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Merkel: "Euro Is Basis for Our Prosperity"

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday stressed the importance of the euro to Germany despite recent problems, calling the common currency the basis of European prosperity. "Europe stands in these months in the middle of a great test," Mrs. Merkel said, according to an advance copy of her New Year's Eve speech to be delivered later in the day.

"We have to strengthen the euro," she said. "Germany needs Europe and our common currency."  Mrs. Merkel said the euro is much more than a currency. "The euro is the basis of our prosperity," she said.

For more: Merkel: Euro Is Basis for Our Prosperity -


Eye Care: Regeneron, Bayer cite positive eye drug study

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Bayer HealthCare AG said Monday their developing VEGF Trap-Eye drug met key treatment goals in a late-stage study on macular edema patients.

Specifically, the study focused on patients with macular edema because of central retinal vein occlusion, or blockage of retinal veins. Macular edema is a condition in which the macula, or central part of the retina, swells because fluid leaks or builds up.

In the 114-person study, the drug prompted vision improvements. The study showed that 56.1 percent of patients receiving the injections on a monthly basis gained at least 15 letters in vision tests.

For more:Regeneron, Bayer cite positive eye drug study - Bloomberg

Spain’s Economy to Grow in 4th Quarter

Spain's economy is expected to grow during the fourth quarter of this year after a tepid performance that raised fears the Spanish economy could be on the brink of recession, according to Spain's prime minister.

For more: Spain’s Economy to Grow in 4th Quarter | Politically Illustrated

China emerges as potential saviour for crisis-hit Europe -

China, already the banker to the United States and a major investor in emerging markets, is now positioning itself as the potential "white knight" saviour to debt-laden Europe, analysts say.

Beijing has vowed to support European countries struggling under mountains of debt by buying their government bonds, which experts say could help ease tensions over a range of trade issues as well as boost China's global standing.

Backing the euro also serves the Asian country's own interests by helping to ensure its biggest trade partner continues buying its exports while also diversify its world-leading foreign exchange holdings away from the dollar.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters on Thursday that the European Union would "be one of the major markets for our forex investment" in the future.

European officials however insist no incentives such as recognition of China's market economy status or a reconsideration of an arms embargo have been offered in return for Beijing's much-needed financial lifeline.

For more: China emerges as potential saviour for crisis-hit Europe - The Economic Times

Wall St's 10 Biggest Lies of 2010 - by Les Leopold

What a great year for Wall Street: profits up, bonuses up and, best of all, criticism down, especially from Washington. Somehow Wall Street has much of America believing its lies and rationalizations. We're even beginning to forget that Wall Street is largely responsible for the economic mess we're in.

Two years ago Wall Street's colossal greed crashed our economy. Our financial elites created and spewed highly leveraged toxic assets around the globe. These poisonous "innovations" pumped up the housing bubble and Wall Street grew insanely rich in the process. When it all burst, we learned that the big Wall Street institutions that had caused the crash were far too big to fail -- and too connected. High government officials came to their rescue with trillions in cash and guarantees -- underwritten, of course, by we taxpayers. Everyone knew this at the time. But if you asked just about anyone on "The Street" they denied all culpability and pointed the finger everywhere else: Fannie, Freddie, the Fed, the Community Reinvestment Act, tax deductions for home buying, bad regulations, not enough regulations, too many regulations, too much consumer debt, the rating agencies, the Chinese -- and on and on. Sadly, their blame-shifting strategy worked, bamboozling the media and people across the political spectrum.

Two years ago Wall Street's colossal greed crashed our economy. Our financial elites created and spewed highly leveraged toxic assets around the globe. These poisonous "innovations" pumped up the housing bubble and Wall Street grew insanely rich in the process. When it all burst, we learned that the big Wall Street institutions that had caused the crash were far too big to fail -- and too connected. High government officials came to their rescue with trillions in cash and guarantees -- underwritten, of course, by we taxpayers.

Everyone knew this at the time. But if you asked just about anyone on "The Street" they denied all culpability and pointed the finger everywhere else: Fannie, Freddie, the Fed, the Community Reinvestment Act, tax deductions for home buying, bad regulations, not enough regulations, too many regulations, too much consumer debt, the rating agencies, the Chinese -- and on and on. Sadly, their blame-shifting strategy worked, bamboozling the media and people across the political spectrum.

The Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats aren't about to let Obama seriously regulate Wall Street, even if he wanted to, which he doesn't. The truth is that employers aren't hiring because there's insufficient consumer demand for goods and services. But at least Peter Orszag is a man of his word. He personally plans to "improve the relationship between business and government" by tapping his government contacts at his new fat job at Citigroup, the nearly failed mega-bank that he helped to save at taxpayer expense. Orszag could have landed a coveted professorship at just about any university in the world. But apparently the 42-year-old wiz kid prefers Citigroup's multi-million dollar compensation package. Any bets on how long it takes for Larry Summers to cash in?

For the complete report click on : Wall St's 10 Biggest Lies of 2010 | | AlterNet

Stubbing out cigarettes in Europe

Spain on Sunday joins the list of European countries that ban smoking in cafes and restaurants.
Here is a look at smoking bans elsewhere in Europe.

- Belgium: Anti-smoking measures for hotels and restaurants are expected to be extended to cafes from 2012 to 2014.
- Britain: Smoking was banned in public places, including bars and restaurants, along with workplaces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2007, while Scotland extinguished smoking in 2006.
For more: Stubbing out cigarettes in Europe < Spanish news | Expatica Spain


European GPS: Galileo Moves Forward with Launch of Tracking and Control Center in Sweden

European government authorities on Dec. 13 inaugurated an Arctic tracking and control center for the future Galileo satellite navigation system in the latest signal that the program is moving forward despite the absence of funds to complete it.

The Kiruna Galileo Ground Station, located at Swedish Space Corp.’s Esrange facility in northern Sweden, “will show the world that Galileo is becoming a reality and is not just paperwork,” Rene Oosterlinck, director of navigation programs at the 18-nation European Space Agency (ESA), said during the inauguration ceremony.
ESA and the European Commission have been co-financing Galileo, with the Brussels, Belgium-based commission now in charge of overall program management. 

For more: Galileo Moves Forward with Launch of Tracking and Control Center in Sweden |

New EU labels for halal and kosher foods spark anger - by David Sapsted

Muslim and Jewish groups are preparing to challenge animal-rights campaigners next year over a European Union measure that would require halal and kosher meat products to carry a label saying the animals were not stunned before slaughter.

Animal-welfare legislation in Europe requires that abattoirs stun all animals prior to slaughter unless they are being ritually killed according to the practices of a non-Christian religion.

The move to require halal and kosher meat producers to provide consumers with more information on the packaging of their products has enraged Jewish and Muslim organisations, with the latter claiming that the move has little to do with animal welfare but, rather, reflects a pan-European bias against Islam.

For more: New EU labels for halal and kosher foods spark anger - The National

Brazilian President Lula Critical Of US Policy In Latin America

Brazil's outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has yet again lashed out at the US for persisting with its policies towards South America, reports said on Monday.

Speaking to reporters at a breakfast meeting in the capital Brasilia, Lula lamented that the election of President Barack Obama had brought little change to the "empire's" approach on Latin America.

"Nothing has changed in the US vision of Latin America, which makes me sad," he said.

For more: Brazilian President Lula Critical Of US Policy In Latin America

European Loan Growth Accelerated in November, ECB Report Shows

Loans to households and companies in Europe grew at a faster annual pace in November as the economic recovery boosted demand for credit.

