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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 10612 times)
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« Reply #6810 on: Jun 7th, 2012, 07:02am »

Middevon Star, UK

UFO spotted over Witheridge
12:59pm Wednesday 6th June 2012 in News

A UFO sighting was reported in Witheridge near Tiverton this week.

A report was submitted to the sightings website UFO UK by a Lt Col White, who claims to have seen the object with his wife on June 4 at around 11pm.

His statement said: “My wife spotted what looked like a red planet in the Western sky but as there was considerable cloud cover we wondered what it could be. The object then faded away but after a few seconds, a larger object looking like a bright red flare appeared from the North. It looked as though it was at the end of an eliptical orbit as it turned and headed in the same direction as the first sighting then fading away as before. This occurred three more times over a period of about four to five minutes.”

http://www.middevonstar.co.uk/news/mid_devon_news_mix/9745589.UFO_spotted_over_Witheridge/

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« Reply #6811 on: Jun 7th, 2012, 07:06am »

Reuters

Ex-Vatican banker prepared secret dossier-judicial source

By Laura Viggiano
NAPLES, Italy
Thu Jun 7, 2012 7:39am EDT

NAPLES, Italy (Reuters) - Italian police searching the home and office of Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the former head of the Vatican's bank, have found a confidential dossier relating to his three-year tenure as the bank's president, a judicial source said on Thursday.

The dossier appeared to have been put together by Gotti Tedeschi to defend himself from allegations over his mismanagement of the bank.

Gotti Tedeschi was ousted from his position as head of the Vatican's Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) on May 24 after the bank's board passed a motion of no-confidence, accusing him of neglecting his basic management responsibilities.

The unusually abrupt dismissal, which followed the arrest of the pope's butler for allegedly stealing confidential papal documents, was the culmination of a leaks scandal that has shaken the Vatican since January.

Police searched his home in Piacenza and office in Milan, both in northern Italy, on Tuesday on the orders of Naples prosecutors investigating alleged corruption and bribes by defense group Finmeccanica.

The Naples prosecutors and the Vatican said the Finmeccanica probe, for which Gotti Tedeschi was not placed under investigation, had nothing to do with the Vatican's bank.

The judicial source said the dossier found during the searches had been passed on to prosecutors in Rome investigating separate money laundering allegations involving the IOR.

The source described Gotti Tedeschi, who was questioned by Naples and Rome magistrates on Wednesday, as "extremely worried." Italian newspapers have said that, following his sacking, he "fears for his life".

Gotti Tedeschi and the IOR director general, Paolo Cipriani, were put under investigation in 2010 for failing to explain the origin of 23 million euros which the Vatican bank transferred between accounts it held in two other banks.

The bank said at the time that it had done nothing wrong and was merely transferring its own money between its own accounts.

Prosecutors initially froze the funds, but later unblocked them.

Gotti Tedeschi told Reuters after his dismissal from IOR that he had paid for his efforts to improve transparency at the bank and make it comply with international anti-money laundering standards. The Vatican has denied this, saying he was ineffective, divisive and was himself an obstacle to transparency.

Gotti Tedeschi, a 67-year old conservative Catholic, sits on the board of Italy's state financial holding Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and is chairman of the Italian retail banking operations of Spain's Banco Santander.


(Writing by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Philip Pullella and Angus MacSwan)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/07/us-vatican-butler-bank-idUSBRE8560KF20120607

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« Reply #6812 on: Jun 7th, 2012, 07:13am »

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« Reply #6813 on: Jun 7th, 2012, 08:54am »

BrainPickings.org

07 JUNE, 2012
Remembering Ray Bradbury with 11 Timeless Quotes on Joy, Failure, Writing, Creativity, and Purpose
by Maria Popova

The literary hero in his own words.

What a tragic season it’s been for literary heroes who defined generations of readers and creators. Last month, we lost Maurice Sendak, and this week, Ray Bradbury — beloved author, champion of curiosity, relentless advocate of libraries — passed way at the age of 91. To celebrate his life and legacy, here are eleven of his most timeless insights on writing, culture, creativity, failure, happiness, and more.

On doing what you love, in this wonderful 2008 video interview from the National Endowment for the Arts:

Love what you do and do what you love. Don’t listen to anyone else who tells you not to do it. You do what you want, what you love. Imagination should be the center of your life.

On art, in Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You:

We have our Arts so we won’t die of Truth.

On reading as a prerequisite for democracy, from the same 2008 NEA interview:

If you know how to read, you have a complete education about life, then you know how to vote within a democracy. But if you don’t know how to read, you don’t know how to decide. That’s the great thing about our country — we’re a democracy of readers, and we should keep it that way.

On creativity and the myth of the muse, in Zen in the Art of Writing:

That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.

On creative purpose and perseverance in the face of rejection, in Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life:

[S]tarting when I was fifteen I began to send short stories to magazines like Esquire, and they, very promptly, sent them back two days before they got them! I have several walls in several rooms of my house covered with the snowstorm of rejections, but they didn’t realize what a strong person I was; I persevered and wrote a thousand more dreadful short stories, which were rejected in turn. Then, during the late forties, I actually began to sell short stories and accomplished some sort of deliverance from snowstorms in my fourth decade. But even today, my latest books of short stories contain at least seven stories that were rejected by every magazine in the United States and also in Sweden! So … take heart from this. The blizzard doesn’t last forever; it just seems so.

On signal and noise, in Zen in the Art of Writing:

Ours is a culture and a time immensely rich in trash as it is in treasures.

On curiosity and stimulating work, in his fantastic 2001 speech at The Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea:

I want your loves to be multiple. I don’t want you to be a snob about anything. Anything you love, you do it. It’s got to be with a great sense of fun. Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it. Ignore the authors who say ‘Oh, my God, what word? Oh, Jesus Christ…,’ you know. Now, to hell with that. It’s not work. If it’s work, stop and do something else.

On joy in one’s work, in the same 2001 speech:

I’ve never worked a day in my life. I’ve never worked a day in my life. The joy of writing has propelled me from day to day and year to year. I want you to envy me, my joy. Get out of here tonight and say: ‘Am I being joyful?’ And if you’ve got a writer’s block, you can cure it this evening by stopping whatever you’re writing and doing something else. You picked the wrong subject.

On symbolism and self-consciousness, in a lovely 1963 project by a high school student asking famous writers to weigh in on symbolism:

I never consciously place symbolism in my writing. That would be a self-conscious exercise and self-consciousness is defeating to any creative act. Better to get the subconscious to do the work for you, and get out of the way. The best symbolism is always unsuspected and natural. During a lifetime, one saves up information which collects itself around centers in the mind; these automatically become symbols on a subliminal level and need only be summoned in the heat of writing.

