow account; Greece will introduce over the next two months a legal provision ensuring that priority is granted to debt servicing payments; The ECB's profits on Greek holdings will be disbursed to member states via national central banks; member states agreed to an additional retroactive lowering of the interest rates; most of the €130bn are earmarked to fund the bond swap; the leaked troika's debt sustainability report says Greek debt would stabilise at 160% if reforms are delayed, or only partially implemented; says more bailout funding is needed in 2014; says virtually all the risks to the 120% debt-to-GDP scenario are on the downside; Portuguese Socialist leader told troika that Portugal needs more time; twelve EU countries, but not Germany and France, sign a letter calling for a new EU growth agenda; the ECB has made no bond purchases last week; Peter Praet says ECB has a good understanding of the effects of the LTRO; Angela Merkel is badly bruised after her coalitions agreement on the new German president; Bundesbank says house prices rose 5% in Germany last year; Germany's Target 2 balances are now over €500bn; Fitch has increased the rating of Iceland to BBB- with a stable outlook as the country escapes from the crisis; Guy Mandy of Nomura, meanwhile, makes the case for the ECB to issue debt certificates.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 04:24:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Twelve[] countries - but not Germany and France - sign letter to call for a growth agenda

This is an interesting story from Reuters because it points to a division among eurozone member state on a crucial strategic issue - whether to prioritise growth or austerity. Twelve[] countries, including Italy and the Netherlands, have called on the EU to shift the focus towards growth. The articles suggests that Mario Monti has been the driving force behind this initiative. The article said the letter was a challenge to the German position that austerity must come before growth. The letter specificially advocated an opening of the internal market to services.

In a speech in Milan, Monti also said that if Italy missed its deficit targets as a result of a deeper recession, he would not be proposing another austerity package.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 04:37:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reuters: Britain, Netherlands call for EU to focus on growth
Germany and France, the euro zone's leading powers, did not sign the letter addressed to top European Union officials, which appeared to challenge the German-led drive for austerity first and likely signals a desire among other EU members to show they can also set the agenda outside the Franco-German axis.


The letter, advocating greater opening of the EU's internal market for services, was drawn up by Britain and the Netherlands and signed by the leaders of Italy, Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Ireland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Poland.


Rehn has defended austerity measures demanded by the Commission that are aimed at rebuilding confidence but which have crushed growth in southern Europe, deepening the crisis.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 04:39:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Britain would have a stronger case if they were not setting the austerity agenda...
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 05:50:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It appears to be an excuse to get the Bolkestein Services Directive passed again. Look how the only policy that's stressed is liberalization of services.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 05:53:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reuters: TEXT-Full Eurogroup statement on Greek package
Ensuring debt sustainability and restoring competiveness are the main goals of the new programme. Its success hinges critically on its thorough implementation by Greece.

This implies that Greece must achieve the ambitious but realistic fiscal consolidation targets so as to return to a primary surplus as from 2013, carry out fully the privatisation plans and implement the bold structural reform agenda, in both the labour market and product and service markets, in order to promote competitiveness, employment and sustainable growth.

To this end, we deem essential a further strengthening of Greece's institutional capacity. We therefore invite the Commission to significantly strengthen its Task Force for Greece, in particular through an enhanced and permanent presence on the ground in Greece, in order to bolster its capacity to provide and coordinate technical assistance.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 04:32:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurointelligence: Hurrah, Crisis over! Or Not! (21.02.2012)
Leaked Troika report on debt sustainability throws doubt on the strategy

The IMF's debt sustainability report was leaked to several news organisations, including the FT and Reuters. It basically says that the agreed numbers in the Greek package are balloney. We quote from the text. For further details see the FT's Brussel blog:


Our comment

This report is absolutely incredible. Not only is the troika's strategy once again based on the most optimistic of all optimistic assumptions about future state of the world. The troika no longer seems to believe in the success. The report essentially says that Greece is bankrupt under any reasonable assumptions.

However, the Council says
Ensuring debt sustainability and restoring competiveness are the main goals of the new programme. Its success hinges critically on its thorough implementation by Greece.
Shame on the Council.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 04:35:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
20 Minutos: Doce de los 25 detenidos en la protesta estudiantil de Valencia siguen en comisaría
Sobre las 23:00 horas unas 200 personas permanecían concentradas ante las vallas de la estación del Norte, frente al instituto Lluís Vives, donde el pasado miércoles comenzaron las protestas contra los recortes en Educación.

En las últimas horas de la noche se quemaron contenedores en distintos puntos del centro de la ciudad y junto a la facultad de Geografía e Historia, donde unos 300 estudiantes consiguieron refugiarse con el beneplácito de la decana, que les permitió quedarse allí, pues solamente ella puede permitir el acceso policial al edificio.

Según ha explicado la decana, Elena Grau, les ofreció permanecer en el interior de la facultad tras comprobar que llevaban "todo el día corriendo por la ciudad" con motivo de las protestas estudiantiles focalizadas en el instituto Lluís Vives.

Twelve of the 25 detainees in the Valencia student protest remain in Police dependencies
Around 23h some 200 people remained gathered in front of the fences of the North [Train] Station, in front of the Lluís Vives secondary school, where the [last round of] protests against the education cuts began last wednesday.

In the last hours of the night [garbage] containers were burned at various points in the centre of town and next to the Faculty of Geography and History, where some 300 students were able to find shelter with the permission of the Dean, who allowed them to remain, as only she can allow police access to the building.

As the Dead, Elena Grau, explained, she offered them to remain inside the faculty after seeing that "they had been running around town all day" as a result of the student protests centered around the Lluís Vives school.

People are beginning to call this the "Valencia Spring".

The top trending topic for Spain right now is #PrimaveraEstudiantil - Student Spring, see yesterday.

Also, #YoTambienSoyElEnemigo - I am the enemy, too.

And, finally, #Laponia - Lappland - see also yesterday).

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 08:53:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]

[Opening text: This all started because they had to take blankets to school in order not to freeze in class]

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 09:05:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Strauss-Kahn arrested by French police investigating alleged prostitution ring | World news | The Guardian

The 62-year-old socialist politician turned himself in at 8.55am on Tuesday in the northern French city of Lille and is being held for questioning over allegations that he aided the procurement of prostitutes and benefited from fraud.

Detectives want to ascertain whether Strauss-Kahn, a former French presidential hopeful, knew that the women he had sex with at orgies in Paris and Washington were prostitutes and if he was aware how they were paid. It is alleged the money came from the corporate funds of a major French construction company.

