I. BUANEWS - UNSC to adopt UNFICYP resolution on Cyprus
The UN Security Council is expected to approve a resolution on the renewal of the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), having secured the consent of the government of Cyprus. Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the United Nations, Ambassador Minas Hadjimichael, met on Monday Ambassador Suzan Rice, the US Permanent Representative to the UN and acting President of the Security Council. Hadjimichael told Rice that the government had given its consent to the renewal of UNFICYP's mandate for another six months until June 2011. The resolution on the renewal of the mandate is expected to be adopted during an open session of the UN Security Council, which will begin on Monday. Turkey, a non-permanent member of the Security Council whose troops occupy Cyprus' northern part since they invaded in 1974, is expected to vote against the resolution. UNFICYP, comprising 859 military personnel from about seven troop contributing countries in addition to 68 personnel, arrived in Cyprus in March 1964 after inter-communal fighting broke out. The mandate of the force is renewed every six months by the Security Council. UNFICYP's mandate is to contribute to the restoration of normal conditions and entails the facilitation of an increasingly wide range of civilian activities.
II. ANA - U.S. Ambassador to Greece press briefing
New U.S. ambassador to Greece Daniel Bennett Smith on Thursday held his first press briefing for local reporters, responding to a variety of questions dealing with the bruising economic crisis in Greece, bilateral relations and regional issues of heightened importance to Athens and Washington, as well as the "Wikileaks spectre" looming over America's foreign relations. Smith referred at several times to the debt crisis and economic recession battering Greece, pointing to investments -- either FDIs or internal investment -- as imperative to jump-starting growth in the eastern Mediterranean nation. "We do think that this government (Greek) is on the right path," he said, while emphasising the importance of restoring confidence in the country amongst international capital markets. Nevertheless, the veteran U.S. Foreign Service diplomat, speaking amid labour union strikes and mobilisations around the country, noted that "we recognise that this (austerity package) is also creating a lot of pain".
III. BALKANS - FYR Macedonia voices benefits of NATO and EU membership
EU and NATO membership is not directly linked to foreign investments and economic prosperity, but it largely contributes the country to become more attractive for investments. However, foreign direct investments first of all require good business environment, adapted commercial laws and ways to protect competitiveness. This was stated Tuesday by FYR Macedonia's Vice PM for European Affairs Vasko Naumovski at a conference on topic "How will EU and NATO membership benefit FYR Macedonian business", organised by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in FYR Macedonia. In 2009, the Government adopted a strategy to improve competitiveness of FYR Macedonia's economy and took other business measures. "Every country in Central and Eastern Europe after joining EU and NATO experienced economic progress, unemployment reduction and boost of foreign direct investments. We believe that will be also the case with FYR Macedonia as soon as it becomes a member of EU and NATO," Naumovski said. NATO Senior Military Representative to FYR Macedonia, David Humar said that the biggest benefits from NATO membership were indirect for FYR Macedonia, but with long-term perspective. "There have been many foreign investments in Albania and Bulgaria after they joined NATO. However, there are also direct benefits because NATO has a joint budget to invest in its members," said Humar. Even though FYR Macedonia is not in NATO, the Alliance has invested in a reconstruction of roads from Gevgelija to Skopje. USAID Mission Director Michael Fritz said FYR Macedonia and its business sector by raising these issues was preparing for the upcoming change. "If you're well-prepared, it will be an advantage for your firms and the economy, otherwise opening the market towards EU will bring strong competitiveness for which you will be not prepared. It is crucial FYR Macedonian businessmen to take it into consideration now," Fritz said.
IV. EMG - Russia sees long term partner in Serbia
Russian Ambassador to Serbia said Wednesday that Russia sees Serbia as a reliable long-term partner and that expansion of cooperation would be mutually beneficial. At a meeting in the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS), he said that the two countries have excellent cooperation in many areas, and that the possibilities to further it are opening with the start of the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Konuzin stressed that Serbia is the only country which has a free-trade regime with all three countries in the Union. Noting the importance of investments in the gas and oil industry in Serbia, the ambassador mentioned the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline and the gas storage facility in Banatski dvor... As a positive example, he mentioned the letter of intent signed Tuesday which will allow Serbia to import 50,000 high-quality heifers in calf from Western Europe, and also noted that the Bank of Moscow recently opened a branch in Novi Sad and has plans to open more across Serbia. PKS President Milos Bugarin said that the results of bilateral economic cooperation between Serbia and Russia could be a lot better and reminded that the trade between the two countries totaled USD 2.13 billion in the first nine months of 2010 - a 13 percent increase compared to the same period last year.
