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9/30/13

Russia plans advanced pilotless new fighter jet

Russia says it's planning to build a new fighter jet that would be more advanced than the newest American models.

The so-called sixth-generation fighter jet “will most likely be pilotless,” former Russian air force chief Pyotr Deinekin told the state news agency RIA Novosti this week — even though Russia has yet to develop a fifth-generation fighter jet.

Sixth-generation fighters are expected to use energy weapons such as lasers and microwaves and be stealthier than current military aircraft.

Deinekin's remarks came before the International Air and Space Salon (MAKS), one of the world's biggest airshows, taking place near Moscow this week.

Read more: Russia plans advanced new fighter jet | GlobalPost

The Netherlands: Can Rotterdam's Port Become a Virtual Power Plant? - by Katherine Tweed

The energy sector is critical to Rotterdam’s economy, but the port city has aggressive plans to cut its carbon dioxide emissions in half by 2025.

The city takes in imports of oil, coal, biomass, and natural gas that are used across Northwest Europe. It is not just a stopover, but also a major refinery hub for the region. Even though Rotterdam relies heavily on the fossil fuel industry, it is increasingly focused on how to leverage renewables and existing assets to power its own port.

Rotterdam is partnering with General Electric [PDF] to develop a smart grid that can act as a virtual power plant (VPP), which would integrate thermal and renewable power production with flexible users in a centrally controlled system that would act as a single power plant. The city has been working with GE in the past few years to reduce emissions, improve water management and increase energy efficiency.

A virtual power plant takes energy efficiency and demand-side management to another level. It can be thought of as a sophisticated microgrid cluster, in which digital measurement and monitoring equipment on distributed resources can respond to the needs of the grid in real time. For example, many of the large industrial plants in the port produce their own electricity and heat, which can be sold into the grid when wind or solar production falls. There may also be more traditional generation, such as a coal-fired power plant or combined heat and power.

“Within a VPP, the electricity use of one part can be coordinated with the production of electricity in another part. A harbor, where many companies produce and consume electricity at a limited distance from each other, should be a suitable location to test and implement such a VP,” Daan Six of Belgian research organization VITO said in a report on the potential of a VPP in Rotterdam.

A virtual power plant usually responds in real-time to changing electricity rates. Depending on the cost of electricity, a large industrial customer may sell some power back to the grid or provide grid balancing services like frequency regulation, which is a larger problem with intermittent wind and solar than with steady, thermal generators.

A dynamic microgrid with various ways to produce and curb kilowatts can lead to cleaner energy use, especially if fossil-fueled peaking power plants can be avoided by consumers curbing their energy use. But a virtual power plant is not necessarily a replacement for fossil fuel-fired plants. An industrial customer might turn to backup generators that run on diesel, for instance, when the price signal is too high to take power from of the grid.

“Rotterdam is certainly one of those global conglomerates of industry in a very tight space and, because of the petrochemical and other activity there, with incredibly high energy demands,” GE’s Stephen Burdis told PortStrategy. “That is one of the drivers behind the project.”

Read more: Can Rotterdam's Port Become a Virtual Power Plant? - IEEE Spectrum

US Economy: Maine remains worst state for business, Forbes says - "but Eastport's deep Port provides opportunities" - by C. Cousins and W. Richardson

For the fourth year in a row, Forbes has ranked Maine the worst state in the nation for business.

“Not much has changed,” Forbes said Friday. “It is still burdened with an aging population and a weak economic forecast. Job growth projections are the worst in the U.S and only Vermont is expected to have slower household income growth over the next five years, according to Moody’s Analytics.”

Virginia was the best state for business, according to the annual rankings. Virginia got high marks because of strong business incentives, its handling of legal claims against business and its low union membership.
Maine ranked 49th in growth prospects, behind only Wyoming. The Pine Tree State did better than most states — 24th — for quality of life.

Forbes placed much of the blame for Maine’s worst-in-the-nation standing on “the state’s high corporate tax burden and lousy job and economic growth forecast.”

The lack of a statewide economic development plan is a glaring omission, according to Peter Vigue, chairman and CEO of Cianbro in Pittsfield.  “You can’t run an operation or business without a strategy,” he said.

Vigue does, however, points to other factors that he thinks offset the negatives. "Compared to a number of other states there are some significant benefits of doing business in the state. I would argue that the resourcefulness of people in this state are significant and far greater than those of many, many other states in this country.”

He also cites the fact Maine has the deepest port on the eastern seaboard in Eastport. He said it needs upgrades, but the asset is there.


Read more: Maine remains worst state for business, Forbes says — Business — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

Social Media: What Facebook, Twitter, Tinder, Instagram, and Internet Porn Are Doing to Teenage Girls - by Nancy Jo Sales

This year, 81 percent of Internet-using teenagers in America reported that they are active on social-networking sites, more than ever before. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and new dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, and Blendr have increasingly become key players in social interactions, both online and IRL (in real life).

Combined with unprecedented easy access to the unreal world of Internet porn, the result is a situation that has drastically affected gender roles for young people. Speaking to a variety of teenaged boys and girls across the country, Nancy Jo Sales uncovers a world where boys are taught they have the right to expect everything from social submission to outright sex from their female peers. What is this doing to young women?

Read more: What Facebook, Twitter, Tinder, Instagram, and Internet Porn Are Doing to America’s Teenage Girls | Vanity Fair

Development: What Africa can learn from medieval Europe

In the last few decades, Africa’s failure to achieve rapid growth has puzzled economists. GDP statistics clearly show that African economies have failed to converge with Europe's since the Second World War. While GDP per capita in constant terms almost quintupled in Western Europe between 1950 and 2008, it only doubled in Africa in the same period. Some African countries have not simply failed to catch up with Europe but have fallen behind in absolute terms. GDP per capita in countries like the Central African Republic, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have fallen over this same period.

Many scholars still blame the continent’s economic woes on the legacy of western colonialism. But a new paper* by Stephen Broadberry and Leigh Gardner, both at the London School of Economics, seeks to find a new answer to this old question by comparing trends in contemporary Africa to Europe’s development experience over the last 800 years.

Africa’s failure to develop, they argue, should not be seen as the exception, but as the historical norm. Africa’s growth trends since 1950—overall stagnation with periods of growth and decline—appear incredibly similar, both in terms of patterns and level, to those of pre-modern Europe. It took European countries until the 1800s to exceed Africa’s current per capita output. Humanity all over the world, for the vast majority of its history, has been at least as poor as Africa today.

Read more: Development: What Africa can learn from medieval Europe | The Economist

Communicable diseases: In Florida, the Front Lines of a High-Pitched, Bite-Size War - by Lizette Alvarez

In July, an outbreak of dengue fever, once thought to have been eradicated in Florida, occurred in Martin County, just north of Palm Beach on the east coast. Twenty people developed the disease, which causes flulike symptoms and extreme aches. 

Mosquito control officials are worried that dengue has established a foothold in Florida. The last outbreak — and the first in the state in about 70 years — was in 2009 and 2010, when dengue fever hit Key West.
The problem appears to be contained for now, in large part because the area is small and Florida is well seasoned in the art of mosquito warfare. 

“Florida is certainly among the leaders in the world in professional mosquito control,” said Walter Tabachnick, a professor at the University of Florida’s medical entomology laboratory. “Prior to that, this was not a very nice place to live in.” 

Imbued with Darwinian strength, the Aedes aegypti, commonly known as the Dengue mosquito because it carries the disease, is a survivalist that breeds and lives in towns and cities. It can encamp inside a bottle cap, under a house or in any container holding water, making it difficult to find and kill. 

