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1/31/06 European Manufacturing Confidence Increases to One-Year High

European Manufacturing Confidence Increases to One-Year High

an. 31 (Bloomberg) -- European manufacturers were the most optimistic in more than a year in January and consumer confidence stayed at the highest since September 2002 as export gains spurred domestic demand. An index of manufacturing confidence rose to minus 4 from December's minus 5 points, according to a survey published today by the European Commission in Brussels. Consumer confidence was unchanged at minus 11 points.

``The recovery is more broadly based,'' Luigi Speranza, an economist at BNP Paribas in London, said before the report was released. ``Consumers seem to be jumping in. This has been the missing element so far.'' Danish Muslims Accept Newspaper's Apology

Danish Muslims Accept Newspaper's Apology

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Muslim group spearheading criticism of a Danish newspaper for printing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad said Tuesday it accepted the paper's apology, but Iraqi Muslims called for a commercial and diplomatic boycott of Denmark and Norway.

Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said his government could not apologize on behalf of a newspaper, but said he personally "never would have depicted Muhammad, Jesus or any other religious character in a way that could offend other people."

NewKerala : Croats wary of EU's Balkan free trade proposal


Croats wary of EU's Balkan free trade proposal

A European Union proposal to form a free-trade zone in the Balkans is opposed by most Croats, wary of associations reminiscent of Yugoslavia from which it seceded in bloodshed in 1991, according to a poll published today. The survey in the newspaper Vecernji List showed about 56 per cent were not in favour of the idea, believing Croatia should instead insist on broadening the Central European Free Trade Association (CEFTA) to include the Balkans. Also, 45 per cent of the 500 people surveyed by the newspaper said the new trade zone was nothing short of an attempt at re-creating Yugoslavia. Only 14.4 percent of Croats supported the idea of forming a Balkan free-trade zone, as presented by European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn in Brussels last week. Rehn said this would help the countries of the so-called Western Balkans Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia -- better prepare for joining the bloc.

Croatia opened EU membership talks last October, the only one among them to have done so. It is also the most advanced economically and its companies started expanding in the region.

White House and Virginia Governors Mansion: President Bush State of the Union address and the Democratic Response by Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia

White House - Governors Mansion Virginia

Click on President Bush's State Of The Union Address and Democratic Response to Bush's State Of The Union Address by Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia for the full text of both speeches.

NUTRA: Mediterranean diet linked to fewer birth defects


Mediterranean diet linked to fewer birth defects

Mediterranean countries like France, Spain and Italy have some of the lowest rates of birth defects, a statistic that may be due to the local diet. The Mediterranean diet, rich in folates from its high leafy vegetable content, has previously been credited with longer life and improving heart health. A new report now indicates that the diet may also prevent against birth defects. According to the new report from voluntary health agency March of Dimes, eight million babies are born with defects every year, equivalent to about six per cent of all births worldwide.

Bakeryand snacks: Kraft cuts 8,000 jobs to offset spiralling costs


Kraft cuts 8,000 jobs to offset spiralling costs - also in Europe

The manufacturing giant could not confirm where the losses will take place, but a number of redundancies and plant closures are expected across Europe. Yesterday's financial results and restructuring announcement revealed that despite a rigid economy drive, fourth-quarter net revenues were $9.7 billion, up only 3 per cent on last year. And the company claims the quarter's operating income was essentially flat at $1.2bn. For the full year, operating income increased 3 per cent to $4.8bn, held up by cost-cutting and the proceeds of the desserts business sale in the UK. But the pressure is still on to maintain profits. The new restructuring programme is expected to generate another $700m in annual savings that will be used to strengthen the company both in the short- and long-term.

William Pfaff: To Europe, Bush is only creating more terrorists - Editorials & Commentary - International Herald Tribune

International Herald Tribune

William Pfaff: To Europe, Bush is only creating more terrorists

The difference between official American and European perceptions of terrorism has serious practical consequences for trans-Atlantic cooperation.
At the police and intelligence level, all goes reasonably well, or did until the public uproar in Europe about alleged official cooperation with the CIA's secret "rendition" and interrogation operations. On the other hand, last Monday, France blocked a proposed NATO-European Union meeting on terrorism because NATO "was not intended to be the world's gendarme." It is a military defense alliance of equal partners. A French diplomat said, "we do not wish to have NATO involved in everything, or imposing its agenda on the EU."

CBC News: Gunmen storm EU office in Gaza to protest cartoons of prophet

CBC News

Gunmen storm EU office in Gaza to protest cartoons of prophet

Masked gunmen stormed an office used by the European Union in Gaza City on Monday to protest cartoons published in Denmark and Norway. Five men entered the building and closed down the office while 10 men stood watch outside.One of the men said they were protesting the caricatures, one showing the Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse.The cartoons have sparked a wave of denunciations across the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador to Denmark, and Libya has closed its embassy in the Danish capital. On Monday, the Danish Foreign Ministry advised its citizens to be extra vigilant while in the Middle East.A statement issued Sunday evening on the ministry website called for Danes to be cautious in Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

DeHavilland: Iran-EU talks end in stalemate


Iran-EU talks end in stalemate

Talks between EU and Iranian officials in Brussels have ended in stalemate, according to a British diplomat. EU-3 foreign ministers from Britain, France and Germany left the meeting yesterday in Brussels saying nothing new had been offered. Senior British diplomat John Sawers said: "To be frank, we didn't detect anything new in their approach." Iran is accused of aiming to acquire atomic weapons in breach of the non-nuclear proliferation treaty, In defense, Tehran says it has enriched uranium in pursuit of boosting electricity supplies.

1/30/06 US Plan for the "Great Middle East" THE KURDISH PIPELINE by Gilles Munier

US Plan for the "Great Middle East" THE KURDISH PIPELINE by Gilles Munier

For the Americans, to lay their hands on Iraqi oil is getting more difficult. The hope they had placed on Ahmed Chalabi who had promised marvel to the US oil lobby and the Israelis has vanished. It is rather obvious that they cannot protect the pipeline designed to flow oil from Iraq to Haifa. Furthermore, the Arabs and the Turkmen will not be easily expelled from Kirkuk (1). The neo conservator project of carving a "zone of prosperity" in the Middle East financed by Iraqi oil to benefit essentially the Israelis, has been swept over. The United States may have an alternative solution though as much uncertain. It boils down to toppling the regime of Bashar Al Assad and setting up a Kurdish State in the north of Iraq.

In May 2001, the Energy Policy Development Group headed by Dick Cheney demanded that the "energy security" be a prime objective of the foreign and trade policy of the Administration. It thus provided a justification in the name of "vital interests" for the forthcoming aggression against Iraq. Since then, the United States are at war….and they shall stay at war for, according to James Woolsey, director of the CIA under Bill Clinton " several decades …for oil" (2). To-day, despite its downward oil production, Syria has become a target because it stands in the way of the crossing of Kurdish pipelines which purportedly will turn Haifa into a Mediterranean Rotterdam and because the Syrian leadership is not prepared to recognize Israel.

TIME Europe Magazine: Afghanistan (Is NATO stepping beyond its charter?) : Old Alliance, New World

TIME Europe Magazine

Is NATO stepping beyond its charter? Afghanistan: Old Alliance, New World

The Afghanistan deployment, Nato's first mission outside Europe and North America, seems to answer a question that Nato member governments and their taxpayers have increasingly been asking: Is there still a role for the alliance established in 1949 as a counterbalance to the Soviet bloc? Watching the International Security Assistance Force (isaf) on the ground in the north and west of Afghanistan, under Nato command, there seems no doubt that the alliance has rediscovered a sense of purpose. The isaf, mandated by the United Nations to help the Afghan government improve security, has already taken over this duty in some of the most fractious parts of the country from the U.S.-led liberation forces, Operation Enduring Freedom (oef). In Phase 3, to begin later this year, the isaf is supposed to grow from 9,000 to some 15,000 troops and take on responsibility for six further provinces, while the oef reduces its deployment by about 1,500 to 16,500.

The timing of these moves depends on how quickly the Netherlands decides to commit its new troops — assuming it does so. Opponents of the deployment say Dutch troops would inherit a situation that's still out of control. "They're sending a reconstruction unit in where the oef hasn't yet succeeded in stamping out terrorism," says Lousewies van der Laan, deputy parliamentary leader of the left-liberal D66, which is in the government coalition. "The Americans want to leave before the job is done, and figure the public picture is less bad if they put a Dutch team in there. We're not willing to participate in that political game. We don't want to be mopping the floor when the faucet is still running."

EU-Digest contacted the PVDA (Labour Party), the largest opposition party in the Netherlands to get their opinion on the Dutch Afghanistan Mission. Sherlo Esajas, spokesman for Wouter Bos, leader of the PVDA told EU-Digest."In principle we are not against such a mission, but we do have some critical questions of which three are crucial.

a) the achievability of reconstruction in the Province of Uruzgan, where there are major points of difference between the different tribal communities and where the Taliban is most active. b) how to avoid keeping the mission Enduring Freedom separated from the present mission. We voted against the mission Enduring Freedom in parliament, because of Human Rights issues involved. C) a divided parliament can not justify sending a mission.

So we need to discuss this issue in detail and then our fraction will take a decision."