On the beauty of life’s ephemeral nature, in his final piece in the New Yorker:

Even at [age eleven], I was beginning to perceive the endings of things, like this lovely paper light. I had already lost my grandfather, who went away for good when I was five. I remember him so well: the two of us on the lawn in front of the porch, with twenty relatives for an audience, and the paper balloon held between us for a final moment, filled with warm exhalations, ready to go.

On legacy, through a character in Fahrenheit 451:

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/06/07/rip-ray-bradbury-quotes/

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« Reply #6814 on: Jun 8th, 2012, 07:26am »

New York Times

June 7, 2012
In Chinese Murder Mystery, Take 2 for Big Scene
By EDWARD WONG

CHONGQING, China — In the chill of late January, around the time Chinese were celebrating the Lunar New Year, the police chief of this foggy southwestern metropolis pressed Bo Xilai, the ambitious Communist Party official who ruled the area, with evidence that Mr. Bo’s wife had been involved in a murder.

That meeting, supposedly on Jan. 28, ultimately led to Mr. Bo’s downfall and the nation’s biggest political scandal in years. But what transpired between Mr. Bo and his longtime ally, Wang Lijun, has always been a bit of a mystery.

To the extent there is a quasi-official version of that meeting — one presumably based on Mr. Wang’s account to Chinese investigators and circulated among party officials — it portrays Mr. Bo as reacting angrily to Mr. Wang’s accusations. Mr. Wang has also told American officials he met in the nearby city of Chengdu and others that Mr. Bo punched him in the face.

But a different story has circulated among several people close to the two men, according to those who have heard it described to them. And it is a version of events that paints Mr. Bo in a different light, one that shows him as being less emotional and more calculating.

That version goes like this: Mr. Wang actually confronted Mr. Bo on Jan. 18 with evidence linking Mr. Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, to the murder by poisoning of Neil Heywood, a British businessman and longtime friend of the Bo family. It was the first that Mr. Bo had heard of his wife’s alleged involvement in the death. Mr. Bo agreed at the time to allow Mr. Wang to act against his wife based on the evidence, even if that meant Ms. Gu would be put on trial. At the meeting, Mr. Wang also told Mr. Bo that three police officers had asked to be transferred from the investigation after they discovered the murder was tied to Mr. Bo’s family.

That story was told to friends by Yu Junshi, a shadowy fixer in Mr. Bo’s inner court. Mr. Yu worked in the 1990s as an overseas intelligence agent and owned two dogs that bit a man to death in Chongqing last July. He was also close to Mr. Wang and has been detained in the party’s broad investigation into Mr. Bo, who was dismissed as party chief of Chongqing in March and suspended from the party’s Politburo the next month.

“At the meeting, Bo Xilai said, ‘Leave me alone for a while and let me think about this,’ ” said a person who has met Mr. Yu and spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of being officially questioned over the events. “Then, to show he’s righteous, Bo Xilai said he would be willing to allow his wife to be tried.”
Mr. Wang was pleased because Mr. Bo’s reaction showed that Mr. Bo trusted Mr. Wang, the person said, citing the story told by Mr. Yu.

But on Jan. 21, Chen Cungen, the head of the Chongqing party branch’s organization department, which oversees personnel issues, told Mr. Wang that he would be transferred from the police chief post, according to the story that Mr. Yu told his friends. Then on Jan. 28, both Mr. Chen and Liu Guanglei, the head of the local politics and law committee, gave Mr. Wang formal notice of his removal from the police force. In this account, Mr. Bo did not deliver the message in person to Mr. Wang; the two never met again after their talk on Jan. 18.

“Wang Lijun knows how to fool people,” said the person who has met Mr. Yu. “He appeared to accept this demotion to fool them.”

But Mr. Wang was furious, and Mr. Yu met with him the night of Jan. 31 in a suite in police headquarters. Mr. Yu did not emerge until dawn. On Feb. 6, four days after his transfer was publicly announced, Mr. Wang drove to the United States Consulate in Chengdu with a file on the Heywood death, after having asked another senior police official, Wang Pengfei, to arrange a car, said people with police contacts in Chongqing.

In the murky, rumor-filled world surrounding Mr. Bo’s downfall, it is unclear exactly where the truth lies in the different accounts of the final meeting between Mr. Bo and Mr. Wang, the police chief. Mr. Bo is known to be both baroque and shrewd, and he could have reacted in any number of ways in the meeting, people familiar with the two men say.

Mr. Wang spent a night in the consulate before leaving in the care of officials from the Ministry of State Security in Beijing. Airline ticket purchase records showed that a first-class seat for a Feb. 8 flight to Beijing had been bought for Mr. Wang, according to a Bloomberg report in February. A first-class ticket was also purchased for Qiu Jin, a vice minister of state security.

There have been various stories about the evidence that Mr. Wang had gathered linking Ms. Gu to the death of Mr. Heywood, whose body was found Nov. 15 in a villa at the Nanshan Lijing Resort, set in lush hills on the outskirts of Chongqing.

Some police officers have told friends in Chongqing that Ms. Gu was recorded on a security camera leaving the villa the night of Mr. Heywood’s death, said a person with police contacts in Chongqing. If so, that would help explain why Mr. Wang was so determined to challenge Mr. Bo with the evidence against his wife.

Further speculation over the evidence has arisen after comments by Henry C. Lee, a prominent American forensic scientist who had met Mr. Wang at conferences in Asia. Mr. Lee said in an interview that he received a telephone call sometime in February from a Chongqing police detective asking whether Mr. Lee’s laboratory in Connecticut could analyze a blood sample from a person who had died after drinking. (Police officials in Chongqing said last year that Mr. Heywood had died of excessive drinking, even though he was not known to be a heavy drinker.)

Mr. Lee said the request was not unusual because his laboratory gets many calls from foreign police departments, including ones in China. “I said ‘O.K., send the sample,’ ” he said. “If it’s a routine pathological analysis, we can help them. If it’s something beyond my expertise, I can introduce them to someone.”

Mr. Lee said he was never told whom the blood sample was from, and that he never received it.


Shi Da contributed research from Beijing.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/08/world/asia/new-account-of-bo-xilai-meeting-with-wang-lijun.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #6815 on: Jun 8th, 2012, 07:34am »

YNETnews.com

Israelis nationwide report seeing UFO

Hundreds flood police with reports of UFO in nation's skies; Astronomical Association chairman says object isn't a meteor, flew above Lebanon. Similar sighting in Norway in 2009 turned out to be failed missile test

by Abigail Looshi
Latest Update: 06.07.12, 22:48
Israel News

Mystery in Israel's skies: Hundreds of Israelis nationwide flooded police hotlines Thursday evening with reports about seeing an unidentified flying object in the nation's skies.

