Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Laziest Workers in the EU? Not in Greece by a Longshot: Productivity and not Hours Worked is Important for Financial Success

Work hard and be rich? Wrong. Otherwise slaves would rule the world.

Derek Thompson has a tremendous "think again" article at The Atlantic in Why Does the Laziest Country in Europe Work the Most?, writing inter alia:
"UK, Germany and Spain consider Greece to be the laziest country in Europe. Greece, on the other hand, voted itself the most industrious nation in the EU.

It turns out that the Greeks are right and the rest of Europe is wrong -- in a way. Greece is the hardest-working country in the EU -- and one of the hardest-working advanced countries in the world....

The missing key is productivity. Germans -- armed with large and scaled-up firms, low corruption, state-of-the-art technologies, financing opportunities, and smart global supply chain management -- get a lot more product out of each hour worked. So does the U.S."
See the revealing graph and chart at Thompson's article and start thinking about Europe's financial problems differently -- and more accurately. Poor countries are not lacking in industriousness, they are lacking in modern thinking.

The problem in countries with low productivity is to a large part "system"-caused, because people are backward and stick to outdated ideas and methods that are holding them back from being successful in the modern world. This applies not only to political, government and economic systems, but also to the thinking of citizens in general.

Look at America itself. One reason the USA is falling farther and farther back on the world economic and manufacturing scene, for example, is because of the entrenchment of much of American society in nostalgic and totally outdated ideas that have no place in the modern era.

Crossposted at LawPundit.

EU Wine Industry: EU Wines by Law Must Use Grapes or Grape Products from Within the European Union

Wine can not be made inside the European Union from grapes or grape products originating from outside the EU.

Well, that's the law.  Otherwise, wines made from or punched with non-EU foreign grapes or grape products would flood the European market and reduce EU wine quality standards. Of course, non-EU wines from foreign grapes or grape products can be imported, as "non-EU" country wines. We see nothing wrong with this European Union regulation. Europe is still the world's leading place for "quality counts".

Stephen Castle has the story at the New York Times in

When Is a Wine Not a Wine? When European Regulations Say It’s Not

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gerhard Mercator 500th Birthday Celebration Sint-Niklaas, Belgium 4 March to 26 August 2012

The 500th Birthday of Gerhard Mercator is being celebrated this year in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium from 4 March to 26 August 2012. See


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Eurovision 2012 Song Contest in Baku, Azerbaijan Finds Sweden in Triumph with Euphoria by Loreen

The Eurovision Song Contest 2012 in Baku, Azerbaijan came to a triumphant close last night, as reported by in Sweden wins the Eurovision 2012 Song contest in Baku.

We watched this competition on TV last night, together with 120 million other viewers, not just in Europe, but around the world, and came away greatly impressed by the city of Baku, the country of Azerbaijan, and the people of Azerbaijan, whose impressive Eurovision presentation showed the "trend" of our times toward emerging nations in the East.

It is especially significant to see that a country like Azerbaijan is oriented in part toward the West, while maintaining its own more Eastern traditions.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Eurovision Song Contest (Baku, Azerbaijan, 2012) Finalists Show an Interconnected Portrait of Europe: And our Favorite is ....

If all you know or have heard about Europe are the financial successes or problems of the European nations in the news, then that is not enough knowledge about Europe. There are many -- other -- essential components.

The world of the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 currently underway in Baku, Azerbaijan, in a thus far fantastic presentation, with the final on Saturday, May 26, 2012, is an amazing musical melting pot that shows the kind of cooperation that is possible between peoples of our Planet Earth, of all origins, of all nations, and of all ages (see the photo linked below of one of the surprising contestants - a group of elder ladies from the Ural Mountains). What a contrast to the above song from Cyprus, our personal favorite.

 Buranovskiye Babushki photograph is linked resized from

Europe, especially when viewed in the broader context of related cultures, extends far beyond traditional platitudes and stereotypes.

Take a look below at the musical representatives chosen by European nations to represent them in the contest, choices which show that Europe has a much different character than envisioned by those who just watch recession news on television.

In the list below are the finalists in the Eurovision Song Contest 2012.

[Many links and texts below are adapted from various pages at Wikipedia, but there are also other sources at the various links.]

