Recession forecast for Germany, Spain and UK

Germany, the UK and Spain all face recessions this year, the European Commission forecast yesterday, dashing finally any remaining hopes that Europe would avoid a sharp economic downturn. France and Italy would fare little better, it said.

The steep downward revisions in growth forecasts by the European Union’s executive arm showed it had accepted that tumbling business and consumer confidence was hitting economic activity – even though the European economy had been “generally sound” prior to the credit crisis .

Joaquin Almunia, economics and monetary affairs commissioner, described the environment as “difficult and uncertain”. As well as financial turmoil and a near doubling of oil prices over the past year, significant housing market corrections in some countries were taking their toll, he said.

Read moreRecession forecast for Germany, Spain and UK

French revolt over Edvige: Nicolas Sarkozy’s Big Brother spy computer


Edvige, which is also a woman’s name, has been dubbed Sarkozy’s “Big Sister” in France

President Nicolas Sarkozy faced an embarrassing split in his Cabinet today over a computer system that a new French internal intelligence service will use to spy on the private lives of millions of law-abiding citizens.

Hervé Morin, the Defence Minister, broke government ranks to side with a growing revolt against Edvige, an acronym for a police database that will store personal details including opinions, the social circle and even sexual preferences of more or less anyone who interests the State.

Edvige, which is also a woman’s name, was created by decree in July to store data on anyone aged 13 or above who is “likely to breach public order”.

“Sarkozy’s Big Sister”, as it has been dubbed, will also track anyone active in politics or trade unions and in a significant role in business, the media, entertainment or social or religious institutions. Listed people will have limited rights to consult their files.

Read moreFrench revolt over Edvige: Nicolas Sarkozy’s Big Brother spy computer

EU is throwing habeas corpus out of the window

British citizens could be convicted in their absence by foreign courts for traffic, credit card or other criminal offences under plans approved in principle by the European Parliament.

The proposals would allow citizens to be extradited automatically under fast-track procedures at the request of another European Union country on the basis of a decision by the foreign court.

The overwhelming adoption by the Parliament of the proposals, which now go to the Council of Ministers, was condemned yesterday as “throwing habeas corpus out of the window”.

Philip Bradbourn, the Conservative justice and home affairs spokesman in the European Parliament, said: “This initiative would enable courts to pass judgments in absentia. It goes against one of the most fundamental corner-stones of British justice – that the accused has a right to defend himself at trial. If other EU countries want to go ahead with this proposal that’s their choice, but the British Government should have no part [of it].”

Read moreEU is throwing habeas corpus out of the window

Genetically ‘improved’ oysters behind France’s shellfish plague

Genetically “improved” oysters could be behind the worst plague of the shellfish to hit France in 40 years, it has been reported.

Last month farmers around France announced that they had lost between 40 and 100 per cent of their oysters aged one to two years old.

According to oysters farmers cited by weekly magazine Marianne, the culprit is the triploid oyster, which is modified to give it three pairs of chromosomes instead of two, as is the case with common oysters.

“It’s the triploid’s fault”, one was quoted as saying. “But one mustn’t say that because the scientific and financial stakes are considerable”.

Read moreGenetically ‘improved’ oysters behind France’s shellfish plague

EU, Dependent on Russian Energy, Balks at Georgia War Sanctions

Sept. 2 (Bloomberg) — European Union leaders refused to impose sanctions on Russia over the invasion of Georgia, acknowledging their reliance on Russian oil and gas at a time of faltering economic growth.

EU leaders took the symbolic step yesterday of suspending talks over expanded trade ties with Russia, fearing that tougher measures would expose the energy-dependent bloc to Russian retaliation.

Russia is the 27-nation bloc’s main supplier of oil and gas and third-biggest trading partner, giving it leverage at a time when the European economy threatens to tip into recession. Europe’s determination to maintain business links also undercuts U.S. efforts to line up allies against the reassertive Russia.

Read moreEU, Dependent on Russian Energy, Balks at Georgia War Sanctions

EU threatens sanctions against Russia


The French foreign affairs minister, Bernard Kouchner, said sanctions were ‘being considered’. Photograph: Gerard Cerles/AFP/Getty Images

European Union leaders will discuss sanctions against Russia ahead of an emergency summit meeting, the French foreign minister said today, as western leaders increased diplomatic pressure on Moscow.

When asked what measures the west could take against Russia in the crisis over Georgia, Bernard Kouchner told a press conference in Paris: “Sanctions are being considered.”

Read moreEU threatens sanctions against Russia

Cold War tension rises as Putin talks of Black Sea confrontation


Russia has criticised the US for using naval ships to deliver aid to Georgia

A new Cold War between Russia and the West grew steadily closer yesterday after the Kremlin gave a warning about “direct confrontation” between American and Russian warships in the Black Sea.

