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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 1 April

by afew Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 04:08:51 PM EST

 A Daily Review Of International Online Media 

Europeans on this date in history:

1698 - several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to see "the Washing of the Lions"

More here and here

 The European Salon is a daily selection of news items to which you are invited to contribute. Post links to news stories that interest you, or just your comments. Come in and join us!

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by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 12:51:23 PM EST
UK fights EU rules on pesticide and crop spraying - The Ecologist
UK opposition to restricting the use of pesticides in the 1990s and 00s has at times even seen the intervention of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown to lobby the case for the farming industry

The UK Government has come under sustained pressure - through a high profile campaign, the UK courts and the EU legislative system - to toughen up its pesticides legislation over the past decade.

But throughout, both the previous Labour administration and current Coalition Government have stood firm and sought to maintain the status quo. The justification is twofold. Ministers and their advisers have maintained that the UK's mix of statutory and voluntary pesticide controls are ahead of the game and already provide sufficient protection for the general public and the environment.

They have also become increasingly vociferous in warning of the impact of cutting back on pesticide usage on crop yields at a time of heightened concern about food security. 'Defra's pesticide policy aims to minimise risk without losing the benefits,' is how the relevant Department neatly sums up its position on its website.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 01:45:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Plans to rotate credit rating agencies to be revised | European Voice
UK and Germany lead opposition to forcing issuers to change agencies regularly.

A major part of the European Commission's plan to clamp down on credit rating agencies could be scrapped after several finance ministers warned that it could be unworkable.

Ministers from several EU member states, meeting in Copenhagen today (31 March), spoke out against the so-called `rotation rule', which would force companies to change their credit rating agency on a regular basis.

The idea is to increase the level of competition in the rating agency market - currently dominated by three large agencies - but the proposal has proved controversial and many countries fear that it would not have the desired effect or have negative consequences.

The UK and Germany are among a group of countries that spoke out against the proposal to force rotation every three to six years.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 01:47:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU parliament president welcomes start of 'citizen's initiative': theparliament.com
Parliament's president Martin Schulz has welcomed the imminent introduction of the EU's new 'citizen's initiative'.

Speaking at a news conference in parliament on Wednesday, Schulz said, "Parliament has fought for this right of citizen's initiative for a long time and we welcome that it is finally becoming a reality.

"This first experiment in participatory democracy at EU level is a good opportunity for citizens and civil society to have a direct say what will be on the EU's agenda.

"The fact that signatures will have to come from a minimum of a quarter of member states (currently seven) will mean intensive dialogue and effort between citizens from different member states. Therefore initiatives will have a real European interest."
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:10:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One very small step forward. It will however be easily metabolized by the elite and end up no more than a simulacre of "participatory democracy."
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 04:50:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Spain budget: Cuts to total 27bn euros this year

Spain is cutting 27bn euros ($36bn; £22.5bn) from its budget this year as part of one of the toughest austerity drives in its history.

Changes will include freezing public sector workers' salaries and reducing departmental budgets by 16.9%.

The government says it will raise 12.3bn euros this year, aided by an increase in tax for large companies.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said the nation was in an "extreme situation".

"Our top priority is to clean up public accounts," she said.

"This is a moment that demands serious efforts to reduce spending but also structural reforms to cause the economy to grow and create jobs."

But economists are questioning whether the cuts will be enough to satisfy Spain's European partners.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:13:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Local - One in six French people lives in poverty

Over 11 million people in France - or more than one in six of the population, live in poverty and social exclusion, a report published on Friday claims. Poverty has increased sharply since 2004 and even some people in work earn so little that they are classed as poor.

The report published by the observatory on poverty (Onpes) says France has resisted 2008-2009 crisis relatively well, but that the French are paying for the consequences. 

In 2009 and 2010, 11.2 million earnt very low wages, or suffered from severe material deprivation or lack of work.

The report says 13.5 percent of the population earn less that 60 percent of the average wage in France. That means 8.2 million people live on less than €954. Considering that a studio apartment in Paris can easily cost €700 a month, that's not very much. 

Onpes also says that extreme poverty, people living with less than 40 percent of the average wage is also on the increase. Close to 2 million people survive on less than €640 a month. The report also says the increase of this very poor segment of population is slow but steady, and is not adressed by France's social services. 

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:21:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The equivalent figure in the UK is around 20%.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 07:43:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Median family income is about $50,233.

Poverty level for family of four is $22,133, which is about 44% of the median. Poverty rate is 15% using this rule.

by asdf on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 11:11:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wonder whether this is before or after transfer payments  from the government to those in poverty. (Food and rent assistance, etc)  

Look at page 210 here.