Ivi Adamou was born to a Greek Cypriot father and Bulgarian mother and is under contract with Sony Music Greece. Ivi Adamou's "Snow White" La La Love is our Eurovision 2012 favorite and has the most YouTube hits so far of any of the Eurovision 2012 songs. Where the fans are, that's where the votes are. Twitter @IviAdamou #eurovision

The Russian Eurovision Song Contest entry is Buranovskiye Babushki, a world-wide unique female group from the Ural Mountains (see the photo at the top of this posting) made up of eight sprightly singing and dancing grandmothers (only 6 at a time can sing in Eurovision) who entered the contest to raise money for their Udmurt village. Their recorded songs include, according to the Wikipedia: "Yesterday", "Let It Be","Smoke on the water", "Hotel California" , "The Star Called Sun", "I Am Beautiful", "Sneg-Snezhok", "Chiborio", "Babushki-Starushki". Amazingly, the Russian grannies have a good chance to win this contest.

Tooji (Touraj Keshtkar (Persian: تورج کشتکار‎) was born in Shiraz, Iran, moving to Norway at age one. Tooji is bound to be a star among the ladies.

Soluna Samay was born in Guatemala to German and Swiss parents and attended the American Robert Muller LIFE school.

Engelbert Humperdinck (born Arnold George Dorsey) is an Anglo-Indian who was born in Madras, India. Legendary singer, but now 76 years old.

Gaitana is a an Afro-Ukrainian singer and songwriter of Ukrainian and Congolese descent.

Anggun is French-naturalised singer-songwriter of Indonesian descent -- the first singer from Indonesia to break into American and European record charts.

Loreen is of Berber-Moroccan descent.

Nina Zilli was born in Italy but moved to Ireland in childhood, later studying opera. She also spent two years in the USA in Chicago and New York.

Eleftheria Eleftheriou is a Greek-Cypriot singer born in Cyprus.
Can Bonomo represents primarily Muslim Turkey.
He is of Sephardic Jewish descent.

Pastora Soler. The album Fuente de luna included her first big Spanish hit, which was also a number one hit in Turkey.

Rona Nishliu is a Kosovo-Albanian singer.

Donny Montell was born in Vilnius, but highly influenced by Michael Jackson, Queen and Freddie Mercury. 

The four-man group Compact Disco started to perform live in January 2010, mostly in Hungary, but also in Transylvania, Romania.

As written at her website MayaSar "Together with the Roma Sinfonietta orchestra, Maya recorded Korake ti znam at [Adriano] Pennino’s studios in Rome. It is worth noting that the orchestra regularly collaborates with Oscar winner Ennio Morricone and singers including Quincey Jones, Roger Waters and Michael Bolton."

Kurt Calleja is Maltese singer who earned singing experience in the United Kingdom.

Željko Joksimović is known in Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Republic of Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, Germany, Austria.

Greta Salóme plays the violin, also for the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra.

Sabina Babayeva from this year's host country Azerbaijan (as last year's Eurovision winning country), prior to being selected, recorded Sikhvarulis tamashi as a duet with Anri Jokhadze, who represented Georgia in the contest.

Ott Lepland is from the Estonian island of Hiiumaa.  In winter, Hiiumaa can be reached from the mainland via a 26.5 km ice road (the longest in Europe) across the frozen Baltic Sea.

The group Mandinga shot the video of their song Zaleilah in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 2012.

Kaliopi in her early career toured with Zapro Zaprov "Razvigorče" through Czechoslovakia, Slovenia (then Yugoslavia) and Austria.

Jedward are two identical twins inspired by Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys.

Pasha Parfeny has always been inspired by Stevie Wonder.

Roman Lob is the singer of "Standing Still", a song written by British musician Jamie Cullum.

Yes, the global world has gotten much smaller and much more interconnected, especially in Europe.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Credit Card Fees in Europe: EU General Court Upholds European Commission Ruling Against MasterCard While Competition Commissioner Readies Charges Against Visa Europe

A European Commission competition ruling in 2007 prohibiting multilateral interchange fees by MasterCard was upheld by the General Court of the Court of Justice of the European Union on May 24, 2012.

For the text of the ruling, see European Court of Justice judgment T-111/08 MasterCard and Others v Commission (Competition).

The European Commission ruling had a significant effect on credit card charges at the time, as MasterCard halved its charges in 2009 to avoid penalties.

