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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 28 February

by Nomad Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 05:34:42 PM EST

 A Daily Review Of International Online Media 

Europeans on this date in history:

1522 - birth of Joost Bürgi (d. 1632), a Swiss mathematician and clockmaker, who built the first clock with a minute hand

More here and here

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by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 01:15:37 PM EST
BBC News - Spain judge Baltasar Garzon cleared on Franco probe

Spain's Supreme Court has cleared high-profile judge Baltasar Garzon of violating a 1977 amnesty law with his investigation of Franco-era crimes.

Two right-wing groups had accused Mr Garzon of overstepping his powers by trying to prosecute crimes committed between 1936 and 1975.

Mr Garzon said crimes against humanity should not be subject to an amnesty.

Earlier this month, he was suspended from the bench for 11 years after being found guilty of illegal phonetapping.

Mr Garzon has vowed to fight that conviction. He faces a third trial, brought by private parties, which involves allegations that he took bribes.

The 56-year-old campaigning judge is best known worldwide for helping to secure the arrest of the former Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998.

But he is a controversial figure who divides opinion in Spain, say observers.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:01:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So he was found guilty of something he arguably did not do, but found innocent of something he did do?
by oliver on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 03:25:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On the wiretapping thing, it seems likely that it was indeed illegal, but standard practice, i.e. he was targeted for a technical offence that is not generally enforced, presumably because it was easy to get a conviction. 11 years disqualification for this seems like a flagrant injustice.

On the Franco era, it seems pretty clear that he overstepped the law. My guess is that they dropped this case because they have already nailed him, and want to avoid a high-profile trial that would attract international attention.

Whatever one thinks of Garzon and his methods, it certainly looks like a stitch-up and a travesty of justice. If this were France, one would conclude that it was done on instructions from the government. Apparently the Spanish justice system is independent, but seems to behave like a mafia, and does not come out of this at all well.

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

by eurogreen on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 03:53:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See Clipping the wings of a judge on February 10th, 2012
In addition, in what smacks of selective enforcement, wiretaps are routinely ordered by investigative judges, and later thrown out as evidence without this leading to prosecutions of the judges that ordered them.
Also, The Bunker in the Spanish Judiciary / El Búnker Judicial on February 7th, 2007.

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 28th, 2012 at 05:08:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, and in addition a third case (bribery) was dismissed by the investigative judge before getting to the trial phase because of statute of limitations, but the judge basically wrote in his decision that Garzón was guilty. This has been criticised by Garzón's allies because, as the case will not proceed to trial, he has no opportunity to defend himself and the investigative judge's opinion is written as if wrongdoing had been established in court, when technically it hasn't been.

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 28th, 2012 at 05:05:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EL Pais: "Las pruebas se mueren"
Las pruebas de un crimen se recogen, se custodian, a veces se pierden y otras, se mueren. Este último es el caso de las víctimas del franquismo, señalaba ayer Emilio Silva, nieto de fusilado y presidente de la Asociación para la Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica. "El Supremo nos ha hecho perder mucho tiempo con el procesamiento de Garzón y tiempo es lo que no tienen los familiares de las víctimas. Se han destruido muchas pruebas porque desde que se inició este proceso ha muerto gente que podía llevarnos a abrir fosas del franquismo".


Murieron testigos sin haber contado a un juez lo que vieron, y murieron también muchas víctimas sin que un tribunal recogiera su testimonio y, en el caso del robo de niños, una muestra de ADN que cotejar si la investigación llevaba a ese hijo sustraído. Fallecieron después de una lucha de muchos años. Como Jesús Pueyo, que en 1977 ya escribía cartas al Rey pidiendo ayuda para localizar a sus siete familiares fusilados y que murió en enero con 90 años y a menos de un mes de ser llamado a declarar en el Supremo para contar la terrible historia de su familia.


Los denunciantes pedirán al Supremo que resuelva "de urgencia" el asunto sobre la competencia de las fosas, todavía pendiente. Prácticamente todos los jueces territoriales han archivado las causas. Solo los de Granada y El Escorial las devolvieron a la Audiencia Nacional por entender que se trataba de crímenes contra la humanidad. La sentencia absolutoria apunta a que la opinión del Supremo es que los jueces no tienen nada que aportar en este asunto: "La búsqueda de la verdad es una pretensión tan legítima como necesaria, pero corresponde al Estado y no al juez".

"The evidence is dying off"
Evidence of a crime is gathered, kept, sometimes is lost, and some other times it dies off. The latter is the case with victims of Francoism, indicated yesterday Emilio Silva, grandchild of a firing squad victim and president of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory. "The Supreme Court has made us waste a lot of time with the indictment of Garzón and time is not something the relatives of victims have. Lots of evidence is destroyed because people have died who could have taken us to open mass graves from Franco's time".


Witnesses died without telling a judge what they saw, and many died too without bearing witness to a court and, in the case of the theft of children, [without providing] a DNA sample to check against if the investigation led to that stolen child. They died after a struggle of many years. Such as Jesús Pueyo, who in 1977 already wrote letters to the King asking for help to locate his seven relatives dead by firing squad and who died in January at 90 and less than a month before being callued to the stand in the Supreme Court to tell the terrible story of his family.


The plaintiffs will ask the Supreme Court to resolve "urgently" the issue of the competence over mass graves, which is still pending. Practically every regional judge has closed the proceedings. Only those in Granada and El Escorial returned them to the National Court [where Garzón used to be judge] because they understood it was about crimes against humanity. The not-guilty sentence hints that the Supreme Court's opinion is that judges have nothing to add to this issue: "The quest for truth is a goal as legitimate as it is necessary, but it is the competence of the State and not of the Judge".

There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 05:49:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All at sea: Italy mistreated Mediterranean migrants | Antoine Buyse | Law | guardian.co.uk

Last week the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights delivered judgment in an important case about one of the most topical migration issues: irregular migrants intercepted in the Mediterranean by ECHR state parties. In the case of Hirsi Jamaa and others, the court found, unanimously, that Italy had violated three Articles of the ECHR.

The applicants in the case were 11 Somalians and 13 Eritreans who had been intercepted by the Italian coastguard in May 2009 when trying to cross the Mediterranean. They were brought to Tripoli in Libya and handed over to the Libyan authorities under an Italo-Libyan agreement. Their identities were not checked during their time on board of the Italian vessels.

First, the Grand Chamber had to decide whether the applicants fell within Italy's jurisdiction (Article 1 ECHR). Italy denied that by taking them on board it had exercised "absolute and exclusive control" over the applicants. Rather, it argued that it had been obliged under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to save human lives on the high seas. This in itself, in Italy's view, did not create a jurisdictional link between Italy and the rescued.

The Grand Chamber disagreed. First, it confirmed that under the law of the sea, and under Italian law for that matter, a ship on the high seas is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the flag state. Secondly, states cannot avoid being held responsible under the ECHR by framing an act as a rescue operation under the law of the sea. Thirdly, the events took place on vessels of Italy's armed forces manned by a crew of Italian military personnel. The applicants were thus under continuous and exclusive de jure and de facto control of Italy. Thus, they fell within the jurisdiction of that state for the whole period that they found themselves on those Italian vesssels. One could say here, that a causal legal chain of events starts to operate once a ship operated by a state party's authorities catch sight of a group of people in danger at sea: the law of the sea requires to save them, and as a result these people are brought within the jurisdiction of that state under the ECHR. Put differently, any state attempt to push back irregular migration at sea rather than on land does not absolve a state from its human rights responsibilities.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:01:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Costa cruise ship adrift with 1,000 passengers on board - Italy - FRANCE 24

An Italian cruise ship from the same fleet as the tragedy-struck Costa Concordia is adrift off the Seychelles with more than 1,000 people on board following a fire, Italy's coast guard said Monday.