Loans to the private sector rose 2 percent from a year earlier after growing an annual 1.5 percent in October, the European Central Bank in Frankfurt said today. That’s the fastest since April 2009. The rate of growth in M3 money supply, which the ECB uses as a gauge of future inflation, was 1.9 percent, up from 0.9 percent in October.

The ECB, which has held its benchmark interest rate at a record low of 1 percent since May 2009, this month predicted economic growth of 1.4 percent next year after about 1.6 percent in 2010. While Germany’s economy, Europe’s largest, is expanding at the fastest pace in two decades, other euro-area members such as Ireland, Spain and Portugal are struggling to create growth as they cut spending to rein in budget deficits.

For more: European Loan Growth Accelerated in November, ECB Report Shows - Bloomberg

Increasing Number of Greeks Flee to Turkey For a Better Life

Development might seem remarkable considering that Greece and Turkey have been rivals and almost on the brink of war at various times.

With the Greek economy deep in recession, some Greeks are now looking to neighboring Turkey - in particular Istanbul - for the chance of a better life. A remarkable development considering the relations between the two have been marked by alternating periods of mutual hostility and reconciliation ever since Greece won it independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1821."

For more:


Russian Legal System Being Scrutinized by the West : Former Russian Oil Magnate Khodorkovsky Found Guilty - by Andrey Volkov

Despite cries of corruption from Amnesty International and the U.S. government, a Moscow court on Monday found former Russian oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky guilty of stealing fuel from his own companies and money laundering during the period from 1998–2003.

The court did not announce a particular term for his imprisonment. The decision is the result of the second trial against him and his partner, Platon Lebedev, initiated in 2006.

The case against Khodorkovsky has been among the highest-profile issues in Russia over the last several years. It has been characteristic of Russia’s image as an authoritarian state, where politics, the judicial system, and the criminal underworld are closely tied.

For more: Former Russian Oil Magnate Khodorkovsky Found Guilty | World | Epoch Times

Beware of Underestimating China - by Dr. Stephen Leeb

We've talked a lot about China in recent years – about its miraculous growth, the strain it puts on the world's resources, and the fact that China's leaders seem to “get” the emerging commodity squeeze in ways that Western leaders do not.

Let's make something clear. We are not in love with China, so much as we are worried that complacency has led the West astray. Following World War 2, the U.S. economy was the envy of the world. To any American who lived through the post-war expansion, the fall of Soviet-style communism is more than sufficient proof that our system, based on individual freedom, capitalism, and democracy, is superior. The idea that a semi-totalitarian regime could possibly succeed for long is laughable. So every tiny negative event in China is taken by the Western press as proof positive the Chinese economy is about to implode. Worse, it becomes an excuse for ignoring the real global problem of resource depletion, which China's success is bringing into the open so much quicker.

So we see that some analysts took China's latest 0.25% hike in interest rates as another sign the sky is falling in Beijing, even though this will probably turn out to be a non-event. Let's remember that before the global financial crisis took hold Chinese interest rates were at 7.8%. The recent move back to 5.8% is hardly evidence the Chinese government is in a panic over a runaway economy. (If you really want an indicator of an economic disaster, watch for copper prices falling below $2.00. That would be a sure sign of a Chinese economic downturn, if not a global depression.) China raising interest rates to 5.8% means little, especially considering that other emerging economies have been far more aggressive in tightening.

For more: Beware of Underestimating China - Seeking Alpha

Sceptical voters need to hear why EU matters - The Irish Times - by Derek Scally

The EU and the euro zone are increasingly seen by Germans as an expensive albatross. Angela Merkel is not known for her glittering rhetorical ability and, when she tries, one wishes she hadn’t bothered.
In a December speech to the Bundestag, she described the euro as “our common destiny” and efforts to stabilise the currency as “preserving the European Union’s grandiose idea of peace and freedom”.

Grandiose indeed. Dr Merkel’s effort to place the current euro zone crisis in a wider historical EU framework was admirable but, in reading the words from a page in her trademark atonal voice, she didn’t even sound like she was convincing herself.

For more: Sceptical voters need to hear why EU matters - The Irish Times - Tue, Dec 28, 2010


New Years resolution : Is Sex Necessary? - by Alan Farnham

Fans of abstinence had better be sitting down. "Saving yourself" before the big game, the big business deal, the big hoedown or the big bakeoff may indeed confer some moral benefit. But corporeally it does absolutely zip. There's no evidence it sharpens your competitive edge. The best that modern science can say for sexual abstinence is that it's harmless when practiced in moderation. Having regular and enthusiastic sex, by contrast, confers a host of measurable physiological advantages, be you male or female. (This assumes that you are engaging in sex without contracting a sexually transmitted disease.)

In one of the most credible studies correlating overall health with sexual frequency, Queens University in Belfast tracked the mortality of about 1,000 middle-aged men over the course of a decade. The study was designed to compare persons of comparable circumstances, age and health. Its findings, published in 1997 in the British Medical Journal, were that men who reported the highest frequency of orgasm enjoyed a death rate half that of the laggards. 

Other studies (some rigorous, some less so) purport to show that having sex even a few times a week has an associative or causal relationship with the following: Improved sense of smell; Reduced risk of heart disease; Weight loss, overall fitness; Reduced depression; Pain-relief; Less-frequent colds and flu; Better bladder control; Better teeth; A happier prostate; ... and the list goes on and on....

For more: Is Sex Necessary? -

EU Needs Watchdog to Study Foreign Takeovers, Handelsblat says - by A.Cremer

The European Union may need to set up a watchdog to study foreign takeover bids to help protect its industrial companies against acquisitions, Handelsblatt reported, citing European Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani.

"Chinese companies are acquiring a growing number of European businesses “with key technologies in important areas,” Tajani told the newspaper in an interview published today. This implies “a political strategy that Europe must respond to politically,” Tajani was quoted as saying. 

“It’s my proposal to examine closely how the Committee of Foreign Investments in the U.S. does its work,” Tajani told Handelsblatt. “We have to protect our knowledge.”

Note EU-Digest: This is absolutely necessary . We must not sell any country, including the China, the rope that will eventually hang us.

For more: EU Needs Watchdog to Study Foreign Takeovers, Handelsblatt Says - Bloomberg


Arrests prompt fears Netherlands is prime terror target

There are fears the Netherlands has become a prime target for terrorists following the arrest of 12 Somali nationals suspected of plotting an imminent strike. The men were detained in Rotterdam on Christmas Eve following a tip off from security services.

Dutch counter-terrorism experts believe the country’s former military role in Afghanistan under NATO and its anti-Muslim Freedom party may have made it more vulnerable.

The prosecutor leading the case Mr Gerrit van der Burg said: ‘‘We’re carrying out a large scale investigation in order to thwart the possibility of an impending attack. We don’t want to take any risks. It’s always uncertain if we’ve escaped a terrorist strike, but in this case we have removed the threat from these people.’‘

Note EU-Digest: If radical Muslim extremists believe that acts of terrorism in the Netherlands will make Geert Wilders pipe down on his rhetoric or loose his local support they are even more out of touch with reality than they already are. On the contrary acts of terrorism will make Gees Wilders his party only grow stronger. Everyone is at risk.  Muslims, Christians, other religious denominations and non-believers are therefore urged to contact Government authorities if they suspect any suspicious activities in their neighborhood.

For more: Arrests prompt fears Netherlands is prime terror target | euronews, world news

Population will top 7 billion in 2011 - by Zack Gross

As we anticipate the arrival of the new year, amid the resolutions and predictions, one thing is certain, says the U.S.-based Population Reference Bureau -- the number of Earthly inhabitants will exceed seven billion.

