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Archive for December 2010

Official says president has set deadline for constitutional changes

December 31, 2010 - NICARAGUA

To give broader legitimacy to his presidential campaign, President Daniel Ortega wants the law banning a second successive term stripped from the constitution. The election is expected in Nov 2011. Bayardo Arce, the president’s chief economic adviser and a veteran Sandinista Front leader, said in September that the president would seek the 56 votes he needs in the National Assembly for the constitutional changes by Dec 31.

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Tax cuts due to expire, estate tax return

December 31, 2010 - UNITED STATES

The tax cuts introduced by former president George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003 are due to expire on Dec 31. And on 1 Jan, the estate tax that lapsed in 2009 — a 55 per cent rate for estates larger than US $1 million — will be reinstated automatically. Both issues produced a monumental battles in Congress. A potential compromise deal between the Democrat-led White House and now Republican led Congress could avert the expiration of both.

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President Felipe Calderon hosts climate change summit

December 29, 2010 - MEXICO

Mexico hosts the United Nations 16th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Climate Change in Cancun with the aim of winning a binding replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The parties agreed only on voluntary measures at the climate change summit in Copenhagen in Dec 2009. The Cancun meeting represents another shot at a binding pact for some 190 nations engaged in the talks. News about inaccuracies in UN climate data complicate the mission.

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Ruling party marks 125th anniversary — with plans

December 28, 2010 - MUMBAI

The ruling Indian National Congress Party held its first session on 28 Dec 1885 in Mumbai. It is expected to observe the 125th anniversary by pushing its general secretary, Rahul Gandhi, closer to taking the reins — most likely as the next Congress candidate for prime minister. Rahul Gandhi, his mother, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are expected at the celebrations. Congress has been in power for 50 of the 62 years since independence.

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Scientists due to begin collecting 3D data from radar satellites

December 25, 2010 - GERMANY

Two German radar satellites are tracing a helix across the sky just a few hundred feet of each other in a mission expected to produce the most detailed 3D map of the Earth’s entire surface. DLR, the German space agency, hopes to finish testing and begin acquiring data from TanDEM-X and TerraSAR-X by Christmas. The improved 3D and accuracy is expected to aid aircraft navigation, pinpoint flood-prone areas and lead to more realistic terrain for the virtual worlds of flight simulators.

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Internet world marks 20th anniversary of birth of the Web

December 25, 2010 - SWITZERLAND

On Christmas Day 1990, with help from CERN computer scientist Robert Cailliau and others, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee published the first website. It was the first successful communication between a Web browser and server via the Internet. The Internet has evolved in the 20 years since, spawning new lifestyles, words and industries along the way. Some of the trends worry the English computer scientist.

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North America treated to total lunar eclipse

December 21, 2010 - SPACE

The last lunar eclipse of 2010 is especially well placed for observers throughout North America and the total phase will last for 72 minutes. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon aligns within Earth’s shadow, taking on a reddish glow. The date invites a check on the state of the race to the Moon. Several spacefaring nations have set their sights on manned Moon missions, but there is a hint of the worry that being first to land humans on the Moon again could mean being last in the Mars race.

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Former Soviet state holds presidential election

December 19, 2010 - BELARUS

Belarus has enacted several electoral law reforms, invited the OSCE/ODIHR monitors to the country for the Dec 19 presidential elections, and viable candidates have appeared to contest it. Regardless of these developments, the expected outcome is a fourth term for President Alexander Lukashenko. The slumping economy could make it a smaller margin of victory than usual. Courting voters, Lukashenko has raised public sector pay and plans a 5 per cent hike in the minimum wage before the poll.

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European Union leaders meet for last summit of Belgium’s presidency

The leaders of the 27 European Union countries meet in the last days of Belgium’s 6-month presidency with a list of stated priorities and worries about several crisis-stricken member countries. The list includes financial sustainability, high unemployment and the unpredictability of global commodity prices. The leaders are also expected to be deciding on tweaks to the Lisbon Treaty. The changes will be aimed at establishing a permanent crisis mechanism to safeguard the financial stability of the euro area.

In late November, a financial crisis in the Irish Republic caused grave consternation in the bloc for fears the contagion would spread to other financially vulnerable countries, such as Portugal and Spain. Pressure has eased somewhat with Ireland’s acceptance of emergency funds, and Spain’s announcement on Dec 1 of further reforms to improve its public finances.

The bloc has set tougher state aid rules for banks in 2011, a measure directed at its list of priorities.As reported by Reuters on Dec 1, crisis-hit banks seeking state aid will have to overhaul their operations as part of a strategy to wean them off state support. ;

The leaders reluctantly agreed to reopen the controversial Lisbon Treaty at their October summit. France and Germany called for a “limited” redrafting of the treaty, which has only been in force for 11 months. Amendments would specifically target a clause banning eurozone members from bailing out one another.

The bloc aimed to press its agenda at November’s G20 and United Nations Climate Change meetings. The outcome at both meetings will be a main course at the December summit. In a recent statement, the bloc said it will emphasize in Seoul the need to keep markets open and to adopt a growth-oriented development agenda.

RELATED READING:

EU exec welcomes new Spanish reform measures (Reuters 1 Dec 2010)http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSBRU01118020101201

EU sets tougher state aid rules for banks next year (Reuters 1 Dec 2010)http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6b027U20101201

EU Leaders back reforms in euro area (Europa 29 Oct 2010)http://europe.eu/news/index_en.htm

December 16, 2010 - BRUSSELS

The leaders of the 27 European Union countries meet in the last days of Belgium’s 6-month presidency with a list of stated priorities and worries about several crisis-stricken member countries. The list includes financial sustainability, high unemployment and the unpredictability of global commodity prices. The leaders are also expected to be deciding on tweaks to the Lisbon Treaty. The changes will be aimed at establishing a permanent crisis mechanism to safeguard the financial stability of the euro area.

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European Parliament awards human rights prize

December 15, 2010 - STRASBOURG

The winner of the European Parliament’s prestigious human rights award, the Sakharov Prize, will receive a certificate and check for €50,000 at an awards ceremony at the parliament. The award often upsets the nominees’ home countries, with outright condemnation when the winner is announced. Cuba is fuming. The 2010 award went to Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas.

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World trade watchdog holds General Council meeting

December 14, 2010 - GENEVA

The target for wrapping up the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round of negotiations was the end of 2010. The date has slipped again. The 153-nation organization now hopes for an outline agreement by mid 2011 and signatures on the overall deal at the ministerial meeting in Dec 2011.The 2011 meeting might also see Russia, which has been trying to join the WTO since 1993, at the table. Ten years old in Nov 2011, the Doha Round is aimed at reducing barriers so countries can increase trade globally. Agricultural subsidies and trade barriers related to industrial goods and services are among the key sticking points.

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Congressional report on oil spill due

December 14, 2010 - WASHINGTON DC

The report by the National Oil Spill Commission, appointed by President Barak Obama to investigate the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, America’s worst environmental disaster, has until 15 Dec to produce a definitive account of the causes for the blowout and fire at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on 20 Apr. It will also be expected to recommend ways to prevent a repeat. The ongoing revelations from the hearings, which began on 12 Jul, are likely to help shape new safety and oversight legislation.

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