Fighting them is akin to urban warfare: armed with spray in hand-held devices, mosquito fighters go yard to yard and house to house. They warn residents to remove any containers that can fill with water or tip them over after a rainfall. 

Read more: In Florida, the Front Lines of a High-Pitched, Bite-Size War - NYTimes.com

Economic Meltdown? Global Stocks Tumble as Shutdown Looms; Treasuries Rise - by Kyoungwha Kim & Lars Paulsson

Global stocks fell, trimming their biggest quarterly gain since the start of 2012, while the Japanese yen strenghtened before a potential U.S. government shutdown. Italian bonds slumped and crude oil traded near its lowest level in three months.

The MSCI All Country World Index lost 0.6 percent as of 12:26 p.m. in London as the Stoxx Europe 600 Index slid 0.7 percent and Asia’s benchmark gauge fell 1.5 percent. Italian 10-year bonds retreated for a third day and the yield on 10-year Treasury notes declined to a seven-week low. The yen rose against 15 of its 16 major peers, reaching a three-week high against the euro. West Texas Intermediate oil fell as much as 1.4 percent.

Congress is scheduled to meet today to end a stalemate that raises the risk of the first government shutdown in 17 years and threatens talks to increase the debt limit. Italy’s government is on the verge of collapse after allies of former leader Silvio Berlusconi said they would quit the cabinet. China’s manufacturing rose less than economists estimated in September.

The House of Representatives voted 231-192 yesterday to stop many of the Affordable Care Act’s central provisions for one year, tying it to an extension of U.S. government funding through Dec. 15. Should the Senate reject the bill today the government could be shut down from tomorrow. Even if the budget fight is resolved, lawmakers would immediately move to the next fiscal dispute over raising the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling.

Failure to approve funding to keep the government open and to raise the debt ceiling would have a destabilizing effect on the economy, President Barack Obama said in a televised statement Sept. 27. Closing the government would cut fourth-quarter economic growth by as much as 1.4 percentage points depending on its length, according to economists from Moody’s Analytics Inc. to Economic Outlook Group LLC. 

Read more: Global Stocks Tumble as Shutdown Looms; Treasuries Rise - Bloomberg

9/29/13

Is the euro the next currency battleground?

If the Federal Reserve's unprecedented quantitative easing program started a currency war, the euro may offer the next battleground.

The euro zone's policy makers are set to launch the next salvo in a move to push down euro's value, said Jens Nordvig, global head of foreign-exchange strategy at Nomura and the author of "The Fall of the Euro."

In 2010, Brazil's Finance Minister Guido Mantega popularized the phrase "currency wars" after developed nations, such as the U.S. and the euro zone, rolled out a series of easing measures to bolster their exports by weakening their currencies, which pushed up emerging market currencies.

But for now, the euro is locked into a bit of a stalemate while the market watches for policy signals from the Federal Reserve, Nordvig said. He also expects the euro's status as a reserve currency and one which benefits from some "flight to quality" flows to provide a bolster, with the euro possibly rising as high as 1.37 against the dollar in the near term. It's currently trading around 1.35.

The flood of money into European stocks, more than $200 billion so far this year, is also keeping the currency strong, Nordvig noted.

When it comes to euro strength, "I wouldn't fight it right now," he said, although he noted the currency's direction may change once economic data stops improving.

Read more: Is the euro the next currency battleground?

China: Renminbi: Soon To Be A Reserve Currency? - by John Mauldin

One of the prerequisites for a true reserve currency is that there must be a steady and ready supply of the currency to facilitate global trade. The United States has done its part in providing an ample supply of US dollars by running massive trade deficits with the rest of the world, primarily with oil-producing nations and with Asia (most notably China and Japan), for all manner of manufactured products.

The US consumer has been the buyer of last resort for several decades (I say, somewhat tongue in cheek).

Those dollars typically end up in the reserve balances of various producing nations and find their way back to the US, primarily invested in US government bonds. In an odd sense, the rest of the world has been providing vendor financing to the US, the richest nation in the world.

China has a massive comparative advantage that most people never think of. If I asked, "What's China's comparative advantage?" 99 out of 100 people would say "cheap labor," but that's not true. Labor is not that cheap in China anymore. China's comparative advantage is that China – alone amongst emerging-market nations – has a deep and credible financial center. It takes 50 years to build a financial center – to, you know, have auditors, lawyers, accountants, judges. And China is very lucky, because in 1997 the Brits – who are quite good at building financial centers – basically built one in Hong Kong and told China, "Here it is. Try not to mess it up."

For twelve years, China did nothing with Hong Kong. It was kind of a deal of "You don't bother us, we won't bother you. We've got other fish to fry." And that worked well until all of a sudden, in the past two to three years, China has been internationalizing its currency through Hong Kong, and it is taking off like wildfire.

We always talk about what you see and what you don't. Everybody talks about the China slowdown. Everybody talks about the impact this is going to have on commodities, on countries like Canada, on countries like Australia. Nobody talks about what you don't see. And what you don't see is that China is slowly but surely internationalizing its currency. It's slowly freeing capital controls. It's creating deep and liquid capital markets, and this is going to change the way that companies and individuals finance themselves among emerging markets. It's going to make for more stable emerging markets and hopefully for higher growth.

China is on its way to becoming a reserve currency not because of weakness in the US dollar but precisely because the US dollar is going to get stronger and become less readily available. Countries are going to need to be able to trade in something besides dollars. It simply makes sense that if 20% of an emerging-market country's trade is with China, it should do the trades in RMB rather than in relatively scarcer dollars. Of course, this means that China needs to have a relatively stable monetary policy so that its trading partners will have confidence in the long-term RMB, but China realizes that. And of course the RMB will have to meet all the other requirements for being a reserve currency.

Read more: Renminbi: Soon To Be A Reserve Currency? - Business Insider

NATO and Russia hold joint counter-terror exercise ‘Vigilant Skies’

Fighter aircraft from Turkish, Polish and Russian air forces together with air traffic controllers successfully completed a live three-day joint NATO-Russia counter-terrorism exercise “Vigilant Skies 2013,” on Thursday (26 September). 

The exercise was the second time that air traffic controllers from the NATO-Russia Council Cooperative Airspace Initiative (NRC CAI) have been tested on their real-time capacity to detect and direct the response to a civilian aircraft hijacked by terrorists in the skies over NATO and Russian territory. 

The purpose of the exercise is to foster cooperation on airspace security, notably in the field of real-time surveillance and air traffic coordination. The NATO-Russia Council decided to create the initiative in 2002 in wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

This year’s scenario involved two separate air terrorism incidents involving the hijacking of civilian aircraft in Turkish, Russian and Polish airspace by terrorists on board the planes. All incidents were successfully resolved after NATO and Russian air traffic controllers coordinated Allied and Russian military authorities to scramble fighter jets to escort the aircraft to safe landings.

The aim of the CAI programme is to operate and further develop a capability for reciprocal air traffic information exchange and coordination of air security incidents which pose a terrorist threat. The current network already offers increased information sharing and communication ensuring rapid, joint responses to terrorist threats.

The current CAI network consists of four air traffic control units in NATO nations and four in the Russian Federation interconnected through CAI coordination centres located in Warsaw and Moscow.

The aim of the NATO-Russia Council is to make the CAI network operational on a permanent basis to improve air safety for the thousands of passengers that transit through NATO and Russian airspace every day. Participation in the programme is also open to partner nations.

Read more: NATO - News: NATO and Russia hold joint counter-terror exercise ‘Vigilant Skies’, 26-Sep.-2013

Austria's governing coalition slips in elections but continue absolute majority

Austria's two government coalition parties appeared to have lost some support in parliamentary elections Sunday but seemed likely to keep the absolute majority they need to stay in power for the next five years.

