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by Fran on Wed Jun 25th, 2008 at 03:44:23 PM EST
Opinion: New Police Cars Not Enough for Middle East Peace | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 25.06.2008
Mideast talks in Berlin might not have produced dramatic results, says DW's Peter Philipp, but if the international community insists that Israelis and Palestinians compromise, progress could be made.

Tuesday's meeting in Berlin barely deserved to be called a Middle East conference. Generally, the term refers to gatherings geared either to kick-starting or furthering peace efforts, and Berlin was no such gathering.

Nonetheless, one positive development was that representatives from over forty countries said they were ready to offer the Palestinians financial support in reinforcing their police and legal institutions. After all, the international community sees functioning security and justice systems as prerequisites for any Palestinian state which is to peacefully co-exist with an Israel based on equally functioning security and justice systems.

However, this was by no means the only reason the German government called the conference in Berlin. In Annapolis late last year, Israeli and Palestinian leaders pledged to reach a two-state agreement this year. This might be a deadline which no one has any faith in, but Berlin nonetheless decided that practical support was called for, not least in order to allay any Palestinian suspicions sparked by gushing statements made by German politicians and the chancellor in particular on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Israeli state.

by Fran on Wed Jun 25th, 2008 at 03:47:19 PM EST
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The Dangers of Energy Crops: Oxfam Warns Poor Nations against Biofuels - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

Biofuels have pushed up world food prices and won't ease global warming, a new Oxfam report warns. Developing nations, the organization argues, should "move with extreme caution" before switching from staple food crops.

 Biodiesel made from castor beans at a refinery in Brazil. Lula da Silva, Brazil's president, still sees great potential in biofuels, but Oxfam isn't so sure. The backlash against biofuels gained momentum on Tuesday when Oxfam International, the anti-poverty group, claimed in a new report that 30 percent of the recent rise in global food prices could be traced to the shift in world agriculture toward energy crops (more...).

The report criticized biofuel policies in Europe (more...) and the United States, and warned developing nations to "move with extreme caution" before raising lucrative biofuel crops at the expense of staple foods.

"Rich countries' demands for more biofuels in their transport fuels are causing spiralling production and food inflation," said Oxfam biofuel policy adviser Rob Bailey, the report's author, at a news conference. "Grain reserves are now at an all-time low."

by Fran on Wed Jun 25th, 2008 at 03:48:03 PM EST
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Israel shuts Gaza crossings as truce doubts grow | World news | guardian.co.uk

Israel closed its border crossings into Gaza today as doubts grew about a week-old ceasefire agreed with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

Israeli military officials said the closure was a response to the firing of four rockets from Gaza into southern Israel yesterday. The rockets, which lightly injured two people, were fired by the militant group Islamic Jihad, which said it was responding to the killing of one of its commanders in the occupied West Bank earlier in the day.

"Any reopening [of the crossings] will be in accordance with security considerations," said Peter Lerner, an Israeli military liaison official.

The closure today prevented any delivery of fuel to Gaza's one power station. The industrial diesel for the plant is paid for by the European Union.

Under the ceasefire, Israel and the Palestinian militant groups were supposed to halt violence in the Gaza Strip and Israel was to ease its tough economic blockade of the territory. But in addition to yesterday's rockets, Palestinian reports suggested two farmers - one on Monday and another today - had been shot and injured by Israeli troops while working on land in Gaza close to the Israeli border fence. The Israeli military said it had no knowledge of the incidents.

by Fran on Wed Jun 25th, 2008 at 03:53:31 PM EST
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The War On Tourism - Moon of Alabama

As someone who has traveled quite a but in the U.S., on business trips and on vacation tours, I am dismayed with all the new regulations that make such trips psychological and physical very uncomfortable.

Consider:

  • The U.S. will pick up at least 15 personal data entities about someone coming from Europe through the flight operator. It will keep that data for at least 15 years and may distribute it to who knows who.
  • The traveler will have to fill out some some stupid from on a U.S. government website at least three days prior to boarding the plane.
  • On arrival the guest's laptop may be seized without cause and without knowing when, if ever, it will be given back. Data on a mobile phone or memory sticks may get copied.
  • Also on arrival fingerprints will be taken and checked against some mysterious database. Soon the same procedure will apply when the traveler leaves the country.
  • The newest idea in Congress is to charge some $25 entrance fee to the U.S. Guess what for ... to promote foreign tourism to the U.S.
by Fran on Wed Jun 25th, 2008 at 03:54:33 PM EST
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Give it a couple of years for the EU to copy these ideas.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 26th, 2008 at 02:36:51 AM EST
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Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses your laptop, your fingerprints, your cell phone numbers.

Welcome to Amerika.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Thu Jun 26th, 2008 at 07:08:34 AM EST
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Report sees big jump in energy, fossil fuel use - Examiner.com

WASHINGTON (Map, News) - Despite persistently high oil prices, global energy demand will grow by 50 percent over the next two decades with continued heavy reliance on environmentally troublesome fossil fuels, especially coal and oil, the government predicted Wednesday.

The report forecast the steepest increases in China and other emerging economies where energy demand is expected to be 85 percent greater in 2030 than it is today.