Strauss-Kahn is expected to either be put under formal investigation - the equivalent of being charged - or released after 48 hours.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 09:22:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
turned himself in

It was well known in advance that he had a summons and that he intended to respect it. Not the same as "turning yourself in". But whatever, he's fair game for added media colour.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 09:29:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 02:14:52 PM EST
Hopes pinned on second bailout deal for Greece - GREECE - FRANCE 24
Euro zone finance ministers are expected to approve a second bailout for Greece on Monday to try to draw a line under months of uncertainty that has shaken the currency bloc, although work remains to be done to make the numbers add up.   Diplomats and economists say they do not expect the package to resolve Greece's economic problems. That could take a decade or more, a bleak prospect that brought thousands of Greeks onto the streets to protest against austerity measures on Sunday.   French Finance Minister Francois Baroin said all the elements were in place to reach an agreement and Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said he expected a deal. The finance ministers are scheduled to meet at around 1500 GMT.   Euro zone ministers need to agree new measures to make the financing work, given the ever-worsening state of the Greek economy. But they say an agreement on Monday will help restructure Athens' vast debts, put it on a more stable financial footing and keep it inside the 17-country euro zone.
by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:22:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Greece needs extra official, private help to hit debt goals | Reuters

Greece will need additional relief if it is to cut its debts to 120 percent of GDP by 2020 and if it doesn't follow through on structural reforms and other measures, its debt could hit 160 percent by 2020, a debt sustainability report by the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission shows.

The baseline scenario is that Greece will cut its debt to 129 percent of GDP in 2020 from 160 percent now, well above the targeted 120 percent, the confidential, 9-page analysis prepared for euro zone finance ministers showed.

"The results point to a need for additional debt relief from the official or private sectors to bring the debt trajectory down," said the report, dated Feb. 15 and obtained by Reuters.

The report forms the basis of discussions of euro zone ministers on the conditions under which Greece is to get further financial help from the euro zone and the IMF.

"There is a fundamental tension between the program objectives of reducing debt and improving competitiveness, in that the internal devaluation needed to restore Greece competitiveness will inevitably lead to a higher debt to GDP ratio in the near term," the report said.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:28:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Stop the Second Bailout Package! EU Should Admit Greece is Bankrupt - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International
Greece is bankrupt and will need a 100 percent debt cut to get back on its feet. The bailout package about to be agreed by the euro finance ministers will help Greece's creditors more than the country itself. EU leaders should channel the aid into rebuilding the economy rather than rewarding financial speculators for their high-risk deals.

First things first: this commentary isn't directed against Greece. It's got nothing to do with all the talk in Germany about Greek citizens not paying their taxes, Greek civil servants who don't work or Greek politicians who break their promises. This commentary has a clear and simple message: The second Greek bailout of €130 billion ($172 billion) that euro zone finance ministers are expected to agree on Monday afternoon should not be paid out.

Sure, Greece will need help from the other European Union member states for years, possibly even decades, and Germany shouldn't refuse that help. Europe will likely end up pumping far more money into Greece in the coming years than the fresh aid now being discussed in Brussels.

The mistake isn't the size, but the construction of the bailout package. It isn't geared to the requirements of the people of Greece but to the needs of the international financial markets, meaning the banks.

How else can one explain the fact that around a quarter of the package won't even arrive in Athens but will flow directly to the country's international creditors? The holders of Greek government bonds are to get some €30 billion as an incentive to convert their old paper into new bonds. The aim is to keep alive the illusion that Greece isn't bankrupt -- after all, the creditors are voluntarily forgiving part of the debt. The financial sector is cleverly manipulating the fear that a Greek bankruptcy would trigger a fatal chain reaction.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:28:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com / Economic Affairs / Berlin still against boosting eurozone firewall

Germany has indicated it remains against boosting the eurozone's bail-out funds, despite it being the expected quid pro quo after 24 other EU member states signed up to the Berlin-pushed 'fiscal compact treaty - but its position may change after a key vote in the Bundestag end of February.

Eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday (20 February) are set to discuss the possibility of raising the ceilings of two bail-out funds, the temporary European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and the upcoming permanent European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

EU leaders in December agreed to come back to the issue on 1-2 March during a summit, pending the agreement on an inter-governmental treaty on fiscal discipline, demanded by Germany.

EUobserver understands that Germany is still against expanding the funds and is saying it will maintain this position in March, arguing that "market conditions have improved" since December and there is no need to increase the funds' firepower.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:33:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Paris, Berlin to unveil joint corporate tax plan at Ecofin | EurActiv

A meeting of finance ministers in Brussels will see France and Germany present plans to align their national corporate tax regimes, as the European Commission's own attempt at EU-level harmonisation has so far failed to garner the required unanimity among the 27 member states.

France and Germany have taken the lead on fiscal convergence in the eurozone by announcing in August their joint plans to establish a common corporate tax between themselves, as of January 2013.

François Baroin and Wolfgang Schäuble, the two finance ministers, will report progress on those plans at a meeting of the EU's 27 finance ministers in Brussels on Tuesday (21 February).

"Europe goes forward at 27 but it is not forbidden to have smaller groups that go a little bit faster," argues a national diplomat in Brussels, explaining that "the Franco-German couple is bringing forward a number of technical solutions to overcome divergences in fiscal regimes."

The diplomat said the initiative, although bilateral for now, could be seen as a Franco-German contribution to an EU attempt to introduce a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB), hoping it will inspire others.

"From this presentation we are expecting to create a dynamic on the issue of fiscal convergence on a subject which requires unanimity," the diplomat said, adding that a European consensus on tax issues was "sometimes difficult to find."

Britain is the staunchest opponent to a European Commission proposal, presented in March last year, to introduce a CCCTB. Ireland has also rejected any change to the corporate tax rate for companies on its soil, which at 12.5% is among the lowest in Europe, but said it was ready to "participate constructively in discussions on the CCCTB and fiscal policy in the framework of the Euro Plus Pact," adopted last March

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:33:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Five Reasons Europe Looks Less Disastrous - Businessweek

Optimism has not been an emotion experienced by too many Europeans of late. Yet that positive feeling is creeping into the markets. The big stock exchanges in Europe are all off to strong starts this year: The Dax index of German stocks is up 16 percent. Even the Athens stock exchange is up 21 percent. The bond markets, meanwhile, are easing borrowing costs for Spain and Italy, with yields below 6 percent on 10-year bonds. An impressive performance, considering the euro crisis is far from over and a risk still exists that Greece won't have the money to pay bondholders come March 20.