Meanwhile, a right-wing, anti-immigrant party made gains.

With more than 60 percent of the vote counted, the Socialist Party had 26.5 percent backing and its centrist People's Party partner was at 23.7 percent. That was a loss of more than 2 percentage points each for both parties.

A final official tally was expected later in the day.

Read More: Austria's governing coalition slips in elections - Timesonline.com: Europe

USA: Obama Adviser Compares Republicans To Terrorists - Clinton: "GOP 'Begging For America To Fail' - by Zeke J Miller

In the latest escalation in the Obama administration’s war of words with congressional Republicans, White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer compared the GOP to terrorists in an interview on CNN Thursday. ”We are for cutting spending. We are for reforming out tax codes, reforming out entitlements,” Pfeiffer told Jake Tapper.

“What we’re not for is negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest. We’re not going to do that.”

President Barack Obama and aides have repeatedly called out Republicans for attempt to “extort” and “blackmail” the administration into cutting funding for the Affordable Care Act as part of a deal to keep the government funded into October. But the metaphors have rarely broached the boundaries of terrorism.

Huff Post wrote:  Former President Bill Clinton weighed in on an increasingly likely government shutdown in an interview with ABC's 'This Week'. Clinton criticized Republican demands, as well as their obsession with Obamacare.

"I've never seen a time-- can you remember a time in your lifetime when a major political party was just sitting around, begging for America to fail?" said Clinton

Read more: Obama Senior Adviser Compares Republicans To Terrorists | TIME.com

9/28/13

US Congressional Chaos: House Republicans to propose one-year delay of Obamacare - by Paul Kane, Rosalind S. Helderman and David A. Fahrenthold

House Republican leaders proposed a new plan to the GOP rank-and-file Saturday afternoon: Make a new gesture of defiance toward President Obama’s health-care law, even if it increases the chances of a government shutdown Monday night.

Their proposal calls for amendments to a bill designed to keep the government open for a few more weeks. The changes would include a one-year delay in the health-care law, which is set to take effect next month. The GOP plan would also repeal, permanently, a medical-device tax included in the law.

The advantage of that plan — for Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and his team — is political. After being criticized by GOP hard-liners for not doing enough to undermine the health-care law, Boehner has taken a far more aggressive position. Instead of seeking to take away some of the money to implement Obamacare, the House GOP’s new plan would push back the whole thing.

The disadvantage is more practical: This plan is far more likely to result in a government shutdown. It may pass the House — and it may even pass Saturday. But it is not likely to pass the Democratic-held Senate or be signed by Obama.

On Saturday, in fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said the House’s new plan was “pointless.”

“The Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax,” Reid said in a statement, referring to the health-care law. “After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at square one: Republicans must decide whether to pass the Senate’s clean CR, or force a Republican government shutdown.”

Read more: House Republicans to propose one-year delay of Obamacare - The Washington Post

Inner Space - What Lurks Beneath The Earth's Surface - by Linton Weeks

Recently there has been an eruption of revelations from below the surface of the Earth: Major aquifers beneath Kenya and a vast volcano deep in the Pacific Ocean. In just the past six months, there have been reports of new oilfield discoveries in Canada, Colombia, Israel and other spots.

Inner Earth seems to be getting more attention these days than outer space. There may be nothing new under the sun, but there is a lot happening where the sun don't shine. Besides oil and water, researchers are digging for untold minerals and medicinal knowledge and maybe even some of the deepest secrets of all.

Dig a little and there is no telling what you will find.

While engaged in sea-floor drilling, for instance, Japanese scientists have discovered ginormous amounts of microorganisms. "The total volume of those organisms is nearly equivalent to the on-land one," says Shinichi Kuramoto of the Center for Deep Earth Exploration in Yokohama.

Life among the micro-creatures, dwelling in the deepdark of the Earth's interior, may potentially shed light on our planet's past, Shinichi says, and may even address the question: "Where do we come from?"

Read more: What Lurks Beneath The Earth's Surface | WFAE

UN unanimously adopts Syria arms resolution

The UN Security Council has voted unanimously to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile.

The vote late on Friday was the first resolution passed on the Syrian conflict since it began in March 2011, after Russia and China had previously vetoed three Western-backed resolutions pressuring President Bashar Assad's regime to end the violence.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the council immediately after the vote that he aimed to hold long-sought talks aimed at organising a political transition in Syria in mid-November.

For the first time, the UNSC endorsed the roadmap for a political transition in Syria adopted by key nations in June 2012 and called for an international conference to be convened "as soon as possible" to implement it.

The resolution calls for consequences if Syria fails to comply, but those will depend on the council passing another resolution in the event of non-compliance.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, said after the vote the UN Security Council would be prepared to take punitive steps in the event of confirmed violations of a resolution demanding the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.

Note EU-Digest: Kudos to President's Putin and Obama to pull this off !


 Read more: UN unanimously adopts Syria arms resolution - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

Iranian President Rouhani takes to Twitter after historic phone chat with Obama - Eric Pfeiffer

Describing his phone conversation with President Obama as “historic,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took to Twitter on Friday with a series of a fascinating messages that stunned and encouraged many foreign policy observers.

“In phone convo, President # Rouhani and President @ BarackObama expressed their mutual political # will to rapidly solve the # nuclear issue,” Rouhani wrote to his 64,000 plus followers.

In another tweet, Rouhani noted that he ended his conversation with Obama by saying, “Have a Nice Day!” and that the Obama responded by saying, “Thank you. Khodahafez.”

The phrase is a common way of saying goodbye in the Persian language and is literally translated as, “"May God be your Guardian.”

Read more: Iranian President Rouhani takes to Twitter after phone chat with Obama - Yahoo News

Italian government breaks up after Berlusconi pulls out ministers

Italian centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi pulled his ministers out of the cabinet on Saturday, effectively bringing down the government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta and leaving the euro-zone's third-largest economy in chaos.

Talks will now start to find a new parliamentary majority to back a new cabinet and avoid going back to elections just seven months after the last one.


Read more: Italian government breaks up after Berlusconi pulls out ministers | Reuters

Facism: Greece crackdown: Golden Dawn leader Michaloliakos charged

The leader of the far-right Golden Dawn party, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, has been formally charged with belonging to a criminal organization.

Four more Golden Dawn MPs, a party leader in an Athens suburb and 12 other people face the same charges.

They were arrested on Saturday amid anger over the murder on 18 September of anti-racist musician, Pavlos Fyssas.

A man held for the stabbing told police he was a Golden Dawn supporter, though the party strongly denies any link.

Read more: BBC News - Greece crackdown: Golden Dawn leader Michaloliakos charged

9/27/13

Suriname: DEA 'Has Proof' of Suriname President's Ties to Drug Lord - by Charles Parkinson

The US DEA has apparently uncovered "hard evidence" of connections between the president of Suriname and a high-profile convicted drug lord, in what would amount to the first concrete proof against a leader long suspected of ties to organized crime.

According to Dutch news service NRC, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has records taken from the satellite phone of notorious Guyanese drug trafficker Shaheed "Roger" Khan that prove he was in contact with current Surinamese President Desi Bouterse during 2005 and 2006. Khan was arrested after a 2006 sting operation in Suriname's capital Paramaribo -- while Bouterse was an opposition politician -- and was extradited to the United States via Trinidad. He received a 40 year jail sentence for drug trafficking in 2009.

For years, the United States has publicly highlighted Bouterse's connections to drug trafficking based on a 2000 conviction in absentia by a Netherlands court, but has never presented a case against him.

Bouterse previously served as the country's military dictator from 1980 to 1987, and in 2010 was elected president. Suriname's government last year approved an amnesty which prevented a murder trial against Bouterse for the 1982 killing of 15 opponents during his first period in power -- an act for which he has accepted "political responsibility."