A prominent Israeli astronomer said the object flew above Lebanese territory and is not a meteor. The UFO was also clearly visible in Palestinian territories. A similar sighting in Norway three years ago turned out to be a failed missile test.

The object was initially spotted in northern Israel, but was later reported being seen as far south as Gedera. The IDF Northern Command said it was unaware of any IDF operations in the area. Officials were also checking whether the Air Force was related to the sighting.

According to the reports, received around 9 pm Thursday, the unidentified object gave off light and was followed by a smoke trail. Numerous reports of the sighting were also received by Ynet.

'It was an unusual sight'

The unidentified body was also spotted at the Givataim observatory in central Israel. Dr. Yigal Pat-El, the chairman of the Israeli Astronomical Association and observatory director, confirmed the sighting and said the origin of the object is unclear.

"It looked like a small body that suddenly started to grow and make spiral-like movements," he said. "After a while, it turned into a cloud....it looked like an object flying high above ground and then disintegrating."

"It reached a height of some 80 kilometers and flew north of the border with Lebanon," he said. "It wasn't a meteor."

"We saw a large trail of light traveling from a distant spot in the sky," Dorit from northern Israel reported. "We could not see the source of the light. The trail was massive. It was an unusual sight. Moments later we saw swirling movement where the light was coming from."

Gal Arbiv said he noticed the mysterious light while traveling from Ashkelon to Kiryat Malachi, in southern Israel. "We saw a circle with light coming out of it slowly; it was growing from one moment to the next. Suddenly it became a spiral and turned into a cloud," he said.

Ofer Levy from Gedera said he noticed the unusual sight after leaving the gym. "I saw massive light from the west," he said. "I thought it was the moon but suddenly the light turned into a cloud or fog. I know it sounds unreal, but something happened here."

Notably, similar reports were received in Norway in 2009, following a failed Russian missile test. At the time, residents offered various explanations, ranging from a meteor to a UFO.


Lee Feller and Ahiya Raved contributed to the story

video after the jump:
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4239796,00.html

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« Reply #6816 on: Jun 8th, 2012, 07:48am »

Science Daily

Highly Contagious Honey Bee Virus Transmitted by Mites
ScienceDaily (June 7, 2012)

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have discovered a parasitic mite has caused the deformed wing virus to proliferate in honey bee colonies.

This association is now thought to contribute to the world-wide spread and probable death of millions of honey bee colonies. The current monetary value of honey bees as commercial pollinators in the United States alone is estimated at about $15-$20 billion annually.

The research conducted in Hawaii by researchers from the University of Sheffield, the Marine Biological Association, the Food and Environment Research Agency and the University of Hawaii, and reported in the journal Science, showed how the Varroa mite caused deformed wing virus (DWV) -- a known viral pathogen -- to increase its frequency among honey bee colonies from 10 per cent to 100 per cent.

This change was accompanied by a million-fold increase in the number of virus particles infecting each honey bee and a massive reduction in viral strain diversity leading to the emergence of a single virulent DWV strain.

Dr Stephen Martin, of the University of Sheffield's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences said: "Just 2,000 mites can cause a colony containing 30,000 bees to die. The mite is the biggest problem worldwide for bee keepers; it's responsible for millions of colonies being killed.

"Understanding the changing viral landscape that honey bees and other pollinators face will help beekeepers and conservationists worldwide protect these important insects. We have discovered what happens at the start of an infection. The goal is to understand how the infection comes about so that we can control it.

"Deformed Wing Virus is naturally transmitted in bees through feeding or sex but the mites change the disease so it becomes more deadly, shortening the bees' lives."

As the mite and new virulent strain of the virus becomes established across the Hawaiian Islands the new emerging viral landscape will mirror that found across the rest of the world where the Varroa mite is now established.

This ability of a mite to permanently alter the honey bee viral landscape may by a key factor in the recent colony collapse disorder (CCD) and over-wintering colony losses (OCL) as the virulent pathogen strain remains even after the mites are removed.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120607142357.htm

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« Reply #6817 on: Jun 8th, 2012, 07:52am »

Reuters

Insight: Vatican bank-money, mystery and monsignors

By Philip Pullella and Silvia Aloisi
VATICAN CITY
Fri Jun 8, 2012 6:42am EDT

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - For a financial institution whose ATMs offer Latin as a language option, whose offices are below the pope's windows and where tellers work under the gaze of crucifixes, one might assume the Vatican bank would have a dispensation from earthly travails.

But new judicial woes and internal upheavals at the bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), have raised new hurdles for the Vatican, just as it entered the final stretch of years of efforts to join the international club of financial righteousness.

On May 24, in the type of corporate drama rarely seen in the Vatican, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, 67, the Italian president of the IOR, stormed out of the bank's executive offices.

He had spoken for 70 minutes non-stop in the boardroom to defend his management but left in a huff when it became clear that the other four board members were intent on approving a no-confidence motion against him.

Gotti Tedeschi, a conservative Catholic who heads the Italian retail unit of Spain's Banco Santander, went to his car in the Sixtus V Courtyard and left the Vatican via the nearby Saint Ann's Gate, receiving a customary crisp salute by a Swiss Guard oblivious to the drama that had just unfolded.

"During the deliberations, at 4:00 p.m., you abandoned the premises of the Institute without notice and without waiting to receive notice as to the results of the no-confidence vote," says a memorandum of the meeting seen by Reuters.

A day after the astonishing arrest of the pope's butler in an affair of purloined documents, and 30 years after a Vatican-linked financier known as "God's Banker" was found hanged from a bridge in London, the last thing the Holy See needed was more headlines about its bank, housed in the 15th-century Tower of Nicholas V, which Pope Benedict can see from his bedroom window.

For the past two years the Vatican, a 108-acre sovereign city-state surrounded by Rome, has been pulling out all the stops to make the "white list" of states that comply with international standards against tax fraud and money laundering.

THE T-WORD

Recently, the T-word - transparency - had become a mantra in the Vatican, which hoped a decision by European financial institutions would soon allow it to put its bank's often murky past behind it for good.

But since May 24, the T-word has been wielded as a weapon by both Gotti Tedeschi and those who showed him the door.

"I have paid the price for transparency," Gotti Tedeschi told Reuters just a few minutes after the no-confidence vote.

Board members who voted him out said the opposite was true.

"Categorically, this action by the board had nothing to do with his promotion of transparency," said Carl Anderson, one of the five external financial experts who make up the board.