"What jumps out is the very strong growth in the emerging economies," said Guy Caruso, head of the federal Energy Information Administration, which conducted the long-term energy outlook.

The projections said that without mandatory actions to address global warming, the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide flowing into the atmosphere each year from energy use will be 51 percent greater in 2030 than it was three years ago.

"Fossil fuels ... are expected to continue supplying much of the energy used worldwide," the report predicts, in spite of the growth of renewable energy sources, especial wind and biofuels.

by Fran on Wed Jun 25th, 2008 at 04:00:37 PM EST
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Nelson Mandela attacks Zimbabwe's 'tragic failure of leadership' - Times Online

Nelson Mandela accused President Mugabe of a "tragic failure of leadership" last night, as southern Africa turned its back on the Zimbabwean leader.

Mr Mandela spoke of his concern and sadness at the chaos engulfing Zimbabwe, amid clear indications that the patience of Mr Mugabe's remaining allies was at breaking point.

Wielding the moral authority of the world's best-known statesman, Mr Mandela broke his silence at a fundraising event to mark his 90th birthday celebrations in London.

Hours before he spoke, Zimbabwe's neighbours presented a united front for the first time and urged Mr Mugabe to call off Friday's presidential vote.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Thu Jun 26th, 2008 at 01:03:26 AM EST
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Got this one from a friend who posted it on their Facebook board.

Foreign Affairs The Future of American Power

Summary:  Despite some eerie parallels between the position of the United States today and that of the British Empire a century ago, there are key differences. Britain's decline was driven by bad economics. The United States, in contrast, has the strength and dynamism to continue shaping the world -- but only if it can overcome its political dysfunction and reorient U.S. policy for a world defined by the rise of other powers.

Mandatory Europe is Doomed Conclusion

But Europe has one crucial disadvantage. Or, to put it more accurately, the United States has one crucial advantage over Europe and most of the developed world. The United States is demographically vibrant. Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, estimates that the U.S. population will increase by 65 million by 2030, whereas Europe's population will remain "virtually stagnant." Europe, Eberstadt notes, "will by that time have more than twice as many seniors older than 65 than children under 15, with drastic implications for future aging. (Fewer children now means fewer workers later.) In the United States, by contrast, children will continue to outnumber the elderly. The United Nations Population Division estimates that the ratio of working-age people to senior citizens in western Europe will drop from 3.8:1 today to just 2.4:1 in 2030. In the U.S., the figure will fall from 5.4:1 to 3.1:1."

The only real way to avert this demographic decline is for Europe to take in more immigrants. Native Europeans actually stopped replacing themselves as early as 2007, and so even maintaining the current population will require modest immigration. Growth will require much more. But European societies do not seem able to take in and assimilate people from strange and unfamiliar cultures, especially from rural and backward regions in the world of Islam. The question of who is at fault here -- the immigrant or the society -- is irrelevant. The reality is that Europe is moving toward taking in fewer immigrants at a time when its economic future rides on its ability to take in many more. The United States, on the other hand, is creating the first universal nation, made up of all colors, races, and creeds, living and working together in considerable harmony. Consider the current presidential election, in which the contestants have included a black man, a woman, a Mormon, a Hispanic, and an Italian American.

I have a real feeling that our man Fareed has concluded that "Europe" has stopped replacing itself bcause the 2007 reflect the acession of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU, dragging down the mean. Of course according to Zakaria's read of this we can conclude that those cheese eating surrender monkeys in France will soon be but a shadow of their former number.  After all its not like the French population is growing.....

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 Thu Jun 26th, 2008 at 04:24:00 AM EST
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Ggggaaaahhh!!

Could we rather please conclude that the proper challenge for Europe is how to build a society that adapts to stagnant or slightly declining populations? If we are to begin to get a crack on worldwide overpopulation issues, I don't see how the richer nations can argue that there is a need for more children. Indefinite growth in a finite world is not possible. Concluding that each generation needs to be larger than the previous one to maintain the current economic system is indicative of a problem with that system, not of a need for higher birthrates.

by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Thu Jun 26th, 2008 at 04:35:40 AM EST
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Of course you're right about finite resources, and the need to limit growth.

But the thing that shocks me is how Zakaria flippantly ignores that he paints the problem as own of a lack of vitality due to poor economic ideas, yet many of the countries I assume he would attack for their economics are the same ones that are experiencing population growth.

Consider also that GDP does not account for leisure time.  So that all other things being equal, a nation in which the workweek is 45 hours will have a GDP a full third more than one in which the workweek is 35 hours.

(Neo)Liberal economics is not the answer. There are limits to growth, not the least of which are allowing workers a life outside the workplace and the devastation that unending growth has on the environment.

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 Thu Jun 26th, 2008 at 04:50:55 AM EST
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Some more reflections in:Socratic Economics XI: Demographics
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Thu Jun 26th, 2008 at 11:08:46 AM EST
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Two fun graphs from this INED note (pdf):

A New Kind of Empire seems to work out fine for Europe...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jun 26th, 2008 at 07:23:38 AM EST
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So the US will surpass the EU15 around 2045? [Europe.Is.Doomed™ Alert]

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 26th, 2008 at 07:33:20 AM EST
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