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The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and its battle group have been on patrol in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has threatened to close the Strait in response to EU sanctions on the import of Iranian oil. (U.S. Navy/AFP/Getty Images)

Is the Iran oil embargo another staggering step towards war?

The EU's Iran oil embargo had been expected but that doesn't mean it won't significantly up the temperature.

Julian Borger at The Guardian has a lengthy essay on what this means and how the EU action might lead Iran to indulge in " ... harassment of the oil trade that would drive the price of crude up and keep it up, very much to Iran's benefit, but fall short of a casus belli for war. However, exercising such options requires subtlety and fine judgment on all sides and that is by no means a given. "


Spain’s bonds sell well, but regional problems loom

Brussels — Markets give Spain a break, but the government must rein-in spendthrift regions to cut deficit.

"Crisis of Capitalism?" Europe: daily economic round-up

Cameron speaks, Stock markets up, bonds sell

The "crisis of capitalism" is a phrase more associated with Marxists than Conservative politicians like British Prime Minister David Cameron, but with the public still dismayed by what it sees as the excesses of the financial services industry - particularly bankers' pay and bonuses - and with bonus season about to get underway, Cameron needed to address the issue.


Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon goes on trial

Liberal magistrate who had Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet arrested is now in the dock himself.
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Spanish prosecuting judge Baltasar Garzon puts on his robes at the start of his trial today in Madrid (JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images)

To his supporters Baltasar Garzon is a crusader for human rights, a man who truly speaks for the dead, the man who successfully used European law to have the British authorities arrest Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London.

To his detractors, the 56-year old prosecuting magistrate is a meddlesome, liberal jurist who uses his authority to bend the law and carry out vendettas against political opponents.

Garzon was arrested and suspended from his position almost two years ago on three separate charges. Today the first trial got underway in Spain's Supreme Court. He is accused of using illegal wire taps in investigations of some businessmen who funded Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's Parti Popular.


Euro zone credit ratings downgrade ... reactions

Friday's Standard & Poor's downgrade of several euro zone countries' credit ratings have only made the faintest ripple across the continent
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon shrugs off the Standard & Poor's downgrade of France's credit rating late Friday and visits the site of a big infrastructure project: the Cite du Cinema in suburban Paris (BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)

Given the hysteria that greeted the announcement that Standard & Poor's was taking away France's AAA rating (along with that of Austria leaving Germany the only euro zone country with the top rating) - at least in the press - you might have thought the euro zone crisis was going to explode again. Not so.

That isn't to say some political leaders weren't angry. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was, following Spain's downgrade to A from AA-, according to this headline in El Pais.

Rajoy to Standard & Poor's: we don't need economic lessons:

"My government knows perfectly well what it needs to do to improve Spain's reputation, stimulate growth and create jobs," PM fires back after rating downgrade.


Strong demand for Spanish and Italian debt sees borrowing costs fall

The sales reflect renewed confidence in both countries’ efforts to tackle their debt problems, with newly-appointed governments implementing budget cuts and other austerity measures to cut their respective deficits. 

Europe: Daily economic round-up

Draghi speaks, bonds sell, euro rises, markets calm
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Mario Draghi at his monthly press conference today. His words were like balm on troubled financial market waters (DANIEL ROLAND/AFP/Getty Images)

ECB chief Mario Draghi held his monthly news conference today and re-iterated he is not changing anything. Interest rates on ECB lending would remain at 1 percent. The bank plans to make further three year loans available for euro zone retail banks starting next month.

The first tranche of three year loans was made available just before Christmas. Almost half a trillion euros was borrowed by around 500 banks. Since then almost as much money has been deposited every night at the ECB leading critics to say the banks were borrowing the money but not getting it out in to the general economy by lending to businesses or buying euro zone nations' sovereign debt.

Draghi told the press conference that the program was working.


Spain: A bit of good economic news

Tourism revenues were up significantly in 2011
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Germany may have a great economy but Spain has great beaches as this German tourist in Mallorca would probably be willing to admit. (JAIME REINA/AFP/Getty Images)

Despite the trouble and strife around the world last year Spain's tourism industry recorded very solid growth. In fact it is because of the trouble and strife that Spain's tourist numbers went up by 8.1 percent.

The political unrest across North Africa meant that European sun worshippers forsook Tunisian and Egyptian beaches for Spanish ones.


Google scores biggest enterprise deal to date

The BBVA deal is part of Google's efforts to step up competition against rival Microsoft and take on the latter’s Office software by offering products accessed over the Internet.

A Tale of Two Continents

Unemployment reaches record high in euro zone, while falling a bit in the U.S.
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Greek workers protesting last month about job losses. Unemployment in Greece is currently over 18 percent contributing heavily to record high levels of joblessness in the euro zone (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

The good news first: the U.S. economy added 200,000 jobs last month. That dropped the headline unemployment rate to 8.5 percent from 8.7 percent. (The broader measure of unemployment, U6, which includes those out of work for more than 12 months and discouraged workers and those with part-time jobs who want full-time work remains in double digits).

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