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10/20/14

European Economy: US shares end on a high as European stock markets rebound

Shares in Europe and US have rebounded after a turbulent week in which stock markets tumbled to multi-month lows.

On Friday US stocks closed more than 1% up, with the S&P 500 posting its biggest gain in more than a week.
Europe's main indexes closed higher, having fallen sharply over concerns that the global economic recovery was running out of steam.

Despite the rises, Charles Stanley's Jeremy Batstone-Carr saying: "I'm not sure we're out of the woods."
Poor economic and corporate data, along with worries about the impact of the Ebola crisis, had sent stock markets into a nosedive.

 Read more: BBC News - US shares end on a high as European stock markets rebound

Wall Street: IBM Tanking - Q3 Earnings drop - by Sam Ro

IBM shares are tumbling after the company announced disappointing Q3 earnings.

The business services giant announced $3.68 per share of operating earnings from continuing operations, which is much weaker than the $4.32 expected by analysts.

Revenue fell 4% year-over-year to $22.4 billion.

"We are disappointed in our performance," CEO Ginni Rometty said. "We saw a marked slowdown in September in client buying behavior, and our results also point to the unprecedented pace of change in our industry. While we did not produce the results we expected to achieve, we again performed well in our strategic growth areas — cloud, data and analytics, security, social, and mobile — where we continue to shift our business."

This is concerning, not just for IBM investors. As a global provider of business software and services, this could be reflective of problems in the global economy.

Fear Factor: The World's Greatest Fears, Mapped by Country - byJeanne Kim

The biggest fear among the Japanese is, unsurprisingly, nuclear weapons. People in South Africa, Kenya, and Uganda are most worried about AIDS and other diseases. And inequality is the deepest concern for much of Europe and the U.S.

These are among the findings of Pew Research Center’s survey of more than 48,000 people in 44 countries this spring (so, it’s worth noting, pre-Ebola epidemic). 

The survey asked people to choose among five categories of threat: AIDS and other diseases, nuclear weapons, pollution and environment, inequality, and religious and ethnic hatred.

Read more: The World's Greatest Fears, Mapped by Country - The Atlantic

Middle East: Turkey Allows Iraqi Kurds to Join the Fight Against ISIS - by Polly Mosendz

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced a new development on Monday in the fight to save Kobani: Iraqi Kurdish fighters will be allowed to cross into Syria through the border with Turkey, to assist the Kurdish fighters already on the ground holding off the Islamic State.

No further details were announced, as the minister only told the BBC that Turkey would allow the passage of the fighters and discussion would be continued on the matter.

Thus far, Turkey has refused to intervene in the siege of Kobani, which sits just on the other side of its border with Syria. It has also refused to allow Kurds to cross the border to join the fight, in part because of its own conflict with the PKK, the Kurdish party in Turkey that has battled the government in Ankara for decades. The PKK, which has ties to the Syrian Kurds, is considered a terrorist group by both Turkey and the U.S.

The change in policy came, in the BBC's words, as "Turkey has come under pressure from its own Kurdish population, and more widely, to allow fighters in to help push IS out of Kobani, a town that has become highly symbolic of the wider battle against IS." The foreign minister told the BBC, "Turkey has no wish to see Kobani fall."

The United States has been aiding the Syrian Kurdish fighters, providing supplies and weapons, while also bombing ISIS targets in Syria. Overnight, just before Cavusoglu's announcement, 27 bundles of supplies were airdropped into the area. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's president, has previously shown disapproval of this arming of Kurds by the U.S.; however, he has not spoken out against this most recent airdrop.

 Read more: Turkey Allows Iraqi Kurds to Join the Fight Against ISIS - The Atlantic

The Netherlands - Almere - Christianity: KIDZARK Productions Captivates Young and old at NDIC


When Sunday arrives in Almere, one of Europe's most modern, functional and multi-cultural cities in Europe, its citizens have a variety of choices,varying from sleeping in, sports, reading, attending Church services, you name it.

And to think that Almere, situated east of Amsterdam, was created just 36 years ago as part of a huge land reclamation project. This eventually resulted in a new Dutch Province called Flevoland. It has been a successful venture.  In those 36 years Almere has attracted over 195,000 residents and 14,500 businesses and more flowing in every day..

Almere today is the largest city in the province of Flevoland and the seventh largest city in the Netherlands.

This past Sunday in Almere was probably not much different from other Sundays, as to what people choose to do during the weekend or on Sunday's -- except maybe at NDIC,  which stands for "New Day International Church"

NDIC opened its doors in Almeer at the beginning of September 2007, mainly because of the large influx of expats and internationals into the city,
and the need for an English language church.

"One of our primary goals has always been", say NDIC Pastor Melvin Ho and his wife Louise, " to be sensitive to multi-national cultures and provide a spiritual home for people from all around the globe living in this city and surrounding areas".

