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Swiss Minaret Ban Popular in Europe -- Controversy Points to Deeper Malaise

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The Swiss ballot initiative banning minarets has touched political nerves throughout the European Union -- on both sides of the issue. Most of the 27 member-state governments, along with human-rights groups, reacted officially with regret about the step. But public opinion polls showed that big majorities of the electorates – bigger than the Swiss one – in major EU nations would favor a similar ban in their countries.

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European Commission Line-Up

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Portfolios by Countries (and Parties)

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U.S., EU Agree on Joint Mars Flight -- Unclear Who Will Pay

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After a decade in declining cooperation on space research, the EU and the U.S. have agreed to a breakthrough joint venture. In a letter of intent released in November, the two powers announced an agreement to design unmanned spacecraft for exploration of the surface of Mars. The stakes are high in the light of the prestige associated with the countries that fund scientific advances in space, but progress is contingent on the funding required to carry out the research. So far, the financial details are unclear.

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"Cywars" and Psywars -- U.S. Playing Offense? Pentagon Experiments Cautiously

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For at least a decade, “cyberspace” – with its potential for exposing digital networks to eavesdropping and crippling attack – has been highlighted by strategists as a new “fifth dimension” of warfare. The most vulnerable global power in this regard is the United States and its European allies, analysts say, because these nations rely so heavy on electronic networks for their military operations as well as their civilian infrastructure from communications and road traffic to banking and hospitals. All of these can potentially be taken down by massive attacks by hackers, especially those with backing from a government.

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Corruption Watch: EU Ranks Cleanest -- But Region has Problems

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Europe continues to be world’s leading region in terms of corruption-free governance, according to the latest (November 2009) survey by Transparency International (TI), the Berlin-based watch-dog on corruption around the world. The biggest European countries are rated above the United States, but some east European nations continue to struggle with corruption. (The full report is available at http://www.transparency.org/.)

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Civilian Surge for Afghanistan -- New Strategy Needs New Coordination

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has committed the Obama administration firmly to closer civil-military cooperation on development and humanitarian aid as a key component of the new U.S.-led “surge” in Afghanistan. (Watch her press conference in Kabul here.) In this initiative, she has outspoken support from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has voiced his conviction the Pentagon needs to operate in tandem with “soft power.” The two cabinet secretaries’ ability to see eye-to-eye is a change from recent eras in Washington when inter-agency conflict over policy dogged U.S. operations in combat theaters, including Iraq.

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Europe Must "Emancipate" Itself -- Obama Offer Can't be Refused

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By Jean-Claude Casanova

(This article appeared in Le Monde newspaper in its edition dated Nov. 16, 2009.)

At the end of President George W. Bush’s second term in office, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the distinguished analyst, put forward the idea that two conditions had to be met in order to advance transatlantic relations: America had to go through “regime change,” and another “regime” had to emerge in Europe. He meant that the United States had to have a presidency with a less unilateral vision of the world, and that Europe had to achieve a higher degree of political unity. Now Barack Obama has been elected and the Lisbon Treaty has been ratified. Have these conditions been met?

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High Speed Internet Access -- New "Entitlement"?

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Old-fashioned telephone service on a nationwide basis has been a U.S. objective since 1934, and it has been largely achieved, with 95 percent penetration. Today one of the hot buttons in telecom policy in the US and Europe (and elsewhere) is the need to provide universal coverage for broadband service that can make the internet fully available to users, particularly in remote areas or deprived inner-city zones. (“Broadband access” means the facility allowing an individual computing device to connect by telephone, cable or wireless, to the internet at a megabit-per-second speed, with the target rising toward 100 mbps in many places.)

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Journalists Say Press Freedom Sliding in Europe

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Some major European governments are interfering more and more with the media in their countries, according to a report by working journalists. The 2009 annual survey released by Reporters Without Borders, a non-governmental organization based in Paris, said that the downgrading included several leading members of the European Union, notably Italy.

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