Dmitri Peskov, a spokesman for Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister, declared that Russia was taking “measures of precaution” against American and Nato naval ships. “Let’s hope we do not see any direct confrontation in that,” he said.

Any attempt by countries in the West to isolate Russia would “definitely harm the economic interests of those states”, he said.

Read moreCold War tension rises as Putin talks of Black Sea confrontation

Are You Ready For Nuclear War?

By Paul Craig Roberts

Pervez Musharraf, the puppet installed by the US to rule Pakistan in the interest of US hegemony, resigned August 18 to avoid impeachment. Karl Rove and the Diebold electronic voting machines were unable to control the result of the last election in Pakistan, the result of which gave Pakistanis a bigger voice in their government than America’s.

It was obvious to anyone with any sense–which excludes the entire Bush Regime and almost all of the “foreign policy community”–that the illegal and gratuitous US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and Israel’s 2006 bombing of Lebanon civilians with US blessing, would result in the overthrow of America’s Pakistani puppet.

Read moreAre You Ready For Nuclear War?

Iran warns against ‘surprise attack


Iran’s Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar

Iran’s Defense Minister Mohammad-Najjar has warned that its response to a surprise enemy attack would be a greater surprise for the aggressor.

He said Iran has developed an extensive defense force to repel any possible attack, adding the Islamic Republic is currently a major defensive power.

Read moreIran warns against ‘surprise attack

Secret EU security draft calls to pool policing and give US personal data

Don’t miss the “Key Points” at the end of the article.
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· Closer links needed to beat terrorism and crime

· Blueprint wants new force to patrol world flashpoints


A German and an Italian officer with the joint EU force Frontex check a lorry for illegal immigrants on the Polish border. The agency, which is seen as one model of future integration, patrols the EU’s frontiers. Photograph: Sven Kaestner/AP

Europe should consider sharing vast amounts of intelligence and information on its citizens with the US to establish a “Euro-Atlantic area of cooperation” to combat terrorism, according to a high-level confidential report on future security.

The 27 members of the EU should also pool intelligence on terrorism, develop joint video-surveillance and unmanned drone aircraft, start networks of anti-terrorism centres, and boost the role and powers of an intelligence-coordinating body in Brussels, said senior officials.

Read moreSecret EU security draft calls to pool policing and give US personal data

More than 100 countries back Iran’s nuclear program

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – More than 100 nonaligned nations backed Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear power on Wednesday, an endorsement sought by Tehran in its standoff with the U.N. Security Council over its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment.

The decision came as supreme Iranian leader Ayatolla Ali Khamenei pledged to continue the country’s nuclear program.

Read moreMore than 100 countries back Iran’s nuclear program

EU agrees to go beyond U.N. sanctions on Iran

The U.S. would see this as an act of war, if someone would do it to them.
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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union has agreed to go beyond United Nations sanctions on Iran, instructing its financial institutions to exercise “restraint” on export credits and allowing its navies to inspect all Iran-bound cargoes, a senior diplomat said on Wednesday.

Read moreEU agrees to go beyond U.N. sanctions on Iran

Dutch health system rated best, U.S. worst – polls

NEW YORK, July 7 (Reuters Life! ) – Americans are the least satisfied with their health care system – and their President –, while the Dutch system is rated the best, according to new research.

Polls about health care in 10 developed countries by Harris Interactive revealed a range of opinions about what works and what doesn’t.

In the United States a third of Americans believe their system needs to be completely overhauled, while a further 50 percent feel that fundamental changes need to be made.

Read moreDutch health system rated best, U.S. worst – polls

French Government decides to censor the Internet

Keep your Égalité and Fraternité but shove your Liberté!

THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT has apparently decided that it doesn’t much like being democratic, and that it would rather like to censor the Internet instead.

Not content with simply limiting itself to blocking despicable child sex abuse, a move three major ISPs in the US also agreed to today, the French government feels it necessary to go a radical step further and decide for its citizens whether or not they can view content it considers inappropriately racist and or linked to terrorism.

In fact, worse still is that any site is now game for a French blockade, as Sarkozy’s government is inviting people to send in huge long lists of sites which offend their delicate sensibilities. The French government, which will purportedly be able to receive complaints from Internet users in real time, will be able to add sites to a so called “black list”, which it will then force national ISPs to block.

Read moreFrench Government decides to censor the Internet

‘Dead’ patient comes around as organs are about to be removed

Doctors were about to remove the man’s organs for transplant when his heart began to beat!

France may have to reconsider its medical definition of death after a heart-attack victim came alive in the operating theatre as doctors were about to remove his organs for transplant.

The patient, whose identity has not been revealed, recovered after a long period in intensive care and is now able to walk and talk.

