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EU: Record 11.3% unemployment in eurozone, with 22.6% in under 25 group

A new level of record unemployment was reached in the eurozone in July at 11.3%, the highest since the creation of the 17-member single European currency, while the percentage registered in the 27-member EU is 10.4%. The highest rate was registered among youths under 25 where unemployment touched 22.6 percent in eurozone countries and 22.5 in the 27-member Union.

The data was provided by European statistics bureau Eurostat according to which in July 2012 there were overall 88,000 more unemployed compared to the previous month, for a total increase of 2.051 million compared to July 2011.

The top unemployment rate among the under-25 is in Greece (53.8% in May), followed by Spain (52.9%). The unemployment rate for youths decreased in Portugal, from the 37.6%in June to 36.4% in July, while it grew in Italy (from 33.9% to 35.3% in July) and France (from 23.1% to 23.4%).
Read more: EU: Record 11.3% unemployment in eurozone, 22.6% under 25

Aircraft Industry: China to buy 50 Airbus planes for Euro 2.78 Bn

Airbus A350
China has signed a deal to buy 50 planes worth Euro 2.78 Bn ($3.5bn) from Europe's Airbus.

The agreement is part of a slew of trade deals signed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the start of a two-day visit to China.

This is the first significant deal in China for Airbus, whose parent company is EADS, since a dispute between the country and the European Union over the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

An agreement on Airbus plane assembly in China was also signed, according to the Xinhua news agency.

Read more: The Statesman : Business : China to buy 50 Airbus planes for $3.5bn

Norways Judicial System far removed from reality and Norwegian Press follows suit

Norwegian journalists reporting on the trial of mass-murderer Anders Breivik have admitted to holding back on details to spare the feelings of the nation.

Around 150 reporters from around the world appeared for the end of the 10-week trial last Friday, to see Breivik sentenced to a minimum of 21 years in jail.

While the majority only turned up for the beginning and end of the trial, local journalists covered proceedings throughout. Among those was Michael Sandelson, the editor of English-language website The Foreigner, which featured a live blog, as well as a summary of events at the end of each day.

Despite the website’s constant presence, Sandelson admits to holding back on a number of details to emerge during proceedings.

Note EU-Digest: at least the Norwegian Press should have been aware of the fact that the judicial system of their country where someone who has brutally killed more than 70 people and gets away with serving only a 21 year prison sentence is totally removed from reality. Unfortunately they kept silent.


Bernanke throws spotlight on labor market woes

Bernanke said the central bank would act as needed to strengthen the recovery but he also said it had to weigh the costs as well as the benefits of more monetary stimulus, although he hinted the costs may be worthwhile.

"As we assess the benefits and costs of alternative policy approaches ... we must not lose sight of the daunting economic challenges that confront our nation," Bernanke said at the Kansas City Fed's annual Jackson Hole symposium.

"Taking due account of the uncertainties and limits of its policy tools, the Federal Reserve will provide additional policy accommodation as needed to promote a stronger economic recovery and sustained improvement in labor market conditions in a context of price stability."

That was a somewhat weaker hint of policy easing than the minutes of the Fed's last policy meeting had delivered, but it was enough to keep alive hopes in financial markets that the U.S. central bank would soon launch another round of bond purchases to push borrowing costs lower.

Read more: Bernanke throws spotlight on labor market woes | Reuters

France's Hollande speeds launch of state investment bank

France will launch a public investment bank within days to help cash-strapped companies to obtain financing, President Francois Hollande said on Friday, bringing forward the date as his government speeds up efforts to fight a downturn.

The bank, originally due to be launched in January of next year, is designed to support small- and medium-sized firms which are struggling to obtain financing from private lenders amid super-tight credit conditions.

"A public investment bank will be created in the coming days," Hollande told journalists in north-eastern France. "There is no time to wait: we are facing too many emergencies."

France is also fast-tracking the launch of a scheme to create 150,000 state-sponsored jobs for youths, in a move to tackle rising unemployment.

The new body brings together several existing public lenders under the state bank Caisse des Depots, aiming to offer thousands of credit-hungry companies business advice as well as a single window for loans.
"Pulling together all these different institutions under a single roof is not only a good thing, it's an urgent move for France," said Frederic Bonnevay, an economist for think tank Institut Montaigne.

In July, Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg told Le Parisien daily that a public bank was necessary because private lenders were not "sufficiently interested" in the real economy, preferring to seek higher margins abroad.

Read more: France's Hollande speeds launch of state investment bank | Reuters

US Presidential Elections: Not in Romney's speech: Iraq, Social Security

 Social Security. Medicare. Iraq. Afghanistan. Illegal immigration.

They’re all costly to taxpayers and the next president presumably will have to address them to one degree or another. Yet GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney made no mention of those issues Thursday in his wide-ranging acceptance speech that closed the Republican National Convention.

The address was Romney’s most sweeping attempt yet to outline the case for his candidacy. It was no time to get into the nitty-gritty of federal budgeting and solutions to the nation’s ills. But Romney did find ways to talk about an array of other issues, some of them sensitive for him personally and politically.

Romney did, for example, pledge to ‘‘protect the sanctity of life,’’ a reference to abortion, even though there are clear differences on the issue between him and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. He referred to his family as Mormons, a rarity for a candidate who typically refers to his religion as ‘‘my faith.’’ And Romney even showed emotion, which he seldom does in public, when he spoke of longing to wake up again with a pile of children in the bedroom he shares with wife Ann.

Read more: Not in Romney's speech: Iraq, Social Security - News -

September Offers 15 Days to Cement Europe Crisis Solutions

September offers a microcosm of three years of crisis- fighting. The next two weeks may feature fresh anti-contagion measures from the European Central Bank, a possible aid request from Spain and insight into whether creditors will ease Greece’s bailout terms. German judges and Dutch voters also get to proclaim on the euro’s future.

At stake is whether politicians and the ECB can extend a summertime shift in borrowing costs by convincing investors Spain and Italy are protected from the rot and the euro is secure. Since ECB President Mario Draghi’s July 26 vow to do “whatever it takes” to defend the currency, Spain’s 10-year bond yield has fallen about half a point to 6.52 percent, while that of Italy has declined by a quarter-point to 5.81 percent.

“The markets seem to be anticipating progress,” said Mickey Levy, chief economist at Bank of America Corp. in New York. “When you talk to European policy makers, they say we’re entering a very important stage.”.

Note EU-Digest: whatever is said today by financial speculators and their "support groups" including Bloomberg, Wall Street and others,  must all be taken with a grain of sand. What it eventually will boil down to is the outcome of the ongoing clash between two opposite "doctrines" - the Left and the Right. Dates to watch in this battle are the upcoming elections in the Netherlands on September 12 and the US Presidential election on November 6. 

If the Right prevails the middle class will continue to bare the burden of the economic austerity programs they developed. If the Left wins the more fortunate will also share in the burden of the deficit they helped create. It is as simple as that.

Read more: September Offers 15 Days to Cement Europe Crisis Solutions - Businessweek


France*s Hollande pushes for EU action

French President Francois Hollande called on Europe's leaders to make serious headway in introducing measures to ease the pressure on countries such as Spain.

Speaking at a press conference following talks in Madrid Thursday with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Hollande urged politicians to use the next European Union summit on Oct 19. "to make decisions concerning the eurozone, lasting decisions."

"We've been putting off choices for too long, and we've let doubt take hold."
Hollande was referring to delays in introducing measures agreed at a summit in June to grant countries easier access to bailout money and set up a single banking regulator that could take the burden of bank bailouts off national governments.

The French leader's remarks came as the financial problems of Spain's regional governments put the country under even greater pressure to ask for a bailout.

Read more: t he Associated Press: France*s Hollande pushes for EU action

Sweden: Eating chocolate lowers men's stroke risk

Eating chocolate may lower men's chance of stroke, according to a new study from Sweden.

Researchers surveyed about 37,000 men and asked how much chocolate they ate on a regular basis. Those whose weekly consumption was the highest — at about a third of a cup —  were 17 percent less likely to have a stroke than the men who didn't regularly eat chocolate.

