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Dutch Government's Future at Stake in Provincial Polls This Week

The future of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's minority coalition may be in doubt if he and his Freedom Party supporters fail to win a majority in the upper house of parliament through provincial elections this week.

Rutte's government of Liberals and Christian Democrats relies on an agreement with Geert Wilders's anti-Islam Freedom Party for its majority in the lower chamber. The coalition has lacked one in the upper house in The Hague since taking office in October and needs to gain control to ensure it can push through planned legislation including budget cuts.

"This Cabinet is ideologically finished if it doesn't get a majority in the upper house," Andre Krouwel, who teaches political science at VU University in Amsterdam, said in a telephone interview. "Although it can depend on its lower-house majority, it will be paralyzed, and that makes it uninteresting for the Freedom Party to back it.

Netherlands: Wilders Continues Hate Campaign Against Immigrants and Muslims

In an interview with Dutch news channel, Right Wing Freedom Party (PVV) leader Geert Wilders has said that the PVV’s ideas are striking a chord with increasing numbers of people across Europe.

Mr Wilders spoke of an unstoppable ‘anti-Islam’ wave. “We are having our own little revolution down here,” he said.

Mr Wilders believes that some of the measures he wants to take in collaboration with the ruling Dutch coalition will eventually be introduced across Europe. Some critics say many of the current cabinet’s intended measures are in violation of European legislation. However, Mr Wilders argues that many people in other European countries support the measures.

Note EU-Digest: Wilders comments might be music to the ears of other short sighted nationalistic bigots like himself, but reality demands that instead  a revolution should be unleashed in Europe against people like Wilders. In fact his comments are not only racist and discriminatory against people from different origins, with customs and religions other than those of the indigenous population, but they are also an anti-dote against everything the EU stands for.


Israel: Netanyahu: Can't ignore pressure over settlements

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says international pressure against construction in West Bank settlements cannot be ignored, indicating that building could be curbed.

Netanyahu spoke to party members in the parliament Monday, after the U.S. vetoed a Palestinian-backed resolution in the U.N. Security Council calling the settlements illegal.

Netanyahu said: "We are trying to maintain existing construction, but we must understand that we are facing a very difficult international reality," suggesting that new projects might not be approved.

For more: Netanyahu: Can't ignore pressure over settlements |

Why Liberals Love Trains - by George F.Will

"Generations hence, when the river of time has worn this presidency’s importance to a small, smooth pebble in the stream of history, people will still marvel that its defining trait was a mania for high-speed rail projects. This disorder illuminates the progressive mind.
Remarkably widespread derision has greeted the Obama administration’s damn-the-arithmetic-full-speed-ahead proposal to spend $53 billion more (after the $8 billion in stimulus money and $2.4 billion in enticements to 23 states) in the next six years pursuant to the president’s loopy goal of giving “80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail.” “Access” and “high-speed” to be defined later.

To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they—unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted—are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.
Time was, the progressive cry was “Workers of the world unite!” or “Power to the people!” Now it is less resonant: “All aboard!”

Note EU-Digest: What rubbish and paranoia about collectivism .If it takes to be a Liberal to enjoy the convenience of efficient Public Transportation like we have in Europe ( including trains) most of us will gladly vote liberal.. Its all a question of free choice. If you like to drive a SUV or use Public Transportation the choice should be up to the individual based on what he can afford. Government responsibility towards its citizens, which includes free choice, should not be eliminated because of political economic doctrine.

Unfortunately what conservatives in America and Europe have been trying to do, is to eliminate these free choices by transferring their social responsibility to maintain adequate public services to the private sector. Unfortunately as has been proven many times, the private sector will always argue that these services are not cost effective. They say this because when they take over any former public service they consider it a profit center and can scrap it if it provides too low a return on their investment.

Consequently, as a result of these policies, the US has a crumbling infrastructure, inefficient public transportation system, outmoded educational system, dysfunctional public health services, and a financial system which has run amok.... but mind you, the US does have the best military in the world, and surprise, surprise, higher ( not lower) corporate taxes than Europe..... 
For some reason it seems both the Democrats and Republicans have a problem in figuring out how to come to grips with this, or what their priorities should be to cut that bigger than life 14 trillion (and rising) public debt. They, including George F.Will, can't keep blaming Europe for all these woes....

For more: Will: Why Liberals Love Trains - Newsweek

Middle East:: Demanding equal rights in Bahrain

Abdul Amir Al-Basri looks sullen and defeated, with a deep black bruise below his right eye, a large bump on the top of his head, and further evidence of police mistreatment on his right hip and ankle.

A driver for the Almoayyed Group, one of Bahrain's biggest conglomerates, Al-Basri missed at least one week of work, as he was detained in Hod Al-Jaf prison on the island of Muharraq near the airport. He says he spent four days there, along with two other detainees who were also picked up on the morning of February 17, when Manama police raided peaceful protesters camped out at Pearl Roundabout. Authorities accused Al-Basri, 37, of monitoring the security services on behalf of the protesters. He admits to being an informal organiser for the anti-government demonstrators who occupy the symbolic heart of the city. But he denies that he was spying on the police. His case is illustrative of tensions that were significantly inflamed by last week's clashes.

Al-Basri has suffered worse brutality than most Bahrainis who side with the opposition. But his case is representative of the gripes that predominantly Shia anti-government protesters harbor against Bahrain's ruling clique.

For more: Demanding equal rights in Bahrain - Features - Al Jazeera English

Libya: EU agreeson fresh sanctions

The European Union has agreed to slap an assets freeze and travel ban on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and 25 members of his family and inner circle.

European Union's diplomatic chief Catherine Ashton told a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that the bloc would impose further restrictions on Libya very soon, noting that violent repression in the north African country "shocks our conscience."
She said the EU sanctions might include "an embargo on equipment which might be used for internal repression."
Libya: EU agrees fresh sanctions - Telegraph

People Protests in China - the Virus Is spreading - Chinese premier promises action on inflation - by Daniel Bardsley

Rampant inflation in China threatens social stability, Premier Wen Jiabao, warned yesterday, as scores of police were deployed in the country’s two largest cities to quell scheduled protests.
With prices increasing at up to double-digit rates, especially for key commodities, Mr Wen acknowledged in an online question-and-answer session the risk of public unrest.

Shortly after he made his comments, scores of police were deployed in Wangfujing street, the capital’s main shopping area a few hundred yards from Tiananmen Square, after online calls for protests modeled on those that have toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt and caused turmoil in Bahrain and Libya.

While there was no obvious sign of protesters, uniformed and plain-clothes officers blocked or pushed away camera crews and journalists. The police filmed those who had congregated.

For more: Chinese premier promises action on inflation - The National


UN: EU and Israel clash over Arab-Israeli conflict and EU oppose Jewish settlements on occupied territory

Speaking at a press conference, Hungarian foreign minister Janos Martonyi, representing the rotating EU presidency, said the "dramatic changes and regional instability" make progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks "more imperative and more urgent than ever before. "Time is pressing, for both parties. The EU wants to help as much as it can with direct or indirect talks, and the parties can't avoid discussing the core issues," he added.

When pressed by Brussels-based journalists on Israeli settlement-building on occupied Palestinian land, seen by the EU and the Palestinians as a major obstacle to talks, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said this is a "prejudiced view".

The EU in 2009 froze a proposed upgrade of its relations with Israel, in part due to the Israeli bloody attack on the densely-populated Gaza strip and in part due to settlements. Last week, all four EU members of the UN Security Council - France, Britain, Portugal and Germany - backed a Palestinian resolution denouncing the settlements as illegal. Washington vetoed the measure.


