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Times on-line : Sex in Britain: I pay a man for regular sex

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Sex in Britain: I pay a man for regular sex

Every month for three years I have spent up to euro 800 on Justin, who makes me a calmer and happier person. Once, sometimes twice, a month I meet up with Justin, a 36-year-old divorcé. We go out for a meal and maybe to a club before spending the night in a hotel. I am a divorced mum and work part time to spend as much time as I can with my four children. Justin also has four children. But what differentiates our dates from the norm is that I pay for Justin’s company, including having sex with him.

My ex husband and I had a great sex life, so when our marriage ended, I decided to go on-line and see if anyone out there could fill the gap. I found a huge number of websites and adverts offering a wide range of services. In the end I found Justin. He costs euro 270 for an hour, euro 365 for three hours and euro 800 for overnight – and every penny is well spent. Our first encounter was nerve-racking and my main worry was that I might not find him attractive, although I definitely went out with sex on my mind. I booked into a hotel and spent ages getting ready, then Justin came to collect me and we went out to dinner. He’s very good-looking and extremely fit, so despite my nerves there was an instant spark and we had a great time.

RNW: Netherlands is Brazil’s gateway to Europe - by Wendy Braanker

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Netherlands is Brazil’s gateway to Europe - by Wendy Braanker

The Netherlands is Brazil's gateway to Europe. Many of the country's exports find their way onto European markets via the port of Rotterdam. "What's more, the Netherlands is an important investor in Brazil," says Gilberto Vergne Saboia, the Brazilian ambassador to the Netherlands. Recently a delegation came to the Netherlands, led by the governor of the north-eastern state of Pernambuco. Its members wanted to find partners and investors, and exchange technological knowledge, says Mr Saboia. Brazil is currently having to make major investments in infrastructure. "We're facing some bottlenecks when it comes to sectors like transport and energy."It is no coincidence that the delegation was led by the governor of Pernambuco, he says. "It says something about our old links." After all, the Dutch were "present" in the region around Recife, the capital of Pernambuco, from around 1630. However, in 1654 they withdrew from the country because of the high cost of colonisation. As a reminder they left behind some stepped gables in around the city of Recife and in Olinda. This area in the north-east of Brazil is now particularly attractive to tourists, including Dutch ones. The West cannot afford cosy equivocation - by Janet Daley

For the complete report from The Telegraph click on this link

Democracy has another martyr. Now we wait to see whether its enemies will have the ultimate triumph. Will parliamentary rule be restored in Pakistan? Or will the country collapse into the most terrifying sort of rogue state - a nuclear-empowered one - or simply subside back into its familiar condition as a hell's kitchen of tribal corruption and safe haven for resting terrorists? Somehow we must get past the hideous obstacle of George Bush, whose bizarre misjudgments nearly succeeded in discrediting the whole concept of liberal interventionism: there is a sound reason why, in spite of Mr Bush, no serious contender for the White House (or for Downing Street, for that matter) will actually renounce the principle of free-world intervention. Every responsible member of the political class is aware that the West actually has no choice. Its values are not simply being challenged in a global struggle for territory and influence as they were during the Cold War. They are under positive threat of destruction from a fluid alliance of Islamist fundamentalists, feudal warlords and corrupt dictators, all of whom see the spread of democracy as a viral threat to their survival.

The appeasement argument then generally takes on a patronisingly racist dimension: "Democracy is fine for Europeans and their New World descendants, but there are many peoples in the world who are just not ready for self-government. They actually prefer being governed by a strong dictator even if he is corrupt." So, I ask, if these benighted populations are so bovine and content under their dictatorships, why do they flee to our borders in such numbers that we are sinking under the responsibility of accommodating them? And if life under a tinpot tyrant has its consolations, how come so few people are attracted to it? Why are there not crowds of clamouring migrants going in the other direction to enjoy the charms of a voteless, voiceless existence?

Xinhua: Cyprus on final countdown to euro zone

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Cyprus on final countdown to euro zone

With just hours to go before the legal tender changeover from Cyprus pound to the euro on Jan. 1, authorities and citizens on the eastern Mediterranean island seem well prepared to embrace the single currency. In the past weeks, security vans escorted by police have traveled frequently between the Central Bank of Cyprus in the capital Nicosia to local commercial banks, delivering brand new euro bank notes and coins. Cypriots, especially shop owners have obtained euro coin starter kits from bank branches, since all changes should be made in euro instead of Cyprus pound since the New Year's day, though the latter can be circulated along with the euro till the end of January. French love of cigarettes to go up in smoke under new banp-by Peter O'Neil and Megan Ainscow

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French love of cigarettes to go up in smoke under new banp-by Peter O'Neil and Megan Ainscow

The French resistance movement against strict new anti-smoking laws, despite being backed by defiant battle cries, is running on fumes in the days leading up to a Jan. 1 edict against lighting up in bars, restaurants and the venerable French cafes. "Many people won't respect the law. We're in France, you know?" said Pauline Bleher, 21, sipping a beer in a cloud of her own cigarette smoke in a Parisian pub. "This isn't Canada or the United States."

But other bar owners and patrons say they will respect the law and are in some cases relieved that the crackdown will end smouldering tensions between the nicotine-addicted and the increasingly outspoken non-smokers - dubbed "the ayatollahs" by one group opposing the law.Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin, France's minister for health, youth and sport, appeared on French television this month to remind smokers and restaurant owners that, if caught, they face fines of 68 euros ($98) and 135 euros ($194), respectively.

IHT: France ends contact with Syria over Lebanese presidential election

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France ends contact with Syria over Lebanese presidential election

France is cutting off talks with Syria until Damascus shows its willingness to let Lebanon elect a new president, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said. Lebanon's Western-backed government and pro-Syrian opposition have been unable to break a deadlock over filling the presidential post, empty for a month, and many Western countries have accused Damascus of interfering in the process — a claim Syria denies. "I will not have any more contact with the Syrians until ... we have received proof of Syria's intention to let Lebanon designate a president of consensus," said Sarkozy at a press conference Sunday in Cairo after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.


The Canadian Press: Canada, Greece and Romania have best privacy records, report says - Privacy in the United States and European Union in danger

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Canada, Greece and Romania have best privacy records, report says - Privacy in the United States and European Union in danger

Individual privacy is best protected in Canada but is under threat in the United States and the European Union as governments introduce sweeping surveillance and information-gathering measures in the name of security and border control, an international rights group said in a report released Saturday. Canada, Greece and Romania had the best privacy records of 47 countries surveyed by London-based watchdog Privacy International. Malaysia, Russia and China were ranked worst. Both Britain and the United States fell into the lowest-performing group of "endemic surveillance societies. There is also the danger of the increasing number of security programs involving the United States, which has no federal privacy law. Under the pretext of heightened national security concerns very sensitive personal and private information is now flowing across borders and oceans to the United States in increasing volumes without the approval of the citizens and in violation of privacy laws. Governments should put pressure on the U.S. government to protect that information legally, but they are not doing so. Also the growing business appetite for personal information and technological advances are all potent - and growing - threats to privacy rights.

The report said privacy protection was worsening across western Europe, although it was improving in some of the former Communist states of eastern Europe.The report also noted the trends "have been fueled by the emergency of a profitable surveillance industry dominated by global IT companies and the creation of numerous international treaties that frequently operate outside judicial or democratic processes." The report was carried out by the London-based watchdog Privacy International and covered 47 countries.

BBC NEWS: Gas pipeline stirs up Baltic fears - by Tristana Moore

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Gas pipeline stirs up Baltic fears - by Tristana Moore

Nord Stream, a consortium led by Russia's Gazprom which is building a new controversial pipeline, has several vessels moored at the quayside. For months, crew members have been out at sea, carrying out surveys of the seabed in order to ensure the route of the planned pipeline is safe. It is a huge technical and logistical challenge. The pipeline is about 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) long and it will run from Vyborg, in Russia, under the Baltic Sea, to Greifswald, in northern Germany. Once construction is completed at the end of 2010, the pipeline will supply Russian natural gas to customers all over Europe. The long-term goal is to supply up to 55 billion cubic metres of gas each year.

IceNews: A.P. Møller-Mærsk is no longer the largest company in Denmark

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A.P. Møller-Mærsk is no longer the largest company in Denmark

Nova Nordisk has become bigger than Mærsk, while the Novo Nordisk group experienced huge growth Mærsk had problems in the shipping company’s container business and is barly maintaining levels from the year before. The Copenhagen Post reports that “Throughout this year, Novo grew to a whopping DKK 248 billion enterprise and increased its market value by 40 per cent. A whole five billion more than A.P. Møller-Mærsk’s DKK 243 billion.”

DW: Europe Gears Up to Showcase Top Artists in 2008

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Europe Gears Up to Showcase Top Artists in 2008

Cities across Europe are to host a range of exceptional exhibitions in the new year. Artists will include Man Ray, Gerhard Richter, Alberto Giacometti and Paul Cezanne, among many others.Those who thought the Frenchman Victor Hugo was merely a writer will have to think again. Hugo enthusiasts will be able to view 80 of the graphic artist's works on paper beginning in mid-May in Weimar. The Louisiana Museum near Copenhagen, Denmark will explore a visual dialogue between the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti and French post-impressionist painter Paul Cezanne in February.As of May, the Kunsthalle in Rostock, Germany will be showing 600 works by artists from German expressionist sculptor Ernst Barlach to German-American caricaturist and painter Lyonel Feininger. The works were stolen by the Nazis from their owners, with some of them remaining unclaimed to this day. The city of Rostock said it would "openly" work with any potential heirs who contacted the museum.