Chocolate has been shown to improve cardiovascular health  when consumed in moderation, and the beneficial component of the sweet treat is likely compounds called flavonoids, the researchers said.
"Flavonoids appear to be protective against cardiovascular disease through antioxidant, anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties, said study author Susanna Larsson, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. "It's also possible that flavonoids in chocolate  may decrease blood concentrations of bad cholesterol, and reduce blood pressure," she said.

Read more: Eating chocolate lowers men's stroke risk - TODAY Health

Netherlands: poll shows sharp drop in Socialist Party support

A second opinion poll in the Netherlands has shown a sharp drop in support for the Socialist Party in the wake of the first television debate between the four main party leaders.

The SP, which had been outperforming the right-wing VVD in most polls, lost eight seats in the latest Intomart Gfk poll for television current affairs show EenVandaag.

The poll said Emile Roemer's party would win 30 of the 150 seats in parliament if there was a general election tomorrow, down around 25% on a week ago. The VVD, led by prime minister Mark Rutte, also dropped two seats to 33 but becomes the biggest party.

Read more: - Election: Second poll shows sharp drop in Socialist Party support

Iran’s policies roasted by Ban, Mursi

The UN chief and Egypt’s president delivered stinging speeches at a summit of developing nations in Iran on Thursday, damaging the host country’s quest for global prestige and support for its nuclear programme and its policy on Syria.

The Iranians had to listen while Ban Ki-moon denounced them for calling for Israel’s destruction and denying the Holocaust.

Nor did Mohammed Mursi, the first Egyptian leader to visit Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution, mince his words as he urged Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) members to back Syrians trying to topple President Bashar Al Assad, Tehran’s closest Arab ally.

The United States and Israel had frowned on the decisions by Ban and Mursi to attend the summit but they can only have been pleased with the discomfort the two men caused their hosts. “I strongly reject threats by any member state to destroy another or outrageous attempts to deny historical facts such as the Holocaust,” Ban said in his speech, without naming Iran. “Claiming that Israel does not have the right to exist or describing it in racist terms is not only wrong but undermines the very principle we all have pledged to uphold,” he added.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and this month described Israel as a ‘cancerous tumour’. In 2005 he was quoted as saying Israel should be ‘wiped off the map’ — words that Persian language scholars say should have been rendered: “Israel must vanish from the page of time.” Iran has portrayed its hosting of the high-profile summit as proof that Western efforts to isolate it and punish it economically for its disputed nuclear programme have failed.

Read more: Iran’s policies roasted by Ban, Mursi - Khaleej Times

Europe's financial woes and new speculation over Fed send U.S. stocks plunging

U.S. stocks fell sharply today after reports Spain had postponed a decision on requesting a sovereign bailout.

And, investors could be setting themselves up for a fall in looking to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for a definitive signal that the Fed would announce another round of monetary easing at its September meeting.

“Many market observers are not expecting any great revelation about QE3 tomorrow from Bernanke. I expect we will hear the same old, same old ‘it’s data dependent and we are ready to act if necessary,’” emailed Elliot Spar, market strategist at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. “From a traders’ perspective, I’d rather be flat ahead of the speech,” he added.

“There are a lot of expectations built into his talk,” Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank in Chicago, said of Bernanke’s speech scheduled for tomorrow in Jackson Hole, Wyo. See three reasons why the Fed won’t move in September.

Read more: Europe's financial woes and new speculation over Fed send U.S. stocks plunging |

China’s Wen wants action on Europe debt - by Joe Macdonald

Expressing alarm at Europe’s debt problems, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called on Greece, Spain and Italy to embrace budget cuts and get their finances in order after meeting Thursday with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mr. Wen said Beijing is willing to keep buying European bonds but gave no sign Beijing will bail out the euro zone.

Read more: China’s Wen wants action on Europe debt - The Globe and Mail


Greece cuts deal will 'be sealed by next week' -says country's finance minister

Greece is under pressure to drum up the nearly €12 billion in cuts for the next two years to appease its lenders, who have put the latest tranche of aid to avert a Greek bankruptcy on hold.

The austerity package will be ready next week to be presented to the Troika, Greece's finance minister Yannis Stournaras said.

"There is political agreement on the package," Mr Stournaras said after leaders of the three parties in Greece's ruling coalition huddled together to discuss the plan. "The package will be sealed next week and presented to the troika."

EU officials have already acknowledged the country is way off-track in meeting the terms of its bailout, but European leaders are eager to avoid letting it slide to a chaotic default and euro zone exit that drags down much bigger economies like Spain and Italy.

Read more: Greece cuts deal will 'be sealed by next week' - country's finance minister - RTÉ News

Russia Disengaging From Syria, Warships Recalled

Syrian ally Russia is demanding a probe into what it calls “barbaric violence” that has rocked Damascus lately.  Additionally, Russian war ships have departed from the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas and returned to port in Russia according to Israeli intelligence site Debka.  

In response to hundreds of reported deaths in and around Damascus over the weekend, Russia has demanded an impartial investigation into the violence.  Reports are in that Russia also feels that a conflict with the West in imminent for the Bashar Assad regime and that Russia has no interest in getting involved to save their ally.

The evacuation of Russian warships and personnel was reportedly ordered directly from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who overrode his army generals and said it was time to leave.  The generals reportedly believe that it is a sign of Russian weakness to back down from a fight.

Read more: Russia Disengaging From Syria, Warships Recalled

Why Europe's Laws On Vacations Are Better Than Your Wildest Dreams (and How Badly Americans Get The Shaft)

Imagine this: You work 25 hours a week at the McDonald’s in Cairo, New York, and have finally earned two weeks of paid vacation . You set out on a bike trip. On the first day in the saddle, you hit a pothole and crash, cracking your collar bone. You sit on your couch for the rest of your vacation watching the Tour de France. Tough luck.

Unless you worked for McDonald’s in Europe. If you did, you would be entitled to a fully paid do-over, according to a June 21 ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union , the highest court in Europe (whose rulings must be followed by all member states). This court ruled that all European workers are entitled to their full vacation after they have healed.

“A worker who becomes unfit during his paid annual leave, is entitled at a later point to a period of leave of the same duration as that of his sick leave.” This means that European workers can take their paid sick leave during their paid vacations, and take their vacations all over again, and guess what? American corporations who do business in Europe, like McDonalds, have to pay for it!

And the comparisons between American and European workplaces get worse: Not only do American corporations with operations in Europe have to provide their workers with paid sick leave during worker vacations, but also, by law they have to provide paid vacations in the first place, which in most countries amounts to a month or more.

In the U.S. there is no legal obligation at all. If you get a paid vacation it’s either because the company “gave” it to you or because you achieved it through collective bargaining. Here’s a table comparing developed nations by statutory minimum annual leave and paid public holidays. Read ‘em and weep.

Read more: Why Europe's Laws On Vacations Are Better Than Your Wildest Dreams (and How Badly Americans Get Screwed) | Alternet

Small Cars’ Popularity World-Wide Could Lead to Increased Minicar Sales

Given the popularity of small SUVs and subcompacts like the Chevy Sonic, today’s drivers appear to be buying the idea that downsizing can equate to an upgraded ride. Now that smaller vehicles are viewed as acceptable—smart, even—automakers are exploring the possibility that drivers may want to downshift further, from small to downright tiny.

The new J.D. Power and Associates study on Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) indicates that 27% of new-car buyers purchased a vehicle that was smaller than the car they had previously been driving. For the most part, they were happy they did so, according to J.D. Power’s David Sargent: “Although larger models continue to attain higher APEAL Study scores than smaller models, as they typically provide higher performance, have more pleasing styling, are more comfortable and include more features, owners who down find that today’s compact models are not the ‘econoboxes’ that they may have once feared. For example, most compact vehicles are more substantial than in the past and perform much better on the road. They also have many of the features and appointments that were previously found only on larger models. Vehicle owners who down[size] are often finding that they are actually upgrading when they buy a new vehicle.”