Pre-tax and transfer Ginis are quite similar across advanced economies, however there's a big change in the amount that this redistributed.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 12:00:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Chemicals plant blast: one hurt, three missing - The Local
The some reports suggest the flames reached up to 100 metres into the sky above the Marl chemical park, one of the largest in Germany, just a few kilometres north of Dortmund and Essen in North Rhine-Westphalia.

A spokesman for the industrial park said least one person was seriously burned in the explosion and was taken to hospital by helicopter, according to the website of Focus weekly magazine.

Three more people were still missing on Saturday afternoon, according to the report.

The explosion happened shortly after 2pm in a Evonic facility for producing CDT - a chemical used in manufacturing plastics that is insoluble in water.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:24:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Local - Key German-Swiss tax deal falters in Germany

A double-taxation deal aiming to end a long-standing dispute between Germany and Switzerland has been rejected in its current form by several German states, the German finance ministry said on

The accord, due to have taken effect in January 2013, still needs to be ratified by both countries' parliaments, including the German upper house, the Bundesrat, which represents the 16 regional states.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government lacks a majority in the Bundesrat.

Despite talks between the German federal government, the regions and Switzerland over several months, as well as amendments to the initial accord, opposition-led German states announced on Friday they would not sign the deal.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:28:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Could someone point me to the part of the article that refers to "double taxation" as opposed to "taxation"?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 09:43:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The term "double taxation" refers as far as I know to bilateral treaties that regulate where and when inhabitants who could in theory be taxed in both countries, are taxed and which state pays what to which. In particular border areas are affected where it can be common to live on one side of the border, but work on the other.

Of course for wealthier citizens it is more a question of using the differences in rules to avoid paying taxes in either country. And since this treaty apparently mostly was concerned with that a "tax dodge deal" would be more accurate.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 02:13:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Feature - Poverty drives central Europe's great exodus | Reuters

(Reuters) - Maria Ene's traditional white house on a muddy, unnamed Romanian street doesn't have running water, but it does have two satellite dishes sprouting from its fence.

Three of Ene's five children have moved to Spain. It's not that far, but with everyone feeling the pinch of Europe's economic downturn, she sees them once a year at most, and needs to feel connected.

"I saw them on the Internet," said Ene, 69, who lives in the small village of Lupsanu, 75 km east of Bucharest.

"A grandson of mine showed them to me as I felt at one point I could not go on," she said, with tears in her eyes.

"It's hard there for them, but what would they do here? There at least they have a job."

More than 20 years after the fall of communism, the wealth gap between the east and west of Europe persists, and countries from the Black Sea to the Baltic are shedding people at an alarming rate.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:42:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...the wealth gap between the east and west of Europe persists...

As does the investment gap.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 09:30:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
82 arrests as Aarhus demos end - Politiken.dk

Aarhus police have detained a total of 82 people in connection with left-wing demonstrations in Denmark's second city.

Fifty left-wing activists were detained after refusing to leave an area near Mølleparken in Aarhus where some 200 Danish and international far right-wingers had been holding a demonstration.

Prior to that arrests were made when a large group of black-clad activists split off from a main anti-racism demonstration and attacked police in an attempt to reach the far right-wing demonstration.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:51:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European anti-Islamic rally in Denmark flops - Europe - Al Jazeera English

An anti-Islamic gathering in Denmark's second city has attracted fewer than 200 supporters compared with thousands of counter demonstrators of whom 83 were arrested.

The far-right activists later had to be escorted away from the rally on two buses by police on Saturday.

The rally was held in Aarhus, Denmark's second largest city, 200km northwest of Copenhagen, the capital, drawing participants from several European countries, including Britain, Germany, Poland and Sweden.

The "European Counter-Jihad Meeting" started with a moment of silence for the seven people who were killed by an al-Qaeda-inspired gunman in France.

"There are 150 or 200 people, but I have the impression that there are not even 100 people really taking part in the demonstration," a police officer at the far right rally in eastern Aarhus told AFP news agency.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:52:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well the EDL has had to admit that it only managed to get 15 people to go to this "Worldwide anti-Islam rally"

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 04:40:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Small world, ain't it.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 08:14:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 12:51:48 PM EST
Apple Labor Pact to Ripple Across China - WSJ.com

BEIJING--Manufacturers grappling with rising labor costs and increasing worker demands in China could face further pressure if a critical probe of a major Apple Inc. supplier sets a new standard for China's factory workers.

Apple and one of its top suppliers, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., agreed to a set of recommendations by the Fair Labor Association following an audit of Hon Hai's Chinese factories to reduce work hours and change other employment policies.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:36:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Goldman, Landesbank argue CDOs in US appeals court | Reuters

(Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court was asked on Friday to decide whether Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) and TCW Asset Management Co should have foreseen the housing market implosion that caused a $37 million loss for German state-owned Landesbank Baden-Wurttemberg.

A three-judge panel on Friday did not make an immediate ruling on a trial judge's decision last September to dismiss the German bank's lawsuit claiming fraud against Goldman (GS.N) and TCW, an investment advisor.