Bosnian Institute: EU proposal lays out steps on Kosovo independence - by Dan Bilefsky and Stephen Castle

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EU proposal lays out steps on Kosovo independence - by Dan Bilefsky and Stephen Castle

Kosovo will declare its independence in the first two months of 2008 and will be recognized by Britain, France, Italy and Germany within 48 hours, under a plan to be proposed by Slovenia after it assumes the presidency of the European Union in January, senior EU officials said Wednesday. The officials described a carefully orchestrated declaration of independence, probably after Serbian elections in early February, followed by a welcome from the EU and diplomatic recognition by Europe's biggest nations. More groups of countries will then recognize an independent Kosovo in a rolling series of announcements, led by the United States, the officials said. Washington would be followed by Switzerland, Iceland and Norway before another group made up of Turkey, Macedonia, Albania Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia joined in. The 56 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference would follow suit. The looming declaration of independence is the biggest test of European foreign policy for years.

Frontier India: Russian sale of TU-204-300 to North Korea - first flight touches down at a North Korean airport

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Russian sale of TU-204-300 to North Korea - first flight touches down at a North Korean airport

TU-204-300 with PS-90A engines is a mid-range passenger a/c is intended to carry passengers, luggage and cargo on domestic and international trunk routes of 500 to 8500 km distance . The airliner was built on the basis of TU-204-100 a/c and represents the continuation of TU-204/214 a/c family.

Businessweek (US): The Top European Business Stories of 2007 - by Andy Reinhardt

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The Top European Business Stories of 2007 - by Andy Reinhardt

From the launches of the Airbus A380 superjumbo jet and the Apple (AAPL) iPhone to the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis and its financial aftershocks, 2007 was an eventful year for business in Europe.

You might call 2007 the Year of Carbon, at least in the sense of the public's rising awareness of global warming and the planetary impact of carbon emissions. Indeed, we noted early in the year how consumers and companies were latching onto carbon offsetting to boost their green quotient. The U.N.'s startling climate change report in April only added to the sense of urgency. Europe got off to an early start with its carbon trading system, which was hailed as a success in May, though the cost of carbon credits later plunged due to oversupply. By the end of the year, the Euronext stock exchange announced that it plans to launch a carbon trading market in 2008, when new regulations go into effect.

Telegraph: Learning Dutch lessons on teen pregnancy - by Laura Donnelly

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Learning Dutch lessons on teen pregnancy - by Laura Donnelly

Holland has the lowest rate of children born to teenage mothers across Western Europe - six times lower than Britain's statistics at the opposite end of the league table. When teenagers do fall pregnant, those in the Netherlands are slightly more likely than their counterparts in the UK to have abortions. But the gap between the number of births to teenage mothers is better explained by the lower levels of sexual activity in Holland before the age of consent.Liberal campaigners in Britain point to Holland's permissive health policies, including compulsory sex education in schools from the age of five, as being key to its success. But advocates of the Dutch approach say the practical demonstrations are just a tiny part of their agenda, which encourages teens to discuss the moral and emotional implications of sex. Typical debates include reasons to have sex, what to say if a boy refuses to wear a condom and how to maintain self-respect.

GLOBAL POWER EUROPE: Expansion, Norfolk and Europe - by James Rogers

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Expansion, Norfolk and Europe - by James Rogers

The European Union is surrounded by a region not so dissimilar, metaphorically speaking, to the natural environment of chaos and uncertainty that plagued mediaeval Europeans. And like that natural environment of the European past, the contemporary world beyond Europe will not be changed, and the threats which emanate from it will not be reduced, by our so-called ‘soft power’, or by shirking our duties and obligations to others. Regions and societies plagued with chaos and conflict will not be domesticated without the exercise of power, or more importantly the willingness to deploy power in the service of our interests. If axes, scythes and ploughs were the tools used to hack down and domesticate the thicket, then armed forces, peacekeepers and political will are the instruments needed to domesticate zones of chaos and turmoil. As Europeans, we must re-acquire the ‘will to power’, and stand firm in defending our collective interest. If we fail to do so, others will assert and expand their own interests, and as they grow in strength and confidence, we Europeans might also come under their sway, just as so many came under our sway in the past. Given the importance of Europe, that can be in nobody’s interest, especially those on the side of liberal democracy, justice and freedom.

12/29/07 From hyperpower to new world disorder - by David Olive

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From hyperpower to new world disorder - by David Olive

For the first time since the end of the Cold War, America isn’t alone on top.The European economy has eclipsed that of the U.S., and those of China and India will do so by mid-century. The imperial legacy of many EU members and of Russia provide them a lingering influence from Indonesia to Zaire to Brazil that the U.S., whose experiences with colonizing have been reluctant and short-lived, cannot match."No [U.S.] president will ever have handed over a worse international situation than George W. Bush," says Richard Holbrooke, the former U.N. ambassador in the Clinton administration and adviser to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Which is to suggest that America can reclaim its lone superpower status by simply installing a new president in 2009 who will extricate the U.S. from Iraq and sign Kyoto 2.0, to be negotiated over the next two years.The factors undermining its prosperity and global influence are almost all self-inflicted. There is more at stake here than even the current crop of presidential candidates seem to realize. They all talk of restoring America's respect in the world, with no apparent sense that a big part of the problem is that the world is increasingly less inclined to regard America as "the shining city on the hill" that Ronald Reagan invoked.

Even in a world without budding rivals, the American superpower would still be jeopardized by its "unsustainable" disregard for tackling rundown schools and inner-city neighbourhoods, a yawning gap between rich and poor, and a route to citizenship for the country's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. Even superpowers are fragile once the rot of complacency sets in. "It's time to learn from history," Walker said, "and take steps to ensure that the American republic is the first to stand the test of time."

Ski Trains: Skiing by train with Rail Europe

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Skiing by train with Rail Europe

To get the most time on the ski slopes - after enjoying a hassle-free journey that's greener than going by air - why not travel by train this year? Many overnight trains take you right to the heart of your ski resort, delivering you to the slopes as the lifts open - with no irksome transfers eating into your snow-time. Whether you're a beginner or old hand, a skier or boarder, with your mates or the family, going by train is the smart option. There's ample luggage room, a choice of accommodation to suit any budget and a good selection of arrival times to choose from. Of course, you can enjoy a spectacular view all the way there, and there's no two-hour check-in to annoy you either.

The Hindu Business Line/EU-Digest : US Fed needs global watch - by S.Gurumurthy

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US Fed needs global watch - by S.Gurumurthy

As per IMF data (2006) over 65 per cent of global forex reserves, (even 70 per cent plus in non-Euro areas) 41 per cent of global loans and 48 per cent of global deposits are held in dollar terms; 57 per cent of the US Treasury securities are held by Asian nations and 21 per cent by European nations; 53 per cent of US equities are held by Europeans, 26 per cent by Western hemisphere nations, 18 per cent by Asian nations. Bank of International Settlements reveals that 43 per cent of all forex transactions are in dollar terms. Identical is global trade in dollar terms. The OPEC sells oil only in dollars. That the dollar as a currency is more global than a national, and as a central bank US Fed is more a global than a US entity, are manifest in one single fact. Namely out of the dollar stock of $800 billion created by US Fed from its birth in 1913 till now, only less than a third of it circulates in the US and more than two-thirds is exported outside the US. How did the dollar come to play this central role? In 1950s, thanks to the Bretton Woods formula, the greenback officially became the global currency. But, after the formula collapsed in 1971, the dollar lost its official status. But, for lack of an alternative, it became the de facto global tender.Convinced that its model had won finally and egged on by powerful global corporates, the US went gung-ho on globalisation and liberalisation of its economy. It also began exerting pressure on others, by itself and also through WTO, IMF, World Bank and the rest, to liberalize on its terms.

EU-Digest:The global current account deficit of the United States is now larger than it has ever been nearing $800 billion, almost 7 percent of US GDP. To finance both the current account deficit and its own sizable foreign investments, the United States must import about $1 trillion of foreign capital every year or more than $4 billion every working day. The situation is unsustainable in both international financial and domestic political (i.e., trade policy) terms. Correcting it must be the highest priority for US foreign economic policy. The most constructive remedy in the short term is a three-part package that includes credible, sizable reductions in the US budget deficit, expansion of domestic demand in major economies outside the United States, and a gradual but substantial realignment of exchange rates.The foreign exchange value of the dollar has to substantially decline to make a serious dent in the record US current account deficit of nearly $800 billion, almost 7 percent of US GDP. Asian currencies that have not yet appreciated significantly against the dollar, especially the Chinese renminbi, will need to rise sharply. Asian and other central banks must cease intervening in the exchange markets and accumulating massive amounts of dollar reserves to permit the market to begin the needed exchange rate corrections. An Asian Plaza Agreement to coordinate exchange rate realignments in that region may be necessary given the reluctance of the individual countries to appreciate sharply and lose competitiveness. Separating myth from the reality in Pakistan - Is this a Government Conspiracy? - by Haroon Siddiqui

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Separating myth from the reality in Pakistan - by Haroon Siddiqui

In 1999, George W. Bush was asked in an interview: "Can you name the general who's in charge of Pakistan?" The Republican presidential candidate demurred: "Wait, wait. Is this 50 questions?" Pressed for an answer, he couldn't come up with the name but offered this gem: "The Pakistani general, he's just been elected, not elected, this guy took over office. It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country and I think that's good news for the subcontinent." Bush now knows Pervez Musharraf well. But his assessment of "this guy" as the font of "stability" and "good news" hasn't changed all that much. Bush, however, is not the only one living in the kingdom of clichés.

