mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
An opinion )
mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
mahnmut: (The Swallows have won!)
Just two pieces for more context.

The US has announced they are prepared to assist the EU with the refugee crisis, but they would not accept refugees on US soil, because "Europe has the capacity to deal with the problem on its own".

Meanwhile, in his typical manner, Putin has said what many are thinking, but dare not say: that the West, particularly the US, are responsible for the refugee crisis in Europe, because they have been pursuing a policy of exporting liberal democracy to the Middle East without taking the local peculiarities in consideration.
mahnmut: (WTF-E?)
Jean-Claude Juncker faces censure vote over Luxembourg tax schemes

Jean-Claude Juncker is facing a vote in the European parliament to declare him unfit for his post as head of the EU executive because of his alleged role in turning Luxembourg into Europe’s biggest tax haven during the two decades he dominated politics in the Grand Duchy.

...Why now? Didn't he get under intense scrutiny before he got (se)lected? Reeks of backstage machinations over here.
mahnmut: (Short cut? Must be electricity.)
Ukrainian military shell downtown Slavyansk in east Ukraine

Kiev-controlled military units have briefly shelled the center of the city of Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine from artillery guns, a spokeswoman for people’s mayor of Slavyansk Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, Stella Khorosheva, said Saturday.

On the night from May 29 to 30, a children’s hospital came under fire from the Ukrainian military. A children’s clinic was also damaged. A militia spokesman said children were inside but they were unharmed. The chief physician of the hospital said “a wall was partly destroyed, over 100 windows were smashed.”

On May 28, as a result of artillery shelling of Artema, a residential district in Slavyansk, a shell broke through the roof of a school. Children and teachers hid in the basement and were unhurt. Four people were killed when the same area was shelled on May 27.


US tripled military aid to Kiev in three months: US ambassador

You stay classy, warmongers.
mahnmut: (We're doooomed.)
Ukraine Troops Kill 20 in Mariupol, Blow Up

While most of Ukraine’s military’s major operations against the east have come in the northern part of Donetsk Oblast, today’s attacks focused on the south, and the key port city of Mariupol, where at least 20 people have been reported killed, and massive numbers wounded.

Though the government dubbed all those killed “terrorists,” many of the people shot in the streets seem to have been unarmed civilian protesters.
mahnmut: (WTF-E?)
Ah, Ukraine. Yet another one of those Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't situations from a Western perspective, isn't it? The fact that Turchynov has just sacked the Odessa regional governor and appointed yet another well-known oligarch who shares his ultra-nationalist views, isn't helping much either, is it. Quite a nice freedom-fighting gang they've been forming up there in Kiev: Tymoshenko the Gas Queen, a bunch of violent neo-fascist right-wingers, plus a good amount of oligarchs who'd rather have you disappear in mysterious circumstances than tell you how they earned their first million.
mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
The recent events from the last couple of days suggest that both Russia and the EU are capable and prepared to sacrifice their respective pawns currently operating on the Ukrainian political stage, for the sake of gaining better positions in the long run.
mahnmut: (Albert thinks ur funny.)
Google autocomplete results for: "Why is [country] so?"

Europe map! )
mahnmut: (WTF-E?)
Berlusconi praises Mussolini on Holocaust Memorial Day

Italy's gaffe-prone former premier Silvio Berlusconi has stoked controversy by praising Benito Mussolini on Holocaust Memorial Day - despite Il Duce's anti-Jewish laws.

Mussolini had been wrong to pass anti-Jewish laws but had otherwise been a good leader, said Mr Berlusconi.
mahnmut: (Super cool story bro!)
ROME, ITALY. Italian citizenry has rejoiced and covered the streets with confetti at the news that seven evil wizards have been convicted of deliberately inciting natural cataclysms and causing a deadly underground demonic assault on the people, with fatal consequences, for the purpose of showing off with their formidable magical skills.

Read more... )
mahnmut: (We're doooomed.)
Lord Rothschild takes £130m bet against the euro

Lord Rothschild has taken a near-£130m bet against the euro as fears continue to grow that the single currency will break up.

The member of the banking dynasty has taken the position through RIT Capital Partners, the £1.9bn investment trust of which he is executive chairman.

The fact that the former investment banker, a senior member of the Rothschild family, has taken such a view will be seen as a further negative for the currency.