The lawsuit was brought over a collateralized debt obligation (CDO) named Davis Square Funding VI, which was managed and marketed by Goldman and TCW at the height of the housing bubble when profits were potentially lucrative. The lawsuit was filed in October 2010, about four years after Davis Square closed.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:39:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At least they didn't loose on a motion for summary judgement.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 11:21:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Downside of China's Lifeline to Brazil - IPS ipsnews.net
RIO DE JANEIRO, Mar 30, 2012 (IPS) - Over the last decade, China has become Brazil's main trading partner and source of foreign investment. But this apparent lifeline at a time of global crisis could actually aggravate longstanding problems faced by Latin America's biggest economy.

In 2009, China displaced the United States as Brazil's top trading partner. Just two years later, bilateral trade had climbed to 77 billion dollars a year, with an 11.5 billion dollar surplus in Brazil's favour.

The director of the Brazil-China chamber of commerce and industry (CCIBC), Kevin Tang, said this was "a huge leap" from 2000, when trade between the two countries amounted to just 2.5 billion dollars.

The Asian giant has also begun to invest heavily in Brazil, as it has in Chile and other countries of Latin America as well.

A study by the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (APEX-Brasil) points to even higher levels of investment than the official statistics show.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:47:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Michael Olenick: Housing Pundit Thomas Lawler and the Genesis of Lawlessness  Guest post in naked capitalism

While researching a HUD database for clues on Thomas Lawler, the frequently-cited foreclosure and heavy-metal loving "housing economist" often cited by the business media, and a favorite of Calculated Risk, (CR), I came across background information that raises more questions than it answers.


Starting in 1998 Thomas Lawler held the job of SVP Portfolio Management, SVP Financial Strategy, and SVP of Risk Strategy at Fannie Mae until he unceremoniously left in January, 2006, following an $8 billion financial fraud that occurred under his watch. Lawler, along with the rest of Fannie's executive team, cooked the books spectacularly. That was back in the early 2000s, when a billion dollars was still real money.

Lawler's Project Libra

It'd be impossible to summarize Lawler's ethical mosh-pit better than OFHEO, Fannie's former regulator which morphed into the FHFA, already did so I'll just cut-and-paste from their 2006 "Report of the Special Examination of Fannie Mae" (emphasis mine) (PDF):

   According to Thomas Lawler, Senior Vice President for Portfolio Management, when Fannie Mae entered the income-shifting REMIC transactions, the Enterprise was concerned that the steep decline in interest rates in 2001 would cause higher near-term and lower long-term recognition of income under GAAP. Mr. Lawler explained that in the context of developing strategies to address that concern, Peter Niculescu, Senior Vice President for Portfolio Strategy, may have suggested the income-shifting REMIC idea. He was not aware of anyone senior to Mr. Niculescu playing a role in initiating the transactions.

    Andrew McCormick, Senior Vice President for Portfolio Management (then reporting to Mr. Lawler), indicated he believed Goldman Sachs (Mr. Niculescu's former employer and the underwriter of the transactions) was the source of the idea. In fact Goldman Sachs described the proposed transaction in a November 19, 2001, presentation to Fannie Mae. David Rosenblum, a Goldman Sachs managing director, attached PowerPoint slides for the presentation to a December 3, 2001, e-mail to Mr. Niculescu. Mr. Rosenblum referred to the project as `Project Libra.'

    Mr. Lawler acknowledged that a motive for creating the REMICs was to effect `a change in the expected [pattern of] recognition [of income].' He also emphasized that without the income-shifting REMICs he did not believe the GAAP earnings that the company would have realized would have accurately reflected the underlying economics. Although he referred to economics, Mr. Lawler was actually talking about the GAAP accounting mismatch Goldman Sachs cited. In an e-mail to a colleague, Jeff Juliane, who, as a member of the Office of the Controller had operational responsibilities for accounting for premiums and discounts on the tranches Fannie Mae retained, `these (REMICs) were structured to transfer income from 2002 to out-years.'

Is it just me or, in much the same way every fairy tale starts with "Once upon a time," every government report on a major scam seems to include the line "Goldman Sachs described the proposed transaction."

But, of course, the mortgages on which the whole transaction was based vaporized before those out years ever arrived. After quitting the FHA Lawler went to work for John Paulsen, who was busy shorting MBSs. A marriage made in Hell, as Lawler could not be accused of not knowing his own shit, as it were, and knew just what to recommend. As a pundit for the WSJ Lawler hit back at critics, such as Robert Shiller, when they released analyses that might disrupt his scams - but read Olenick's article.