How Europe Can Help the Revolutions in the Middle East Succeed - by Michael Elliott

All revolutions have their own distinct trajectories, and any attempt to locate what is happening in the Middle East within the framework of what has gone before will get us only so far. Still, history has some useful lessons. The first is, when revolutions happen, tolerate messiness. No revolution moves neatly from the streets to a peaceful, stable, new dispensation.

Europe has a special responsibility here. The E.U. is the Arab Middle East's close neighbor and natural market. (In 2009, Egypt's trade with the E.U. was more than three times as valuable as that with the U.S.) If you're Tunisian, Algerian or Moroccan, you want to emigrate to Paris, not Pittsburgh. These are soccer societies, not baseball ones.

True, Europe has found it awfully hard to make a grand gesture to its Muslim neighbors. It has vacillated on E.U. membership for Turkey. And it's closing its doors to immigrants. But three years ago, French President Nicolas Sarkozy made much of the benefits that would come from a Mediterranean community that linked north and south. Like many of his ideas, it was a bit grandiose, and it has so far got little traction within the rest of the E.U. That doesn't mean it was wrong.

Iran reformers 'abducted' by security forces

Two of Iran's main opposition leaders and their wives are said to be in grave danger after security forces apparently abducted them from their homes, where they were under house arrest.

The claim, by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, indicates a serious escalation in the Iranian government's effort to silence the opposition movement that grew out of protests over the disputed presidential election in June 2009.

One of the missing politicians is Mir Hossein Mousavi, who ran for president in the 2009 election against the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr Ahmadinejad was declared the winner despite widespread charges of irregularities in the voting. The other is Mahdi Karroubi, a former Speaker of the Iranian parliament, who also ran on a pro-reform platform in the election.

For more: Iran reformers 'abducted' by security forces - Middle East, World - The Independent

'Kill Switch' Internet bill alarms privacy experts - by Jon Swartz

A raging debate over new legislation, and its impact on the Internet, has tongues wagging and fingers pointing from Silicon Valley to Washington, D.C.

Just as the Egyptian government recently forced the Internet to go dark, U.S. officials could flip the switch if the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset legislation becomes law, say its critics. Proponents of the bill, which is expected to be reintroduced in the current session of Congress, dismiss the detractors as ill-informed — even naive.

The ominously nicknamed Kill Switch bill is sure to be a flashpoint of discussion at the RSA Conference, the nation's largest gathering of computer-security experts that takes place here this week.

The bill — crafted by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; and Tom Carper, D-Del. — aims to defend the economic infrastructure from a cyberterrorist attack. But it has free-speech advocates and privacy experts howling over the prospect of a government agency quelling the communication of hundreds of millions of people.

For more: 'Kill Switch' Internet bill alarms privacy experts -

Gerald Celente discusses Internet kill switch and Obama’s new budget - by Donna Anderson

Gerald Celente, the #1 trends forecaster in the world, founder of The Trends Institute, and publisher of The Trends Journal was the guest on Alex Jones' show on Thursday, Feb. 17. Celente has been forecasting world wide trends since 1980 and accurately predicted trends such as the “Panic of '08,” the collapse of the Soviet Union, the 1997 Asian currency crisis, the dot-com debacle, and the last two recessions.

When Celente was asked where he sees the U.S. in the next few years, Celente said it's hard to say if there will be revolts in this country like those in Egypt because the American people see through the hypocrisy and won't let government officials get away with it. Celente did say, however, that he feels we're on the doorstep of the first great war of the 21st Century. Food prices are increasing around the globe now and Celente feels we'll see uprisings around the world as the 'little people' get squeezed more and more. “We’re going to see the end of the retail Christmas….we’re going to see a fundamental shift take place….putting food on the table is going to be more important that putting gifts under the Christmas tree,” said Celente, adding that the situation would be “worse than the great depression”.

Celente feels the government will have to resort to more covert measures to control the American people. For example, Obama's new budget calls for a $78 billion cut in the defense budget. But what they're neglecting to tell everyone is that that $78 billion cut is spread out over 5 years. And over that 5 year time period, when you take inflation into consideration, according to Celente, they're actually increasing defense spending.

Celente believes the government will use this increased defense allowance to amass weapons and apparatuses that will control any dissent among the people. Citing a Feb. 15 article in the USA Today titled, Kill Switch Bill Alarms Privacy Experts, Jones says the government has already begun taking steps to control an uprising. They've openly stated that they want to be able to shut down the Internet and they're getting ready to launch a false flag using either a terrorist alert or the threat of war as an excuse to flip the kill switch.

Searchlight poll finds huge support for far right in Austria, Holland and France 'if they gave up violence": by Mark Townsend

Huge numbers of Britons would support an anti-immigration English nationalist party if it was not associated with violence and fascist imagery, according to the largest survey into identity and extremism conducted in the UK.

A Populus poll found that 48% of the population would consider supporting a new anti-immigration party committed to challenging Islamist extremism, and would support policies to make it statutory for all public buildings to fly the flag of St George or the union flag.

The poll suggests that the level of backing for a far-right party could equal or even outstrip that in countries such as France, the Netherlands and Austria. France's National Front party hopes to secure 20% in the first round of the presidential vote next year. The Dutch anti-Islam party led by Geert Wilders attracted 15.5% of the vote in last year's parliamentary elections.

EU-Digest: the presently "faceless" European Commission is largely to blame for this kind of self centered attitude in some, if not most of the EU member states. By not showing face or just providing lip service to various issues of direct interest to all citizens in the EU it has become an abstract and costly bystander instead of being seen as a unifying force. EU citizens can be made to feel proud about their union, not only by telling them what the economic benefits are, but also if they see their representatives in Bruxelles tackling "real issues" instead of agreeing to everything the "big brother" across the Atlantic tells them to.  In other words "Nationalism on a Pan-European scale" is required to unify the citizens of the EU.

For more: Searchlight poll finds huge support for far right 'if they gave up violence' | UK news | The Observer

Stock Market Shares Ready to Tumble: History tells us that a surge in fuel costs makes a US recession likely - by Liam Halligan

Ever since the early 1970s, every single time oil prices have spiked sharply (rising by 80pc or more), regular as clockwork the US has entered recession. Given America's massive influence on worldwide economic sentiment, the past five global recessions have all come in the wake of sharp jumps in the price of crude.
Only 8 months ago, oil was trading close to $65 a barrel. Last Thursday, Brent crude momentarily skimmed $120, up 17pc in a week, before stabilising at $112. If oil climbs above $120 again, and stays there, it would be 80pc above where it was in June 2010. We'd then have a bona fide oil-price spike, the sixth since the early 1970s, which suggests a US recession would follow.

No wonder US stocks are now under pressure. The S&P500, having enjoyed three straight weeks of gains, fell 2pc on Tuesday alone, contributing to the sharpest weekly drop in three months.

For more: History tells us that a surge in fuel costs makes a US recession likely - Telegraph

Spain's tourism sector gets boost from Arab revolts

Spain is getting a boost to its hugely important tourist industry as northern European sunseekers shun popular resorts in Egypt and Tunisia because of anti-government uprisings there.

The country has struggled in recent years to compete with beach destinations in Egypt's Red Sea and Tunisia's Mediterranean coast which are cheaper and of a similar flying distance from its key markets like Germany and Britain.

But since the unrest sweeping the Arab world began in Tunisia in early January, tourists have been changing their travel plans, and Spain, especially the Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco, has been one of the main beneficiaries.

For more: AFP: Spain's tourism sector gets boost from Arab revolts


Middle East: Attack shuts down Iraq's biggest oil refinery - by Stephanie McCrummen

Gunmen shot their way into Iraq's largest oil refinery early Saturday, setting off explosions that forced the facility to shut down for at least two weeks, officials said. The refinery produces gasoline for cars and fuel for power plants, and a prolonged shutdown could cause major headaches for the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, already under pressure from a gathering protest movement demanding better services.