Read more: Small Cars’ Popularity Could Lead to Increased Minicar Sales | Moneyland |

Drugs: Smoking Pot ? it's just for dopes - by Allan Taylor

Cannabis Coffeeshop Amsterdam ("the Upcoming")
A study of 1000 cannabis users, by researchers in Dunedin, New Zealand, which claims the dubious distinction of being the first city to hold a Global Marijuana March, has concluded that the earlier you smoke cannabis, the more harm it causes the brain. Moreover, the more you smoke, the greater the impact on your IQ. For the researchers, it has confirmed what many already thought they knew, that cannabis users are likely to under-perform in the real world, if, that is, they ever become a part of it.

Whether this will influence addicts remains to be seen. My guess is that Hotel California still has its fans who will remain loyal until they've puffed their last joint. What the new research should do, however, is spike any proposal to legalise cannabis which, in its present form, is a much more potent drug than that which many of my contemporaries inhaled. Not only is it addictive and incapacitating, it leads its users on to other, even more dangerous drugs. Indeed, far from legalising it, the police should be exercising the powers they already have, and clamping down on it instead of turning a blind eye.

Widespread use of such "recreational" drugs is a legacy of the 1960s, popularised by rock bands, the most influential role models in history. If the Beatles or the Rolling Stones were in favour who could deny themselves? LSD, said Lewis Yablonsky, a professor who studied hippies as others once did cannibals, offered "is the key to cosmic consciousness and universal unity". On the other hand, cannabis, when smoked communally, was a more basic staple of everyday life, helping to cement the "circle of friendly love".

When you were away with the fairies, which is exactly where many of the users were for much of the time, you could chunter about "flower power" to your heart's content without fear of anyone dismissing you as a heidbanger. Like every scene, the drugs one had its cult figures, most notably Timothy Leary. A Harvard academic with about as much common sense as Prince Harry, Leary gave scientific heft to the notion that drugs were the conduit to a good society.

Note EU-Digest: walking through the Amsterdam "Green Zone" and the Zeedijk (Sea-Dike) area and being engulfed by the smell of Cannabis one quickly realizes that not too many people/tourists visiting this beautiful historic city seem to have read the above article by Allan Taylor of the Herald Scotland.

For lots of tourists, the Amsterdam Cannabis cafés provide a chance to smoke cannabis legally without coming into direct  contact with dealers of “harder” drugs such as cocaine, and the cafés are visited by tourists with 23% of Amsterdam’s five million annual tourists visiting a café during their stay.

Read more: Smoking cannabis? it's just for dopes | Herald Scotland

Britain: Services sector suffering says new CBI report

UK services companies suffered further falls in business in the past three months, in spite of hopes of a rebound, according to a key survey which will raise further concerns about the state of the economy.

The survey, published today by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), signals significant overall falls in the volume and value of business in the past three months for consumer services and business and professional services firms, as well as tumbling optimism.

It also shows a continuing slide in employment among consumer services firms.

Read more: Services sector suffering says new CBI report | Herald Scotland


French gay activists angered at Church’s ‘Prayer for France’ - by Robert Myles

On August 15, a controversial ‘Prayer for France’ was  read out at French Catholic churches as the Feast of the Assumption is celebrated, reviving a centuries old tradition. The text of the 2012 version has outraged gay rights groups in France.

All Catholic churches in France have received the text of the controversial “Prayer for France” with the intention that it is read out to congregations across France at church services marking the feast of the Assumption reports France 24.

The reason French gay rights activists are up in arms is that the subject matter of this year’s Prayer for France aims to mobilize Catholics against the French Socialist government of François Hollande’s recently announced plans to reform French family law as it applies to gay marriage and adoption. The proposed reforms would give gay couples in France the same rights as heterosexual couples.

In the distributed prayer, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, the Catholic Archbishop of Paris, asks churchgoers to pray for France’s “newly elected officials” to put their “sense of common good over the pressure to meet special demands”.

Read more: French gay activists angered at Church’s ‘Prayer for France’

Netherlands: Weak Dutch economy and property woes hit ABN Amro Bank

Net profits at Dutch bank ABN Amro fell 36 per cent in the second quarter compared with the first quarter, as the stagnating Dutch economy and falling property market led to a near doubling in impairment charges.

ABN Amro, wholly owned by the Dutch state since it was rescued during the financial crisis, said it expected profits to drop further in the second half of 2012 because of rising bankruptcies and the introduction of a new banking tax.

Overall for the first half of 2012, the bank’s operating income fell to €3.8bn, down 7 per cent compared with the same period last year. Net profits in the first half were down 14 per cent year on year to €743m.

The decline in profits at ABN Amro provided further testimony of the weakness in the Dutch economy, which barely grew in the first half after shrinking in the second half of 2011.

Read more: Weak Dutch economy and property woes hit ABN Amro -

Hurricane Isaac to hit New Orleans Say Forecasters

Isaac was on the verge of becoming a full-blown hurricane Tuesday as it rolled over the Gulf of Mexico toward Louisiana, where residents of the low-lying coast left boarded-up homes for inland shelter while people in New Orleans waited behind levees fortified after Katrina.

Forecasters predicted the tropical storm would power up to hurricane strength, which starts at winds of 74 mph, later in the day and be at least a Category 1 hurricane by the time it's expected to reach the swampy coast of southeast Louisiana early Wednesday. The forecast track has the storm aimed at New Orleans, but hurricane warnings extended across 280 miles from Morgan City, La., to the Florida-Alabama state line. It could become the first hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast since 2008.

Early Tuesday, Isaac was a large and potent tropical storm packing top sustained winds of 70 mph. The storm system was centered about 125 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River at 5 a.m. EDT and moving northwest at 12 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Read more: The Associated Press: Forecasters: Isaac on verge of becoming hurricane


European Real Estate: Now More Affordable Than Ever

Right now, doom and gloom in Europe runs deep. But there is a story not being told…one of opportunity borne of this crisis. A story of places where you could own your own piece of the Old World…for less than half the price of a budget family sedan.

In Greece and beyond—prices are falling like a rock. And for anybody who ever mused about a European retreat, that’s the silver lining.

We’ve turned to Europe now not merely because there are bargains to be had, but because the other untold Europe story is one of an extraordinary quality of life. The story of a slower pace, of good food shared among friends, of living with beauty all around.

The economies in Europe are under tremendous stress, no question. But there remains plenty to admire about the lifestyle there. In stone-walled villages built on hilltops overlooking vineyards…on islands where blue-domed, whitewashed homes mirror the Aegean sun…you can still live very comfortably today, and for much less than you might imagine.

Read more: Europe: Now More Affordable Than Ever for North Americans – - International Living - Since 1979

Health Care USA: Presidential elections - Debate: Romney Vs. Obama - by C. Woodward and R. Alonso Zaldivar

President Barack Obama promises nothing will change for people who like their health coverage except it'll become more affordable, but the facts don't back him up. Mitt Romney groundlessly calls the health care law a slayer of jobs certain to deepen the national debt.

Welcome to the health care debate 2.0. As the claims fly, buyer beware.

After the Supreme Court upheld the law last week, Obama stepped forward to tell Americans what good will come from it. Romney was quick to lay out the harm. But some of the evidence they gave to the court of public opinion was suspect.

A look at their claims and how they compare with the facts check out the link below:

Read more: Insurance News - ACA Debate: Romney Vs. Obama

European Cruise Industry: Rough seas in Europe for cruise operators

The sinking of the Costa Concordia in January 2012 sparked a turbulent year for the cruise industry in Europe, writes Michelle Grant, travel and tourism analyst at Euromonitor International."The sinking of Concordia in January 2012 impacted the entire European cruise market with bookings declining in the months after the accident.

Carnival Corp held prices steady after the accident and monitored consumer sentiment through weekly surveys.The company felt enough time had passed for it to restart its marketing campaigns in Costa's key markets of Italy, France and Germany at the beginning of April. The company found that it needed to discount by 20-30% to get experienced cruisers back on the ship—first time cruisers are still wary of cruising after the accident according to the company's research.

The efforts have been working as the company stated in its second quarter call with investors that booking volumes for the Costa brand were up by 25% in May through June 2012 compared with the same period in 2011.

Read more: Comment: Rough seas in Europe for cruise operators

Cruise Industry: Tide turning for cruise industry

The tide has turned for the cruise line industry.

After a disastrous event that shook the confidence of many considering a cruise, bookings are rising and have even surged, a poll of Canadian and U.S. travel agents shows.