Fire crews on board managed to put out the blaze near generators in the engine room, and no one was injured on the luxury ship, the Costa Allegra.

The ship however issued a mayday call seeking assistance from any nearby cargo ships and there was a power blackout on board, the coastguard said in a statement.

It said it had contacted local authorities in the Seychelles, adding that the accident happened near Alphonse Island some 200 nautical miles from the Indian Ocean archipelago's main island.

A Seychelles official said help was on the way.

"We have made contact with the vessel. We are sending assistance," said Michael Rosette, deputy army chief of staff, adding: "There are no casualties."

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:01:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Plot to assassinate Putin foiled claims Russian television - Europe - World - The Independent

Russian and Ukrainian security groups have foiled a plan to assassinate Prime Minister Vladimir Putin after Russia's March 4 presidential election, Russia's pro-government Channel One television said on Monday.

The report, which did not quote any named security officials, said Ukrainian special services had detained two people in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa after an explosion at a rented apartment in which one person was killed.

The report said the plotters had been working for a group that wants to create an Islamic state in Russia's North Caucasus and had planned to travel to Moscow to assassinate Putin, who is expected to win the presidential election.

Channel One said the Ukrainian special services had alerted the Russian FSB security agency and the men had been detained early this year.

"Our final goal was to go to Moscow and attempt to assassinate Putin," a man described as one of the plotters was shown as saying on Channel One. "Our deadline was after the election of the president of Russia."

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:02:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Putin assassination plot denounced as Russian election 'spectacle' | World news | The Guardian

The Kremlin has been accused of playing up a purported assassination attempt against Vladimir Putin to boost his popularity ahead of Russia's upcoming presidential election.

"This is part of a clear election campaign," said Yevgeniya Chirikova, a leader of the protest movement that has brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets of Moscow calling on Putin to quit. "It's to bring attention to Vladimir Putin, and to develop this idea that there's a threat everywhere. It's a spectacle."

Putin's press secretary described such statements as "blasphemous".

State-run Channel One television reported that two men arrested by Russian and Ukrainian special forces in the Ukrainian port of Odessa earlier this year had been dispatched to kill Putin by Chechen rebel Doku Umarov, the leader of Russia's separatist Islamist movement.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:02:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Given what we know of the dirty politics in Russia, it isn't hard to believe this was some stunt orchestrated by Suryov on Putin's behalf. Whether Putin knew about it is another matter

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 02:59:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
New evidence casts doubt in Lockerbie case - Africa - Al Jazeera English

Fresh scientific evidence unearthed by a Scottish legal review undermines the case against the man convicted of being responsible for the Lockerbie aircraft bombing, an investigation for Al Jazeera has found.

The Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission (SCCRC) report details evidence that would probably have resulted in the verdict against Abdel Baset al-Meghrahi, a Libyan man convicted of carrying out the bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 in 1988, being overturned.

'Lockerbie: Case Closed', an hour-long documentary to be aired on Al Jazeera on Monday, examines the evidence uncovered by the SCCRC as well as revealing fresh scientific evidence which is unknown to the commission but which comprehensively undermines a crucial part of the case against the man known as the Lockerbie bomber.

Among the evidence examined by the SCCRC was the testimony of Tony Gauci, a shop owner from Malta, and the most important prosecution witness in the case.

Gauci identified Megrahi as a man who had bought clothing and an umbrella from him on December 7, 1988 - remnants of which were later recovered from among debris recovered from the disaster scene.  

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:03:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com / Justice & Home Affairs / Watchdog warns of 'blatant racism' against Roma

Europe's Roma population is subject to growing discrimination and more and more attacks by extremist groups, according to the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe (CoE).

The council in a 250-page report published on Monday (27 February) said they suffer from "blatant racism" and have a life expectancy 10 years less than the average in several EU member states including Hungary, Spain and the United Kingdom.

"They remain far behind others in education, employment, access to decent housing and health," the CoE's human rights commissioner Thomas Hammarberg told reporters in Brussels.

He noted that a cycle of disadvantage, exclusion, segregation and marginalisation feeds into a growing "anti-gypsyism" that uses Roma as a scapegoat to explain away society's ills while simultaneously depriving them of any chance to improve their lives.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:04:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurointelligence Daily Briefing: Merkel loses her "chancellor majority"
The Bundestag votes for the Greek programme with a large majority, but Angela Merkel misses the higher majority threshold; the threshold is largely symbolic, but the German press interpreted it as a sign that popular support for sustaining weak eurozone countries is waning; 20 coalition MPs voted against or abstained, and a further six did not turn up; Merkel said her oath of office would not allow her to take the kind of risks a Greek default would present; Peer Steinbrück of the SPD said the Bundestag will soon debate a third Greek programme; Bertholder Kohler says that Merkel is fighting a two front war of uncertain length; Holger Stelzer says governments and the ECB were now on course for a complete socialisation of all European debt; Thorsten Denkler writes that the loss of the ,,chancellor majority" did not represent a crisis, because the goverment has been in a crisis right from the start; the Portuguese newspaper Publico reports that EU leaders will not hold a special eurozone summit after this week's scheduled European Council meeting because there will be no agreement on the extension of the ESM; Spanish inflation rises to 8.5% due to an overshoot in the autonomous regions; the IMF has approached the next loan tranche for Ireland; grey market prices suggest that the cost of 10-year Italian debt at today's bond auction will fall to below 6% to about 5.7%; Standard & Poor's has downgraded Greece to selective default; Quentin Peel writes that German procrastination on the extension of the ESM is due in part because the German government wants to wait until the end of the Greek debt swap, and assess the market impact; Jean Pisani-Ferry, meanwhile, argues that the EU should not impose deficit targets this year.

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 28th, 2012 at 05:00:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Another step in the replacement of governments by corporations.

Companies bypassing immigration cap on skilled migrants | UK news | The Guardian

British companies are bypassing the government's cap on skilled migrants by bringing in staff from their plants and offices overseas, an official report has found.

Figures from the Home Office's migration advisory committee show that the numbers coming to Britain under the "intra-company transfer" scheme have surged in the past two years and now outnumber those coming into Britain on work visas by three to one. The rise has rendered the cap on skilled overseas migrants redundant, with fewer than half the work visas available under the annual limit being used.

The latest figures show that transfers of company staff, especially from IT firms in India, have risen from 22,000 in 2009 to 29,700 in the 12 months to September last year. David Cameron exempted these staff transfers from the immigration cap after strong lobbying by the business secretary, Vince Cable, and representations from the Indian government.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 08:37:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
not unrelated

There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 08:52:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is a European ruling that the rights of companies (or "moral entities") cannot be superior to those of individuals.

i.e. any migrant-worker deal that is open to a company, is also open to individuals.

For example, if country X allows a transnational IT company to bring in IT workers from India, it must also allow individual Indian IT workers to come to seek work under the same conditions. This is important not only for human rights, but to level the playing field for employers (otherwise, there is a huge undue advantage to transnationals over local employers).