Iraq Coalition Casualties: 62 US troops killed in the past 30 days - ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff and Cameraman Dough Vogt seriously injured yesterday

Iraq Coalition Casualties

62 US troops killed in the past 30 days-ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff and Cameraman Dough Vogt seriously injured yesterday

Two soldiers were killed Sunday and one Marine was killed Jan. 27 in three separate incidents in Iraq. U.S. ABC news anchor Bob Woodruff and Canadian cameraman Doug Vogt, seriously injured in a roadside bombing in Iraq yesterday, were being treated by a trauma team Monday at a U.S. military hospital in Germany. "They're both very seriously injured, but stable," Col. Bryan Gamble, commander of the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in western Germany, said at a news conference. Gamble said the two were heavily sedated and under the care of the hospital's trauma team but did not describe their injuries, saying he did not have permission from family members. The British Ministry of Defense has admitted that it issued misleading figures for the number of British soldiers injured in Iraq after a Scotsman investigation found that they were wildly inaccurate.A study of reports from Iraq filed over the past three years found reference to 263 wounded soldiers, but uncovered evidence to suggest that the MoD routinely under-reports casualties. Military analysts believe that the true figure is closer to 800. : The Havana billboard: It's a good start by Andres Oppenheimer (EU should follow example)

The Havana billboard: It's a good start (EU should follow example)by Andres Oppenheimer

Considering the Bush administration's poor handling of Latin American affairs in recent years, and its rusty Cuba policy in particular, U.S. officials deserve credit for an unusually imaginative idea -- counterattacking Cuban dictator Fidel Castro with humor. Last week, when the Castro regime shepherded nearly one million government employees, workers and students to a ''March of the People'' against Uncle Sam in front of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, the U.S. diplomatic mission responded by displaying an electronic billboard reading, ``To those who wanted to be here, we respect your protest. To those who didn't want to be here, we're sorry for the inconvenience.''The electronic billboard, a five-foot-tall sign that stretches across the U.S. Interests Section building, had been inaugurated Jan. 16, on the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Since then, it has been lit several times, broadcasting news headlines from international wire agencies -- including stories critical of U.S. policies, in an effort to show that Americans can read bad news about their government -- and quotes from the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, or world figures such as Winston Churchill, Indira Gandhi and Lech Walesa.

US and EU try to convince Russia on Iranian nuclear program

JTW News

"US and EU try to convince Russia on Iranian nuclear program
Europe has urged Iran to backtrack on its nuclear ambitions as EU nations and the United States sought to convince Russia and China to back UN action and Tehran asked for more time for a compromise.
All five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany were to meet here later Monday to hammer out a joint position ahead of an emergency meeting Thursday in Vienna of the UN nuclear watchdog.

In Brussels, top officials from Britain, France and Germany, the EU troika which have been negotiating with Iran, met an Iranian delegation."


Alcoa News: Alcoa Announces Investment of $8.6 Million in Conservation and Sustainability Research

Alcoa News

Alcoa Announces Investment of $8.6 Million in Conservation and Sustainability Research

DAVOS, Switzerland and PITTSBURGH--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 25, 2006--

Alcoa announced that its Alcoa Foundation will donate $8.6 million dollars to create the Alcoa Conservation and Sustainability Fellowship (CSF) program. The program will fund the study of global conservation and sustainability research by 30 Academic and 60 non-governmental organization (NGO) fellows from around the world over the next six years. The research will then be given away to all companies and NGO's worldwide in an effort to spur better sustainable development practices globally.

Participants in the Alcoa Conservation and Sustainability Foundation program include the most recognized names in the world of academic research and environmental stewardship. NGO partners include: the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico.

In Europe Alcoa provides a wide range of products and integrated solutions to European customers in the aerospace, aluminum ingot, automotive, commercial transportation, building and construction, packaging and consumer products and industrial markets. Alcoa's four main aluminum businesses in the European region include--Primary Metals, Extrusions and End Products, Flat Rolled Products and Building and Construction Systems. Alcoa also works closely with other global Alcoa businesses with operations in Europe to provide leading-edge technology and integrated approaches that meet emerging customer and market demands.

MALTA INDEPENDENT online: Stephanie Degelin is Miss European Union 2005


Stephanie Degelin is Miss European Union 2005

The beauty contest to choose Miss European Union 2005 was held in Rome in the magnificent Palazzo dei Congressi. The beauty contest was produced by Bruno Bevilacqua and compèred by Fabio Canino, together with the beautiful Victoria Silvstedt and Giulia Olivetti. Fifty contestants competed for the title, two from Malta and two from the other countries of the European Union. The jury had to choose from a variety of blond Nordic girls and Mediterranean beauties. All the participants performed well on the catwalk even when they modelled very transparent lingerie designed by Valeria Marini... almost everyone didn’t show embarrassment or hesitation: they acted like real professionals! In the end a red-haired beauty was chosen and Alta Care Laboratoires srl presented the winner, Stephanie Degelin, a gorgeous girl from Belgium, with the sash.

Deutsche Welle: EU Foreign Ministers Mull Future Middle East Policy

Deutsche Welle

EU Foreign Ministers Mull Future Middle East Policy

On Monday, EU foreign ministers gather in Brussels to discuss Europe's political and financial role in the Middle East following the Hamas victory in Palestinian elections last week. The European Union might have been prepared for a strong showing by Hamas in last week's Palestinian general elections. But the bloc was not expecting a full-out victory. And now the EU finds itself uncertain of how to face the winners, despite official statements applauding the Palestinians for a successful election – the first free ballot in 10 years. The foreign ministers of the EU are convening on Monday to discuss the matter. Their goal is to establish a common line on how to deal with the radical Islamist party, which is registered on the EU list of terror organizations. EU diplomats say time is of the essence, and the Europeans should watch how government building progresses and how the politics of Hamas develops. If Hamas swears off violence and acknowledges Israel's right to exist, that would be a step in the right direction and a signal that the EU can continue channeling extensive financial aid to the Palestinian Authority without worry. But the ministers have not gone quite so far as to draft concrete demands for the Hamas or to threaten with financial consequences. Iran criticizes 3 Nordic countries over Islamophobia

Iran criticizes 3 Nordic countries over Islamophobia

TEHRAN – In three separate letters to the foreign ministers of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway on Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki criticized some of the daily newspapers of the three Nordic countries for insulting Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him and his household). Mottaki stated that Islamic countries, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, feel deep concern and regret about the steady rise in anti-Islamic attitudes and Islamophobia in some European countries.

He also underlined the necessity of respecting the values of all divine religions within the framework of all religious doctrines as well as all legal principles and international human rights accords.

Increased demand for OFWs in Europe expected


"Increased demand for OFWs in Europe expected

Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas yesterday said that the demand for the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Europe is expected to grow despite the European Union’s (EU’s) plan to hire foreign workers from other countries.

Citing the DOLE’s overseas employment record, Sto. Tomas said the deployment of skilled, documented land-based OFWs in the continent rose to 55,116 in 2004 from only 3,683 in 1984."

The View from Europe

Stabroek News

"The View from Europe
The Caribbean needs to reposition itself in relation to Europe
By David Jessop (Executive Director of the Caribbean Council for Europe)
Sunday, January 29th 2006

In May 2004 the European Union (EU) grew from a grouping of fifteen to twenty-five member states. In 2008, Romania and Bulgaria will join the EU. It is also possible but hugely controversial that at some future date Turkey may become a member.

For the Caribbean what this means is that it must tear up its map of Europe. Until quite recently even in a Europe of fifteen, four nations - the United Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands and France - that know the region intimately could sometimes exercise a positive influence. But today Europe has become an entity in which almost any issue that relates to the Caribbean now evinces either questions from the majority of member states or disinterest."

Noticias - A “Triple Play” for Europe


A “Triple Play” for Europe

Viviane Reding Member of the European Commission responsible for Information Society and Media Digital Lifestyle Day 2006 - "The first reform that we Europeans need to catch-up is a reform of our mentality. Too often I see pessimism and fear dominate political talks in Europe. Pessimism about the possibility of keeping our wealth. Fear of globalisation. Fear even of our neighbours. In France, the fear of the famous “Polish plumber” has even led to a rejection of the new European Constitutional Treaty, which would have made Europe stronger with regard to the challenges of globalisation – and this even though there are not more than 120 plumbers of Polish nationality in the whole of France. Have we forgotten what European integration is all about? Have we forgotten all the jobs created by opening up Central and Eastern European markets for products from Western European countries? And have we really already forgotten that just two decades ago, we would have wholeheartedly welcomed every Eastern European coming westward with expertise or a tool box instead of with a machine gun? The disclosure of the archives of the Warsaw Pact in these days should remind us how much confrontation was a reality in Europe when it was still divided by the Cold War, and how grateful we therefore should be for today’s peaceful unification of the European family."

Telegraph: Bird's eye view of the world from Davos - by Robert Peston


Bird's eye view of the world from Davos - by Robert Peston

A pall of fatalism seemed to fall on Davos, more numbing than the rising snow and the falling mist, in the closing stages of this year's World Economic Forum. One manifestation was an epidemic of avian-flu doomsaying, following the dissemination of World Health Organisation and Booz Allen scenarios about the possible impact of a pandemic of that feathered, flying virus. The chief executive of a health business said to me: "There is a great deal of hysteria being generated: that is the job of media, not the World Economic Forum, for heaven's sake". One economic consequence if the bug does jump the species barrier is - apparently - that the price of oil would collapse. Why so? Borders would be closed to contain the spread of the illness. Airports would be shut down. Whole industries - especially tourism - would go into recession. So demand for aviation fuel and possibly even petrol would plummet.


