February 1st, 2012
12:30 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – It’s one of the great oddities of the former British Empire – the Queen’s Honour List.

Every year people eagerly await the letter from the Queen to inform them if they have received a knighthood, a lordship, an OBE (Order of the British Empire) etc.

I know there is some incredibly crucial ranking to all this, and it’s all very important to some, but don’t ask me to explain it or agree with it. I do know that being awarded a life peerage (a non-hereditary lordship) gets you, no surprise, into the House of Lords - see the likes of Lord Coe of the London Olympics or Lord Webber of musicals. But a knighthood only gives you the right to be called “Sir,” as with Sir Elton John or Sir Paul McCartney.
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January 18th, 2012
02:23 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – The experts are in back in Athens to assess the damage, looking for answers to Greece's massive debt. They are part of the team to help Greece, so the country can get another dose of money from the International Monetary Fund and Europe.

But this is not the bankers who are negotiating to get less money out of Greece.

People are confusing the two teams now back in Athens. One is to clean up the mess; one is to give Greece a break on debt through so-called Private Sector Involvement (PSI) which is econ-speak for a voluntary agreement.

Let’s break them down. FULL POST

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January 16th, 2012
06:11 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – I could not help but think of the Titanic when I first heard of the Costa Concordia. But there is no comparison beyond the anniversary year.

Actually, maybe there is another similarity. The sinking of the Titanic did not stop the cruise industry and this one won’t either.

But the industry will have to remind people what William Gibbons, director of the Passenger Shipping Association, told me: “We have to reassure everybody that now is a good time to book a cruise and that it is a very safe and secure holiday.”

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January 4th, 2012
04:04 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – I have an Financial Times cartoon on my desk by Banx which shows a man reading a book of "Greek Myths" to a child, with the tag line "...and the EU got all its money paid back in full." I don't cut out many cartoons but this one sets the tone for 2012.

We've known since October that Greece won't have to pay back all the money it has borrowed. Banks are already in deep discussions to reach a deal for a 50% "haircut" on some of the Greek government bonds they hold. Once that is agreed to, Greece is a step closer to getting some of the $168 billion loan - part of its second bailout - agreed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

So what do we know going into 2012?

Let's be clear: A 50% haircut will not be enough. Greece's budget deficit numbers are getting worse, not better. Greece is not increasing the amount of tax that is swallowed up in the country's black economy. The Greek people face another $8 billion or so in austerity measures for 2013-2015, that is, if the coalition government of Lucas Papademos can pass the new measures through parliament ahead of the expected Spring election.

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December 27th, 2011
03:18 PM GMT
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Dublin (CNN) – According to an old Irish saying,"in Dublin you can't throw a stick without hitting a poet."

James Joyce, W.B. Yeats and Oscar Wilde are just some of the writers the city has produced over the centuries.

In recognition of its past and present achievements, the Irish capital was recently named as one of six UNESCO Cities of Literature.

CNN's Jim Boulden travelled to Dublin to see how the designation is boosting the city's morale.

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December 15th, 2011
02:34 AM GMT
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London (CNN) – Europe’s new treaty – dubbed the “fiscal compact” – is facing some hard realities on the ground. Signs the deal could be difficult to push through in both euro and non-euro countries are emerging.

In Warsaw, protestors have rallied against, among other things, Poland’s tacit agreement to lose some sovereignty to join the European treaty club. In London, political bickering continues over British Prime Minister David Cameron’s veto of the European deal.

In Ireland, a referendum may need to be held, with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny noting some detailed technical and legal considerations are yet to be clarified. Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg says the country - which does not use the euro - would not agree to all the budget discipline rules. And the Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas has said the proposed pact is still just a blank piece of paper.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Bundestag the path to stability continued. In Italy, new Prime Minister Mario Monti said the deal had done enough to calm the markets.

But on Wednesday U.S. stocks fell, the euro dropped to its lowest level in 11 months and Italian bond yields rose.

European leaders promised to sign off on this fiscal compact at its next leaders' summit in March. Will the markets give them the time to fill in the details...  and the cracks?



December 14th, 2011
10:30 AM GMT
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Dublin (CNN) – Dublin is trending. In September, Twitter became the latest in a line of new media companies to announce it will set up its European headquarters in the Irish capital.

The micro-blogging site joins the likes of Google, Facebook and e-Bay in what has been dubbed "Europe's Silicon Valley." Dublin's growing IT sector is giving the city a renewed sense of confidence.

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November 29th, 2011
05:36 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – I’m reading that the public sector walk out to hit the UK on Wednesday will be the biggest strikes in Britain since 1989 - since the Margaret Thatcher era. One union says it will be a historic day.

In the 21 years I lived in London, I’ve seen transportation crippled, schools emptied, streets blocked by strikers and demonstrators. But the unions are telling us we ain’t seen nothing yet.

I’m not convinced. Yes, something like two million people will be on strike and tens of thousands are expected to march. But it will be peaceful. I don’t expect my daughter’s Year 4 teacher to run through the streets. I don’t expect immigration officials or workers at the National Archives to clash with police.

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October 12th, 2011
05:42 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – It's taken months, but Europe's leaders are starting to put pen to paper and be willing to spell out, in some detail, how to fix the eurozone - if it's fixable.

I think it is fixable. It will include a massive restructuring of Greek debt, call it default or not.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso - or what he should be called; the euro cheerleader - did not say as much in his speech to the European Parliament Wednesday.
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September 2nd, 2011
08:35 PM GMT
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I was just asked on air why in the world European markets, after two decent days, would fall heavily on the back of U.S. employment figures.

It’s simple - there had been no good reason for markets earlier this week to recover from the crazy, volatile days of August.

Nothing has changed.

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