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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Feast:ApostleAndrew;NATO,Clinton-WikiLeaks;Russia-Georgia;"Build It Bigger",Sava River;Greek Wine;Jobless benefits expire

On Tuesday, November 30, 2010, His All Holiness Bartholomew presided over the Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Church of Saint George for the celebration of the Patronal Feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the occasion of the feastday of St. Andrew, the First-Called of the Apostles. In accordance with established practice since the 1960s, an official delegation from His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, headed by Kurt Cardinal Koch as president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, was in attendance. In his address, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew observed: "In following with increased interest the development of this theological dialogue from our Ecumenical Patriarchate, we pray for its success, especially during it present phase when controversial subjects, which in the past proved cause of acute conflict among our Churches, are being discussed. The recent plenary meeting of the dialogue Commission in Vienna, under the joint presidency of Your Eminence and our most venerable brother and coworker, His Eminence Metropolitan John of Pergamon, revealed the existing difficulties but also the disposition and decision of all members of the Commission to overcome these difficulties with love as well as with faithfulness to the doctrine and life of the Church transmitted to us from the first millennium in order to advance to their resolution." In the Papal message delivered by Cardinal Koch, Pope Benedict stated: "In a world characterised by increasing interdependence and solidarity, we are called to proclaim the truth of the Gospel with renewed conviction, and to present the risen Lord as the response to the most profound spiritual questions and aspirations of the men and women of today. ... In order to carry out this great enterprise, we must continue along the path towards full communion, showing that we have already united our strengths for a shared witness of the Gospel before the people of our time." The Pope also praised His All Holiness for his "wise efforts for the good of Orthodoxy and for the promotion of Christian values in many international contexts."

NATO on Tuesday condemned the release by Wikileaks of confidential and secret diplomatic cables detailing the deployment of US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, describing the move as "illegal and dangerous." Leaked US diplomatic cables show that most of the 200 US tactical nuclear bombs still left in Europe are based in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Turkey. The four nations have long been suspected of hosting the warheads, but NATO and the governments involved have always refused to formally confirm the suspicions. Italy and Britain also are believed to house dozens of nuclear bombs, but they were not named in the Wikileaks report. In a cable released by Wikileaks detailing a discussion last year between US Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel's foreign policy adviser Christoph Heusgen, the US diplomat commented on the battlefield weapons, noting that they were located in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Turkey.

The recent disclosure of secret U.S. diplomatic cables will not affect American diplomacy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told several leaders Wednesday. She spoke after the website WikiLeaks started to publish the first of what it says are more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic messages, including many that are marked secret. "I have certainly raised the issue of the leaks in order to assure our colleagues that it will not in any way interfere with American diplomacy or our commitment to continuing important work that is ongoing," she said. "I have not had any concerns expressed about whether any nation will not continue to work with and discuss matters of importance to us both going forward," she said. Clinton made the remarks at a regional security summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, where she is in the midst of a four-day trip that also will include stops in the Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan and Bahrain.

Russia will do all it can to stop Georgia from rearming, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said on Wednesday. "Our unquestionable priorities include preventing the remilitarization of Georgia and opposing the unlicensed production of Soviet and Russian models of military equipment by a number of East European states," he said. He offered no indication as to how the two issues were related or whether some East European states were supplying weapons to Georgia. Russia recognized the independence of the former Georgian autonomies of Abkhazia and South Ossetia following a five-day war in August 2008. Tbilisi has declared them occupied territories and broken off relations with Moscow.

Belgrade's new bridge over the Sava River will feature in the Discovery Channel "Build It Bigger" series. The U.S. network said it would film the episode in December. The series focuses on large engineering projects worldwide. Show host Danny Forster will present the construction process of one of the largest single pylon bridges in the world. With its 200 meter pylon and 365 meter span, the earthquake-proof bridge will connect central Belgrade with its industrial zone. Works on the bridge started in Belgrade in December 2008.

While Yiannis Boutaris was campaigning earlier this month to be the next mayor of Thessaloniki, in Greece his older son was waging his own campaign in North America to win recognition for Greek wines. There are more than 300 indigenous varieties of grapes in Greece, where wine has been made for roughly 5,000 years. In ancient times Greek wines were highly prized and sought after but things have changed. The Boutaris family, which has been making wine since the late 19th century, has holdings in most of the country's wine producing regions. The Boutaris Group produces about 15 million bottles annually and exports to more than 35 countries. In the 1990s, Yiannis, who had been the group's chief winemaker, left to produce estate-level wines on land he had bought 30 years earlier. It became the Kir-Yianni Estate where he tried to restore Greece's ancient reputation for quality wines using modern winemaking techniques. The vineyards in Naoussa are on slopes some 300 meters (1,000 feet) above sea level in an area that has very hot, dry summers and lots of snow in the winter. Yiannis Boutari, 68, who had previously been a city councilor and a candidate for the European Parliament, was elected Thessaloniki's next mayor.

Extended unemployment benefits for nearly 2 million Americans begin to run out Wednesday, cutting off a steady stream of income and guaranteeing a dismal holiday season for people already struggling with bills they cannot pay. Unless Congress changes its mind, benefits that had been extended up to 99 weeks will end this month. The average weekly unemployment benefit in the U.S. is $302.90, though it varies widely depending on how states calculate the payment. Because of supplemental state programs and other factors, it's hard to know for sure who will lose their benefits at any given time. But the Labor Department estimates that, without a Congress-approved extension, about 2 million people will be cut off by Christmas. Congressional opponents of extending the benefits beyond this month say fiscal responsibility should come first. Republicans in the House and Senate, along with a handful of conservative Democrats, say they're open to extending benefits, but not if it means adding to the $13.8 trillion national debt. Forget Christmas presents. What the so-called "99ers" want most of all is what remains elusive in the worst economy in generations: a job. Ninety-nine weeks may seem like a long time to find a job. But even as the economy grows, jobs that vanished in the Great Recession have not returned. The private sector added about 159,000 jobs in October — half as many as needed to reduce the unemployment rate of 9.6 percent, which the Federal Reserve expects will hover around 9 percent for all of next year.