For more: Small World -- Population will top 7 billion in 2011 - Brandon Sun


France Wants Closer Euro Zone Economic Policy: Report - ABC News

France wants all 16 euro zone governments and any other interested European Union members to coordinate their economic policy more closely in the future, Economy Minister Christine Lagarde told a German newspaper.

"The crisis showed us that it is not sufficient to limit public debt as foreseen in the Maastricht Treaty. Ireland stuck to these criteria and finds itself nevertheless in difficulty," Lagarde said in an interview with the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

For more: France Wants Closer Euro Zone Economic Policy: Report - ABC News

Snow plays the Grinch again this Christmas in Europe

Snow creates havoc in air travel again this year in Europe, as many flights were halted or canceled due to heavy snowfall in the U.K. and several other parts of Europe. Two thousand people have been stranded at Paris' Charles de Gaulle, media reports stated, as snow fall hits France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. The Charles de Gaulle airport canceled about 50 percent of its flights due to a shortage of de-icing fluid.

For more: Snow plays the Grinch again this Christmas in Europe, UK


Russia to buy two warships from France in major military deal = by Edward Cody

After a long hesitation and arduous negotiations, Russia has decided to buy at least two of France's advanced Mistral-class amphibious warships in an unprecedented military deal between Moscow and the West, the two nations said Friday.

The multimillion-dollar sale, announced jointly by the Elysee Palace and the Kremlin, marks the first time in modern history that Russia has made such a major defense acquisition abroad, illuminating a fast-evolving relationship with former Cold War enemies. The swift changes were dramatized at last month's NATO summit in Lisbon, when President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to work with NATO on ways to cooperate with the U.S.-led alliance in erecting a missile defense system for Europe.

The Mistral sale, whose financial terms were not disclosed, also signaled a triumph for French President Nicolas Sarkozy's relentless salesmanship and a boost for France's sagging defense industry and 10 percent unemployment rate. It will, the Elysee declaration noted, provide the equivalent of 5 million hours of work over four years for 1,000 qualified French employes at the STX shipyards at Saint Nazaire on the Atlantic Coast. And it might lead to the purchase of two more vessels.

For moreL Russia to buy two warships from France in major military deal

More severe weather adds to travel woes in Europe

Christmas plans were canceled Friday for thousands of travelers unable to make it home for the holidays after heavy snow caused fresh transportation chaos across parts of Europe.

As the third wave of unexpectedly severe weather in a month struck, ill-equipped airports and treacherous road conditions conspired to ruin the festive spirit for those stranded by canceled flights, long traffic jams and slowed trains.

While officials at London's Heathrow airport, one of the worst hit by last weekend's snow, announced flights were back to a normal schedule in order "to get people home for Christmas," the storm clouds had gathered elsewhere on the continent.

For more: More severe weather adds to travel woes in Europe -


Truffles – the luxury France is dying for

The spiraling price of seasonal delicacies has generated a "luxury" crime wave in France this Christmas – and now one violent death.
An ill-tempered war in the South of France over the theft of truffles has claimed its first victim. A young truffle-producer in the Rhône valley has been arrested on possible murder charges after shooting dead a man whom he suspected of raiding his "truffle groves" in the middle of the night. 

At the same time, oyster beds on the French Atlantic coast are being protected by infrared cameras, helicopters and mounted policemen as a steep rise in prices has brought a surge in thefts. Professional oyster rustlers can steal up to three tons in a single night.

For more: Truffles – the luxury France is dying for - Europe, World - The Independent

Germany welcomes EU probe on Hungarian media law

Germany has welcomed an investigation by the European Commission of a new Hungarian law that expands the government's power to penalize independent media.

A prominent EU lawmaker, meanwhile, said the commission must not rule out sanctions against Hungary.
German deputy foreign minister Werner Hoyer says the passage of the media law does not bode well for the EU as Hungary takes over the 27-nation bloc's rotating presidency for six months on Jan. 1.

The law, which was passed by the Hungarian parliament on Tuesday, empowers a new body, the National Media and Communications Authority, to impose heavy fines for vague infractions, including coverage that is unbalanced, or offensive to human dignity or common morals, according to the Associated Press. The law comes into effect on Jan. 1.

For more: Germany welcomes EU probe on Hungarian media law - Taiwan News Online

Banking Industry: All eyes on Bank of America as WikiLeaks hints at new bombshell - by Rick Rothacker

Heading into the new year, a big question looms for Bank of America Corp.: What's next in the WikiLeaks saga?

Julian Assange, the anti-secrecy organization's founder, has said he is preparing a "megaleak" about a large bank, leading to speculation the Charlotte bank is the target. On Monday, he told the Times of London that he had enough information to make the bosses of a major bank resign. Meanwhile, Bank of America has cut off payments intended for WikiLeaks, spurring the group to tell customers to stop doing business with the bank. Other financial institutions that have foiled payments have faced cyberspace attacks from WikiLeaks supporters, but so far the bank doesn't appear to be suffering ill effects.

Analysts say it's possible WikiLeaks could stir up new trouble for the nation's biggest bank, perhaps exposing more problems in the mortgage arena or reviving questions about its Merrill Lynch acquisition. It's also possible the revelations cause little harm or that WikiLeaks bypasses the bank altogether.

A Bank of America employee told McClatchy Newspapers that it appeared the bank had recently stepped up security internally, taking steps to block access to websites such as Gmail on company laptops. The bank declined to comment on security procedures.

For more: All eyes on Bank of America as WikiLeaks hints at new bombshell -

The Future is Being Written Right Now - by Daniel Taylor

The world, it seams, is reaching a critical juncture in history. Current trends are pointing towards dramatic changes in government and society. Long standing institutions are scrambling to stay afloat as new rivals challenge old ideas. Meanwhile, the global elite, foreseeing these changes, is fighting to retain control over a global system that is being torn apart by economic meltdown and a global political awakening. As top global strategists like Zbigniew Brzezinski have admitted, cracks are forming in the many bases of establishment control. "Today, it is infinitely easier to kill a million people than to control a million people".    "It is easier to kill than to control."

Looking at Europe where the EU, an admitted brainchild of the Bilderberg Group, is a globalist pet project that was to be a model for global governance. Today however, the EU is suffering an economic meltdown and discord that is bringing a backlash against the collectivist ideology behind the union. Global and regional governance faces an additional problem, specifically the fact that without the perception of an outside threat the coherence of the system falls apart. Pascal Lamy, Director General of the World Trade Organization and frequent attendee of Bilderberg meetings, stated in a November 2009 speech that, “The anthropological dimension of supranationality has probably been underestimated. Once the imminence of the menace of a new war has disappeared from our horizon, it is as if the glue that holds Europe together as a community will also disappear. As if there were no common myths, dreams and aspirations.” Lamay further stated that “…We are witnessing a growing distance between European public opinions and the European project.”

The Internet: Blogger Andrew Steele writes, concerning a recent incident involving Congressman Bob Etheridge of North Carolina, “Because cameras are more widely available to the average consumer and because of the popularity of user fed sites like YouTube, citizen journalists have become abundant in America over the past decade.” Steele continues, “This phenomenon has weakened the controlled media’s power to influence and shape reality, as well as the power of politicians to control their exposure through that media.”

The current consensus among the intelligentsia in government – Obama regulatory Czar Cass Sunstein for example – is that information must be filtered in the new media age. “Conspiracy theories” are becoming too prolific, and an intellectual elite must guide society toward “right ways” of thinking. This type of social engineering is the driving philosophy behind many of the current initiatives coming from the Obama White House.

While the mainstream media will attempt to hold its position and stifle the growing juggernaut of alternative media, its growth has proven too explosive to be contained. Bloggers and alternative news websites continue to break stories of significance across all spectrums of society. An example; BP’s recent attempt to use photoshopped images to give an exaggerated impression of its oil cleanup efforts was exposed by a blogger. 