EU-Digest: The Pakistan interior ministry said Bhutto had no gunshot or shrapnel wounds. He said the opposition leader died after smashing her head on her car's sunroof as she tried to duck. He also blamed Al-Qaeda, saying intelligence services had intercepted a call from Baitullah Mehsud, considered the extremist group's top leader for Pakistan, congratulating a militant for Bhutto's death.

Senior members of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) dismissed the government's version of events as "lies". "There was a bullet wound I saw that went in from the back of her head and came out the other side," Bhutto's spokeswoman Sherry Rehman, who was involved in washing her body for burial, told AFP. "This is ridiculous, dangerous nonsense because it is a cover-up of what actually happened," said Rehman. Maulana Omar, a spokesman for alleged Al-Qaeda kingpin Mehsud, also denied involvement in the attack and expressed grief over Bhutto's death. "This is a conspiracy of the government, army and intelligence agencies," said the spokesman from Waziristan, a lawless tribal region where Al-Qaeda leaders, including possibly Osama bin Laden, are alleged to be hiding.

In the US leading democratic candidate Hillary Clinton called for an independent, international probe into Bhutto's murder, saying Musharraf's government has no credibility. "I think it's critically important that we get answers and really those are due first and foremost to the people of Pakistan," Clinton said. In Europe there also is a call to break off diplomatic and economic relations with the Musharraf government until they return to the barracks and handover the leadership to a caretaker government which can prepare fair and honest elections. Boston Scientific device wins approval in Europe

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Boston Scientific device wins approval in Europe

Boston Scientific Corp., the second-biggest maker of heart devices, received marketing approval in Europe for its implantable Livian, used to monitor heartbeats and deliver electrical jolts to improve pumping ability. The Livian device, not available for sale in the United States, is under review by the Food and Drug Administration, Natick-based Boston Scientific said. The device is used to treat patients with heart failure. The approval is the first for Boston Scientific of one of its cardiac rhythm devices for heart failure


IHT: The worst of the European airports - by Elisabeth Rosenthal

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The worst of the European airports - by Elisabeth Rosenthal

In that spirit, and as a frequent flier around Europe, I have polled my fellow road warriors over the past two months - on airplanes, in security lines and at taxi ranks - to come up with an entirely unscientific survey of Europe's worst. And though I am no statistician, I think it must be significant that nearly everyone gives the same response: London Heathrow is, hands down, the worst, cited by 100 percent of respondents, as the scientists say. Charles de Gaulle outside Paris came in a close second. Leonardo da Vinci at Fiumicino, near Rome, and the Frankfurt airport won honorable, or should I say dishonorable,

Iran Foreign Affairs Committee - 34 Euro MPs Urge EU Council to end terror listing of Mojahedin of Iran

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34 Euro MPs Urge EU Council to end terror listing of Mojahedin of Iran

A press release by Mr. Struan Stevenson, Vice-President of the group of the European People's Party (EPP-ED), the largest group in the European Parliament, annonced that 34 senior Euro MPs of the group in a joint statement called on the EU council of Ministers to immediately end unlawful terror listing of People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The announcement followed the December 18th visit by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran to the main headquarters of the European Parliament in Brussels where she discussed the latest developments and the Iranian Resistance's legal and political measures to compel the EU Council of Ministers to implement the European Court of Justice ruling to remove the PMOI from the EU's terror list.

The Guardian: US has contingency plans to secure Pakistan's nuclear arsenal in case country falls into radical Islamist hands - by Ewen MacAskill

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US has contingency plans to secure Pakistan's nuclear arsenal in case country falls into radical Islamist hands - by Ewen MacAskill

The Pentagon says it is working on a series of contingency plans to prevent Pakistan's nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of Islamist radicals. One of the contingency plans would involve US special forces, working in conjunction with Pakistan's military and intelligence services, to spirit away any weapons at imminent risk. But the US cannot be confident that the Pakistan military would co-operate at such a time. In spite of US aid to help with security, the Pakistan government has remained suspicious of US intentions, fearing that it might plant devices capable of neutralising the weapons.

Pakistan, which carried out its first nuclear test in 1998, claims to have about 80 to 120 warheads.

Time Magazine: Enough with Democracy! - by Robert Baer

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Enough with Democracy! - by Robert Baer

The Bush administration is particularly culpable in creating the chaos in Pakistan because it forced a premature reconciliation between President Musharraf and Bhutto; it forced Musharraf to lift martial law; it showered money on Musharraf to fight a war that was never popular in Pakistan. The administration could not understand that it can't have both in Pakistan — a democracy and a war on terrorism.It is high time Americans return a pragmatic president to the White House. When George H.W. Bush, James Baker, and Norman Schwartzkopf decided not to occupy Iraq in 1991 at the end of the first Gulf War, they understood that imposing an American style democracy wasn't going to work.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, keying off the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, sharply criticized the Bush administration's Pakistan policy and called for an immediate cutoff of all military aid to that country that does not go directly to the fight against terrorism. Mail: Britain Drops 'War on Terror' Label

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Britain Drops 'War on Terror' Label

The words "war on terror" will no longer be used by the British government to describe attacks on the public, the country's chief prosecutor said Dec. 27. Sir Ken Macdonald said terrorist fanatics were not soldiers fighting a war but simply members of an aimless "death cult." The Director of Public Prosecutions said: 'We resist the language of warfare, and I think the government has moved on this. It no longer uses this sort of language."

RTÉ Business: Airbus beats cost-cutting target

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Airbus beats cost-cutting target

The European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has largely surpassed its 2007 cost-cutting target and could end the year with savings of as much as €400m, the French newspaper Les Echos has reported. An Airbus spokeswoman refused to comment on the report ahead of the company's annual press conference on January 16. The paper said the €300m target will be easily eclipsed, with cuts totalling €400m still possible.

Meanwhile Qantas and Airbus celebrated another major milestone in the airframe manufacturer’s relatively short but successful existence – the delivery of its 5,000th aircraft, an A330-200, to Qantas at a special ceremony in Toulouse on December 14th. Today, the Qantas Group, including Jetstar, has a fleet of 37 Airbus aircraft comprising ten A330-300s, seven A330-200s and 20 A320s. Also on order are 20 A380s and three A330s. In November, Qantas also announced its intention to acquire a further 50 A320 Family aircraft.

Biofuel Review - The future for sustainable energy - by Vivienne Cox Chief Executive of BP Alternative Energy

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The future for sustainable energy - by Vivienne Cox Chief Executive of BP Alternative Energy

Two issues – climate change and security of supply – have become powerful twin drivers for accelerating the development of energy that reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while also providing dependable supplies. Fortunately many technologies serve both these goals – including solar and wind power, biofuels, clean coal technologies and hydrogen fuelled power with carbon capture and storage. In BP, we’ve brought all of our low-carbon activities together in a business called BP Alternative Energy – now two years old - pledging to invest around $8 billion over a decade.

EU-Digest: For immediate low cost solutions to solving your alternative energy needs contact Morren Mondial Associates, Inc. at: Eastern Europe in 2008

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Eastern Europe in 2008

THE most urgent thing to hope for is a soft landing for economies grown complacent amid perpetual sunshine and friendly faces. Large imbalances and a global credit crunch are an alarming mixture. Lars Christensen, a hawkish analyst of the region at Danske Bank in Copenhagen, notes that twitchy investors in the Baltic states and Bulgaria are already sending money market rates higher, and have driven down the value of the Romanian lei. Some early signs indicate that Santa will be kind. Credit growth is slowing. Estonia’s growth rate and property prices have dropped sharply: bad news for construction companies, but good for everyone else (and its current growth rate of 6% is still mouth-wateringly good by West European standards). But inflation remains far too high, sharply up on the year-end figure for 2006 in every country except Hungary. Higher prices for food and natural gas will make that worse, stoking the pressure on competitiveness.

The Independent: The Year in Review: Business - The truly wise men came from the East - by Harmish McRae

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The Year in Review: Business - The truly wise men came from the East - by Harmish McRae

Much of this growth was driven by China. For the first time since the early 1800s, the Chinese economy added more economic demand than either the US or Europe, a performance that seems likely to be repeated in 2008 and beyond. The Chinese economy will, in all probability, overtake Germany's in 2008 to become the world's third largest, after those of the United States and Japan. With growth at 11.5 per cent, the problem for the Chinese authorities is not how to boost growth, but rather how to hold it back.

The economic patterns in continental Europe varied from country to country. In Germany, exports were the driving force. It is the world's largest goods exporter and its companies managed to sustain that performance despite the strength of the euro. Across the rest of the Continent, performance was more mixed, with particular problems in Italy (slow growth) and Spain (falling house prices and construction activity). But the euro zone as a whole has managed 2.5 per cent growth, less than the UK but a much better performance than it has achieved for most of this century.