The Surprise In the Desert

Back to that primary research based on the HUD data during and after the time that Lawler was managing Fannie's portfolio, financials, and risk. It turns out that Fannie had an appetite for financing homes in some ZIP codes at rates wildly higher than others. I compiled about 26 million loan-level records that Fannie and Freddie acquired between 2004-2007. Fannie and Freddie don't lend directly -- they buy loans from banks -- so this data-set would be from the time Lawler was at the height of influence setting policy there.

Fannie and Freddie's loans use MSA rather than ZIP codes but I cross-referenced them to ZIP codes using tables provided by the Census Bureau. MSA codes sometimes span a small number of ZIP codes, so when there were multiple ZIP code possibilities I'd choose the ZIP code with the highest proportion of residential properties. This could result in slight overconcentration, though the error rate doesn't matter given the extremes I found in the data.

Certain communities were much more likely to receive loans from the GSE's than others. Surprise, AZ, in ZIP code 85374, is #1 with 24,788 loans, a 14.7 standard-deviations above the other 20,821 ZIP codes which have a mean loan volume of 532 loans each. The Census Bureau reports Surprise, AZ grew 281% from 2000 to 2010, to the current population of 117,517. As Yves would say, Quelle Surprise, though this time literally.
There are 52,586 housing units in Surprise so it's safe to say the town is akin to some sort of modern Hoover Dam project, a large scale building project, in the middle of nowhere, built with government money. Except the spending occurred during an economic boom, and is now curtailed thanks to a corresponding economic bust. Actually, the government didn't really mean to spend the money -- during that time Fannie and Freddie were private -- so it was GSE executives, especially Lawler, who decided to build a town in the middle of nowhere.


One statistic that comes through clearly is Lawler's preference for fast foreclosures. All top ten ZIP codes by loan volume are in non-judicial foreclosure states: five in CA, two in AZ, and one each in NV, NC, and TX. We have to drill down to the seventeenth position until we find a judicial ZIP code.

Who would want an annoying judge to start asking awkward questions? Apparently not the mainstream media outlets that gave 'pundit' Lawler a forum. (Back to Olenick.)
It isn't clear how Fannie and Freddie decided to hyper-concentrate their loans in a few distinct areas since majority of ZIP codes received less than 1,000 loans. Almost all the high volume ZIP codes are exurban construction boom-towns: environmentally irresponsible far-flung bedroom communities that externalize the cost of construction to everybody except the builders who disappear even faster than the demand for shiny new properties to flip.
Other stats also pop out. For example, the average age of the primary borrower in this large sample is 44 1/2, so they'll pay off their 30-year mortgages when they're a spry 74.5 years-old. That obviously doesn't bother Fannie and Freddie who wrote at least 9,821 loans to people 90 years and older. Fifteen loans went to people one hundred years and older. I understand that age discrimination is illegal but given all the other exemptions Fannie and Freddie received -- which includes virtually everything -- you'd think they'd lobby for the ability to question the ability of centenarians to repay their 30-year loans.

Many people question the role Fannie and Freddie played in the subprime meltdown. Gretchen Morgenson and Josh Rosner convincingly argue in their book on the subject, Reckless Endangerment, that the GSE's created an anything-goes culture which private lenders picked up to compete. This data supports that theory: Fannie and Freddie led the way while private money followed.

It's not clear why CR and so many mainstream media outlets blindly quote Fannie Mae's former economist, allowing him to "move on" from some spectacularly poor decisions that led to painful costs borne by everybody else. We continue watching the bailout money quietly flow and I wonder when "personal responsibility" for one's prior decisions became an exclusive obligation only for those neither wealthy nor well connected.)

Perhaps worse than Ordos. At least in Ordos the losses have not yet had to be acknowledged.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 12:13:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 12:52:07 PM EST
Rebel bid to topple the state 'is over', Syrian govt says - SYRIA - FRANCE 24

REUTERS - Syria says a year-long revolt to topple President Bashar al-Assad is now over, but it will keep its forces in cities to "maintain security" until it is safe to withdraw in line with a U.N.-backed peace deal.

The agreement proposed by United Nations-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan says the Syrian authorities must be first to withdraw troops, and stop violence immediately.

The United States and its Gulf Arab allies urged Annan on Saturday to set a timeline for "next steps" if the bloodshed persists. Saudi Arabia repeated a call for rebels to be armed.

Annan has said neither measure would be helpful. The former U.N. chief's mission has brought no respite in the killings.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:16:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mali coup `not a failure', says embattled junta chief - FRANCE 24 EXCLUSIVE - FRANCE 24

"I wouldn't describe it as a failure," says Captain Amadou Sanogo of the military coup that brought him to power on March 22. Neither the chaos spreading across northern Mali, where Tuareg rebels have captured several strategic towns, nor the increasing isolation of his military junta, have rattled the mid-ranking army officer who is now Mali's most powerful man.

