Can the Pope Save it? The Catholic Church -- Pillar of European Establishment – Threatened with Collapse of Credibility

As revelations of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests continue engulfing Western Europe, the Pope – who publicly pledged to revive Christianity in the Continent – finds the church, his papacy and even himself desperately on the defensive. The scandal stems not only from child molestation by priests but also from the church’s apparent decades-long cover-up of the practice and its practitioners in the clergy.

In its broadest context, the Catholic church’s scandal seems likely to reinforce other trends in European society that have weakened trust in official institutions of both church and state. In that sense, the fate of the papacy has geo-political implications – which start with the credibility of the pope himself.

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Obama and Europe: Some Difficulties Raised by Mis-Matched Personalities and Lack of Compelling Agenda

This well-reported narrative of Obama's experience with European leaders appeared this month in the National Journal, a respected, high-priced weekly in Washington. The article explains why the U.S. and Europe, as far as their leaders are concerned, often seem these days to be trains passing in the night. The tenor of Will Eugland's nicely-nuanced account --
Obama's Lukewarm Start with Europe -- is confirmed, in private, by officials on both sides of the Atlantic. The text was released to European Affairs, exceptionally, from the National Journal's subscriber-only content file thanks to the help of Tim Clark. A member of European Affairs' editorial advisory board, he works for the National Journal’s parent company, Atlantic Media Co.

 

Financial Regulatory Reform Makes Sudden Headway in U.S. -- But Trans-Atlantic Coordination Exposed to Eurozone Woes

By J. Paul Horne

 

President Obama’s dramatic victory on healthcare reform may have had a collateral impact in kick-starting financial regulatory reform. The conventional wisdom in Washington has been that the high political expenditure on the health bill precluded any other major legislative initiative until after the mid-term elections in November. But the passage of the health bill may have triggered a new political dynamic. Over the weekend, as the bill was passing, Republican Senators, apparently worried by their weakened overall position, withdrew hundreds of amendments to a proposed bill reforming financial regulation. The text, drafted by Senator Chris Dodd, the Democrat who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, was voted out of the committee and onto the Senate floor for debate this week.
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IMF Involvement in the Greek Crisis Should be Welcomed -- As a “Face-Savior” for Germany

It is welcome news that Germany seems to be swinging in favor of a role for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in helping Greece salvage its financial credibility and reform its basic economic structures.

After weeks of pledges of political and financial support, Angela Merkel appears ready to send Greece crawling to the IMF. Germany cites legal reasons for its position. In past rulings, its constitutional court has interpreted the stability clauses in European law in the strictest possible sense. "It is hard to say whether this argument is for real or is just an excuse not to sanction a bail-out that would be politically unpopular. It is probably a combination of the two," according to Wolfgang Munchau in the Financial Times on March 21st.

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Slow Start for Europe's "Diplomatic Service" Signals Birth Pangs -- or Worse Problems

Europe’s “diplomatic service” is getting off to a slow start, with some initial deadlines already bound to be overrun. The practical difficulties of setting up the “External Action Service” (EAS) are turning out to be more considerable than planners apparently imagined, and many officials are now saying, as suggested here in European Affairs late last year, it may take the lifetime of a European Commission or even two for the new arm of EU collective diplomacy to show its muscle.

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EU Bail-Out For Greece? Time Has Come, Reportedly, To Do It -- With Conditions

Greek Signal by Germany (and France) will help Eurozone, not just Athens

The major nations of the eurozone have agreed on a $25 billion bail-out plan for Greece, a crucial first step in practical help and solidarity from the EU to help one of its weakest member-states survive its debt crisis.

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U.S. Aerial Tanker Contract Decried As Symptom of Protectionism

Transatlantic Press Review: Pentagon Slammed for Poor Management

The collapse of the joint tanker bid by Northrop Grumman and EADS triggered extensive and strongly worded media criticism on both sides of the Atlantic of the Obama administration’s handling of the bidding process by the Pentagon. These commentaries are echoed in private by many U.S. and European officials, who say that it further dims hopes for reversing a declining trend in transatlantic defense relations, starting with defense-industrial cooperation.

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In Practice, Leaders’ Refusal to Grapple with Immigration Breeds “Dark Tribalism”

In Practice, Leaders’ Refusal to Grapple with Immigration Breeds “Dark Tribalism”

Almost in a fit of absent-mindedness, major European countries have become magnets for immigration. Between 1990 and 2009, 26 million migrants arrived in Europe -- compared to 20 million to America – a country that (unlike Europe) naturally thinks of itself as a land of immigrants.
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Claims for Internet as “Right” for Citizens are Spreading Worldwide

Global Poll Offers New Proof of Web’s Widening, Deepening Societal Role

Nearly 80 percent of people around the world think that access to the internet should be a “fundamental right,” according to a global poll conducted by the BBC World Service.  Covering 26 countries, it surveyed 27,000 adults, including both internet users and people not using the web. The survey showed that str(79 percent) answered “yes” to a question on people’s entitlement to internet access  – a view implying both a demand for the expansion of high-speed broadband telecommunications infrastructure and also opposition to unreasonable charges or censorship on users.

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Legislating “Genocide” in Armenia — What Can Congress Possibly Be Thinking?