So why the sunnier feelings? Investors have a lot of reasons, some of them contradictory. They all show how far Europe's markets have come since the onset of the crisis in late 2009. There are five in particular:

  • Despite the risks, the odds are mounting that Greece will get its 130 billion euro ($170 billion) bailout before March 20. The Germans, long the heavies in talks with the Greeks, have signaled a willingness to get the deal done. Angela Merkel's government is showing signs of flexibility on the aid and the writedown of Greek debt by private bondholders. If the Germans sign off, the Greeks get the rescue and a default is avoided. That's no guarantee Greece will crawl out of its hole. But avoiding a default for now means all kinds of unforeseen consequences are avoided as well.
  • The European Central Bank's newfound willingness to lend banks as much money as they want for three years is proving very effective in supplying Europe's financial system with extra liquidity. The longer-term refinancing operations (LTROs) allow Europe's banks to post iffy collateral--like the banks' holdings of Greek sovereign debt--with the ECB, which provides cheap loans in return. The three years are long enough to bridge the crisis, and the money gives the banks time to improve their balance sheets and boost their own lending, the ECB hopes.
by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:33:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Apple faces its 'Nike moment' over working conditions in Chinese factories | Technology | The Guardian

Apple is facing a "Nike moment" which hit the shoe company in the 1990s when its use of cheap labour in the Far East was revealed, one of the inspectors of Apple's Chinese suppliers has said.

Speaking to ABC News' Nightline program, Ines Kaempfer of the US Fair Labor Association, which is inspecting the Foxconn assembly plants used by Apple in China, said that "There was a moment for Nike in the '90s, when they got a lot of publicity, negative publicity. And they weren't the worst. It's probably like Apple. They're not necessarily the worst, it's just that the publicity is starting to build up." Kaempfer said "We call it the 'Nike moment' in the industry."

Foxconn, the Taiwan-owned manufacturer which is one of Apple's main contractors, said on Monday it has raised wages by up to 25% after a spate of suicides last year and reports of long hours for the hundreds of thousands of staff.

It is the second significant salary increase in less than two years at the world's largest electronics contract manufacturer, where workers' conditions have come under intense scrutiny. The inspection by a team from the US Fair Labor Association came at the prompting of Apple, the first technology company to join it. The FLA's stated aim is to end sweatshop conditions in factories.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:36:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And the Fair Labor Team reported "first class conditions" at FoxConn.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!
by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 05:28:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Early Praise in Foxconn Inspection Brings Doubt - NYTimes.com
The president of a nonprofit group hired by Apple to inspect its suppliers' factories has begun praising the Chinese plants of Foxconn, Apple's largest supplier, just days after his group began inspections there.

According to reports by several news organizations, Auret van Heerden, president of the Fair Labor Association, said Foxconn's "facilities are first-class" and "Foxconn is really not a sweatshop."

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 05:02:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's the hours and imprisonment culture that disgust me more than the wages.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 03:09:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's an irony that having established churches in Europe historically helped push a wedge for worker's rights. Employers had to at least concede Sunday morning... and you could move from there.

In China, 24/7 is where the employers start the negotiation. Getting enough time to sleep is a victory for those organising the workers in some factories.

I think this is the most damaging thing about the influence of economists, after all, in economics, where is the sense that humans exist to live, rather than work?

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 05:55:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Japan registers record deficit in January - Asia-Pacific - Al Jazeera English
Japan has posted a record trade deficit in January, as fuel imports rose sharply following last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster and exports were hit by a stronger yen and a slump in demand in Europe.

According to data released on Monday, the January deficit touched 1,475bn yen ($18.5bn), the highest since the nation began record-keeping in 1979, the finance ministry said.

The latest figure was more than triple the year-before shortfall of 479.4bn yen and far exceeded the previous monthly record of 967.9bn yen in January 2009 during the financial crisis.

The record figure comes after Tokyo registered an annual trade deficit in 2011, its first in 31 years.

"We expect this trend of deficit to continue until early 2013" as fuel demand for thermal power generation remains strong while slow global demand and the high yen hurts exports, said Yuichiro Nagai, an economist at Barclays Capital.
by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:49:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurointelligence: Hurrah, Crisis over! Or Not! (21.02.2012)
The case for ECB debt certificates

FT Alphaville has a very interesting technical article referencing a comment by Guy Mandy of Nomura, who makes the case for ECB debt certificates. Mandy says that LTRO's have given rise to excess liquidity that is seeking some long-term returns. The ECB's reverse liquidity operations to sterlise the SMP are subject to significant overbidding. If the ECB were to introduce debt certificates at varying maturities, it would be able to stabilise the money market situation, which has still not recovered, since banks now have the choice a riskless ECB deposit facility, as opposed to risky lending in the interbanking-market. Debt certificates would provide a useful collateral for use in inter-bank repo operations.

Comments: These ECB debt certificates would

  1. compete with German Bunds in the bond markets; Financially, since Germany intends to shrink its outstanding debt (since it intends to run a balanced budget) this might be a good thing. Politically, I would expect some hysterics from Germany.
  2. drain cash from the financial system. What is the point of loaning out wads of cash at the LTROs just to take it back with debt certificates? The net effect on the private banks' balance sheets is a swap of the toxic waste collateral of the LTROs for pristine ECB debt certificates.
  3. compete with "productive investment into the real economy" if you believe in loanable funds.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 04:52:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Re (3), besides the loanable funds fallacy, even if businesses were looking to borrow, banks would currently rather hoard than lend. So the sweet deal you outline in (2) would be the heart of the action.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 05:13:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, this looks like an exercise in wiping the slate clean for various banks... which in the wider sense may not be a wholly bad thing, because then they may get back to actually lending to the rest of the economy.

Still, it's grim that ordinary people will likely end up footing the bill.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 05:59:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lending to the rest of the economy can happen after the financial position of the rest of the economy improves so they are creditworthy again and this requires expansionary sovereign fiscal policy.

At present "the rest of the economy" is saving, not investing. "The rest of the economy" will only start investing only if consumption picks up. There can only be credit to "the rest of the economy" if earnings pick up. Earnings and consumption are in a feedback look. That feedback loop is the one that drives investment and credit, not the other way around.

