Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

European Breakfast - May 18

by Fran Wed May 17th, 2006 at 11:33:08 PM EST

"We are like tea bags -- we don't know our own strength until we're in hot water.”

Sister Busche

by Fran on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 11:33:44 PM EST
Independent: Prodi and his ministers are sworn in

Romano Prodi became Italy's new Prime Minister again yesterday, 10 years to the day since being sworn in the first time.

"It is a pretty remarkable fact," Mr Prodi remarked of the coincidence of dates, "Many things have happened [in those years] but what remains is a powerful desire and effort for renewal." He stood beaming under the vast chandeliers of the Quirinale, the presidential palace, as Italy's new head of state, President Giorgio Napolitano, swore his ministers in.

Mr Prodi, a former economics professor who also served as president of the European Commission, heads a government which includes two other former prime ministers: Massimo D'Alema, the post-Communist who takes foreign affairs, and Giuliano Amato, Interior Minister. It includes six women ministers, a record for Italy.

The ceremony came after days of negotiations as Mr Prodi attempted to satisfy his vastly diverse coalition, which includes reformed and unreformed Communists, Christian Democrats, and the anti-clerical, anti-Communist "radicals" of the Rose in the Fist party.

by Fran on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 11:40:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Moscow Times: Putin Confers With Chirac, Merkel

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday spoke over the phone with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the Middle East situation and other issues, the Kremlin said.

The Kremlin press service said Putin and Chirac "discussed acute international issues, paying special attention to the situation in the Middle East."

"Both sides underlined the need to coordinate actions of the international community to provide humanitarian, financial and political assistance to the normalization of the situation and advancing the process of Mideast settlement," the statement said without elaboration. It said that the two leaders also discussed preparations for the summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations set for July in St. Petersburg.

by Fran on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 11:47:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Deutsche Welle: Europe Takes on Battle Against Flooding

The European Union is working on finding the answers to preventing and limiting floods. Experts are meeting in Vienna this week to tackle the issue. But is the European response to the challenge of floods sufficient?

Disastrous flooding is hitting Europe on a regular basis. This spring once again, swelling rivers in central Europe displaced thousands of people.
"Catastrophic floods endanger lives and are likely to cause human tragedy, as well as heavy economic losses," Stavros Dimas, the European commissioner for the environment, said in a statement.
Experts are meeting in Vienna this week for the European Conference on Flood Risk Management, which kicks off on Wednesday. They will be discussing various flood strategies and outlining suitable risk management based on experiences of recent floods.
According to the European Commission, Europe suffered over 100 major damaging floods between 1998 and 2004, including the catastrophic floods along the Danube and Elbe rivers in the summer of 2002. Since 1998, floods in Europe have caused some 700 deaths and about half a million people have been forced to leave their homes. The bill? At least 25 billion euros ($32 billion) in insured economic losses, the commission said.

by Fran on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 11:51:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How about thinking about land use?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 03:37:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I read somewhere that changes to farming methods and drainage of land has changed the rate at which water that falls on hills reaches the sea.

At the beginning of the 20th century a drop of rain that fell in N Switzerland would flow out of the Rhine into the N Sea up to 10 months later. Now it's two weeks.

So now torrential rains are just dumped into rivers wholesale rather than being absorbed by boggy ground.

In the UK this is compounded by the idiocy of concreting over flood plains adding to the problem.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 07:27:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC: Iran shuns EU 'reactor incentive'

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dismissed a possible European offer of incentives to induce Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment programme.

He likened the incentives, which European negotiators are said to be considering, to the offer of "walnuts and chocolates" in exchange for gold.

France, Germany and the UK are thought to be discussing plans to offer Iran a light-water reactor.
Iran denies accusations among Western powers that it is seeking nuclear arms.

France, Germany and the UK had been due to meet the US, Russia and China on Friday, but this has been delayed.

A spokesman for the foreign office in London said this was to allow for more detailed discussion of the offer.

The meeting is now expected to be held in the next 10 days.

by Fran on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 11:54:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tehran Times: EU offer designed for rejection: analyst

TEHRAN - The new European Union offer of incentives has been designed to be rejected by Iran in order to form a consensus against the nuclear program of the Islamic Republic, political analyst Jalal Sadatian said here on Wednesday.