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

by eurogreen on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 09:31:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's have a global living income and open borders while we're at it.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 09:32:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And a pony, too.

There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 09:37:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
TheJournal.ie - Read, Share and Shape the News

THE TAOISEACH HAS confirmed that there will be a referendum held to ratify the EU fiscal compact treaty.

The Taoiseach informed the Dáil this afternoon of the Attorney General had advised the cabinet this morning that a referendum is required on the fiscal compact agreement that was finalised by EU leaders earlier this month.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 10:15:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To get a positive vote, the EU will need to cough up some major stimulus...

Blow-by-blow account of the announcement and debate in the Irish parliament :
LIVE: It is announced that Ireland WILL hold referendum on EU fiscal compact treaty · TheJournal.ie

15.12 - Both Kenny and Gilmore said they were confident of a yes vote in the referendum.

Yeah sure...

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

by eurogreen on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 10:32:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sarkozy's little electoral manoeuvre to collect the votes of France's Armenian minority has fallen flat...

Le Conseil constitutionnel censure la loi sur le génocide arménien - LeMonde.frThe Constitutional Council invalidates the law on the Armenian Genocide - LeMonde.fr
Le Conseil constitutionnel a déclaré inconstitutionnelle mardi 28 février la loi réprimant la contestation des génocides, dont le génocide arménien. Le Conseil a estimé que le législateur portait une "atteinte inconstitutionnelle à l'exercice de la liberté d'expression et de communication".The Constitutional Council has declared unconstitutional Tuesday, February 28 a law criminalizing denial of genocides, including the Armenian genocide . The Council considered that the legislature was a "unconstitutional interference with the exercise of freedom of expression and communication" .

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 11:59:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 01:15:43 PM EST
EUobserver.com / Economic Affairs / German parliament agrees second bail-out for Greece
The German parliament on Monday (27 February) approved a second bail-out for Greece, despite hearing from Chancellor Angela Merkel that there is 'no 100 percent guarantee' it will work.

In a keenly watched vote, 496 deputies were in favour of the €130bn aid package while 90 were against. The vote is a political boost for Merkel who has walked a political tightrope trying to sell the deal to a sceptical public, but it fell short of the symbolically important 'Chancellor majority' - reaching the threshold without the support of opposition parties.

With mass selling tabloid talking about Greece being a "bottomless pit" and calling for a stop to sending aid to the stricken country - a sentiment shared by some prominent conservative politicians - Merkel admitted that the second programme may not be enough.

"The way ahead for Greece is long and it is truly not without risks. This also refers to the success of the new programme. Nobody can give a 100 percent guarantee of success," she said.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:14:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Opinion: We Have Become the New Villain - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International
The German parliament is set to approve a new multibillion euro bailout package for Greece on Monday, but instead of thanks, southern Europeans are expressing their dislike of us. Germans will have to get used to their new role: We have become the Americans of Europe.

Here's an idea. Police reports used to exclude the ethnic origins of the perpetrators of crimes. Why not apply that practice to reporting the euro crisis? We could stop mentioning which countries are getting aid. Instead of writing about the Greeks or Portuguese, we could just refer to the recipient as a southern European country -- or, better yet, of our fellow European citizens in the south.

Perhaps that would serve to improve the mood in Europe.

You have to be very careful about what you say these days. One careless statement and suddenly you can get crushed by a wave of emotions. I know what I'm talking about. After the cruise ship accident near Giglio in Italy, I made a few irreverent comments about Italians that seemed to outrage half of Italy. The Italian ambassador in Berlin even gave me a dressing down. I'm just happy that Italy is part of the Schengen Zone. After reading what had been written about me in the Italian press, I don't know whether they would have let me back into the country.

In my defense, I can say that I am not the only person who has unwittingly triggered a diplomatic imbroglio in these difficult times. Who would have thought that people in Athens also listen to SWR 2 radio? But German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble had barely finished an interview with the public radio broadcaster from his southern German home region about the reform efforts of Greek politicians before he was accused of disparaging the Greeks. "Who is this Herr Schäuble who insults Greece?" Greek President Karolos Papoulias roared back at Berlin. Schäuble, too, apparently underestimated how easy it is to insult people in the south.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:15:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
shorter Speigel : Wah, wah, political correctness, wah {/Clarkson}

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 03:02:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We have become the Americans of Europe.

Lazy, stupid, obese, self-absorbed ...

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 09:18:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Open Europe (openeurope) sur Twitter
Breaking: German Constitutional Court rules 9 man special parliamentary committee to decide over EFSF is "predominantly unconstitutional"

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 04:27:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bundesverfassungsgericht: EFSF-Sondergremium in Teilen verfassungswidrig - Inland - FAZFederal Constitutional Court: Special EFSF committee in part unconstitutional
undestagsabgeordnete müssen an Entscheidungen zur Euro-Rettung stärker beteiligt werden. Der Bundestag darf dies nicht auf Kleinstgremien übertragen, wie das Bundesverfassungsgericht in einem am Dienstag verkündeten Urteil entschied.German MPs must be involved to a greater extent in decisions on the rescue of the Euro. The Bundestag may not delegate this to an extremely small committee, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled in a decision announced Tuesday.
Das Gericht erklärte eine wichtige Verfahrensregel für die deutsche Beteiligung an Maßnahmen des Euro-Rettungsschirms EFSF im Wesentlichen für unwirksam (2 BvE 8/11). Eine Entscheidung durch das Gremium bleibt aber zulässig, soweit es um Ankäufe von Staatsanleihen auf dem Finanzmarkt geht. Bei solchen Maßnahmen sei es aus Gründen der Vertraulichkeit gerechtfertigt, wenn nicht der gesamte Bundestag, sondern nur ein kleines Gremium entscheidet.The court declared an important procedural rule for German participation in actions of the EFSF to be essentially invalid. A decision by this body remains valid only when it concerns the purchase of sovereign bonds on the financial market. For reasons of confidentiality, it is justifiable that the decision is taken by just a small body and not the entire Bundestag.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 07:10:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurozone bank lending stabilises - FT.com

Eurozone bank lending has shown signs of stabilisation after an abrupt fall, supporting the view that the European Central Bank's willingness to pump cheap money into the economy may help stave off a credit crunch.

Data on the flow of bank loans to companies, showing a fall of €1bn in January compared with a €35bn fall in December, comes before a second "long-term refinancing operation" (LTRO) being carried out by the ECB, in which eurozone banks can borrow as much money as they want for three years at cheap rates.

Mario Draghi, ECB president, has already said the eurozone averted a "major credit crunch" after the central bank's first, unprecedented offer of such loans in December. Then, more than 500 banks borrowed €489bn.

In making longer-term loans available cheaply to banks, the ECB hopes to help them meet their own refinancing needs while encouraging them to keep up the supply of loans to the wider economy. The fear has been that an economic downturn would be aggravated if banks - particularly in countries hardest hit by the sovereign debt crisis - were too worried about the weakness of their balance sheets to finance consumers and the corporate sector.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:17:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The ECB Power Base Grows Ever Stronger - WSJ.com

Seekers of silver linings will have noticed one positive outcome from last Monday's Greek bailout deal: It has managed to survive a week without unravelling. True, the markets haven't exactly reacted with euphoria to a deal that has supposedly prevented a disorderly default and Greek euro exit. But the fact markets haven't yet fallen apart is in contrast to previous "make or break" euro deals over the past two years, such as the infamous Deauville summit in 2010, the July 21 deal last year and the disaster at Cannes in October, which only intensified the crisis. If a modest post-deal rise in most major stock markets now constitutes a disappointment, perhaps that counts as a kind of progress.

