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Category Archives: Europe

Tunnel!

I came across this story today. Apparently, the Russians want to build a 65 mile tunnel under the Bering Straight to connect Russia and Alaska. the intended use will be freight transportation to the tune of 100 million tons of goods per year.

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Posted by on August 28, 2011 in Europe, North America

 

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Standing Up to Tyranny

As the rebels in Libya march into Tripoli in apparent victory, this story was published by the BBC magazine about Hans Litten. Mr. Litten was one of the first to question Hitler’s methods in open court, before the Nazi leader would rise to power. The story is captivating so I’ll just leave you to read it for yourself.

The man is still revered in Germany and Europe today. There’s even an international prize named after him.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Europe

 

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The Euro Effective at Last

I was in a class taught by a German professor once. At the beginning of the course on European Union history he held up a Euro coin and asked the class what it was. Fellow classmates answered “Currency,” or “Cooperation,” or “Unity” or other similar feelings. These answers were close, but what the professor was getting at is the Euro is a miracle. This was in 2004 and the EU had just expanded from 14 to 24 members. Having a single currency (and thus a single monetary policy) shared by the majority of the members was considered by many to be nothing short of a full-fledged miracle. Now the EU has 27 member nations, 17 of whom use the Euro. Most of the rest will eventually switch over to the Euro once they meet the Eurozone criteria.

However with so many nations using a single currency, there is bound to be problems with integration and implementing a single monetary policy. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that there are nearly as many types of economies as member states. Some members are net importers while others are net exporters. These divergent economies make it difficult to come up with a single strategy and the European Central Bank has had to play a much bigger role in stepping in to preserve economic union. This is the latest move by the ECB to forestall a European-wide economic collapse. However the debt crises in Greece and Portugal are still fresh in European investors’ minds.

So how exactly has the Euro been effective? Well, for starters, only very recently has anyone (in this case Greece) even considered the possibility of leaving Club Euro. For all the anti-Euro sentiment, members of the Eurozone remain fiercely committed to the idea of a Europe united through currency. The Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, spearheaded the Greek bail-out plan as part of an effort to stabilize the Euro.

Sixty years ago, if you had asked a German or a French or a Greek if there would be political unity in Europe you would have been laughed back to this century. The French and Germans had just finished battling each other for the third time in 150 years, and the whole of Europe was coming to grips with the loss of an entire generation of young men. From this tragedy, the French and the Germans decided to do the only thing they could to avoid war; they decided to share the resources of war – coal and steel. From this European Coal and Steel Community grew the idea of a United States of Europe. And the way these Europeans chose to lay down the foundations of political unity was with economic unity. A political union would grow from economic, monetary, and fiscal unity. Indeed, in the face of reverting to nationalistic solutions, members of the Eurozone have instead chosen to pick themselves up and to unite politically to preserve the economy.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2011 in Europe

 

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Striving for a Better Life

The tiny island of Lampedusa lies in the Mediterranean Sea about 150 miles south of Sicily, and like Sicily is part of Italy. Because of its proximity to Tunisia and north Africa however, it is the chosen port of call for thousands of refugees every year. There are only 4,500 permanent Lampedusans, yet it is estimated that some 20,000 refugees have passed through Lampedusa over the past few years. These people are fleeing wars and unrest in Tunisia and Libya and are seeking a better life in Italy and the EU at large. However, as with any situation where two cultures collide in frenzied fashion, there are many misgivings feelings of hostility. The problem has been festering for a while, in April Italian Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi paid a visit to the island and promised to “[C]lear the island of migrants in record time.” The situation is similar to that occurring in the south-western United States with migrants form Mexico looking to cross the boarder and start a new life in the U.S.

Unfortunately, as with the Mexican migrants, the Tunisian and Libyan refugees are willing to take any means necessary to get to a better life. Many do not make it. Just today, 25 bodies were found in the engine compartment of a 50-foot boat. What’s more, there were 271 survivors. This boat, no bigger than a small commercial fishing boat, was smuggling more than 300 people. While we have seen the numbers of people seeking asylum shrink dramatically over the past decade, new struggles in north Africa, the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, and elsewhere are putting strain on international humanitarian organizations. And this is just one incident. It’s estimated that one in ten refugees dies on their journey. There have been at least 800 people who have died trying to get to Lampedusa over the past months. Stories similar to today’s highlight these tragedies and have been documented by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees here, here, and here.