"The new proposal is not something new and ignores Iran's red lines," he told the Mehr News Agency.

The European Union big three of Britain, France, and Germany plan to offer Iran a light-water reactor as part of a package to persuade Tehran to freeze its uranium enrichment program.

"The West wants to be able to say it exhausted all the avenues and made brave and generous offers to Iran but Iran refused to cooperate and therefore the West was obliged to resort to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter," the expert on international relations opined.

"Both Iran and the West have reached an irreversible point in their stances. The West is bent on preventing Iran from obtaining (uranium) enrichment technology, and Iran is firm in its decision not to back down on its right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes," he added.

"Russia and China are seeking their own interests in opposing the West," he said of the two countries which have voiced their opposition to sanctions and punitive measures against Iran.

by Fran on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 12:13:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose it doesn't help that we promised all these good things before, so long as Iran didn't do its own enrichment.

So Iran stopped work on their programmes and then the EU caved in to US pressure and reneged on the agreement.

So we're not in a position to play pious hardball.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 07:55:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Financial Times: Bush urged to give Putin the cold shoulder

President George W. Bush may give Vladimir Putin the cold shoulder when the Russian president hosts the Group of Eight summit in St Petersburg if hardliners in the US win a policy battle over how to respond to what they see as Moscow's increasingly wayward behaviour.

While there is no doubt the US president will attend the July summit, despite calls by Republican senator John McCain, and others, for a boycott, Mr Putin could be on the receiving end of what is called the "minimalist approach".

"There is a push for the president to do the bare minimum in St Petersburg," said Nikolas Gvosdev, editor of the National Interest, a publication of the Nixon Center think-tank that promotes a "realistic" US approach to Russia.

This would mean no "chumminess" with Mr Putin, such as private dinners, and could involve a side-trip to a former Soviet satellite as a platform for a speech on democracy. Viktor Yushchenko has invited Mr Bush to Kiev, but that visit might come in June, provided the president of Ukraine has formed a coalition government.

The White House said no decisions had been taken on the US president's precise timetable for the July 15-17 summit of the world's leading industrialised democracies

by Fran on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 12:01:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who cares has Mr Bush attended private dinner with Putin or has not. Can Bush with his dismal rating helps to drop Putin's positions?

Putin did not mention G8 in his state of the state address and G8 is the big waste of money. For Putin does not like wasting money may we expect Russia's exit from G8? Is G8 meant to be a copy of ineffective NATO as talking shop?

Western media hyper attention to symbolic details of power is ridiculous.  

by FarEasterner on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 01:38:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, except for the Bush base it's all about the symbols, and not reality.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 04:25:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you need to look at your own spheres more closely FarEasterner. Symbolic details of power have played a strong part in Putin's policy actions over the years and are likely to continue to do so.

It shouldn't surprise, he is still a politician at the moment, so symbols are helpful to him in retaining the power and credibility to acheive his goals.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 05:01:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well this is exactly the case with broken phone.

I meant naive desire of Western politicians and their media retinue to negotiate with Putin this way - for G8 success to get some bargains like registration in Russia of some American funds. I don't remember when Putin conceded to anything like this, remember NTV saga.

I don't mind if Bush or whoever has sympolic details of power and don't mind if media feed them illusions either.

by FarEasterner on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 10:49:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Guardian: Judge shot dead in Turkish court over ban on headscarves

A Turkish lawyer shouting: "I am a soldier of Allah," opened fire in the country's top administrative court yesterday, killing one judge and injuring four others.

Witnesses described how the gunman shouted, "Allahu Akbar" (God is most great) as he fired a handgun in the court's second chamber.

The assailant, a lawyer accredited with the Istanbul bar association, later told police he carried out the attack because the court had stopped a woman becoming a headteacher on the grounds that she wore a headscarf. One of the judges, Mustafa Yucel Ozbilgin, was shot in the head and died later in hospital, Anatolia news agency reported.