MSNBC/Financial Times: US current account deficit 'unsustainable'

Financial Times/

US current account deficit 'unsustainable'

Timothy Geithner, president of the New York Federal Reserve, on Monday dismissed the view that the US current account deficit was sustainable, suggesting the risk of a sudden fall in the dollar would grow the longer the trade gap widened. In a speech at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, Mr Geith-ner said the problem could not necessarily be expected to solve itself."Time does not necessarily help. The longer these gaps continue to build, the greater the ultimate adjustment required, and the greater the risks that accompany that process," he said. "The plausible outcomes range from the gradual and benign to the more precipitous and damaging," he said. "The size and duration of these [global] imbalances, perhaps the most visible of which is the US current account deficit, present challenges – and risks – for the world economy."

Business Day: US deficit $337bn, plus war costs

Business Day - News Worth Knowing

WASHINGTON — A congressional report released yesterday said the US budget deficit would hit $337bn this year, up $23bn from an August estimate. The figure excludes additional funds needed for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), congress’ nonpartisan fiscal watchdog, said the deficit in fiscal 2007, which begins on October 1, would drop to $270bn. But the estimate does not include several big-ticket items, such as war costs and tax policy changes, that are likely to significantly add to the flow of red ink unless congress finds a way to shrink spending in other areas.

Independent Online Edition: Canada issues warning to US over Arctic passage

Independent Online Edition

Canada issues warning to US over Arctic passage

Canada's Prime Minister- elect has issued a blunt "hands off" warning to the US over territorial rights in the Arctic - increasingly coveted now that global warming threatens to open up new waterways in the once solidly frozen far north. Two days after his Conservative party ended 13 years of Liberal rule, Stephen Harper declared he would keep his campaign promises to step up Canada's military presence in the region, despite opposition from the US and various European countries."The United States defends its sovereignty, the Canadian government will defend our sovereignty," he said. "It is the Canadian government we get our mandate from, not the ambassador of the United States." The assumption here is that Canada's new leader was sending a message that he would be no pushover for Washington?

Iran Focus-Iran-EU nuclear talks to resume on Monday: IRNA - Special Wire - News


Tehran, Iran, Jan. 28 – A new round of talks will be held between Iranian officials and representatives from Britain, France, and Germany – the European Union three – seeking to diffuse the international standoff over the Islamic Republic’s sensitive nuclear work, the state-run IRNA news agency reported on Saturday.

The EU-3 along with the United States have already announced that they seek to refer Iran’s nuclear file to the United Nations Security Council at the upcoming February 2 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors over fears that it is pursuing nuclear weapons development. The move, however, has faced opposition from nuclear powers Russia and China. Iran’s official news agency quoted an “informed official” in the Islamic Republic’s Supreme National Security Council, the body in charge of Tehran’s nuclear negotiations with the West, as saying that the meeting will take place in Brussels, where EU foreign ministers are set to meet on Monday

Oil & Gas Journal - EU, France seek integrated energy policy

Oil & Gas Journal

EU, France seek integrated energy policy

PARIS, Jan. 26 -- The European Union is seeking an integrated, efficient energy policy that would improve its ability to manage growing dependence on non-EU energy supplies.

At a meeting of 25 EU finance ministers in Brussels Jan. 24, Austrian Energy Minister Martin Bartenstein said he would focus on energy during his country's 6-month presidency of the EU. Next spring the energy ministers will meet to pursue a "sure, sustainable, and competitive energy policy."French Economic and Finance Minister Thierry Breton presented a memorandum promoting energy conservation, long-term investment visibility and planning, and improved communication with the EU's energy suppliers. The memorandum encourages the EU to seek international partnerships in exploration, production, and refining.


The future of Europe 2006

"The Future of Europe
Published: 27 January 2006
Today in Salzburg, a political and cultural debate is launched which hopes to engage Europe’s citizens in a reappraisal of what the EU is and what it should be.
", Poles and Danes would also reject EU charter, Dutch PM suggests

"Brits, Poles and Danes would also reject EU charter, Dutch PM suggests
27.01.2006 - 17:43 CET | By Mark Beunderman

EUOBSERVER / SALZBURG - Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende has suggested that referendums on the EU constitution in the UK, Poland and Denmark would result in a 'no' like in his own country, while shrugging off responsibility for the union's constitutional deadlock.

Mr Balkenende made his remarks on Friday (27 January) at a high-profile conference on European identity, staged by the Austrian EU presidency in a bid to revive the debate on the EU constitution."

Interview: ‘Fear can paralyse’ EU

"Interview: ‘Fear can paralyse’ EU

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev tells EUpolitix that fears surrounding EU enlargement are becoming “obsessive”.

The 39-year Bulgarian leader believes that debates over Europe’s capacity are perfectly reasonable but worries that enlargement fears are becoming something of a neurosis for the EU.

“Fears are becoming very obsessive and there is the danger fear can become paralysing to the action of thought,” Stanishev argues.

The Socialist stresses that concerns in existing EU member states that social standards could slide or jobs be lost are “justified and reasonable worries”."

EU opens tender to turn wine lakes into biofuel

Turkish Daily News Jan 27, 2006:

"EU opens tender to turn wine lakes into biofuel
Friday, January 27, 2006
BRUSSELS - Reuters

The European Union has opened a tender to sell off unwanted wine lakes in four countries to produce bioethanol for use in EU markets, the latest edition of its Official Journal said on Wednesday.

The tender will offer 666,095 hectoliters of wine stored in France, Italy, Hungary and Spain to companies willing to put it to 'exclusive use as bioethanol in the fuel sector,' it said."

Alarm bells for the EU economy

Turkish Daily News Jan 27, 2006

"Alarm bells for the EU economy
Friday, January 27, 2006

The European Union’s department for economic and monetary affairs from time to time publishes papers called 'Occasional Papers.' One published in December titled “European Economy” is both a very interesting and worrying study.

IHT: EU report card finds room for improvement

International Herald Tribune

EU report card finds room for improvement

BRUSSELS Presenting an update on efforts by European governments to modernize their economies, the European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, found as much to criticize as to praise. Nordic countries scored high marks for their investment in research, but Barroso criticized Germany for insufficient child care, Britain for poor public transportation and Italy for keeping its services sector closed to competition. In addition to his critiques Wednesday, Barroso added policy suggestions of his own. One was to require children in secondary schools to learn two foreign languages. Despite widespread skepticism about his ability to spur growth from Brussels, Barroso said he was winning the argument for change. "Today in Europe there is a consensus that the status quo is not an option," he said.


Houston Chronicle: Cheney, Rumsfeld Could Testify in EU

Houston Chronicle

Cheney, Rumsfeld Could Testify in EU Probe

BRUSSELS, Belgium — An EU committee investigating alleged CIA secret prisons could call Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to testify, a senior member of the panel said.British Liberal Democrat Sarah Ludford, a member of the EU parliament and vice president of the investigative committee, said "very senior people" would be asked to answer questions about the alleged prisons. "I don't see why we should not invite Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney," Ludford said.

Pakistan Tribune: Pakistan opposed to taking Iran issue to UNSC


Pakistan opposed to taking Iran issue to UNSC

TEHRAN: Pakistan on Thursday opposed the United States-led bid to take the Iran nuclear issue to the United Nations Security Council and advocated settlement of the issue through negotiations.

In an interview with IRNA here, Pakistan’s Ambassador (designate) to Iran Shafqat Saeed said that his country was opposed to the issue making its way to the UN Security Council. In light of international conventions, resolutions and the law creating the International Atomic Energy Agency, he maintained Tehran had the right to continue its peaceful nuclear programs.

"The three European countries and the IAEA should continue their negotiations to resolve the issue instead of taking it to the Security Council," he contended.

Boston Globe: Democracy at work in the Middle East: Hamas wins landslide 76 seats in parliament

The Boston Globe

Democracy at work in the Middle East:Hamas wins landslide 76 seats in parliament

The entire Palestinian cabinet resigned today following Hamas's stunning landslide victory in Palestinian legislative elections.Election officials released preliminary results showing the militant group won 76 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council, which must approve the cabinet of the Palestinian Authority, the governing body for the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Now, the militant group that has long sworn to destroy Israel and castigated Palestinian officials as collaborators must make an unprecedented transition from feared outsider to principal player in Palestinian governance.

Hamas leaders said they would reach out to other Palestinian factions to join the cabinet, including Fatah, the party that up to now enjoyed near-total control of the Palestinian Authority.

EU Survey: Germans Fearful of European Union - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News


"Germans Fearful of European Union

Once the strongest of backers of the European Union, Germans have apparently come to fear what the 25-member bloc represents. Many see EU enlargement as a particular threat to their beloved social welfare system.

Germans aren't quite so enthusiastic about the EU anymore.
Germans aren't quite so enthusiastic about the EU anymore.
Germans have long been some of the most pro-EU Europeans around, but according to a new survey, that could be changing in the wake of the eastward enlargement of the bloc. Gerhard Sabathil, the representative of the EU Commission in Germany, presented the latest Eurobarometer study in Berlin on Thursday and the results were surprising for a country that is usually thought to be safely in the EU integrationist corner. "

..:: ABHABER.COM ::..

..:: ABHABER.COM ::..

US, EU welcome Turkey's new Cyprus plan

Although US and EU welcome Turkey's new Cyprus plan proposed by Turkish FM Gul to help resolve Cyprus dispute, Greek Cypriots and Greeks appear to have negative attitudes to plan Greek Cypriot FM Iacovou describes plan as 'empty one that aims at showing off' and says therefore they don't take it seriously. However both Greece and Greek Cypriots don't rule out examining it

The U.S. and European Union welcomed late Tuesday Turkey's new Cyprus plan which was put forward by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to help resolve the Cyprus dispute.

