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Here's your latest issue of Really Useful Sites for the International Trade Professional. This free bi-weekly newsletter reviews useful Web sites from the Web Resources database at FITA's International Trade/ Import-Export Portal at http://fita.org, an excellent source for trade leads, news, events, and a link library of 7,000+ sites related to international trade.

My name is John McDonnell, and for years I've been writing about useful Web sites for businesspeople, in various publications. Now I've focused on international trade, using my Web research skills to find sites that are useful for international businesspeople, and some sites that are just plain fun for anyone.

Here are the sites:

OUR FEATURED REGION SITE -- THE EUROPEAN UNION

http://www.cordis.lu

In the short time it's been in existence the European Union has become one of the largest trading partners of the U.S. Billions of dollars in trade flow between the U.S. and the EU every year, and the future looks bright for trade between these two entities. If you want to put your finger on the pulse of EU research, a good place to start is CORDIS (http://www.cordis.lu/). This is an amazingly useful site for businesspeople who need to know what's happening in the research and development field in Europe. I found the map-based search the easiest to use, and it's at http://dbs.cordis.lu/map/en/home.html. You simply click on a country in the map, and type in your search terms. I clicked on Ireland and clicked on "Select All" to include all regions within Ireland. Then I clicked on "Projects" and typed "robotics" in the search box. Then I clicked on "Select All" in the box titled Available Areas, and finally I clicked on "Search". I got a list of 26 research projects involving robotics in Ireland. The list is full of details, including plenty of contact information for the companies or universities involved.

This is only one facet of this valuable site. At CORDIS you can also find lists of R D contacts in Europe, news updates, a document library with fulltext European Union R D reports, a database of research programs looking for partners, online forums, and much more. Best of all, the CORDIS site is free. If you register as a subscriber there is no charge, but you'll receive e-mail updates, wider search options, and other valuable services. If you're interested in R D in Europe, CORDIS is for you.

There are lots more links to Europe at the FITA site. Go to FITA's International Trade Web Resources at http://fita.org/webindex, click on Regional Resources and Multi-Lateral Trading Areas in the left column or "Search by Country or Region" in the right column, and then scroll down to Europe and select a country or "Europe" in the pop-up window . Or simply type "Europe" in the search box on the FITA Home Page at http://www.fita.org.

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ROAD MAPS IN EUROPE

http://www.mappy.com

If I was going to be driving in Europe anytime soon and I wanted a road map, I'd go to Mappy ( http://www.mappy.com/ ). You just type in your departure and destination information, and Mappy will give you a detailed map in seconds. You can also get maps of specific towns, and Mappy will help you plan out an itinerary (including booking a hotel and choosing a restaurant), and even calculate how much you'll pay in gas and tolls. Finally, you can download these maps to mobiles or Palm Pilots. It's a lifesaver for geographically challenged folks like me.

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TWO HOLIDAY SITES

http://www.interfaithcalendar.org

There are hundreds of religious holidays in the world, and even if you don't celebrate a certain holiday it could be useful to know if it's an important day in a country you're visiting. You can find a comprehensive listing of world religious holidays at Interfaith Calendar ( http://www.interfaithcalendar.org ). You can look up the dates of holidays through 2007, read definitions of religious terms, scan religious news, and more. Click on "Resources" in the left column and you'll find a valuable list of links to other Web sites about religion.

One of the cherished traditions in my house this time of year is putting up the Christmas lights. While my kids watch in amusement I spend hours untangling strands of lights, cutting my fingers while trying to replace burned out lights, and getting frostbite from standing outside in the cold with no gloves on (because gloves impede my fine motor skills). It's great fun! Seriously, though, the Christmas season is a time when we all have traditions and special customs, and that's part of the fun of the holiday.

If you'd like to learn more about Christmas customs around the world, go to Worldview! Christmas Around the World ( http://www.christmas.com/worldview ). You just click a country on the map, and you'll find out how people in that section of the world celebrate Christmas. There are articles, recipes, and even music clips for you to listen to.

Whatever holiday you're celebrating this time of year, I wish you all the best that Life has to offer, and a happy and peaceful new year!

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