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European Breakfast - Sept. 22

by Fran Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 12:22:47 AM EST

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.

Niels Bohr

Tory chairman floats idea of coalition with Lib Dems

The Conservatives could form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats if there is a hung parliament after the next election, the Tory chairman Francis Maude, has said.

He told The Independent: "You look round the country and you see a number of councils where Conservatives are in alliance with Lib Dems, Birmingham, for example. There's no great drama about that."

Asked whether there could be a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, he replied: "There's no reason why that should be out of the question If you end up with a hung parliament, there is either a minority government, which is unwieldy, or a coalition. You deal with what the electorate gives you."

Mr Maude insisted, however, that a hung parliament was a "remote" possibility, saying: "We are clearly aiming to win the next election outright. Everything we are doing is directed at that."

However, he is the first senior Tory to leave the door open to a post-election alliance with the Liberal Democrats, some of whom have raised the prospect of such a coalition.

by Fran on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 12:28:56 AM EST
France plans to pay cash for more babies

Middle-class mothers in France could be paid up to €1,000 (£675) a month - almost the minimum wage - to stop work for a year and have a third child under a government scheme to boost the birthrate, already among the highest in Europe.

In a Europe facing serious demographic decline, France's buoyant birthrate of 1.9 children a woman is well above the average of 1.4 and surpassed only by Ireland. France can also boast one of the EU's highest rates of female employment: 81% of women between 25 and 49 are in work, including 75% of those with two children (and 51% of those with more than two).

But a recent report by Hubert Brin, the head of the National Union of Family Associations, warned that even France's high birthrate would not prevent the population shrinking. One of the problems is that middle-class and professional women are postponing the age at which they start a family (the 2004 average was 29.6), and spacing out their pregnancies (now nearly four years between the first and second child). As a result, fewer women will have more than two children.

Despite female employment statistics that are the envy of the continent, the government remains worried about the reluctance of better-educated women to have babies. A plan to be unveiled by the prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, today is expected to double an existing cash incentive for big families.

by Fran on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 12:32:49 AM EST
by Fran on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 12:33:53 AM EST
Turkey accuses Cyprus of seeking to sideline UN

UNITED NATIONS - Turkey accused the Greek Cypriot government on Wednesday of trying to sideline the United Nations from a solution to the division of Cyprus.

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told the UN General Assembly the Greek Cypriots, who rejected a UN peace plan for the Mediterranean island in a referendum last year, had since hobbled efforts to renew talks and were now seeking to move the goalposts.

"As if this was not enough, the Greek Cypriot administration is now trying to sideline the United Nations and carry the issue to other fora," he said. "I urge all international actors to discourage these misguided efforts."

Cyprus has been holding up a European Union agreement on a negotiating mandate to open membership talks with Turkey next month, demanding Ankara move toward recognizing Nicosia and open its ports and airports to Cypriot ships and planes.

The 25-nation bloc finally adopted a declaration on Wednesday calling on Turkey to lift those restrictions and saying recognition of all EU member states was a key component of the accession process.

by Fran on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 12:35:44 AM EST
German stalemate threatens credit rating

Inconclusive poll result undermines economic outlook as battle continues over who should lead government

Germany's political crisis threatens to put its credit rating at risk, a leading rating agency warned yesterday as a survey of investor confidence showed Sunday's inconclusive election had undermined the country's economic outlook.

The warning came as Angela Merkel - the opposition Christian Democratic leader locked in a tug-of-war with Gerhard Schröder, chancellor, over who should lead the next government - gained near-unanimous backing from conservative parliamentarians to conduct coalition negotiations. Ms Merkel's re-election as the party's parliamentary leader with a record 98.6 per cent of the votes yesterday suggested her weak electoral score had not dented her authority.

Sunday's poll has left Europe's largest economy in limbo, facing weeks, if not months, of coalition talks between the country's political parties. Business confidence has also fallen sharply since the election, according to an economic sentiment index published yesterday by the ZEW economic institute in Mannhein.

The index had risen substantially in each of the three previous months, with sentiment boosted by the prospect of a reform-orientated government led by Ms Merkel. ZEW blamed this month's fall on uncertainty about future economic policy and worries over soaring oil prices and Hurricane Katrina.

by Fran on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 12:38:31 AM EST
Of course, the economy's "in limbo". Work has stopped, business is at a standstill, no more sales, imports, exports, financial markets have closed down, taxes are not being raised, banks are shut...