12/27/07 2008: Year of Reckoning in the US? - by Ernesto Zedillo

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2008: Year of Reckoning in the US?- by Ernesto Zedillo

The remarkable expansion in World output since 2003 has existed in tandem with so-called global imbalances—huge current account deficits in the U.S. matched by surpluses practically everywhere else.Admittedly, the American propensity to swallow other people’s savings—its role as the chief engine of global growth notwithstanding— has troubled many analysts.A slowdown in the U.S. economy for 2008 now appears inescapable. And the probability of a serious recession cannot be ignored. At this point the best possible scenario would be one in which a mild reduction in GDP growth—in conjunction with a cheaper but not collapsed dollar—brings about a sufficient correction in the U.S. current account deficit, without investors running away from dollar assets en masse. The fundamental policy challenge for the U.S. will be to avoid a more traumatic adjustment. American authorities will have a tough job, considering that their policy margins are truly narrow.

Comment EU-Digest: "Very important to avoid economic catastrophe is that the US consumers will need to realize that they will have to cut down on spending more than they are earning." - Europe surviving credit crunch says ECB

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Europe surviving credit crunch says ECB

The European economy is staving off the impact of turbulence in the financial market, European Central Bank Governing Council member said today. Guy Quaden was quoted in the Belgian magazine Trends/Tendances saying the effect of creditors calling in risky loans caused by the collapse of the sub-prime lending sector has not "had any serious impact on the real economy".

EU-Digest: Pakistan: Bhutto assassination - blow to Pakistan and democracy but opportunity for EU to establish new regional strategy

Special EU-Digest report on the assassination of Mrs. Bhutto

Pakistan: Bhutto assassination - blow to Pakistan and democracy but opportunity for EU to establish new regional strategy

Pakistani opposition leader and former premier Benazir Bhutto, who was challenging the dictator Pervez Musharraf, was assassinated at a party rally late Thursday, plunging Pakistan into a deep crisis, less than two weeks before elections. She was shot in the neck before a suicide bomber blew himself up at a park in the northern city of Rawalpindi, killing around 30 people. It happened minutes after Bhutto had addressed supporters. This was the second assassination attempt against Mrs. Bhutto, since her homecoming in October, when her convoy was hit in the deadliest such attacks in Pakistani history, leaving 139 dead. Mrs. Bhutto only survived then after ducking down at the moment of impact behind her armored vehicle. Bhutto, 54, became the first ever female prime minister of a Muslim nation, when she took the helm in 1988 for the first of her two premierships. Her father, also a prime minister, was hanged by the military in 1979, after being ousted from power. Following the assassination, Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister of Pakistan, said he held President and Military Dictator Pervez Musharraf "responsible" for the assassination and said inquiries should only be conducted after Musharraf steps down. Sharif told Bhutto supporters outside the General Hospital in Rawalpindi, where Benazdir Bhuto lay mortally wounded, that he would join hands with Buttho's PPP and fight their "war".

Benazir Bhutto, with some mysterious foresight, said on Tuesday that dictatorships in Pakistan had always nurtured extremism. The former premier also said she hoped that “total powers would be transferred from the present dictatorship to democratic institutions”.

Political and democracy-wise, everything looks gloomy and hopeless for Pakistan at this tragic moment. After Mrs. Benazir Bhutto was forcefully eliminated from the election process, and with the independent judicial system in Pakistan put out of commission by Musharraf himself, the election, if held, would be a total farce. Musharraf, at least for the moment, seems to hold all the cards in his hands. He and his allies inside and outside Pakistan can blame Al Quada and Taliban terrorists for the assassination, while he declares Marshall law to stay in power. Fortunately, there are also forces who can topple the Musharraf regime, forcing the military back to the barracks and restore democracy. The EU has a unique opportunity in this respect to take the lead in the international community to make this happen. For one, the EU can break off diplomatic and economic trade relations with Pakistan until the military returns to the barracks and gives its powers to a government of reconciliation, preparing for democratic elections based on the principles of Pakistan's great leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The success of the EU in this effort to restore democracy to Pakistan could also help establish a new European political strategy for the region. A strategy based on dialog and inclusion, as opposed to the present policy of confrontation and war, which is a total failure.

IHT: Serbia considers retaliatory steps against West if Kosovo breaks free

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Serbia considers retaliatory steps against West if Kosovo breaks free

Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica condemned the United States on Wednesday for supporting the independence of Kosovo as Parliament debated a measure that would sever diplomatic ties with Western countries that recognized the province's statehood.The measure in Parliament, proposed by Kostunica's government, rejects the idea of the European Union's setting up a mission in Kosovo before the status of the breakaway province is resolved. The resolution threatens to halt Serbian integration into the European Union if Kosovo gains statehood, and denounces NATO and the West for their alleged support of separatists in Kosovo.

Ethnic Albanians, who make up about 90 percent of the two million people in Kosovo, have said they will proclaim independence early in 2008.The leader of the opposition Liberal Party, Cedomir Jovanovic, who does not oppose Kosovo's independence, said the resolution represented "a blow to Serbia's ambitions to become a EU member."

Comment EU-Digest: Mr. Jovanovic is right and on top of that the Serbs have also not delivered Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic and Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic to the International Court of Justice. Serbia's war against Bosnia and Croatia between 1991 and 1995 was characterized by appalling acts of systematic violence against civilians. The use of ethnic cleansing and other genocidal tactics by Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic as a policy tool for partitioning Bosnia and Croatia and establishing a new population balance favorable to the Serbs in ethnically-cleansed territories shocked the international community.


Herald Sun: "Lover President" Sarkozy uses billionaire's jet for getaway to Egypt"

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"Lover President" Sarkozy uses billionaire's jet for getaway to Egypt"

President Nicolas Sarkozy, in Egypt with new girlfriend Carla Bruni, came under attack at home for flying on his Christmas holiday aboard the private jet of a billionaire businessman. Opposition political parties accused the president of compromising his office, and asked what the plastics-to-media magnate Vincent Bollore can expect in return for his generosity. "As soon as the President makes himself dependent on the favours of billionaires, inevitably there will be qui-pro-quos and we would like to know what they are," said Socialist Party deputy Arnaud Montebourg. "This mixing of private and public interests damages the impartiality of the state," he said.

DW: Afghanistan Expels High-Level UN, EU Diplomats

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Afghanistan Expels High-Level UN, EU Diplomats

Two high-level United Nations and European Union diplomats face expulsion from Afghanistan for allegedly holding talks with the radical Islamist Taliban. The organizations are working to clear up the "misunderstanding." A government official said that acting European Union mission head Michael Semple and senior UN official Mervyn Patterson had held an illegal meeting with members of the Taliban and must leave by Thursday, Dec. 27.Semple, an Irishman, and Patterson, a Briton, were charged with having talks with the Taliban in the southern province of Helmand without the knowledge of the government in Kabul, which accused them of endangering the security and sovereignty of Afghanistan. Vladimir Putin to spy on his dog from space - by Will Steward

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Vladimir Putin to spy on his dog from space - by Will Steward

Vladimir Putin's dog, Connie, is to be fitted with a "satnav" collar so that the Russian president can monitor its every movement. Mr Putin reportedly asked about the possibility of tracking his dog ahead of the launch of a Proton-K rocket, a key component in the country's satellite navigation system. The dog has a habit of escaping from Mr Putin in search of adventures in the woods around the president's official dacha outside Moscow. The Russians hope their system, can compete with the US GPS network, and Europe's Galileo system. The European Middle East Regional Space: Powerful and modern Turkey is in Iran’s interest: Mottaki

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The European Middle East Regional Space: Powerful and modern Turkey is in Iran’s interest: Mottaki

A powerful and modern Turkey is in Iran’s interest, Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki said in Teheran on Tuesday. The current level of economic cooperation between Tehran and Ankara is an example in the history of the two countries’ relations, Mottaki stated in a meeting with Murat Mercan, the Turkish Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee chairman.

Xinhua: The European Middle East Regional Space: Abbas highlights China's just, constructive role in Middle East

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The European Middle East Regional Space: Abbas highlights China's just, constructive role in Middle East

Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday highly praised China's just and constructive role in the Middle East during a meeting here with visiting China's special envoy on the Middle East issue Sun Bigan. Abbas appraised the positive development of ties between the Palestinian territories and China, expressing gratitude for China's help to the Palestinian people. Abbas said that Palestinians will dedicate to solving final status issues through political negotiations with Israel and achieving the goal of setting up an independent Palestinian state, adding that his people welcome China and the international community's active role in promoting the Palestinian goal.

DW: Booming Russian Economy Draws German Firms Eastward

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Booming Russian Economy Draws German Firms Eastward

Despite talk of deteriorating political relations, the Russian market is becoming increasingly important for Germany's economy. A new chamber of foreign trade has been set up to help German firms get started in Russia. Profits resulting from commerce between the two countries rose by over 30 percent in 2006, making Russia Germany's biggest trade partner in eastern Europe. Today, some 4,600 German companies have set up shop between Kaliningrad in western Russia and Vladivostok in Siberia, according to counts by the chambers of commerce.


EU-Digest/Time Magazine: US Presidential Elections: Selling Substance Over Style in Iowa - "Europeans prefer Hillary" - by Ana Marie Cox

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US Presidential Elections: Selling Substance Over Style in Iowa - "Europeans prefer Hillary" - by Ana Marie Cox

Clinton's unapologetic emphasis on substance and her decision to talk about emotional issues — health care, education — in dry policy terms allowed her potential supporters to embrace her intellect while they themselves supplied the pathos and the spirit that, in most campaigns, comes from the podium.