Europe has much to gain from Turkey

The Ithacan online

"Europe has much to gain from Turkey
By Sevgi Saran / Guest Writer
January 26, 2006
Turkey’s effort to become a member of the European Union has always been a controversial topic for both the European countries and Turkey. Despite having signed an Association Agreement with the EU in 1964, Turkey only started accession negotiations this past October.
Because of Turkey’s predominantly large Muslim population — which is more than willing to join a union that’s often referred to as a “Christian Club” — countries like Austria and France say Turkey does not have a place in the EU, since it has “a different culture, a different approach, a different way of life.” Turkey, however, is a secular and democratic country that has never specified the religion of Islam in its constitution. For Turks, joining the EU has always been seen as an important component of westernization as well as modernization."

EU Enlargement and Institutional Reforms

Focus English News

"EU Enlargement and Institutional Reforms

26 January 2006 | 10:19
Le Monde

Wolfgang Schüssel, Austria’s Chancellor and President of the European Council, in an interview with French daily Le Monde"

BBC|: Afghan deployment signals Nato push


Afghan deployment signals Nato push

The planned deployment of another 3,500 British troops to Afghanistan is part of a big new push by Nato forces to pacify the south of the country.It would bring the British and other forces much more into the Afghan combat zone than before. There are twin problems in the south. First an insurgency led by the Taleban is developing there - with suicide bombings as a new tactic, apparently copied from Iraq. And the growth of poppy cultivation for conversion into heroin is hindering efforts to develop a normal economy.


MarketWatch: Germany's Merkel: Change or be left behind


Germany's Merkel: Change or be left behind

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that Germany and the rest of Europe must be more open to innovation and change if they want to create a new social framework and regain a leading position in the world. "We have to remove the obstacles, open the windows and breathe fresh air," she said, addressing the opening session of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the alpine resort of Davos.

In keeping with previous speeches, Merkel urged several changes in Germany, including the need to streamline bureaucracy, reduce debt, have a more stable fiscal policy to inspire confidence in foreign investors and invest more in innovation. In keeping with the theme of the forum this year, she said these changes would require Germany to be more "creative." - Polish leadership learns to live with the EU

Polish leadership learns to live with the EU

On the face of it, the new Polish government’s approach to the European Union could not be clearer. Warsaw’s tough line in the recent EU budget negotiations and in current disputes over banking regulation and VAT would seem to be irrefutable evidence of a country deliberately flexing its diplomatic muscles.Diplomats from other member states sense an awkward new mood in Warsaw. Even if the Law and Justice leaders have not sworn oaths at the altar of Euroscepticism, the signals they are giving out are distinctly prickly. Much depends on Warsaw’s priorities. At the same time as fighting two disputes with Brussels, Polish officials are preparing plans for enhancing co-operation on a matter of great interest to Poland, energy security.

Warsaw wants an EU-wide energy pact to protect individual states, especially vulnerable countries in eastern Europe, from political pressure from Russia, the EU’s biggest energy supplier. Mr Smolar, who supports such ideas, says: “The government cannot treat the EU as a series of separate items – some where it wants integration and others where it does not. It needs to link these things together.” European Stocks Snap Losing Streak; SAP, BBVA and BMW Climb

European Stocks Snap Losing Streak; SAP, BBVA and BMW Climb

Jan. 25 (Bloomberg) -- European stocks climbed, snapping a three-day losing streak, as German business confidence increased more than expected and SAP AG, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA and Hugo Boss AG earnings topped analysts' estimates. DaimlerChrysler AG rose as Kuwait, its largest shareholder, said the automaker should sell the unprofitable Smart unit. Bayerische Motoren Werke AG surged after reporting record sales.

Earnings from SAP, the world's biggest maker of business- management software, Bilbao, Spain's second-largest bank, and Boss, Germany's No. 1 clothing maker, underpinned investor optimism in the outlook for profits and economic growth in Europe. Indexes headed for their best day in three weeks.

EUROPA - Growth and Jobs - Time to move up a gear

EUROPA - Growth and Jobs - Time to move up a gear

"'Time to Move Up A Gear' The European Commission's 2006 Annual Progress Report on Growth and Jobs

Commission President Barroso presents Annual Progress Report on Growth and Jobs

The European Commission has today published its new Annual Progress Report on the Lisbon Strategy, the partnership between the EU and Member States for growth and more and better jobs. The Annual Progress Report is designed to reinforce momentum and force the pace of delivery. There are three main elements in the Progress Report. First, the Report provides an analysis of the 25 new National Reform Programmes submitted by Member States in October 2005. Second, it identifies the strengths in different national programmes with a view to promoting the exchange of good ideas.

Third, it highlights areas where there are shortcomings and proposes concrete action at EU and national level to deal with them. Four priority action areas are identified: investment in education, research and innovation; freeing up SMEs; employment policies to get people into work; and guaranteeing a secure and sustainable energy supply. For each of these areas, the Commission’s Spring Report makes clear proposals for European leaders to commit to when they meet at the March Summit in Brussels and to implement by 2007.

For full texts: "

The World From Berlin: Europe's Silence on CIA Flights


"Europe's Silence on CIA Flights

A special investigator's preliminary report to a European human rights watchdog on alleged CIA prisons and flights for terror suspects in Europe has produced no concrete evidence. And without greater cooperation from European governments there never will be."

The Hindu News: Conservatives win in Canada, but get no majority

The Hindu News Update Service

Conservatives win in Canada, but get no majority

"Final results for the 308-seat House showed Conservatives with 124 seats; Liberals with 103; the Bloc Quebecois with 51, New Democratic Party with 29; and one seat to an Independent." The Conservative victory ended more than a decade of Liberal Party rule and could shift the traditionally liberal country to the right on socio-economic issues such as health care, taxation, abortion and gay marriage. Some Canadians have expressed reservations about Harper's views opposing abortion and marriages between gays and lesbians.


Merkel and Chirac fail to hide the tension

Independent Online Edition > Europe

"Merkel and Chirac fail to hide the tension
By John Lichfield in Paris
Published: 24 January 2006

France and Germany have said they will draw up concrete plans to rescue the European Union from the wreckage of its proposed constitutional treaty.

President Jacques Chirac and Chancellor Angela Merkel, in their first summit since her appointment, promised to kickstart the Franco-German 'motor' to give 'fresh impetus ' to the EU. But the meeting in Versailles yesterday failed to dispel the impression that relations between the two allies had seen better times." Budapest's Oldest Spa Ends 70-Year Ban on Women, Angering Males

Budapest's Oldest Spa Ends 70-Year Ban on Women, Angering Males

Hungarian teacher Istvan Szabo, who has visited Budapest's oldest thermal baths every month for 24 years, is preparing for unwelcome invaders: women. ``This is nonsense,'' said Szabo, 53, as he soaked in the baths on the north bank of the Danube. ``What next, they will want us to make toilets mixed-sex too? It's all just too weird.'' The Rudas, built by the Turks in the 16th century, was the last remaining men-only spa in Budapest, the home of more thermal baths than any other capital in the world. A 70-year ban on women ends this month, angering customers such as Szabo. Females will be allowed entry to the Rudas on two half-days a week after a women's magazine petitioned Mayor Gabor Demszky.

IOL: EU gives UK six months to show how it can cut budget deficit


EU gives UK six months to show how it can cut budget deficit

European Union finance ministers today ordered Britain to rein in public spending and bring its budget deficit under the EU limit by the end of March 2007. Britain has six months to explain how it will cut its deficit to below 3% of gross domestic product. Ministers backed the European Commission’s view that Britain’s deficit will be around 3.1 percent in the fiscal year 2006-07, “despite fiscal measures announced in December. In such circumstances, the excess can no longer be considered as exceptional or temporary,” they said in a statement.

U.S. Working with Europe in Reaching Out to Muslim World

US State Department

"U.S. Working with Europe in Reaching Out to Muslim World

State's Fried says Islam and democracy can coexist

By Vince Crawley
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The United States and its European partners are successfully changing the long-held notion that democracy and human rights cannot thrive in the Middle East, a senior State Department official says.

Freedom, democracy and reform are “now front and center in the region, including in Saudi Arabia,' Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said January 18 during a question and answer session following remarks to community leaders in Baltimore, Maryland.

Speaking to the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs, Fried outlined how Europe and the United States are working together “in support of freedom-seekers around the world” not only in the Balkans, Eastern Europe and Eurasia, but also in the broader Middle East, including Iran. (See related article.)"




Speaker of Milli Majlis (Azerbaijan Parliament) Ogtay Asadov on 23 January met with the visiting delegation of Hungarian Foreign Ministry led by Political State Secretary of this country Mr. Andras Barsony.

Greeting the guests, Chairman of the Azerbaijan Parliament said Azerbaijan gives great importance to development of the relations between Azerbaijan and Hungary. The two countries have established diplomatic links since 1992. Embassy of Azerbaijan functions in Budapest, and we would like Romania had opened its diplomatic mission in Azerbaijan as well, Mr. Asadov underlined. The embassies could play not only political role, but also contribute in expansion of economic, cultural and other bilateral links.

Chinadaily: Germany's Merkel calls for step-by-step approach in dispute with Tehran

ChinadailyGermany's Merkel calls for step-by-step approach in dispute with Tehran

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a step-by-step diplomatic approach in the standoff with Iran over its nuclear program and warned against moving hastily.