In August, his son Dino Bouterse -- head of Suriname's anti-terrorism unit -- was captured in Panama and deported to the United States, where he now faces drugs trafficking charges.

If the DEA really can prove the connection between Bouterse and Khan it will be very damning indeed. A US cable leaked in 2011 accused Bouterse of working with Khan to smuggle cocaine until at least 2006,
providing him with "access to Surinamese criminal elements and structures, eased access to regular shipping to Europe for drug movement, and protection while in Suriname." They also allege Khan exchanged weapons for cocaine with Colombian rebels the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, something Bouterse himself has also been accused of.

Suriname is a significant transshipment point for drugs heading to Europe and Africa, a role that has been facilitated by corruption running to the highest levels. According to the State Department's 2013 International Narcotics Strategy Report corruption is pervasive "throughout all levels of government" and there is "evidence of drug-related corruption among government officials."

Read more: DEA 'Has Proof' of Suriname President's Ties to Drug Lord - InSight Crime | Organized Crime in the Americas

Syria: U.S., Russia agree on Syria U.N. chemical arms measure -

Ending weeks of diplomatic deadlock, the United States and Russia agreed on Thursday on a U.N. Security Council draft resolution that would demand Syria give up its chemical arms, but does not threaten military force if it fails to comply.

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said a deal was struck with Russia "legally obligating" Syria to give up its chemical stockpile and the measure went to the full Security Council in a closed-door meeting on Thursday night. U.N. diplomats said a vote could come within 24 hours.

U.S., Russian, French and British diplomats told reporters the vote could come as early as Friday evening, provided the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague approves a plan for the destruction of Syria's poison gas arsenal beforehand.

"I know that some (foreign) ministers are extending their stay in New York in order to participate in that vote," Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters.

The agreement emerged from intense negotiations at the United Nations with Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's chief ally. The aim was to craft a measure to require destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal in line with a U.S.-Russian deal reached earlier this month that averted American strikes on Assad's forces in the midst of a bloody civil war.

Read more: U.S., Russia agree on Syria U.N. chemical arms measure - chicagotribune.com

Space Exploration: US launches unmanned "commercial" Cygnus cargo ship to ISS

Orbital Sciences Corp launched the first flight of its unmanned Cygnus cargo ship Wednesday to the International Space Station, as NASA forges ahead with its plan to privatize US space missions.

"This is just the beginning of what we can do to support human space flight," Orbital executive vice president Frank Culbertson, a retired NASA astronaut, told reporters after Cygnus went into orbit around the Earth.

The Cygnus capsule, hitched to Orbital Science's Antares rocket, blasted off at 10:58 am (1458 GMT) from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility off Virginia's eastern coast, for a Sunday rendezvous with the ISS.

At the orbiting outpost, the Exhibition 37 crew watched live video of the blast-off.

NASA released a photo showing Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano suspended due to the loss of gravity as they gathered around a laptop computer screen in the station's Destiny laboratory.

Cygnus will ferry about 1,300 pounds (590 kilograms) of food, clothing and other cargo for the crew aboard the space station, which it is scheduled to reach at 1130 GMT Sunday.

"Today marks a milestone in our new era of exploration as we expand the capability for making cargo launches to the International Space Station from American shores," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement 
Read more: US launches unmanned Cygnus cargo ship to ISS

US - EU Trade Negotians:"will the EU have to give up the store to create 740.000 extra US Jobs?

A second and more intense round of US-EU negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is slated for next month. Those talks are likely to elicit greater scrutiny on the contours of a potential agreement and its impact on the American and European economies broadly. But there will also be a focus on regional and industrial-sector consequences. For the US, that means states, local businesses and American households will all be affected.

With this in mind, the Bertelsmann Foundation, in partnership with the Atlantic Council and the British Embassy in Washington, DC has released “TTIP and the Fifty States: Jobs and Growth from Coast to Coast”, a landmark study that assesses the economic benefits of a fully implemented US-EU free-trade agreement on the economies of all 50 US states.

The report, which can be found here, finds that an ambitious TTIP agreement—one that eliminates trans-Atlantic tariffs, reduces costs of non-tariff regulatory barriers by 25 percent and halves public-procurement barriers—could lead to more than 740,000 TTIP-related US jobs, the equivalent of the entire workforce of New Hampshire.  Additionally, states such as California (75,340), Texas (67,780), New York (50,520) and Florida (47,540) could see significant TTIP-related job gains. Nationally, nearly 1 in every 160 US jobs in existence could be attributed to the TTIP agreement.

Among the reports other findings:
  • US states would see annual exports to Europe increase at an average of 33-percent.
  • The motor-vehicle sector would see substantial growth, serving as the top sector for export growth in 19 states. 
  • States well integrated into the supply chain of the trans-Atlantic automobile market (particularly Alabama, South Carolina and Michigan) would experience significant export boosts in this sector. Michigan alone would see an increase by 95-percent under an ambitious TTIP agreement while Alabama and South Carolina would see increases of 187 and 138-percent, respectively.
  • Chemical exports would also increase substantially, accounting for top sectorial export increases in 13 states. Pennsylvania alone is estimated to increase its chemical exports by $2.3 billion, a 34-percent increase. 

The report was officially released on September 24th at an event with UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and US Senators Christopher Murphy (D-CT) and Ron Johnson (R-WI). Deputy Prime Minister Clegg called the report “a compelling read”, adding that despite the existing large trans-Atlantic trade relationship, Europeans and Americans can do better and create more prosperity. The senators echoed this sentiment, with Johnson hailing free trade as a “win-win proposition” and Murphy arguing that TTIP offered an “unassailable case” for benefits to the US economy. 

EU-Digest

The Netherlands: Income gap between poor and rich widening

The gap between rich and poor in the Netherlands has increased over the past 35 years, according to researchers at Amsterdam University.

The financial position of the 10% of the population with the lowest incomes worsened by about 30% between 1977 and 2011, while the rest had more to spend, the research, quoted by the Volkskrant, shows.

The main reason for the deterioration in the position of low income households is cuts in social security benefits.

In 1977, the richest 10% of the population earned 5.1 times as much as the poorest 10%. But by 2011 this had stretched to 8.2%, the research showed. Growth was fastest in the second half of the 1980s when the minimum wage and benefits were frozen.

The current coalition government has made reducing the income gap a central part of its policies and is increasing the tax burden on the better off.

Read more: DutchNews.nl - The income gap in the Netherlands is getting wider, researchers say

Europe's plan to address weak banks risks unraveling

The European Central Bank's (ECB) plan to test the health of the euro zone's largest lenders without the means to plug any holes it uncovers risks foiling what some see as the bloc's final chance to put its financial crisis behind it.

Unlike in the United States, where rapid infusions of capital put its banks quickly back on track, Europe's financial system remains frozen, with lenders in countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy hurt by weak demand and soured loans.

To break the "doom loop" between indebted European countries and their banks and reassure investors that stressed euro zone lenders would be dealt with on a regional level, a banking union, with the ECB as supervisor, is viewed as crucial.

Europe's plan to address weak banks risks unraveling | Reuters

9/26/13

VoIP service provider Viber: 200.000.000 mobile users, for starters – Q&A with Viber CEO Talmon Marco

Free mobile messaging and VoIP service provider Viber recently made a slew of announcements, including reaching the milestone of 200 million users, the roll-out of Viber 3.0 on Android and iOS, and the launch of new apps for Windows and Mac desktop computers.

We had a chat with Viber founder and CEO Talmon Marco to go beyond the facts in the press release and see how the company is faring.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial activities prior to Viber? 