"We are doing all we can to restore order and unity across the Malian territory," Sanogo told FRANCE 24's correspondents in the Malian capital, Bamako, in an exclusive interview on Saturday.

The junta leader blamed "a decade of decay" for the army's string of defeats in the north, where rebel forces have captured the town of Kidal and threaten to overrun the nearby city of Gao.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:17:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tuareg rebels enter key Malian town - Africa - Al Jazeera English

Rebels have attacked Mali's strategic northern city of Gao, a day after they took the provincial capital of Kidal, witnesses and an official said. The move deepens the crisis in the landlocked nation at the feet of the Sahara in western Africa after a coup earlier this month.

The two towns are major prizes for the Tuareg rebels, who launched an insurgency in January that was fuelled by the flow of arms from the fall of neighbouring Libya, where many of the rebels had been on the payroll of
ex-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Gao is around 1,200km from the capital of Bamako, where junior officers overthrew the elected government and claimed power 10 days ago.

If Gao falls, the only other major city in Mali's north in government hands is Timbuktu. On Saturday, Baba Bore, a radio programmer at the local Radio Alfarouk station in the ancient city, said gunshots were heard earlier in the day.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:45:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How the U.S. Almost Betrayed Britain in the Falklands War - WSJ.com

Thirty years ago this Monday, Argentine marines invaded the Falkland Islands, killed or captured its British defenders and declared the islands to be Argentine territory: Les Malvinas. Britain dispatched a naval "task force" to regain them less than a week later. The Falklands War had begun.

According to newly released documents from the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., the U.S. almost took sides against its most important ally, driven by the diplomatic maneuvering of Secretary of State Alexander Haig.

It's already a matter of record that, at first, Washington ostentatiously refused to take sides. Secretary Haig embarked on energetic shuttle diplomacy between Buenos Aires and London to craft a settlement. One month after the landing, the military junta governing Argentina rejected his compromise. The National Security Council met to determine the next stage of U.S. policy.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:34:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's long been public that Thatcher considered Mitterrand a much better ally than Reagan in that war.

Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 08:12:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sudan governor to troops: 'Take no prisoners' - Africa - Al Jazeera English

The governor of Sudan's Southern Kordofan has been filmed addressing troops before a battle with rebel fighters urging them to "take no prisoners".

In footage obtained by Al Jazeera, Ahmed Harun, the state governor who has already been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity in Darfur, is captured on camera telling his soldiers to take strong action against anyone who comes in their way.

Southern Kordofan holds most of Sudan's remaining known oil reserves, after South Sudan seceded in July 2011, taking its oilfields with it.

Southern Kordofan has become a strategic asset for Khartoum, but rebels there want to follow Juba and be granted independence from Khartoum.

The footage shows Sudanese troops stationed in a captured base involved in a gun battle with rebel forces.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:44:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
China censors microblog websites - FT.com
The move followed a government announcement that six people had been detained and sixteen websites closed for spreading rumours about a military coup in Beijing, and government criticism of the microblogs for failing to stop the spread of such rumours.

China censors microblog websites - FT.com

Last week, following the purge of Bo Xilai, the ambitious but controversial party secretary of Chongqing, Beijing was shaken by reports, posted by microblog users, that military vehicles had entered the city, gunfire had been heard at different places in the capital, and Zhou Yongkang, the politician in charge of security in the Communist party leadership, had staged a coup in order to rescue Mr Bo.

The sudden disappearance of Mr Bo and fierce debate in wider party circles over the correct ideological line and the country's future have highlighted deep fissures in the party, triggered debate over the limits of its development concept, and raised questions over the stability of a regime many had come to accept as basically stable.

The problems have also called into question the assumption that the party had established a reliable mechanism for an orderly and peaceful leadership succession. The party prepares to choose a new nine-member politburo standing committee later this year, which would form the top leadership for the next decade.

For me, googling the titel works to get pass the subscription-wall.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 04:18:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
China censors microblog websites - FT.com
Another 1,065 people have been arrested since mid-February and more than 208,000 "harmful" online messages have been deleted as part of an internet "cleansing" campaign dubbed "Spring Breeze".

(my emphasis)

Orwell must be required reading...

by Bernard on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 06:37:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Orwell must be required reading...

... as instruction manual.

by Katrin on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 07:21:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The west has lost in Afghanistan - FT.com
Five years ago the Americans were refusing to speak to the Taliban. Now the Taliban are refusing to speak to the Americans. That is a measure of how the balance of power has shifted in Afghanistan. The western intervention there has failed. As Nato prepares to withdraw from the country in 2014, it is only the scale of the defeat that remains to be determined.