Kudos, Anja

Jul. 9th, 2012 09:27 pm
mahnmut: (Wall-E loves yee!)
Swedish ski legend Anja Pärson becomes a mum

Swedish alpine skiing star Anja Pärson revealed on Thursday she has become a mother to a baby boy after ending years of rumours last month when she revealed she had a long-term girlfriend.
mahnmut: (The Swallows have won!)
War and cheeseburgers

By Pepe Escobar

A specter haunts Europe. No, it's not communism; it's US rating agencies. Greece is bankrupt; the eurozone is about to crack; JP Morgan makes billion-dollar "mistakes"; there's no (jobs) future for the new generations. And yet the weaponized arm of the Western 0.1% elites occupies Chicago - turned into an Orwellian police city-state - to discuss "smart defense".

The only thing that matters to Team Obama, above all else, is to guarantee victory on November 4. Will the cheeseburger diplomacy work? Or will Mitt Romney counter-attack promising a "No steak left behind" policy, with lots of Iranian ketchup? ... (article)
mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
In a late vote in parliament last night, the Greek PM Georgios Papandreou narrowly won the support of the Parliament for his efforts to pull the country away from the path of bankruptcy. Whether this has given him a second political life is still to be seen. But meanwhile Greece’s financial woes are far from over.

As a EU and Eurozone member, Greece's survival in those European institutions still looks very unceartain. Last week the debate among the Euro leaders and their finance ministers about the issue of more aid for Greece went very tough and controversial. They eventually reached an agreement on another multi-billion Euro injection (mostly from France and Germany), which will probably keep Greece floating for another couple of months.

The most controversial point was the question, how far the private sector banks should be part of the solution. Germany, whose banks are exposed at some €20 billion right now (which is much less than France's exposure by the way) insisted on more involvement from the banks, but France opposed this approach, fearing that its banks could see their rating being downgrated by rating agencies. A compromise was eventually reached, which was to "appeal" to banks to "voluntarily" become involved. But you could easily guess that it's hard to say whether those banks have actually taken this "invitation" seriously. ;-)

How corporate social responsibility has been a concept too big to grasp )
mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
The e-coli outbreak in Germany from last week is an interesting case casting light at the ethics of risk management. See, a very scary bacteria, thought to be carried by the very food we eat whenever we feel like taking a healthier option (i.e. salad vegetables, OMG) has led to a major scare that has given a blow on many of Europe’s farmers and caused them enormous financial troubles. When we look closer at this situation, the numbers don't quite hit home why exactly consumers and regulators across Europe (and especially in Germany) have reacted so hysterically: of course it's sad and depressing that 26 people have died so far from the E-coli outbreak, but on the other hand we can hardly even remotely talk of a pandemic. I'm aware that "people are just not some numbers at your screen", but that's not the point. It's just that the number still looks negligible in comparison to Germany’s 3,651 fatalities in road accidents annually (in 2010). So, banning Spanish cucumbers - sure thing, why not! But touching the fundamental right of Germans to speed without limit on the Autobahn? No way, no one even thinks about that*.

* A minor point, but German Autobahns are safer than the French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and US highways despite the difference in speed limits. Granted, speed could turn out to be a minor factor in road accidents (although clearly a higher speed results in a more serious impact). In the UK most road accidents and fatalities occur below the speed limits and are more related to other dangerous driving, or driving too fast for the conditions, which is not the same as "high speed" per se.

OK, fair enough though - food is surely one of those things that does raise the risk perception more than almost any other. That's understandable. But one of the more curious things about this particular outbreak was the initial culprit they chose: cucumbers (especially as attention eventually turned to those evil little bean sprouts). But of course it wasn't just any old cucumbers (still less German cucumbers). It was the Spanish cucumbers that were instantly blamed. Why? Because the German market is flooded with Spanish vegetables, that's why. In a continuously integrating EU economy, suddenly a poor little vegetable becomes the carrier of nationalistic identities and accusations, hu? I don't think things are that simple.

There's something rotten about cucumbers, one has to admit. In the German context, the vegetable has once before been at the center of a rather black-humored joke just in before the unification in '89. Back then, the German satirical magazine Titanic opened with a picture of "Zonen-Gabi" (Gabi from the East) holding up "her first banana": a cucumber, peeled in the style of a banana. This of course was to make fun of the chronic absence of exotic fruits in the East during the time of the Wall (such things like bananas were available there only around Christmas, as our resident East Europeans could confirm). So the cucumber became an epitome of the split national identity that divided the unifying halves of the country at the time. Here, look for yourselves! )
mahnmut: (Default)
In the financial sector I mean.