V. RIANOVOSTI - Thieves, spies, extremists - Putin speaks
In his longest annual televised Q&A session, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin tackled issues ranging from state-sponsored assassinations to the fate of jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. In a vintage performance, the former president and KGB officer broke last year's record by 24 minutes, speaking for a total of four hours and 26 minutes. He fielded 90 questions, 31 of which he had selected himself. Twenty-eight questions came from men and 18 from women. Extremism: Putin called for a clampdown on all extremist practices. "It is necessary to crack down on any extremist acts," he said... Putin also stressed that Russia was a "multi-ethnic" state. "A person from the Caucasus should not be afraid to go out in the streets of Moscow, and our ethnic Slavic citizens should not be afraid to live in North Caucasus republics," he added.
Police: Putin said that criticism of the country's police was often justified, but that officers performed "important" work. "We, with justification, criticize law enforcement agencies a lot, and serious reforms being carried out in this sphere are not accidental. But we should not tar everyone with the same brush," he said... GDP: Putin assured the nation that GDP would return to pre-crisis levels by the first half of 2012... Khodorkovsky: Putin said that thieves belong in jail when asked about former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is facing new charges of money laundering and embezzlement. Referring to a line from the Soviet film "The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed," Putin said: "I think that a thief should be in jail."... Traitors: The Russian security services do not carry out the murder of "traitors", Putin said. "The Russian security services do not use such methods," he said in response to a question as to whether he had even given orders to eliminate enemies of the state. Putin said that it is no secret that some foreign security services practiced assassinations, giving Israel's Mossad as an example. Referring to July's spy row between Moscow and Washington, when 10 Russian spies were arrested in the United States after an alleged intelligence officer's betrayal, Putin said traitors had no future... Luck: On a personal note, Putin unveiled the secret of his good fortune. A student from Siberia reminded Putin that Russia won the bids to host the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2018 World Cup and asked if the prime minister was really "so lucky." Putin said, "Yes" and tried to explain the secret of his luck. "One should work [hard], and first of all work with people, show respect for them and prove competence and do it persistently, but tactfully," the premier said. "As you see, we have been a success until now and hopefully will be a success in the future," he said.
Lady Gaga isn’t the only chart- topping convent girl. A singing sister act from rural southern France has taken No.1 slots on both sides of the Atlantic as the industry signs up nuns, monks and other niche acts. The Benedictine Nuns of Notre-Dame topped U.S. and U.K. classical charts with their album “Voices: Chant From Avignon” on Universal Music Group’s Decca Records after a search for female Gregorian chanters. Forbidden from leaving the convent, the women shot the album cover and TV commercial and signed the record deal by passing papers under a grill that divides them from the outside world. The nuns now share a record company with artists such as Lady Gaga, who was educated at New York’s Convent of the Sacred Heart, Elton John, Eminem and Amy Winehouse. The sisters are part of a wave of singing fishermen, soldiers and painters that record companies are courting to appeal to an older, often- ignored audience that’s accustomed to paying for music and not downloading it illegally. Record companies are cashing in on such acts with a flurry of releases this Christmas season, including the nuns and music from The Chelsea Pensioners and The Great British Barbershop Boys. About 25 percent of all albums are sold in December, according to the British Recorded Music Industry trade organization.
VII. ORTHODOXWAYOFLIFE - God becomes Man! The Greatest Day of All Time
Some wisdom from Archimandrite Justin Popovich: God is born on earth, and moreover He is born as a man: perfect God and perfect man--the unique God-man. And He has forever remained as the God-man both on earth and in heaven. Indeed, the God-man is the first perfect man on earth. Perfect man? Yes, because only in the God-man is man without sin, without evil, without death, totally filled with God, and thereby with all divine perfections. Jesus came to earth as the God-man to show us the way of life God has determined for us to be united with Him eternally. Our aim must be to become like Him is all respects and unite with Him. Man is only a true man when he is completely united with God, and in everything and every way completely lives in God, thinks in God, feels in God, acts in God, is virtuous in God, is immortal in God, is eternal in God. Only and solely in God is man a man, a true man, a perfect man, a man in whom all the fullness of the Godhead lives. The life of man?--Only and solely as the Divine Life in the God-man does our life become and forever remain sinless, immortal, God-like, holy, perfect, eternal. Everything that man is, and everything that is of man perfectly lives, works, thinks, feels, is human, immortal, divine, and eternal only and solely in the God-man and through the God-man. Only through the God-man Christ is man divine majesty and the highest value next to God in all worlds. For this reason God became man, and has remained the God-man for all eternity. With the God-man Christ, all that is God's has become man's, human, ours, so that each of us individually and all of us assembled together in the Divine-human body of Christ, the Church, might become god-men, having at tained "to the perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:12-13). There is no historical event that can compare to this event––God becomes man. Therefore Christmas, the day of the birth of the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the greatest and most important day in the history of all the worlds in which man moves and lives. Truly this is "great joy"--truly the only true joy, the only eternal joy of a human being in all worlds.