I guess since there's no fiscal authority in the Eurozone, what we have to wait for is the increased consumption by the very wealthy or something like that.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 06:09:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, you're right.

Interesting that in the UK, at least in circles that I move (anecdote alert!) there are still a fair number of small businesses who could expand if they could get lending...

But they can't, so they won't, so there won't be any expansion from that direction...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 11:04:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How to Get the Rich to Share the Marbles - NYTimes.com
Pretend you're a three-year-old, exploring an exciting new room full of toys. You and another child come up to a large machine that has some marbles inside, which you can see.  There's a rope running through the machine and the two ends of the rope hang out of the front, five feet apart. If you or your partner pulls on the rope alone, you just get more rope. But if you both pull at the same time, the rope dislodges some marbles, which you each get to keep. The marbles roll down a chute, and then they divide: one rolls into the cup in front of you, three roll into the cup in front of your partner.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 06:05:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 02:14:57 PM EST
BBC News - Syria crisis: Red Cross presses for humanitarian truce

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is in talks with "all those concerned" in Syria's conflict to negotiate a ceasefire.

The group says it wants to negotiate a truce in the most affected areas to allow it to deliver aid packages.

Correspondents say the fact that the ICRC has spoken publicly about the negotiations shows just how concerned it is by the situation in Syria.

Thousands have died there in an 11-month uprising against the government.

ICRC spokesman Bijan Farnoudi said the group was "discussing several possibilities" to enable humanitarian aid to be delivered.

He said the aim of the discussions was "to facilitate swift Syrian Arab Red Crescent and ICRC access to the people in need."

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:46:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
China, Russia may be shifting on Syria: Arab League | Reuters

The Arab League chief said on Monday there were signs that China and Russia could be shifting their stance on Syria after the two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council vetoed a Western-backed Arab peace plan aimed at ending violence there.

"There are indications coming from China and to some extent from Russia that there may be a change in position," League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby told a news conference in Cairo.

China and Russia's blocking this month of a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that backed an Arab plan demanding that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step aside angered the West and Arab states.

They also voted against a non-binding General Assembly resolution to back the Arab plan last week.

China has sent envoys to the region, stung by Western criticism that by vetoing the resolutions it was allowing the violence in Syria to increase.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:52:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Russia Bows out of 'Friends of Syria Group' Meeting - Foreign Ministry | Russia | RIA Novosti

Russia will not participate in a meeting of Friends of the so-called Syria Group in Tunisia, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Tuesday.

Last week during an emergency meeting of the Arab League Council at the level of Foreign Ministers, Tunisia initiated the first international conference Friends of Syria. Earlier the Arabic newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat, citing a statement by Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdesselam, reported that Russia would participate in the event.

...  Lukashevich said that according to the report, "it seems that we are talking about slapping together some kind of international coalition as was the case in organizing the Libya Contact Group in order to support one side against the other in an internal conflict."

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that "Russia is for all members of the world community to act as friends of all Syrian people and not only part of it."

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 05:21:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Muslim Brotherhood Looks West in Bid to Revive Egyptian Economy - WSJ.com

Last month, the Muslim Brotherhood received a phone call from the International Monetary Fund. Egypt was hurtling toward economic collapse, and IMF officials had decided they couldn't push ahead with a $3.2 billion loan without buy-in from the country's new political heavyweights.

After 80 years as an underground movement with many members in jail, the Brotherhood found itself at a historic moment. Its decision would likely make or break a loan package believed vital by many Western officials and by Egypt's own business community.

There has been deep distrust in Egypt of the IMF, fueled by a general suspicion of Western meddling and foreign invasions in the 18th and 19th centuries to collect debts. Many Egyptians believe that the Western-style economic reforms of recent years enriched a handful of wealthy regime cronies and did little for regular people.

Yet the Brotherhood recently ended up giving tentative approval to the $3.2 billion IMF loan. "All of a sudden, we found ourselves for the first time and after a very, very short learning process, asked to take a position that would affect everybody's lives," said Essam al-Haddad, the Brotherhood's new senior adviser on foreign affairs.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:46:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Aaaargh, it's the land reform pushed by the IMF that tipped Egypt over the edge.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 03:11:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Khader Adnan to Have Israeli Court Hearing on Tuesday - NYTimes.com
Israel's High Court is slated to hear an urgent petition on Tuesday in the case of a Palestinian detained without charge who has been on a hunger strike for two months.

The hearing had first been scheduled for Thursday but his lawyers and human rights groups representing the hospitalized 33-year-old detainee, Khader Adnan, were worried that he would not survive that long.

Mr. Adnan's case challenges a decades-old Israeli practice employed almost exclusively against Palestinians, thousands of whom have been detained by military court orders under similar circumstances for months and even years. He is already being hailed a hero in the West Bank and Gaza.

Mr. Adnan is not the first Palestinian to have gone on a hunger strike, but his -- 66 days long as of Monday -- has proven the most enduring. A medical report prepared last week by an Israeli-accredited doctor on behalf of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, and filed along with the petition to speed his hearing at the High Court, stated that Mr. Adnan was "in immediate danger of death" and that "a fast in excess of 70 days does not permit survival."

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:46:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But if he dies of a hunger strike, isn't that proof he had a terrorist mindset ?

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 03:12:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
US military chief cautions against Israeli attack on Iran | World news | The Guardian

The United States is stepping up efforts to dissuade Israel from attacking Iran's nuclear facilities, with a strong public warning by the US military's most senior figure and the dispatch of two high-ranking officials to Jerusalem.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, said in a television interview that it was "not prudent at this point" to attack Iran, and "a strike at this time would be destabilising".

But in a comment likely to fuel speculation about Israel's military plans, he added: "I wouldn't suggest we've persuaded them that our view is the correct view." The two countries were having a "candid, collaborative conversation" which was continuing, he said.

His concerns were echoed by William Hague, the British foreign secretary, who said it was "not a wise thing at this moment" for Israel to launch military action against Iran.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:46:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
U.N. Nuclear Inspectors Return to Tehran - NYTimes.com
A team of United Nations inspectors arrived in Iran on Monday for its second visit in three weeks, saying its highest priority remained "the possible military dimensions" that Tehran denies are part of a disputed nuclear program that has led to European oil sanctions and a new threat of expanded countermeasures from Tehran.

The talks between Iranian officials and investigators from the International Atomic Energy Agency coincided with heightening international tensions, pressures and counterpressures over the nuclear program, as Iran claims significant technological advances in uranium enrichment.