I think the one thing to be jealous about is the fact that after the crisis, Europe actually started to address the issues of:

1. Market deregulation, particularly risky finances, and the troubles that come with it.
2. Transparency and accountability in the financial sector.
3. Protection mechanisms against balloons and busts.
4. Ridiculous bonuses for bankers who've run whole economies into the gutter.

For a time it looked like Obama would keep his promise to address these issues. But that was only until the, maybe 10th day of his presidency. Then we saw who were the guys he chose to surround himself with. And all hope was lost for a change.

And change didn't come.

The US economy may still be more versatile but the lack of political will to address its flaws means that the framework is now tilted in favor of other regions, and the US financial dominance may be pushed away sooner than most of us are expecting.

As for Europe, it may still have to heal itself from the ditch it was put into (yes, including wounds like Greece, Ireland and Portugal), granted. But there are some good signs there that I'm not seeing at the other side of the pond.
mahnmut: (The Swallows have won!)
So, the German president Horst Koehler has quit his post after a diplomatic gaffe. After a snap visit in Afghanistan, he made a radio interview where he implied that the Germans should acknowledge the fact that their troops might be going on military missions abroad for the purpose of protecting the economic interests of their country ("Securing the safe trade routes" were his exact words). There was a huge uproar back in Germany, and Koehler eventually decided to resign, much to the shock of his ally Merkel and causing schadenfreude outbursts in his political opponents on the left (particularly the Greens).

There are two conclusions that I can make out of the whole thing:

1. Yes, words indeed are stronger than weapons. A sentence, when slipped at the wrong place in the wrong context, can do a lot of damage and even end political careers. But that's the least of issues that we should care about. It's his problem, and besides the president of Germany has largely ceremonial functions. Still, he may have thought that he was setting some example about political ethics (which some of his other western, and definitely most of his eastern, counterparts might be never able to live up to). The direct consequence for Merkel is that she's losing even more ground, after some recent setbacks on the domestic front.

2. The more important conclusion (for me) is that neglecting the all-pervasive Political Correctness even for a minute tends to be cruelly punished, with no way back. The so-called "public opinion", which is largely hypocritical in most respects, is sure to jump at anybody's throat, the minute he utters something which he's not supposed to utter. Even if it's the TRUTH. Yep, you heard me. What he said in that interview is the truth itself. You can easily see how he's a guy who knows exactly what he's talking about, given his past record as the former chairman of the IMF. So he was careless enough to drop his PC defenses, and he got duly guillotined for that by the public. They sniffed blood and they weren't late to get him by the throat. It's how politics works. Don't go swimming around the corals if you're afraid of sharks. Or something.

So, to every potential future politician who's planning to run for office some day (you know who you are), I say this: It's not enough to just make sure all your prom party nude pics have been erased from your HD, and your ex girlfriends' photo albums have been seized and burned to the last one. You should also emphasize on training your political correctness reflexes and instincts to perfection. Make them totally automatic, so even if you're abruptly awoken in the middle of the night and someone asks you a question like "What do you think about our mission in the world?", you should be able to respond instantly with "Oh, I support our troops who are risking their lives and putting themselves in harm's way to protect freedom and liberty, and the democratic values that we stand for". Or something.

mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
Glyn Ford, a former Labour MEP, told Al Jazeera that building a political presence in Europe was one of the challenges a new president would face.

"Europe is bigger than the United States, its richer than the United States, it gives more to the developing world than the United States by far. But we don’t actually have the political presence," he said. "Now how do you develop that political presence?"

Experts have said the president should be a technocrat who can provide unity and build consensus among the EU's main institutions - the council of nations for the 27 member states, the European Commission and the European parliament.

The EU president will be selected today out of the many candidates. That'll happen on a 3-hour lunch around a table hosting the most influential politicians of Europe. Typical.

mahnmut: (Quaero togam pacem.)
Imagine a conversation between the new EU president and the US president. The US leader proposes to his European colleague the adoption of a common position on the situation in ... say, DR Congo (also recently discussed here). Or if you like, Afghanistan (LOL, very chewed lately), or Somalia, Iran, Belarus, you name it. "Sure thing", the new EU leader says, "but let me have a few consultations first". Then he hangs up and goes on a phone spree, making at least 27 other phone calls, possibly in several languages. An apocalyptic effort, isn't it?

[discuss here]
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