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Ukraine: Lavrov: Russia, US and EU ready to help stabilize Ukraine economy

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Thursday's key four-way meeting on the Ukrainian crisis in Geneva saw a declaration of the sides' readiness to help stabilize Ukraine's economy. 

Read more: Lavrov: Russia, US and EU ready to help stabilize Ukraine economy


Christianity:Easter Holiday At Center Of Christianity - by Sylvie Belmond

This weekend, almost 2.2 billion Christians around the world will come together to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Easter is a universal tradition and the greatest event in the Christian calendar. “Easter is the preeminent celebration in our church, bigger than Christmas,” said Monsignor Paul Albee of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Moorpark.

Unlike Christmas, which marks the birth of Christ on a set date each year, in the Western church Easter is a movable holiday taking place on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox.

Easter is the whole point of Christianity. This particular faith tradition sees its whole focus on the idea that God in Jesus has overcome everything that holds us back as human beings—even death,

Read more: Holiday at center of Christianity | | Simi Valley Acorn

Highway Safety: Glow-in-the-dark 'smart' highway opens in the Netherlands - by Michelle Starr

A strip of "smart" highway with glow-in-the-dark road markings has opened in the Netherlands to improve road safety.

When Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde unveiled his smart highway back in late 2012, it seemed an ambitious project.

Designed as a means of both improving road safety and environmental friendliness, it proposed several features, including: dynamic, temperature-sensitive markings that could change to indicate weather conditions; glowing road markings; wind indication lights; and a lane embedded with induction coils to charge electric cars as they drove over.

A 500-metre strip of the proposed road has opened on the N329 in Oss, but the features have been stripped down to just one: the glow-in-the-dark lane markings.

Read more: Glow-in-the-dark 'smart' highway opens in the Netherlands - Crave

Mexico: Powerful magnitude 7.2 earthquake hits Mexico

A powerful, magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake hit at about 9:30 a.m. and was centred northwest of the Pacific resort of Acapulco, where many Mexicans are vacationing for the Easter holiday.

The quake was felt strongly in the resort city, as well as in Mexico's capital and at least six other states. Around the region, there were reports of isolated and minor damage, such as fallen fences, trees and broken windows.

The quake struck 273 kilometres southwest of Mexico City, which shook for at least 30 seconds. Mexico City itself is vulnerable even to distant earthquakes because much of it sits atop the muddy sediments of drained lake beds that quiver as quake waves hit.

Read more: Powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake hits Mexico - World - CBC News

EU-Russia: Could a greater Europe including Russia be better off politically for EU than the present Transatlantic Alliance with US?

Global markets are still jumpy about the situation between Russia and Ukraine. But as one market analyst notes, there's a reason Europe has more to fear than the U.S.

Wells Fargo's Jay Bryson writes that while American trade ties with Russia are more extensive than with the Ukraine, the "overall numbers are still rather small when viewed in the context the overall U.S. economy."

"American exports to Russia total about $11 billion, which is less than 1 percent of overall American exports of goods," he noted. "A bit more than 1 percent of total U.S. imports come from Russia (about $30 billion)."

But in Europe, the trade exposure is much more extensive, Bryson writes. 

From the note:
EU exports to Russia total about $150 billion, which accounts for more than 7 percent of the total exports that the European Union sends outside of its borders. Conversely, the European Union receives nearly 12 percent (about $250 billion) of its imports from Russia. Notably, these imports are concentrated in energy products.

OECD Europe imports about 10 million barrels per day (mbd) of crude oil to satisfy its oil consumption that totals 13 mbd. Although OECD Europe imports oil from many different countries, Russia is the single most important source of petroleum products for Europe. Moreover, Russia produces about 11 mbd, which represent about one-eighth of total global production of crude oil. Thus, Russia can have potentially marked effects on global oil prices.

Read more: COTD Europe And US Ties With Russia - Business Insider

Energy - Gas: Russia Needs to Sell Gas More than EU Needs to Buy it

The Russian occupation of Crimea has raised concerns about the European Union’s dependence on its eastern neighbor for natural gas. The EU gets about 34% of its natural gas imports from Russia, a large portion of which transits Ukraine through a web of pipelines.

For Eastern Europe, that dependence is much greater. In the brutally cold winter of 2009 Russia cut off gas supplies to Europe allegedly over a pricing dispute with Ukraine.

However, it was also a lesson to Western Europe on its dependence on Russia for energy.
Russia has a track record of using its natural gas supplies as a political weapon.

The latest incursion into Ukraine has no doubt revived worries among European policymakers that saw what happened back in 2009.