Four of the judges, including Mr Ozbilgin, had voted in February against the promotion of an elementary school teacher who wore a headscarf outside of work. The fifth had voted in favour. The judges' photographs were published by the pro-Islamist Vakit newspaper.

by Fran on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 12:04:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Isn't it about time that people started engaging with Islamic theologians about these issues.

There is nothing in the Qu'ran about wearing headscarves, nothing whatsoever. Yet there are so many muslims who evidently have been brain-washed by (probably) equally ignorant imams that this is something mandated by God.

There are many similar issues where it is evident that the Qu'ran has been wilfully misinterpreted or even ignored so that something awful can be justified religiously.

Yet everybody cowers from engaging or mutters about cultural respect or even racism, so we leave it to those with the least incentive to change.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 08:07:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure, and while you're at it how about arguing with the Pope that the Bible doesn't condemn abortion or homosexuality? Both religions place weight on tradition as well as the books. And it's not up to non-Muslims to argue  with Muslims about the nature of Islam. That's their problem, in the same way that I have no intention of trying to explain the bible to Ian Paisley or George Bush.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 08:15:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Islam, the Quran is not the sole textual source, although it is the most authoritative. Muslims also look at the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (called hadiths), and at how scholars of the past have understood these textual sources.

I have looked into the matter at some length. It seems pretty clear from what I have read that most Muslims past and present have understood the khimar referenced in Quran 24:31 ("tell the believing women to draw their khimars to cover their bosoms") to be a headscarf and this is the meaning of the word khimar in Arabic. This is how the hadiths and the scholars have interpreted it as well.

The suggestion that Muslims have been "brainwashed" to believe this is unfortunate, in my opinion. Just because the tradition is different than your own does not mean that the people who follow it are "brainwashed".

I encourage you to take some time to learn more about Islam and talk to Muslims about their ways and what they feel the basis in Islam is for these ways. You may be surprised!

by lauramp on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 05:56:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC: MPs back French immigration bill

The French parliament has given strong backing to a controversial immigration bill that will make it more difficult for the unskilled to settle in France.

The bill offers residence permits to highly qualified newcomers from outside the European Union.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who drafted the bill, says it will bring France into line with other countries but critics say it is racist.

Mr Sarkozy is on a visit to West Africa, where he is facing protests.

Ahead of his arrival in Mani - the homeland of many immigrants living in France - hundreds staged a march against the legislation in the capital, Bamako.

The proposed law also requires immigrants from outside the European Union to sign a contract agreeing to learn French and to respect the principles of the French Republic, and makes it more difficult for them to bring their families over to join them.

by Fran on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 12:08:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That bill is pretty nasty, and it has some ridiculous bits.

For instance, if you are French and marry a foreigner (non EU), you will now have to wait an increased number of years to be able to get French nationality for your spouse, which will need to go back "home" to get a new kind of visa to get a residence permit. But if you are a EU citizen and you marry a foreigner (non EU), you'll be able to have your marriage recognised immediately (this is the EU) and your spouse will immediately get a residence permit...

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 03:41:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...in my brains went "Krzch" reading your comment. That's short-circuiting synapses. How do people make up this stuff?

Wouldn't this lead to a stream of (non-French) European immigrants who want to marry someone from their own country outside the EU to speed up the process...?

by Nomad on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 07:08:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome, I am not sure how it works, but couldn't someone sue the French government in the European court? I know that Spain had some kind of a ridiculous visa process for residents, where residents had to get a visa in order to get into Spain and receive a residence permit, but the Spanish consulates would not issue visas without residence permits, thus creating a sort of a catch-22. That law was struck down and the Spanish government had to comply with some European directives to make their immigration policy in line with other European countries.  This was the only way my fiancee could get her Spanish DNI.

Can this also happen in France?

Mikhail from SF

by Tsarrio (dj_tsar@yahoo.com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 12:19:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Did the Spanish rules apply to EU citizens? It's clear the French ones don't.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 12:25:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC: '10 years' to deport all illegals

An immigration minister has said it could take 10 years to deport all the illegal immigrants living in the UK.
Tony McNulty, speaking on the BBC's Newsnight, said 310,000 to 570,000 was "roughly in the ball park" of how many illegal immigrants were in the country.