The 45-year-old man owes his life to the fact that surgeons authorised to remove organs for transplant operations were not immediately available. Under experimental rules adopted in France last year, to make more organ transplants possible, the man had already reached the point where he could be officially regarded as dead. Similar rules – allowing the removal of organs when a patient’s heart has stopped and fails to respond to prolonged massage – already apply in several other European countries, including Britain.

Read more‘Dead’ patient comes around as organs are about to be removed

Putin Calls U.S. ‘Frightening Monster’

May 31 (Bloomberg) — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin compared the U.S. to a “frightening monster” and urged France to distance itself from its American ally.

“How can one be such a shining example of democracy at home and a frightening monster abroad?” Putin said in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde transmitted live to journalists in Paris yesterday.

Putin, speaking the day after meeting French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said the U.S. was creating “new Berlin Walls” in Europe by pushing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to expand into ex-Soviet states Georgia and Ukraine.

The Russian prime minister, who passed on the presidency earlier this month to his handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, continues to set the foreign and domestic policy agenda. Under Putin’s eight-year presidency, Russia clashed with the U.S. and the European Union over matters such as NATO expansion and a planned U.S. missile-defense system in eastern Europe.

“France, I hope, will continue to conduct an independent foreign policy,” said Putin, whose interview was embargoed until publication by Le Monde today. “This is in the nature of French people, they don’t want their country tied down, and any French leader will have to respect that.”

The election of Medvedev, 42, a lawyer who has called for more dialogue between the East and West, has raised hopes of an eventual thaw. Still, Sarkozy decided to meet with Putin, breaking with the tradition of Group of Eight leaders of dealing with Russia at a presidential level, showing the 55-year-old former KGB colonel’s dominant influence.

Presidential Power

Under Russia’s constitution, the president is supposed to be solely responsible for foreign policy and has more formal authority than the prime minister, who can be fired by presidential decree and is charged with implementing Kremlin policies.

Putin “remains the pre-eminent power” in Russia, said Michael Emerson, a former EU ambassador to Moscow and an analyst at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels. “The EU has to deal with the people who are there, both of them.”

Putin, who has threatened to point missiles at Ukraine should it host missile bases as a NATO member, said expanding the military alliance deeper into former Soviet territory risked a return to Cold War competition.

“NATO expansion means drawing up new dividing lines in Europe, new Berlin Walls,” he said. “This time we can’t see them, but they’re no less dangerous.”

Military Infrastructure

Putin said Russia sees “military infrastructure coming closer to our borders,” and denounced the U.S. for seeking a “monopoly in world affairs.”

Read morePutin Calls U.S. ‘Frightening Monster’

Europe fuel protests spread wider

Flemish fishermen protest in Brussels outside European Parliament
Belgian fishermen have been protesting directly to the EU

Fuel protests triggered by rising oil prices have spread to more countries across Europe, with thousands of fishermen on strike.

Union leaders said Portugal’s entire coastal fleet stayed in port on Friday, while in Spain, 7,000 fishermen held protests at the agriculture ministry.

French fishermen have been protesting for weeks, with Belgian and Italian colleagues also involved.

UK and Dutch lorry drivers held similar protests earlier this week.

The strike reflects anger at the rising cost of fuel, with oil prices above $130 (83.40 euros; £65.80) a barrel.

Trade unions say the cost of diesel has become prohibitively high, after rising 300% over the past five years.

Wholesale fish prices, meanwhile, have been static for 20 years.

Fishermen’s leaders from France, Spain and Italy have been meeting in Paris to co-ordinate strikes and protests over the next three weeks in the run-up to a European Union fisheries ministers’ meeting.

The protesters are calling for direct immediate aid for the fisheries industry, coupled with increased subsidies.

The European Commission said in a statement it was willing to show flexibility towards the industry but it has ruled out subsidies to offset rising fuel costs.

Short-term aid packages were acceptable as long as they were used to address structural deficiencies in the fleets, it said.

‘Ruin for fishermen’

Several thousand fishermen marched on the agriculture ministry in Madrid, where they handed out 20 tonnes of fresh fish to members of the public in an attempt to draw attention to their ailing industry.


Fishermen held protests in Brussels and Madrid

Many blew whistles and klaxons, and let off firecrackers producing red smoke.

The BBC’s Steve Kingstone at the protest said he could see flags from Catalonia, the Basque country and Galicia.

Read moreEurope fuel protests spread wider

Prime Minister Gordon Brown warns of global oil ‘shock’

Related video: The Energy Non-Crisis by Lindsay Williams

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned Wednesday that the world faced an era-defining oil “shock” that required urgent action, as European leaders struggled to contain growing protests over soaring fuel prices.

“It is now understood that a global shock on this scale requires global solutions,” Brown wrote in The Guardian newspaper.

Record oil prices of around 135 dollars a barrel have contributed to protests worldwide over the rise in fuel and food costs, with fishermen and truck drivers taking the lead in Europe, blocking ports and road access to oil depots.