Now officially acknowledged by the elites mouthpiece.

by Bernard on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 06:42:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In 1843, the British army chaplain Rev G.R. Gleig wrote a memoir of the disastrous (First) Anglo-Afghan War, of which he was one of the very few survivors. He wrote that it was "a war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity, brought to a close after suffering and disaster, without much glory attached either to the government which directed, or the great body of troops which waged it. Not one benefit, political or military, was acquired with this war. Our eventual evacuation of the country resembled the retreat of an army defeated".


by asdf on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 11:16:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oops: Unemployment in Israel "leaps" by 20% overnight | 972mag
This isn't even an April Fools joke. I wish it was. Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) sheepishly announced  that the criteria it's been using to calculate the unemployment ratio in Israel don't match the ones used by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which Israel insisted upon joining two years back. Now that the CBS intends to switch over to the OECD's standards, Israel's unemployment rate goes from 5.6 to 6.5 percent practically overnight. As Globes reported this morning (Hebrew), CBS announced as recently as 28 February Israel had 174,000 unemployed. Beginning Friday, Israel has 227,000. In its statement (.pdf), the bureau suggests that the overall trend of gently sloping unemployment stays largely true, but the overall unemployment ratio is much higher than admitted to begin with.
Seems that they forgot to include the Arabs....
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 10:02:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jordan group translates Babylonian Talmud to Arabic | Jerusalem Post
A think tank on Middle East affairs in Jordan has for the first time published a translation of the Babylonian Talmud in Arabic.

Middle East Studies Center based in Amman produced the 20-volume work, which took six years to complete and is the labor of 95 translators, language experts and editors.


"I doubt this new translation was done out of the goodness of their heart," he told The Jerusalem Post. "The Muslim world generally looks upon the Talmud as a kind of prototype for the Protocols of the Elders of Zion," Kedar said in reference to the early 20th century fabrication purporting to contain Jewish plans for world domination.

The difference, Kedar explained, is that Jews do not deny the authenticity of the Talmud and therefore those looking for evidence in Jewish culture of hatred of Arabs, Muslims and non-Jews can take selective quotations and passages from the text to show how Jews denigrate and disparage these groups.

They hardly need to take the trouble of taking selective quotations when they have Colonel Eyal Qarim of the IDF Military Rabbinate to do the work for them.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 02:57:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 12:52:37 PM EST
Signs of thawing permafrost revealed from space

Satellite are seeing changes in land surfaces in high detail at northern latitudes, indicating thawing permafrost. This releases greenhouse gases into parts of the Arctic, exacerbating the effects of climate change.

Permafrost is ground that remains at or below 0C for at least two consecutive years and usually appears in areas at high latitudes such as Alaska, Siberia and Northern Scandinavia, or at high altitudes like the Andes, Himalayas and the Alps.

About half of the world's underground organic carbon is found in northern permafrost regions. This is more than double the amount of carbon in the atmosphere in the form of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 12:54:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
West Antarctic Ice Shelves Tearing Apart at the Seams

A new study examining nearly 40 years of satellite imagery has revealed that the floating ice shelves of a critical portion of West Antarctica are steadily losing their grip on adjacent bay walls, potentially amplifying an already accelerating loss of ice to the sea.

The most extensive record yet of the evolution of the floating ice shelves in the eastern Amundsen Sea Embayment in West Antarctica shows that their margins, where they grip onto rocky bay walls or slower ice masses, are fracturing and retreating inland.

As that grip continues to loosen, these already-thinning ice shelves will be even less able to hold back grounded ice upstream, according to glaciologists at The University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Geophysics (UTIG).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 12:55:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Rising Number of Farm Animals Poses Environmental and Public Health Risks

The global population of farm animals increased 23 percent between 1980 and 2010, from 3.5 billion to 4.3 billion, according to research by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online publication. These figures continue a trend of rising farm animal populations, with harmful effects on the environment, public health, and global development.

Both production and consumption of animal products are increasingly concentrated in developing countries. In contrast, due in part to a growing awareness of the health consequences of high meat consumption, the appetite for animal products is stagnating or declining in many industrial countries.

"The demand for meat, eggs, and dairy products in developing countries has increased at a staggering rate in recent decades," says report co-author Danielle Nierenberg, director of Worldwatch's Nourishing the Planet project. "While industrialized countries still consume the most animal products, urbanization and rising incomes in developing countries are spurring shifts to more meat-heavy diets."

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 01:03:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
More on ramping down baseload power and ramping up storage | Grist

The other day I wrote a post about one of the main reasons Germany is phasing out nuclear power: It has decided that baseload power is not compatible with a system based on renewable energy. Since then I've run into some interesting stuff that's related, and in my new bloggy spirit, I'm just going to toss it out there.