The lack of enthusiasm from the market is understandable. Huge implementation risks remain. The Greek government has a daunting list of so-called"prior actions" to achieve before it receives the bailout money. There is a non-negligible risk the private sector bondholder debt exchange will fail. National parliaments in Germany, the Netherlands and Finland must approve the deal. Worse, hardly anyone thinks the deal will work: Few believe there is much chance that Greece will hit its target of a debt to GDP ratio of 120.5% by 2020--or that the debt would be sustainable if it did. Most believe further debt relief will be needed, so the prospect of a default and euro exit remains. Given Greece needs trade and investment, if the market thinks the deal can't work that raises the odds it won't.

Still, the fact there was any deal is significant--and provides some clues on how the crisis might play out. What is clear is that a number of euro-zone governments now believe Greece should leave the euro zone and many would have been happy to have helped it on its way by pushing it into default last week. On a visit to Germany last week, I was struck by how many people in the country's financial sector believe the markets could take a Greek euro exit in their stride and believe the euro would be a stronger currency without Greece in it. Many believe last week's deal is simply designed to buy time, perhaps only until the summer, before Greece is forced out of the euro. German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has said publicly he believes Greece should quit the single currency.

That view is emphatically not shared by the European Central Bank.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:45:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
François Hollande: Towards a European 'New Deal'? | EurActiv

As part of an ongoing series, EurActiv France is profiling major candidates in the 2012 French presidential elections, analysing in detail what their political action, programmes and policies mean for the European Union. François Hollande, Socialist candidate and current front-runner, promises a break with the 'Merkozy' consensus on Europe's economic crisis and a revision of the fiscal compact treaty.

Click hear to read the original version of the profile of François Hollande on EurActiv France.

In his entourage Hollande passes for a 'convinced European'. "It is one of his oldest and most structured commitments," says a source close to him. However, his career has had both ups and downs because of European affairs (see background) and some say he would have preferred to steer clear of the topic in his run for the presidency.

As one French Socialist politician told EurActiv, "At the beginning of his campaign, Hollande and those close to him did not want to talk about Europe. It doesn't sell. They were forced to do so when Sarkozy put the treaty on the table and they had to react".

This is perhaps not so surprising given that 'Europe' - often perceived as a symbol of austerity and laissez-faire capitalism in France - has been one of the most divisive issues within the Socialist Party.

Hollande, long successfully caricatured as weak and indecisive, has been able to win over a large part of the French public, portraying himself as a "normal" candidate. While he has long had a prominent role in national politics, the Socialist candidate has never held ministerial office, earning him the title the "novice Mr. Hollande" from The Economist weekly. Similar language often appears in the French press.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:19:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - China reforms needed to sustain growth, says World Bank

China needs to embrace fundamental free-market reforms if its economy is to continue to grow at the "impressive" pace of the past three decades, the World Bank has said.

The country had reached a "turning point" and needed to reform a growth model that was "unsustainable".

The role of government and state enterprises needed redefining, it said.

But even if growth slows, China was likely to become the world's largest economy before 2030, the bank added. 'Muddling through'

In a report, the World Bank said the Chinese economy had grown on average by 10% a year for the past 30 years to become the world's largest exporter and manufacturer and its second-largest economy.

But it said such growth could not be sustained without far-reaching reforms.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:20:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
they could try boosting domestic demand by paying their workers good wages and giving them leisure time.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 03:05:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They could but they won't.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 09:19:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Economics and Politics by Paul Krugman - The Conscience of a Liberal - NYTimes.com

This is not original, but for reference I find some charts useful. In what follows I show data for the euro area minus Malta and Cyprus -- 15 countries. I use red bars for the GIPSIs -- Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, IrelandItaly -- and blue bars for everyone else.

There are basically three stories about the euro crisis in wide circulation: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth.

The Republican story is that it's all about excessive welfare states. How does that hold up? Well, let's look at public social expenditures as a share of GDP in 2007, before the crisis, from the OECD Factbook:

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:24:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Michael Olenick: Debunking the "Housing Has Bottomed" Meme « naked capitalism

I'm one of the very few borrower-friendly analysts who somewhat admires Goldman Sachs, though in the same way I also admire a Bengal Tiger: they're somewhat ruthless. But GS staffers, when faced with public policy versus morality issues, are like the characters in the movie Idiocracy who find the only thing they have in common is that they all "like money." Their analyst may be correct, or they may be working -- to quote prior internal email -- on pumping another "shitty deal" like exploding CDO Timberwolf, structured-to-fail Abacus, or the financial destruction of Greece. Their reputation is better than the NAR, though their motives are not always clear.

Then there are those completed foreclosure figures. Yes .. they're down. But only because the foreclosure processing packing-house came to a virtual stop, especially in high-volume states, thanks to a fraud-fest unlike any ever seen in US history.

Finally there is the argument that seasonal trends show a slight decrease in January inventory, which will nudge inventories higher (as in the some of the fall in inventories in January may be due to factors like sellers taking homes off the market, which means some of the reported improvement may not reflect fundamentals). I agree with this point: banks tend to ratchet down evictions during the holiday season and buyers tend to avoid moving in the middle of winter. But this seasonal adjustment will just make inventories higher. As the snow begins to melt away, and the unofficial foreclosure moratoriums end due to the AG settlement, if the banks open the floodgates inventory stands to spike.

I don't want house values to fall through the floor. I own a house in Florida and expect the value to take a massive hit if the rocket-docket judges resume their reckless quest to throw fellow Floridians to the street. I stand to personally benefit on the tiny chance this relentless drive to deceive people into buying homes in an unstable market succeeds and stabilizes prices. But I'm neither delusional nor dishonest: there is not a single credible data point I've seen that home prices will increase anytime soon. They may stabilize if banks control inventory, but by definition that means buyers can wait to see what actually happens rather than what's predicted to happen.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:24:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Yorkshire Ranter: This is not a mafia business. This relies on credit! (February 05, 2012)
Via Jamie Kenny, a must-read translation of a Chinese investigative report into the case of Wu Ying, a Chinese businesswoman who is in deep trouble with the law. What's interesting here is that the report provides a deep view into some of the most important interfaces in the political economy of China - between the official and shadow banking sectors, between both and the Party, and between the Party and organised crime. It's been suggested by quite a few people, notably Ken Livingstone's economic advisor John Ross, that Chinese macro-economic policy is basically all about investment - whereas other countries might target inflation, the money supply, nominal or real GDP, an exchange-rate peg, or full employment with a range of fiscal or monetary tools, Chinese policy makers have a primary policy target of maintaining sufficient employment growth to keep up with the growth of the urban workforce, and a primary policy tool of controlling the rate of capital investment. This is achieved through a combination of fiscal policy through the government budget, both formal regulation and informal influence over the banking sector, and monetary policy, specifically the management of the RMB exchange rate and the terms on which central bank intervention is sterilised or not.