Note EU-Digest: "In a poll conducted in Europe by the Harris Institute for France's 24 television and the Paris-based International Herald Tribune enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton was significantly higher among Europeans than Americans. Over half of the European respondents agreed that electing a woman as US president would have a positive effect on the United States, with numbers ranging from 53 to 56 percent in Spain, Italy, France and Germany. Only 29 percent of Americans, however, thought it would be positive, while 26 percent said the effect would be negative.Asked whether the election of a black man would have a positive effect, 43 percent of Britons and Germans and 50 percent of Spaniards said yes. Only 33 percent of Americans agreed."

WSJ/EU-Digest: European Retailing: "Achtung Christmas Shoppers! - While US Christmas season sales fall - by Cecilie Rohwedder

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European Retailing: "Achtung Christmas Shoppers!- While US Christmas season sales fall-by Cecilie Rohwedder

In contrast to the U.S., where pre-Christmas price cuts play a key part in retailers' strategies -- and shoppers' buying plans -- holiday sales mark a small revolution in European retailing. For decades, European retailers could cut prices only during certain periods set by the government. The winter sales, usually in January, came too late for cash-strapped Christmas shoppers.

"Across Europe, decision-making responsibility is shifting from the state to the retailers," says Wolfgang Twardawa, an economist with the Society for Consumer Research in Nuremberg, Germany. But moves to change the rules for when and how people shop have come slowly and brought public soul-searching about life in a consumer society -- as well as stiff resistance from trade unions, churches, and small retailers who say increased flexibility hurts store workers and benefits only large chains. Note EU-Digest: "Meanwhile in the US Christmas season sales at U.S. stores fell for the fourth straight week as rising fuel and food prices threatened to hand retailers their worst holiday shopping season in five years. Spending fell 2.2 percent for the week through Dec. 22 from a year earlier, Chicago-based ShopperTrak RCT Corp. said in a statement today. Discounter Target Corp. said separately that sales at stores open at least a year may decline in December after customer visits slowed following the Thanksgiving holiday. A 7.6 percent increase on the Saturday before Christmas wasn't enough to lift retailers' revenue last week as shoppers grapple with $3-a-gallon gasoline and a deepening housing slump. This year's holiday shopping season may grow at the slowest pace since 2002 as stores struggle to recapture the gains they saw on the Friday after Thanksgiving".

Global Insight: ECONOMIC PREDICTIONS FOR 2008 - by Nariman Behravesh

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ECONOMIC PREDICTIONS FOR 2008 - by Nariman Behravesh

The U.S. economy is now in the danger zone. GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2007 (0.0%) and first half of 2008 (0.8% in the first quarter and 1.8% in the second quarter) is expected to be very weak. This will make the United States extremely vulnerable to another shock. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the rest of the world will be able to shrug off the expected sharp deceleration in spending by American households. Global Insight currently predicts that world growth will be 3.3% in 2008, compared with 3.7% this year. With the potential for housing crunches in some European economies and a post-Olympics slowdown (or even bust) in China, the risks for the global economy are now overwhelmingly on the downside.

While the dollar has been on a downward trend since 2002 (mostly because of the huge current-account deficit), the recent weakness is a function of fears over the subprime crisis and a U.S. recession, combined with expectations that the Fed will cut interest rates more than other central banks. As the economy begins to recover in the second half of 2008 and early 2009, though, sentiments on the dollar will turn more positive, at least against some currencies. We expect that the euro will top out around $1.55 next summer and fall to $1.49 by year-end. The Canadian dollar may have peaked already, if oil prices keep falling. However, both the Japanese yen and the Chinese renminbi should keep appreciating vis-à-vis the dollar, given the large current-account surpluses in both economies. Global Insight has raised the probability of a U.S. recession from 35% to 40%.

IHT: European air safety regulator to consider grounding Bombardier turboprops - by Nicola Clark

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European air safety regulator to consider grounding Bombardier turboprops - by Nicola Clark

Europe's air safety regulator expressed deep concern Monday following the latest crash landing of a Scandinavian Airlines turboprop plane - the third in less than two months involving the same type of commuter aircraft."We are very concerned about this most recent Dash-8 Q400 accident and the possible relation with other accidents involving the same plane," said Daniel Höltgen, a spokesman for the European Aviation Safety Agency, referring to the twin-engined plane made by Bombardier Aerospace of Canada.

EU-Digest: The Birth of Jesus Christ is a message of hope - as millions of Christians around the world celebrate Christmas

EU-Digest special report on Christmas day

The Birth of Jesus Christ is a message of hope - as millions of Christians around the world celebrate Christmas

Local officials in Bethlehem say double the number of pilgrims have visited this year compared to last.Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a Muslim, joined the midnight Mass in Bethlehem and emphasized that not only Christians were celebrating the festival. "The new year, God willing, will be a year of security and economic stability," he said.

On this day Christians remember and celebrate that the incarnate Son of God, Jesus, came into the world so that mankind might fulfill its destiny to enjoy the fullness of life in God and to offer peace on earth and goodwill toward all. Let this Christmas be a time to celebrate the divine love that came about as a result of Jesus Christ and hope. So in spite of the great evil of wars, and injustice that threaten our world today, Christmas assures us that even a tiny amount of good, nurtured by love, gives us cause for hope.

12/24/07 - EU - US relations: The US and the Roman empire - by Jeremy Grant

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EU - US relations: The US and the Roman empire - by Jeremy Grant

The Financial Times most popular story of the year reported a warning that the US is on a "burning platform" of unsustainable policies and practices. It came in an August report from David Walker, head of the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of the US Congress. In an Financial Times interview, he drew parallels with the end of the Roman empire. There were "striking similarities", he said, between the US's current situation and the factors that brought down Rome, including "declining moral values and political civility at home, an overconfident and overextended military in foreign lands and fiscal irresponsibility by the central government". He condemned current US policies on education, energy, the environment and immigration as "unsustainable".

"Wall Street is a metaphor for the Colosseum where Romans fought not just individual duels, but fought a much deeper battle for the heart and soul of the republic - and lost. The Colosseum was symbolic of their obsession with wealth and material excesses, destroying its values and exposing its vulnerability, until eventually Rome was overrun by outsiders."

The Times of India: Science Could Support Spiritual Beliefs- by Mani Bhaumik

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Science Could Support Spiritual Beliefs- by Mani Bhaumik

Some questions we've posed persistently through the ages have remained largely unanswered: Why are we here? Is there a purpose to our lives? Is there a Creator who brought us here? All of us have asked these questions sometime in our lives. That's when we have traditionally turned to spirituality to find the answers. However, since we live in the age of science that pervades our daily lives, it would be essential to ask: Can science support our belief in spirituality? Those who followed spirituality down the ages did so with blind faith. Why? Because their experience showed that spirituality enriched their lives. But blind faith invariably gets mixed up with some false and undesirable beliefs such as superstitions and dogmas that can lead people down a thorny path.

The question then begs itself: Could it be that our consciousness is a fundamental reality which is intertwined with the universe itself? Is physicist Freeman Dyson right when he says: "The universe in some sense must have known that we were coming?" Quantum physics and modern cosmology support the oneness of all spiritual traditions, popularly known as God. However, the God that science supports is an abstract entity akin to Brahmn, which manifests itself through us. When we realise our oneness with God, our minds acquire a laser-like focus and we instinctively know the purpose of life. Cinema: The Golden Compass - Christians Lose Their Compass: A Closer Look At Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy

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Cinema: The Golden Compass - Christians Lose Their Compass: A Closer Look At Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy

Weeks before the film adaptation of the Philip Pullman book The Golden Compass was scheduled to open, Christian groups began plastering newspapers and in-boxes with dire warnings of a hidden anti-Christian agenda. Editorials began appearing in newspapers encouraging boycotts and FOX News picked up the drumbeat, dovetailing neatly as it did into their annual War Against The War On Christmas. Before the film even opened, the controversy drifted into schools and libraries, with a flurry of challenges against the books and some groups organizing boycotts against Scholastic, the books' publishing company.

The truth is that Pullman never once in the three books says that there is no God. Nor, as has been erroneously interpreted, does he portray the killing or the death of God. In the story that unfolds in the last two books, there are two fallen angels who have placed themselves in the position of God. It is specifically stated that neither of these beings is God or the Creator of the Universe. They are "false prophets" who have set themselves up as the ultimate power and wish to enslave mankind using various tools including The Magisterium. When the Catholic Church spends time and resources trying to discredit Hollywood fantasies like DaVinci Code or Golden Compass while, at the same time, evicting nuns onto the street to pay for their child abuse crimes, they reveal how dangerously out whack their priorities are.

DW: Slovenia Steps into European Spotlight

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Slovenia Steps into European Spotlight

For the next six months Slovenia will sit at the epicenter of the EU. Taking on the presidency is an unprecedented challenge for the affluent Alpine country of 2 million people. Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. In the years since, it has sprinted towards the West, joining both the EU and NATO in 2004. Now, it's the first new EU member country to lead the 27-nation bloc. "This is a historic project for us," said Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel. "It's not normal for us to be asked to lead such a presidency and so we want to make an extra effort." Slovenia has budgeted 62 million euros as it has hired a slew of translators and advisors to make sure the next six months go over smoothly. The country will be responsible for organizing dozens of conferences, including minister-level meetings. Slovenia sees the presidency as a chance to increase its visibility in Europe.