"Obviously we also have our doors wide open for Dutch folks who prefer to listen to sermons in English", says Louise..


Over the past years NDIC has become the  home to many people from all over the world, with or without a previous church background, and as one churchgoer at NDIC noted, "we like it here because it feels like family, and we find the environment is conducive to exploring faith whereby God can be encountered in new and creative ways. It is very refreshing and stimulating."

Judy Mensch of Kidzark Productions
And indeed, this refreshing dynamism was also noticeable this past Sunday at NDIC, when Judy Mensch and Carolina Neeft of Kidzark Productions visited and captivated young and old church members alike with their lively participative family presentation.

"Our plays are morally based and biblically principled, but they are not, per se, ‘Christian” plays.  The idea is to bring a popular story that families would want to see.  By doing this we do our best to come along-side local churches and help them with family evangelism through drama. The shows we bring to churches are purposed to reach families in local communities but they are also a great introduction to the principles of God", says Judy.

The happy faces during the fellowship coffee and tea break, following the Kidzark presentation seemed to signal that this new, open and refreshing approach to Christianity is not only appreciated,  but also here to stay.   

EU-Digest

10/19/14

US Economy: 5 biggest risks that can derail the US economy - by Bryan Borzykowski

If there's one thing we can take away from this week's stock market dive that sent the Dow down more than 866 points and 5 percent in five days, it's that American's are feeling a little jittery. After five years of economic uncertainty, it finally feels as if things are back on track, yet many people are wondering whether or not the terrible times are truly in the past.

On the surface, everything seems to be humming along nicely. The S&P 500 is up about 30 percent over the last two years, the U.S. jobless rate is at a six-year low, housing starts have climbed 9 percent year-to-date, and other economic indicators are pointing to good times ahead.

"It's been pretty good so far," said Sheryl King, Roubini Global Economics' senior director of research. She thinks America's GDP will see about 3 percent growth in 2015, but only if some of the risks that people are concerned about don't materialize and derail the recovery.

A number of things could trip growth up.

1. Global slowdown, 2. Rising long-term rates, 3. Lower oil and lower inflation 4. Rising inflation,     5. Falling stock market 

Read more: 5 biggest risks that can derail the U.S. economy

Set-Back for Gays: Catholic bishops veto gay-friendly statements leaving Pope Francis the loser - by Lizzy Davies

Pope Francis appeared on Saturday night to have lost out to powerful conservatives in the Roman Catholic church after bishops scrapped language that had been hailed as a historic warming of attitudes towards gay people.

In the final report of an extraordinary synod on the family which has exposed deep divides in the church hierarchy, there is no mention – as there had been in a draft version – of the “gifts and qualities” gay people can offer. Nor is there any recognition of the “precious support” same-sex partners can give each other.

A paragraph entitled “pastoral attention to people of homosexual orientation” – itself a distinctly cooler tone than “welcoming homosexual persons” – refers to church teaching, saying there can be “not even a remote” comparison between gay unions and heterosexual marriage.

“Nevertheless,” it adds, “men and women of homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity.” They should not suffer from discrimination, it adds. But the shift in tone is clear. And, in a potentially stark sign of the discomfort provoked among many bishop, even this watered-down passage failed to pass the two-thirds majority needed for it to be approved.

Read more: Catholic bishops veto gay-friendly statements leaving Pope Francis the loser | World news | The Observer

Croatia: Croatian police arrest Zagreb mayor on corruption charges

Croatian anti-corruption authority USKOK on Sunday announced the arrests of several leading Zagreb administration figures on suspicion of corruption and abuse of power.

Although the official statements did not name any of those involved, local media all named Bandic as one of those who had been arrested.

According to USKOK, the arrests related to a suspicion of corruption and suspicion of abuse of power. The operation followed "a criminal investigation of several months" and involved several people from the administration.

The investigators said they were looking into possible illegal acts related to a holding entity belong to the city - Zagrebacki Holding - that runs many of the city's public services.

"After several months of a complex criminal investigation, several persons have been arrested on suspicion of illegal activities in the city of Zagreb and Zagrebacki Holding," the state prosecutor's office said in a statement on its website

Read more: Croatian police arrest Zagreb mayor on corruption charges: media | News | DW.DE | 19.10.2014

Turkey will not cooperate in US support for Kurds in Syria, says Erdogan

Turkey would not agree to any US arms transfers to Kurdish fighters who are battling Islamic State (Isis) militants in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying on Sunday, as the extremist group fired more mortar rounds near the Syrian-Turkish border and fighting around the besieged town of Kobani intensified.

Turkey views the main Syrian Kurdish group, the PYD, and its military wing which is fighting Isis militants as an extension of the PKK, which has waged a 30-year insurgency in Turkey and is designated a terror group by the US and Nato.

Washington has said recently that it has engaged in intelligence sharing with Kurdish fighters and officials have not ruled out future arms transfers to the Kurdish fighters.