"In fact, he was becoming an obstacle to greater transparency by his inability to work with senior management," Anderson, the American head of the worldwide Catholic charity group, Knights of Columbus, told Reuters.

Another person familiar with the matter said: "It was not a question of 'let's plot the demise of this man', as Italian newspapers might lead one to believe. There were many pleas from many people saying, 'Come on, you have to start acting like a president'."

The confidential memorandum listed nine reasons for the move against Gotti Tedeschi. It accused him of failure to carry out basic duties, failing to attend board meetings, "progressively erratic personal behavior" and "exhibiting lack of prudence and accuracy in comments regarding the institute".

But the memo gave a clue to something perhaps more worrying: "Failure to provide any formal explanation for the dissemination of documents last known to be in the president's possession."

The careful wording appeared to be used so as not to accuse Gotti Tedeschi of personally leaking documents but suggesting they may have reached the media through an intermediary.

THE BUTLER AND THE BANKER

Gotti Tedeschi's abrupt departure came one day after Pope Benedict's butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested in the most clamorous chapter so far of the so-called "Vatileaks" scandal, in which sensitive documents have appeared in the media since January, including some related to the IOR's transparency bid.

That bid began late in 2010, when the Vatican, the world's smallest state, with around 500 residents, drafted new financial transparency laws and set up internal regulations to make sure its bank and all other departments adhered to international standards on money laundering and terrorism financing.

The move was an attempt to make the "white list" of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a body that lists states according to their compliance with those standards.

The Vatican established an internal Financial Information Authority (FIA) along the lines of other countries and promised to liaise with the FATF and law enforcement agencies.

But leaked documents appeared to show a conflict among top Vatican officials over just how transparent the bank should be about its dealings before the new laws came into force in 2011.

In one letter, Cardinal Attilio Nicora, head of the new FIA, complained to Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone that a change in the FIA's charter had weakened its oversight powers and could be seen as a step backwards by European authorities.

Both are members of the commission of five cardinals that oversee the bank and its board.

In another setback for the bank, JP Morgan closed the IOR's account in Milan in March this year because it felt the bank had failed to provide sufficient information on money transfers.

A person in the Vatican close to the situation called JP Morgan's action "unjustified and taken after pressure from Italian regulators".

INTRIGUE

In the two weeks after Gotti Tedeschi left, the bank saga, combined with the arrest of the pope's butler, had already taken on the contours of a suspense-filled Machiavellian intrigue inside mediaeval walls. But more surprises were to come.

Gotti Tedeschi, said by his friends to be nervous and shaken, had left Rome to seek solace in his home in the centre of the tranquil city of Piacenza in the northern Italian plains.

At 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 5, he was leaving his apartment in a centuries-old building with an internal cloister to drive to his office in Milan.

Four members of Italy's financial police stopped him with a search warrant signed by Naples magistrates investigating a kickback scandal involving defense technology group Finmeccanica.

Gotti Tedeschi is a close friend of Finmeccanica CEO and Chairman Giuseppe Orsi, who is under investigation in the probe, and magistrates believed the former Vatican banker may have held documents relevant to the Finmeccanica probe.

While looking for evidence in that case, police found a dossier compiled by Gotti Tedeschi concerning his nearly three years at the helm of the Vatican bank, according to judicial sources.

His lawyer, Fabio Palazzo, said police had confiscated notes that his client believed would be useful to counter the accusations made by the board of the Vatican bank when it voted its no-confidence motion.

Rome magistrates flew up to Milan to question him about a separate money-laundering investigation that began in 2010 when they froze 23 million euros ($33 million) the IOR held in an Italian bank.

The Vatican said at the time that its bank did nothing wrong and was merely transferring its own funds between its own accounts in Italy and Germany. The money was released in June 2011, but the investigation is continuing.

GOD'S BANKERS

No one doubts that since its founding on February 11, 1887, by Pope Leo XIII and its restructuring by Pope Pius XII in 1942, the bank has sometimes strayed from the narrow, virtuous path of ethical banking.

"The IOR has been accused of everything from helping rich Italians avoid taxes to laundering money for the Mafia and for people who wanted to pay bribes to Italian politicians," Father Tom Reese wrote in his landmark 1996 book "Inside the Vatican".

The IOR's most infamous entanglement with scandal involved the collapse 30 years ago of the Banco Ambrosiano, with its lurid allegations about money-laundering, freemasons, mafiosi and the mysterious death of Ambrosiano chairman Roberto Calvi.

The IOR held a small stake in the Ambrosiano, then Italy's largest private bank, and investigators alleged that it was partly responsible for the Ambrosiano's fraudulent bankruptcy.

The IOR denied any role in the collapse but paid $250 million to creditors in what it called a "goodwill gesture".

Several investigations have failed to determine whether Calvi, who was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge near London's financial district, killed himself or was murdered.

The events earned Calvi the epithet "God's Banker" and despite the passing of three decades, the long shadow of the affair still hangs like an albatross around the bank's neck.

Some ask why the Vatican needs a bank at all. For money, under an agreement with the European Union, it simply uses the euro used in Italy.

The bank's official purpose, according to the Vatican yearbook, is to "safeguard and administer" money and real estate entrusted to it by "persons or organizations whose purpose is works of religion or charity".

Religious orders of priests and nuns, dioceses around the world, Catholic charity groups and Vatican employees can have accounts there.


more after the jump:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/08/us-vatican-bank-idUSBRE8570HV20120608

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« Reply #6818 on: Jun 9th, 2012, 08:28am »

Reuters

Apple's war with Google heats up

By Poornima Gupta
SAN FRANCISCO
Fri Jun 8, 2012 6:22pm EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - When Apple Inc kicks off its annual conference for software developers on Monday, all the power players in the Apple universe will be on hand, save the one that is in many ways driving the agenda: Google Inc.

More than ever, the consumer electronics juggernaut finds itself in a pitched battle with the online search giant - in smartphones, cloud computing and the never-ending competition for the hearts and minds of the best software developers.

Apple on Monday is expected to announce its own mapping application, challenging the position of Google Maps as one of the most-valued features on the iPhone. It will unveil closer integration of its iPhone apps and iCloud storage service with all its devices, the latest riposte in its battle with Google's Android smartphone software.

It may promote the latest in Siri, the voice interface that the company thinks can continue to set the iPhone and the iPad apart from the Android pack.

And there will likely be a new line of Macintosh laptops too - underscoring the leverage that a full line of hardware products can bring to what is mainly a software war with Google.

Apple is looking to differentiate its mobile devices from Google's Android by further enticing consumers deeper into its app ecosystem, said Carolina Milanesi, analyst at Gartner Research.