In what seemed a further upping of the stakes shortly after the inspectors arrived, Tehran signaled that it might expand a ban on oil exports to Britain and France, announced on Sunday, to other European powers it deems "hostile" in light of broader economic sanctions by the European Union due to come into force on July 1.

Iran's deputy oil minister, Ahmad Qalebani, said oil exports to Spain, the Netherlands, Greece, Germany, Italy and Portugal might also be banned, state media reported.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:47:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If they really want to dissuade Israel, they themselves could stop all their own sabre rattling. They could stop lock step support for Israel's war mongering, they could stand down the drones, they could withdraw all the Navy ships hovering just outside Iranian waters.

Hell, they could even try to make friendly with the iranian people.

But right now, if they don't want a war with Iran, they're sure going about it the wrong way

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 03:15:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, and Obama could tell a lackey to get on the line to that embarrassing UK pipsqueak, William Hague, and tell him to STFU about Iran as well

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 03:17:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Election anger mounts in Senegal - Africa - Al Jazeera English

Senegalese are continuing their protests against incumbent president Abdoulaye Wade's decision to seek a third term in office, erecting barricades and pelting police with rocks just days before a presidential election.

The state-owned news service confirmed the death on Monday of a young man in a suburb of the capital Dakar as demonstrations intensified, and the opposition said they would organise more protests.

Several people have been killed since the street clashes began late last month after Wade's candidacy was validated by the country's top legal body.

The 85-year-old Wade, who came to power in 2000, is insisting on running again, despite the deepening unrest and calls from both France, Senegal's former colonial master, and the US to hand power to the next generation.

Wade will face more than a dozen rivals in the election, including former allies Macky Sall and Idrissa Seck. A runoff will be held if no candidate wins more than half the total vote.

"We will not give Abdoulaye Wade any rest until he understands that he can't run in these elections.," Tidiane Gadio, an opposition candidate, told Al Jazeera.

"The people of Senegal and the leadership of the opposition have the resolve to prevent him from running in these elections."

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:47:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Race to Run Hong Kong, Scandal Taints Beijing's Choice - NYTimes.com
An unauthorized addition to a luxury house may be sinking the hopes of the man thought to be China's favorite to be Hong Kong's next leader.

Henry Tang, a former senior government official, is facing increasing pressure to end his campaign to become chief executive, Hong Kong's top government position.

Long seen as the candidate favored by Beijing, Mr. Tang has seen his popularity plummet over months of missteps, capped last week when he acknowledged that structures built at his wife's home did not have government approval. Mr. Tang insists on continuing his candidacy, but the unauthorized construction, a favorite topic in local media coverage of public figures, was seized on by his political opponents.

"I don't think he can hope to salvage his credibility," said Alan Leong of the Civic Party. "If he can't handle his own affairs, how can he run a government?"

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:53:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Paul Babeu is a far-right Republican who was accused of misusing his office to intimidate an ex-lover. But the interesting part, as TPM says is:
But one thing shines through to me as perhaps the most significant part of the whole media storm: You have a hard-right Republican, with intense political ambitions outed as gay and accused of serious abuse of office. He vigorously denies the charges but says, Yeah, I'm gay. And by the way, I support gay marriage and I also think that gays should be able to serve openly in the US military.

Given what was contained in the original story, it's not like Babeu had a great deal of choice about disclosing his sexuality. But then that hasn't stopped others from trying. No comical denials (a la Larry Craig), no slinking off into a shamed obscurity (a la too many sad stories to mention). Just, yeah, I'm gay. And I'm still running for office.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 04:07:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Aljazeera: (not yet confirmed anywhere else)
Israel's Supreme Court has ordered the release of Khader Adnan, a Palestinian detained without charge, who has been on hunger strike for more than nine weeks, his lawyer said.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 06:29:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
972mag has the full details.
The Prime Minister's Office reported on Tuesday that Khader Adnan, now on the 66th day of his hunger strike, will call off his protest in a deal that will see him released on April 17.

Ofir Gendelman from the PMO tweeted, "#khaderadnan announced that he is ending his hunger strike. If there's no new evidence against him, he will be released from custody on 17.4."

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 07:48:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 02:15:01 PM EST
Resource groups seek to dilute anti-graft rules - FT.com

Royal Dutch Shell and other natural resources companies have stepped up efforts to counteract planned anti-corruption rules that would force them to disclose payments to governments in countries where they operate.

The Anglo-Dutch group, Europe's largest oil and gas company by market capitalisation, has put forward a series of alternatives, arguing that the current proposals will have "limited impact and unclear benefits".

The new requirements for US and EU quoted businesses are designed to highlight regimes that receive large sums from selling oil, gas, minerals and forests but then siphon off the proceeds rather than reinvest locally for public benefit. The EU has proposed a series of amendments to existing rules on transparency, including detailing payments on a project-by-project basis. The union's Competitiveness Council meets this week to agree a general approach.

George Soros, the billionaire hedge fund investor who has supported the "publish what you pay" campaign, told the Financial Times: "I want to know that the companies I invest in have an open and transparent relationship with governments, so that contracts are not at risk of being torn up."

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:59:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Canada threatens EU over tar sands | EurActiv

Canada is threatening trade retaliation if the EU tries to tighten regulations on oil from its highly polluting tar sands in a Fuel Quality Directive, according to documents seen by EurActiv.

The papers emerged after a freedom of information request to see EU documents related to tar sands - also known as oil sands - was lodged by Transport and Environment, an environmental organisation. 

But the documents were only released in heavily censored form by the EU Ombudsman P. Nikiforos Diamandouros because full disclosure "would seriously affect the current trade negotiations and Canada's relations with the EU," Diamandouros said in a statement.

Negotiations between Ottawa and Brussels on an EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement worth as much as $20 billion have been ongoing since 2009.

The Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht has described them as the EU's "most ambitious [free trade negotiations] so far."

But one EU `steering brief' about a June 2010 meeting between the Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and Isabelle Muller, secretary-general of the oil refining association Europia, revealed how the two issues had become intertwined.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:59:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Global permafrost zones in high-resolution images on Google Earth
Thawing permafrost will have far-reaching ramifications for populated areas, infrastructure and ecosystems. A geographer from the University of Zurich reveals where it is important to confront the issue based on new permafrost maps -- the most precise global maps around. They depict the global distribution of permafrost in high-resolution images and are available on Google Earth.