For more: Attack shuts down Iraq's biggest oil refinery

Europe's zero doctrine - by José Ignacio Torreblanca

Today the European Union, instead of seeking a doctrine to respond to the Arab revolutions, is tiptoeing around them. This non-doctrine has neither name nor substance. It has no name because of a glaring lack of leadership at all levels: in the capitals, where leaders are casting edgy glances as they try to avoid being the first to place the wrong bet on change, and in Brussels, where Ashton has not wanted to risk a thing. This crisis could have been a chance for Ashton to invent herself, but the Baroness has accepted with total submission her fate as a mere spokesperson for what the EU27 can unanimously agree on as best they can. There’s not going to be any Ashton Doctrine if things go on like this.

Nor is there any substance to this non-doctrine, because our leaders want everything for nothing: protest without disturbances, influence without interference, condemnation without sanctions, help without risk, participation without paying in. And on top of it all, in keeping up the hypocrisy that has guided the union’s behaviour till now, the leaders do not even bother to hide the fact that what really worries them are refugees and energy prices. Like the miracle of Coke with neither sugar nor caffeine, Europe has launched the Zero Doctrine: changes, for nothing in return.

For more: Europe's zero doctrine | Presseurop (English)

France puts Gaddafi accounts under surveillance

France has placed all bank accounts belonging to Libyan leader Muammer Gaddafi and members of his inner circle under surveillance, the finance ministry department responsible for money laundering said Saturday.

All financial institutions have been asked to report any suspicious accounts, the Tracfin department said.

For more: France puts Gaddafi accounts under surveillance

Turmoil in Libya causes headache for EU economy

An escalating turmoil in Libya is causing a headache for the European Union (EU) economy by pushing up oil prices and stoking inflation fears in the 27-nation bloc.

U.S. crude oil price briefly crossed 100 U.S. dollars a barrel on Wednesday, hitting the triple digits for the first time since October 2008 amid concerns that chaos in Libya, the world's 15th biggest oil exporter, could disrupt supplies.

It was expected that world oil prices would remain at high levels for the time being, which abruptly increased inflation risk in the EU and may force central banks in Europe to raise interest rates sooner than later.

For more: News Analysis: Turmoil in Libya causes headache for EU economy

Human Rights: China trims its list of death penalty crimes and exempts over-75s - by Gillian Wong

China banned the death penalty for people over 75 and for a dozen non-violent crimes yesterday in a largely symbolic gesture unlikely to reduce the annual toll of executions. The Communist regime executes more people than any other nation, and critics claim that too many crimes remain punishable by death.

However, experts said the move was unlikely to significantly reduce executions, since people convicted of those crimes in the past have rarely received the maximum penalty and capital punishment can still be used to punish offenses such as corruption in the economic sphere.

"The big obstacle, I think, is corruption. Because there still is a very strong sense that corrupt officials must die among the Chinese population at large," said Joshua Rosenzweig, the research manager for the US-based human rights group, Dui Hua Foundation.

For more: China trims its list of death penalty crimes and exempts over-75s - News

Petroleum Industry: Venezuela risks shooting itself in the foot causing more problems for the oil industry

There are more problems on the horizon for the oil industry and its coming of all places from Venezuela.

One of Venezuela’s major problems has been that Mr Chávez’s has been pillaging the state oil firm PDVSA. It is now run loyal supporters of the regime, starved of investment and income used for social spending of the Government, cutting its output from 3.3m barrels per day (b/d) in 1998 to around 2.25m b/d today, according to industry estimates. Of that, some 1m b/d is sold at subsidized prices at home or to regional allies, like Cuba, Suriname and others, leaving just 1.25m b/d for full-price exports.

If this keeps going on Venezuela will not be able to pay his countries debts and causing the bond markets to fear for the solvency of the world’s eighth-largest oil producer.


Crises in the Balkans: While you were watching Egypt...

observers have noted that some of the protestors that brought down Egypt's president used the clenched-fist logo of Otpor, the well-organised, foreign-financed civic resistance movement that helped topple Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Parts of the Serbian press, notes Florian Bieber, an academic who works on Balkan affairs, have claimed that former Otpor activists helped train some of the opposition groups. 
With the world's attention on the Arab world, the political instability gripping much of the western Balkans has largely been ignored. Yet so serious is the unrest here—including mass demonstrations in Belgrade, Tirana and Skopje—that one diplomat told me his country’s foreign ministry had asked him if he thought that Egypt-style revolution might sweep northwards into the Balkans. (His answer was an emphatic “no”.) 

For more: Crises in the Balkans: While you were watching Egypt... | The Economist


NATO boss calls for emergency summit over Libya

Speaking at the informal session of EU defense ministers in Hungary, NATO Secretary General Rasmussen highlighted the importance of evacuation and the opportunities to provide humanitarian aid. “It is too early to go into details, but NATO has numerous means through which it can take action in similar situations,” he said.

On Thursday, Rasmussen envisioned steps, such as introducing a no-fly zone over Libya and he also did not discard the possibility of military action in the North African nation.

The European Union is also closely monitoring developments in Libya, Hungarian Defense Minister Csaba Hende said in his opening address of the meeting. At the same time he reminded that the NATO agreement does not allow direct military involvement. The Northern Atlantic alliance or the EU could only intervene upon a specific request from the United Nations, he said.

Speaking at an informal session of EU defense ministers in Hungary, he highlighted the importance of evacuation and the opportunities to provide humanitarian aid. “It is too early to go into details, but there are numerous means through which the EU and NATO can take action in similar situations,” he said.

For more: NATO boss calls for emergency summit over Libya situation | The Budapest Business Journal on the web |

After approving tanker contract with EAD, US Government reverses earlier decision in favor of Boeing: Europe dismayed by Boeing’s tanker win

Governments and unions across Europe reacted with dismay on Friday to news that Boeing beat EADS to the euro26bn (US$35bn) US tanker bid to provide 179 new tanker planes for the US Air Force.

EADS, the rival bidder in the contest, a European aircraft consortium which produces the highly successful and technically advanced Airbus aircraft, already had won the bid in 2009, when Boeing contested the awarded contract.
( Picture insert: the Airbus tanker already operational in several countries}

The German government described the decision as a “missed opportunity to deepen the transatlantic partnership”. Peter Hintze, parliamentary state secretary responsible for the aerospace industry at Germany’s economy ministry and a close political ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel noted: "that it left a “bitter taste” about whether the procedure “was conducted with the transparency that the participants could expect.”

In France, home to a large EADS factory in the southern city of Toulouse, trade unions were still reeling from the news, which overturned rumours in previous days that EADS was the favorite to win the contract.

“It’s a disappointment for us because EADS worked hard to introduce a plane that was much better than the Boeing one,” said Jean-Bernard Gaillanou of the CFDT union, which represents EADS employees.

In Britain, the government was equally unhappy at the outcome. “We are disappointed that the EADS North America solution was not selected,” a spokesperson for the Department of Business Innovation and Skills said. “Airbus’ strengths have already generated orders from three other nations for the A330 tanker."

The European Commission also expressed its disappointment.

The question one has to ask is at which point the EU is finally going to figure out that the Atlantic Alliance between the US and the EU only works when the results benefit the US and that they should act accordingly. After all, charity starts at home, also for the EU.



Afghanistan: "There is no plan"

The United States is at risk of blowing over $11 billion on building facilities for the Afghan military because of waste and poor planning, according to the special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction.

This revelation came in testimony this week before a congressional commission that is looking at U.S. spending in Afghanistan.