First, I highly recommend Chris Nelder's "Why baseload power is doomed," which covers much of the same ground, but in somewhat more technical detail and more focused on the U.S. The most direct statement of the thesis comes in his summary of another report:

A 2010 study called "The Base Load Fallacy" [PDF] by Australian researcher Dr. Mark Diesendorf, an expert on integrating wind into power grids, fingers the "operational inflexibility of base-load power stations" as the main obstacle to further integration of renewables. "The renewable electricity system could be just as reliable as the dirty, fossil-fuelled system that it replaces," he observes, if demand were more efficient and intelligent, and supply were made up of a wide variety of renewable sources plus a small amount of gas-fired capacity to cover the peaks. The perpetrators of the baseload fallacy, he argues, are mainly the industries who benefit from the status quo: coal, oil and gas companies, the nuclear industry, power generators, and industries who depend on them like aluminum and cement manufacturers.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 01:44:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Gas flare at oil platform 'extinguishes itself'

The flare on the crippled North Sea oil platform at the centre of a gas leak has extinguished itself, the oil company Total has confirmed.

All workers had been removed from the Elgin installation, 150 miles off Aberdeen, earlier in the week.

The company said the evidence that the flame was out came from over flights and from vessels close to the exclusion zone.

The leak has been ongoing since last Sunday.

A Total spokesman said: "We received the first indication that the flare may be out at 12:07 yesterday from our first surveillance flight of the day.

"The news was then reaffirmed at 16.36 following our second flight of the day.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:15:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BP - U.S. hiding evidence on size of Gulf oil spill | Reuters

(Reuters) - BP Plc (BP.L) has accused the U.S. government of withholding evidence that may show the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill was smaller than federal officials claimed, a key issue in determining the oil company's liability.

A reduction in the size of the spill would lower the maximum civil fine BP could be forced to pay under the U.S. Clean Water Act, a sum now estimated as high as $17.6 billion (11 billion pounds).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:40:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ingrates! This, after all Obama did to front for their folly.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 09:36:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 12:52:55 PM EST
DNA traces cattle back to a small herd domesticated around 10,500 years ago

All cattle are descended from as few as 80 animals that were domesticated from wild ox in the Near East some 10,500 years ago, according to a new genetic study. An international team of scientists from the CNRS and National Museum of Natural History in France, the University of Mainz in Germany, and UCL in the UK were able to conduct the study by first extracting DNA from the bones of domestic cattle excavated in Iranian archaeological sites.

These sites date to not long after the invention of farming and are in the region where cattle were first domesticated.

The team examined how small differences in the DNA sequences of those ancient cattle, as well as cattle living today, could have arisen given different population histories. Using computer simulations they found that the DNA differences could only have arisen if a small number of animals, approximately 80, were domesticated from wild ox (aurochs).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 12:57:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The animal with no name.
by asdf on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 11:17:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
With you in the room, bacteria counts spike

A person's mere presence in a room can add 37 million bacteria to the air every hour - material largely left behind by previous occupants and stirred up from the floor - according to new research by Yale University engineers.

"We live in this microbial soup, and a big ingredient is our own microorganisms," said Jordan Peccia, associate professor of environmental engineering at Yale and the principal investigator of a study recently published online in the journal Indoor Air.

"Mostly people are re-suspending what's been deposited before. The floor dust turns out to be the major source of the bacteria that we breathe."

Many previous studies have surveyed the variety of germs present in everyday spaces. But this is the first study that quantifies how much a lone human presence affects the level of indoor biological aerosols.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 12:58:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Runner's high motivated the evolution of exercise

In the last century something unexpected happened: humans became sedentary. We traded in our active lifestyles for a more immobile existence. But these were not the conditions under which we evolved.

David Raichlen from the University of Arizona, USA, explains that our hunter-gatherer predecessors were long-distance endurance athletes. 'Aerobic activity has played a role in the evolution of lots of different systems in the human body, which may explain why aerobic exercise seems to be so good for us', says Raichlen.

However, he points out that testing the hypothesis that we evolved for high-endurance performance is problematic, because most other mammalian endurance athletes are quadrupedal. 'So we got interested in the brain as a way to look at whether evolution generated exercise behaviours in humans through motivation pathways', says Raichlen.

Explaining that most human athletes experience the infamous 'runner's high' after exertion, which is caused by endocanabinoid signalling in the so-called 'reward centres' of the brain, Raichlen adds little was known about the role of endocanabinoids in the other aerobically active mammals. So, he teamed up with Gregory Gerdeman and other colleagues to find out how exercise influences the endocanabinoid levels of two mammalian natural athletes - humans and dogs - and a low activity species - ferrets.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 01:02:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Learn Norwegian to keep dementia at bay: study - The Local
Ex-pats in Norway who are putting off language lessons have just been handed another reason to dive in and learn Norwegian - speaking a second language keeps dementia symptoms at bay, scientists say.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:26:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Learning Swedish delays dementia: study - The Local
Ex-pats in Sweden who are putting off language lessons have just been handed another reason to dive in and learn Swedish - speaking a second language keeps dementia symptoms at bay, scientists say.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:27:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When is somebody going to do a study and tell us which languages are better and which worse for this purpose?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 09:49:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Above, the Norwegian edition of The Local says Norwegian, the Swedish edition of The Local says Swedish. There isn't a Finnish edition.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 04:49:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But if the brain-exercise is the purpose, finnish should be a good language unless your native tongue happens to be in the finno-ugric language family.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 05:07:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Much language processing takes place in the Temporal Lobe (Wernicke's Area, Brodmann Area 22) with left and right hemisphere specialization.  The other classic area of speech is Broca's Area (Brodmann Area 44 and 45 - meaning there are two distinct cytoarchitectures - in the frontal lobe.  