Note EU-Digest: more recently the Wikileaks and the Julian Assange arrest also seem to be another  indication of this "clamp-down" on the freedom of expression.

For more: The Future is Being Written Right Now | Old-Thinker News


Women will drive US economic recovery

A new report says that women will lead the economic recovery because they are more educated than men on average and are more likely to find jobs.

The Bank of America Merrill Lynch report predicts that women will be in a better financial position than men, which will give them more buying power, according to a story by The Huffington Post.

The financial position of men as a whole has suffered over the past few years because of the way that male-dominated industries like construction and manufacturing have struggled.

For more: - Women will drive economic recovery in U.S.

KFC and McDonnald: Snacks spark cancer scare

Potato fries sold by fast food giants KFC and McDonald's contain a substance suspected of causing cancer, the Consumer Council revealed yesterday.

The consumer watchdog warned that nearly all 90 samples of potato chips, biscuits and other snacks it tested from a number of manufacturers contained the chemical compound acrylamide, which is probably carcinogen.
Acrylamide is known to have caused cancer in animals, and has been classified as "probably carcinogenic to humans" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

KFC restaurants have made earlier  headlines for having some pretty foul hygienic issues, and the company has been sued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest for using startlingly high amounts of artery-clogging trans fats, 

For more: Snacks spark cancer scare - The Standard

Green Living - Three big questions you should be asking about what 'green' means

As consumers and marketers have jumped onto the trend, it's no longer difficult to outfit your home with products that are classified as "green."

You now have multiple choices among products that claim to be the most environmentally friendly, which can cause some confusion about which ones are the best."Many products are labeled green, but it's important to know what green really means. When selecting green building materials, consider their overall impact on the environment," says Mike McDonald, national green home builder. "Select products that are natural and renewable."

Begin by asking three questions.

1. Where does it come from and what has gone into producing it? Did it come from the earth or was it produced in a factory? 2. What is the product's true overall impact on the environment? Look for natural products that are renewable, growing back quickly and efficiently, and that use few or no chemicals or compounds that negatively affect the environment. 3. How long will the material last and how will it hold up? A key to conservation is selecting materials that will hold up for a long time, as they won't need to be harvested or manufactured as frequently.

For more: Lexington Clipper-Herald > Ara > Green Living > Three big questions you should be asking about what 'green' means

Europe Freeze Highlights Importance of Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance Direct in Australia says travelers cannot protect themselves against unforeseen disruption if they do not secure travel insurance at the time they pay for their travel.

“Up to 10 per cent of people don't arrange travel insurance until the day they travel, too late to protect themselves from issues like unforeseen bad weather,” said Travel Insurance Direct General Manager Ian Jackson. “Travel insurance is not just important for the time you're away; it can also protect you before you leave.”

More than 1200 scheduled flights were canceled at Heathrow Airport over the weekend, leaving 5500 passengers stranded in departure halls. Similar problems affected airports in Germany, The Netherlands, France, Spain and Denmark.

For more: Europe Freeze Highlights Importance of Travel Insurance |

Soccer: Moncton bids on 2015 Women's World Cup games

Moncton in New Brunswick Canada will vie to become one of six host cities as Canada bids to host FIFA's Women's World Cup in 2015.

Moncton council voted on Monday night to become one of the Canadian host cities for the 2015 Women's World Cup, but not all councillors agree with the decision. Mayor George LeBlanc said the city had events, such as the international soccer tournament, in mind when the stadium was constructed.

"We have a fantastic facility here in Moncton, and this is an opportunity and I think it would be a shame to miss it," LeBlanc said.

For more: CBC News - New Brunswick - Moncton bids on 2015 Women's World Cup games

European freeze batters airlines, shops

Northern Europe's big freeze wreaked more havoc on Tuesday as some airports failed to cope with the snow and retailers struggled to make up lost sales in the few shopping days left before Christmas.

And with more snow forecast, there was little Christmas cheer for those camped at London's Heathrow Airport waiting for flights or queuing for cross-channel Eurostar trains in sub-zero temperatures outside central London's St. Pancras station.

With airlines feeling the growing cost of the chaos, European Union transport chief Siim Kallas said he was considering forcing airports to provide a minimum level of infrastructure support during severe weather.

For more: European freeze batters airlines, shops

Political risks to watch in Western Europe in 2011

Western Europe faces one of its most challenging years in recent memory in 2011, with pushing through painful austerity measures in the teeth of unrest and likely divisions on handling the euro zone debt crisis.

While almost all western European countries are under some market pressure to rein in deficits, the fringe economies dubbed the PIIGS - Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain - remain most in focus. For Ireland and Greece - forced to seek a bailout from the IMF and European Union - the key question will be whether the tough associated austerity measures prove politically sustainable.

For the others, the question is whether by cutting spending and controlling banking problems they will be able to persuade markets they can do without a bailout. For Europe's richer central core nations, the debate remains how much support is genuinely available and what strings are attached.

For more: Political risks to watch in Western Europe in 2011 - Money control Reuters -


Al Qaeda to Attack Salad Bars & Buffets?

Cooking at home has never seemed wiser than now. At the least, home cooking is healthier and it saves money over eating out too. It could also save you from a terrorist attack, if the rumors about a plot to taint food at restaurants by al Qaeda are valid. Al Qaeda had planned to place ricin and cyanide into the food at buffet restaurants and salad bars, notes CBS News. The plot would have involved tainting the food at many different locations. This plot was deemed “credible.”

If this sort of plot idea is in the minds of al Qaeda, it is scary to think of all the ways they could access America’s food supply. If they have operatives here now, as they did before 9/11, they could be working in grocery stores preparing the packaged foods. Or they could be on staff at hotels or restaurants with access to the foods served there.

For more: Al Qaeda to Attack Salad Bars & Buffets? | Gather

Iceland and Faroes facing near certain EU mackerel export ban

ICELAND and the Faroe Islands are now facing an almost certain ban on mackerel exports to the European Union. Last night Iceland was firmly put in the international dock over what is regarded as a brazen decision to increase its self-proclaimed mackerel quota.

For more: Iceland and Faroes facing near certain EU mackerel export ban -

China frets about EU debt woes For more

China urged European policymakers to back their tough talk with action on Tuesday by showing they can contain the euro zone’s festering debt problems.

China, which has invested an undisclosed portion of its $2.65 trillion (U.S.) reserves in the euro, said it backed Europe’s efforts so far to tackle the debt problems, but made clear it would like to see the measures having more effect.

“We are very concerned about whether the European debt crisis can be controlled,” Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming said during a dialogue between China and the European Union (EU), its biggest trade partner.

For more: China frets about EU debt woes -


Wall Street "New" Math Just As Confusing As Old Math | The

It’s not how much money you make, it’s what the money’s called. Not to mention what you’re called. Just ask the Wall Street lower classes, those making between $250,000 and $500,000 annually. They’re reportedly dismayed by the real possibility that their 2010 annual bonus will be a lump of coal -- a big fat zero.

Trying to get regulators and regular people to pipe down over the exorbitant paydays even incompetent managers regularly pull down on Wall Street, some compensation managers came up with what should have been a win-win maneuver. They raised base annual salaries in 2009 and 2010 to cover what they otherwise would have handed out as year-end bonuses.

At Goldman Sachs, for example, managing directors are making $ $500,000 instead of the $300,000 they were making last year; Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse directors are making $400,000, twice what they made last year

For more: Wall Street "New" Math Just As Confusing As Old Math | The Daily Feed |

The Netherlands - Wikileaks: US embassy cables: Barack Obama's briefing on Dutch politics

US diplomats informing President Barack Obama on Dutch politics point out that the anti-Islam Freedom Party was the fastest growing party in the Netherlands.