This is serious-sounding propaganda for the corporate-and-locust lobby that hopes Merkel might still force her way through to the chancellorship in spite of her failure at the polls.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 02:22:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep, everyone is sitting at home wringing their hands, watching the tube for the final coalition results (doh!)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 02:51:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I sort of do, but then I am in Britain. but but there is a sizable German minority in Britain (and other European Countries) they are all dragging down the performance. ooooooh Europe is going down the drain....

ararghgh. gluck,




by PeWi on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 08:43:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Commission leader seeks fresh start for Europe

José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, on Wednesday urged Europe to escape from its "paralysis", put aside the wrangle over the EU constitution and concentrate on getting the continent back to work.

After a grim first year in office, Mr Barroso on Wednesday attempted to relaunch his administration, putting the emphasis on economic reform and helping to broker a deal on the next seven-year EU budget.

He urged Europe's leaders to accept that the EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters earlier this year would not be revived "at least for the next two or three years".

"Some politicians don't like to face facts," he said. "There won't be a constitutional treaty in the near future."

The absence of a grand EU project has left many in Brussels disoriented, and the electoral stalemate in Germany has left Europe even more uncertain about its future direction.

After a "brainstorming session" this week with his fellow 24 EU commissioners in a castle near Brussels, Mr Barroso insisted his team could provide leadership.

The Commission president said he would work with the British presidency to strike a deal on the 2007-13 EU budget at a summit in December, claiming it was "urgent" to prove that the club could continue to function.

by Fran on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 12:41:46 AM EST
There will be no constitution for years, says EU president

Europe will be without an EU constitution for up to three years, the president of the European commission declared yesterday. Amid criticism of Britain for running an "invisible" EU presidency, José Manuel Barroso warned European leaders not to use the demise of the constitution as an excuse for doing nothing.
"In all probability, at least for the next two or three years, we will not have a constitution," he said in his strongest warning to date that the measure will take a long time to replace. This "should not mean there is a paralysis in Europe. Let's get things done that ordinary people can see and appreciate. We should not focus our efforts exclusively on devising institutional scenarios".

Mr Barroso is hoping the French president, Jacques Chirac, will stop trying to undermine the commission's economic reforms. But he also wants Britain to redouble its efforts to agree a deal on the EU budget - an issue Downing Street has stalled on in the hope that Angela Merkel would have been well on her way to being Germany's chancellor by now.

by Fran on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 12:58:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
getting the continent back to work.

It's so worn-out, all this old hype. As if the continent isn't at work.

Just means Barroso has an agenda he's in a hurry to force through before the Blair presidency ends and conditions will be less favourable.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 02:29:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My thoughts too. When are we going to send these hot-air baloon politicians to the desert??? Well, and then there obviously the next question comes up - how?
by Fran on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 02:38:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And when? When is his term up??

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 02:54:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He began his five-year term this year. He's there until the end of 2009.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 03:01:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who's next for the presidency?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 03:19:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Austria from 1 Jan 2006.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 03:31:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh. Who's in power there?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 03:33:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Conservatives. But one wouldn't expect a dragoon presidency Blair-style. Austria will be followed by Finland from 1 July 2006. (Don't ask me who's in power, I'll say Finns).

Here is the order of rotation till 2020 (!) of the Council of the EU Presidency.

It's a poorly formatted html document, and it's not easy to find. Bad marks for EU communications. It's all the same a prominent and powerful position, the Council Presidency. They reinforce the suspicion of secret horse-trading etc, by not putting this out there in a proper fashion.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 04:25:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Electricity market opens up in two stages

The Swiss electricity market will not be liberalised immediately, but in two stages: big providers first and then private houses.

The House of Representatives has thus taken seriously referendum threats made by the centre-left Social Democratic Party and the Green Party.

The House of Representatives voted by 94 to 92 on Wednesday for the two-stage liberalisation.

Energy Minister Moritz Leuenberger successfully championed the "slow way", which initially gives only trade and industry the freedom to choose their power providers.

He said that in Swiss democracy, speed plays a big role. "They stumble that run fast," proclaimed Leuenberger, quoting Romeo and Juliet.

The narrow majority disregarded the opinion of the committee, which believed a liberalisation of the power market in stages would discriminate against small users and is not compatible with the European Union.

The government argued that Switzerland, as a European power hub, could not stand apart as the internal EU electricity market has become more developed, and all end-users will be able to choose their supplier freely by 2007.

by Fran on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 12:43:16 AM EST
French consumer spending surges in July, August

PARIS, Sept 21 (Reuters) - French consumer spending rose strongly in July and August, a report showed on Wednesday, providing positive news for the government as it seeks to raise morale and boost sluggish economic growth.