Merkel, speaking Monday at a news conference with President Jacques Chirac, also defended the French leader's threat last week that France might use its nuclear weapons against state-sponsored terrorism or to thwart an attack involving weapons of mass destruction, comments that drew criticism from elsewhere in Europe and from Iran. Merkel expressed hope that the international community will remain united on the Iran issue, saying she wants "the largest majority possible" for whatever course of action is decided upon by a meeting of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency.

RTE Business - France to keep promises on deficit

RTE Business

France to keep promises on deficit

French Finance Minister Thierry Breton said today that France would keep a promise to reduce its public deficit to 3% of output in 2005. On the eve of a meeting with European Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, Breton stressed that the French public deficit would meet a target of 3% of gross domestic product in 2005, lower than a forecast of 3.2% by the EU commission. French newspaper Les Echos reported today that the French government had benefited from exceptional revenue of €2.3 billion at the end of 2005 from taxes on corporate profits. Breton did not confirm the figure and ruled out that government had met the target by the 'anticipation of receipts'. Spain's Economic Miracle Is Running Out of Steam: by Matthew Lynn

Spain's Economic Miracle Is Running Out of Steam: by Matthew

Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Europe has often had models to follow over the years: France in the 1960s, Germany in the 1970s, and the U.K. in more recent times. And how about Spain? No other major European economy has been so consistently successful in the past decade. Its boom has been going on for so long, everyone is used to it. The euro region's growth last outpaced Spain's in 1995, according to Bloomberg calculations. Now the first signs are starting to emerge that the miracle may be running out of steam for Europe's fifth-largest economy. Spain's prosperity now looks more like a combustible mix of a real-estate frenzy and an influx of immigrants rather than a lasting Lynn


The last EU enlargement : getting the Balkans into the EU on July 28th 2014

Newropeans Magazine - EDITO

"EDITO - The last EU enlargement : getting the Balkans into the EU on July 28th 2014
Written by Franck Biancheri
Monday, 23 January 2006
(Answer to Darko Vucic Open Letter)

Image Dear Mr. Vucic, I have read with great interest your open letter where you share with us your great concerns about the future of the Balkans (which in that case means its former Yugoslavia part + Albania), and the lack of clear perspective currently given by the European Union and the local national leaders. You also directly question Newropeans both in terms of its policy regarding the Balkans and the possible expansion of Newropeans in the region.

First of all, let me tell you that Newropeans fully shares your concerns and regrets the lack of political ambition that the EU is showing regarding the Balkans. Meanwhile Newropeans is also very worried to see that the young generations from this region, who are deeply feeling that they do deserve to share the common future of the rest of European youth, are left without support facing nationalistic leaders and parties. The only thing the EU is doing yet is to show that it can replace militarily NATO to preserve the very instable peace of the region."

EITB 24: Spain's PM begins round of talks on new charter


Spain's PM begins round of talks on new charter

Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez was to begin another round of talks on Monday with party leaders from Catalonia on a controversial new charter for the powerhouse region which would hand it considerably wider powers of self-government.

On Sunday, the government announced that it had reached "a global deal" with Convergence and Union, which although in opposition in Catalonia is the leading political group in the region, whose capital is Barcelona. The government has been in negotiations for several months with Convergence and Union and the three parties that form the Catalan regional government over a new charter. Only one party involved in the talks, the small Catalan Republican Left, which favours Catalan independence, rejected Sunday's deal as "insufficient," but said it would continue to negotiate.

ITAR-TASS: OSCE economic forum to open in Vienna


OSCE economic forum to open in Vienna

VIENNA, January 23 (Itar-Tass) -- An OSCE economic forum will open in the Vienna Palace Hoffburg on Monday. The OSCE economic forum will be devoted to development of the EU transport infrastructure. More than 300 representatives of the OSCE member-countries and international organisations concerned will take part in the forum. Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovenko will head the Russian delegation. The OSCE economic forum will have two stages for the first time this year. The first session will be held in Vienna on January 23-24, and the second session in Prague on May 22-24.

Partakers of the Vienna session will discuss the role of transport in development of the general European economic integration, international and regional cooperation, in the expansion of the dialogue between Europe and Asia and in the strengthening of stability in Southeast Europe, Central Asia and the Transcaucasia. During the Prague session experts will discuss possible solutions to the technical problems in transport cooperation. President Chávez entrusts Lula aircraft sale

President Chávez entrusts Lula aircraft sale

The heads of state of Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela held a meeting in Brasilia in order to discuss the energy integration and deal with the laying of a huge South American gas pipeline to carry Venezuelan hydrocarbons to the South.

At Granja do Torto, a countryside residence of the Brazilian President, the host ruler welcomed his colleagues. During the meeting, the Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said he would leave in the hands of the Brazilian government the efforts to smooth objection by the United States to sale Venezuela Supertucanos training planes. "If Brazil cannot make the United States to change its mind, then regretfully we will have to buy the planes in Russia, India, China or anywhere else," President Chávez said in Brasilia, following his meeting with his counterparts of Brazil and Argentina, Reuters reported.Note EU-Digest: This powerplay by the US on the sale of transport aircraft to Venezuela by Spain once again demonstrates how the rest of the world is now at its mercy.


EUROPA - Agenda of the EU institutions

EUROPA - Agenda of the EU institutions

If you need to know what is going on at EU Institutions go to: Oil, conflict and the future of global energy supplies

Oil, conflict and the future of global energy supplies

In the absence of a symmetrically positioned or clearly identifiable enemy what is the precise target warranting billions of war dollars spent in war against countries that lack military power to pose a military threat to the United States? How does one defeat with tanks, missiles, bombs and guns an idea that may surface in any sufficiently disaffected person’s mind? Some terrorist attacks tend to be reactive and/or retaliatory. Thus 9/11 could be considered as horrific blowback from the CIA having funded, armed and encouraged Muslim fundamentalist militant actions cum Taliban regime. However, with about 15 Saudis directly involved in the 9/11 attack the nexus of the attack raises even more questions (visit beyond the assumption that one man stationed in remote Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, almost unilaterally orchestrated an attack which US intelligence remained ineffective to stop.

Saddam’s selling of Iraq’s oil in the Euro (as of 2000) was more of an explosive threat to US interests than any WMDs so far found in Iraq by George Bush. If not by political persuasion for continued Iraqi oil sales in the US dollar, then by invasion to finally fix the problem. Consider the precipitous impact on the US economy when petrodollars rapidly cease to subsidise US living standards.

Newsweek/MNBC: The Empire Strikes Back


The Empire Strikes Back

Jan. 30, 2006 issue - No need to call in the Kremlinologists. Russia's latest messages to the West and its close neighbors are clear. First came the New Year's Day gas war, when Moscow cut gas supplies to Ukraine over a pricing dispute—and demonstrated to the world that it was ready and willing to use energy as a weapon. Then came an essay from Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov entitled "Russia Must Be Strong," full of nuclear swagger and warnings that foreign interference would not be tolerated in Russia's backyard. And now, as neighboring Belarus and Ukraine prepare for elections in March, Moscow is doing everything in its power to ensure that wayward former satellites return to its orbit.

The Australian: No stopping US consumers as US household debt reaches $US11.4 billion, while EuroZone consumers save 14% of disposable income

The Australian

No stopping US consumers as US household debt reaches $US11.4 billion, while EuroZone consumers save 14% of disposable income

The net wealth of Americans, even after taking into account the large rise in debt, has risen by around $US5000 billion over the past year to $US51,000 billion. They are around $US8400 billion better off than they were five years ago. "If American consumers were grouped together as a company, they would have had a very weak profit and loss account in 2005 but the balance sheet still looks in splendid shape," said Eric Britton, an analyst at Oxford Economics.

In Europe however, the eurozone propensity to save is unlikely to drop much. Consumers have saved in excess of 14 per cent of their gross disposable incomes in recent years, compared with about 1 per cent in the US. Recent European Commission research concluded that the apparent implication of demographic trends is that the euro area should now be entering a golden age of saving as the post-war baby-boomers move through middle age. German banks generally only issue so-called credit cards on the assumption that sums outstanding will be paid off each month.

KOSOVAREPORT: SRSG statement on the passing of President Ibrahim Rugova of Kosovo


SRSG statement on the passing of President Ibrahim Rugova of Kosovo

PRISTINA - SRSG Søren Jessen-Petersen issued the following statement upon learning of the passing of President Ibrahim Rugova:

“This is a moment of profound sorrow for Kosovo and I share your sadness and grief.

I wish first of all to extend my heartfelt condolences, in my own name and on behalf of all of UNMIK, to President Rugova’s family – may you find strength and comfort in each other and in your faith to see you through this very painful moment.

I also want to extend my condolences to the people of Kosovo and the PISG. President Rugova’s unwavering belief in his vision for Kosovo, which he pursued so determinedly throughout his life, earned him the respect of not only the people of Kosovo but also the wider international community."