Visa Europe reduced debit card charges in 2010, but EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia has said that fees on card transactions are too high and that formal charges against Visa Europe are being readied.

Crossposted at LawPundit.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

European Union Digital Technology Regulation: EU Commission Changes "DG INFSO" to "DG Connect" on July 1, 2012

As reported at ENISA (European Network and Information Security Agency),

The EU Commission changes DG INFSO to “DG Connect”, writing
"“DG Connect” ... stands for the key areas they cover (Communication Networks, Content and Technology).... The changes will take effect as of 1st July."
Crossposted at LawPundit.

New Powers to Shape EU Telecoms Single Market Mark One-Year Anniversary

See the speech by Nellie Kroes at the EUROPA Press Release at:

New powers to shape the Telecoms Single Market

Crossposted at LawPundit.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

China, America, the EU, Energy, the Environment, Dumping, Antidumping, Protective Tariffs, Quality of Manufacture, Capitalism, Socialism

One can not escape the feeling that a lot of people in the United States government, and elsewhere, do not understand modern environmental needs and issues, especially as regards energy. Gas-guzzling vehicles. Apathy about the environment. No sensible energy policies. Worse, in this industrial sector, as most others as well, the manufacturing system is from yesteryear.

Keith Bradsher and Diane Cardwell have the story at the New York Times in U.S. Slaps Tariffs on Chinese Solar Panels - What a paradoxical sector on which to put up protective tariffs. One would think the more cheap solar panels the better, given the need to lower energy costs.

What is particularly baffling is that sources in the the USA are COMPLAINING that the Chinese "non-capitalist methods" give them an UNFAIR ADVANTAGE!

The article quotes lawyer Alan Price from the law firm representing the USA in the solar panel case, Wiley Rein, as follows:
"China’s method is straightforward: it sets forth industry-specific Five-Year Plans and then uses all forms of national and local subsidies and other governmental support to quickly transfer jobs, supply chains, intellectual property and wealth, to the permanent detriment of U.S. and global manufacturers," he said. "China’s ability to ramp up and overwhelm an industry is unique and particularly devastating with new and emerging technologies, where global competitors may be less established and can be knocked out more easily and quickly."
The question then arises what the "good old boys" and the staunch supporters of American capitalism are doing wrong in the USA in turning modern America into a manufacturing wasteland that is no match for socialist countries?

If we follow the train of Alan Price's thinking, and he may well be right, a much larger socialistic Chinese behemoth is apparently far more nimble and adaptable than the backward American manufacturing system, which, by our experience, is often mired in past nostalgic centuries, methods, ideas, attitudes and politically absurd conceptions.

What did we just read, that Hewelett-Packard is to let go of as many as 30,000 employees? at a company now headed by a political favorite of the GOP?

The only measures that most American CEOs seem to understand to increase profits are outsourcing and/or cost-cutting by getting rid of employees, leaving a mass of unemployed for the government to look after.

The idea at HP is said to be that the money saved will be invested in a better-trained sales force able to generate more cash. Surely that is a joke. Is the delusion there that such measures will make HP more competitive with Canon and other competitors? Not on my desktop.

My first printer was an HP. Since then, the company HP has been resting on its laurels. Grow, or die. That is a rule of life, and a rule of business.

How about better and more competitive products? Where, in Europe, does one find products on sale that are "made in the USA"? American wares, with few exceptions, are also-rans. How much of American resources are going into research and progress, rather into the ever-filling pockets of the upper income classes?

Start there if you want to keep from being over-rolled by the Chinese.

If America thinks it is going to prosper in the future, putting up protective tariffs is not going to help a defunct system living from patent trolling, trade barriers, and completely out-of-date political ideas. No way.

Either you have free trade, or you go back in all product sectors to the old system of protective tariffs, which may not be advisable for an American manufacturing sector that has been less competitive as time goes on.

America's problem is not dumping by China.

America's problem is a structurally unsound economy geared to filling the wealth demands of company owners, vastly over-inflated salary levels of corporate executives, and unrealistic demands of stockholders for stock price appreciation. The idea that companies should concentrate on state-of-the-art production of goods and services appears to be a novelty.