The January disaster that saw the Costa Concordia smash into a reef off the Italian island of Giglio and partially submerge with the loss of 32 lives, cast a pall over the industry.

The haunting spectacle threatened to throw cruise vacations off course in a business that prides itself on an exemplary safety record.

More than 300 agents recently polled cited “optimism” has returned, with more than half saying they are selling more vacations at sea than last year, said Christine Duffy, president and ceo of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

Read more: Tide turning for cruise industry | International | Travel | Toronto Sun

European Insurance Industry: "Swiss Re" Reports Italian Insurance Market at 'Crossroads' of Change

According to Swiss Re’s latest study - The Italian insurance market: opportunities in the land of the Renaissance – “Italy stands at the crossroads of economic and social change, and therefore offers interesting opportunities for the insurance industry.”

The report explains that the “expected scaling down of the government’s role in the provision of social benefits will mean that more individuals will have to make their own arrangements for risk protection and retirement financing. The insurance industry must brace itself to help fill the widening protection gap.”

Italy is the world’s eighth largest economy, which Swiss Re describes as “large and diversified, made up of small and medium enterprises exporting high quality products. Italy houses the world’s oldest bank and gave birth to the world’s oldest known insurance contract, both of which are a small testimonial to the country’s rich economic history.”

Swiss Re expects the insurance industry’s role “to grow overall in the adverse macroeconomic environment.” This includes emerging growth opportunities for insurers, “particularly in underdeveloped, non-motor lines of business.”

Read more: Swiss Re Reports Italian Insurance Market at 'Crossroads' of Change

Merkel Reins In Greek Exit Talk in Euro’s Decisive Phase - Bloomberg

Chancellor Angela Merkel told officials in her coalition calling for a Greek exit from the euro to “weigh their words,” as she signaled a renewed determination to keep the single currency intact.

Asked about comments by a party leader calling for Greece to leave the 17-nation currency, Merkel told ARD television that such comments were damaging as crisis fighting reaches a “decisive phase.” Alexander Dobrindt, general secretary of the governing Bavarian Christian Social Union, told Bild newspaper that Greece wouldn’t be part of the euro in 2013.

“Everybody should weigh their words very carefully,” Merkel told ARD yesterday in Berlin. The Greek government under Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is undertaking “serious efforts” to reduce its debt, she said, and reiterated Germany’s desire to stand by the country where the crisis originated.
Euro leaders are preparing for a critical month in the three-year-old crisis that will involve the formulation of a European Central Bank bond-buying plan, a progress report by Greece’s international creditors and a looming German court decision on bailout funding on Sept. 12.

Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann opened a new line of attack over the ECB’s plans, warning in Der Spiegel that monetary financing of budgets can “become addictive like a drug.”

Read more: Merkel Reins In Greek Exit Talk in Euro’s Decisive Phase - Bloomberg


US Presidential Elections; Republicans to discuss return to gold standard at convention

According to multiple published reports, a draft of the Republican Party's platform to be unveiled at the party's convention in Tampa, Fla., next week will include the creation of a "gold commission" tasked with examining the feasibility of tying the value of the U.S. dollar to a fixed price of a unit of gold in the country's official reserves.

Drafts of the document obtained by the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and other sources call for an audit of the way the Federal Reserve implements the country's monetary policy. Included in that would be a look at the possibility of tying the greenback to the value of gold.

President Richard Nixon abolished the gold standard in 1971 and the value of the U.S. dollar has floated since then, with its value depending on economic factors such as exports, inflows of cash, interest rates, inflation and employment.

Read more: Republicans to discuss return to gold standard at convention

Possible 'Grexit' a calamity or coup for the eurozone?

At the next EU summit in October, politicians will face the possiblity of Greece exiting the eurozone. Grand ideas of European solidarity are less likely to be at issue than the question how smooth an exit could be.
There are arguments for and against a Greek exit from the eurozone.

The fact is, the country has not come close to achieving previously agreed-upon consolidation goals. If the euro crisis is a crisis of confidence, some of it would be regained if donor countries drew the consequences and turned off the money faucet. On the other hand, Athens cannot meet meeting savings targets since rigid austerity policies have entrenched the economy more deeply in recession than anyone expected. Another question is if the new Greek government deserves a chance to put their reform plans to the test.

When reviewing whether Greece should return to the eurozone fold or be forced out, the pervasive issue is whether a Greek exit would be manageable. If you go and ask the experts, you'll be even more bewildered than before. The pundits have widely differing opinions, and moreover, no one can make accurate predictions since the EU has never been in this situation before.

Read more: Possible 'Grexit' a calamity or coup for the eurozone? | Europe | DW.DE | 25.08.2012

Is Isaac telling the Republicans something? - Republican National Convention in Tampa delayed by Hurricane

Hurricane Isaac will sink at least one day of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., this week, organizers announced Saturday evening.

The convention will convene Monday but suspend all activities until a time to be determined on Tuesday, a senior strategist for Mitt Romney, the chair of the national Republican Party, and the convention’s president, said in a conference call with reporters.

“We believe that even though we were planning on doing it four days, we think we can absolutely do it in three,” said Russ Schriefer, the senior Romney strategist, on the call.

Read more: Hurricane Isaac delays start of Republican National Convention in Tampa -


The Netherlands: Handbags with History at Handbag Museum, Amsterdam, - by Richard Tulloch

 The love affair started when Hendrikje Ivo found a handbag in an English antique shop. It was a work of art - tortoiseshell inlaid with mother-of-pearl, made by a German craftsman of the 1820s. Mrs Ivo was smitten. She bought it. She looked around for more.

By 1996 she had the world's largest collection of bags and purses, and it seemed a shame to keep them stuffed away in boxes. A passion ought to be shared. So her supportive and handy husband, Heinz, built a set of shelves and together they opened the Tassenmuseum (Handbag Museum) Hendrikje.

Over the next decade the collection continued to grow and her 4000 bags were moved to their present home in a superbly restored canal house on Amsterdam's stately Herengracht - The Gentlemen's Canal.

Read more: Handbag Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands | Holidays, Photos

Internet: Is Poland finally getting out of the broadband slow lane?

Alcatel Lucent, fibre company Hawe and network infrastructure provider TP Teltech have been given the green light to establish a new joint venture aimed at boosting broadband in Poland.

It's about time: the country is seriously lagging behind its European neighbours on fixed broadband.
The joint venture, which got the necessary approval from Polish regulator UOKiK last week, will roll out  broadband infrastructure in five voivodships (provinces) in the east of Poland: Warmia-Masuria, Lublin, Swietokrzyskie, Subcarpathian and Podlasie.

The five rollouts are being funded under the European Commission's Digital Agenda for Europe plan. The scheme's goal is to give all European citizens broadband connections of at least 30Mbps by 2020 and have half of households able to access at least 100Mbps. The Commission has given Poland around €1.5bn to spend between 2007 and 2013 to help achieve the plan's aims – and it's thought around 1bn zlotys of that (€250m) remains to be spent.

For more: Is Poland finally getting out of the broadband slow lane? | ZDNet

Russia Alarmed Over U.S.-Turkish “Operational Meeting” On Syria

Turkey wishes to be one of the main players for NATO, the West and its Middle East Allies in the region and has many times failed to support the positions of its once allies and friends, including Syria as well as Russia. Recent statements in support of Russia’s position against an armed outside intervention into Syria were obviously carefully staged lies to attempt to appease Moscow which will protect its interests in the region.

The meeting follows the recent provocation by Turkey where a Turkish F-4 Phantom Fighter was shot down in Syrian airspace but which did not bring about the planned result.

Ankara and the Western “architects” had hoped to draw NATO into the conflict by claiming Turkey was being threatened by Syria. Unfortunately for NATO and Turkey the real facts behind the incident came out and even though Turkey claimed the plane was shot down in international airspace and the wreckage somehow flew into Syrian territory, no one was buying it.

The aircraft was in violation of Syrian airspace and was shot down in Syrian airspace by Syrian anti-aircraft batteries with a range of only a few kilometers. Those are the facts and no matter how Ankara wanted to repaint the picture that is how events occurred.