Now, back to Wu Ying's cell. This story is all about how the system tries to control investment, how Chinese entrepreneurs and officials try to subvert this control, what happens when it breaks down, and how it is then restored. It's fairly typical of economies with strong official controls on bank balance sheets that a big market in direct inter-company lending develops (it happened in post-war Britain). If you can't get a loan from the bank, perhaps you could arrange something with a business that happens to be awash with cash. Obviously, this is a lot easier if there is some sort of intermediary who can make the deal. And in China there are specific, geographically linked networks of entrepreneurs who have become specialised in this unofficial shadow-banking sector. Technically it is entirely illegal, so it's up to the intermediary to enforce the terms of the contract in their own sweet way. Which of course brings in another actor, organised crime or privatised protection.

This being China, though, it's more complicated than that. Wu Ying's creditor, Lin Weiping, was a former Cultural Bureau official turned moneylender or rather "funding coordinator", who acted as a sort of broker between savers and borrowers. Well, it started off like that but the business prospered and pretty soon people were depositing spare cash with him overnight. This is an important moment - he wasn't just introducing the two parties to a private arrangement any more, but rather, he was now operating a bank. The demand for credit outside the official system, and for high-yielding (2-5% monthly interest) deposits, was enormous. Fascinatingly, it turned out that the official banks were also keen to find sources of wholesale funding that let them get around the People's Bank of China's monetary policy - they started borrowing from him on overnight terms. This was implemented by sending a straw-man to open an account and deposit the cash. Lin, having turned himself into a bank, now went a step further and became a central bank. You might wonder how long it would have taken him to start issuing his own currency.

There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 09:07:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 01:15:48 PM EST
BBC News - Syria army shells Homs and northern towns in Idlib

Syrian military forces have launched a fresh offensive on several towns in the north-western province of Idlib.

A BBC correspondent says troops have been firing artillery, mortars and anti-aircraft guns at Binnish and other towns near the city of Idlib.

The city of Homs remains under fire. Activists say 46 people were killed across Syria, many of them in Homs.

As the crackdown continues, the European Union has imposed further sanctions on Syria.

They include:

  • a freeze on the European-held assets of the Syrian central bank
  • travel bans on seven close associates of President Bashar al-Assad
  • a ban on cargo flights from Syria into the EU
  • restrictions on the trade in gold and precious metals
by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:36:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Syria says new constitution approved - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

Syrian state television has announced that 89.4 per cent of voters said "yes" to new constitution in a controversial referendum.

Syrian TV said on Monday that 57.4 per cent of eligible voters voted the day earlier and that only nine per cent said "no" to the referendum that President Bashar al-Assad's opponents and Western nations have dismissed as a sham.

The announcement of the results came just after the European Union adopted sanctions on Syria's central bank and froze the assets of several Syrian government officials.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:36:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
French far right rallies in defence of Syria's Assad - FRANCE - FRANCE 24

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen spent much of last week carefully deflecting journalists' probes into her party's stance on Syria - only to see her plain-spoken father quash her efforts Sunday when he brazenly defended Bashar al-Assad in an interview on French radio.

Describing the Syrian conflict as a civil war, former National Front (FN) leader Jean-Marie Le Pen said that it was "not abnormal for the Syrian state to defend itself," and that Bashar al-Assad should not face criticism from countries who fought Nazi Germany during World War II.

His comments came just days after his daughter, presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, was grilled on the subject herself. Appearing in a live TV debate on state channel France 2, Le Pen junior managed to evade the issue by arguing that there weren't "only bad guys or good guys" in Syria. "I just hope Bashar al-Assad won't be replaced by Islamist fundamentalists," she concluded, firmly dodging the question.

But her 85-year-old father had no qualms in weighing in on the issue. "Bashar al-Assad is a government leader who is facing a rebellion which is both civil and military," he declared. "I don't find it abnormal that the Syrian state is defending itself."

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:37:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Robert Fisk: The new Cold War has already started - in Syria - Robert Fisk - Commentators - The Independent

If Iran obtains nuclear weapons capability, "I think other nations across the Middle East will want to develop nuclear weapons".

Thus thundered our beloved Foreign Secretary, William Hague, in one of the silliest pronouncements he has ever made. Hague seems to spend much of his time impersonating himself, so I'm not really certain which of Mr Hague-Hague's personas made this statement.

Flaw number one, of course, is Hague-Hague's failure to point out that there already is another Middle East "nation" that has, in fact, several hundred nuclear weapons along with the missiles to fire them. It's called Israel. But blow me down, Hague-Hague didn't mention the fact. Didn't he know? Of course, he did. What he was trying to say, you see, was that if Iran persisted in producing a nuclear weapon, Arab states - Muslim states - would want to acquire one. And that would never do. The idea, of course, that Iran might be pursuing nuclear weapons because Israel already possesses them, did not occur to him.

Now as a nation that sells billions of pounds worth of military hardware to Gulf Arab nations - on the basis that they can then defend themselves from Iran's non-existent plans to invade them - Britain is really not in a position to warn anyone of arms proliferation in the region. I've been to the Gulf arms fairs where the Brits show alarming films of an "enemy" nation threatening the Arabs - Iran, of course - and the need for these Arab chappies to buy even more kit from British Aerospace and the rest of our merchants of death.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:40:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Britain : Hypocrisy is our primary export

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 03:10:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They say it's rather a profitable industry.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 07:13:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
allAfrica.com: Senegal: Nation Looks Set for Second Round in Presidential Elections

Unofficial results suggest that Senegal's presidential election will go to a second round, as it seems unlikely that any candidate has garnered the required 50 per cent of votes plus one.

85 year old President Abdoulaye Wade is seeking a disputed third term in office after circumventing a two-term limit he introduced into the constitution.

On Sunday, Wade was greeted with boos after casting his vote and he angrily pushed one of his bodyguards aside as he left hastily without speaking to waiting media.

Former prime minister Macky Sall, who was once Wade's protégé, appears to be doing well in unofficial results trickling in from polling stations.

These results are being released on public television and websites, but the electoral commission will start announcing official results on Tuesday and must give a final result on Friday.

If a second round is held, it is likely to take place between 18 March and 01 April.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:41:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Inside Yemen's revolution, cracks appear as Saleh leaves - The Washington Post

The youth activists who spearheaded the uprising that ended President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule are now grappling with internal divisions, as politics and competing visions weaken one of the Arab world's most dynamic revolts of the past year.

In Change Square, the nexus of the revolution, protesters have splintered into politically aligned groups, each determined to hold sway over the sprawling tented encampment near Sanaa University. The demonstrations have grown smaller as opposition parties take control, and clashes have erupted over who controls the microphones and stage.

Independent activist leaders say they were manipulated by the opposition parties, which agreed to a deal with the government last year and are now sharing power with Saleh's ruling party. Although Saleh has formally stepped down, he appears determined to remain influential through his powerful relatives and allies.

The activists say they won't leave Change Square until the remnants of Saleh's regime are gone and that they will press the new unity government to enact far-reaching reform. But a sense of frustration fills their discussions.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:42:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Ship's anchor slows down East African web connection

East Africa's high-speed internet access has been severely disrupted after a ship dropped its anchor onto fibre-optic cables off Kenya's coast.

The ship was waiting to enter Mombasa - one of Africa's busiest ports - when it anchored in a restricted area.

It could take up to 14 days to repair, cable owners The East African Marine Systems (Teams) told the BBC.

This is one of three undersea cables to have arrived in the region since 2009, delivering faster internet access.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:44:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Out of the public eye, China cracks down on another protesting village | McClatchy

The old woman walked over to the door and peeked out from behind a blue curtain, looking slowly from one side of the street to other. She muttered to those huddled in the room behind her, "the police will come."