Once again the US Congress is mystifying the world and seriously muddying US-Turkey relations by trying to pass a resolution declaring that it was “genocide” when over a million Armenians were massacred in 1915 by Ottoman Turks. The proposed U.S. measure was passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in early March.

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Immigration in Europe Now at Crisis Point -- More New Blood, Not Less, May be Answer

In Practice, Leaders’ Refusal to Grapple with Immigration Breeds “Dark Tribalism”

Almost in a fit of absent-mindedness, major European countries have become magnets for immigration. Between 1990 and 2009, 26 million migrants arrived in Europe -- compared to 20 million to America – a country that (unlike Europe) naturally thinks of itself as a land of immigrants.

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Euro Zone Acts to Dodge Greece's Bullet --- But More to Come From PIIGS?

More Rounds Are Liable To Come from PIIGS

Greece seems set to tough out the financial tempest unleashed on the country by its huge fiscal over-runs and sovereign debt. That prospect could help relieve pressures on other troubled economies in euro zone, at least temporarily.

The break-through for Greece came this week when EU President, Herman Van Rompuy announced that "Euro area member states will take determined and co-ordinated action if needed to safeguard stability in the euro area as a whole.” In other words, the euro zone has not cracked in its worst-ever crisis – at least, not for now.

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Spain's Presidency will Push Post-Lisbon Changes amid Economic Crisis

Holding the EU’s rotating presidency for the first six months this year, Spain has laid out an agenda that highlights two themes: implementing the Lisbon agenda and helping Europe emerge from the economic crisis.

Spanish ambitions in the EU realm, however, are likely to be strongly colored and perhaps even skewed by the national challenges of reassuring its partners in the euro zone and world markets that Madrid can regain control of its worsening budget gap.

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Deficit of Greece -- And Now Spain – Jeopardize Euro and Perhaps Euro Zone

Sovereign Debt Liable to Overwhelm System in the EU’s Five “PIIGS”

As Greece teeters on the edge of national financial default, its plight dramatically illustrates a widening economic threat to the euro (and even to the euro zone) unfolding in the wake of the global crisis. A half-dozen weaker member states in the euro zone now pose a threat to the European Union’s vaunted single currency. It is the most severe test of the European system since it was launched a decade ago.
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High-Speed Rail Finally Coming to U.S. – Probably From European Train-Builders

Obama, in Tampa, Will Cite Economic and Environmental Benefits

High-speed railways – an established feature of public transport in Europe – are finally on their way to existence in the U.S. in a long overdue move finally taken by the Obama administration.

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The Precautionary Principle Breeds Threat Exaggeration

French Intellectual Calls it “Excessive” and Ineffective

The swine-flu epidemic was the latest high-profile example of the precautionary principle as applied in France. Health officials in France (as in the United States and in other European countries) opted for a massive vaccination program. All the attendant problems (cost, statistical risks of deaths from vaccines, government credibility on health dangers) were accepted by the authorities, who said that they were compelled to take this initiative in the name of the precautionary principle. In the case of some previous threats (such as mad cow disease), Paris took a more cautious approach. In the instance of the swine flu scare, the policy provoked public debate and criticism, especially once it became clear that the imminent threat was small – and as a result, French people ignored the vaccination program. As a case study, this latest episode illustrates some of the contradictions and problems can arise with a systematic adherence to the precautionary principle. Exploring the issue, François Ewald, a French philosopher of risk management, does not criticize the authorities’ handling of the flu threat but he does conclude the precautionary principle may be incompatible with the real-life practices of contemporary Western societies.

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"Libel Tourism" to London Faces Extinction – like Dodo Bird

Traditional British Law Overtaken by Evolution of Globalizing Realities

British libel law, according to The Economist, means in practice that “anyone anywhere in the world who can prove that someone in England has bought, read, or downloaded potentially defamatory material about them can start a court case.” That’s unique – and that jurisdictional sweep is not the end of it.

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“Could Europe Be Doing Something Right?” asks NY Times’ Krugman

Americans Should Think Twice about European Socio-Economic Models

A leading and sometimes controversial U.S. economist Paul Krugman says that Americans should look beyond their knee-jerk dismissal of European countries’ economic systems and recognize some ways in which the Europeans’ formulas have succeeded in sustaining long-run prosperity – arguably better than the results in the U.S.

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Sarkozy Proposes Tax on Google Ad Revenue and other Web Firms

Idea Google being Demonized in France as “Great Satan” of Web Hegemony

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has made it official that he intends to tax foreign internet companies on their online sales in France, an initiative colloquially referred to as “The Google Tax.”
The idea -- the latest in a series of legal and political moves against Google's activities in France -- proposes to tax advertising revenues from online giants such as Google to support the creative industries in France hit by the digital revolution. But critics say it is unworkable, perhaps even counter-productive and could at best simply prop up failing business models.

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A Post-Racial America? New Optimism Among African-Americans

Substantial Shift in Attitude Reflects Cumulative Reforms, Pollsters Say -- Not Just Obama Effect

African-Americans have become remarkably more upbeat about their personal prospects, according to a major national poll conducted at the end of President Barack Obama’s first year in office.

Fifty-three percent of African-Americans say life for their community is improving while only 10 percent predicted things getting worse. As recently as 2007, polls of the African-American community showed that 44 percent said things would get better and 21 percent expressed pessimism – nearly double the new figure.

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