The remark that Mr Wilders was "no friend of the US" was due to the party's opposition to an extension of the Dutch mission in Afghanistan and because Mr Wilders "foments fear and hate of immigrants". The diplomats refer to "The Wilders Factor: golden-pompadoured, maverick parliamentarian Geert Wilders whose anti-Islam, nationalist Freedom Party remains a thorn in the coalition's side, capitalizing on the social stresses resulting from the failure to fully integrate almost a million Dutch Muslims".

Former Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende also is also named in the documents. Initially he is seen as a "Harry Potter" look-alike", however, the cables go on to say "he has consistently and skillfully delivered cabinet support for US policy objectives while balancing fragile parliamentary majorities.

For more: US embassy cables: Barack Obama's briefing on Dutch politics | World news |

Insurance Industry: Aegon axes further 51 staff in cost-cutting spree - by Laura Miller

Aegon will axe 48 management staff at its Edinburgh headquarters, and three from elsewhere in the business, as part of its latest round of cost-cutting. Staff were told today that all 42 roles within the company's employee benefits division and nine roles in the finance department will no longer be required.

The losses are part of Dutch insurer Aegon's plan to cut its UK business by 25% by the end of 2011 in a massive restructuring program announced in June, which they say equates to a saving of euro 100m a year.

For more: Aegon axes further 51 staff in cost-cutting spree - IFAonline

Spain Needs ‘Urgent’ Pension Overhaul, Tax Changes, OECD Says

Spain needs an “urgent” overhaul of its pension system and may have to raise taxes to tame the euro-region’s third-biggest deficit and avoid a jump in corporate borrowing costs, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said.

The Spanish government is making “progress towards sustainability” of its public finances, although some measures need to be “spelled out,” the Paris-based group said in a report today. The tax burden is lower than in other European nations, leaving room for increases, which may “have a relatively more benign impact on activity than some expenditure cuts,” it said.

Facing a surge in borrowing costs, Spain is trying to convince investors it can cut its budget deficit while shepherding the economy back to growth after an almost two-year recession. Support for the Socialist government is slumping as it implements the deepest austerity measures in three decades and plans to pass a pension overhaul to on Jan. 28 that will then be presented to Parliament.

For more: Spain Needs ‘Urgent’ Pension Overhaul, Tax Changes, OECD Says - Bloomberg


Virtual Computer Games: Sex Club Game Has Japanese Players By The Balls

Japanese entertainment company offers a whole host of services, like PS3-based movie rental. But what it's mostly known for is pornography, whether it's selling adult movie downloads for the PSP or just selling straight-up adult movie downloads.

It's not surprising that's venture into hardcore online gaming is just that, hardcore. Dubbed "Virtual Sex Club", the "game" allows players to experience all kinds of computer avatar humping. Computer sex isn't novel and has been around for decades. But it's not just the online threesomes that are turning heads in Japan, but the game's virtual goods and payment scale.

The monthly membership fee is ¥1,800 (euro 17), which isn't a huge sum of cash by any means. That entitles players to 30,000 Gold, which can be used to purchase characters and sexy-time "armor". Once that 30,000 Gold is gone, players can charge more gold on their credit cards. So what does 30,000 Gold buy?

For more: Sex Club Game Has Japanese Players By The Balls

US Politics: Some now see Obama as the 'comeback kid'

He wrestled Republicans and his own liberal wing into passage of the tax cut/unemployment deal. After a fitful start, he got a trade deal with South Korea. Saturday he saw a huge win in the demise of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays serving openly in the military. And his allies on Capitol Hill so far have been able to beat back amendments that could have spiked the START nuclear weapons treaty with Russia.He wrestled Republicans and his own liberal wing into passage of the tax cut/unemployment deal. After a fitful start, he got a trade deal with South Korea. Saturday he saw a huge win in the demise of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays serving openly in the military. And his allies on Capitol Hill so far have been able to beat back amendments that could have spiked the START nuclear weapons treaty with Russia.

For more: Some now see Obama as the 'comeback kid' -

Outer Space Exploration: Electric forcefield space sailing-ship tech gets EU funding - by Lewis Page

Finnish space boffins have been awarded €1.7m and placed in charge on an international effort to build the fastest thing ever made by the human race – namely a spacecraft propelled by the pressure of sunlight striking an enormous electrical field.

The "electric solar wind sail" is not your common or garden solar sail, familiar to many Reg readers, in which the solar wind strikes something physical – a fabric or film, probably extremely thin and light – and the resulting minuscule pressure exerted over a large area very gradually accelerates the sail and its attached spacecraft. No, the Finns are having none of that – the necessary vast acreage of sail fabric required to achieve even a feeble push would be too much bother, they feel.

Rather, in the electric version, the ship deploys instead 50-100 20km-long, extremely fine (25 micron thick) cables. These are arranged in a circle and the whole thing spins, keeping the wires stretched out in a huge, 40km-across disc like the spokes of a wheel. A positive potential of, say, 20,000 volts is put on the wires (requiring only a few hundred watts of power, as almost no current is actually flowing).

For more: Electric forcefield space sailing-ship tech gets EU funding • The Register

iLawsuit? Nokia Sues Apple in European Courts

Nokia has filed for patent infringement against Apple in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, claiming ownership of more smartphone fundamentals.

The UK filing, for example, covers four patents, including ways of using touch interfaces and on-device application stores.

In Germany Nokia is filing twice, in Dusseldorf and Mannheum, with patents including antenna structures, caller ID and display illumination, while in the Netherlands the filing only includes to two patents related to signal noise suppression and data card functionality.

For more: MINA Breaking News

Padoa-Schioppa, Euro Architect, Founding Member of ECB Board, Dies at 70 - Bloomberg

 Padoa-Schioppa, architect of the euro currency and founding member of the European Central Bank’s executive board, has died. He was 70. Padoa-Schioppa died after suffering a heart attack in Rome last night while at a dinner with about 100 people, the newspaper La Repubblica reported on its website.

“Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa was a renowned figure in international finance and politics, and I am honored to say he was a dear friend of mine for decades,” Eugene A. Ludwig, chief executive officer of Promontory Financial Group, said in a statement on the company’s website. “His death is a deep loss to me personally, and will be felt by all those in the international community who shared his commitment to bringing about a more civil and decent world order.”

For more: Padoa-Schioppa, Euro Architect, Founding Member of ECB Board, Dies at 70 - Bloomberg


Spain overtakes France as Europe's high-speed rail leader

Spain will hurtle past France as Europe's high speed rail leader on Sunday when it opens a 6.6-billion-euro line from Madrid to Valencia, banking on a boost to the economy.

The 438-kilometre (272-mile) route will slash travel time between the Spanish capital and the Mediterranean port of Valencia, Spain's third-biggest city, from four hours to just 90 minutes.The project, built at a cost of 6.6 billion euros ($8.8 billion), brings Spain's high-speed rail network to 2,056 kilometers.

It places Spain ahead of the 1,896 kilometres of high speed rail in France and 1,285 kilometers in Germany, home to Siemens, the world's largest manufacturer of high-speed trains. Spain's high-speed train service, known as Alta Velocidad Espanola (AVE), boasts trains with noses shaped like a duck-billed platypus moving at speeds of up to 300 kph (190 mph).

For more: Spain overtakes France as Europe's high-speed rail leader | The Manila Bulletin Newspaper Online

France, Germany, U.K., others urge EU budget freeze

Britain, France, Germany, Finland and the Netherlands called on Saturday for the EU budget to be frozen until at least 2020, in a joint letter to the European Commission.