Unstable cable-car and electricity pylons and rock fall -- Alpine countries like Switzerland have already had first-hand experience of thawing permafrost as a result of climate change. If temperatures continue to rise, the problem will intensify in many places. Permafrost, namely rock or soil with a negative temperature for at least two years, occurs in the subsurface and therefore cannot be mapped directly. The existing maps are thus fraught with major uncertainties that have barely been studied or formulated. Furthermore, due to the different modeling methods used the maps are difficult to compare.

The most precise global permafrost maps

Now, however, glaciologist Stephan Gruber from the University of Zurich has modeled the global permafrost zones for the first time in high resolution and using a consistent method. In his study recently published in The Cryosphere, the scientist estimates the global permafrost regions at 22 million square kilometers -- a sixth of the world's exposed land surface. With a grid resolution of one square kilometer, Gruber's maps are the most precise permafrost maps in the world..

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:59:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Belgrade counts cost as melting ice floes hit boats and bridges on the Danube | World news | The Guardian

Giant chunks of melting ice broke free on the Danube River on Monday, crashing hundreds of boats into each other, sweeping away several barges and sinking one of Belgrade's floating nightclubs.

The ice had closed large parts of Europe's busy 2,860-kilometer-long waterway as eastern Europe faced a record-breaking cold spell, but it started shifting Sunday afternoon because of rising temperatures. There were no reports of injuries.

Officials around the region were trying to determine whether melting snow and ice would cause heavy flooding. More than 600 people have died in the cold weather.

Ice floes up to 0.5m thick began to break up in the Belgrade area of the Danube, damaging boats and crashing into pontoon bridges. A barge restaurant, called Alexander, was sunk, officials said.

They hoped that water levels in the Danube, lowered by the drought last year, would help Serbia avoid flooding like that which has hit Bulgaria and Greece.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:59:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mobile marine reserves may end slaughter of endangered sea life - Nature - Environment - The Independent

The indiscriminate slaughter of vast numbers of turtles, sharks, albatrosses and other endangered marine animals that get unintentionally caught by fishermen as "by-catch" could be prevented by a radical proposal of mobile marine reserves, scientists said yesterday.

Protected areas of the ocean where commercial fishing is banned would work far better if they were not static conservation areas, as they are at present, but moveable reserves that take into account the mobile nature of sea life, they said.

The idea for migrating reserves has come about as a result of a revolution in satellite and tagging technology that has allowed scientists to routinely monitor the seasonal movements of marine creatures, which would have been impossible a decade ago.

Scientists said that existing marine protection areas (MPAs), where fishing is controlled to enable wildlife to recover, frequently fail to do their job because the endangered animals simply migrate to unprotected regions where they get caught accidentally by nets and fishing lines.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:59:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
NASA - NASA Spacecraft Reveals Recent Geological Activity on the Moon
New images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft show the moon's crust is being stretched, forming minute valleys in a few small areas on the lunar surface. Scientists propose this geologic activity occurred less than 50 million years ago, which is considered recent compared to the moon's age of more than 4.5 billion years.

A team of researchers analyzing high-resolution images obtained by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) show small, narrow trenches typically much longer than they are wide. This indicates the lunar crust is being pulled apart at these locations. These linear valleys, known as graben, form when the moon's crust stretches, breaks and drops down along two bounding faults. A handful of these graben systems have been found across the lunar surface.

"We think the moon is in a general state of global contraction because of cooling of a still hot interior," said Thomas Watters of the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, and lead author of a paper on this research appearing in the March issue of the journal Nature Geoscience. "The graben tell us forces acting to shrink the moon were overcome in places by forces acting to pull it apart. This means the contractional forces shrinking the moon cannot be large, or the small graben might never form."

The weak contraction suggests that the moon, unlike the terrestrial planets, did not completely melt in the very early stages of its evolution. Rather, observations support an alternative view that only the moon's exterior initially melted forming an ocean of molten rock.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 04:59:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fukushima manager dismisses fears that reactors are overheating again | Environment | The Guardian

The manager of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan has conceded that it will be very difficult to remove the facility's melted nuclear fuel, but dismissed fears that one of the damaged reactors had started overheating again.

"Our main challenge is to now remove the nuclear fuel from the reactors," Takeshi Takahashi told visiting journalists on Monday. "Technically it's a very difficult problem, but we want to take it step by step."

Takahashi apologised repeatedly for the turmoil last year's accident at the plant had caused the people of Japan, and thanked the international community for its support.

Three of Fukushima Daiichi's six reactors suffered meltdown in the hours after Japan's north-east coastline was devastated by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami on the afternoon of 11 March.

More than 100,000 residents from the area have had to leave their homes, and are unsure when, or if, they can return.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 05:00:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They don't even know where the fuel is, or even if it's all still in the reactor containment. It's certainly not in a tidy package that can be removed. The best case is a molten mass, occasionally fissioning, half fused into the bottom of the containment structures.
Defueling of TMI's single partial meltdown took 11 years and cost a billion 1980's dollars. TEPCO doesn't even have the money to consider cleaning up the mess from several full meltdowns. Takahashi is a lying ass-hat.
by Andhakari on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 04:34:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Climate scientist Peter Gleick admits he leaked Heartland Institute documents | Environment | guardian.co.uk

A leading defender of climate change admitted tricking the libertarian Heartland Institute into turning over confidential documents detailing its plans to discredit the teaching of science to school children in last week's sensational expose.

In the latest revelation, Peter Gleick, a water scientist and president of the Pacific Institute who has been active in the climate wars, apologised on Monday for using a false name to obtain materials from Heartland, a Chicago-based think tank with a core mission of dismissing climate change.

"My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts - often anonymous, well-funded and co-ordinated - to attack climate science," Gleick wrote in a piece for Huffington Post.

The admission - nearly a week after Heartland's financial plans and donors' list was put online - looked set to further inflame the climate wars, in which a network of fossil fuel interests, rightwing think tanks and politicians have been working to block action on climate change.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 05:44:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Words fail.

Of course Gleick can't admit he wrote the two-page document that is almost certainly a fake, it would be an admission of forgery.

But even if he would've received it from an anonymous source, the fact that Gleick, as a scientist, uncritically added it to the pile of official documents speaks for itself.

With friends like these, AGW proponents hardly need enemies.

by Nomad on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 06:17:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Of course Gleick can't admit he wrote the two-page document that is almost certainly a fake, it would be an admission of forgery.