Regnum: Lithuania is a spring-board for Russia to the West


Lithuania is a spring-board for Russia to the West

"Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus has recently been trying to hold out in the capacity of “the Constitution guarantor” by attacking the ruling coalition now and then, just for an image. He has nothing left to do, say political experts, if he wants to retain his authority — for whatever a veto he puts on the Seym's whatever decision, the Seym just makes it void. In fact, in Lithuania the president is a symbolical figure of no real authority. Unless he reminds of himself by harshly criticizing the other power branches, he will be simply forgotten." US - Nuclear tango forces new US strategy

US - Nuclear tango forces new US strategy

Senior White House strategists holding brainstorming sessions in Washington this week over how to stop Iran's nuclear programme or effect regime change had only to look out their window for a possible solution. A US spokesman confirmed that senior officials were discussing Iran during the rally on Thursday. But they ignored the protesters. A second US spokesman said there was no consideration within the Bush administration to lift the ban on the MKO and its political wing. Berlusconi's Handling of Economy a `Disaster,' Opponent Says

Berlusconi's Handling of Economy a `Disaster,' Opponent Says

Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's handling of the nation's economy has been a ``disaster,'' his 2001 opponent said, signaling the issue will be central in the campaign for parliamentary elections on April 9. The ``real disaster of the government is the economy,'' Francesco Rutelli said in debate late yesterday televised on Berlusconi-owned Mediaset SpA, the country's largest television network. ``Italians have woken up to the fact that the government made profound errors in economic policy.'' Five years ago, Berlusconi signed a ``contract'' with Italians, promising an economic miracle, lower taxes and 1 million new jobs. Since then, the economy has slipped twice into recession, its deficit and debt have swelled and the country ranks as the least competitive of the 12 euro nations, according to the World Economic Forum.


- The Globalist: The United States and the Birth of Islamism by Robert Dreyfuss

The Globalist > > Global Politics

The United States and the Birth of Islamism by Robert Dreyfuss

Could it really be that the United States spent decades cultivating Islamists? And that it manipulated and double-crossed them, cynically using and misusing them as Cold War allies? And that all of this spawned a force that turned against its sponsor with a vengeance? Robert Dreyfuss argues just that in “Devil’s Game.” - French Kiss

French Kiss

NEW YORK -- Remember those rousing days -- amid the acrid havoc of 9/11 -- when all the world stood by us, and even the French were knocked off course enough to say, "We Are All American"? Of course you do, if only to contrast that time with the months and years that followed, when less of the world stood by us, and when the French -- coming to their exquisite senses -- rediscovered their contempt for America."In France, with the nation based on roots, on the idea of soil, on a common memory . . . the very existence of America is a mystery and a scandal." This is a particular source of pain, Mr. Lévy says, for "the right." Contrary to what is thought generally, he insists, anti-Americanism "migrated to the left, to the Communist Party, but its origins are on the extreme right." America gives the French right "nightmares," as the country is based on "a social contract. America proves that people can gather at a given moment and decide to form a nation, even if they come from different places." The "ghost that has haunted Europe for two centuries" -- and which gives fuel, to this day, to anti-Americanism there -- "is America's coming together as an act of will, of creed. It shows that there is an alternative to organic nations." Mr. Lévy regards his own criticism of America not as anti-Americanism, but as tough love. He is an assiduous believer in America's "manifest destiny," and expects this country, clearly, to uphold the highest standards -- as he sees them. Some of these standards he would prescribe to France, in particular the American approach to citizenship. He contrasts the "model of Dearborn" -- the Detroit suburb, home to significant numbers of contented Arab-Americans -- with the "model of St. Denis," the Parisian banlieu where discontented Arab immigrants (never referred to as Arab-Frenchman) ran riot late last year. "What is good about America is that in order to be a citizen, you are not asked to resign from your former identity. You cannot tell Varadarajan or Lévy, 'You have to erase from your mind the ancestors you had.' In France, we erase." America, Mr. Lévy concludes, "is a factory of citizens, which has some defects, some problems, but the country works, not too badly. Better, I think, than mine."

Islam Online- EU Threatens Members Over Immigrant Rights

Islam Online

EU Threatens Members Over Immigrant Rights

BRUSSELS, January 20, 2006 ( & News Agencies) – The European Commission threatened on Friday, January 20, firm action against European countries failing to grant rights to long-term immigrants from countries outside the 25-nation bloc.
"We will start infringement procedures in the coming months, if these rights are still not implemented," Friso Roscam Abbing, European Commission justice and home affairs spokesman, was quoted as saying by Reuters. EU members agreed in November 2003 to give third-country nationals the right to five-year residency and work permits after they have lived in an EU country for five years. The Commission estimates about 10 million legal residents in the EU would benefit from the legislation, also allowing those holding five-year resident status in one member state to live in another. The deadline for implementing the EU rules is set for Monday, January 23.



Information Clearing House


01/18/06 "ICH" -- -- The ramifications of US franchised torture and street revolutions in Serbia, Georgia ,Ukraine , Kyrgyzstan et al are not going to go away . The recent fence-mending visit to Washington by the newly sworn in right wing German Chancellor Angela Merkel was overshadowed by human right violations and torture at US base in Guantanamo and rendition of terrorism suspects to prisons in Europe and elsewhere by CIA.

To it were added reports that German intelligence had fed America key information about military targets in Iraq before the US led 2003 illegal invasion of Iraq. The Iraq war was vehemently opposed by the government of Merkel's predecessor Gerhard Schröder of Social Democrat party, which is now in "grand coalition" with her party. The question of torture at secret prisons specially in East Europe had erupted following a clutch of media reports led by the Washington Post and Der Spiegel which reported US use of airports in Europe for CIA flights to transport terror suspects to a network of secret jails for questioning. One of the persons picked up for questioning as a suspected terrorist was a German citizen Khaled Masri , who was on holiday in Macedonia. He was flown out and tortured in Afghanistan for five months before being released on grounds of mistaken identity in 2004. During the last December visit of Ms Condoleeza Rice to Europe , Merkel had said that the United States had acknowledged responsibility. "The American government admitted its mistake," Merkel said. But Rice said she could not talk about the case specifically but added, "Any policy will sometimes result in errors, and when it happens we will do everything we can to rectify it." This had led to some confusion in Washington.

Nieuwsbank: Independent expert group urges Europe's leaders to take radical action on research and innovation


Independent expert group urges Europe's leaders to take radical action on research and innovation

Brussels, 20 January 2006: Independent expert group urges Europe's leaders to take radical action on research and innovation "before it is too late". In a final report submitted to the European Commission today, an independent Expert Group has called for a Pact for Research and Innovation to be signed by political, business and social leaders to show their commitment to creating an Innovative Europe. The experts state that current trends are unsustainable in the face of global competition. Therefore a new vision is needed to address a series of productivity and social challenges faced by Europe. The group was set up by the European Commission following the European Council held at Hampton Court in October 2005 and asked to advise on ways of boosting the EU's research and innovation performance.

The 4-person Group, chaired by former Prime Minister of Finland Esko Aho, argues that there is a large gap between the political rhetoric about the knowledge society and the reality of budgetary and other priorities that have shown little shift in engaging with it. They propose a 4-pronged strategy focusing on the creation of innovation friendly markets, on strengthening R&D resources, on increasing structural mobility as well as fostering a culture which celebrates innovation. The reason business is failing to invest enough in R&D and innovation in Europe is the lack of an innovation-friendly market in which to launch new products and services. To create such a market they recommend actions on harmonised regulation, ambitious use of standards, driving demand through public procurement, a competitive intellectual property rights regime and fostering a culture which celebrates innovation. Large scale strategic actions are called for to provide an environment in which supply-side measures for research investment can be combined with the process of creating a demand and a market. The Group identifies several examples: e-Health, Pharmaceuticals, Energy, Environment, Transport and Logistics, Security, and Digital Content. They call for an independent High Level Coordinator to be appointed to orchestrate European action in each area across Member States, different parts of government and the Commission, business, academia and other stakeholders.

Financial Times - France delivers nuclear threat

Financial Times -

France delivers nuclear threat

Jacques Chirac, France's president, has threatened to use nuclear weapons against any state that supported terrorism against his country or considered using weapons of mass destruction. Blair faces demands for CIA-flight inquiry

Seattlepi.comBlair faces demands for CIA-flight inquiry

LONDON -- Prime Minister Tony Blair faced renewed demands Thursday for an inquiry into secret CIA flights that allegedly passed through British airports after a leaked memo indicated he was advised to avoid giving detailed answers on the issue. The briefing paper, sent from the Foreign Office to Blair's 10 Downing St. office, advised ministers to "avoid getting drawn on detail." The four-page memo, dated Dec. 7, 2005, and first reported Thursday by the left-leaning weekly magazine New Statesman, urged the government to "try to move the debate on" and focus on the importance of cooperating with the United States in the war on terror.

Open Democracy: Democratisation, NGOs and "colour revolutions" Sreeram Chaulia


Democratisation, NGOs and "colour revolutions" Sreeram Chaulia

From Georgia to Kyrgyzstan via Ukraine, new forms of youthful, tech-savvy mass mobilisation are impelling regime change from below. But is the phenomenon as benign as it appears? Are the movements who inspire the "colour revolutions" catalysts or saboteurs? Sreeram Chaulia analyses a modern face of global democratic politics. "As William Blum writes: "An NGO helps to maintain a certain credibility abroad that an official US government agency might not have. " 97% of NED's funding comes from the US state department (through Usaid and before 1999, the Usia), the rest being allocations made by right-wing donors like the Bradley Foundation, the Whitehead Foundation and the Olin Foundation. Since its conception, and despite the bipartisan structure, "neoconservatives have held tight control over NED's agenda and institutional structure."

Senior figures in the George W Bush administration who are signatories to the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which wears aggressive US foreign interventions on its sleeve, have officiated in NED. Notwithstanding its claims to "independence" and "nongovernmental status", the US state department and other executive agencies regularly appoint NED's programme personnel. As one 'Project Democracy' (codename for NED in the Iran-Contra scandal) advocate put it, "These 'private' agencies are really just fronts for the departments they serve; the agency may prepare a report or a research project that it then gives to the private firm to attach its letterhead to, as if it were really a private activity or initiative."