The men, who'd been talking about officials stealing their land in Panhe, fell quiet. They knew what a visit would mean -- threats, beatings and then getting dragged off by the police.

In December, a high-profile standoff between residents and Communist Party bosses in a fishing village named Wukan, about 450 miles southwest of Panhe, ended peacefully. That case had some observers wondering if Chinese officials had changed the way they dealt with the intertwined problems of land rights and corruption.

What happened here suggests otherwise.

Earlier this month, people in Panhe marched to protest what they said was the theft by local leaders of communal lands. The complaints were met by a crackdown. Police and plainclothes security men hauled away at least 30 people. Villagers said the roundup targeted the protest organizers they'd selected to negotiate with the government.

"The officials took away all of the young people who were getting on the Internet," said one farmer, a 50-year-old man who like many interviewed asked that his name not be used for fear of arrest.

Panhe has become another in a long line of Chinese villages where locals say that corrupt officials and well-connected businessmen conspired to steal land or otherwise rob the poor.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:44:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The burning rage: Karzai pleads for calm as Koran fury spreads - Asia - World - The Independent

The tinderbox situation in Afghanistan threatened to ignite yesterday as fresh violence hit the country, and it emerged that a former policeman suspected of killing two US Nato officers in Kabul's interior ministry on Saturday spent two months at a religious school in neighbouring Pakistan before the attack.

Protests continued in Afghan cities and spread to Pakistan yesterday after the US admitted that copies of the Koran were accidentally burned by US forces at Bagram airbase.

The worst trouble was in Kunduz province, where a peaceful rally turned violent as marchers tried to enter the district's largest city.

Amanuddin Quriashi, the district administrator, said some in the crowd fired at police and threw grenades at a US base on the city's outskirts. Seven Nato troops were wounded and one protester died when soldiers fired back from the US base. Another protester was killed by Afghan police.

The renewed attacks on Western forces came as the Afghan interior ministry said one of its employees was suspected of killing the two US officers on Saturday.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:46:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Republican presidential race: what next for the candidates? | World news | The Guardian
Michigan is one challenger's boyhood home state - a loss there could create panic in the party about who can take on Obama

Mitt Romney

Michigan is close to make-or-break for Romney. The least that is expected of any candidate is to hold on to their home state. Romney was brought up and went to school near Detroit and his father was a popular governor of the state.

If he cannot hold it, questions will be asked among senior Republicans about whether he is a credible challenger to Barack Obama in November. To win a general election, a candidate should be able to win states dominated by blue-collar workers such as Michigan.

Defeat in Michigan would create panic in the Republican party and provoke frenzied speculation about whether, even at this late stage, an alternative candidate could come forward. This would undermine Romney and contribute to the sense of disarray in the party.

Arizona is less important symbolically than Michigan and there has been little campaigning there. It is one that Romney should win, not least because it has a large Mormon population that will vote almost as a bloc for him.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:49:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Colombia Reports: Colombia's largest rebel group FARC announced Sunday its intention to release all ten captive members of the security forces and to abandon kidnapping civilians for extortion purposes.
More HERE; Plus Boz ties this in with Chavez's health.

Honduras Culture and Politics: Leticia Salomon, a sociologist at UNAH, provided some of the most rapid and most insightful analyses of the 2009 coup...  Now Diego Jimenez, writing in Costa Rica's La Nación, gives us Salomon's response to the prison fire in Comayagua. (...) She characterizes the situation as one in which the police "don't just cover for those that commit crimes, rather they are part of the organized bands" who commit the crimes; a system biased toward the rich, where the entire justice system is "deficient", something far exceeding even the excesses of past political struggle or repression: a total breakdown, in particular, without accountability for increasing funding justified for "security".

Stratfor on President Chavez's Health:
The Pan-American Post {scroll down} Security think tank Stratfor has seemingly faced another attack from hackers, with WikiLeaks publishing what they say is a set of confidential emails between members of the organization. One interesting exchange relates to Chavez's health, saying that sources had said his cancer had spread to the lymph nodes.
Setty's Notebook: So, maybe Israel has been manipulating Chavez coverage... I have a personal interest in this story. When I worked in Caracas, Stratfor started calling for info... GO READ IT.

The Guardian: A demonstration in Bolivia's capital La Paz turns violent as disabled protesters clash with police after marching more than 1,000 miles for higher disability allowances.
Cambio {Editorial}: A mobilization of disabled people was infiltrated by people from political sectors. The mobilization of people with disabilities (the disabled), who arrived in the city of La Paz, was "contaminated" with the presence of infiltrators of political groups who committed at least six actions that can be typified in both the Criminal Code as in the Civil Code. All these people are adults, therefore, under the Civil Code, are of legal capacity and responsible for their behavior. According to the legal system only minors can be declared incapable (with some exceptions) declared the injunctions.

MercoPress: Spain's Repsol and China's Sinopec have made an oil discovery offshore Brazil that could be one of the biggest so far in the area and that boosted confidence that across in Africa, Angola's deepwater reserves may be abundant too

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 07:35:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oops, missed one:
AS/COA: As May presidential elections approach, a proposed naval base in the Dominican Republic has much of the country up in arms. The U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) will finance the construction of a naval base and dock on Saona Island, investing $1.5 million to curb drug trafficking and migrant smuggling. The project is slated to begin in March with contruction lasting nine months.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 07:48:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
CNN (international edition): Second student dies from Ohio school shooting
Russell King Jr., 17, was declared brain dead early Tuesday, according to the medical examiner's office. He was shot at Chardon High School on Monday, it said.

Student Daniel Parmertor died on Monday. Three other students were wounded in the shooting.

Authorities have yet to name the teen shooter arrested in the Monday morning attack. But many students, some of whom said they were steps away from the suspect when the bullets flew, described the shooter as a withdrawn boy named T.J. Lane.

There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 09:41:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 01:15:53 PM EST
Transocean books $1bn Macondo charge - FT.com

Transocean, the owner of the drilling rig at the centre of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, fell steeply into the red last year and announced a $1bn charge for the accident, in what analysts said was the first indication the company was preparing to settle.

The world's largest driller of deepwater wells attributed the annual net loss of $5.63bn to a $5.2bn non-cash charge resulting from a goodwill impairment associated with its drilling unit and an estimated $1bn loss from the spill, both of which were booked in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Transocean said the estimated $1bn charge for the spill was a reasonable assessment "at this time", but cautioned that the figure could be adjusted as new information came to light.

The company is locked in a bitter battle with BP and others over liability for the disaster in April 2010, which killed 11 workers and spilt more than 4m barrels of oil into gulf waters from the ruptured Macondo well.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:50:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - EU warning on energy competition

The European Commission has warned eight countries to increase energy competition or face legal action at the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Bulgaria, Cyprus, Spain, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia and Estonia have so far failed to comply with EU rules.

The commission demands countries separate the production of electricity or gas from its distribution to allow more competition.

States have until 3 March to comply. Competition

"Opening energy markets for competition is key to competitiveness of the EU economy as a whole," the Commission said in a statement.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:55:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Parliament split over energy efficiency bill ahead of key vote | EurActiv

The draft Energy Efficiency Directive is likely to need backing from the European Parliament in a plenary vote at the end of March before the Assembly can speak with one voice in upcoming negotiations with the 27 EU member states.