Any particular reason you think he wrote it himself?


But even if he would've received it from an anonymous source, the fact that Gleick, as a scientist, uncritically added it to the pile of official documents speaks for itself.

From what I understand, what he did was to send it anonymously to journalists. In what way do you mean he added it to the pile of official documents?

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

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 07:14:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is that he received the two-pager from an anonymous source, which inspired him to go on a fishing expedition to see if he could confirm the information in it.

If this is the case, he certainly made a blunder in sending it out with the other documents.

Heartland are very embarassed about the release, and it will almost certainly diminish their funding, as the named donors have every reason to be embarassed too.

The sort of dishonest lobbying-disguised-as-science that Heartland, and the shills on their payroll engage in, deserve to be exposed.

This is the story. How the evidence came to light is secondary.

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

by eurogreen on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 08:16:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is the story. How the evidence came to light is secondary.

You think Rathergate wasn't a story?

It certainly is a bit of a story that Heartland Institute is pushing an anti-climate change agenda - not that no one realised before. But more surprising is the kind of budget they're working with - which doesn't look particularly impressive.

But an AGW-proponent muddying the water by adding a controversial document from an unreliable source, at minimum, or adding a forged document written by his own hand, at worst, that doesn't help persuading the risks of anthropogenic climate change, to the contrary.

That's handing the loaded shotgun to your opponents.

by Nomad on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 01:39:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
is a red herring, because the entire story was a fabrication.

No, the most likely explanation is that Gleick was indeed taken in by the two-pager. (Bear in mind that Heartland initially said that it "appears to be" a forgery, i.e. it seemed fairly plausible even to them).

So I'd class that as a minor embarassment.

As for the fact that Heartland has a relatively small budget for climate obfuscation, well that's a good thing, and this affair is unlikely to make it bigger...

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

by eurogreen on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 05:17:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dismissing a comparison with Rathergate on the ground just one document was apparently forged is frankly ludicrous. And I note that you didn't answer my question.


No, the most likely explanation is that Gleick was indeed taken in by the two-pager

Occam's Razor does not agree with a scenario like that.

Peter Gleick Confesses to Obtaining Heartland Documents Under False Pretenses - Megan McArdle - Business - The Atlantic

You receive an anonymous memo in the mail purporting to be the secret climate strategy of the Heartland Institute.  It is not printed on Heartland Institute letterhead, has no information identifying the supposed author or audience, contains weird locutions more typical of Heartland's opponents than of climate skeptics, and appears to have been written in a somewhat slapdash fashion.  Do you:
A.  Throw it in the trash
B.  Reach out to like-minded friends to see how you might go about confirming its provenance
C.  Tell no one, but risk a wire-fraud conviction, the destruction of your career, and a serious PR blow to your movement by impersonating a Heartland board member in order to obtain confidential documents.
As a journalist, I am in fact the semi-frequent recipient of documents promising amazing scoops, and depending on the circumstances, my answer is always "A" or "B", never "C".

As for classing this a "minor embarassment"...


If it was minor, AGU and NCSE would not have spoken out against his actions. If it was minor, the focus of the media would've been solely on the Heartland Institute documents. They haven't, it isn't.

This is about a scientist purposefully committing identity fraud, theft and most likely forgery with a cause to "sex up" a controversy.

Do I, as a former scientist, really need to spell out to you the immediate and severe damage this does to the reputation of climate scientists or climate science in general?

Dismissing this is hardly reality based, it's hand-waving.

Politically engaged climate scientists are a problem, not a solution.

by Nomad on Wed Feb 22nd, 2012 at 04:10:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dismissing a comparison with Rathergate on the ground just one document was apparently forged is frankly ludicrous. And I note that you didn't answer my question.

Well let's see.

Someone fabricated some documents to make Bush look bad. Rather's team at CBS were taken in, and broadcast a segment on the network news that subsequently caused everyone concerned to resign or be fired.

If you take the forged documents out, the news segment has nothing substantive : the rest was a bunch of people's opinions.

The question of whether the documents in question were legally obtained does not appear to have arisen; and had they been authenticated, I suggest that it wouldn't have mattered. The importance of the news would have been sufficient to outweigh any illegality. Furthermore, if CBS, alerted by the forgeries, had subsequently illegally obtained genuine documents demonstrating that Bush was a deserter or whatever, then "Rathergate" would not exist (nor, plausibly,  Bush's second term).

In the case of the Heartland documents, if you take out the forgery, it's still newsworthy, because the rest of the documents have been authenticated, and contain all the substantive information anyway.

And the news value of their content outweighs any illegality, in my view. YMMV, of course.

There is no scientific fraud on Gleick's part, only "journalistic fraud", if you will.

A question for you, Nomad : if it had been a journalist who was not a scientist (Gleick is both) who had perpetrated the fraud, would that also damage the reputation of client scientists? If so, why?

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

by eurogreen on Wed Feb 22nd, 2012 at 05:56:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For the answer. I hope to weigh in with a diary another day.

And I agree, Gleick didn't commit scientific fraud in this case. More likely he committed felonies.


A question for you, Nomad : if it had been a journalist who was not a scientist (Gleick is both) who had perpetrated the fraud, would that also damage the reputation of client scientists? If so, why?

Likely not. But it might have damaged journalism as profession - as licensed journalists generally need a damn good reason, like a matter of national security, for using identity theft. Not the case for exposing Heartland Institute's annual budget.

But please stop copying Scott Mandia's meme or list me Glecik's credentials as a journalist. Gleick is an "internationally recognized climate and water expert" first, an author second, and a blogger at several sites third. Oh, and he is (was?) a "defender of scientific integrity". That makes him a citizen-journalist - which is not to say it is not valuable. Yet pretending Gleick is up to the same journalist standards as, say, the Guardian's Leo Hickman is false.

Secondly, there is hardly anything "journalistic" about Gleick's tactic, as Megan McArdle makes clear. What remains is fraud.

by Nomad on Wed Feb 22nd, 2012 at 06:52:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, he just got fired as columnist for the LA Times. So maybe he's an ex-journalist.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Thu Feb 23rd, 2012 at 04:02:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
published in Forbes also.