A survey of NED's partner Ingos reveals a similar pattern of public priorities forwarded by private agents. Freedom House, a neocon hub which succoured the colour revolutions, has a history of being headed and staffed by ex-CIA high-level planners and personnel.


Human Rights Watchdog: US Tortures, Europe Buries its Head in the Sand


"US Tortures, Europe Buries its Head in the Sand

The United States is hardly a bastion of human rights, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday. Its the only country in the world which legally justifies the torture of prisoners. Europeans, too, are found wanting -- particularly in their relations with Russia and China."

EU Parliament launches CIA probe

"EU Parliament launches CIA probe

The European Parliament has set up a committee to investigate allegations of secret CIA detention centres and human rights violations in EU countries.

A temporary committee will ask if the CIA carried out abductions, 'extraordinary rendition' or torture on EU soil or in candidate countries.

Its 46 members were appointed on Wednesday and a chair and vice chairs will be appointed next week.

Claude Moraes MEP will be among the 46 and he is adamant the investigation will have more clout than the council of Europe’s ongoing enquiry."

Eurostat: Euro-zone annual inflation down to 2.2% in December; EU25 down to 2.1%


Euro-zone annual inflation down to 2.2% in December; EU25 down to 2.1%

Euro-zone annual inflation was 2.2% in December 20051, down from 2.3% in November. A year earlier the rate was 2.4%. Monthly inflation was 0.3% in December. EU252 annual inflation was 2.1% in December 2005, down from 2.2% in November. A year earlier the rate was 2.4%. Monthly inflation was 0.3% in December. EICP3 annual inflation was 2.1% in December 2005.

FinFacts: European Innovation Scoreboard


European Innovation Scoreboard

* Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany make up the group of “ Leading countries”
* France, Luxembourg, Ireland, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Norway, Italy and Iceland all belong to the group of countries showing “ Average performance” .
* Countries “ Catching up” are Slovenia, Hungary, Portugal, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia, Greece, Cyprus and Malta.
* Countries “ Losing ground” are Estonia, Spain, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Turkey .

January 19: This day in European History

This Day In European History
19th January

1493: Battle of Salins; a French invasion of the Holy Roman Empire is defeated by Emperor Maximilian.
1523: The 67 Articles published by Ulrich Zwingli; they challenge Papal power.
1643: The Battle of Braddock Down; Royalists beat Parliamentarians in the English Civil War.
1668: France and the Holy Roman Empire agree a potential division of all Spanish lands.
1771: The French parliaments are abolished and replaced with courts under royal control; fierce opposition ensues.
1812: As part of the Napoleon Wars, British forces take Ciudad Rodrigo, Spain.
1903: The first Tour de France cycle race is organised.
1915: Britain suffers the first aerial bombing on 'home' soil, by a zeppelin.
1936: The first air flight by a British monarch.
1939: The Italian Parliament is replaced by the Camera del Fascie delle Corporazioni.
1969: Jan Palach, a Czech Student, burns himself to death in protest at the Soviet Invasion.

1736: James Watt, Scottish inventor.
1839: Paul Cezanne, French painter.
1747: Johann Elert Bode, German astronomer.
1798: Auguste Comte, French philosopher and sociology pioneer.
1863: Werner Sombart, German economist.
1884: Ivan Maysky, Russia negotiator at the WW2 Yalta and Potsdam conferences.

1576: Hans Sachs, German poet.
1729: William Congreve, English dramatist.
1865: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, French socialist.

Mail & Guardian Online: Britain to stage UN summit on Afghanistan

Mail & Guardian Online

Britain to stage UN summit on Afghanistan

The British government is to co-host an international summit in London at the end of the month to agree a five-year plan to speed up the reconstruction of Afghanistan and confront an upsurge in violence. The conference is to be chaired jointly by British Prime Minister Tony Blair; Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President; and Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary General. Condoleezza Rice, the United States Secretary of State, is also scheduled to attend.


MSN Money - EU Pushes Canal Transport As Alternative

MSN Money

EU Pushes Canal Transport As Alternative

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - Shifting some of Europe's growing freight transport from road to water could cut down traffic delays and lessen environmental damage, the European Commission said Tuesday as it launched an action plan to develop Europe's canals.

The canal networks that cross most of Europe were essential for transporting heavy goods until the mid-nineteenth century when they gave way to cheaper and faster road and rail. But with freight transport volumes in Europe projected to increase by one third until 2015 as Europe expands and world trade grows, exploiting underused canal transport is a safer, greener option to putting more trucks on the road, the Commission said. European suppliers lead in technology

Auto Industry

European suppliers lead in technology

European companies are seen to be the technology leader in most automotive component sectors, according to a new survey of senior auto supplier executives. The consultancy firm Roland Berger and surveyed almost 100 senior supplier executives worldwide in December 2005 about the state of the industry.

Forty six percent of respondents worked for companies headquartered in Europe, 38% for North American companies and 16% for Asian suppliers. The responses were evenly split between companies with sales of over $500 million and smaller component suppliers. Eighty one percent of respondents believed that European companies led technologically in their sector, 11% believed it was companies in North America, and nine percent said it their sector was led by companies in Asia. Seventy-two percent of respondents said that product innovation was very important or extremely important for suppliers in the long run, the second most important challenge for suppliers after winning new customers. Process innovation, which can have an impact on both costs and quality, was seen as almost as important as product innovation for their long-term competitiveness by suppliers. Forty one percent of suppliers expect the rate of innovation in the automotive industry to increase in 2006, and thirty eight percent of suppliers expect research and development spending to increase in 2006, twice as many as expect it to decline.

Supplier executives are divided about how important hybrids will be by 2010. Thirty seven percent believe that they will still account for 2% or less of the global light vehicle market by the end of the decade, while 20% of respondents believe the hybrid share could reach 6% of the market or more.

Expatica: Dutch commander criticises US military in Afghanistan


Dutch commander criticises US military in Afghanistan

AMSTERDAM — The commander-in-chief of the Dutch Armed Forces has suggested the performance of the US military has had little or no effect in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan.

"The actions of the Americans have had little or no effect. The Taliban was dealt with - and that was very necessary - but the country is no more stable as a result," General Dick Berlijn told 'Elsevier' magazine.

The general's remarks are surprising as he has backed calls for the Netherlands to take part in the 6,000-strong Nato-led mission to Uruzgan. Dutch MPs began laying the ground work on Tuesday to begin a proper debate on contributing 1,200 soldiers. Some of the parliamentarians want access to intelligence reports on the situation in Uruzgan. The debate has been delayed for weeks as a result of wrangling with the government. Nato and the US have called on the Dutch to decide quickly on whether to take part in the mission. Berlijn warned in Elsevier that MPs should not get bogged down in the details of the operational side of the mission. "I think it is a bad idea for MPs to involve themselves in all military considerations - otherwise people in their armchairs in The Hague will read a newspaper article and will suddenly want to send extra troops or weaponry," he said.

TCS Daily - How Many Divisions Has the Caliph?

TCS Daily

How Many Divisions Has the Caliph?

Should the Caliphate be reunited? It depends on whom you ask. Osama Bin Laden is for such a reunification of all Muslims, which is surely enough to persuade most Americans to oppose it. But could the Caliphate be reunited? That seems to be a somewhat increasing prospect. Right now, to be sure, it’s a cloud on the horizon no bigger than a fist, but some important people are alarmed enough about the possibility to take time to denounce it. That’s right, some big people -- as big as George W. Bush. Last October, in making his case on Iraq, the President upped the ante further; he warned the National Endowment for Democracy that if the US lost in Iraq, the consequence could be a New Caliphate. Speaking of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi & Co., Bush spun out a grim scenario.

Washington Post: E.U.'s Patchwork Of Policies Leaves It Vulnerable to 9/11-Style Attack

Washington Post

E.U.'s Patchwork Of Policies Leaves It Vulnerable to 9/11-Style Attack

BRUSSELS -- The capital of the European Union was in the midst of a historic celebration on May 1, 2004, when security officials learned of a sudden emergency: An airliner that had departed Norway with 186 passengers aboard had possibly been hijacked and was headed this way. On the same day that the union expanded its borders to admit 10 new member countries, an Air Europa Boeing 737 en route to Spain did not respond to an urgent series of radio calls from air traffic controllers as it flew over Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands before entering Belgian airspace.With fears mounting that the plane might launch a kamikaze attack on E.U. or NATO headquarters in Brussels, three countries scrambled fighter jets but had trouble intercepting the aircraft as it rapidly crossed one national border after another. Then a flight attendant looked out the window of the airliner and saw two French Mirage 2000s flying alongside, prompting the Air Europa pilots to get on the radio and report that everything was fine. The incident ended peacefully but exposed Europe's vulnerability to a Sept. 11-style hijacking and the difficulties in coordinating a multinational response to a fast-breaking terrorist threat. - US beats old EU states on productivity

US beats old EU states on productivity

Another year of poor productivity growth sealed a decade of underperformance by leading European economies that are falling further and further behind the US, the world's most authoritative guide to productivity shows today.Figures for 2005 produced by the Conference Board, the global business organisation, report productivity growth in the 15 old members of the European Union of only 0.5 per cent, compared with 1.8 per cent in the US and 1.9 per cent in Japan. In contrast, productivity in the 10 new members, mostly in eastern Europe, grew rapidly in 2005, rising by 6.2 per cent as they took advantage of EU membership to increase both the hours worked in their economies and the value of the output of every worker.

Annual growth in national output for every hour worked in the EU 15 (old EU) averaged 1.4 per cent between 1995 and 2005, compared with 2.4 per cent in the US.