Vietnam Economic Times: Vietnamese companies buy 30 Airbus planes

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Vietnamese companies buy 30 Airbus planes

The national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines and the Viet Nam Aircraft Leasing Company (VALC) signed a contract in Ha Noi on December 21 to buy 30 Airbus planes. Vietnam Airlines will buy 10 A350s and 10 A321s, while VALC will take another 10 A321s. A memorandum of understanding had been reached in early October under the witness of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung during his official visit to France . Airbus plans to hand over the first A321 to Viet Nam in 2012 and an A350 in 2016. Bulgaria: Skiing Conditions Good in Bulgaria

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Bulgaria: Skiing Conditions Good in Bulgaria

A week after the official opening of the season, the skiing conditions in all Bulgarian mountain resorts are good and many may combine their Christmas holiday with a swoosh or two down the slopes. In the resort of Pamporovo the snow cover is 60 centimeters, in Bansko and Borovest it reaches close to 2 meters. All ski runs are open. Temperatures even at 2,000 meters above sea level range between -2 to -4 C below zero and the weather will remain calm and stable without strong winds.

CNN: Pros may outweigh cons of Europe in the off-season - by Rick Stevens

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Pros may outweigh cons of Europe in the off-season - by Rick Stevens

Each summer, Europe greets a stampede of sightseers and shoppers with eager cash registers. Before jumping into the peak-season pig pile, consider the advantages of an off-season trip. Outside of peak season, adventurers loiter all alone through Leonardo's home, ponder un-pestered in Rome's Forum, kick up sand on virgin beaches and chat with laid-back guards by log fires in French chateaux. In wintertime Venice you can be alone atop St. Mark's bell tower, watching the clouds of your breath roll over the Byzantine domes of the church to a horizon of cut-glass Alps. Below, on St. Mark's Square, hungry pigeons fidget and wonder, "Where are the tourists?" Without the crowds, you can enjoy step-right-up service at tourist offices and experience a more European Europe. Although many popular tourist-oriented parks, shows and tours will be closed, off-season is in-season for the high culture: plays and operas are in their crowd-pleasing glory. For instance, in Vienna, while the Boys Choir, Opera and Spanish Riding School are scarce in the summer, all have a busy schedule of performances through the rest of the year. Europe's major cities crackle with energy year-round. In London, you can spend your days at the British Museum and National Gallery, and your nights at a cozy pub or a world-class play. In Paris -- the City of Light that always sparkles -- you can get face-to-face with Mona and scale the Eiffel Tower. In Florence, you'll see Renaissance paintings and Michelangelo's David without peak-season crowds.

The Daily Star - Is Putin Europe's friend or foe - or something in between? - by Giles Merrit

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Is Putin Europe's friend or foe - or something in between? - by Giles Merrit

Relations between Europe and Russia have been deteriorating for several years, but once manageable economic issues, including energy, are now being aggravated by much more volatile political differences. The risk is a climate of undisguised hostility, with potentially greater costs than during the nadir of the Cold War. The most obvious and imminent flashpoint is Kosovo. The likelihood is that early next year most of the European Union's member nations will recognize the Albanian-majority enclave on Serbia's southern edge as an independent state. This is certain to enflame not just Serbia, but also the Kremlin. Then there are rising tensions over plans by the United States to base a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as the growing likelihood that further NATO enlargement will include Georgia, the increasingly prosperous neighbor with which Russia has fractious relations. Russia continues to fan secessionist flames there by encouraging the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


EU-Digest: Afghanistan - Operation Enduring Freedom: 193 Europeans killed

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Afghanistan - Operation Enduring Freedom: 193 Europeans killed

Of the 746 coalition fatalities since the conflict started 193 were European. Australia, Canada and the US together so far have had 553 casualties. Among the coalition forces there have been 7,171 wounded of which 4,324 required medical air transport out of the combat zone. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in an interview that his war-torn country will need foreign troops for at least another decade. "I believe it will take another 10 years, at least 10 years," he told Bild newspaper when asked for how much longer the country will need German troops.

EU-Digest: Iraq Coalition Casualties: IRAQ - December 2007 - 4204 total of which 3897 US soldiers

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IRAQ - December 2007 - 4204 total of which 3897 US soldiers

During the above period there have also been been 38,876 wounded and 132 suicides. Twenty percent of the U.S. troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan come from the Army National Guard. Many are from small towns, and go to war alongside family and friends.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the strain of the war in Iraq is increasingly forcing senior Pentagon leaders to be blunter about the military's inability to sustain war operations indefinitely, a shift in tone that may mean more troops come home sooner.The Army is expected to grow to 547,000 soldiers by 2010, and Casey has left the door open for an even bigger increase beyond that. But time is running short for the Army now, Mr. McCaffrey says. "We can probably sustain a force in Iraq indefinitely (given adequate funding) of some 10-plus brigades," McCaffrey wrote in a post-trip report. "However, the US Army is starting to unravel."

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Friday painted a bleak picture of the situation of children in Iraq, where an estimated 2 million boys and girls continue suffer from poor nutrition, disease and interrupted education. Thousands of families have been obliged to leave their homes because of violence or threats, and hundreds of children have lost their lives in the violence, UNICEF said in a press release. Iraq Body Count’s research shows that 27,000 civilian deaths from violence were reported in 2006. This represents a huge increase compared to preceding years: 14,000 killed in 2005, 10,500 in 2004 and just under 12,000 in 2003 (7,000 during the actual war/invasion, and another 5,000 during the ‘peace’ that followed). Early indications are that roughly 20,000 violent civilian deaths will be recorded for the first 9 months of 2007. By year’s end, 2007 looks to be the second-worst calendar year for violence in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, trailing only behind 2006, and still almost twice as deadly for civilians as the first year.

BBC: Latvia battles fir tree raiders - by Laura Sheeter

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Latvia battles fir tree raiders-by Laura Sheeter

Forest rangers in Latvia say they are being overwhelmed by large numbers of people illegally cutting down Christmas trees near the capital Riga.Latvians are allowed to cut down trees in designated national forest, 50km (31 miles) from Riga.

Telegraph: Tourism - Caribbean or skiing for the business elite - by Ben Harrington

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Nowadays thousands of Russia's billionaires flock to Courchevel in the first two weeks of January to celebrate the Russian Orthodox Christmas and New Year. They stay in some of the most exclusive hotels in the resort, such as the Byblos des Neiges or Cheval Blanc, which is owned by Bernaud Arnault, the chairman of luxury goods group LVMH. Indeed, Roman Abramovich, the Russian owner of Chelsea Football Club, is said to have once hired the whole of Chalet Pierre, one of Courchevel's most expensive restaurants, for a private party two seasons ago.

Xavier Richaud, a prosecutor in the city of Lyon, was reported to have said he suspected that two separate groups of 19 and 20-year-old women who were part of Prokhorov's entourage in Courchevel were call girls brought along to spend time with the billionaire's friends. Dutch BT chief executive Ben Verwaayen says that after months of traveling he doesn't plan to go anywhere - "it'll be great to get into the kitchen, share meals with the family and watch the Arsenal game on Boxing Day".

Science Centric: Two years in space for Galileo satellite

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Two years in space for Galileo satellite

Since January 2006, Galileo signals have been broadcast by GIOVE-A, and received all around the globe. At ESA’s research and technology centre in the Netherlands, a laboratory is checking both the instruments on board the spacecraft that generate the signals and the receivers on the ground. This testing and calibration has allowed the specialists to confirm the success of the mission, which is a good sign for the rest of the programme.To reach operational status, Galileo needs a constellation of 30 satellites and an associated network of ground stations spread all around the globe. This phase has just been confirmed with the decisions taken by the European Union, which has agreed on a financing package of 3.4 billion Euros and proposed to entrust ESA with the full deployment of Galileo by 2013.

Chinaview: Turkey to rely on own satellite system to gather intelligence

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Turkey to rely on own satellite system to gather intelligence

Turkish Armed Forces would soon be able to gather intelligence through surveillance by Gokturk, a Reconnaissance and Surveillance Satellite System, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported on Sunday. The Gokturk project, which was expected to cost around 200 million U.S. dollars, would be concluded in three months, said the report. The project would provide high resolution imagery for military intelligence from any place in the world without any geographical restriction, it added. Gokturk, which would be capable of detecting the movements of objects smaller than one square meter, would help to prevent the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) rebels from infiltrating into Turkish borders, said Murad Bayar, Undersecretary of Defense Industries.

EuroNews: Trichet: 'Major uncertainties' about euro zone outlook in 2008

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Trichet: 'Major uncertainties' about euro zone outlook in 2008

In an interview with EuroNews that aired Friday, Jean-Claude Trichet said that the bank's governing council, which sets interest rates for the 13-nation euro zone, are worried about the risk of weaker growth. "It is true there are major uncertainties with regard to the economic situation," he said. "The council of governors of the ECB feels that there is a greater risk of weaker growth, with it going below around 2 percent."

NewsWeek: The Rise of a Fierce Yet Fragile Superpower - by Fareed Zakaria

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The Rise of a Fierce Yet Fragile Superpower - by Fareed Zakaria

For Americans, 2008 is an important election year. But for much of the world, it is likely to be seen as the year that China moved to center stage, with the Olympics serving as the country's long-awaited coming-out party. The much-heralded advent of China as a global power is no longer a forecast but a reality. On issue after issue, China has become the second most important country on the planet. Consider what's happened already this past year. In 2007 China contributed more to global growth than the United States, the first time another country had done so since at least the 1930s. It also became the world's largest consumer, eclipsing the United States in four of the five basic food, energy and industrial commodities. And a few months ago China surpassed the United States to become the world's leading emitter of CO2. Whether it's trade, global warming, Darfur or North Korea, China has become the new x factor, without which no durable solution is possible.