The letter, addressed to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, said that the European Union's joint budget should not grow faster than the rate of inflation in the bloc's post-2013 long-term budget. "European public spending can not be exempted from member states' considerable efforts to get their public spending under control," the letter, which was released by the French presidency, said.

The EU's 27 countries will start talks in mid-2011 on the long-term budget, which runs from 2014 until 2020 or longer.

For more: France, Germany, U.K., others urge EU budget freeze

Agreement at EU summit " fails to reassure markets"

European leaders meeting in Brussels have set up a permanent emergency fund to help debt-laden countries, and have agreed to rewrite some of the bloc's rules in a bid to shore up the value of the euro.

"We will do everything to secure the financial stability of the euro as a whole," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a news conference after a European Union summit.

She added that reform and stability will remain on the euro zone's agenda next year as the bloc fights to secure the single currency and make its economies more competitive.

Note EU-Digest: Markets reacted negatively, because as a result of new regulations and laws coming into effect in Europe they are obviously losing the grip they once had on national economic policies.

For more: Agreement at EU summit fails to reassure markets | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 17.12.2010


Obeisity: Eating in front of your pc makes you fat - by Nick Farrell

Eating in front of your computer is likely to make you fat, according to a small study conducted by the University of Bristol.

Jeffrey Brunstrom of the University of Bristol in the UK told Reuters Health that eating lunch parked in front of a computer boosts a person's appetite for dessert. In a study of 44 hungry men and women, researchers found that those who ate lunch while playing a computer game ended up eating more cookies 30 minutes later than those who'd had their lunch without distractions.

Apparently the problem was that the computer users had a fuzzier memory of their lunch and felt less full afterwards. The study suggests that distractions like computers and TV muddy our memories of mealtime, which in turn may have real effects on appetite.

For more: Eating in front of your pc makes you fat- The Inquirer

Netherlands: Snow brings chaos across Europe

Heavy snowfall has caused travel chaos across swaths of Europe as the Christmas holiday exodus got under way. Retailers faced disruption of supplies to their stores on Friday in the middle of the seasonal shopping rush and numerous airports across the continent were forced to close.

In Germany, the worst travel problems were caused in North Rhine-Westphalia, where snowfalls of up to 40cm were reported in some areas between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. Sections of the motorway network had to be closed, after lorries were abandoned on the roads.

Heavy snow also caused major disruption in the Netherlands, leading to the closure of Schiphol airport near Amsterdam, which had expected to process about 125,000 travellers on Friday at the start of the Christmas break.

Several motorways were also closed following “complete chaos”, according to a motoring organisation. Amsterdam suspended all bus services, and the rail network has also been severely disrupted.
The national weather institute issued a warning in the afternoon, calling on people to avoid unnecessary travel.

For more: / Europe - Snow brings chaos across Europe

Happy Meals cause McDonald’s Lawsuit

Healthy eating habits have been a much debated issue in the United States for some time now. More and more Americans are trying to lead a healthy life style in order to prolong their life and keep away food related diseases. In an attempt to eliminate unhealthy food or the so called junk food from children’s lives, the Center for Science in the Public Interest Files has filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s. Mc Donald’s Happy Meals have been under constant attack from nutritionists during the years but never went to court until now. The Center is accusing McDonalds’s of using toys inside Happy Meals to draw more children into unhealthy eating.

For more: Happy Meals cause McDonald’s Lawsuit | World News Heard now

Euro Gains as EU Reaches Accord, German Business Sentiment Rises

The euro rose against the dollar for a second day after European Union leaders agreed to create a mechanism to contain future debt shocks and German business confidence unexpectedly climbed.

The euro gained versus 15 of its 16 most-traded counterparts even as Moody’s Investors Service cut Ireland’s credit rating. The yen headed for a weekly loss against most of its major peers as Asian stocks advanced. The Swiss franc traded at a record versus the common currency.

The EU summit result “sets the stage for further consolidation, such as cross-border guarantees” between member states’ debt, said Geoffrey Yu, a foreign-exchange strategist at UBS AG in London. The agreement “is not negative for the euro. If they had downgraded Ireland to junk right now I don’t think it would make too much of a difference, because the country is already shut out of markets anyway.”

For more: Euro Gains as EU Reaches Accord, German Business Sentiment Rises - BusinessWeek


Merkel, Juncker Divisions Threaten EU Meeting

After some very public sparring matches among European Union (EU) leaders over the best ways to tackle the ongoing debt crisis, those leaders claimed to have resolved their disagreements on Thursday prior to their debt crisis summit.

Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, has said that she and Jean-Claude Juncker, chair of the euro zone’s finance ministers, had a discussion that settled their disagreement on the issue of euro bonds.
Merkel is opposed, while Juncker has suggested that such common-issue bonds might help to ward off investor unease. According to a Reuters report,

Merkel said in an interview published on Thursday by Germany’s Bild newspaper, “Jean-Claude Juncker and I had a long telephone conversation and cleared up the issue a while ago. With so much at stake, the emotions sometimes get involved.”

For more: Merkel, Juncker Divisions Threaten EU Meeting | Advisor One

The Africa-EU Partnership - a new model for development aid?

The European Union launched its Joint Africa-EU Strategic Partnership with the African Union in 2007 in order to "move beyond the traditional donor-recipient relationship" and work together with African nations as equals to promote more sustainable and long-term development with a central focus on the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

The 3rd Africa-EU Summit opened in Tripoli last week with a speech by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi urging European heads of state to strike fairer trade policies with African countries that are based on "mutual interest not exploitation". Gaddafi's words echo concerns by African leaders that calls from the EU for developing countries to liberalise their economies and open their markets to European goods and services will damage emerging local industries and are too one-sided.

Last month, the European Commission (EC) launched a Green Paper outlining proposals of how it aims to improve the impact of its development policy. The Green Paper notes that a mere one per cent increase in developing countries' gross national income can be more effective than simply increasing aid to those countries and an impartial trade policy can be equally beneficial. Calls have already been mounting from NGOs such as CIDSE for the EU to reform its Common Agricultural Policy in order to give goods produced in the developing world fairer and more competitive access to global markets and to allow local African industries to thrive.

For more: Los Angeles Chronicle | The Africa-EU Partnership - a new model for development aid?

Al Queda threatens Christmas "terror" in Europe and US

Insurgents captured in Iraq have reportedly claimed that Al Qaeda terrorists are planning suicide attacks in the US and Europe over the Christmas period.

Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari said Iraq has alerted US and European authorities as well as Interpol about the suspected plots. He did not specify which European country or countries are facing potential danger - and it was also not possible to verify the insurgents' claims.

However, Western counter-terrorism officials generally are on high alert during the festive period. This time of year is particularly in focus after the failed attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called underwear bomber, who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009.

Europe aims to shield the euro for good

European leaders meet Thursday to set up a permanent financial rescue fund to calm markets for good and turn the page on a roller-coaster year marked by Greek and Irish bailouts and fears for Spain.

European Union heads of state and government hold a two-day summit -- their seventh and last of the year -- amid persistent concerns that Portugal and even wealthier Spain could tumble into the debt crisis that has rocked the euro.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to silence fears of a eurozone break-up, telling lawmakers on Wednesday: "No one in Europe will be left alone, no one in Europe will be abandoned."

For more: AFP: Europe aims to shield the euro for good


Wall Street’s gravy train of bonuses starts at a ‘measly’ $250,000

Industry big-wigs are crying poor while still on track to scoop up more than most working stiffs could hope to earn in our entire lives.