"It's all about loyalty and basically leveraging the opportunity of selling more to them," she said. "I don't think the consumers in the mass market are necessarily tied into the Android ecosystem in the same way that consumers on the Apple side are."

Battling in many arenas, the rivals employ different weapons. Apple's vise-like grip on its ecosystem - with the closely managed app store and its seamless integration with the hardware - stands in sharp contrast to Google's free-for-all approach.

The open system approach, reminiscent of Microsoft Corp's hugely successful strategy of creating standard-setting software that runs on a variety of hardware, has allowed Android to capture the market lead in smartphones (albeit with nothing close to Apple's profit margins).

Android has also helped create several potent hardware rivals to Apple. Samsung Electronics' Android-driven Galaxy SIII is drawing favorable comparisons to iPhone and Amazon.com Inc's cheaper Kindle Fire is challenging Apple in tablets and digital content.

Apple's expected move to replace Google Maps with its own mapping application is a particularly dramatic example of how the rivalry between the companies has been evolving.

Google has invested huge sums in its mapping technology over the years, and about half of its map traffic now comes from iPhones and iPads. Among other things, the traffic from those devices reveals valuable location data that helps improve the mapping service and provides features like real-time traffic reports.

Apple has spent three years preparing to take mapping back. It has integrated technology from acquisitions such as 3D mapping company C3 Technologies, Canadian startup Poly9 Group and mapping service Placebase, said ISI analyst Brian Marshall.

"As Apple builds out its Siri service, they build out the iCloud infrastructure and more capability into its operating system, location data is going to become important," said Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu.

"This could help their advertising business too."

MULTI-PRONGED BATTLE

In what was seen as a pre-emptive move against Apple's upcoming maps service, Google on Wednesday showed off its own mapping capabilities, including soon-to-be-launched 3D features.

While Google executives avoided any comment on the possibility of being ousted as a default service on Apple devices, one executive said the integration with Google's search engine provides a mapping service that is far more useful than a product that simply uses a "geocoder.

Apple began to use its own geocoder - technology that uses geographic coordinates to create a digital map - for the Google-based maps on its smartphones late last year, a move that was seen as a precursor to Apple using its own map software.

Another software upgrade that fans and developers are hoping for is Siri, a popular voice-enabled personal assistant service that Google has yet to match.

The service could come out of its beta testing phase and show up on the iPad when Apple unveils iOS6 or the next version of its mobile operating software.

Siri, which has been plagued with connectivity and other issues, is still in beta test version.

Apple's global war on Google and Android in the courts is one sign of how seriously it is taking the potential threat. The consumer device giant is seeing limited success, though, in courtrooms for various patent infringement cases it has against Android manufacturers.

Apple said this week it is mulling a legal order to stop the U.S. launch of Samsung Galaxy S III phone later this month. Samsung is one of the biggest Android phone manufacturers.

In another of the many lawsuits worldwide pitting Apple against Motorola Mobility, now owned by Google, a federal judge canceled a scheduled trial as neither could prove damages. That decision particularly hurts Apple because the iPhone maker was seeking an injunction barring the sale of Android products, said Brian Love, a professor at Stanford Law School.

"The Android side is likely thrilled to simply have the case go away," Love said.

Apple declined to comment on the case.

MACBOOK REDESIGN IN THE WORKS

Where Apple has the upper hand is in its hardware - groundbreaking in design, vastly popular with consumers for its ease of use.

The redesigned MacBook laptops to hit the stage next week are expected to include high-definition screens and Intel Corp's Ivy Bridge cutting-edge processors. Some even expect the iPad's "retina" display to show up on the MacBook line.

This would be Apple's first big redesign of the MacBook Pro since mid-2009. With the new lineup, it hopes to fend off budding competition from rival manufacturers who are pushing a spate of new, thinner laptops called "Ultrabooks."

Windows 8, a new version of Microsoft's flagship operating system that runs on tablet computers as well as PCs, will bolster PC makers' ability to offer premier computers rivaling Apple's MacBook line.

Already, about 20 touch-enabled ultrabook designs with various styles of foldable, detachable or sliding keyboards running the new Windows 8 system are in the pipeline.

The MacBook line generated 13 percent, or about $5 billion, of Apple's fiscal second-quarter revenue. Unit sales of the aging lineup were up 7 percent from the previous year but were down 23 percent sequentially.

Whatever the case, Apple fans and partners can look forward to a fairly action-packed week.

"Apple is very serious about getting far in front of Windows 8 and Ultrabooks," said Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes. But "software and services will be the focus, with major enhancements to Maps, iCloud and Siri, which developers and users can take advantage of."


(Additional reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Edwin Chan, Jonathan Weber, Kenneth Barry and Matthew Lewis)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/08/us-apple-software-idUSBRE85718V20120608

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« Reply #6819 on: Jun 9th, 2012, 08:32am »

Washington Post

Attorney General Eric Holder names attorneys to investigate leaks

By Sari Horwitz and David Nakamura
Published: June 8

The Washington Post Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has appointed the two U.S. attorneys from the District and Maryland to lead investigations into the possible leak of classified information by the White House to reporters, even as President Obama defended his administration against claims that it was complicit.

In a statement issued late Friday, Holder said that he has notified members of Congress that he has assigned the U.S. attorney for the District, Ronald C. Machen Jr., and his counterpart for Maryland, Rod J. Rosenstein, to lead criminal investigations into “possible unauthorized” leaks to reporters for several recent news articles and books.

Holder said the investigations will be conducted separately from the probes launched in recent days by the FBI into the possible disclosure of classified information to reporters. Prosecutors from the Justice Department’s National Security Division will be involved in both inquiries, a law enforcement source said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.

Machen has led the investigations into former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr., who pleaded guilty in January to stealing funds meant for city children, and former D.C. Council chairman Kwame R. Brown, who pleaded guilty Friday to bank fraud.

At the White House on Friday, Obama forcefully disputed charges from some Republican lawmakers that his administration had been complicit in the sensitive information being made public.

“The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive. It’s wrong,” Obama said at a morning news conference.

The president added that there were “mechanisms in place” to “root out folks who have leaked.”

“They will suffer consequences,” he said. “When this information, or reports, whether true or false, surface on the front page of newspapers, that makes the job of folks on the front lines tougher and it makes my job tougher, which is why since I’ve been in office, my attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks and speculation.”

Prominent members of Congress, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), have pressured the White House to appoint a special counsel to investigate the matter. Late Friday, McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a joint statement that Holder’s move didn’t go far enough.

“This investigation involves some of the most serious breaches of national security in recent memory and any investigation must be done in a manner free and clear of political considerations,” they said. “The recent decision of the Attorney General falls far short of what is needed and is not an adequate substitute for an outside special counsel.”