Answ TM: I was born in Israel, spent most of my adult life in the US. I started a few companies before Viber, most notably iMesh, a file-sharing service".

Q: How, when and why did you co-found Viber Media?

Answ: "Viber was started in March of 2010 with a few friends from my iMesh days. We recognized the need for a messaging and voice application centered around the mobile experience and the phone book as your “social graph” or “contact list”.

"We wanted something that would be “super easy to use”. It would be the app you love and your grandpa can use without your help. We figured it was going to attract people because of the price but it had to be a great experience if people were to stay on board."

Q: Can you give us some basic facts about the company?
What size is your staff, where are the offices located, and has the company ever raised funding?
  
Answ: "Viber is pretty small given the scope of what we do. We are a little over 100 people, developing on about a dozen platforms. The company is based in Cyprus with development centers in Belarus, Israel and China. Funding is still “friends and family”. We never did an institutional round of financing. Maybe someday".

Q: The first Viber app for iOS was launched back in December 2010.
How has the mobile messaging landscape evolved since then, both to your advantage and negatively?

Answ: "At the time mobile messaging was a novelty. Since then it has become, in many countries, mainstream. This is good as less and less education is needed, but at the same time competition is fiercer than ever as more and more companies, big and small, realize the promise of mobile messaging".

"It’s an exciting time, but one with few hours of sleep".

 Read more: 200.000.000 mobile users, for starters – Q&A with Viber CEO Talmon Marco - The Next Web

Russia: Agriculture watchdog bans seafood imports from Denmark, Canada, and New Zealand

Russian agriculture watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor has banned seafood imports from companies in Denmark, Canada and New Zealand.

In Denmark the ban concerns Akamalik (Royal Greenland A/S). Lab tests on prawns from this company revealed repeated cases of E.coli.

Prawns from Canada's Clearwater Ocean Prawns Venture were also banned due to E.coli.

Restrictions were also imposed on products from New Zealand's PH1 (Talley's Group Limited). E.coli was found in mussels from this company.

Read more: Agriculture watchdog bans seafood imports from Denmark, Canada, New Zealand | Russia Beyond The Headlines

Greece's democracy in danger, warns Demos, as Greek reservists call for coup - by Helena Smith

No country has displayed more of a "backslide in democracy" than Greece, the British thinktank Demos has said in a study highlighting the crisis-plagued country's slide into economic, social and political disarray.

Released on the same day that judicial authorities ordered an investigation into a blog posting by an elite reservist group linked to Greece's armed forces calling for a coup d'etat, the study singled out Greece and Hungary for being "the most significant democratic backsliders" in the EU.

"Researchers found Greece overwhelmed by high unemployment, social unrest, endemic corruption and a severe disillusionment with the political establishment," it said. The report, commissioned by the European parliament, noted that Greece was the most corrupt state in the 28-nation bloc and voiced fears over the rise of far-right extremism in the country.

The report was released as the fragile two-party coalition of the prime minister, Antonis Samaras, admitted it was worried by a call for a military coup posted overnight on Wednesday on the website of the Special Forces Reserve Union. "It must worry us," said a government spokesman, Simos Kedikoglou. "The overwhelming majority in the armed forces are devoted to our democracy," he said. "The few who are not will face the consequences."

With tension running high after a crackdown on the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, a supreme court public prosecutor demanded an immediate inquiry into who may have written the post, which called for an interim government under "the guarantee of the armed forces".

Note EU-Digest: A military coup has never created long term economic well being or stability for any nation in the world and would be the "kiss of death" for Greece. Even the suggestion of it is ridiculous.

Read more: Greece's democracy in danger, warns Demos, as Greek reservists call for coup | World news | The Guardian

European Aircraft Industry: Airbus Prepares to Ramp Up Flight Testing of Next-Gen Passenger Jet - by Jason Paur

Airbus A350 XWB
Over the course of just a few years, the global airline fleet will grow from no composite airliners, to three models: the Boeing 787, Airbus A350 and Bombardier CSeries. Airbus’ wide-body jet made its first flight back in June, and the A350 XWB flight test program has been relatively trouble-free so far.

A second flight test airplane is expected to make its first flight soon at Airbus’ test center in France, and the composite airplane remains on schedule to enter airline service during the second half of next year.
The A350 XWB is slightly bigger than Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, and so far has enjoyed a smooth flight test program.

The second airplane will begin flight testing in both cold and hot weather conditions. The cold-weather testing is normally used to simply find any issues that may arise when systems, parts, and materials get, well … extremely cold. On the other hand, hot-weather testing does look at some of the straightforward issues related to something getting too hot, but it is also critical in determining aircraft performance limitations.

The lower density of hotter air reduces an airplane’s performance. The engines don’t produce as much power and the wings do not generate as much lift. Airplane makers must define these limitations during the flight testing so that when an airplane is operated in and out of an airport with high temperatures (and/or high humidity/high altitude), the pilots make the necessary adjustments to their performance calculations.

A third A350 flight test airplane is in the final stages of assembly and will include a full cabin interior. The first two aircraft are filled with flight engineer test stations, water ballast tanks to transfer the weight around the cabin during testing (a quick glimpse can be seen in the video below from Airbus), and other instrumentation unique to flight test. Equipped with a full interior, the third airplane will be used to test a the airplane and the cabin as if it were an airliner in service.

In all there will be five flight test aircraft in the A350 XWB program and Airbus expects to fly about 2,500 hours before receiving certification of the design next year. Qatar Airways is expected to take delivery of the first airplane sometime in the second half of 2014. That airplane will start its way down the assembly line by the end of this year.

Read more: Airbus Prepares to Ramp Up Flight Testing of Next-Gen Passenger Jet | Autopia | Wired.com

USA: Obama hits right tone in U.N. speech and diplomatic efforts with Syria and Iran get high marks

Barack Obama - Diplomatic excellence
During the debate over a military strike on Syria, the message from most members of Congress, their constituents, the British Parliament and even many allied leaders was clear: Pursue diplomacy first.

President Obama listened. And then he acted, quickly, when an unexpected diplomatic track became available.

He’s listening to Iran’s new president, too. And what he’s hearing is that Hassan Rowhani, seemingly with the support of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is increasingly open to diplomacy designed to diffuse the crisis over the country’s potential pursuit of nuclear weapons.

On Tuesday, it was Obama’s turn to be heard. Rather than soaring rhetoric, his speech to the United Nations General Assembly offered specifics on U.S. foreign policy objectives and a road map for how the U.N. could help peacefully resolve several vexing world problems.

But diplomacy will only work if the U.N. Security Council backs up negotiated settlements with concrete consequences for nations that do not honor them.

Germany: Obama’s best friend in Europe - by Richard Deeg

Angela Merkel's victory means both policy continuity and institutional stasis for Europe. Her European policy of fiscal austerity and debt sharing on German terms will undoubtedly continue. Merkel's, and by extension Europe's, primary strategy now is to wait for economic growth to return and slowly ease the debt burden and unemployment crisis in southern Europe.

This is a scenario that now seems more likely than not, though continued global economic recovery is hardly assured. Moreover, any return to growth in Europe is likely to be slow, shallow and insufficient to dramatically improve the fiscal picture in the South.

Talk of fiscal and banking union will continue, but unless there is a renewal of the euro crisis - or more likely a political crisis arising from the pain of austerity - there will be only modest reforms on these fronts, particularly so long as Merkel is chancellor.

She has made it clear that she is not interested in grand institutional reforms, whether domestic or European. Indeed, her approach of muddling through - finding immediate fixes as problems appear - staved off the collapse of the euro while also enhancing her popularity at home. The lesson for Chancellor Merkel is surely to follow this same path going forward, and the expected coalition with the Social Democrats seems unlikely to change Berlin's basic European policy.