Bankers like Jamie Dimon — described by Roger Lowenstein in a recent New York Times magazine profile as America’s least hated banker (a backhanded compliment if ever there was one) — believe they are being unfairly targeted. They obviously aren’t listening to the rest of the world. A recent poll shows more than 7% of Americans think big bonuses should be banned at Wall Street firms that took taxpayer bailouts.

The European Union has unveiled stringent new rules to rein in bonus payouts. This side of the Atlantic, Barack Obama blasted them as fat-cat bankers.

But in the US there is no sign that banking will spontaneously change its ways and even less sign that the authorities can come up with a measure that would force banks to act, even if there was a political will to do so.

Envronment: BP Sued by Obama Administration Over Worst Oil Spill

The Obama administration sued units of BP Plc and four other companies, saying they violated environmental laws in the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The lawsuit, filed today in federal court in New Orleans, is the first brought by the U.S. over the oil spill caused by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in April. The Justice Department’s civil investigation is continuing, as is a probe of potential criminal violations.

The lawsuit seeks damages under the Clean Water Act and to declare four of the defendants liable under the Oil Pollution Act for all removal costs and damages caused by the oil spill, including damages to the environment, according to a Justice Department statement. The lawsuit doesn’t ask for a specified amount of damages.

For more: BP Sued by Obama Administration Over Worst Oil Spill - Bloomberg

France: 400-year-old head is Henri IV say scientists

An embalmed head that has passed between private collectors for more than 200 years is that of King Henri IV of France, British scientists have confirmed.

The scientists used a variety of techniques, including forensic and genetic tests, to identify the head, according to a report published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal.

Scientists said the head had been preserved excellently, "with all soft tissues and internal organs well conserved."

For more: CBC News - Technology & Science - 400-year-old head is Henri IV: scientists

US - Opportunities For European Alternative Energy Equipment Manufacturers and Suppliers: Offshore wind forum welcomes skeptical audience in Maine - by Abigail Curtis

Fishermen, whale watch captains, environmentalists and others came together yesterday at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast, Maine for a conference on offshore wind energy that was designed to help them get the information necessary to join the dialogue about wind development off the Maine coast.

About 160 people came to the conference, according to organizer Heather Deese, marine programs director at the Island Institute. Maine Sea Grant, the Maine Coastal Program, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences and the Quebec-Labrador Foundation also helped to make the event happen.

The conference was timely, some attendees said, because offshore wind power development is just beginning to become a reality in Maine. Researchers are preparing to develop a test site with scaled-down turbines that will be located off the southern shore of Monhegan Island. Also, state and federal officials have suggested that large deep-water wind farms in the Gulf of Maine could generate a total of 5 gigawatts of electricity, bring $20 billion in investment and create several thousand new jobs here by 2030.

Note EU-Digest: Offshore electricity generating wind-power projects in Maine and at other US coastal areas provide considerable opportunities for European offshore wind-power equipment manufacturers to cooperate with local governments, given their advanced knowledge and extensive experience on the subject.

Click here for additional information on arranging partnerships related to alternative energy resources, including wind power, bio and solar energy.

For the complete article:  Offshore wind forum welcomes skeptical audience - Bangor Daily News

Germany - Angela Merkel: "A stronger politically united Europe goes hand in hand with a stronger EURO "

In a speech to the lower house of the German parliament German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced today that European Union leaders are ready to approve a plan to create a permanent rescue shield for the euro zone when they meet in Brussels later this week.

Merkel said the bloc's leaders would back a deal struck last month by EU finance ministers, who agreed to create the European Stabilisation Mechanism (ESM) that is intended to replace a temporary mechanism from mid-2013.

Merkel stressed Berlin's commitment to help its European partners but again rejected the idea of issuing joint euro bonds. "We know that the euro is our collective destiny, and Europe is our collective future," Merkel said. "Nobody in Europe will be abandoned. Europe will succeed together."  However, for the European project to work, countries needed to pull in the same direction, she added. "This is about deeper political integration, and in relation to the euro, above all deeper integration on economic policy," Merkel said. "That's why it's so important that we speak about further political integration over the next few months."

To underpin the new mechanism, Germany has pressed for small changes to the EU's treaty, which Merkel said she hoped would be formally signed off by the bloc's leaders in March. These should then be ratified across the EU by 2012 in order to dispel any doubts that a permanent mechanism would be in place the following year, Merkel said.



Italy: Clashes in Rome after Berlusconi wins vote of confidence

Protesters set cars alight and hurled cobblestones at police in chaotic scenes in central Rome after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi won a crucial confidence vote in parliament.

Berlusconi won with a razor-thin majority, as 314 politicians voted in his favour with 311 against and two abstentions in the 630-seat Chamber of Deputies lower house.

Police fired tear gas and hit protesters with truncheons in some of Rome's most tourist-heavy streets. At least five protesters were seen being taken away by police and several could be seen with blood running down their faces.

For more: Clashes in Rome after Berlusconi wins vote of confidence

Car Industry: Electric Arrivals: First Chevy Volts Ship, Renault /Nissan Leafs Delivered - by Adam Hadhazy

The Volt ( top) and the Leaf (bottom) , the two highly touted electric vehicles from major automakers General Motors and Renault/Nissan, respectively, have officially left the assembly line and are out in the world.

Renault/Nissan delivered its first Leaf to a customer in San Francisco last weekend, and other early adopters are getting their hands on the all-electric vehicle's steering wheel this week in San Diego, Calif.; Arizona; Oregon; Tennessee, and Washington.

Meanwhile, the first batch of Chevy Volts rolled out of a Detroit plant on Monday for shipment to customers in California, New York, Texas and Washington, D.C. Some 350 Volts will be distributed throughout the country this week, GM said in a statement.

For more: Electric Arrivals: First Chevy Volts Ship, Renault/ Nissan Leafs Delivered | Electric Vehicles & Hybrid Cars | Tech News Daily

Auto Industry: Electric cars: towards a European oil-free future

The topic of electric car use in Europe was recently discussed in depth during the science, technology and economics of running Europe without oil, ninth annual lecture by the European Parliament’s Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) unit last Tuesday.

Speakers set out various options, from fleets of electric cars with changeable batteries, to replacing oil with methanol, but agreed that there is no single answer and that all possibilities should be seriously considered.

At present a small, low carbon dioxide emission petrol or diesel car probably releases the same or even less carbon dioxide emissions than an electric car. So the change from efficient fossil-fuel cars to electric cars will not bring about a drastic reduction in CO2 emissions in the short- and medium- term, said.

For more click on INDEPENDENT online

Soccer - the Netherlands - Inter consider bid for Feyenoord "wonderkid" Luc Castaignos

Inter are considering making a move for Feyenoord teenager Luc Castaignos, according to reports emanating from the Netherlands.

NUsport claims that last week the Nerazzurri sent a delegation led by the club's technical director Marco Branca to negotiate terms with his counterpart Leo Beenhakker and the player's agent Arie Treffers. The Serie A club will reportedly launch a bid for the 18-year-old striker after their participation in the Club World Cup.

If Inter are successful in their bid, then they will farm out Castaignos on loan back to Feyenoord to continue his development.

For more: Inter consider bid for Feyenoord wonderkid Luc Castaignos - report -

Israel: Terrorism: Can you really stop a bomber by asking, 'Are you terrorist?' - by David Rose

The security checks at Ben Gurion, Israel's main international airport near Tel Aviv, are intense. But they are surprisingly discreet. There are no groups of armed police patrolling through the concourses (though if necessary, of course, they will appear very rapidly).

The new intrusive body scanners that reveal naked bodies beneath clothing - recently introduced in America amid passenger resentment - are not in use. Instead, Ben Gurion's critical line of defense consists of polite, highly trained agents, most of them women. Fluent in several languages, they will speak to every passenger while they wait to drop their luggage or check in. 'We operate on the principle that it's much more effective to detect the would-be terrorist than try to find his bomb,' says a senior Israeli o fficial.
Ben Gurion's system is costly and labour-intensive. 