For more: Russia Alarmed Over U.S.-Turkish “Operational Meeting” On Syria

Central Europe: coal demand still hot

Central Europe’s economies are slowing, but the region is still doing better than much of the rest of the continent, the reason that regional coal miner New World Resources says it was able to beat expectations for the second quarter of the year.

The company reported sales of €347.5m for the quarter, down 24 per cent over the same period a year earlier and in line with expectations, while net income came to €28.3m, down by 66 per cent but better than the average estimate of €18.3m in a Reuters poll, in large part due to successful cost cutting.

“We consider the results, which exceeded expectations mainly thanks to lower costs, positive. The proposed dividend is also a positive surprise. NWR raised production targets but the outlook until the end of the year is a challenge given the conditions in the region (high supply of coking coal and lower prices),” writes Bohumil Trampota, an analyst with the Czech Republic’s J&T Banka.

Read more: Central Europe: coal demand still hot | beyondbrics

Germany’s Merkel Pledges to Help Greece Stay in Euro Zone

Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged on Friday to support the new Greek government as it struggles to reform its economy, saying the heavily indebted Greece must remain in the euro zone.

Ms. Merkel met in Berlin with the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras, for his first official visit abroad. She expressed confidence that the government in Athens “will do what it takes to solve the problem in Greece,” and pledged to focus on healing the rift that has grown between the two countries.

“What I want is to bring the two realities that have emerged back together into one reality,” Ms. Merkel said. “Now it’s the task of those who have political responsibility in Europe to bridge that gap. I want Greece to stay in the euro zone and that’s what I’m working for.”

Read more: Germany’s Merkel Pledges to Help Greece Stay in Euro Zone -

ECB banking supervision remains controversial

The European Central Bank is in charge of the eurozone's financial policy. In future, the ECB is to also provide banking supervision. But is it necessary and realistic to supervise and regulate all of the EU's banks? 

There's no doubt that Europe needs some sort of common banking supervision. The crisis in Spain has once again highlighted that the ailing banks of a country cannot only shake the country's finances but also affect other country's financial institutions.

This is what pushed the EU at its last summit in June to call on the Europen Central Bank to be that supervisor. Many see this, however, as a conflict of interest. What is the ECB to do when it believes taxes have to be raised, but is concerned about banks getting into trouble. Can the ECB shut down banks while, at the same time, it is printing money and flooding the market with cash?

Read more: ECB banking supervision remains controversial | Europe | DW.DE | 24.08.2012


US Presidental Elections:The starkest differences between Obama and Romney

Some of the starkest choices between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney include issues on taxes, debt and deficits, abortion, birth control, same sex marriages, .health care, immigration, energy and environment, and foreign policy,

Read more here:

Read more: The starkest differences between Obama and Romney | National Elections | The Bellingham Herald

European Commission calls on Spain to delay 'bad bank' plans

The European Commission has asked Spain to delay by another week the plans to create a "bad bank" so that experts in Brussels can review the project, the government in Madrid said.

The plan was initially scheduled to be approved at today's Cabinet meeting, but will now be cleared at the next ministers' meeting on August 31, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said.

Spain must create the "bad bank" as a condition for accessing a loan of up to €100bn from the 16 other countries using the euro to fix its troubled banks.

The banks, eight of which have been nationalised, are loaded with more than €176bn in bad real estate loans and other investments following the collapse of the property market in 2008.

Read more: European Commission calls on Spain to delay 'bad bank' plans | Irish Examiner

Dutch set to defy austerity as left takes poll lead

The left-wing Socialist party is expected to seize the largest gains in September's Dutch elections, threatening to deprive German Chancellor Angela Merkel of one of her closest allies in response to the eurozone debt crisis.

With Dutch voters set to go to the polls on 12 September 12, opinion polls indicated that the Socialist party, which has never formed part of a government, is running marginally ahead of caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Liberal party (VVD).

According to a survey released on Wednesday (22 August) by opinion pollsters TNS-Nipo, both parties are projected to win 34 seats in the 150 member Parliament, with the centre-left Labour party (PvdA) expected to poll in third place with 21 seats. A poll of polls compiled this week by the University of Leiden pegs the Socialist and VVD parties at 35 and 33 seats respectively.

Read more: / Political Affairs / Dutch set to defy austerity as left takes poll lead

World markets fall on weak economic data from US, Europe, China

World markets fell Friday as disappointment over weak economic indicators from the United States, China and Europe offset hopes for more stimulus from central banks.

Oil fell below $96 a barrel after a member of the U.S. Federal Reserve's policymaking board dampened hopes for additional stimulus.

Japan's Nikkei 225 declined 1.2 per cent to 9,070.76 and China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index lost 1 per cent to 2,092.1. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 1.3 per cent to 19,880.03.

In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.1 per cent to 5,768.68. Germany's DAX fell 0.3 per cent to 6,928.79 while France's CAC-40 lost 0.6 per cent to 3,413.65.

Read more: World markets fall on weak economic data from US, Europe, China |

Leadership tips from villains, megalomaniacs, and innovators

Genghis Khan: Use technology: the Mongol horde from the beginning of their invasion of China to the control of all of Eurasia were essentially two different armies. The first had excellent horsemanship and bows ahead of their time, allowing them to overwhelm enemies in open combat. The latter was a military melting pot with Chinese siege craft, Persian engineering and the best combat techniques from all the peoples they conquered.

The Mongols were quick to integrate, adapt and adopt the new technologies they encountered. This opportunistic adoption of new technology and techniques is equally important in the corporate world. Since the computer, technology has become a vital part of every manager’s job. Being open to it and looking for ways to use it more efficiently will save time for you and your direct reports. Genghis Khan also taught us that a pyramid of severed heads is an excellent negotiating tool, but that’s an approach best kept out of the office.

Read more: Leadership tips from villains, megalomaniacs, and innovators - The Globe and Mail

German finance ministry studying possible impact of Greece' exit from eurozone

A working group led by Germany's deputy finance minister is studying the possible economic impact of a Greek exit from the euro zone, a newspaper reported on Friday, as Chancellor Angela Merkel prepared for talks with Greece's prime minister.

Merkel says she wants Greece to stay in the common currency despite increased German impatience with the repeated failure of Athens to meet reform targets under its two multi-billion euro bailout packages.

The Financial Times Deutschland newspaper, citing finance ministry sources, said the decision to set up the working group showed that Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble wanted to be fully prepared for a possible "negative scenario". 

Read more: German finance ministry studying possible impact of Greece' exit from eurozone - The Economic Times


Hurricane threatening Florida inhabitants and tourists - by Ken Kaye and Kathleen Haughne

Tropical Storm Isaac continued its trek west across the Caribbean Thursday on a course that should take it over Hispaniola and Cuba over the weekend.

It also remains on a projected track that would take it over the Keys early Monday and close to Tampa on Tuesday as a hurricane.

If that projection holds, the system could bring squally to severe weather to much of the state, starting Sunday. It also would disrupt the Republican National Convention, which starts on Monday.

At 5 p.m. Thursday, Isaac was about 255 miles southeast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, moving northwest at 16 mph with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph.

Cuba issued a tropical storm watch Thursday afternoon, and the Bahamas issued a tropical storm warning.

Read more: Ken Kaye's Storm Center - Hurricane News, Tracking, Advisories & More - South Florida Sun Sentinel storm veteran Ken Kaye has the latest hurricane and storm news, advisories and more

Real Estate: The Wide Range of Value in Belgian Seaside Towns - by Nick Foster

When a member of Brussels’ upper classes says he is going “à la mer,” or “to the seaside,” it is understood that the destination is Knokke-Heist, an upmarket resort of about 34,000 permanent residents that is 110 kilometers from the Belgian capital.

And it is the town’s most expensive properties — primarily the white-washed, two-story brick mansions in the Zoute section — that are expected to hold their value best as the real estate market on the Belgian coast enters an unpredictable phase.

“The coast is a rather different market from that of the rest of Belgium,” said Julien Manceaux, a senior economist in the research department of the bank ING. “Particularly at the higher end, a lot of buyers see their homes at least partly as an investment. We have seen that if the Belgian stock market is performing well, residential real estate prices on the coast are usually buoyant. Buyers at the coast are also typically less dependent on loans, so any increase in interest rates will affect them less."