The problem for Europe is that Merkel's muddling through strategy will likely suffice for only a few more years (and that assumes growth will resume): The eurozone's deep structural and political problems will eventually need bolder reforms if it is to hold together in current form, and this seems unlikely to happen so long as Merkel remains Chancellor.

Like most Germans, most policymakers in Washington credit Merkel for steering Europe out of its crisis and therefore regard her as America's best friend in Europe. And Obama needs all the friends he can find right now since he is fighting on two fronts and cannot manage a third.

 Read more: Obama’s best friend in Europe | World | DW.DE | 25.09.2013

9/25/13

US Congress: Boehner asks why Obama willing to negotiate with Putin and not with GOP" - possible answer :"because GOP are bunch of obstructionists"

The Speaker contrasts the White House’s policy on Syria with its stance on debt-limit negotiations.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) released a Web video on Thursday seeking to contrast the White House’s willingness to work with the Russians to find a diplomatic solution in Syria against President Obama’s declaration that he won’t negotiate with Republicans over the debt limit.

“The Obama administration on working with Congress to address the debt and deficit,” the ad says, before cutting to a montage of Obama and senior members of his staff saying they will not negotiate over the country’s debt ceiling.

“The Obama administration on working with Putin on Syria,” the ad continues, before cutting to pictures of Obama looking chummy with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Why is the Obama administration willing to negotiate with Putin on Syria … But not with Congress to address Washington’s spending problem?,” text from the ad asks.

Note EU-Digest: answer should be simple for Mr.Boehner  - Mr. Putin is flexible and  intelligent while the GOP is obstructionist and without any vision.  

Read more: nmBoehner: Obama Will Work With Putin, But Not GOP? : Stop The ACLU

Europe recruits counterspy in scramble to combat US NSA surveillance - by Ryan Gallagher

In early July, an attempt by European officials’ to hold talks with the United States over the espionage was vetoed by the United Kingdom and Sweden, both close allies of the U.S. government. The lack of political consensus to hold a consultation about the spying, however, is unlikely to deter pragmatic attempts by EU institutions to throw a spanner in the NSA’s works, as is illustrated by the COEU’s recruitment of a counterespionage expert.

Are you an experienced former government spy who is looking for an exciting new career opportunity? If the answer is yes, one of Europe’s most powerful institutions may have a job for you.

In a move apparently prompted by recent surveillance disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the Council of the European Union is looking to recruit an expert in counterespionage to root out snooping. The COEU* is one of the European Union’s two legislative chambers, charged with adopting new regulations in conjunction with the European Parliament. It is also responsible for adopting the EU’s budget, works to develop common EU foreign and security policy, and finalizes international agreements on behalf of the EU. In other words, it is a prime target for spying—and now it’s working overtime to plug any security vulnerabilities.

In a vacancy posted on its website, the COEU says it is looking for someone who can provide “expertise and advice in the field of counter-espionage.” The person will be expected to “draw up a map of espionage threats to the EU's interests” and “carry out high-level analyses” of possible spying on the institution, implementing counter-measures where necessary. But the vacancy is not open to everyone: Only citizens of EU member states can apply. All applicants will have to undergo a background check and must have at least 10 to 15 years' experience in the field of counter-espionage with a government agency or international organization focusing on security or defense.

The ad for the job expires on Sept. 27, but appears to have been posted on the council’s website in late July, a few weeks after a series of revelations concerning surveillance programs operated by the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ. Several of the scoops have focused on how the spy agencies have secretly eavesdropped on European institutions, such as by bugging embassies and even hacking communications systems.

 In June, the COEU was specifically named as a possible NSA target in a Der Spiegel report. The German newspaper, citing documents leaked by Snowden, reported that the NSA was linked to an apparent attempt to infiltrate a computer network at the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels, Belgium. This building is the headquarters of the COEU and is used to hold high-level meetings attended by heads of state.

In early July, an attempt by European officials’ to hold talks with the United States over the espionage was vetoed by the United Kingdom and Sweden, both close allies of the U.S. government. The lack of political consensus to hold a consultation about the spying, however, is unlikely to deter pragmatic attempts by EU institutions to throw a spanner in the NSA’s works, as is illustrated by the COEU’s recruitment of a counterespionage expert.

Read more: Europe recruits counterspy in scramble to combat NSA surveillance.

NSA spy scandal may scuttle EU-US anti-terrorist agreement – says EU commissioner

The European Union is threatening to suspend a data-sharing deal with the United States used for tracking terrorist bank funding over suspicions the National Security Agency was stealing financial data from law-abiding Europeans.

The European Union is threatening to suspend a data-sharing deal with the United States. It is supposed to track terrorist bank funding, but there are suspicions the National Security Agency was stealing financial data from law-abiding Europeans.

Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU commissioner responsible for investigating the implications of the NSA and GCHQ spy scandal, said the Terror Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) of 2010, which supplies bank and credit card transaction information to the US treasury in an effort to trace funding to terrorist groups, may be in jeopardy if it is determined the Americans were abusing the agreement.

Malmstrom said she was unhappy with the information supplied by the US government, saying the Americans need to provide more data

"I am not satisfied with what we have received so far," the commissioner told a European parliament committee debating the NSA disclosures. "Whilst from the US reactions last week we now have some understanding of the situation, we need more detailed information in order to credibly assess reality and to be in a position to judge whether the obligations of the US side under the agreement have been breached.

Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is a British intelligence agency that has also come under suspicion of EU commissioners when it was revealed the organization was collecting all online and telephone data in the UK via the Tempora program, also revealed in the NSA disclosures.

"A decision to maintain the agreement or to consider proposing its suspension is a serious matter,” Malmstrom admitted.

Ever since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, a number of controversial security measures were passed under then President George W. Bush. Much of the legislation, however, was put into effect without any public debate.

Read more: NSA spy scandal may scuttle EU-US anti-terrorist agreement – EU commissioner — RT News

Dutch Euthanasia Deaths Soar; Increase Includes Victims Incapable of Consenting to “Assisted Suicide” - by Jennifer Popik,

Although assisting suicide is only legal for a small fraction of the world’s population, its advocates in the U.S. and abroad remain focused on promoting this dangerous legislation. While opponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide have long warned of the dangers to vulnerable populations, evidence of abuse is mounting in Europe.

In one country, the Netherlands, overall euthanasia deaths soared by 13 percent last year – and this included many patients with dementia and some suffering only from psychiatric problems. This poses the question, “How can those with dementia and mental illness ‘chose’ assisted suicide?”

The number of people in the Netherlands killed by medical euthanasia has more than doubled in the 10 years it has been legal. The nation reported that the number of documented euthanasia deaths totaled 4,188 in 2012.
Shockingly, this number now represents more than 3% of all deaths nationwide from all causes. One explanation for the large increase in 2012 is the introduction of mobile euthanasia units allowing patients to be killed by lethal injection when family doctors refused.

Read more: Dutch Euthanasia Deaths Soar; Increase Includes Victims Incapable of Consenting to “Assisted Suicide” | NRL News Today

European Banking Rules: World’s biggest banks have US$155B capital shortfall, most in Europe

The world’s biggest banks would need to boost their capital by US$155 billion to comply with tougher rules and more than 60% of that shortfall is in Europe, where lenders have been slower to strengthen.

The capital shortfall fell by 83 billion euros during the second half of last year as banks retained more of their profits and raised capital, although the pace of improvement was not as quick in Europe as elsewhere.

The Basel Committee of global regulators said on Wednesday the shortfall at top international banks was based on a target to hold a minimum core capital level of 7%, plus capital surcharges required for the biggest banks. Its finding was based on their balance sheets at the end of last year.