1/17/06 EU, Roche increase bird flu commitment

EU, Roche increase bird flu commitment

BEIJING -- The European Union and drug maker Roche sharply increased their commitment to combatting bird flu Tuesday at an international donors conference that has taken on a new sense of urgency after the first deaths from the virus were recorded outside Asia. The EU pledged about $121 million, $20 million more than it initially announced last week to combat bird flu and the risk of a potential pandemic. The increase came after Turkey recently announced a fourth child had died from the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu. Most of those who died had been in close contact with infected birds, but health officials fear the virus could mutate into a form easily transmissible among humans. The World Bank has estimated up to $1.5 billion will be needed

NewsFromRussia.Com: Netherlands attacked for undermining EU constitution


Netherlands attacked for undermining EU constitution

A senior European Union lawmaker attacked Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot for suggesting that the draft European constitution cannot be saved, and slammed the Netherlands for undermining efforts to push ahead with the charter. "It made me furious to hear Bot saying the constitution is dead. The Netherlands makes no effort to help us out from this situation. No country, the Netherlands or other, should make such declarations," Hans-Gert Poettering, chairman of the conservative European People's Party, told journalists a day before the EU assembly was to relaunch a debate on the fate of the constitution. - US President's power grab threatens rule of law

US President's power grab threatens rule of law

"Five years ago this week, the Bush administration came into office determined to reverse what Vice President Cheney and others regarded as undue limits on presidential power. The administration's power grab has reached such brazen heights that President Bush now claims he is above the law. For any American who thinks presidents should have the power of czars and kings, this is good news. For the rest of us, it should raise deep concern. The immediate rationale for expanding executive authority is the war on terrorism — which does, in fact, require some invasive tactics. But the president's actions set a much broader, more enduring precedent. Though Bush should use all legal means to protect against terror attacks, his "the law is what I say it is" attitude threatens the rights of all Americans and the constitutional system of checks and balances. In the words of former representative Bob Barr, a conservative Republican from Georgia: "President George W. Bush has ... dared the American people to do something about it. For the sake of the Constitution, I hope they will."

LA Times: Traversing the Alps, realm of the gods by Christopher Solomon

Los Angeles Times

Traversing the Alps, realm of the gods by Christopher Solomon

IT is a rare but real phenomenon that mountaineers can sunburn the roofs of their mouths. I know this because I think I have just done it, standing atop the 14,019-foot Finsteraarhorn, crown of the Swiss Alps region known as the Bernese Oberland.

My jaw has been unhinged long enough for the snow glare to singe my palate because (a) I have been gasping desperately for oxygen in the stingy air since our group left at dawn to ski-climb 4,000 feet toward the summit; (b) for the last hour, I've been slack-jawed, walking within one misstep of a void that would make a mountain goat queasy; and (c) all week I've been aaahing my way through a Switzerland that few tourists ever see — skiing past prickly peaks with slopes smothered by ancient snows, and without a single twee cowbell in sight. Only in Europe, birthplace of the grand hotels, would a skier in the middle of an ice-smothered nowhere find a lodge that could sleep 100-plus people, with electricity, full kitchen and beer on tap. When I crest the last flight, I find a giant sundeck filled with Germans playing cards and drinking radler, a mix of beer and lemon-lime soda. That night, the large dining room is a babel: English, Spanish, French, German, Dutch. Each ski group eats family-style at long tables. The food is simple but hearty, and after a hard day it tastes as if it deserves a Michelin star. Helicopters drop deliveries by giant cargo net a few times a week.

Turkish Daily News: At least 26 dead in two Afghan bombings

Turkish Daily News

At least 26 dead in two Afghan bombings

Bombers killed at least 26 people in two separate attacks in southern Afghanistan on Monday, a day after a Canadian diplomat and two civilians were killed in the area.

International Herald Tribune: NATO's future on the line ?? - William Pfaff

International Herald Tribune

NATO's future on the line - by William Pfaff

"The Dutch political class did not mean this to happen, but the parliamentary vote set for February on the Netherlands' participation in the NATO mission to Afghanistan has become a struggle over the character and future of NATO - and possibly of Afghanistan as well. The Dutch are headed for southern Afghanistan, which is not a quiet area. The American troops leaving, expecting to be replaced by the Dutch, have been conducting combat operations there. (And suicide bombings have begun in Kabul.)

Under heavy American pressure, NATO initially sent a contingent of 9,000 troops to the Kabul region to take over peace-support duties. These allowed American forces to move south to fight Taliban militants re-infiltrating Afghanistan, and go on searching for Qaeda leaders and "remnants" moving back and forth from Pakistan's largely inaccessible northwestern tribal territories. Since 6,000 new NATO troops are needed to replace 4,000 American combat forces about to be withdrawn, the last few days have brought anxious urgings from the NATO secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, that the Dutch parliamentarians approve the new deployment. L. Paul Bremer, a former U.S. ambassador to The Hague (as well as former U.S. administrator in Iraq), added a warning, saying last Sunday that if the Netherlands parliament fails to approve the NATO mission, "That will be damaging for Dutch interests in the United States." This threat was described in the Netherlands as "bizarre."

NATO's initial agreement to go into Afghanistan was a controversial step on two counts. It took the alliance away from Europe for an "out-of-area" intervention, and it amounted to after-action support for the American invasion that overturned the Taliban government. For Washington, NATO now exists as a stock of individual foreign military units of varying specialties, expected to contribute to the support of U.S. operations undertaken, it is argued, in the common interest. Officially, the United States has high ambitions for NATO. The American ambassador to the alliance, Victoria Nuland, recently published an article that envisaged NATO action "all across our planet ... in the front line in confronting the 21st century."

Independent Online: Why an expansion of Nato's role has divided the Dutch by Stephen Castle

Independent Online

Why an expansion of Nato's role has divided the Dutch by Stephen Castle in Brussels

"The British Independent reports: "Nato's planned expansion to the south of Afghanistan opens a new and dangerous chapter in Western involvement in a lawless country and, for the politicians and the military, the stakes are high. Politicians in Holland are questioning whether a peace-keeping mission can operate in such a treacherous environment. It all seems so different from the aftermath of the attacks on the twin towers in 2001, when European nations were falling over each other to take part in the US mission against the Taliban, complaining bitterly when their offers were spurned. Since then Europe's appetite for involvement has faded as disputes over Iraq divided the alliance. Nato's Isaf (International Security Assistance Force) mission currently numbers about 9,200 troops including 1,100 Britons. Initially restricted to the capital Kabul, the alliance has spread its efforts to around half of Afghanistan through so-called Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) designed to bring regional stability. In the Netherlands, the issue is particularly sensitive because of the failure of Dutch UN peacekeepers to prevent the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. Lousewies van der Laan, deputy leader of the D66 party which is part of the ruling Dutch coalition, argues: "If you are busy fighting the Taliban and al-Qa'ida, how do you have the space to win hearts and minds by building schools and hospitals?" A more far-reaching worry is that Isaf's mission will become confused as it extends into more dangerous territory. The Pentagon has long wanted to create a joint command for the two missions. The latest plans fall short of that but they plan to make Isaf's deputy commander a US officer from Enduring Freedom. Nato's planned expansion to the south of Afghanistan opens a new and dangerous chapter in Western involvement in a lawless country and, for the politicians and the military, the stakes are high.


BBC NEWS: Louisiana studies Dutch dams


Louisiana studies Dutch dams

Historical roles were reversed when top officials from hurricane-stricken Louisiana visited Zeeland province in the Netherlands this week. The delegation was led by Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and included senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter. Mr Fischetti told Radio Netherlands the US had until now failed to make use of that expertise, despite the earlier history of exchanging know-how. "Since the Dutch system has been built," he said, "the [US] Army Corps, as far as I understand from my own reporting, has not really sought any advice from the Dutch." Meanwhile, a timely warning against too much Dutch self-confidence came from leading flood expert Eelco Dykstra, who teaches at George Washington University. In his new book called Katrina In Europe, Professor Dykstra describes what happens when the fictional "Hurricane Celine" makes landfall in the Netherlands. Failing communications and a lack of backup from other countries lead to chaos and destruction on an even larger scale than in New Orleans. The lesson: state-of-the-art flood defences are one thing, but never say a disaster could not happen here.

Al Jazeera: More Lies About Iran By Mike Whitney


More Lies About Iran By Mike Whitney

"There’s been a lot of rubbish written about Iran’s “removing the seals” from its uranium enrichment equipment. The fear-mongering western media have exploited the expression for all its worth. Even those who are normally skeptical of the Bush-propaganda machine are taken aback by this ominous-sounding phrase. What gibberish! How else does one make nuclear fuel for electric power plants if the fuel-producing mechanism is under lock and key? The fear-engendering description provided in the news would have the reader believe that “diabolical” Iranians are ripping off the seals with crowbars so they can quickly assemble their secret nuclear stockpile to bomb Tel Aviv. This is the worse type of demagoguery."

Foodconsumer: More than US$1 billion needed to combat avian flu

More than US$1 billion needed to combat avian flu

January 13, 2006 - A new World Bank report says developing and middle-income countries will need at least US$1.2 billion to $1.4 billion to combat avian flu in animals, and deal with the threat of a human flu pandemic. That's the Bank's official estimate now of the financing gap facing countries around the globe to combat avian flu. The report says the largest expected costs are in the East Asia and Pacific region, followed by Europe and Central Asia and then Africa. However the head of the Bank's Avian Flu Taskforce, Jim Adams, has cautioned that additional funds will be needed in the future for strategies to deal with avian flu at the regional and global level.