I, personally, find it highly doubtful there is a region of the brain devoted to a process like speech. And, in support, I offer the fact Braca's Area also has other cognitive and perceptual tasks and is heavily affected by short term memory persistence ... or lack thereof in some people with speech dysfunctions.  

Setting all that aside, there's very little money available for research in the neurosciences because you can't use the findings to blow shit up.  So you can forget directed research to answer the question.

What seems to be the case is learning keeps the brain from being lazy; to some extent the more you stimulate the neural pathways in the brain, the more it will hold, and the longer you'll maintain high levels of cognitive functioning.  Thus it probably won't matter what spoken language is studied.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 10:53:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Probably true of any language, I find my brain working fine since I'm coming up to speed on physics. Other old people around me are slowly losing it from lack of use, like any muscle.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 08:22:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 12:53:17 PM EST
BBC News - Soviet ex-KGB chief Leonid Shebarshin 'kills himself'

A former head of the Soviet KGB foreign intelligence branch, Leonid Shebarshin, has apparently shot himself dead aged 77, Russian prosecutors and police say.

Shebarshin was found dead with a gunshot wound at his flat in central Moscow, a ceremonial pistol by his side, police told news agencies.

A suicide note was reportedly also found at the scene.

A veteran of Soviet intelligence in South Asia and Iran, he led the KGB's First Chief Directorate from 1989-91.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:19:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why am I suspicious?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 08:23:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Elk herd causes Swedish motorway mayhem - The Local
Police in Linköping in central Sweden have received a spate of calls this week reporting that a family of elk had been sighted dangerously close to the E4 motorway which runs through the town, according to a report in the local Norrköpings Tidningar daily.

"We had up to three units out there, and despite using sirens and lights it unfortunately ended with one of the elks being hit by a truck," said Jan Fryksén at Linköping police.

While no one was hurt in the accident, aside from the hapless elk, police plan to deploy a team of hunters on Saturday to try to shepherd the animals away from the motorway and back into the safety of the forests.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:23:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Geriatric German gymnast wows audience - The Local
Geriatric German gymnast Johanna Quaas, 86, wowed spectators with impressive floor and parallel bar performances during a break in the 2012 Cottbus Challenger Cup gymnastic competition.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:25:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 08:10:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm gonna slink off into a corner now.

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher
by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 10:55:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Exclusive: Soros' son strikes out on his own | Reuters

(Reuters) - The upheaval within billionaire investor George Soros' firm continues as one of his sons is separating some of his personal fortune to manage it himself.

Jonathan Soros, who stepped down in September from day-to-day management of Soros Fund Management LLC, plans to hire at least one of his father's key employees, say two people familiar with the situation.

The two sources said Soros' son intends to set up his own family office - something the Soros Fund converted to last year - with the help of David Kulsar, currently chief risk officer for the Soros Fund.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 31st, 2012 at 03:38:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Pirate Bay - The galaxy's most resilient bittorrent site

Athens, Greece - Political power in Athens, Greece, today signed an agreement with representatives for The Pirate Bay (TPB) about exclusive usage of the greek airspace at 8000-9000ft.

- This might come as a shock for many but we believe that we need to both raise money to pay our debts as well as encourage creativity in new technology. Greece wants to become a leader in LOSS, says Lucas Papadams, the new and crisply elected Prime Minister of Greece.

LOSS that he is referring to is not the state of finances in the country but rather Low Orbit Server Stations, a new technology recently invented by TPB. Being a leader for a long time in other types of LOSS, TPB has been working hard on making LOSS a viable solution for achieving 100% uptime for their services.

- Greece is one of few countries that understands the value of LOSSes. We have been talking to them ever since we came up with the solution seeing that we have equal needs of being able to find financially sustainable solutions for our projects, says Win B. Stones, head of R&D at TPB.

The agreement gives TPB a 5 year license to use and re-distribute usage of the airspace at 8000-9000 ft as well as unlimited usage of the radio space between 2350 to 24150 MHz. Due to the financial situation of both parties TPB will pay the costs with digital goods, sorely needed by the citizens of Greece.

Yeah, I thought it was funny.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 08:18:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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