First it was €40 billion.  Then it was €25 billion.  Now it may be as high as €50 ($68.1) billion.  The plan, which will reportedly focus on schools and public works, remains stalled by conflicting domestic political debates over tax cuts within Merkel's governing coalition. 

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In a post titled "Transatlantic Differences," Alex Massie muses about how differently Americans would react than Brits to news that two members of the shadow cabinet of the conservative party had entered (separately) into homosexual civil unions.

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A smart energy policy is one that successfully integrates energy security (adequate, reliable supplies of energy at reasonable prices), national security and climate change policies so that they are not pulling in opposite directions.  President-elect Barack Obama’s choices of former EPA administrator Carol Browner to coordinate energy and environment policies, and of Steven Chu, director of Lawrence Berkeley lab, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who has been on the cutting edge of trying to develop new, non-carbon energy technologies suggests such an intention. 

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Four months after the hot phase of Russia’s war on Georgia, Russia continues to violate the European Union-brokered ceasefire agreements of August 12 and September 8. 

Notwithstanding, the EU on December 2 resumed Partnership and Cooperation Agreement talks with Russia, which it had suspended September 1 in the wake of Russia’s August assault on Georgia. 

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STOCK - Financial Crisis

It is common wisdom that the incoming administration cannot possibly increase government tax revenues in these horrific economic conditions.  However, this common wisdom is simply wrong. 

There is a major new source of revenue available to the government – the shadow financial system. 

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Russia is threatening to cut off gas flows to Ukraine on January 1 if Kyiv does not fork over $2 billion in late payments and finalize new gas prices for 2009.  However, a stop in gas supplies now will be different than it was in January 2006; this time around Ukraine has amassed enough reserves to get it through the winter (as has Germany). 

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STOCK - EU

In 2009, an east European should fill the top spot of a major international organization, a recent Economist editorial argues.  From power players like the EU Commission and NATO to "lesser posts" like OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the EBRD, east Europeans have been noticeably underrepresented at the leadership level. 

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Hakimullah Mehsud makes an eloquent practical argument for development of the East-West Corridor that runs from the Black Sea to the Caspian, across Georgia and Azerbaijan.  His Taliban guerillas are attacking NATO supply convoys traveling from Pakistan to Afghanistan and they recently struck a major logistics depot in the Pakistani town of Peshawar. 

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A Marshall Plan for Afghanistan?

Former Afghan finance minister Ashraf Ghani -- a member of the Atlantic Council's International Advisory Board -- calls for a Marshall Plan for his country in an op-ed in today's Independent.   He argues that "The Obama Presidency provides a second chance to get Afghanistan right" and that the way to turn around this failed state is to invest in its people.

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Gazprom has purchased a controlling 51 percent stake in Serbia's state oil company, NIS.  Equally as significant, Dmitry Medvedev and Serbian president Boris Tadic also signed a declaration of intent to include Serbia in the planned South Stream pipeline that will supply gas to Europe. 

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