Household spending rose 1.2 percent in July, outpacing a Reuters poll forecast for a 0.1 percent increase. In August, spending increased 1.9 percent, the biggest monthly rise since April 2004, state statistics body INSEE said.

The readout followed other mixed reports on the economy, the euro zone's second largest after Germany, with the unemployment rate falling below 10 percent for the first time in almost two years in July but industry output slumping in the same month.

Wednesday's report showed strong spending on durable goods, up 2.5 percent in August and 1.9 percent in July.

Last week, the Bank of France said its July survey of business chiefs pointed to a slight upturn in economic growth to 0.3 percent in the third quarter of this year, but added that growth prospects for the industrial sector were "rather bleak".

by Fran on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 12:44:27 AM EST
Page-turner Bible set for launch

A new version of the Bible which its author says can be read in less than two hours is due to be launched.

The 100-Minute Bible, written as a page-turner for those who do not have the time to read the full version, will be unveiled at Canterbury Cathedral.

Its author, ex-headteacher the Rev Michael Hinton said: "We have majored on Jesus, because he is the central figure in the Bible."
It took Mr Hinton more than two years to cut down the 66 books of the Bible into a version that could be read in 1hr 40min.

He said readers would find all the familiar Bible stories.

"We majored on the ones that have entered the common consciousness, like Noah's Ark, Jonah and so on."

by Fran on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 12:45:43 AM EST
Snakes stop traffic

Dangerous snakes brought traffic to a standstill in Germany after the van carrying them overturned.

Poisonous vipers, giant boa constrictors and iguanas were among the exotic reptiles to escape onto the busy motorway.

The reptiles were being transported on the A45 autobahn, near Dillenburg, in central Germany, when the accident happened.

by Fran on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 12:49:29 AM EST
Is Iran preparing for a US war?

Incredible though it may sound, there are signs that Tehran may be preparing for a military confrontation with the United States and has convinced itself that it could win.

The first sign came last June with the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of the Islamic republic, an event that completed the conquest of all levers of power by the most radical elements of the establishment.

Among those replaced are the defence minister, the commander-in-chief of the regular army and his four deputies, 11 senior commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and five commanders of the paramilitary Mobilisation of the Dispossessed. Some of the purged officers have been 'parked' in a mysterious new organ called The Defence Guidance Commission attached to the office of the 'Supreme Guide' Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The minister of intelligence and security and the minister of the interior, who controls the police and the gendarmerie, have also been replaced.

Another sign that Tehran may be preparing for war is the appointment of military officers to posts normally held by civilians, such as governors, mayors and directors of major public corporations.

But, perhaps, the surest sign yet is the military build-up under way in the five provinces bordering Iraq. The region, with a population of 20 million, has been put under the control of the IRGC which has also taken over units of the regular army, including the 88th Division and the border police. Iran is estimated to have 250,000 troops in the area, its biggest military build-up since the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988.

by Fran on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 12:51:23 AM EST
Adieu, la France

Do you remember when to step ashore at Calais was to enter a rich and strange, parallel universe? To cross that magical ribbon of water was once to say au revoir to warm beer, flat caps, fish and chips and red telephone boxes. It was to say bonjour to yellow headlights, berets and garlic, to pungent, mis-shapen cigarettes, to large, round glasses of red wine, to the smell of warm baguettes and to throatily evocative pop songs on the radio with "r" sounds that extended over several bars.

Few British people step ashore at Calais these days. They drive straight from the ferry or tunnel terminal to the Tesco store to load up on cheap Pampers and Australian white wine (wine as uniform and reliable as Pampers). If they do wander into the town, they find that the young burghers of Calais are wearing baseball caps, smoking Marlboros, drinking beer or alco-pops and listening to rap music, in English or French or Franglais. Their mamans et papas drive cars with white headlights, listen nostalgically to the Beatles, shop in supermarkets as big as football stadiums and eat a sandwich for lunch. Maybe.

Is France disappearing? The question is provoked by the disturbing news that garlic sales are falling across the Channel. Not falling dramatically but quand-même. If the French are no longer eating garlic - or smoking Gauloises - are they still French? Of course the question could be turned against the British or almost any other nation. Fish and chips and warm beer and flat caps have given way to baseball caps, kebabs and lager. Where are all the red telephone boxes of yesteryear? (Actually they seem mostly to be in France, where they are prized as great objets d'art and decorate gardens and seafront promenades).

by Fran on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 01:01:28 AM EST
Hurricane Rita nears heart of US oil industry

Houston, heart of the US oil industry, on Wednesday began evacuating low-lying, flood-prone areas of the Texas city as the threat from Hurricane Rita intensified.