Economist: Religion in Europe - The discovery of tolerance - the Ottomans were far more hospitable than the rest of Europe to religious minorities

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Religion in Europe - The discovery of tolerance

From the book by Benjamin Kaplan - A typical Protestant view of European religious history might go like this. In medieval times, the Roman Catholic church grew increasingly corrupt and impervious to criticism. Then came the Reformation, with its new breath of freedom and tolerance. After a brief fightback that culminated in the ghastly Thirty Years War in 1618-48, Europe moved smoothly towards the Enlightenment and today's ideal of secular tolerance. It was all quite unlike, for example, Islam and the horrors of the Ottoman empire. Most of this conventional picture is entirely wrong, as this splendid book by Benjamin Kaplan shows. Certainly, the medieval Catholic church continued to stamp heavily on heresy, but Enlightenment Protestants were often also deeply intolerant, not only of Catholics but also of each other (Mr Kaplan's book opens with the burning of Servetus, a noted Spanish Protestant, in Calvin's Geneva). It took more than 150 years after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 for most Europeans even to grasp the concept of religious tolerance. Well into the 19th century, the Ottomans were far more hospitable than the rest of Europe to religious minorities.

One striking discovery is that there was more religious freedom in the 16th century than after the wars of religion ended a century later. The author tells of the widespread use of Auslauf, whereby Protestants were able to worship outside a Catholic city's walls; of the clandestine yet accepted Catholic churches in the Netherlands known as Schuilkerken; and of the practice of Simultaneum, the sharing of churches between Protestants and Catholics in such places as Biberach and, later, Augsburg. That sensible arrangement would be hard to imagine today.

Huffington Post: Islamic Like Me: WhenThe Veil Is A Threat - by Danielle Crittenden

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Islamic Like Me: When The Veil Is A Threat - Danielle Crittenden

My series about my adventures in a Saudi burka generated a lot of fascinating comments by Huffposters. Yesterday I replied to those who insisted that our Western culture was more sexually oppressive than the burka. Today I'll deal with the frequently-made-observation by readers: If a woman wants to wear a burka in a democratic society, what's it to us?" Go to the link to the Huffingtom Post at the beginning of this EU-Digest report to read all four parts of Danielle Crittenden series and the subsequent debates. Also to see a video of her experience, which appeared in Canada's National Post.

Turkish Daily News: Kurban-Bayram: The Lamb Rite at the O.K. Corral - by Kristen Stevens

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Kurban-Bayram: The Lamb Rite at the O.K. Corral - by Kristen Stevens

Non-Turkish children might wonder how groaning animals behind their apartments or blood in the street relate to their own religious or cultural identity. More than one billion Muslims are taking part in the Feast of the Sacrifice that celebrates Abraham's devotion to God through the ritual slaughter of an animal. Muslims, like Christians and Jews, revere Abraham for answering God's call to sacrifice his son. The four-day holiday for Muslims began this past Thursday in countries all over the world. Families gather for the feast around their elders before visiting other family and friends. Muslims celebrate the feast by sacrificing a domestic animal — a sheep, goat, cow, buffalo or camel — as a symbol of Abraham's loyalty to Allah (God), and divide the meat among family members, friends and the needy. To show respect for the hand that brings the bread on this holiday, children kiss and touch the hands of their elders to their foreheads. In return they receive gifts of money or chocolates. The Feast of Sacrifice, or Kurban Bayram, focuses on Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son on Allah's command. In turn, Allah spared his son's life at the last moment by substituting a sheep instead. Christian tradition looks at the sacrifice of Abraham's son Isaac as a foretelling of the sacrifice of Jesus, while Islamic tradition speaks of the sacrifice of Abraham's firstborn Ishmael. The Koran does not name his son, although the full narrative points to Ishmael (Koran 37:99-113). Why Christ was removed from Christmas by Merchants: "The naughty truth about Christmas" - by Sandro Contenta

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Why Christ was removed from Christmas by Merchants: "The naughty truth about Christmas" - by Sandro Contenta

When the Three Wise Men visited baby Jesus, they brought luxury goods: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Loaded with symbolism, perhaps, but certainly superfluous when a blanket would have done just fine. Some 2,000 years later, devout readers of the New Testament story lament the loss of the piety and Christian values the wise men embodied. All that remains, according to the often-heard refrain, is excess. You don't have to be religious to recognize the supremacy of consumerism, particularly at this time of year. The facts speak for themselves: In Canada last December, Canadians spent $28.7 billion shopping, excluding purchases in the automotive sector. Per capita, that's $874 for each consumer, well above the monthly average of $630 for the rest of the year, according to Statistics Canada.
You will also find the same exorbitant figures the US and Europe. By comparison, church attendance in Canada and much of the Western world has plummeted. Shopping malls, as everyone knows, are the new temples. An Angus Reid poll last week found 85 per cent of Canadians surveyed believe Christmas has lost its "spiritual meaning." "Christmas is the quintessential celebration of our entitlement to abundance. So how are you going to fight that?" says University of Illinois marketing professor Cele Otnes, who has researched Christmas gift buying.Merchants have jumped on the Christmas bandwagon in Japan, Hong Kong, and northern India, and are increasingly catering to the holiday in Beijing, says Russell Belk, a marketing professor at York University. The results are sometimes curious, like the Tokyo department store that decorated its Christmas tree with red women's panties or the one that displayed a crucified Santa Claus.

And yet, despite the righteous doom and gloom, the excessive behaviour feels right. What would Christmas be without the binge eating and the maxing out of credit cards? Certainly not the kind of feast it has been for millennia. "I don't think Christmas has ever been primarily celebrated as a Christian holiday," says historian Stephen Nissenbaum, author of the acclaimed book, The Battle for Christmas. "Christmas has never been controlled by Christians. It has never been Christianized. They didn't control it when it was carnival and misrule, and they don't control it now that it's corporate capitalism," he says. To a certain extent, some Christian churches have only themselves to blame for complaints of how Christmas is celebrated. The trouble began early in the 4th century, when the Roman church picked Dec. 25 as the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, although nothing in the Bible suggests that date. The church was piggybacking on a well-established festive period. The pagan midwinter festival in ancient Roman times, Saturnalia, celebrated a time of abundance. The harvest was in, the new wine and beer was ready to drink, and the air was cold enough for animals to be slaughtered and meat preserved, "What you've got is a combination of an unusual amount of leisure time, because the men had finished their work, and plenty of food and drink. That's a very combustible mix – and it combusted," says Nissenbaum, a professor at the University of Massachusetts. The result was several days of wild outdoor partying in late December, what Nissenbaum says might today strike us as a sexually charged blend of Mardi Gras, Halloween and New Year's Eve. The hush-hush regreening of Europe The hush-hush regreening of Europe

The hush-hush regreening of Europe - by Doug Saunders

Mr. Thibert's most recent efforts, on the rear 15 hectares of his land, are examples of Europe's most dramatic and least publicized agricultural innovation — the complete abandonment of farming. Like hundreds of thousands of farmers across Europe, he has taken money from the European Union to cut out agriculture entirely and turn his fields back into wild forest. When he gets older, he says, he might join the growing population of farmers who are ending generations of agriculture and letting the forests return.Europe's accomplishment, little understood even by its practitioners, offers valuable lessons for other countries.

Courrier international: Romania - Andrei Plesu on Karaoke capitalism in Romania

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Romania - Andrei Plesu on Karaoke capitalism in Romania

Philosopher Andrei Plesu describes Romania's young capitalism as imitating a model.There are three domestic kinds of borrowed capitalists. First there is the nouveau riche: He is a kind of Al Capone, still dumbfounded at being so rich, and tending to display money rather than spend it. Next come the company girls and boys: They have no individuality, all dressing the same, eating the same, thinking the same and talking the same? They work a lot because they want to become rich. Thirdly, there's the manager: He knows all the rules, has no time to lose and no interest in the chatter of intellectuals. He judges a text by its length and a book by its sales figures... For all your Instant European Soccer updates

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For all your Instant European Soccer updates

Not only will Milan take on 2006 runners-up Arsenal, but in another Ango-Italian contest last season's finalists and five-time winners Liverpool FC will play FC Internazionale Milano, who have won their last five UEFA Champions League matches and lead Serie A. FC Barcelona, who lifted the trophy in Paris in May 2006, will face Scottish champions Celtic FC while 1999 winners and English title-holders Manchester United FC were pitted with their French counterparts Olympique Lyonnais, in the last 16 for the fifth successive season. Europe's liquidity blitz fails to settle nervous credit markets - by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

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Europe's liquidity blitz fails to settle nervous credit markets - by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

THE Bank of England is once again the frugal sister of the credit markets, vastly outdone by Frankfurt. The €349 billion ($583.5 billion) blitz by the European Central Bank is 25 times the size of Tuesday's auction on Threadneedle Street, where banks took up a modest £10 billion ($23.2 billion) of three-month credit at an average rate of 5.95 per cent. The scale of the ECB injection dwarfs the emergency funding that stunned financial markets at the start of the credit crunch in August. Unlimited sums are being provided for two weeks at 4.21 per cent, 70 basis points below the three-month Euribor rates that set mortgages in Spain, Ireland and elsewhere.