Several lawmakers said this week that they plan to introduce legislation to restrict the leaking of sensitive national security information to news outlets.

McCain and others have cited recent accounts that provide details on key national security decisions, including a New York Times article chronicling Obama’s approval of a “kill list” of suspected terrorists targeted with drone attacks; reports in the Times and The Washington Post regarding U.S. involvement in cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear program; and a book by Newsweek correspondent Daniel Klaidman that includes details on the administration’s deliberations on the detention of suspected terrorists.

“The investigation must be complete, fair and balanced,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said. “These U.S. attorneys will need to have the ability to follow the investigation wherever it may lead. I look forward to hearing how they will be independent from the chain of command.”

Obama said that “the writers of these articles have all stated unequivocally that [the leaks] didn’t come from this White House.”

Holder said Machen and Rosenstein “are fully authorized to prosecute criminal violations,” consult with the intelligence community and follow all leads within the government.

“The unauthorized disclosure of classified information can compromise the security of this country and all Americans, and it will not be tolerated,” Holder said.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/attorney-general-eric-holder-names-attorneys-to-investigate-leaks/2012/06/08/gJQANhGiOV_story.html?hpid=z1

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« Reply #6820 on: Jun 9th, 2012, 08:38am »

Science Daily

Engineered Robot Interacts With Live Fish
ScienceDaily (June 8, 2012)

A bioinspired robot has provided the first experimental evidence that live zebrafish can be influenced by engineered robots.

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A robotic zebrafish.
(Credit: Image courtesy of Institute of Physics)



Results published 8 June in IOP Publishing's journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, provide a stepping stone on the path to using autonomous robots in an open environment to monitor and control fish behaviour.

In the future, water-based robots could potentially contribute to the protection of endangered animals and the control of pest species.

The robot, created by researchers from Polytechnic Institute of New York University and Instituto Superiore di Sanitá, Italy, was 15 centimetres long and spray-painted with the characteristic blue stripes of the zebrafish. The tail of the robot was mechanically controlled by the researchers to mimic the action of the zebrafish itself.

When placed in a 65 litre fish tank, the movements of the robot's tail attracted both individual and shoals of zebrafish; the researchers believe that such capability was influenced by its bioinspired features which were optimised to increase attraction.

For example, the robot was given a rounder shape to mimic a fertile female, which is preferred by both male and female zebrafish, and its colour pattern -- a magnified stripe width and saturated yellow pigment -- emphasized distinctive biologically relevant features.

The robot was in a fixed position in the tank so that the tail movements could be controlled, recorded and, most importantly, associated with the behaviour of the zebrafish.

The fish tank where the experiments took place was divided into one large middle section and two smaller sections at either end, separated by transparent Plexiglas. A total of 16 experiments were performed in which individual, and then shoals of, zebrafish were placed in the middle compartment of the tank and two stimuli were placed at either end behind the Plexiglass.

The combinations of stimuli were: one fish versus an empty space; ten fish versus an empty space; ten fish versus one fish; the robot versus an empty space, and the robot versus one fish.

A camera was placed above the tank to monitor the movements of the zebrafish, and statistical tests were performed to calculate whether the robot acted as an attractive, neutral or aversive stimulus and whether this relationship depends on the fish being isolated or in a shoal.

Although the live zebrafish tended to prefer each other to the robot, when given the choice to spend time next to the robotic fish or an empty space, both the individual fish and shoal of fish preferred the robot. While the noise of the robot's motor was shown to decrease its attraction, the actual beating of the tail emphasized its attractiveness.

The corresponding author, Dr Maurizio Porfiri, said: "These findings provide practical evidence that a species' preference for conspecifics may be used to inspire the design of robots which can actively engage their source of inspiration.

"New studies are currently underway in our lab investigating the interactions between fish and robotic fish when they are free to swim together under controlled and ecologically complex conditions."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120608100848.htm

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« Reply #6821 on: Jun 9th, 2012, 08:42am »

YNET

Was UFO a Russian ballistic missile?

Russian Defense Ministry says it successfully test-fired intercontinental ballistic missile Thursday; earlier, unidentified flying object reported in Israel, Lebanon, other states in region

Ynet reporters
Latest Update: 06.08.12, 00:17
Israel News

The glowing light reported in Israel's skies around 8:45 pm Thursday apparently resulted from of a failed intercontinental ballistic missile test by the Russian military, according to estimates.

Hundreds of Israelis nationwide flooded police hotlines Thursday evening with reports of an unidentified flying object in the nation's skies.

Later Thursday, Russian news agency Novosti quoted the Defense Ministry in Moscow, which confirmed that a missile was test-fired from the Astrakhan region in central Russia. The trail of light seen in Israel was also reported in Armenia, Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, Jordan and other countries in the region.

According to a statement issued by Russia's Defense Ministry, crews belonging to the army's strategic missile division successfully test-fired a ballistic missile at 9:39 pm, Moscow time. A video shot in the area the missile was fired from showed parts of the missile falling. However, the clip was removed a few minutes after being posted.

Israeli Astronomical Association Chairman Dr. Yigal Pat-El said that it is quite possible that the unidentified flying object reported by residents nationwide was a ballistic missile test.

"It most likely spun out of control and its remnants and the fuel was what people saw. It reached a height of 200-300 kilometers and that's why it was seen from so many locations," he told Ynet.

"We saw a large trail of light traveling from a distant spot in the sky," Dorit from northern Israel reported earlier. "We could not see the source of the light. The trail was massive. It was an unusual sight. Moments later we saw swirling movement where the light was coming from."

Concerned citizens in Armenia and Lebanon also called their local police stations after seeing the unusual glowing light. One Lebanese citizen reported seeing the light in the sky and in response an American web-surfer said it might be a military test. The Lebanese woman laughingly responded with: "A military test? Here?"

Notably, similar reports were received in Norway in 2009, following a failed Russian missile test. At the time, residents offered various explanations, ranging from a meteor to a UFO.

Abigail Looshi, Lee Feller, Ariel Danieli, Polina Garaev and Yaron Druckman contributed to the story

videos after the jump:
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4239831,00.html

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« Reply #6822 on: Jun 10th, 2012, 08:15am »

PRLog

Narrated Van Tours Featured at Roswell UFO Festival

Tourists visiting Roswell, New Mexico, during the 2012 UFO Festival (June 28 - July 1) can take narrated van tours that will transport them back in time to July 1947 by visiting all the key places in town where the Roswell Incident happened.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Roswell UFO Tours (Press Release)
Jun 09, 2012

It is the world's best-known UFO story - the reported crash and recovery of a flying saucer near Roswell, New Mexico, and this year, the tale is being told in a whole new way. In celebration of the Roswell Incident's 65th anniversary, narrated van tours will take tourists out to all the key sites in town where the mysterious events of July 1947 unfolded, according to E. J. Wilson of RoswellTours.com.