According to Arnold Fields, the outgoing special inspector general who has audited various projects in Afghanistan, the money spent on construction of facilities for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) is at risk for three reasons: first, "lack of a comprehensive plan"; second, the projects audited to date are "seriously behind schedule"; and third, "it is not clear how Afghanistan is going to be able to provide the operations and maintenance required to sustain any of these investments without continuing financial support from the United States after the current operations and maintenance contract expires in 2015."

For more: "There is no plan" - War Room -

Financial Industry Under Pressure: Equity markets stirred-up as 'peak oil' fears grow amid Libya crisis

Oil prices spiked near the US$120 mark this morning amid the escalating crisis across North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

While Libya's Muammar Gaddafi 'bunkered down' and the country's civilian uprising stepped up a gear, the oil prices have soared, and should the 'unrest contagion' continue to spread throughout the oil producing region, crude prices are expected to keep pushing higher.

Setting aside the political and humanitarian issues, the escalating crisis poses an intriguing dichotomy for investors. On one hand the uncertainty is something of a dark cloud hanging over what had looked like a bright, albeit early, recovery for equity markets. Also the threat of rising costs - from disrupted supply routes, and higher fuel costs - compound lingering fears over inflation.

For more: Equity markets stirred-up as 'peak oil' fears grow amid Libya crisis - Proactiveinvestors (UK)

Egypt: But who now speaks for citizens? (analysis)

In the aftermath of Egypt's recent uprising, which led to the ouster earlier this month of longstanding president Hosni Mubarak, a number of groups have emerged under the banner of what has come to be known as the 25 January Revolution.

The sudden proliferation of these movements has raised the contentious question: who now speaks for the Egyptian people?
"No single political trend can claim to speak on behalf of the revolution," Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mohamed Saad Kitatni said on February 18, in the first-ever appearance by the group (which was officially banned under the Mubarak regime) on Egyptian state television. "All segments of the Egyptian public participated in the uprising, and it was this broad-based participation that ensured its success."

In the absence of parliamentary representation and a working national charter, meanwhile, several groups - most of them youth-oriented - have stepped up to fill the political void. The most widely recognised of these is the 25 January Youth Coalition, formally established on the first day of the uprising.

The coalition is comprised of several political youth movements, including Freedom and Justice, 6 April, the Youth Campaign for Mohamed ElBaradei, and Young People for Change. It also includes the youth wings of several opposition groups and parties, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Karama Party, the Wafd Party, the Ghad Party, the Tagammu Party and the Democratic Front Party.

"Legitimate authority does not derive from (Egypt's) 1971 constitution," the coalition declared in a statement issued shortly after Mubarak's ouster. "Legitimate authority now derives from the 25 January Revolution."

For more: Egypt: But who now speaks for citizens? (analysis) - Norwegian Council for Africa

Euro zone sentiment up, inflation expectations also grow

The European Commission's monthly survey showed on Thursday that economic sentiment in the 17 countries using the euro rose to 107.8 this month, a 41-month high, from a revised 106.8 in January. Economists polled by Reuters expected a 106.8 February reading.

Sentiment gained in all sectors of the economy, most markedly among builders, consumers and in the services sector.

"Today's data confirm that an acceleration of GDP growth in the first quarter of the year is likely after the relatively poor performance recorded in Q4 2010," said Clemente de Lucia, economist at BNP Paribas.

For more: Euro zone sentiment up, inflation expectations grow | Business | STV News

Environment: Deeper emissions cuts would pull Europe out of economic mire - by Will Nichols

More demanding greenhouse gas emissions targets would help spur Europe's economic recovery, rather than damage the bloc's prospects as some critics have claimed.

That is the conclusion of a major new study released yesterday by Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), which predicts upping the bloc's mandatory emission reduction target from 20 per cent to 30 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 would increase European investment levels from 18 per cent to around 22 per cent of GDP.

The report claims that by 2020 the additional investment would help create up to six million extra jobs and increase GDP by up to €620bn, compared to the current target. It concludes that far from exacerbating the economic downturn, "post-crisis Europe can revitalize its economy by tackling the climate challenge".

For more: Deeper emissions cuts would pull Europe out of economic mire - 22 Feb 2011 - News from BusinessGreen

The American Union Movement: "We're Broke," Say the Rich, and the Poor Must Pay - by Glen Ford

"The American union movement may be headed for its Waterloo, a final debacle that could occur in Republican-ruled Wisconsin, but might just as easily happen at some later date in Democrat-governed New York. The social compact that unionists must forge in order to survive the desperate struggle with capital has always been skin-thin, ever vulnerable to shredding by issues of race, or issues that can be made to appear to be racial. This fatal U.S. labor weakness is capital's great American asset -- the source of the GOP's popular base -- second only to money, itself. In 2011, the union movement has been successfully niggerized, the ultimate American form of demonization.

Racism is the salvation of late-stage American capitalism. For hundreds of years, real facts of human existence have been routinely turned on their heads, and non-facts accepted as ultimate truths, all to justify white supremacy. A society so afflicted can believe literally anything. Thus, the Republicans achieve wondrous success by planting the words "We're broke" in the mouths of men and women who are transparently rich, and who in turn serve the interests of the super-rich.

"We're broke" seems to be the universal Republican talking point, spoken everywhere the rich and their minions gather. It's how House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh) justifies his party's draconian cuts that could lead to a federal shutdown before spring. This governmental brokenness coexists with December's Obama-GOP two-year, $850 billion tax giveaway, 40 percent of which goes to the top five percent of income earners, while 25 percent will go to the top one percent, according to the United for a Fair Economy."

For more: OpEdNews - Article: "We're Broke," Say the Rich, and the Poor Must Pay

Middle East: Arab revolt makes Turkey a regional power - by SONER ÇAĞAPTAY

One of the unexpected consequences of the unrest in the Middle East is the elevation of Turkey’s role in the Middle East, making Ankara a potential regional power.

On Feb. 8, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, Ashraf Abdel Ghaffar, said in Istanbul that he was taking refuge in Turkey, where he will remain until the demonstrations to remove Mubarak from power succeed. Mr. Abdel Ghaffar then praised Turkey, referring to the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP’s, political role, and said that his movement considers the AKP to be a model for Egypt after Mubarak. And on Feb. 10, Turkish media quoted Abdel Ghaffar as saying that “there might be dialogue” between the Muslim Brotherhood and the AKP.

These developments and the AKP’s recent comments against Mubarak make Ankara a de facto protector of the Muslim Brotherhood, a potential powerbroker in post-Mubarak Cairo. More importantly, it provides Turkey with access to hitherto unimaginable power in the Egyptian capital.

For more: Arab revolt makes Turkey a regional power - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review

Middle East: Europe scrambles to untangle its deep ties to Kadafi - by Henry Chu

Several nations in Europe, Italy in particular, nurtured a close relationship with the Libyan dictator in recent years in pursuit of lucrative business interests. Kadafi's crackdown on protesters now puts the Europeans in a tight spot.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi ardently pursued the approval of Libyan strongman Moammar Kadafi in a relationship that has been a pillar of Italian foreign policy. Flattering him has been key to Italy's continued access to Libya's oil and gas supplies — worth billions of dollars — and to keeping Libyan refugees away from Italian shores.

The 2009 visit was Kadafi's first to Italy, so Berlusconi pulled out all the stops, allowing him to pitch a tent in the middle of a park in Rome and arranging a party for him attended by hundreds of Italian women. After Kadafi left, Italy's place as Libya's No. 1 trading partner seemed secure. But two years later, Kadafi's brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters has put Berlusconi in an awkward position and embarrassed Italy and other European nations that have eagerly embraced Libya's despotic leader with an eye to trade possibilities and his country's abundant natural resources.