FOCUS: Sarkozy to host Mediterranean summit in July

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Sarkozy to host Mediterranean summit in July

Visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday announced that he would host a summit of Mediterranean rim countries to establish an EU-type union of the zone in July. He made the announcement at a joint news conference in Rome with the Italian and Spanish prime ministers, Romano Prodi and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Sarkozy advocates the grouping partly as an alternative to Turkish membership of the European Union. Italy favours Ankara's entry into the EU.

BBC: Iraq's other Kurdish rebel group - by Jenne Cuffe

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Iraq's other Kurdish rebel group - by Jenne Cuffe

The PJAK is a sister organisation to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). While the US wants the Iraqi government to comply with Turkey's demands and drive PKK fighters from the Kandil mountains, where they have been launching attacks on Turkish military targets, the PJAK continues to operate against Iran from the Iraqi side of the border, and the Iranian government alleges it does so with American financial support.

Market Watch: American Consumers outspending their income - Buy 1 of these 10 gifts now and help save the American economy - by Jennifer Waters

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American Consumers outspending their income - Buy 1 of these 10 gifts now and help save the American economy - by Jennifer Waters

Consumers account for some two-thirds of the growth in the U.S. gross domestic product by buying goods and services and have largely been credited with holding up the U.S. economy for most of the decade. With spending predicted to slow to a crawl, many analysts believe the economy is on the verge of a menacing contraction.To help you choose the right gifts with the proper amount of economic heft, MarketWatch has gathered 10 suggestions, culled from the brightest minds in everything from economics to bar tending.

The Associated Press: Turkey: Iraq Operation May Continue

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Turkey: Iraq Operation May Continue

Turkey's military may stage more cross-border operations into northern Iraq to hunt down separatist Kurdish rebels, Turkey's parliament speaker said Thursday, as the justice minister again urged the rebels to surrender. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan thanked the Turkish armed forces, calling their operations successful, and said Turkey was at an important stage of its fight against the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, who are based in northern Iraq. Turkey, which has massed thousands of troops along the border, sent hundreds of them across into the mountains of northern Iraq on Tuesday. It said it inflicted heavy losses on Turkish Kurd rebels in a small-scale incursion that lasted about 15 hours — and in air strikes by as many as 50 fighter jets on suspected rebel hideouts two days earlier.

Secular Europe or Religious America?

Political Correctness Watch

"Secular Europe or Religious America?

By Dennis Prager

Last week, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen wrote a column titled 'Secular Europe's Merits,' in which he explained why he prefers the secularism of Europe to the religiosity of America.

To his credit (other New York Times columnists do not generally agree to debate anything they write -- Paul Krugman, for example, has refused to discuss his new book on liberalism with me), Cohen agreed to come on my show, and proved to be a charming guest. A distinguished foreign correspondent for Reuters and the International Herald Tribune, Cohen nevertheless betrayed what I believe is endemic to those who favor Europe's secularism to America's religiosity -- emotion rather than reason. Here are some of the points from his opinion piece followed by my responses." Passport-free zone envelops Europe - by Doug Saunders Passport-free zone envelops Europe

Passport-free zone envelops Europe - by Doug Saunders

As midnight approached in the centre of Europe yesterday, hundreds of border guards left their posts for good and began tearing down the last remains of the old Iron Curtain. At the border of Germany and Poland, the guards spent the day removing kilometres of tall steel fence, leaving unmarked and unguarded fields between the two once hostile nations. On the road between Vienna and Bratislava, Austrian and Slovakian leaders met to saw through border-crossing barriers. In Estonia, the government put its border-inspection stations up for auction.“It's going to be a new Iron Curtain for all intents and purposes,” Samuel Horkay, a Ukrainian citizen who has discovered that it will be much harder to visit his mother in neighbouring Hungary, told the Bloomberg news agency yesterday. “That's a strong way to put it, but Europe loves to guard its borders.” That is the central paradox that lies behind today's celebrations: Even as Europe is turning its national borders into historical footnotes — European Union countries currently have fewer independent powers, in most areas, than Canadian provinces do — the 27-nation federation is making entry from outside the EU far more difficult.Comment EU-Digest: This is another step in the right direction towards complete unity within Europe.


MSNBC/FT: Air France first to trial inflight mobile phone use in Europe - by Kevin Done

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Air France first to trial inflight mobile phone use in Europe - by Kevin Done

Air France-KLM has started the first trial in Europe of the inflight use of mobile phones. The service has been introduced this week onboard an Air France A318 operating on short-haul routes in Europe. Initially passengers will be able to send and receive text and picture messages as well as emails via phones with internet access. In the second stage of the six-month trial passengers will be able to make and receive phone calls. Belgium eases political impasse - by Sarah Laitner

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Belgium's political crisis eased when parties from both sides of the country's language divide yesterday agreed on an interim government, six months after a divisive election. Guy Verhofstadt, outgoing premier, will lead the temporary administration of Christian Democrats, Liberals and Socialists. It will stay in power until March 23 2008 at the latest, with its main task likely to be drafting a budget. Yves Leterme, the Flemish Christian Democrat who triumphed in the election, is expected to become prime minister after the interim government gives up office. Europe's Big Inflation Problem - by Parmy Olson

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On the day that U.S. investment banking Morgan Stanley announced a larger-than-expected fourth-quarter loss because of subprime write-downs, European Central Bank chief Jean Cleade Trichet gave investors a stomach-turning reminder that he simply wouldn't be able to fight the squeeze on borrowing costs by cutting interest rates in the eurozone. The problem is rising inflation, something which, if not kept under control, could have an even more damaging effect on the European economy than the subprime mortgage crisis."Looking ahead, the inflation rate is expected to remain significantly above 2% in the near future, and it is likely to moderate only gradually in the course of 2008," said Trichet. That means the European Central Bank won't cut interest rates until well into 2008, unlike the U.S. Federal Reserve, or Bank of England, which have both cut rates recently. Unlike the ECB and the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve does not have an inflation target that it uses to for determining monetary policy, though it is currently debating adopting one.
Things are a little easier for the Bank of England, which also has a 2.0% consumer price inflation target, but is currently dealing with a CPI of 2.1%.

TIME Magazine: Resistance to Europe's Emissions Plan - by Leo Cendrowiccz

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Resistance to Europe's Emissions Plan - by Leo Cendrowiccz

"Passenger cars account for about 12% of overall E.U. carbon dioxide emissions and emissions from transport are continually increasing," said E.U. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas. "The aim of the legislation is to reduce CO2 emissions from cars in order to help fight climate change." The proposals come just days after a U.N. agreement in Bali on the next stage of global climate change negotiations after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. The E.U. executive says that if Europe is to stake a credible claim for leadership on climate change, it will have to show serious resolve in cutting car emissions, the main gas blamed for global warming.

While French and Italian carmakers cut their average emissions by 1.6 percent between 2005 and 2006, emissions from German cars actually increased by 0.6 percent. "Germany's fine automotive engineers should be focusing on making cars leaner and more fuel efficient," said T&E director Jos Dings. "Sadly, based on recent progress, they mostly seem to be intent on building ever heavier, larger and more gas-guzzling cars that simply don't belong in the 21st century." The car industry employs 2 million Europeans and indirectly supports another 10 million in related industries. Europe is clearly a key world player: of the 46 million passenger cars produced globally, 38% are made in the E.U.



May 2008 bring a spiritual revolution to your life beyond your wildest dreams and the realization that you can believe in things you can't touch, like freedom, peace, friendship, love, eternity and God. Happy Holidays !


Sun Sentinel: Zoom Airlines to offer Fort Lauderdale-to-London flights - by Tom Stieghorst

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Zoom Airlines to offer Fort Lauderdale-to-London flights - by Tom Stieghorst

Broward County will get regular nonstop flights to London for the first time in 10 years under a plan unveiled Tuesday by Canada's Zoom Airlines. Zoom has agreed to fly twice weekly starting in May 2008 between Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and London's Gatwick Airport. The price for the flights will start around $750 to $800 round trip, including departure taxes, fees and an unspecified fuel surcharge. The London connection has been avidly pursued by tourism promoters in Fort Lauderdale. The 370,000 people who visit Broward annually from the United Kingdom typically fly through Miami or Orlando. Nonstop service makes it easier to sell Fort Lauderdale as a turnkey destination.

AP: Mastercard Faces Fines in Europe- by Aoife White

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Mastercard Faces Fines in Europe - by Aoife White

Mastercard must drop fees it charges for cross-border transactions or face daily fines of 3.5 percent of daily global turnover, European Union regulators said Tuesday. The European Commission said that multilateral interchange fees charged to consumers for payments made in a different European country with either their MasterCard credit cards or Maestro debit cards unfairly inflated costs for retailers. EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes also warned that she would reopen a probe into Visa's fees on Dec. 31.Europeans make more than 23 billion card payments every year worth over 1.35 euros trillion ($1.94 trillion). They pay additional fees using their cards in another European nation, which regulators say curtails Europe's attempt to create a single market in 27 EU states. Some 45 percent of European payment cards carry a MasterCard or a Maestro logo. Visa continues to speak with the EU, but said cutting interchange fees would force consumers to pick up some of the cost burden from retailers.