Read more: the Wide Range of Value in Belgian Seaside Towns -

Germany: Peres: Circumcision 'at core of Jewish identity'

Israeli President Shimon Peres stressed that circumcision is "at the core of Jewish identity," as he weighed in on a controversy in Germany in a letter sent to his German counterpart Joachim Gauck on Thursday.

Circumcision is "a Jewish ritual that has been at the core of Jewish identity for thousands of years and defines the Jewish people, from the time of the first commandment given by God to Abraham," he wrote.
"I am therefore confident, Mr President, that Germany, in keeping with its values, will remain committed to conduct their Jewish religious traditions in freedom," Peres said in the letter quoted by his office.

Germany's ethics committee on Thursday supported the practice of religious circumcision but with conditions, a German official said, after a court ruled the practice was tantamount to grievous bodily harm.
The ruling stirred an uproar from religious and political leaders in Israel as well as Muslim countries.

Read more: Peres: Circumcision 'at core of Jewish identity' | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Italy’s public finances: The boat-tax war

 For the average holiday-maker, this summer at Punta Ala, a classy marina on the Tuscan coast, has seemed like any other. Hundreds of elegant yachts and motorboats lie peacefully berthed sterns to jetties. For many of their owners, however, the season has been far from peaceful. As well as battling the economic crisis, they have been up against the Guardia di Finanza, the tax police.

Speaking from his holiday base in Switzerland, Mario Monti, Italy’s prime minister, said the struggle against tax evaders is “like a war” and it is “right to be tough”. A national pastime, tax evasion is put at about 18% of GDP, some €285 billion ($355 billion), making a big hole in Italy’s stretched public finances.
Fairly or unfairly, boat-owners are seen as among the rich who do not pay their share. A new tax on boat ownership and people leasing boats was introduced this year. Boats between 10 and 12 metres now incur an annual tax of €800, those between 20 and 24 metres one of €4,400, those over 64 metres €25,000. In recent weeks the tax campaign has hit marinas along Italy’s 8,000 km coast, with the Guardia di Finanza operating in plain clothes or uniform onshore.
Italy’s public finances: The boat-tax war | The Economist

Czech Tourism presenting Czech Republic as an ideal wedding destination

A centuries-old castle, a simple chapel, a horse drawn carriage, a wedding reception in an ancient hall, a violin serenade under your balcony or a flight in a balloon– for couples who like romance Prague and its surroundings have a lot to offer –moreover at an affordable price. Jitka Snoblova from Czech Tourism says romantic weddings followed by a short honeymoon have become increasingly popular with foreign couples.

“There are various agencies that take care of the whole works. You just sign the contract and they take care of all the paper work for you. They have special packages that include period weddings, they arrange special requests like horse riding in the chateau’s park. Most of the castles and chateaux offer romantic weekends or nights so the newly-weds can stay and extend the fairy-tale experience at a luxury suite where they get service reserved for royalty and everything is prepared in the style or time period of their choice.”
The most popular wedding venues in Prague are the Old Town Hall for civil weddings, St Nicholas Church for religious ceremonies and the Prague Castle Gardens for outdoor ceremonies. Karlstejn Castle located not far from Prague, Konopiste with its 13 century fort and Hluboka with its famous Windsor-style chateau are likewise highly favoured wedding destinations. In fact there are now more foreign or mixed couples tying the knot in Hluboka than Czechs.

Read more: Radio Prague - Czech Tourism presenting Czech Republic as an ideal wedding destination

Why Germany May Have Flipped On Saving The Euro - by Matthew Boesler

Markets have calmed down in a big way in the eurozone and around the world since European Central Bank head Mario Draghi said in July that the ECB was committed to do "whatever it takes" to save the euro.
Spain's government funding costs, which have become a focal point of the euro crisis, are currently at seven-week lows.

Spanish stocks have outperformed U.S. stocks by double digits over the past month.
This week, traders are newly energized: It seems that the German Bundesbank—which has played the role of spoiler plenty of times over the past few years of crisis—is at least in part becoming less of an obstacle for the ECB to embark on a dramatic, "game-changing" policy response in Europe.

Read moreWhy Germany May Have Flipped On Saving The Euro - Business Insid

European Shares Called Higher on Fed Hopes

 European shares have experienced a summer rally recently but dropped on Wednesday as concerns over Greece’s future in the euro zone resurfaced.  However, minutes released by the Fed Wednesday could spur market confidence in further intervention “fairly soon” to shore up the U.S. economy.

In Europe, Jean-Claude Juncker, head of Eurogroup of finance ministers traveled to Athens to meet the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Wednesday, who has asked for a two-year extension to fulfil the country’s bailout conditions.  After the meeting, Juncker said that Greece faces a “last chance” to prove its credibility to international creditors.   

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande, who are meeting Samaras this weekend, are also expected to offer little in the way of immediate leeway to Greece.
Read more: European Shares Called Higher on Fed Hopes - Europe Business News - CNBC


France gives non-lethal military aid to Syrian opposition says PM

France is providing the Syrian opposition with “non-lethal” military aid, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Wednesday.

Speaking on BFMTV-RMC radio, Ayrault said France had responded positively to a request for help from the rebels seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“On the military level, what we have done is we have responded to a request by the Syrian National Council and the Syrian resistance to provide a certain number of non-lethal elements... means of communication and protection,” Ayrault said.

The premier reiterated that there was no question of France becoming directly involved in military action in Syria without U.N. backing, citing the example of former U.S. president George W. Bush’s 2003 Iraq invasion. “We have the example of Iraq where George Bush alone decided to go to war,” Ayrault said. “We were opposed and we were proved right. It ended in chaos.”

Read more: France gives non-lethal military aid to Syrian opposition: PM

Syria Could Attack Israel as a Diversion - by Joshua Gleis

It’s been over 16 months since the “Arab Spring” first reached the shores of Syria. 16 months of gun battles, defections and condemnations that have slowly loosened the iron grip of the ruling Assad regime. With heavy fighting in the capital of Damascus, and with much of the country now in the hands of opposition forces, it would appear as though one of the most authoritarian regimes on earth is on its way to way to total collapse. For many people around the world, that country’s civil war might not appear to have particular significance for them. Yet the troubles in Syria could quickly escalate, causing very real consequences felt worldwide.

One scenario would see Syria unleash its chemical weapons onto its own people, and perhaps on Israel as well for cover, in a last ditch effort to quell the revolution. Taking no chances, Israel has re-issued gas masks to residents near its northern border, and along with the United States it has publicly announced concern for the safekeeping of Syria’s well known WMD programs. If Syria attempted to launch a chemical attack it would almost certainly lead to a preemptive attack by Israel.

Note EU-Digest: the above scenario would be very unlikely, unless the preemptive attack by Israel was based on provoking Syria to use these weapons (if they even have them ?) -  as was the case in Iraq when so called "Weapons of Mass Destruction" were used as the pretext for attack. Only later it become known that there were no weapons of mass destruction at all in Iraq.

Read more: Syria Could Attack Israel as a Diversion | Jewish & Israel News

U.S. Economy Still Stumbles despite Wall Street at 4-year high - by Matthew Rusling

U.S. stocks on Tuesday hit a four-year high, but the economy continues to flounder amid what economists regard as one of the weakest recoveries in recent memory.

The SandP index soared to 1,426.68, the highest point since May 2008, before reversing course by day' s end. A recent spate of positive numbers including housing sector figures, payrolls and retail sales boosted U.S. stocks, in addition to the expectation that central banks will soon take action to bolster the economies worldwide.

But putting a damper on that news are expectations down the road, mirrored in the latest recommendation by investment giant Goldman Sachs, that investors should dump their stocks before the U.S. plunges headlong into fiscal turmoil.

In a note to clients, Goldman Sachs U.S. head equity strategist David Kostin told clients to pull out of stocks, as he predicted that Congress would "fail to reach agreement in addressing the fiscal cliff," a possibility that "is greater than what most investors seem to believe based on our client conversations."