Some 70 billion euros of the shortfall was at banks in the European Union, representing 61% of the global deficit. The shortfall at EU banks was cut by 29 billion euros in the second half of last year, according to a European Banking Authority (EBA) estimate.

Markets and regulators have been putting pressure on banks to move early to comply with the global Basel III accord being phased in, to dispel any doubts about their ability to thrive and encourage investors to buy their bonds and shares.

Read more: World’s biggest banks have US$155B capital shortfall, most in Europe | Financial Post

US Politcs: The Fall of the Heritage Foundation and the Death of Republican Ideas - by Molly Ball

During the 1980 election, an up-and-coming Washington think tank called the Heritage Foundation undertook a massive task: to examine the federal government from top to bottom and produce a detailed, practical conservative policy vision.

The result, called Mandate for Leadership, epitomized the intellectual ambition of the then-rising conservative movement. Its 20 volumes, totaling more than 3,000 pages, included such proposals as income-tax cuts, inner-city “enterprise zones,” a presidential line-item veto, and a new Air Force bomber.
Despite the publication's academic prose and mind-boggling level of detail, it caused a sensation.

A condensed version -- still more than 1,000 pages -- became a paperback bestseller in Washington. The newly elected Ronald Reagan passed out copies at his first Cabinet meeting, and it quickly became his administration’s blueprint. By the end of Reagan’s first year in office, 60 percent of the Mandate’s 2,000 ideas were being implemented, and the Republican Party’s status as a hotbed of intellectual energy was ratified. It was a Democrat, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who would declare in 1981, “Of a sudden, the GOP has become a party of ideas.”

The story of the conservative movement that has come to dominate the Republican Party over the last four decades is inextricably intertwined with the story of the Heritage Foundation. In that time, it became more than just another think tank. It came to occupy a place of special privilege -- a quasi-official arm of GOP administrations and Congresses; a sponsor of scholarship and supplier of legislation; a policy base for the party when out of power. Heritage has shaped American public policy in major ways, from Reagan’s missile-defense initiative to Clinton’s welfare reform: Both originated as Heritage proposals. So, too, did the idea of a universal health-care system based on a mandate that individuals buy insurance

Though Heritage subsequently abandoned it, the individual mandate famously became the basis of health-care reforms proposed by Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

ehind the scenes, GOP staffers complained that the organization they once looked to for intellectual ammunition had become a thorn in their side. Brian Walsh’s first Washington internship was with Heritage in 1996. He rose in Republican politics to serve as communications director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. In a scathing op-ed for U.S. News headlined “Conservatives Eat Their Own for Profit,” Walsh accused Heritage of taking extreme stands to generate fundraising dollars. 

“In our great democracy, you affect public policy by offering a vision, influencing a majority of public opinion and winning elections, not by burning down the House, attacking your allies, and falling on your sword,” he wrote.
 
Heritage officials dismiss these gripes as the eternal price of disruptive thinking. “Exposing folks, it certainly makes them angry,” DeMint observed to Politico. “Heritage and Heritage Action has gotten in the way of business as usual. And it’s made people mad.”

But there is more at stake in Heritage’s transformation from august policy shop to political hit squad than the reputation of a D.C. think tank or even the careers of a few squishy GOP politicians. It is the intellectual project of the conservative movement itself. Without Heritage, the GOP’s intellectual backbone is severely weakened, and the party’s chance to retake its place as a substantive voice in American policy is in jeopardy.

Today, prominent Republicans publicly worry they're becoming the "stupid party." In its prime, Heritage rose to rival the power and capacity of the liberal academic establishment, giving conservatives a reputation as serious thinkers. “There was a time when leftist intellectuals dismissed conservatives as the party without intellect. Heritage undid that,” Edwards said. “The Republican Party for a while had the high ground. Everyone said that’s where the ideas are, that’s where the intellectual ferment is. When your intellectual ferment is nothing more than a political platform, that [reputation] is undercut. That hurts the conservative movement in general.”

Read more: The Fall of the Heritage Foundation and the Death of Republican Ideas - Molly Ball - The Atlantic

USA Politics: The destructiveTea Party's take-no-prisoners, gut Obamacare budget showdown-by Neil Macdonald

It's been asked before, but it's worth asking again: If Democrats and Republicans share the blame for Congress's stupendous incompetence, which is a widespread and rather facile presumption here, then what is the Democratic Party's equivalent of the Tea Party caucus? destructive

Is there, for example, anywhere in Barack Obama's party a bloc whose anti-gay and pro-gun views are so extreme that one of its leading members compares enacting any restrictions on gun ownership to allowing gay marriage and bestiality? (Louie Gohmert, Republican, Texas)

Or, whose members would travel to Egypt shortly after its generals arrested a democratically elected president, and then killed at least 1,000 of his protesting supporters, to declare on television that "We're here as members of Congress to say 'We're with you. And we encourage you.'" (Michele Bachmann, Republican, Minnesota).

Or, who would proclaim that 99 per cent of illegal migrants in America spend their time hauling marijuana around, that immigrants should be chosen the way you choose a good dog, and that the border fence with Mexico should be electrified, because "we do that with livestock all the time." (Steve King, Republican, Iowa).

The Republicans have about 40 of these characters in Congress at the moment, a small band of extremists who in the name of ideological purity are now threatening to shut down and essentially bankrupt the U.S. government.

Read more: The Tea Party's take-no-prisoners, gut Obamacare budget showdown: Neil Macdonald - CBC News - Latest Canada, World, Entertainment and Business News

9/24/13

ECHR fines Turkey 184,000 euros in expropriation case

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) fined Turkey 184,000 euros today following a family’s complaint that they were not paid compensation for their land on which a primary school was built without a formal expropriation order in Ankara’s ─░ncesu neighborhood.

Four people from the same family, Fidan Ayangil, Fatma Ayangil, Mehmet Ayangil and Vildan Tatl─▒, filed a complaint to the ECHR in the land dispute, saying their house had been left within the garden of a public school and that the state had failed to make an official expropriation and pay compensation.

In its principal judgment on Dec. 6, 2011, the ECHR decided that there had been a violation of the protection of property. The judgment concerned the question of just satisfaction and ordered the four applicants to be paid 180,000 euros jointly in pecuniary damages, and 4,000 euros jointly in non-pecuniary damages.

Read more: EUROPE - ECHR fines Turkey 184,000 euros in expropriation case

The Netherlands thrives on its membership in the EU - or in that respect so does every EU member state

Don't believe one word the Eurosceptics are saying about the Netherlands and many other EU member states - that these countries would be better of  by pulling out of the EU and go at alone.

These Eurosceptics actually don't know what they are talking about and if they do talk its all populist blabbering.

In the Netherlands the working population earns approximately 600 billion euro's per year based on money which is somehow accumulated because of the EU. The Netherlands exports around 500 billion euro's internationally, of which 400 billion in goods and 100 billion in services.

Of this total three quarters of Dutch exports and services go to EU member states.

Consequently a healthy economic EU also means a prosperous Holland.

Almere-Digest

Terrorist Activities Kenya: European victims as protracted battle continues at mall and on Twitter - Government reports confusing - by Sudarsan Raghavan

Fighting raged at an upscale mall in Kenya’s capital for a fourth day Tuesday, with Kenyan security forces suffering casualties as they attempted to quell Islamist militants who had seized the shopping center and taken hostages.

Confusion reigned as Kenyan officials asserted they had control over the Westgate Premier Shopping Mall, while the militants — who reportedly come from multiple countries, including the United States, but whose identities remain murky — insisted they had the upper hand.