Many of these nations stand accused of naivete at best and greedy opportunism at worst in their willingness to accept that the onetime pariah had changed. Despite little evidence that Kadafi was easing his grip on power or allowing political reform, several European nations busily strengthened their ties with Libya and pursued lucrative commercial interests in recent years, even as they continued to profess lofty ideals of promoting democracy and human rights.

"The speed with which Europe turned its back on him after he ordered his troops to shoot at his people says nothing good about us," the Portuguese newspaper Publico wrote this week. "It only confirms our reverence for money and our scant regard for the freedom of others."

For more: Europe, Libya, Moammar Kadafi: Europe scrambles to untangle its deep ties to Kadafi -

Libya: More than 4,600 Chinese evacuated from Libya: FM

A total of 4,600 Chinese nationals have been evacuated from Libya so far as of Thursday morning, China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement today.
More than 4,000 left the riot-torn north African state on today on two Greek ocean liners, which were chartered by the Chinese embassy in Greece, said the statement.

The "Hellenic Spirit" and "Olympic Champion" left Benghazi, Libya's eastern port and second-largest city, at 7 a.m. Beijing time (2300 GMT, Wednesday) and were expected to arrive at the port of Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete at about 8 p.m. Beijing time (1200 GMT).

For more: More than 4,600 Chinese evacuated from Libya: FM


Why Saudi Arabia can no longer temper oil prices - by Jeff Rubin

With no functional spare capacity left in OPEC, any significant supply disruption in the region could easily see prices spike and test the $147-a-barrel mark set in 2008, just before the crippling global recession.

Once speculators start challenging the mythology of Saudi spare capacity, they will invariably squeeze the market.

But the real danger from the Middle East is not the risk of temporary supply disruptions, or the speculative betting that it will encourage. It is that we lose sight of the levels that oil prices had climbed to even before this latest crisis began, and the basic supply-and-demand forces that pushed them there.

We are now living in a world of triple-digit oil prices. The massive changes this will compel won’t be limited to regime change in the Middle East.

For more: Why Saudi Arabia can no longer temper oil prices - The Globe and Mail

Middle East: Governments scramble to deal with anti-government protests across Arab world

A summary of Wednesday's developments in the Arab world, as instability and anti-government protests inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia spread in the region.

For the summary: The Canadian Press: Governments scramble to deal with anti-government protests across Arab world

Airline Industry: Oil price spike also affecting airlines - is this true or price gouging ?

On Monday, American, Continental, United and U.S. Airways increased their round-trip prices by $20 to $60. Delta Airlines was the last of the major airlines to hold-out in changing their prices, but ended-up joining in the change on Tuesday.

Note EU-Digest: this is a questionable move since most airline companies lock into long term fixed contracts on fuel purchases. This certainly smells of price gouging.

For more: Oil price spike also affecting airlines |

France urges EU sanctions on Libya

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has called on the European Union to impose sanctions against Libya following a violent crackdown on anti-government protesters. "I call on the foreign ministry to propose to our European Union partners the swift adoption of concrete sanctions so that all those involved in the ongoing violence know that they must assume the consequences of their actions," he told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. "I would also like to be examined the suspension until further notice of economic, commercial and financial relations with Libya."

Sarkozy condemned the "brutal and bloody repression" of those protesting against the 42-year rule of Muammer Gaddafi, Libya's leader, and said the international community "could not remain a spectator".

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has also said she would be in favour of sanctions against Libya if it did not halt the use of violence against its own people.

For more: France urges EU sanctions on Libya - Europe - Al Jazeera English

Iranian Comedy At Its Best: Ahmadinejad condemns killings in Libya

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday condemned the killings of protesters in Libya and called on Libya's leaders to respect the people's will. 'Instead of killing people, listen to them,' Ahmadinejad said on the news network Khabar without however mentioning strongman Moamer Gaddafi by name.

'How is it possible that a state leader uses bombers, tanks and canons to kill his own people and again warn that whoever says something will be killed,' he added.

For more Iranian Comedy: Iran's Ahmadinejad condemns killings in Libya - Monsters and Critics


EU Frontex starts joint operation in the Mediterranean - Malta to provide aerial and expertise assets

EU special border forces Frontex has been given instructions to start preparing for a possible unprecedented influx of immigrants and asylum seekers fleeing Libya towards the EU, particularly through Malta and Lampedusa. The EU has raised its concern about the possible exodus of more than 700,000 Libyan citizens and sub-Saharan Africans from the country towards Europe as a result of the turmoil.

( photo insert Eurofighter)

Frontex stated that “as with all Frontex-coordinated Joint Operations, the host Member State – Italy - will play the leading role. All maritime assets and crews will be provided by the Italian authorities and will patrol a predefined area with a view to detecting and preventing illegitimate border crossings to the Pelagic Islands, Sicily and the Italian mainland.”

Aerial assets will be made available by other Member States for enhanced border surveillance and search and rescue capability will support these sea patrols. Meanwhile, second-line border control will be supported through the deployment of debriefing and screening experts to identify migrant’s nationalities and to gather intelligence on people-smuggling networks. Further support may also be made available in the area of return operations.


US Economy: "It’s time to stop deceiving ourselves about the budget" - by Dr. Erik Steele

A recent Pew Research Center survey of Americans’ attitudes about reducing the federal budget found a significant majority of us want to increase spending on Medicare and education. About half of us want increased spending for defense and the unemployed. The majority of us also want no increase in our taxes. When you add up all of what we want it’s also clear what we don’t want — reality.
As a result, we and our leaders have suckered ourselves into a vicious cycle of denial about what it really takes to cut deficits, a cycle that is swirling us ever faster around the national drain. We punish politicians for telling us the ugly truth, so they fail to tell us the ugly truth. Then we don’t hear the ugly truth from enough of our political leaders to start accepting it and support efforts to address it.

That cycle must be broken and there are some in politics and elsewhere who are trying. Last November President Obama’s bipartisan Fiscal Commission released its co-chairs’ recommendations for eliminating the federal budget deficit over the next 10 years. It tackled defense spending, Medicare, Social Security, subsidies we all get from the government in the forms of mortgage and health insurance premium tax breaks and much more. The recommendations were so tough that a majority of the commission’s political members ran for cover while talking about less painful options.

For more: It’s time to stop deceiving ourselves about the budget — Maine Opinion — Bangor Daily News

Egypt seeking debt relief from European Union

Egypt has asked Britain for its support in seeking debt forgiveness from Europe, the Finance Ministry said Tuesday, in the latest push to boost an economy bruised by weeks of protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

Finance Minister Samir Radwan also said in a statement that the current government's immediate priorities center on helping Egyptians directly affected by the 18 days of protests, as well as enacting quick measures that could boost the economy.

The protests that led to Mubarak's ouster after nearly 30 years in power ravaged Egypt's economy, forcing banks to close, businesses to shut down and banks and the stock market to halt operations. The bourse on Tuesday further postponed the resumption of trading until next week, not specifying a date.

For more: The Associated Press: Egypt seeking debt relief from European Union

Europeans wanting to flee Libya violence are unable to use evacuation flights - EU and Turkey or UN could temporarily take-over Benghazi Airport?

Several European countries are sending planes to evacuate their citizens from strife-torn Libya as continuing violence threatens economic projects.

Italy, Greece and the Netherlands are sending transport planes to Libya to get their citizens out.  Austria and Portugal have already done so while airports were still open.

Most of the evacuation aircraft are now sitting on runways in Europe, because it's now nearly become impossible to use air transport since runways at Benghazi airport have been destroyed in the anti-government uprising and the Tripoli airport is hardly functioning because many flight controllers have not shown up for work.

The time has probably come for the EU and Turkey, or the UN, if they can get their act together, to temporarily take military control of the Benghazi Airport to fly expats out instead of waiting while the situation worsens.