Friday, May 18, 2012

EU Internet Cookie Opt-In Law One-Year Grace Period Ends May 26, 2012 Confronting Websites and Blogs with Serious Compliance Problems

[Our own solution to this problem is found described in the previous posting at EU Pundit.]

On May 26, 2012,
one of the more prominent legal and Internet headaches
in European Union lawmaking will dawn,
namely the question of how to abide by
the "new" EU Internet Cookie Law,
formally the "EU Privacy and Communication Directive",
which already went into effect a year ago,
but for which an extra grace period of one year was granted
to permit a standardization of website compliance -- a necessary standardization which has not happened in the interim.

Worse, the implementation of the Directive by the various EU Member States is not uniform -- creating an unnecessarily complicated situation given the cross-border nature of the Internet.  See Paul McCormack at Tech Republic in Cookies and compliance: Has your website taken these six steps? where he refers to the DLA Piper report on How The EU Has Implemented The New Law on Cookies (updated December 5, 2011, showing various implementations).

Rory MccGwire, Chief Executive, BHP Information Solutions, writes as follows on May 10, 2012 at the Law Society Gazette in How the new EU cookie law affects law firms:
"It’s now 10 May, we've less than three weeks to go. I know of many websites that will switch over to a compliant version a week before 26 May. But has anyone seen examples of full compliance already being put into practice on a commercial website? I would be interested to know."
We focused on this problem last year at

Privacy Law and the EU Internet Cookie Law Opt-Out Option Deadline: European Union Companies Given One Year by EU Commission to Standardize Cookie Tracking Consent Mechanism


"As we previously reported at LawPundit, the European Union "EU Internet Cookie Tracking Law" came into effect on May 26 of this year (2011) via the 2009 EU Directive, protecting user privacy rights by requiring that users be informed by companies of the extent of their cookie tracking and be given the option to "opt out" of such tracking."

92% of blogs and websites use cookies, so this law applies to nearly everyone with blogs or websites or businesses located in Europe.

Many websites and blogs use third-party services without themselves knowing exactly what cookies they place. 

Furthermore, many serious sites, such as online banking, social media, email programs, and yes, even search engine settings, rely on cookies for operation. How else could you post easily to Facebook or Twitter from a third-party page if there were no cookies?

Such "necessary" cookies are permitted by the EU directive as exceptions and no express opt-in is required for them since the "opt-in" is presumed from the use of the service.

The solution we adopted for our own blogs, which rely on Google Analytics, is Silktide, as described in the previous LawPundit posting.

Please be aware that we are not recommending the use or installation of this or any other solution and expressly disclaim any liability for any solution that any website, blog or other Internet presence takes regarding this EU law. When in doubt, consult your attorney.

European Union Cookie Law Compliance Solution: A Free Open Source Plugin at Silktide together with a Definitive Guide to the Cookie Law

We have spent quite a bit of time looking for a plugin solution to the EU Cookie Law -- about which we will report in more detail at the next posting -- and -- until the fog clears about that EU Cookie Law -- have provisionally found a free, open source solution at Silktide that we are going to use on our blogs, which rely on Google Analytics, as many Blogger blogs do, for visitor stats, and Google Analytics uses cookies.

See Silktide - Become compliant
And see also Silktide - Definitive guide to the Cookie Law

The advantage of this open source solution is that it is "opt-in" and should be compliant with the various non-uniform implementations of the various European Union Member States, some of which require prior "opt-in" consent.

It will probably be wise just as a general precaution to also put in additional information about Google Analytics in the Terms of Use or a similar special information page devoted to cookies, and so we plan to do that as well when we finish installing the Silktide solution on our blogs.

Please be advised that we are not recommending the use or installation of this particular plugin solution and expressly disclaim any liability for any solution that any website, blog or other Internet presence takes regarding this EU law based upon our installations or opinions.

When in doubt, consult your attorney.

Crossposted at LawPundit.

Monday, May 07, 2012

The Origin of Written Script in Europe : Ancient Signs The Alphabet and the Origins of Writing

The Berlin publisher -- epubli -- of my recently published book,
Ancient Signs The Alphabet and the Origins of Writing,
now has its pages up in English
for those of you who have been considering
getting a print or ebook copy of Ancient Signs.

The English-language pages are now at
while the German-language pages are at

Lots of amazing stuff in there about the history of ancient Europe.

Happy reading!

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