Sporadic gunfire and smoke appeared to counter statements by Kenyan officials that the bloody standoff was nearing an end. As the shooting continued, a parallel tussle unfolded on Twitter between the militants and the government, as each side tried to counter the other’s version of events.

The Somali-based, al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militia tweeted that it was still holding hostages, who were “looking quite disconcerted but nevertheless, alive.” Another Shabab tweet said: “Mujahideen are still holding their ground #westgate.”

But Kenyan officials offered a different account, saying they believe all hostages had been released. “We’re very near the end,” Kenya’s Interior Ministry posted on Twitter at noon.

Note EU-Digest:  It is always amazing how al-Quada, al-Shabad or whatever names these "extremists" call themselves, can believe that their vicious and cruel acts on innocent civilians would ever gain them any respect for "their cause". Unfortunately, therefore, maybe one should classify them as "mentally deranged" individuals and treat them as such?

Read more: Militants, Kenyan security forces locked in protracted battle at mall and on Twitter - The Washington Post

9/23/13

EU-Digest August thru September Poll shows: 66.33% say military coup in Egypt was legitimate

In a recent EU- Digest poll where respondents were asked if the recent military coup in Egypt was legitimate "given the circumstances",  66.33% said it was and 33.33 % said no, because "Morsi was democratically elected".

This month as a follow-up EU-Digest poll will once again focus on Egypt with the following question and provide multiple answers possibilities. .

Will the Egyptian military eventually relinquish its dictatorial powers and let the Muslim Brotherhood back into the democratic process?
a) Yes
b) No
c) Yes, but only with US arm twisting
d) No, military will never relinquish power



Renewable Energy Storage: Xtreme Power Wins 'Innovation Award' at Energy Storage North America

Xtreme Power, a world leader in real-time power management and energy storage solutions, and partner Duke Energy earned a 2013 Energy Storage North America (ESNA) Innovation Award for the Notrees Wind Energy Storage Project in Ector and Winkler counties, Texas.

The Notrees Wind Energy Storage Project, a utility-scale effort undertaken with the U.S. Department of Energy, smoothly integrates frequency regulation and electricity shifting with a 36MW advanced lead acid storage system – bringing renewable power to the statewide grid. The project represents the continent's largest battery storage project at a wind farm. 

"Winning an ESNA Innovation Award is proof that Xtreme Power and our world-class partner Duke Energy are leading the way towards a clean, renewable energy future," said Dr. Alan Gotcher, President and Chief Executive Officer of Xtreme Power. "Across Xtreme Power's history, we've been fortunate to work with the biggest names and on some of the most innovative projects in the energy storage space. Notrees represented the largest battery storage system in North America and its success is something we're rightly proud of."

Xtreme Power and Duke Energy, the largest electric power holding company in the U.S., completed the 
Notrees project in December 2012 – providing environmentally friendly and flexible capacity to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the electrical grid in Texas and manages 75% of the deregulated market in the state. The Notrees project represented Xtreme Power's eighth successful project installation in one year. To date, Xtreme Power has installed 77MW in the field and counted 25,239 MWh charged/discharged.

What's "quite clear is that energy storage is the economic key that unlocks the potential of renewables and solves the challenges of creating a dynamic and flexible grid," said Janice Lin, co-founder of the California Energy Storage Alliance and managing partner of Strategen Consulting, after the award announcement.
For more information about the ESNA Innovation awards, visit: http://www.esnaexpo.com/awards.

Read more: Xtreme Power Wins 'Innovation Award' at Energy Storage North America -- SAN JOSE, Calif., Sept. 16, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Netherlands - Flevoland Province: decision to delay shale drilling brings mixed reactions

UPI reported that a Dutch government move to delay a decision on allowing shale gas drilling was hailed by local communities but "regretted" by energy boosters.

Netherlands Economic Affairs Minister Henk Kamp announced last week the Cabinet would take 1 1/2 more years to study the potential effects of hydraulic fracturing on the environment before allowing Britain's Cuadrilla Resources to drill test wells in the province of Flevoland.

In a Wednesday letter to the House of Representatives in The Hague, Kamp said more time is needed to study the entire range of possible shale gas sites in the country before approving the licenses, the Dutch daily Volksrant reported.

"I have listened carefully to the reactions in both the country and in The Hague," he wrote. "Some possible locations for test drilling for shale gas have been identified by companies applying for a license. But I want to be able to evaluate all sites in the Netherlands where drilling is possible.

"Then attention can be focused on those locations known to be promising, and how their environmental risks can best be overcome."

Kamp indicated he wants to be able to include more input from local governments, such as those in Flevoland -- including the cities of Noordoostpolder, Boxtel and Luttelgeest, which have vociferously opposed "fracking" after being identified as promising shale gas areas.

Germany: Angela Merkel celebrates after German election win - Eurosceptic AtD and Liberal FDP not qualified

Mrs Merkel urged her party to celebrate "a super result" as she looked set for a historic third term.

Her conservative bloc took about 41.5% of the vote - but her liberal partners failed to make it into parliament.

It is thought she is likely to seek a grand coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD) who won 26%.

The results showed that the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) won only 4.8%, which correspondents say is a disaster for the junior coalition partner, leaving it with no national representation in parliament for the first time in Germany's post-war history.

Party chairman Philipp Roesler called it "the bitterest, saddest hour of the Free Democratic Party".
The FDP was beaten by the Green Party (8.4%) and the former communist Left Party (8.6%).

It almost finished behind the new Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD), which advocates withdrawal from the euro currency and took 4.7%, just short of the parliamentary threshold.

Read more: BBC News - Angela Merkel celebrates after German election win

9/22/13

Denmark: Vestas US Subsidiary lands big order for wind farms - by Cathy Proctor

Two Colorado companies are teaming up to build more wind farms across the United States.

Danish Vestas Wind Systems, with four manufacturing plants along Colorado’s Front Range, said Friday it’s reached an agreement to supply up to 610 megawatts worth of wind turbines to Broomfield’s Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc. — better known as RES Americas.

Vestas also announced Friday it had received the first order from the RES supply agreement, for 60 megawatts worth of wind turbines.

The agreement calls for Vestas to supply its V100-2.0 MW turbine for all of RES’s wind farm projects, up to 610 megawatts. Those projects are expected to happen in 2014 and 2015.

The two companies previously worked together building the Cedar Point wind farm near Limon, in eastern Colorado.

The Cedar Point wind farm, which started operations in 2011, has 139 of Vestas’ V90-1.8 megawatt turbines. It’s capable of generating up to 250 megawatts of electricity.

The wind farm was the first large-scale project to use Vestas’s Colorado-made turbines.
Vestas said it couldn’t say where the turbines destined for RES’s projects would go in the United States.

Read more: Vestas lands big order for wind farms - Denver Business Journal

Germany: Merkel Sees Biggest Victory Since Kohl’s Reunification Vote - by Tony Czuczka and Brian Parkin

Angela Merkel won an overwhelming endorsement from German voters, putting the country’s first female chancellor on course for the biggest election tally since Helmut Kohl’s post-reunification victory of 1990.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc took 41.8 percent in today’s election to 25.5 percent for the Social Democrats of Peer Steinbrueck, projections on ZDF television as of 8:57 p.m. showed. Earlier forecasts had her group with a one-seat majority in the lower house for only the second time since World War II after Konrad Adenauer in 1957.

The euro gained even as her lead later shrank below a majority.

“This is a super result,” Merkel, who is now set to become the fourth chancellor since the war to win a third term, told supporters at her party’s headquarters in Berlin. “To the voters, I promise that we will handle it responsibly and with care. We will do everything we can in the next four years to ensure that they’re once again successful years for Germany.”

Read more: Merkel Sees Biggest Victory Since Kohl’s Reunification Vote - Businessweek