He said it would take a decade to remove them, on the basis that only so many could be deported each year.

Earlier Tony Blair came under fire after saying there were no official figure estimates of illegal immigrants.

Mr McNulty said:"Assuming that we can find them, and assuming that people aren't going away of their own accord, it would take some time."

He said it would take "Ten years, if you are saying 25,000 per year."

"Remember too the illegal population as it is is multi-layered and segmented it's not just.. those climbing over fences," he added.

by Fran on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 12:10:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
310,000 to 570,000... let's see, that's what, less than one percent of the UK population? What's the big deal?

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 04:28:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One might ask the same question all over the developed world at the moment. It is a political tactic of fear. The war on terror is losing it's sting, immigration is the next tool of repression.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 05:04:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What's the big deal ?

A hefty dose of racism. It strikes a chord with a large number of little Englanders who read tabloid filth and fear hordes of unwashed (probably black) scroungers and wastrels come to burn their village and rape their daughters (and possibly even them).

All bound to get vast amounts of Government benefits, housed in huge mansions to accomodate their sprawling families, all at the cost to the hard-woprking British Taxpayer.

The sort of person who gets angry when people talk to each other in a foreign language in front of them.

So it's a cheap thing for politicians to froth about. Dishonest ones particularly, so you see it a lot lately.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 08:16:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Scotsman: EU ends financing disputes with £590bn budget deal

THE European Parliament agreed a multi-billion-pound, seven-year EU budget yesterday, ending months of wrangling with cash-strapped national governments and averting a future funding crisis.

But the £588.8 billion deal, struck by a large majority of MEPs in Strasbourg, fell short of the original £698.2 billion wish-list proposed by the European Commission last year.

The parliament, which favoured a bigger budget, managed to squeeze an extra £1.36 billion from national coffers, but was forced to back down from demands for £8.17 billion more.

The European Parliament's president, Josep Borrell, said many MEPs still found the deal barely satisfactory. "It's a bare minimum, and it does at least allow the European Union to keep functioning," he conceded. But he added: "The EU costs 18p per day per inhabitant. We certainly can't consider that as expensive."

The Austrian chancellor, Wolfgang Schüssel, whose country led the final phase of negotiations, hailed the deal as the final step in overcoming the EU's budgetary crisis.

Earlier attempts to negotiate a spending package for 2007-13 had dissolved into acrimony.

by Fran on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 12:26:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Times: Britain blocks EU safety move on speeding and drink-driving

BRITAIN is blocking pan-European road safety measures, including reducing the drink-drive limit and installing speed limiters on cars, according to leaked documents obtained by The Times.

The Department for Transport has intervened in the drafting of a landmark statement on road safety due to be agreed by European Union transport ministers in Brussels next month.

The department has deleted references to several measures it had previously claimed to support, including speed limiters, steps to reduce the number of crashes caused by elderly drivers, and systems for monitoring driver attentiveness. It has also removed a section on harmonising drink-drive laws across the EU.

Road safety groups have accused the Government of hypocrisy for publicly supporting the measures but behind the scenes seeking to undermine progress by the EU in introducing them.

The introduction to the statement, entitled Council Conclusions on Road Safety, has also been weakened at Britain's insistence. The original version stated: "The Council of the European Union stresses the importance of the community legislation on issues of road safety where harmonised standards are desirable."

by Fran on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 12:31:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, you need to protect all those high-speed car manufacturers, right?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 03:43:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd be interested in the overall response to speed limiters in Germany (rather than just the response from my fellow lefty-greeny hippies on this site.) I would think that this has the potential to be politically sensitive for Merkel as much as for any British PM.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 05:06:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If Merkel even hints that there was even the slightest possibility that she might, in some drug-induced stupor and under extreme duress, sign off on any such thing, there will be instant rioting and lawlessness in the streets (and not in its natural venue, the autobahn).

This hasn't been reported yet, but the auto club (in US terms, think NRA) will probably pick it up in its next issue, and then watch the sparks fly.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 07:11:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's rather what I thought.