Read more: U.S. Economy Still Stumbles despite Wall Street at 4-year high

Europe’s leaders face post-holiday blues (says US Media) - by Barry Hatton

US corporate media continues to hammer Europe as it reports: 

"The latest economic figures show that Europe is edging closer to recession, dragged down by the crippling debt problems of the 17 countries that use the euro.
These debt troubles have tormented the eurozone for close to three years and have defied leaders’ efforts to fix them. And the longer they take to resolve, the bigger they get."

Leaders from France, Germany, and Greece meet later on this week in the latest round of shuttle diplomacy to attempt to put a lid on the eurozone’s debt crisis.
Six eurozone countries — Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Portugal, and Malta — are in recession and others look feeble.

Europe’s stumbling economy is hurting recovery in other parts of the world. The European Union recorded a gross domestic product last year of $15.5 trillion — slightly more than the US output. It is also a major source of sales for the world’s leading companies. Any further economic problems would be felt in order books back in the United States and China.

Forty percent of McDonald’s global revenue comes from Europe — more than it generates in the United States. The company reported a 0.6 percent slump in meals served in Europe last month. Ford Motor Co. warned last week that auto industry sales in the region through July were the lowest in 17 years."

Note EU-Digest:" instead of blaming Europe for US economic woes the US corporate press and financial industry would do well to scrutinize their own economy which is in far worse shape than Europe. It also should not forget where all this economic mess started in the first place. This kind of concentrated negative reporting( Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal and others)  is starting to look more and more like a conspiracy". 

Read more: Europe’s leaders face post-holiday blues - Business - The Boston Globe


Russia: One Hundred Days of Putin - "a leader who brought Russia back from chaos to stability"

Vladimir Putin
As Russia marks 100 days since the return of Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin on Tuesday, there is one thing that his supporters and leaders of the unprecedented protests against his rule agree on – the former KGB officer hasn’t changed in the slightest.

“In essence, nothing has altered as far as Putin’s politics go,” former United Russia lawmaker and Public Chamber member Sergei Markov told RIA Novosti. “Putin said more than once that he would continue to carry out the same policies that voters are familiar with - that’s why they elected him for a third term.”

Markov’s views were echoed in part by opposition figure Ilya Yashin, who served a short jail sentence this summer over attempts to establish an Occupy-style protest camp in downtown Moscow.

Note EU-Digest: regardless of some of the critique against Mr. Putin it must be recognized that Russia did not fall apart in chaos, has achieved stability and made great progress in many areas as a result of the strong leadership qualities of Mr. Putin following the break up of the Soviet Union.

Read more: One Hundred Days of Putin | Features, Opinion & Analysis | RIA Novosti

European Economy: Unlike the UK, France and Germany aren't in recession

George Osborne is fond of blaming the eurozone crisis  for Britain's economic woes (he recently claimed that the crisis had "killed off" growth in the UK) , so it's worth noting that, unlike the UK, the euro's two largest members - Germany and France - aren't in recession.

While the British economy contracted by 0.7 per cent in the second quarter of this year, Eurostat figures out today showed that the French economy remained flat, while Germany grew by 0.3 per cent. In the previous quarter, Britain shrunk by 0.5 per cent, while Germany grew by 0.5 per cent and France stagnated.

Of course, since much of our trade is with the eurozone, its lack of growth (it collectively shrank by 0.2 per cent in Q2), doesn't help. But as even Tory MPs concede, it is some exaggeration to claim it "killed off" our recovery. The Chancellor accomplished that all by himself. It was his absurd claim that the UK was on "the brink of bankruptcy" and his premature austerity measures, most notably the 2.5 point rise in VAT, that destroyed confidence and strangled growth. With the exception of Italy, Britain is the only G20 country to have suffered a double-dip recession.

At this moment, contrary to Osborne, Britain should actually be profiting from the eurozone crisis. With investors ever more reluctant to lend to eurozone countries, the UK can afford to borrow at the lowest interest rates for 300 years. We are, as Osborne has said many times, a "safe haven". Yet the Chancellor appears determined not to take advantage of this fact. He has continually refused to borrow for growth (in the form of tax cuts and higher infrastructure spending), despite little evidence that this would lead to a rise in British gilt yields. It is only Osborne's political pride that is preventing a change of direction. Borrowing for growth would be a tacit admission that his nemesis, Ed Balls, was right and that he was wrong. Until the Chancellor backs down, we will all collectively pay for his stubbornness.

Read more: New Statesman - Unlike the UK, France and Germany aren't in recession

Belarus dissident granted asylum in Ecuador fears he will be killed by dictatorial regime if send home - by Matt Blake

A Belarusian dissident granted asylum in Ecuador has begged his South American safe haven not to send him home, claiming he will surely be killed for exposing government corruption.

Aliaksandr Barankov fled to Ecuador after unearthing petroleum-smuggling ring involving senior officials of President Alexander Lukashenko's government, including relatives of the leader. 

But the former financial crimes investigator says he is in imminent danger of losing his political refugee status and being sent back to the former Soviet bloc nation whose president has been nicknamed 'Europe's last dictator.'

Read more: Belarus dissident who was granted asylum in Ecuador says he will be killed as country is poised to send home | Mail Online

EU backs Sweden, ducks Belarus diplomatic crisis

The EU shied away from a full-blown diplomatic crisis Friday at talks called to respond to the expulsion by Belarus of Swedish diplomats in a row over human rights in the former Soviet republic.

A senior official chairing the talks -- who happens to be Swedish -- said a "very clear message" would be sent to Minsk in the next few days but that the possibility of pulling out all EU ambassadors was not discussed.

The row erupted after Swedish activists illegally flew a plane into Belarus from Lithuania last month, dropping hundreds of teddy bears attached to little parachutes carrying signs calling for freedom of speech and human rights.

Friday's emergency talks involving representatives of all 27 EU members were called after Belarus -- ruled by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko -- this week expelled all Swedish diplomats and closed its Stockholm mission.

Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt had said ambassador Stefan Eriksson, who had taken up the post in Minsk in 2008, was being expelled because of his pro-rights stance and meetings he had with the Belarus opposition.

Stockholm immediately retaliated by saying it would not welcome a new ambassador named by Minsk, and withdrew residency permits for another two Belarus diplomats.

EU backs Sweden, ducks Belarus diplomatic crisis - The Local

Syria crisis: Obama warns on chemical weapons – by Brian Whitaker and Haroon Siddique

President Obama has warned the Syrian government not to cross a "red line" by using chemical or biological weapons or moving them in a threatening fashion – implying that such action would prompt the US to consider a military response.
Activists say government forces have stormed the rebel-held town of Mouadamiyeh, outside the Syrian capital, Damascus, after days of fierce fighting, killing at least 23 fighters.
Syrian authorities are reported to be issuing arrest warrants for various Lebanese politicians on charges of "backing and financing armed groups". The move is seen as retaliation for the arrest of former Lebanese information minister Michel Samaha – a prominent Assad supporter – on suspicion of plotting to assassinate political and religious figures in Lebanon.
More than 1.5 million people in Syria have been driven from their homes by conflict and are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, humanitarian organisations have warned in a letter to the UN and the Arab League.

Mika Yamamoto, a veteran war correspondent with The Japan Press, was killed on Monday in the city of Aleppo while covering the conflict there, the Japanese government confirmed today.

Read more: Syria crisis: Obama warns on chemical weapons – live updates | World news |

Travel Industry: Europe Travel Down for July; Airlines Struggle; UK Wins - by Jena Tesse Fox

The latest Trans-Atlantic report is in for July, with some interesting results for the UK and the Continent.

Overall trans-Atlantic traffic was down in July, with the leading carriers reporting an average decrease of 1.3 percent. That extended the current period of little or negative growth into a fourth month, which several airlines have blamed on high taxes and fuel prices. The carriers reduced capacity by an average 1.7 percent and maintained a high average load factor of 88.9.

Lufthansa reported a profit of $270 million for the second quarter on revenue of $9.7 billion (+6.0 percent), but this was down 24 percent from last year’s $371 million profit. For the first six months, Lufthansa is still $270 million in the red thanks to a difficult first quarter. The long-ailing Austrian Airlines subsidiary turned in an operating profit for the second quarter.