Last month, I waited more than hour queuing to see a selector; and while Ben Gurion handles about 11 million passengers per year, to introduce it at Heathrow in Britain, which has six times as much tra ffic, would bring the place to a halt. On the other hand, it works. The last attack at Ben Gurion - the juiciest airport terrorist target in the world - took place in 1972, and that was in the arrivals area, when three members of the Japanese Red Army armed with grenades and machine guns killed 24 after getting off a flight from Rome. No plane leaving Ben Gurion has ever been hijacked or blown up. >Until very recently, Ben Gurion's terrorist, not the bomb' approach has required human beings to operate it. But now, using machines that at first sight seem straight from science fiction, it can be automated - and in the process, greatly speeded up.

'The system you have in Europe and America is bull****. Unless you adopt an approach that actually works, whatever technology you care to use will make little difference. The terrorists will always be one step ahead,' says Rafi Sela, a top Israeli security consultant. Through his firm, AR Challenges, he is in charge of marketing the automated Israeli method to Europe and America as a complete package - what he calls Trust Based Security, or TBS. 'How many times in the history of aviation have the scanners and security procedures that currently cause such huge anger and inconvenience actually found explosives in baggage or on a passenger?' Sela asks. The answer, shockingly, is zero.

For more: Terrorism: Can you really stop a bomber by asking, 'Are you terrorist?' | Mail Online

Is the US on the verge of class warfare? - by Pamela Powers

Republicans are engaged in a class war against the rest of America. This is an insurrection by the wealthy elites against 98% of their fellow American citizens… Republican insurrectionists are holding our government hostage in bad faith for purposes of extortion. President Obama acknowledged the criminality of Republicans during his press conference last Tuesday when he said:“I’ve said before that I felt that the middle class tax cuts were being held hostage to the high end tax cuts. I think it’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage takers unless the hostage gets harmed. Then, people will question the wisdom of that strategy. In this case the hostage was the American people and I was not willing to see them get harmed.”

This is why so many Americans across the ideological spectrum from the liberal left to the far-right Tea Party were so furious over the bailout of the banksters of Wall Street. These gangsters who turned Wall Street into a criminal syndicate of casino capitalism threatened to destroy the world’s financial system and economy if they were not rescued by the U.S. government. The government paid the ransom and thus rewarded their criminally irresponsible behavior in the interest of preventing collateral damage to the gangsters’ “hostages,” the American taxpayer, who ultimately are paying their own ransom.

For more: Is the US on the verge of class warfare? - Tucson Progressive

OECD: Modest recovery underway in Europe

Following a severe recession and a sovereign debt crisis, Europe is now experiencing a modest recovery, according to the latest euro area economic survey by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. However, the OECD said that risk to the euro zone remains and further structural reforms are needed to facilitate on-going economic adjustment and lift growth prospects.

In its latest survey of the 16 nations that share the euro, the OECD said a “gradual and sustained recovery” is underway but that “the pace of recovery is likely to be muted”.

For more: Modest recovery underway in Europe - OECD - Economy - Economy | Ireland's online business and management news service -


Aircraft Industry: EADS confident A400M will be a success

European defense giant EADS is confident it can turn around its troubled Airbus A400 military transporter program by selling up to 500 of the planes.

"We see a broad global market of 400 to 500 aircraft with good chances for this aircraft to turn profits in the long term," the company's Chief Finance Officer Hans-Peter Ring told the Germany-based Euro am Sonntag weekly.

For more: EADS confident A400M will be a success -

Greek Fin Min: Euro Zone Will Emerge From Crisis Stronger

-The Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said Thursday that the euro zone will come out of the crisis stronger than ever.

"Europe will rise to the challenge even if it has delayed at times in taking action until the last minute and I am totally convinced it will exit the current crisis," Papaconstantinou said at a conference.

The finance minister said that there are three critical discussions currently taking place in Europe and these include reinforcing framework agreements to monitor public finances, regulatory reform of the financial system and the need to adopt policies for growth.

For more: Greek Fin Min: Euro Zone Will Emerge From Crisis Stronger -

Berlusconi in struggle to survive vote - by Guy Dinmore

Italy’s politicians have started scrambling for votes ahead of a parliamentary session next week that could bring an early end to Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition even as his allies insist that the government has enough support to survive.

“We are convinced we have the numbers in both houses,” Maurizio Gasparri, Senate leader of the prime minister’s People of Liberty party, said on Tuesday.
For more: / Europe - Berlusconi in struggle to survive vote

Amazon says outage in Europe due to hardware failure, not hacking attack

Amazon says that the outage which made its UK, Italian, German and Spanish sites unavailable for about half an hour on Sunday night was due to a hardware failure, and not an attack by online activists angry at its stance on WikiLeaks.

"The brief interruption to our European retail sites earlier today was due to hardware failure in our European datacenter network and not the result of a DDOS attempt," a spokeswoman for Amazon told Reuters. The different countries' sites are all served through systems there.

Amazon was among the first American companies to stop providing services to WikiLeaks when it took the site off its EC2 cloud computing service at the end of November. That followed political pressure in the US, though Amazon insisted the decision was because WikiLeaks did not have the rights to the content.

For more: Amazon says outage in Europe due to hardware failure, not hacking attack | Technology |


Amazon European Sites Down: Is there a link with WikiLeaks?

If you are trying to buy some of those all important gifts for Christmas right now via Amazon, and you live in Europe you will encounter a problem.

Currently at the time of writing all of the online retailer’s sites in Europe are inaccessible. Twitter is awash with the news, with speculation that WikiLeaks supporters Operation Payback could have something to do with the downtime.

For more: Amazon European Sites Down: Is there a link with WikiLeaks? : Online Social Media

Serbian FM to Be Sacked over Nobel Peace Prize Boycott

Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vuk Jeremic is to be removed from his position by PM Boris Tadic after intra-party elections following Saturday, reports Serbian agency Blic.

Citing "sources close to the cabinet," Blic writes that one of the reasons behind that move is Jeremic's allegedly self-willed decision to back the China boycott of 2010's Nobel Peace Prize award. That action had not been consulted with the cabinet and ran counter to its intentions.

In October the Nobel committee had announced that Chinese dissitent Liu Xiaobo, who is under detention in his country, would be this year's holder of the peace prize.

For more: Serbian FM to Be Sacked over Nobel Peace Prize Boycott - Report - - Sofia News Agency

US Financial Sector: "Merry Christmas: It's Bonus Time On Wall Street" - by Danny Schechter

'Christmas has a special meaning on Wall Street: It's bonus time. Never mind the rise in unemployment and foreclosures. Never mind the folks waiting to know if they will get the benefits they need before they are cut off. Never mind the growing gap between rich and poor, and the continuing spread of poverty. Did you know that inequality in the USA is at the highest level of any industrialized country?

Just five" too big to fail "bankster companies" have stashed $90 billion for payouts to prized employees. They know that the beat on The Street is fading, so it seems to be take the money and run time. Incidentally, that "bonus pool" will rise with end of the year earnings.

Right now, the greedsters have a PR problem--how to transfer all this wealth from the banks to themselves with the lowest possible tax rate and the lowest degree of bad publicity. Yes, it is a cynical exercise but no more blatant that the successful campaign to extend the Bush tax cuts for millionaires. They also will try to focus the media on supporting their right to such over the top rewards and "incentives" in the name, of course, of fostering an economic recovery.'

For more: OpEdNews - Article: Merry Christmas: It's Bonus Time On Wall Street