The tours will be offered June 23 through July 1 and will depart from downtown Roswell. The cost is $40 per person, and bookings are available by calling 575-416-0146.

"Many people don't realize that 95 percent of what happened during the Roswell Incident actually occurred right here in town - mostly at the former Army base," Wilson said. "Our tour is a holistic, media-rich experience that tells the entire Roswell story while visiting the sites where it all took place."

Each stop is completely explained via a high-definition professional audio narration by Canadian TV and radio personality Gary Johnston. The narration includes audio clips of the Roswell eyewitnesses explaining what they saw at each site, as well as music and sound effects. The narrated UFO tours have been called “a Disney type experience for adults.” The audio testimony is from files recently released by the National Archives and Records Administration.

The air-conditioned touring vans, provided by Cort Nichols of Blue Sky Transport in Roswell, are equipped with sound systems designed to accommodate the UFO tour narrations. Blue Sky will also provide professional drivers for the tours.

While en route from downtown to the former Army base, participants will hear a summary of the Roswell Incident beginning with the reported crash of a UFO in the desert north of town and the subsequent recovery of the debris and bodies by Army personnel from Roswell.

One of the most popular sites visited is the location of the former Army base hospital where witnesses claimed that an "alien autopsy" was conducted on the bodies of the "gray aliens" recovered at the UFO crash site. When the van visits this site, participants hear a recording of former Roswell mortician Glenn Dennis describing the alien autopsy. Wilson said, "As the tourist walk these grounds, they report feeling odd sensations - perhaps residual psychic energies or maybe just a sense that something very important happened here."

Next door to the former base hospital, the tours will visit a place where witnesses have reported many paranormal events, including the appearance of an "alien ghost." A former night-shift nurse claims she saw, on two separate occasions, a "little man" about four feet tall that had some of the features of the "gray aliens" but seemed to be translucent and did not cast a reflection.

Another popular site is the aircraft hangar known as "Building 84," where the downed UFO and alien bodies were supposedly taken by the Army after the crash. Witnesses said that the lieutenant governor of New Mexico at the time came rushing out of the hangar raving about an "airplane without wings" and bodies that "aren't human." At this stop on the tour, participants are encouraged to walk around outside the hangar and have photos taken in front of the sign that still reads "Building 84."

The tour goes on to visit a total of 14 sites. "People have their favorites," Wilson said. "For example, some people like to hear about what happened at the base chapel, where, after the Roswell Incident, some of the soldiers came to seek spiritual guidance, presumably because of the bizarre things they had witnessed."

The UFO tours are based on a book authored by Wilson called Ultimate Guide to the Roswell UFO Crash, which was co-written with Texas UFO researcher Noe Torres. "The book is essentially the same tour but in words and photographs," Wilson said. "Also, in the book, we are able to cover a lot more sites than we can cover in a two-hour tour, including sites that are very distant from Roswell, such as the Foster Ranch debris field - a barren desert location over 100 miles away." Wilson and Torres will both serve as tour guides for the narrated van tours.

Although the van tours will not visit any of the several alleged Roswell "crash sites," Wilson and Torres are doing a multimedia presentation about the Foster Ranch debris field utilizing photos and video that they took during a recent visit to the remote site. Their Foster Ranch presentation, which is free to the general public, will be at 9 a.m. on Sunday, July 1, at the Roswell Museum & Art Center (RMAC), as part of the Roswell 2012 UFO Conference being held there. More details are available at Roswell2012.com.

For the past three years, Wilson has conducted "Roswell UFO walking tours" of several of the most important sites. "The walking tours are very popular," Wilson said, "But walking limits the number of sites you can visit. Also, there are many individuals who are simply unable to walk the two miles required by the walking tours. Another factor is the summer heat in Roswell that makes walking tours a difficult proposition for many folks. The narrated van tours are a way to overcome all these obstacles, while allowing us to visit many additional sites in air-conditioned comfort. The sound systems on the vans also allow us to introduce the high-definition audio narrations, eyewitness interview clips, and sound effects."

Persons wishing to take the Roswell UFO Tour are encouraged to place a "courtesy hold" for one of the UFO tours by calling 575-416-0146. The entire tour schedule and other information is available at http://roswellbooks.com/?page_id=103.

http://www.prlog.org/11896031-narrated-van-tours-featured-at-roswell-ufo-festival.html

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« Reply #6823 on: Jun 10th, 2012, 08:17am »

New York Times

June 9, 2012
Affirming Slowdown, China Reports Second Month of Scant Economic Growth
By KEITH BRADSHER

HONG KONG — The Chinese economy, widely seen until the last few weeks as the strongest remaining locomotive that could drag the global economy back from the brink of recession, showed a second month of anemic growth in May and performed even worse than the already lowered expectations of most economists.

Growth in industrial production, retail sales and investment in fixed assets like factories and office buildings was little changed from April, according to data released on Saturday afternoon in Beijing by China’s National Bureau of Statistics. Some economists had considered the April figures to be a fluke and had predicted a rebound in May, when the Chinese government began measures to rekindle growth.
April had been the weakest month in China since 2001 for growth in fixed-asset investment, and May was slightly weaker still. Before adjustment for inflation, retail sales grew even more slowly in May than in April.

But retail sales were a little stronger in May after they were adjusted for inflation, which has slowed steadily this spring.

Industrial production grew at a slightly faster pace in May from a year earlier, 9.6 percent, than it had in April, when growth was 9.3 percent.

And in an unexpected piece of good news released Sunday morning, China’s exports and imports both grew twice as fast last month as economists had expected. Exports rose 15.3 percent, triple the pace in April, and imports grew 12.7 percent after stalling the month before.

Some economists said that if demand for China’s exports held up long enough for the Chinese government to start the many infrastructure projects approved in recent weeks, the country’s economy could avoid a more serious downturn.

“If this trend continues, and if exports don’t collapse to the extent that millions of workers are sacked, continued policy fine-tuning, rather than a serious stimulus, should be enough to generate” economic growth of 8 percent for the full year, said a research report on Saturday from CLSA, an Asian brokerage firm.

China’s General Administration of Customs is expected to release export and import data for May late Sunday morning in Beijing.

China’s increasingly apparent economic struggles come at an already difficult time for the global economy. Economies across Europe’s periphery have already stalled, and the Continent’s core has begun to struggle. Unemployment has started to inch back up in the United States, while growth has also faltered in the large emerging markets of Brazil and India.