Hopes for accelerated negotiations immediately after the draft bill is voted in the Parliament's energy and transport committee (ITRE) tomorrow (28 February) will probably be dashed, several MEPs told EurActiv.

An 82-page compromise proposal on the draft bill, tabled by Green MEP Claude Turmes (Luxembourg), has not pleased all legislators, although it received backing from all political group representatives. 

This is despite a shared view that the directive should help bring benefits in terms of CO2 reductions and lower the EU's dependence on oil imports.

Markus Pieper MEP, the chief negotiator for the European People's Party (EPP), the largest political group in the European Parliament, said the assembly's views will be clearer after a vote in plenary, scheduled for 28 March.

"It is important that all MEPs in Parliament have the opportunity to comment on the compromise package," Pieper said. "It is a requirement of democracy to firstly vote collectively and then secondly to negotiate with other institutions."

Pieper, however, said he did not expect significant changes, since the hardest discussions between MEPs have already taken place.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:55:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wind energy companies fear UK government's commitment is cooling | Environment | The Guardian

Billions of pounds' worth of investment in Britain's energy infrastructure is on hold or uncertain because of concerns over the government's commitment to wind energy.

In an exclusive survey, the heads of some of the world's biggest wind companies, which have been considering setting up factories, research facilities and other developments in the UK, have told the Guardian they are reviewing their investments or seeking clarification and reassurances from ministers on future energy policy in the wake of growing political opposition to wind energy that culminated in this month's unprecedented attack on the government's policies in a letter signed by more than 100 Tory MPs.

General Electric (GE) Energy's managing director, Magued Eldaief, told the Guardian his company's proposed wind manufacturing investment - amounting to at least £100m directly but worth much more in its knock-on effect to the economy - was "on hold" pending ministers' decisions on future reforms to the energy market.

"Our investment is on hold until we have certainty and clarity regarding the policy environment that we are in," Eldaief said. "One of the most important things for us is political certainty, so we can justify the business and investment case for a facility in the UK. But we think there are some [political] headwinds which do not help, especially in terms of the subsidies discussion."

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:55:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Donald Trump promises £10m to fight wind farm construction in Britain - Green Living - Environment - The Independent

Fresh from a dispute with environmentalists over his golf resort on the Aberdeenshire coast, the billionaire Donald Trump has revealed plans to hand £10m to anti-wind farm campaigners.

The American property tycoon has become vociferous in his opposition to wind farms since plans were revealed for 11 turbines to be built off the coast from his £750 million complex of holiday homes, hotels and golf courses.

In a letter to the first minister Alex Salmond, Mr Trump blasted the "horrendous machines", and claimed he could win a "very large lawsuit" if he were to challenge their construction.

Susan Crosthwaite, a spokeswoman for Communities Against Turbines Scotland (CATS), said the money could be a game-changer in the battle against wind farms, and repudiated suggestions that Mr Trump's new-found opposition could be self-interested. "I think he genuinely cares about Scotland," she said. "We don't agree with everything Donald Trump stands for, but we do agree on this issue.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:56:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He is something of a wind-farm himself, albeit legions less productive than the technological ones.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 07:51:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When I was a kid in England, our most common name for a fart was a trump.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 02:20:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Who's trumped?" is an expression I remember from my schooldays there.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 04:45:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Anti-wind propaganda doesn't only need subsidies, it's now taking on charitable status.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 02:19:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps I'm overly optimistic, but announcing that you're going to transform the UK anti-wind lobby into astroturf might not go down too well. Perhaps it might trigger a shift in opinion.

On the other hand...

Wind turbines bring in 'risk-free' millions for rich landowners | Environment | The Guardian

The boom in onshore wind power, likened to a "new industrial revolution", is being dominated by a small number of private landowners who will share around £1bn in rental fees over the next eight years.

Rental payments vary and are secret but, say property agents speaking in confidence to the Guardian, landowners can now expect £40,000 a year "risk-free" for each large turbine erected on their land.

if Scottish landowners are doing the modern equivalent of driving off the crofters to get a better return by running sheep...

this would indicate the urgency of local tax reform to ensure that a slice of the profits go to local government rather than exclusively to land owners.

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

by eurogreen on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 04:41:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm no expert on many jurisdictions, but there are all manner of property and business taxes which already go to local governments. they usually include road use payments during construction, and other such items.

the spreading of royalties to nearby property owners is not evolved enough, which the industry should find ways to increase. (sometimes they have.)

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

by Crazy Horse on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 05:48:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
they usually ALSO include road use...

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 05:48:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Japan Considered Tokyo Evacuation During the Nuclear Crisis, Report Says - NYTimes.com
In the darkest moments of last year's nuclear accident, Japanese leaders did not know the actual extent of damage at the plant and secretly considered the possibility of evacuating Tokyo, even as they tried to play down the risks in public, an independent investigation into the accident disclosed on Monday.

The investigation by the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, a new private policy organization, offered one of the most vivid accounts yet of how Japan teetered on the edge of an even larger nuclear crisis than the one that engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. A team of 30 university professors, lawyers and journalists spent more than six months on the inquiry into Japan's response to the triple meltdown at the plant, which followed a massive earthquake and tsunami last March 11 that shut down the plant's cooling systems.

The team was granted extraordinary access, in part because of a strong public demand for greater accountability. Its members conducted interviews with more than 300 people including top nuclear regulators and government officials, as well as the prime minister during the crisis, Naoto Kan. The Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation was founded by a respected public intellectual, Yoichi Funabashi, a former editor in chief of the Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan's biggest dailies.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:57:27 PM EST
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European Neanderthals were on the verge of extinction even before the arrival of modern humans
New findings from an international team of researchers show that most Neanderthals in Europe died off around 50,000 years ago. The previously held view of a Europe populated by a stable Neanderthal population for hundreds of thousands of years up until modern humans arrived must therefore be revised.

This new perspective on the Neanderthals comes from a study of ancient DNA published February 25 in Molecular Biology and Evolution.

The results indicate that most Neanderthals in Europe died off as early as 50,000 years ago. After that, a small group of Neanderthals recolonised central and western Europe, where they survived for another 10,000 years before modern humans entered the picture.

The study is the result of an international project led by Swedish and Spanish researchers in Uppsala, Stockholm and Madrid.

"The fact that Neanderthals in Europe were nearly extinct, but then recovered, and that all this took place long before they came into contact with modern humans came as a complete surprise to us. This indicates that the Neanderthals may have been more sensitive to the dramatic climate changes that took place in the last Ice Age than was previously thought", says Love Dalén, associate professor at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 02:58:35 PM EST
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by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 01:15:58 PM EST
EUobserver.com / Defence / EU arms trade booming despite crisis
Firms in the UK, France, Italy, Sweden, Germany, Spain and Europe's own European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company made around €75 billion from selling weapons in 2010.

In broader terms, the world arms trade is booming and has increased turnover by 147 percent since 2002, with companies based in western Europe and North America leading the sector.

In 2010 - two years after the eruption of the global financial crisis - some €305.6 billion of arms and weapons were sold on international markets according to a report released on Monday (27 February) by Swedish arms control NGO, the Stockholm International Research Institute (Sipri).

"The data for 2010 demonstrates, once again, the major players' ability to continue selling arms and military services despite the financial crises currently affecting other industries," Sirpi's Susan Jackson said.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 03:02:10 PM EST
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Fleeing the People's Paradise: Successful Chinese Emigrating to West in Droves - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Though the room is already overcrowded, more listeners keep squeezing in, making it necessary to bring in additional chairs for the stragglers. Outside on the streets of Beijing, the usual Saturday afternoon shopping bustle is in full swing. But above the clamor, in the quiet of this elegant office high-rise, the audience is intent on listening to a man who can help them start a new life, one far away from China.