“The PYD is for us, equal to the PKK. It is a terror organisation,” Erdogan told a group of reporters on his return from a visit to Afghanistan. “It would be wrong for the United States with whom we are friends and allies in Nato to talk openly and to expect us to say ‘yes’ to such a support to a terrorist organisation.”
Erdogan’s comments were reported by the state-run Anadolu agency on Sunday.

Read more: Turkey will not cooperate in US support for Kurds in Syria, says Erdogan | World news | theguardian.com

Middle East - ISIS: Kurdish fighters repel fresh ′IS′ attack in Kobani

Kurdish fighters have repulsed a fresh attempt by "Islamic State" ("IS") militants to cut the Syrian town of Kobani off from the border with Turkey, raising hopes Kurdish forces would maintain control of the city.

"IS" forces reportedly launched a fierce attack from the east toward the border gate with Turkey before being pushed back. The jihadist group suffered heavy losses and was forced to send in reinforcements, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The news comes as the besieged city suffered its heaviest round of shelling by "IS" forces in days, with mortar shells hitting the town center and landing inside of Turkey in Mursitpinar.

"They want to cut off Kobani's connection with the rest of the world," a Kurdish militia source said. "Turkey is not allowing in fighters or weapons, but they send aid at Mursitpinar. The 'Islamic State' wants to destroy this gate so that we will be completely trapped here."

Read more: Kurdish fighters repel fresh ′IS′ attack in Kobani | News | DW.DE | 19.10.2014

Spying Scandal: U.S. companies are cozier with the NSA than previously thought - by Jeff Larson and Julia Angwin

Newly disclosed National Security Agency documents suggest a closer relationship between American companies and the spy agency than has been previously disclosed.

The documents, published last week by The Intercept, describe “contractual relationships” between the NSA and U.S. companies, as well as the fact that the NSA has “under cover” spies working at or with some U.S. companies.

While not conclusive, the material includes some clear suggestions that at least some American companies are quite willing to help the agency conduct its massive surveillance programs.

The precise role of U.S. companies in the NSA’s global surveillance operations remains unclear. Documents obtained by Edward Snowden and published by various news organizations show that companies have turned over their customers’ email, phone calling records and other data under court orders.

But the level of cooperation beyond those court orders has been an open question, with several leading companies, such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, asserting that they only turn over customer information that is “targeted and specific” in response to legal demands.

Read more: U.S. companies are cozier with the NSA than previously thought - Salon.com

10/18/14

Energy: Pressure May Remain On Oil Prices

The Oil and Energy Insider reported recently that Oil prices continued to fall this week on ample supply and signals from OPEC members Saudi Arabia and Kuwait that they can deal with lower prices and are unlikely to reduce output.

On Monday, Brent crude futures dropped further to $87.74 a barrel—the lowest level since December 2010--while WTI futures were down to $84.68 a barrel. Saudi Arabia, for its part, has suggested it could handle
$80/barrel prices. On Tuesday, Brent crude prices slipped further, to $87.03.

Kuwait has also said that it will not be cutting output and predicted prices falling to as low as $76 a barrel before winter sets in and prices start to rise again.

The next OPEC meeting is scheduled for 27 November, when the organization will consider targets for 2015.

But it’s not about whether high oil prices or low oil prices are good—it’s about maintaining the proper balance (as is everything).

When oil prices fall below $100 a barrel, the OPEC countries have a hard time balancing their budgets, which are largely dependent on oil revenues.

There has also been some confusion in the ranks this week, with
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud publishing an open letter on his website expressing disbelief at media reports that Saudi Arabia would allow oil prices to fall below $90 a barrel. The Prince--most fondly known for dwarf-tossing parties and his investments in Apple, Time-Warner, and News Corp.--warns that 90% of Saudi Arabia’s budget is reliant on oil revenues and that a continued fall in prices would be catastrophic.

In the meantime, OPEC-member
Venezuela has been on the other side of the output-cut divide, calling for an emergency meeting of the group to respond to falling prices. But Kuwait and Saudi Arabia aren’t budging.

While Kuwait and Saudi Arabia can clearly survive a couple more months of low oil prices—hence their unwillingness to cut output—Russia will find it more difficult. As the
Economist notes this week, while Russia’s economic growth is already poor, “further drops in the oil price could be very painful. After all, oil and gas make up 70% of Russia’s exports and half of the federal budget.”

The ample supply is largely due to surging production from Russia and the US, and the American shale boom has been threatening to overtake Saudi Arabia’s own output. With this in mind, Saudi Arabia has less incentive to reduce output to boost prices.

Back at the pump in the US, the falling oil prices are cause for celebration, though.

This past week, the
average retail price of gasoline fell 0.9 cents a gallon to $3.177—the lowest since February 2011--according to AAA. Overall, gas prices have fallen more than 50 cents this year.

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