Many economists are wary of Chinese economic statistics. Studies over the years have suggested that local, provincial and national government agencies tend to smooth out the ups and downs of the business cycle by underreporting growth during booms and overstating it during downturns.

Some local Chinese officials, leery of informing provincial leaders about economic troubles in their jurisdictions, have been telling big companies to overstate growth, with an assurance that local taxes will be levied on the true rate, said two managers in China who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid legal difficulties with the authorities.

One of the most reliable proxies for growth has been electricity generation, because a handful of big companies dominate the industry and report data directly to Beijing. Electricity generation grew only 3.2 percent in May compared with a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Saturday, far short of its usual double-digit pace. That was up from year-over-year growth of 1.5 percent in April.

Excluding the effects of the Chinese New Year, April and May were the two slowest months for growth in electricity generation since the spring of 2009, when many export factories temporarily closed during the global financial crisis.

Since China relies on coal to generate four-fifths of its electricity, very slow growth may have a small environmental benefit, by slowing emissions of toxic gases and global-warming gases.

Other data offers hints that the Chinese economy may still be slowing. The China Iron and Steel Association said on Friday that the country’s average daily tonnage of steel production from May 21 through May 31 had dropped 3.9 percent compared with May 11 through 20.

Cement production, another indicator of vitality in the construction sector, was up only 4.3 percent in May from a year earlier, but that was slightly better than an increase of 4 percent in April, according to official data released on Saturday. China’s leaders deliberately popped a real estate bubble last summer because of concerns that middle-class families had been priced out of homeownership in many cities.

Real estate brokers say prices have fallen as much as 20 percent since then, and work at many construction sites has slowed to a crawl.

Another exception to the gloomy statistics released on Saturday was auto sales, which rose 22.6 percent in May from a year earlier. But sales were weak in May 2011 because the tsunami and subsequent nuclear power plant meltdowns in eastern Japan disrupted the supply of parts for the assembly in China of many popular Japanese models.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/10/business/global/chinese-economy-shows-a-second-month-of-anemic-growth.html?_r=1&ref=world

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« Reply #6824 on: Jun 10th, 2012, 08:24am »

Seattle Times

Originally published June 9, 2012 at 8:35 PM
Page modified June 9, 2012 at 8:52 PM

Eurozone offers $125B as Spain seeks aid for struggling banks

The decision to accept aid to shore up its banks made Spain the fourth and largest European country to agree to accept emergency assistance as part of the euro crisis.

By RAPHAEL MINDER, ICHOLAS KULISH and PAUL GEITNER

The New York Times

MADRID — Spain on Saturday agreed to accept a bailout for its cash-starved banks as European finance ministers offered an aid package of up to $125 billion.

The humbling request — by a nation of 47 million that sought to fend off the embarrassment of a bailout for months — came as Spain faced mounting international pressure to cave in and ask for cash.

European leaders hope the promise of such a large package, made in an emergency conference call with Spain, will quell rising financial turmoil ahead of elections in Greece next week that they fear could further shake world markets.

The decision made Spain the fourth and largest European country to agree to accept emergency assistance as part of the euro crisis. The aid offered was nearly three times the $46 billion in extra capital the International Monetary Fund (IMF) figured was the minimum the wobbly Spanish banking sector needed.

In recent weeks, investors have demanded higher and higher costs to lend to Spain, and it became clear it would be just too expensive for the country to borrow the money necessary for a bank rescue from the markets.

The announcement of a deal came amid growing fears instability in Spain could drag down an already sputtering world economy. The decision was the culmination of weeks of a contentious back-and-forth between Spain and its would-be creditors in which it was hard to tell how much of Spain's resistance to financial help was tactical maneuvering for a better deal and how much a refusal to admit the depth of the banking sector's troubles.

The escalating tension prompted President Obama to push Friday, in unusually explicit terms, for quick European action.

Spain's Economy Minister Luis de Guindos announced the deal after an emergency conference call with eurozone financial leaders. He said the aid will go to the banking sector only and would not come with new austerity conditions attached for the economy in general, conditions that have been an integral part of bailouts to Portugal, Ireland and Greece.

The Spanish acceptance of aid for its banks is a big embarrassment for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who insisted on May 28 that the banking sector would not need a bailout. He was elected in November, took office in December and walked right into a hurricane.

Spain had fought to avoid the stigma of a bailout and tried to portray the Europeans' offer as coming with few strings attached.

Indeed, Spanish officials Saturday denied their country was in the same position as Greece, Portugal and Ireland. "What we are asking is financial support, and this has absolutely nothing to do with a full bailout," de Guindos, the economy minister, said at a news conference in Madrid. He said the assistance "allows us to have an ample safety margin" and "will return trust and confidence to the euro project."

The exact figure of the bailout has not been decided. De Guindos said the country is waiting until independent audits of the country's banking sector have been completed before asking for a specific amount. The audits are expected by June 21.

The figure of $125 billion was intended to cover the "estimated capital requirements with an additional safety margin," the eurozone finance ministers said.

International pressure on Spain to solve its financial problems has grown more urgent in recent weeks. On Thursday, ratings agency Fitch hit Spain with a three-notch downgrade of its credit rating. That left it two levels above junk status. Moody's Investor Services on Friday warned it could downgrade Spain and other countries in the eurozone.

Spain's financial problems are not due to Greek-style government overspending. The country's banks got caught up in the collapse of a real-estate bubble. However, as Spain's leaders have struggled for a solution to their banking crisis, the country's borrowing costs have soared close to the level that forced the governments of Greece, Portugal and Ireland to seek rescues. Portugal has received abut $98 billion, Ireland about $106 billion and Greece about $300 billion.

The deal to shore up Spain's banks is the latest in a marathon crisis that has seen one stopgap solution after another during the past three years. The 11th-hour fixes have always given way to new speculation about the long-term solidity of the currency union.

"It's a calming signal at a time when calming signals are badly needed," said Jens Boysen-Hogrefe, an economist at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. He added that it did not solve the underlying problems of Spain or the eurozone as a whole. "The uncertainty is still high, and bad news can pop up anywhere in the euro area. This is not a final solution."

The money will be channeled through the Spanish bank-bailout fund, but the Spanish government will be responsible and will have to sign the memorandum of understanding and the conditions that come with it.

Robert Tornabell, banking professor at the Esade business school in Barcelona, said that despite the government's insistence to the contrary "what has just been agreed is in fact a bailout, just like what had to be done for Ireland because of its banking problems."


Material from The Associated Press and The Washington Post is included in this report.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2018397553_spainbailout10.html

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