The UNHCR celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and is just as relevant today as it was in 1951. Originally founded to help Europeans displaced after World War II, it has since aided refugees from every major conflict on every populated continent. In 60 years, the UNHCR has helped some 50 million people get their lives back in order following displacement due to political, economic, military, or environmental factors.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2011 in Europe

 

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Tragedy and Hope in Norway

Before I begin, my thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Norway as they struggle through these difficult times. We are all here for them to help them begin the healing process.

There are some positive reports coming out of Norway, however. The confirmed death toll is lower than previously feared; 76 rather than 93. And while there have been some calls to reinstate the death penalty, a shocking move in a country which outlawed capital punishment in 1905, there have been more calls for peace and solidarity.

Perhaps what is most tragic about this story is the fact that it happened in Norway, the country which awards the Nobel Peace Prize. Alfred Nobel never revealed specifically why he chose Norway as the awarding country for the Peace Prize, but he did admire the peaceful nature and the political restraint of the Norwegian people. There’s a more in depth answer to this question on the Nobel Foundation’s website here.

Adding to the tragedy, the alleged gunman targeted a youth group that had gathered to mourn and discuss the bombing in Oslo. While all loss of life is tragic, the thought that someone would intentionally target young people is particularly alarming and saddening. If the reports on motive are true, this was an act of political terrorism designed to forward an agenda of religious war, hatred, and intolerance. We must use this tragedy as a reminder that we must always fight against this sort of hatred and intolerance and seek to eliminate it whenever and wherever it occurs.

Update August 3:

I came across this letter written by a Chinese citizen to Anders Behring Breivik. In it the author outlines her daily struggles in China and berates Breivik for his wanton disregard for human life (the lives of his victims as well as his own). It’s quite moving and reminds us all that we should not take the opportunities we are given for granted and that we should make the most of them.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2011 in Europe

 

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Rupert Murdoch in Hot Water

BBC News – Phone hacking scandal: Timeline.

Above is a link to the BBC’s timeline of a scandal that had been brewing for a decade and has led to the closing of News of the World, a British tabloid.  The News of the World had been in print since 1843 and was reported to be, prior to its closing, the most widely read English language newspaper in the world. Rupert Murdoch’s New Corporation acquired the tabloid in 1969. This scandal has also led to the scuttling of Mr. Murdoch’s bid to buy out the remaining shares of BSkyB. BSkyB is one of the UK’s largest, and most profitable television networks. News Corp. currently owns a nearly 40% stake in BSkyB.

The recent revelations of phone hacking and police bribery by News of the World editors and employees have created a furor that has seen one of the most powerful men in British media rendered almost a pariah. And now the BBC has issued this report that the leader of the Labour party, David Miliband, is calling for limits to be placed on Mr. Murdoch’s media empire.

Born in 1931 the son of a local newspaper magnate, Mr. Murdoch took over the family business at the age of 21 upon his father’s death. He has since grown a media empire that includes the Fox family of networks in the United States, Sky Italia in Italy, Star TV in India and China, The Times newspaper in the UK, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post in the United States, as well as dozens of other print and broadcast outlets around the world. Forbes magazine has estimated his personal wealth in 2011 to be $7.6 billion.

Despite this global media empire and vast personal fortune, it appears Mr. Murdoch may not be able to fully recover personally or professionally from this debacle. At 80 years old, Mr. Murdoch may not be at the helm of News Corp much longer. News Corp. stock has been stagnant for the past half-decade and just sold most of its stake in MySpace for $30 million. News Corp. had purchased MySpace just six years ago for $580 million.

Mr. Murdoch has made a public apology for the alleged transgressions, but it is seen by some as too little, too late as he tried to save his own skin and that of his son, who took over News Corp’s European division as these scandals were just coming to light. Perhaps more will be reveled on Tuesday as Mr. Murdoch and his son are set to appear before Parliament.

Update 18 July:

There are conflicting reports about the immediate future for both Mr. Murdoch and News Corp. Some outlets are reporting Mr. Murdoch may resign as CEO of News Corp. (no word on whether he would also resign as Chairman) but other outlets are reporting that the News Corp. board of directors is firmly behind Mr. Murdoch and his leadership team. News Corp. stock (NWS) was down $0.69 (4.29%) in regular trading today, but has gained back $0.11 (0.71%) in after-hours trading.

Update 23 July,

Well Mr. Murdoch’s testimony before Parliament didn’t go exactly as planned. After narrowly avoiding getting a shaving cream pie to the face, Mr. Murdoch proceeded to place the blame for News of the World’s misdeeds on subordinates and said that he was probably the best person for the job of cleaning up the mess. Still no word on whether or not succession plans are being put in place.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2011 in Europe

 

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