Google Maps ignites Dutch border dispute with Germany

Google Maps has reignited long-running border tensions between a northern German city and the Netherlands after reportedly handing over Emden's port to the Dutch by mistake.

The online mapping program shows that much of the Lower Saxon port city of Emden’s waters belong to the neighbouring Netherlands, daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday. For more than a year, the Emden city council has been trying to get back its harbour, most of which Google Maps places under Dutch sovereignty.

The German officials claim the border between the two countries should run through the Dollart – a bay between the northern Netherlands and Germany on the west side of the Ems River estuary. The exact location of the border running through these waters has been disputed for centuries, but even these differing perceptions grant Emden its harbour.

For more: Google Maps ignites Dutch border dispute - The Local


The Netherlands: Chinese banks and builders may get role in Almere route

Investment bank NIBC is considering involving Chinese banks and civil engineers if it wins contracts to build new roads, tunnels and bridges between Amsterdam and Almere, the Financieele Dagblad reports.

NIBC is one of a number of groups planning to compete for contracts in the €1.5bn project which the government is currently preparing to put out to tender. ‘If we win the contract, bringing in Chinese expertise is an option. The Chinese are fast, efficient and have proved they can build well,’ CEO Jeroen Drost said in an interview with the paper.

NIBC already has contacts with the Beijing Urban Construction Group and a number of banks, the paper says.

Note EU-Digest: since the Netherlands is a member of the European Union, and given the crises on the local job market in the Netherlands and around Europe, one would hope that whoever wins this bid will first look at local contractors, followed by contractors from EU member and  associated EU member applicant states, before looking at China.

For more: - Chinese banks and builders may get role in Almere route

British PM in Egypt for Junta Talks

British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Egypt on Monday, 21 February, for talks with military rulers and opposition figures, becoming the first foreign leader to visit the country after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. “I am particularly keen about being able to get to Egypt and to be one of the first people there.”

The British premier is due to hold talks with defense minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who leads the ruling military council that is running Egypt. He will also meet with the caretaker Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafiq and opposition groups.

Part of Cameron’s agenda will be a call for the lifting of emergency law, which has been in place for more than three decades, a British official accompanying Cameron said.

For more: British PM in Egypt for Junta Talks - Africa - News -

Can Europe Rescue a Shackled Obama? - by Patrick Seale

"In the Greater Middle East -- that vast stretch of territory from the Maghreb to Pakistan – the United States has been exposed as a paper tiger. It has failed to have the slightest impact on the tidal wave of popular protest that has engulfed the region. This is one of the most striking features of the political tsunami that has already destroyed two Arab regimes and is shaking the foundations of several others. 

America’s European allies have watched with growing anxiety Washington’s irrelevance in the face of the raw expression of ‘people power’ in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Iran, Jordan, Iraq, Algeria -- and who knows where next? European leaders are busy taking note. But what are they to do? Is there any way they can help correct America’s mistakes or fill the current vacuum? The European Union has so far failed to grow into a coherent political power, but some individual leaders in major European countries are waking up to the challenge posed by American impotence.

The second burning problem is the collapse of the Arab-Israeli peace process. For decades, the United States monopolized the process on the grounds that it alone had the necessary influence with both sides. The Europeans agreed to play second-fiddle. They funded the hapless Palestinians but were denied any political input into the negotiations. 

There is a growing realization that Europe must act, if only to protect itself."

Click here for the complete report from Middle East On Line

Unrest sweeps into Morocco as Britons urged to avoid Libya

Morocco is the latest nation to be affected by political unrest sweeping north Africa. Thousands of people have marched in Moroccan cities to demand that King Mohammed VI give up some of his powers. Protestors have been out in the streets of the capital of Rabat and Casablanca while another was planned for Marrakech.

Note EU-Digest: In a recent interview with France 24, Prince Moulay Hicham, a cousin of King Mohammed VI, said Morocco was not immune to popular uprisings currently sweeping the region and expressed his support for the planned peaceful protests on Feb. 20. Inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the movement has used social media to spread the word about the protests and has recently published several videos of young men and women from different regions and social classes expressing their demands and aspirations.

Moroccan historian and former palace spokesman Hassan Aourid has thrown his weight behind the planned peaceful protests, calling for a change to a constitutional democratic monarchy, such as that in the UK, Spain, or in other democratic countries. It is reported that there are more than 30,000 civil society groups in Morocco with some having more members than political parties.
For more: Unrest sweeps into Morocco as Britons urged to avoid Libya -

EU eyes tougher line on Libya despite Gaddafi threat

European Union foreign ministers on Monday called on the bloc to take a tough line with Libya, with Luxembourg's foreign minister saying the bloc could not allow itself to be 'blackmailed by such a regime'.

'Snipers have been sent in to shoot people who were attending a funeral or expressing their free opinion that they want more voice in the running of the country ... It cannot be that we have to cooperate with a regime that shoots its own people,' said Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn.

'We all know Gaddafi, and you should not put anything past Gaddafi. Anything can happen and I understand fully the concerns of countries such as Italy and Malta,' Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said. 

For more: EU eyes tougher line on Libya despite Gaddafi threat - Monsters and Critics


Jasmine Revolution: China police break up 'protests' after online appeal

Police in China showed up in force in several major cities after an online call for a "jasmine revolution".

Calls for people to protest and shout "we want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness", were circulated on Chinese microblog sites.

The message was first posted on a US-based Chinese-language website.

For more: BBC News - China police break up 'protests' after online appeal

Libya: Benghazi falls to revolution as troops defect

Libyan army unit members in Benghazi told residents they had defected and "liberated" Libya’s second city from troops supporting veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi. Mohamed al-Mana, a local lawyer told Reuters that members of the “Thunderbolt” squad had arrived at the hospital with soldiers wounded in clashes with Gaddafi’s personal guard. “They are now saying that they have overpowered the Praetorian Guard and that they have joined the people’s revolt,” al-Mana reported by telephone.

In Brussels, the Hungarian EU presidency said Libya had told the European Union it would stop cooperation with the bloc in stemming illegal migration to Europe if the EU continues to encourage pro-democracy protests in the country. Foreign reaction to the unrest in Libya, a major energy producer with significant investment from Britain's BP Plc, Exxon of the United States and Italy's ENI among others, has so far been muted.

Benghazi, 620 miles east of Tripoli, has always been a bastion of opposition to Gaddafi's 40-year regime, with residents complaining they have seen little of Libya's wealth from the largest oil riches in Africa.

A son of the Libyan leader, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, went on TV early Monday morning promising a program of reforms after bloody protests against his father's rule reached the capital Tripoli.


Netherlands - Freedom of Speech - Queen Beatrix censored by Geert Wilders of the PVV ( Party of Freedom)

Dutch Queen Beatrix's annual Christmas speeches to the Nation are heavily censored, says theologian and poet Huub Oosterhuis, who is a friend of the Queen. Oosterhuis expressed concern in the popular television program Blue Blood that in her 2010 Christmas speech, the Queen had voiced concern about today's social polarization and political tensions in Dutch society, but was stopped from being more explicit by Geert Wilders' chairman of the anti-Islam PVV 'Freedom Party'.

The interview in the program 'Blue Blood' took place after Mr Oosterhuis and the Queen jointly opened a new multi-religious and cultural center in Amsterdam.

Mr Oosterhuis described the Queen as "a kindred spirit, regarding concern, civility, solidarity, respect and tolerance. That is what her speeches are about, unfortunately that is also what the present Dutch right-wing cabinet objected to, in particular the PVV of Wilders", he added.

When asked a spokeswoman for the Government Information Service declined to comment on Mr Oosterhuis' allegations.



Middle East: The blame game has started in the West - by Sreeram Chaulia

After every major foreign policy catastrophe in the contemporary history of the United States, the blame game goes around as to who "lost it'.