OAS_RICH('Middle2'); Li Zhaohui, 51, turns on the projector and photographs flicker across the screen behind him. Some show Li himself, head of one of China's largest agencies for emigration visas, which has more than 100 employees. Other pictures show Li's business partner in the United States. Still others show Chinese people living in an idyllic American suburb. Li has already successfully arranged for these people to leave the People's Republic of China.

Li's free and self-confident way of speaking precisely embodies the Western lifestyle that those in his audience dream of. Originally trained as a physicist, Li emigrated to Canada in 1989. In the beginning, he developed microchips in Montreal, but he says he found the job boring. Then he found his true calling: helping Chinese entrepreneurs and businesspeople escape.

Of course, Li doesn't use the term "escape." Emigration from China is legal and, with its population of 1.3 billion, the country certainly has enough people left over.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 03:02:13 PM EST
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Closing time on the nation's pub culture | Presseurop (English)

The Irish pub, says the Lonely Planet travel guide, is the country's number-one attraction. Yet it is also doomed, according to leading food writer John McKenna. Health campaigners have its products in their cross-hairs, but the truth is that many of us are increasingly indifferent to its long-standing charms.

It isn't all that long since the pub held a society in thrall. Birthday, Communion and funeral ceremonies would eventually make their way to its darkened interiors. Family members would be despatched to drag reluctant drinkers out of their locals. Early risers joined all-nighters for a pint on the way to work. People boasted about being locked into small, dank rooms for the night with a set of beer taps.

Now pubs are closing at a rate of one every two days - more than 1,100 since 2005. Their decline has frequently been cited as yet another example of rural decay, but pubs in all areas, and of all types, are calling time.

Only last week, some of Dublin's trendiest watering-holes - the Odeon, Pod and Crawdaddy on Harcourt Street - closed their doors, as did the downstairs venue at the Lower Deck in Portobello. North of the Liffey, the traditional "12 apostles" pub crawl from DCU to the city centre is now reduced to 10 after a brace of bars on the route - the Red Windmill and the Botanic House - failed to reopen after Christmas.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 03:02:17 PM EST
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Spies and Euro-Sceptics. | EU Reporter

Spies have become a bit more open in recent years, if not about their activities, then at least about their existence.

 The CIA, MI6 and even the Russian FSB all have helpful websites and landmark headquarters. Their show of openness is meant to persuade us that their work is rarely of the James Bond type. We like to associate them with glamour and danger but they prefer us to think of them as methodical, cautious and even bureaucratic.

The British thriller writer Michael Dobbs has turned that on its head. He has chosen one of the less well known intelligence services as the subject of his latest novel. He finds plenty of excitement at the one spy agency that most people assume really is bureaucratic and boring, if they have heard of it at all.

Dobbs portrays the European Union's Joint Situation Centre (SitCen) as the European Anti-Terrorist Agency, a rogue organisation that is in effect answerable to no one. It stops at nothing to protect its own interests, which it assumes are automatically also the interests the EU and its citizens.

It is a work of fiction of course but in his acknowledgements Dobbs offers two further defences for stretching the truth. One is that if SitCen is like every European institution, `it will grow larger and more powerful than most of us ever imagined, while if it ends up like all other intelligence agencies, it will eventually find itself mired in controversy for acting beyond its authorized powers'.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 03:02:21 PM EST
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MEPs, Vagina Monologues and a Limerick - Real Time Brussels - WSJ

Only in the European Parliament could something as uncontroversial as not hitting women become a source of drama. As part of V-Day, a global campaign to end violence against women and girls, a group of MEPs have invited playwright Eve Ensler to their performance of her celebrated play `The Vagina Monologues' on March 6.

"It's a fantastic play, it's very inspiring and we wanted to bring that energy into the parliament," Franziska Brantner of the German Green party, one of nine female MEPs from across the political spectrum who will star in the play, told Real Time Brussels. "Women shouldn't be ashamed of talking about their sexuality, either in terms of pleasure, or in terms of being a victim."

The series of monologues, first performed in New York in 1996, is based on a series of interviews with women about the most intimate part of their body. Now the MEPs, including France's Mariel Gallo, Belgium's Isabelle Durant and Portugal's Ana Gomes will follow in the footsteps of Kate Winslet, Whoopi Goldberg and Jerry Hall in performing the play on stage.

However, not all of their colleagues are happy about the situation. "This sort of thing does not belong in the European Parliament... The ladies should move their performance to a theater," MEP Werner Langen, from Angela Merkel's CDU party, told German tabloid Bild-Zeitung (presumably he also objects to the topless photos the newspaper carries on its front page every day). "I call on Parliament President Martin Schulz to withdraw his approval for this event."

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 03:02:25 PM EST
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by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 01:16:02 PM EST
BBC News - The Artist triumphs at the Oscars

Silent movie The Artist has triumphed at the Oscars, winning five awards including best picture, best director and best actor for Jean Dujardin.

Director Michel Hazanavicius - winning on his first ever nomination - thanked the dog, Uggie, who appears in the film but added: "I don't think he cares."

Dujardin said of his character: "If George Valentin could speak, he would say 'Wow! Victorie! Genial! Merci!'"

The film also won the Oscars for best original score and best costumes.

Martin Scorsese's Hugo also won five Oscars, mainly in technical categories.

Meryl Streep won best actress for her portrayal of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady - her 17th Oscar nomination and third Oscar win.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 03:03:27 PM EST
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Oscars 2012: Can The Artist and Hugo outlast the novelty glow? | Film | The Guardian

The big win for The Artist raises the question: is it a novelty one-off, like the once-garlanded and talked-about Life is Beautiful or The Crying Game? Or will it herald a renewed interest in the silent genre? Could it, conceivably, generate a desire among other directors to make silent movies: that is to say, silent films on a subject other than the death of the silent movie? Well, maybe that would be a slightly retrograde fantasy, though it would be good to see The Artist's triumph lead to a renewed interest in cinema history.

One of the oddest aspects of the way this film has crossed over to the non-specialist commentariat is the chortling observation that The Artist is doing so well that it's even getting nominations for best screenplay. But there is nothing odd about it. Screenwriting is not about crafting lines of dialogue: it is about wielding the building blocks of narrative and thinking in pictures. (Although as it happens, director Michel Hazanavicius's non-visible sight gag in the inter-title that follows the suicidal hero placing a revolver to his forehead is a wonderful piece of screenwriting.) Actually, The Artist lost out to Woody Allen's Midnight In Paris for best original screenplay. Of this, more in a moment.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 03:04:40 PM EST
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The Artist is a nice movie but not great. Will be forgotten in a few month. Overall a bad year. And why is Midnight In Paris nominated for anything? But the Worst Movie award has to go Tree of Life. The worst I have ever seen.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 07:31:34 AM EST
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Hugo was very, very good.
by stevesim on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 10:41:21 AM EST
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Great roundup today, Nomad.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 04:47:52 AM EST
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Real proper TV journalism from KMTV Action3 News Omaha about how ALEC are promoting voter suppressing ID bills even when there is no identified need for them.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Feb 28th, 2012 at 08:33:11 AM EST
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