“However much we might wish otherwise, there is no easy answer to the global oil problem without a comprehensive international strategy,” Brown said, adding that the problem should be made a “top priority” at the EU summit next month and the gathering of G8 leaders in July.

“The way we confront these issues will define our era,” he said.

Brown’s warning came a day after French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged a Europe-wide cut in consumer taxes on fuel and Portugal’s economy minister Manuel Pinho called on the Slovenian head of the European Union to hold an urgent debate on the crisis.

Read morePrime Minister Gordon Brown warns of global oil ‘shock’

French fishermens’ fuel strikes set to go Europe-wide

Fishermen across western and southern Europe are threatening an open-ended strike from Wednesday in protest at rising fuel costs. Several ports in France have remained blocked for more than a week despite a government aid deal, and fishermen in the Spanish region of Catalonia began strike action yesterday.

Their colleagues across Spain, Portugal and Italy plan to join them tomorrow. The industry has seen marine diesel prices almost double in six months. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said he’ll look for a cap in fuel sales tax across the EU. He told a French radio station this morning: “I will ask our European partners: if the price of oil continues to rise, shouldn’t we suspend the VAT tax part of oil prices?” For that to happen, all 27 EU members would need to agree.

However the European Commission has responded negatively to Sarkozy’s proposal, saying modifying tax levels on oil products to fight inflation would be sending a bad message to oil producing countries.

The French haulage industry has joined the fishermens’ protest, leading to some fuel depot blockades and fears of petrol shortages.

Read moreFrench fishermens’ fuel strikes set to go Europe-wide

Middle East: Beating the Drums of War

“In a regional war scenario, Israel will deal mainly with Lebanon and Syria while the U.S. and Britain will deal mainly with Iran. [51] The help of Turkey and NATO will definitely be needed by Israel, America, and Britain in such a war. Ankara and NATO will also be involved in both fronts. [52]

NATO has already built a presence on the western borders of Syria and Lebanon and inside Afghanistan on the eastern borders of Iran with forward positions. Israeli officials such as Shaul Mofaz have also stated, in no uncertain terms, that if they launch an attack on Iran, the U.S. and NATO will come to the aid of Tel Aviv.”

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Israel, Syria, and Lebanon Prepare the “Home Fronts”


The Levant could be the starting point of a major international conflict with global ramifications and which could quickly spin out of control. Such a conflict could even involve the use of Israeli or American nuclear weapons against Iran and Syria. Syria has additionally declared that it is preparing for an inevitable war with Israel despite the fact that it believes that the chances of a war in 2008 are slim. (They are not slim at all. – The Infinite Unknown)

Read moreMiddle East: Beating the Drums of War

Bush under fire at Paris climate meeting

Leading players in talks to forge a pact for tackling climate change took the lash on Thursday to President George W. Bush’s new blueprint for global warming, with Germany mocking it as “Neanderthal.”

At a ministerial-level meeting of major carbon emitters, South Africa blasted the Bush proposal as a disastrous retreat by the planet’s number-one polluter and a slap to poor countries.

The European Union — which had challenged the United States to follow its lead on slashing greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020 — also voiced disappointment.

His proposals “will not contribute to the fight against climate change,” EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told AFP, adding he hoped the US would “reconsider its options and policies.”

“Time is running out and we have the duty to reach an agreement in Copenhagen in 2009,” said Dimas.

Germany accused Bush of turning back the clock to before last December’s UN climate talks in Bali and even to before last July’s G8 summit.

In a statement entitled “Bush’s Neanderthal speech,” German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said: “His speech showed not leadership but losership. We are glad that there are also other voices in the United States.”

Read moreBush under fire at Paris climate meeting

The Collapsing Dollar – Authorities lose patience

Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU’s ‘Mr Euro’, has given the clearest warning to date that the world authorities may take action to halt the collapse of the dollar and undercut commodity speculation by hedge funds.


Jean-Claude Juncker, who is calling for Washington to
take steps to halt the slide of the dollar

Momentum traders have blithely ignored last week’s accord by the G7 powers, which described “sharp fluctuations in major currencies” as a threat to economic and financial stability. The euro has surged to fresh records this week, touching $1.5982 against the dollar and £0.8098 against sterling yesterday.

“I don’t have the impression that financial markets and other actors have correctly and entirely understood the message of the G7 meeting,” he said.

Mr Juncker, who doubles as Luxembourg premier and chair of eurozone financiers, told the Luxembourg press that he had been invited to the White House last week just before the G7 at the urgent request of President George Bush. The two leaders discussed the dangers of rising “protectionism” in Europe. Mr Juncker warned that matters could get out of hand unless America took steps to halt the slide in the dollar.

Read moreThe Collapsing Dollar – Authorities lose patience