Post Mortems of events that generate a crisis for American overseas interests essentially go along two opposing lines. The first one is technical, which involves dissecting the minutiae of why the nation's assortment of spies did not provide accurate advance information so that the dreaded outcome could have been occluded or at least hedged against.

The second one is political, which asks why American interests were poorly defined and executed by the highest office holders in power when the realities on the ground were clearly headed towards a shocking denouement that would set back US influence in a country or region for decades.

The current self-introspection in the wake of the overthrows of pro-American despots in Tunisia and Egypt fit neatly into this dualistic framework. The US intelligence community is finding itself under a heap of brickbats from politicians and hindsight-equipped pundits for turning a blind eye to signs of the popular mobilization and protests that have toppled two solid US allies already and threaten to scalp some more in a hurry.

Note EU-Digest: Case in point in reference to the the above report can be found in an editorial written yesterday by KT McFarland, a Fox News National Security Analyst, who served under the Ford and Reagan Administrations and who wrote former Defense chief Weinbergers "Principles of War speech" in 1984. In this recent article for Fox News she commented: "if the dominoes fall away from us, we could be locked into a clash of civilizations of biblical proportions between the democratic West and a radical Islamist Caliphate bent on spreading Sharia law throughout the world. If the dominoes fall toward us, we could see a flowering of freedom, development and economic opportunity throughout the region, and a golden era of peace and prosperity throughout much of the world. The stakes could not be higher. That’s why it is crucial that the United States do everything in its power to help the dominoes to fall in its own direction. While the outcome is up to the Egyptians … and Tunisians … and Libyans … and Iranians … there is much we can do to help their efforts along. There is no turning back the clock. To bemoan the stability those autocratic regimes once offered Israel and the U.S. is like crying over spilled milk. We need to get over it and move on. America cannot change the past, but it can affect the future."

Ms. McFarland is living in the past. The US is not in the same position it was ten years ago and has very little power to influence how the dominoes will fall. What they can do and which is much more effective is that the US and the EU openly announce their withdrawal of all support, including military, from every despotic regime in the Middle East and that they state that aid will not be resumed unless those regimes start immediate discussions with pro-democratic forces, followed by fair and free elections. That is the way to go. If not, Russia and China, now sitting on the sidelines (both with regimes which can not be classified as Democratic), will take the West to the cleaners.

For more: Asia Times Online :: Middle East News, Iraq, Iran current affairs

US Economy: Soros Says Obama `Has Lost Control of the Agenda' - by Kate Andersen Brower

Billionaire investor George Soros said Democratic President Barack Obama “has lost control of the agenda” on the U.S. economy, leaving it “now in the hands of the Republican Party.”

Republicans “are going to pursue a very strong effort to cut services by refusing to have any tax increases,” Soros said in an interview with CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” program.

“I think this agenda will be successful,” though it will be “more directed at cutting services and achieving the ideological purposes of the Republicans rather than to get the economy going,” Soros, 80, said, according to excerpts of the interview released by CNN. “I think this will have a negative impact on the economy.”

For more: Soros Says Obama `Has Lost Control of the Agenda' - Bloomberg


Europe: After the Great Recession, the Great Regression - by Paul Taylor

After the great recession, Europe has embarked on a great regression.
Wages, pensions, unemployment insurance, welfare benefits and collective bargaining are under attack in many countries as governments struggle to reduce debts swollen partly by the cost of rescuing banks during the global financial crisis.

Unlike bankers and bondholders, the European social model is being given a haircut — a light trim in Nordic countries, but a brutal short-back-and-sides in some others. The rollback of wages and social benefits is toughest in Greece, Ireland, Romania and Latvia, which are implementing bailout programs designed by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. “The messages are the same: Cut wages — public sector wages, minimum wages — reduce benefits and raise retirement ages, and also reduce employment protection in certain countries,” Mr. Monks said.

Under the banner of fiscal sustainability, Europe’s mostly center-right governments are unwinding some cherished gains of the era of social progress that began after World War II, at the price of widening inequality.
Emerging countries like China and India achieved competitiveness through low wages, no collective bargaining, little or no health care and social insurance, and disregard for the environment in exploiting resources and production. “The question for Europe is: Do we emulate that model?”, said Mr. Papandreou the Greek PM in Davos. “Because what we are seeing is on the one hand a race to the bottom at the level of the middle and working class, and at the other end a race to the top.”

For more: After the Great Recession, the Great Regression -

As Oil prices rise on Mideast turmoil - Wall Street acts like an Ostrich

The North American benchmark price for oil headed for its first weekly gain in three weeks on Friday, as continuing turmoil in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen made traders worry that supplies might be disrupted.

March light sweet crude rose $1.04 to $87.40 US a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at mid-morning. The uncertainty caused by the Middle East events was seen gaining importance ahead of Monday's Presidents' Day U.S. holiday.

"With a long weekend ahead of them, traders were concerned that they could return on Tuesday to a world that could conceivably be changed from the one left behind," said analysts at U.S. energy consultancy Cameron Hanover.

From the Middle East to Wisconsin - the party is over...

Following their 18 day struggle which ended with the toppling of President Mubarack, the Egyptian people clearly showed they had enough with high unemployment, the listless growth of the country, the transfer of wealth to the top one percent of the Egyptian population, the excessive power of the corporate world, and the gluttony of the leadership!

If this sounds familiar, it is! The only difference between Egypt and other parts of the world is the number of band-aids available and a media not doing its job in exposing the unsustainable problems that are showing up everywhere. But change is coming. People are getting very agitated for having to pay the bill for the reckless behavior of the financial community and the lack of Government "supervisory" efforts, for which they were elected,  to curb these excesses when they became apparent. Consequently recent Government moves to austerity  in Europe were seen as unfair, resulting in public demonstrations in Greece, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

But this is only the beginning. There certainly will be more demonstrations and violence to come all around the globe, for they all indirectly relate to many of the same "deficiencies" that are now violently coming to the surface in the Middle East. This week the unrest even showed up, of all places, at Madison, Wisconsin, in the US, where thousands of state employees marched on the capitol to protest austerity measures imposed by the new Republican Governor, Scott Walker. Among the measures, slashing workers benefits and busting the public employee unions, despite the $100 million in concessions state employees had already given to help the state's budgetary shortcomings. Governor Walker even called in the National Guard, fearing union members' outrage, and threatening to have the National Guardsmen take over their jobs.

As US states like Wisconsin, Illinois and others attempt to balance government shortfalls by raising taxes, reducing pay, and vacating promises of retirement and health-care on the backs of the middle-class, there is no doubt, these demonstrations will increase and accelerate.

Not one country in the world is immune against this Tsunami of People Power that is engulfing the Globe. Even Americans are finally awakening to the realization that their country has become a combination of a plutocracy and oligarchy; run by a corporate-congressional complex. Like Abraham Lincoln said: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time". The party is over....



Dutch Court Rules Turkish Citizens Can Enter Without Visa

A Dutch court has ruled that Turkish citizens could enter Netherlands without visa, Turkey's Anadolu News Agency reports Wednesday.

District Haarlem Court heard a case filed by Turkish businessman Cahit Yilmaz two years ago and ruled that Turkish citizens could enter Netherlands without visa and they could stay in the country up to three months without residence permit.

Yilmaz who did not have visa and he was not allowed to enter Netherlands at Schiphol Airport. The court made the decision on the ground of Ankara Agreement that was signed between Turkey and EU in 1963 and Article 41 of the Additional Protocol.

For more: BERNAMA - Dutch Court Rules Turkish Citizens Can Enter Without Visa

Bahrain protests - advice for British nationals

Demonstrations and sporadic outbreaks of violence are continuing across Bahrain and may continue in the coming days.