I agree with this comment :

climatespin: Peter Gleick is still a good scientist

Peter Gleick is a trained scientist but amateur journalist.  His general-interest writing on water and climate issues is actually quite good.   Doing science and doing journalism are two different things.  If Dr. Gleick committed some kind of ethical lapse in his journalism exploits, that shouldn't have any impact on his standing as a scientist.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Thu Feb 23rd, 2012 at 04:10:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
are writers, not journalists. Journalists, being writers, can be columnists. The reverse doesn't apply that quickly.

Gleick can't, and doesn't, boast on any of his public profiles I've seen about his wide ranging journalism exploits but underlines his position as scientist. Climatespin, indeed.

As Gleick was to be the Chair of the AGU Scientific Ethics committee, there is little doubt that also his standing as a scientist is ruined.

What should remain unblemished is his scientific research and publications.

by Nomad on Thu Feb 23rd, 2012 at 11:30:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 02:15:05 PM EST
Clearing earthquake camps in Haiti is not pretty - The Washington Post

International aid worker Emmett Fitz­gerald has to get 20,000 very poor people squatting in front of the National Palace to pack up their tarps and tin, their plastic buckets and soiled mats -- to empty the most notorious camp in Haiti and go home.

The hard part: What home?

There is not enough money, there is not enough time to build the cities of tomorrow in Haiti today. So the 4,641 families that have been living for the past two years in the Champ de Mars park in downtown Port-au-Prince will be given $500 to return to the kind of desperate housing they lived in before the earthquake.

In Haiti, that is considered good news.

"We're not talking about a house. We're talking about renting a room, space on the floor, with a roof, access to water, a communal kitchen, maybe a toilet," Fitzgerald said. As program coordinator for the International Organization for Migration, he is working alongside the Haitian government to clear the Champ de Mars camp, with a $20 million grant from the Canadian government.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 05:05:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Body clock 'alters' immune system

The time of the day could be an important factor in the risk of getting an infection, according to researchers in the US.

They showed how a protein in the immune system was affected by changes in the chemistry of the body through the day.

The findings, published in the journal Immunity, showed the time of an infection changed its severity.

An expert said drugs were likely to take advantage of the body clock in the near future.

Plants, animals and even bacteria go through a daily 24-hour routine, known as a circadian rhythm. Jet lag is what happens when the body gets out of sync with its surroundings after crossing time zones.

It has been known that there are variations in the immune system throughout the day. Researchers are now drilling down into the details.

The immune system needs to detect an infection before it can begin to fight it off. Researchers at Yale University School of Medicine were investigating one of the proteins involved in the detection process - Toll-like receptor nine (TLR9), which can spot DNA from bacteria and viruses.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 05:06:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Genome Sequencing's Affordable, and Frightful, Future - Businessweek

"Here it is," I thought. "Mortality in an e-mail." It had been almost four months since I walked into a lab at a Harvard research facility, rolled up my sleeve, and gave a vial of blood to have my genome sequenced.

Now my deciphered genome was complete. It appeared to be a good report. For one thing, I didn't see the word "Alzheimer's"--not that dementia runs in my family. I saw a variant linked to slightly higher-than-normal risk of macular degeneration. No surprise; about 10 percent of Americans develop this condition, and my mother has it. There was a variant linked to higher risk of schizophrenia, which I'm probably too old to develop. But then my eyes wandered back to the top of the report and an unfamiliar series of letters and numbers: JAK2-V617F. The JAK2 gene variant was classified as "well-established pathogenic," meaning harmful. It appears frequently in people with rare, "cancer-like" blood diseases. Although most are treatable, this wasn't the best news. My wife, Judi, and I agreed we would have to look into this further before starting to worry.

Genome sequencing will become more widely used as the cost drops to $1,000 in coming months, manufacturers and researchers say. Navigenics, 23andMe, and other companies that offer test kits for home use and post results on a secure site have been scanning the genome for individual markers of ancestry and health risks for years. These companies, whose services are branded as "recreational" and cost anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars, have taken criticism for lacking precision and overstating the weight of their findings. Now whole genome sequencing, which provides a far more detailed view of an individual's protein-making machinery, is becoming affordable enough to become a routine diagnostic tool--on par, price-wise, with an MRI--as well as a way to find out how much Neanderthal DNA one has, or whether one is likely to go bald. (At age 53, I no longer need confirmation on that last count.) Google (GOOG) and Amazon.com (AMZN) are both investing in technologies to manage the information tidal wave expected from powerful new sequencers. But while the ever-growing library of the human genome will prove an invaluable reference to science--not to mention marketers--it's still unclear how individuals will react to having their genetic fortunes read.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 05:06:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 05:19:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How did a man buried in this frozen car for two months come out of it alive? - Europe - World - The Independent

Swedish doctors and survival experts were calling it the "case of a lifetime" yesterday after an emaciated and near-speechless 44-year-old man was dragged from an icebound car, claiming he had been inside the vehicle for two months.

The man, identified as Peter Skyllberg, was discovered on Friday by a group of snowmobile drivers. They spotted his snow-covered car parked at the end of a track in a forest near the town of Umea, about 260km north of Stockholm in Sweden's frozen north, where temperatures hit -30C.

After brushing off a 2ft-thick crust of snow covering the vehicle, they were shocked to see a man curled up in a ball on the back seat, wrapped in a sleeping bag. Photographs of the inside of the car published yesterday showed the dashboard and driving seat coated with frost and ice.

Ebbe Nyberg, one of a team of policemen called to the scene, said: "He was in a very poor state. He said he had been there for a very long time and survived on a little snow."

Police said they believed his account.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 05:06:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Italian mummies preserved in mercury for almost 200 years | Mail Online

These remarkable Italian mummies have been preserved almost perfectly 200 years ago for medical demonstrations.

Giovan Battista Rini stripped away the skin to show the muscles, airways and blood vessels inside the heads.

Academics have now discovered the specimens were injected with arsenic and mercury - or dipped in chemical baths to preserve them for research.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 05:07:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Looks like a Commedia del'Arte mask.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 05:50:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 02:15:10 PM EST
I'll have what Nomad's having.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 05:24:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
double, please!

'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 Mon Feb 20th, 2012 at 05:51:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Millions remember the martyrdom of Saint Pancake

As a final indignity, Pancake's body was smothered in lemon juice.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 04:24:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Pastafarians also remember him, but have a slightly different account of his martyrdom.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 04:30:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Comedian friend just posted his latest artwork. How this fits in with his sterling work as a team captain on the Finnish version of HIGNFY, I do not know. We first got together through a mutual admiration of The Church of the Subgenius.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Feb 21st, 2012 at 10:21:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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