Of the six leading trans-Atlantic carriers, only Star Alliance partners United and Lufthansa reported profits for the second quarter. Air France/KLM, Delta and American reported losses last month.

Read more: Report: Europe Travel Down for July; Airlines Struggle; UK Wins | Travel Agent Central

Europe Stocks Gain Before Crisis Meetings - by Stephen Kirkland and Glenys Sim

Stocks rose around the world, the euro strengthened and commodities headed for a bull market on mounting speculation leaders will make progress on Greece’s debt crisis at meetings this week. Irish benchmark yields fell to the lowest level since October 2010.

Read more: Europe Stocks Gain Before Crisis Meetings, U.S. Economic Data - Businessweek


Europe looks to open up Greenland for natural resources extraction - by Fiona Harvey

Europe is looking to open a new frontier in the ever more urgent quest for new natural resources – the pristine icy wastes of Greenland.

Oil and gas have been the focus of exploitation so far – but the EU sees just as much potential in a massive opening up of mining operations across the world's biggest island, according to Antonio Tajani, the European commission's vice-president and one of the most powerful politicians in the union. He called the move "raw material diplomacy".

Latest satellite data reveal that 97% of the surface of the Greenland ice sheet underwent surface melting over four exceptionally warm days in July, indicating natural resources will become more available for extraction in the coming decades.

Greenland – with strong historical ties to the EU through Denmark, though the island now has home rule – represents a vast and largely untapped resource. Drilling for oil in Greenland's waters is now at the exploratory stage, having been impractical until recent advances in deep sea drilling. Mining has also been all but impossible across most of the country, which is covered in a 150m thick sheet of ice except for a few coastal strips, but melting ice and new techniques are likely to bring more of the region's potential mineral resources within reach in the coming years.

But Europe may face competition. China is already ahead; one of the most advanced metals mining projects in Greenland is nominally owned by London Mining, a UK company, but most of the finance and direction comes from China. Other countries are also eyeing the prize – although Greenland's historical ties are mainly with Europe, it is geographically close to the US and Canada.

Read more: Europe looks to open up Greenland for natural resources extraction | Environment |

Norway Opposition mulls PM no confidence vote

The Conservatives (H) and the Progress Party (FrP) have stated they will give the government an opportunity to answer questions about the findings before considering action, but do not discount the possibility.

Leaders Erna Solberg and Siv Jensen made the statements during a debate in Arendal, Thursday. Both want Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to answer questions on the report.  “We have to wait to see what he says, but might consider a vote of no confidence,” and FrP press spokesperson tells The Foreigner.

The Prime Minister, who was due to give a speech at this year’s ONS oil conference in Stavanger, will now be answering questions in parliament about the report on 28th August instead.

According to the Conservatives, “we cannot conclude so early in the process, but we do not discount that we might put forward a vote of no confidence.”

Read more: Norway Opposition mulls PM no confidence vote / News in brief / The Foreigner — Norwegian News in English.

Denmark growing stronger internationally

A tiny island of hope may be developing in the middle of the current sea of lousy economic news.

Denmark appears to be growing stronger when it comes to competing with other countries. For years, high wages and low productivity have caused the country to lag behind its foreign competitors, but it now seems to be making up some lost ground, according to the latest figures from the Business and Growth Ministry.

"I do not want to be overly optimistic, but there are cautiously positive signs that we may be able to celebrate," the business and growth minister, Ole Sohn (Socialistisk Folkeparti), told Politiken newspaper.

Read more: Denmark growing stronger internationally | The Copenhagen Post | The Danish News in English

NASA: Why Mars Rover Curiosity Is Likely to Find 'Martians'

Curiosity Rover
With the rover Curiosity now safely on Mars, the world will be seeing lots of video in the coming months and years from the planet's surface.

The six-legged, nuclear-powered $2 billion robot has already sent back images of Gale Crater where it landed, and it's soon on its way toward a 3-mile-high mountain nearby. Scientists — and indeed the entire world — are watching with bated breath to see what Curiosity can find as it spends the next two years digging, sampling, probing, and analyzing on the Red Planet's rocky surface.

Many will also be looking for evidence of life on Mars, and Curiosity may provide it — even if it's not there. NASA footage has long been fodder for UFO buffs and conspiracy theorists who comb through countless photos and hours of video looking for evidence of alien life (or evidence that NASA is covering up evidence of extraterrestrials).

Read more: Why Mars Rover Curiosity Is Likely to Find 'Martians' |

Mental Health: The Ten Most Depressing States US

On its own, where you live isn't enough to make you depressed. Personal circumstances and genes also play an important role in mental health, so an area that feels like a downer to one person may be home sweet home to another.

That said, mental distress is unusually and persistently common in some states, whether due to economic troubles, lack of access to health care, or other factors.

Using data from federal health agencies, has identified the 10 states with the highest rates of depression, psychological distress, and other indicators of poor mental health. Here they are, in alphabetical order.

Read more: Kentucky - Most Depressing States -

German President Gauck challenges far-right

President Joachim Gauck has urged Germany to resist far-right extremists without fear. His remarks precede the 20th anniversary of anti-foreigner rioting in Rostock that shocked Germany shortly after its reunification. 

German head of state Gauck told the Ostsee Zeiting newspaper on Monday that at next weekend's remembrance in his home city he would show that Germany had "trained" really hard to develop a "defensive culture" against far-right extremism, and that "we will remain active."

"We won't hand over our fear as a present to the far-extremists; we won't let them prevail," Gauck said on Monday.

Read more: German President Gauck challenges far-right | News | DW.DE | 20.08.2012

Terrorism: Czech Republic man suspected of planning ‘Breivik-style’ attack

Authorities in the Czech Republic have arrested a man they believe was planning an attack similar to the one carried out by Anders Behring Breivik in Norway. The suspect, who has previous convictions, including one for detonating a homemade bomb, is from the northeastern town of Ostrava. Police have not released the man’s name and say the investigation is in its early stages.

The director of the regional headquarters of Czech police is Tomas Tuhy who said: “This twenty-nine year old man probably sympathises with known murderer Anders Behring Breivik from Norway. Of course, we are investigating any connection. Various parts of uniforms, including police and prisoner ones, were confiscated during a search of his residence.”

The Head of Ostrava Criminal Police, Radovan Vojta, said: “When entering the apartment, police were extremely cautious because we had information the place may have been dangerous. We were careful in case unauthorised entry triggered an explosive device.”

Read more: Czech Republic man suspected of planning ‘Breivik-style’ attack | euronews, world news

Netherlands: Europe's largest harbour's 'sea-leg' taking shape

Four years ago, Queen Beatrix gave Rotterdam the final nod to extend her kingdom into the North Sea to expand Europe's largest harbour - and forever change the shape of the Dutch coast.

Planned for 15 years, the Dutch monarch's signature was a final requirement to set in motion one of the largest maritime construction projects of its kind in the Netherlands in 70 years - extending the Port of Rotterdam by an area equivalent to more than 3,000 football fields.

Next year, when the first phase of the Maasvlakte 2 project is completed, a new harbour stretching three kilometres (1.8 miles) into the sea will have risen 23 metres (76 feet) from the sea floor.

Built at a total cost of 3 billion euros ($3.6 billion) Maasvlakte 2 is seen as the crown jewel at the entrance of the iconic Port of Rotterdam, Europe's largest and the world's fourth-largest harbour.

Read more: Europe's largest harbour's 'sea-leg' taking shape | Business Recorder


Auto Industry: Renault, Qualcomm test wireless EV charging

Renault Fluence Z.E. electric sedan
Renault will join forces with Qualcomm in a London trial of the US company’s wireless electric vehicle charging technology.

The two companies said the purpose of the trial will be to see whether Qualcomm’s Halo technology is commercially viable and can be used in electric vehicles built by Renault and other carmakers.

The French automotive group is rolling out a growing range of EVs and last month repeated that it wants to build up expertise in the entire EV value chain – from technical architecture to motors and batteries.

Anthony Thomson, Qualcomm’s vice president of business development and marketing, said the cooperation between the US mobile technology and Renault gives a boost to its efforts to promote wireless charging for the industry.

Read more: Renault, Qualcomm test wireless EV charging - automotiveIT International