Thankfully, Vladimir Putin eased tensions on March 4, indicating that he wasn’t seeking a military conflict. This allowed natural gas prices to fall back a bit after spiking by 10% the day before.

Read more: Russia Needs to Sell Gas More than EU Needs to Buy it


Privacy Laws: Google under fire from European media tycoon

The boss of one of Europe's largest media companies has strongly criticised Google in an open letter printed in a German newspaper.

Mathias Dopfner, chief executive of Axel Springer, says his company is afraid of Google and its power.

He also asks in the letter, addressed to Google boss Eric Schmidt, whether Google intends to create a superstate where anti-trust and privacy laws don't apply.

Google has not commented on the letter.

"With the exception of biological viruses, there is nothing with such speed, efficiency and aggressiveness that spreads like these technology platforms, and this also lends its creators, owners and users with new power."

He compared the company to the state monopolies that ran the German postal and telecoms services: "Today there is a global network monopoly. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that there are transparent and fair criteria in Google's search results."

Mr Dopfner's comments were not just restricted to Google - the founder of social network Facebook also came under fire. He explained that he'd been at a conference when someone asked Mark Zuckerberg how Facebook stored data and protected users' privacy.

"And Zuckerberg said: 'I do not understand your question. Those who have nothing to hide, have nothing to fear.'

"Again and again I had to think about this sentence. It's terrible. I know it is certainly not meant that way. This is a mindset that was fostered in totalitarian regimes not in liberal societies. Such a sentence could also be said by the head of the Stasi or other intelligence service or a dictatorship."

Turning his attention to Google founder Larry Page, Mr Dopfner said: "He dreams of a place with no privacy laws and without democratic accountability."

Referring to comments Mr Page had made about the company wanting to develop ideas but being unable to because they were illegal, Mr Dopfner said: "Does this mean that Google is planning to operate in a legal vacuum, without the hassle of anti-trust and privacy? A kind of superstate?"

He finished the letter with a warning to Google that in the history of economics monopolies do not survive long.

Note EU-Digest: Unfortunately the biggest problem to curb this uncontrolled intrusion by Blogger on privacy and anti-trust laws is that Google exploits the fact that consumers in general have blinders on and do not see any further than their own noses when it comes to privacy infringements by corporations.   

Read more: BBC News - Google under fire from European media tycoon

Ukraine: U.S. and Russia Agree on Pact to Defuse Ukraine Crisis - by Michael Gordon

The United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union reached an agreement here on Thursday evening that calls for armed pro-Russian bands to give up the government buildings they have seized in eastern Ukraine and outlines other steps to de-escalate the crisis.

Secretary of State John Kerry described the package of measures as an important first step to avert “a complete and total implosion” in eastern Ukraine and said that it could be followed by negotiation of more far-reaching steps to ease a crisis in which violence seemed to be growing by the day.

But President Obama sounded a cautious if not skeptical note in Washington. “I don’t think we can be sure of anything at this point,” he said, but there is a chance “that diplomacy may de-escalate the situation.”
He added: “We’re not going to know if there is follow through for several days.”

Read more: U.S. and Russia Agree on Pact to Defuse Ukraine Crisis -

France rushes out €50 billion budget savings plan

France’s prime minister vowed today the country would honour its European commitments on deficit reduction and rushed out details of a plan to curb spending by €50 billion between 2015 and 2017. 

Manuel Valls, named in a government reshuffle at the end of March after heavy town hall election losses for the ruling Socialists, spelled out the curbs as pressure grew on France to explain how it would meet EU deficit-cutting targets. 

While much of the programme was already known, Mr Valls offered more detail on plans to reduce social welfare spending, including a freeze on pensions and other non-subsistence benefits until 2015, and balance the unemployment funds books. 

Mr Valls brushed off calls from business leaders this week to introduce a new, entry-level minimum wage, saying the current rate - among Europe’s highest - would stay put. 

However his move to curb spending on welfare set Valls on a collision course with unions and left-wing Socialist lawmakers who oppose the government’s embrace of supply-side policies. “The Socialist group (in parliament) discovered the government’s announcements in total silence. 

As it is, they are unacceptable, both in form and in substance,” tweeted Socialist MP Christian Paul. Mr Paul declined to say whether Socialist lawmakers, who hold a slim majority in parliament, would approve the savings plan when it is subjected to a vote in late April.

Read more: France rushes out €50 billion budget savings plan - Economic News | Ireland & World Economy Headlines |The Irish Times - Wed, Apr 16, 2014