Travel on the highways is severely restricted, and for the time being we are advising UK residents and UK travellers to Bahrain to avoid traveling around the island unless essential; to maintain a high level of security awareness particularly in public places and on major highways; and to avoid large gatherings, crowds and demonstrations.

For more: Bahrain protests - advice for British nationals

Freedom of Speech: China warns U.S. on push for Internet freedom

China on Thursday warned the United States not to use calls for uncensored access to the Internet as a pretext to interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu made the comment at a regular briefing when asked about Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's speech on Internet freedom on Tuesday.

Clinton said the US administration would spend $25 million this year on initiatives designed to protect bloggers and help them get around curbs such as the Great Firewall of China, the gagging of social media sites in countries including Iran and Egypt's recent unsuccessful attempt to thwart anti-government protests by pulling the plug on online communication.

It is the second time since becoming America's top diplomat that Clinton has criticized Internet censorship in China in a major address about online freedom. After her first speech on the issue in January last year, China issued a stinging response, accusing Washington of damaging relations between the two countries by imposing its "information imperialism" on China.

China has the world's largest Internet market, with 457 million people online. The communist government promotes Internet use for business and education, but uses extensive controls, popularly known as the "Great Firewall," to block access to material considered subversive or pornographic.

Note EU-Digest: the Internet is a universal communications tool and an integral part of what is also known as "freedom of speech". Basically this means the right for citizens of any country to express any opinion in public without censorship or restraint by the government, and the corresponding right to experience anybody's expressions in public without censorship or restraint by government. The fact that some countries have chosen to apply censorship tools, including those on the usage of the Internet within their own domestic environment, unfortunately shows its leadership does not adhere to the basic principals of human rights.

For more: China warns U.S. on push for Internet freedom - CTV News

Middle East: Anti-government protests spread in Libya and Bahrain: Malta's MEP Casa, Busuttil urge EU to show solidarity

As life in Tunisia and Egypt gradually gets back to normal, political turmoil has, however, spread to Libya, the country long ruled by Muammar al-Gaddafi, with hundreds of Libyans taking part in anti-government protests clashing with security forces early yesterday morning in Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city.

Italy yesterday declared a humanitarian state of emergency and appealed to the EU for aid after over 5,000 illegal immigrants arrived in the space of five days on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Maltese MEP David Casa was one of the speakers during Tuesday night’s heated debate held with the European Commissioner on Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on the urgent situation in Italy. In a passionate speech, Mr Casa said: “The events of the last few days are a Mediterranean tragedy. The EU has not been listening to our calls – the solidarity of which you speak has simply failed to materialise.

“If Lampedusa overflows with migrants and transfers some of them to Sicily or Italy – God forbid these people came to Malta – we cannot extend Malta nor can we turn it into some massive prison.

For more: INDEPENDENT online

Clashes spread in Bahraini capital

Armored vehicles are seen on the streets of Manama after police storm protest site in roundabout early this morning, killing at least three.

For more: Clashes spread in Bahraini capital - Middle East - Al Jazeera English


ESA: Ariane 5 Sends ATV 2 on its Way to the Space Station

Europe’s ATV-2 unmanned space freighter on Feb. 16 was successfully placed into orbit aboard a European Ariane 5 ES rocket and is expected to dock at the international space station Feb. 24 to deliver fuel and other cargo, and to reboost the station into a higher orbit.

During its nearly four-month stay, ATV-2 will also be used, as needed, to maneuver the station’s orbit higher or lower to avoid debris, saving the station’s on-board fuel for use after ATV-2 leaves.

For more: Ariane 5 Sends ATV 2 on its Way to the Space Station |

Middle East unrest as it happens

Libya, Bahrain, Iraq,Yemen, Algeria, Jordan and Iran are the latest countries to be hit by popular protests inspired by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. Follow the BBC minute-by-minute coverage of all the latest events from across the Middle East and North Africa, where several regimes are facing huge challenges from their people.

For more: BBC News - Middle East unrest as it happened

Middle East: Is the 1848 European Revolution Repeating Itself in the Arab World? - by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

The Egyptian uprising has changed the political landscape but steps are already being taken to hijack popular aspirations for democracy. Drawing a parallel between two distinct, yet analogous, historical processes, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya cautions that the forces of reaction might negate current revolutions in the Arab world just as they negated those of 1848 in Europe. The momentum is on the side of the Arab masses. It’s their unique chance to learn from the lessons of history.

In 1848, revolutionary fervor broke across continental Europe. The waves of revolution were set in motion in France. It did not take long before the rest of Europe was hit with a tsunami of popular uprisings and revolts. Like a domino effect, country after country would be hit by revolt. Denmark, the German States, the Italian States, Belgium, Wallachia, and the Habsburg’s Austrian Empire would all be shaken by popular revolt. The bases of the European revolts were the same as those in the modern-day Arab World.

Economic disparity, abuse of workers rights, and a lack of political equality were all causes for the wave of revolutions in 1848 Europe. Industrialization and economic and technological leaps were causing major socio-economic changes in European societies before and up to 1848. While in a very different historical context, this has also been occurring in today’s Arab World. In 19th Century Europe, fundamental economic changes, characterized by the consolidation of wealth, caused massive unemployment as well as the outbreak of famines.

For more: Is the 1848 European Revolution Repeating Itself in the Arab World? [Voltaire]

What Is Wrong With The U.S. Economy? Here Are 10 Economic Charts That Will Blow Your Mind - by John Nyaradi

Ten economic charts which nobody seems to want to read, but should.

Note EU-Digest: a scary scenario, which could also very well happen in Europe. Let us hope someone among Europe's political elite, who usually do not look further than their "nationalistic self centered noses", will sit up and take notice.

For more: What Is Wrong With The U.S. Economy? Here Are 10 Economic Charts That Will Blow Your Mind |

20% unemployment in the 16- 35 age group in U.K. as January unemployment claims unexpectedly rise further - by Svenja O’Donnell

U.K. unemployment claims unexpectedly rose in January, underlining the fragility of the labor market a year after the economy emerged from recession and as public-spending cuts start in earnest.

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits rose 2,400 to 1.46 million, the Office for National Statistics in London said today. The median of 25 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey was for a drop of 3,000. Unemployment based on International Labour Organization methods rose by 44,000 in the fourth quarter to 2.49 million.

Prime Minister David Cameron is counting on hiring at private companies at a time when his government embarks on budget cuts that will cost 330,000 public-sector jobs over the next four years. Bank of England Governor Mervyn King presents new economic forecasts today as soaring inflation sharpens divisions among policy makers over whether to raise interest rates.

Note EU-Digest: Most countries in Europe which copied more opportunist US style economic policies, including Britain, Ireland, Spain, Italy and some Eastern European nations, to solve their problems as a result of the economic crises, are today suffering more than those which opted for austerity measures, and fiscally responsible economic corrective measures. Greece in this respect does not fit any of these categories, because it is presently trying, with great difficulty, to turn the page from an historically structurally flawed economic and social system to a more responsible one. 

Optimistic economic news coming out of America from the financial industry controlled press should also be taken with a grain of salt. Reading between the lines of these optimistic reports the figures show that the  so-called "real" unemployment number in the US-- which takes into account a broad swath of the working-age population -- remains above 16 percent. The US Department of Commerce also reported last week that  the trade deficit increased 5.9 percent in December to $40.6 billion regardless of the fact that exports increased. The US Debt now amounts to more than 14 trillion dollars. Not since World War II has the federal budget deficit made up such a big chunk of the U.S. economy. And within two or three years, economists fear the result could be sharply higher interest rates that could cause a domino effect of economic bad tidings..

For more: U.K. January Unemployment Claims Unexpectedly Rise - Businessweek