Crude futures jumped back towards the peaks reached after last month's Hurricane Katrina as the energy-rich US Gulf coast and fears of disruption to pipelines, oil rigs and refineries escalated.

Oil futures rose 60 cents to $66.80 in New York. Gasoline prices for October delivery rose as much as 3.3 per cent to $2.12 a gallon during morning trading in Singapore on Thursday.

ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips have ordered staff to leave platforms in the Gulf, which account for nearly a third of US oil output.

About 5 per cent of US refining capacity is still out of commission. Global Insight, an economic consultancy, said another 20 per cent of capacity was at risk of temporary shut downs. "If Hurricane Rita caused significant damage to multiple refineries, it could be a national disaster since we still have four refineries shut down because of Katrina," said Bill Greehey, chief executive of Valero, America's largest refiner.

by Fran on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 01:04:37 AM EST
Mars getting warmer, may have quakes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The climate on Mars is showing a warming trend and recent images have shown the first evidence of seismic activity on Earth's neighbor planet, scientists said on Tuesday.

New gullies that did not exist three years ago have been pictured on a Mars sand dune -- just another of what scientists say are surprising discoveries found by cameras aboard the 8-year-old Mars Global Surveyor that are changing notions about the climate and formation of Mars.

"To see new gullies and other changes in Mars surface features on a time span of a few years presents us with a more active, dynamic planet than many suspected," said Michael Meyer, NASA's Mars Exploration Program chief scientist.  

Images taken by the Mars Orbiter Camera on board the Surveyor showed that boulders have fallen down a Martian slope in the past two years.

by Fran on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 01:06:09 AM EST
Most people don't realize that the little green men live in underground cities, and the changes in surface features reflect the building of new suburbs and the highways the little green men use to drive out to them in their SUVs, thus causing Martian global warming.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 02:42:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Barbie pushed aside in Mideast cultural shift

In the past year or so, Barbie dolls have all but disappeared from the shelves of many toy stores in the Middle East. In their place is Fulla, a dark-eyed doll with, as her creator puts it, "Muslim values."

Fulla roughly shares Barbie's size and proportions, but steps out of her shiny pink box wearing a black abaya and a matching head scarf.

She is named after a type of jasmine that grows in the Levant, and although she has an extensive and beautiful wardrobe (sold separately, of course), Fulla is usually displayed wearing her modest "outdoor fashion."

Fulla's creator, NewBoy Design Studio, which is based in Syria, introduced her in November 2003, and she has quickly become a best-seller all over the region. It is nearly impossible to walk into a corner shop in Syria or Egypt or Jordan or Qatar without encountering Fulla breakfast cereal or Fulla chewing gum, or to step into the street without finding little girls pedaling their Fulla bicycles, all in trademark "Fulla pink."

Young girls in the Mideast are obsessed with Fulla, and conservative parents who would not dream of buying Barbies for their daughters seem happy to shell out for a modest doll who has her own tiny prayer rug, rendered in pink felt.

by Fran on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 01:28:22 AM EST
Global plan to rescue amphibians

LONDON (BBC News) -- The price of saving the world's frogs, toads and salamanders from oblivion will top $400m (£220m) over five years.

The UN's biodiversity body, the IUCN, says this is the estimated cost of a global action plan drawn up during a summit of experts in Washington DC.

The money would pay for the protection of habitats, for disease prevention and captive-breeding projects, and for the ability to respond to emergencies.
About a third of all amphibian species are at a high risk of extinction.

"Many species have already become extinct through habitat loss," Rohan Pethiyagoda, deputy chair of IUCN's species survival commission, told the BBC News website. "The extent of these declines and extinctions is without precedent in any class of animals over the last few millennia."

According to the Global Amphibian Assessment, a vast and authoritative study which reported its findings last year, almost a third of the 5,743 known species are at risk of extinction; up to 122 have disappeared within the last 25 years.

by Fran on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 01:29:36 AM EST
Fran, have you noticed that there is hardly ANY news about this Sunday's Swiss vote on whether or not to accept EU free movement of workers? I mean, the Swiss ARE known for being understated and all, but this is ridiculous...this is a huge election for Switzerland!!
(And I know you have had mixed feelings about this vote...so would appreciate hearing your views at some point!).

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Thu Sep 22nd, 2005 at 05:40:35 AM EST

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