It's nice to frame it as an anti-UK issue, but the sad fact is that we have a long way to go in most countries before we break the culture of the car.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 09:03:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, on the other hand, the German Autobahn isn't the same anymore. Driving north, there are more and more speedlimit signs for very long stretches. At first the were at construction work sites, but now the construction is done, but the speed limit is still there. Like for example around Baden-Baden, that construction was done end of the 90's beginning of 2000. Unless it has changed over the last year, when you drive from the border direction Frankfurt, there are very few unlimited stretches. So I wonder if they are getting the people used to the limitation.
by Fran on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 09:23:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How strictly is it enforced though?

The UK motorway speed limit has been 70 mph for many years now. But at the same time, it's only regularly enforced (cameras etc.) in certain areas.

As a result, the proposal of introducing a car based limiter has the political consequences similar to announcing a new 70 mph speed limit where people were used to driving 90.

It's not a correct reaction, but it is a very real psychological one and must be expected to have political consequences given that there are quite a few people who have made longish drives a fairly regular part of their lives.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 09:32:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Probably not very much, however driving on the German Autobahn has become slower. That is already a gain, if you have experienced how it used to be. Besides there is now so much traffic it is often difficult to drive faster.
by Fran on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 09:38:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're right that increased traffic is making for a slower Autobahn, but I think a very large part of the driving public would still strongly resist speed limits and limiters (and the car companies are going to amplify their objections x times over).

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 11:06:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Driving on German motorbahnen is surprisingly similar to driving on US freeways - all lanes full, going at pretty much at the same 100-110 kph. It's exceedingly frustrating.

German drivers feel the need to go on the left lane so much before any car or truck to be overtaken that everybody is on the left bar the trucks, and thus even when the traffic is not so dense, it's still slow.

And there are speed limits (usually for "noise limitation) everywhere.

And the quality of the road is appalling compared to the French highways.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 12:18:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's my turn today.

<head explodes>

Vast, powder-puff hypocrites with their hands stuck to the steering wheel and shifting their gear while driving accross toddlers.

Someone should shove the numbers of annual car accidents in their faces and make them eat the paper version for every single life wasted by car accidents.

I'll be in a rage today from this point on, sorry.

by Nomad on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 07:18:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Someone should shove the numbers of annual car accidents in their faces and make them eat the paper version for every single life wasted by car accidents.

It would be better if we could have a new word instead of accident. People may not intend to cause an accident, but when individuals wilfully break the speed limit or drive drunk, then bad consequences that flow directly from that wilfulness cannot accurately be described as an Accident. We use the word to avoid moral responsibility.

It would re-frame the nature of the discussion completely.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 08:23:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Crime would cover it, yes. In my raves rationale often jumps ship.

As long as there is no change in attitude on regular offenders I want

cars that test the driver on alcohol percentage and will not start when there's any alcohol detected

cars that limit speeding.

And in all cars I want a system whereby the car will give an advanced warning that the engine will shut down in 15 minutes if the car has been driving around for 4 hours straight.

by Nomad on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 11:05:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's called criminal recklessness with aggravating circumstances.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 06:37:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Independent: Archive reveals full horror of Hitler's executioners

In the quiet town of Bad Arolsen, in a former Nazi SS barracks, lies probably the most exhaustive record of human misery ever kept. The details, which can be found in more than 47 million files covering 16 miles of shelves, are contained in ordinary hardback writing books that might be found in any school classroom.

Punctiliously noted in the Totenbuch or Death Book kept at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria is the camp commandant's "present" to Hitler on the occasion of the Führer's birthday on 20 April 1942. Three hundred Russian prisoners were specially selected for execution to mark the event.

The death list covers how each prisoner was subjected to a so-called Genickschuss or neck shot - a single bullet fired from a pistol pressed against the base of the skull. The names, inmate numbers, dates and places of birth are meticulously recorded on each line. The slaughter started at 11.20 am, when the wordGenickschuss first appears, and is repeated 299 times every two minutes thereafter.

This week files containing details of some 17 million victims of the Nazi death camp and slave labour system have been made public for the first time.

by Fran on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 12:34:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Kölner Stadtanzeiger: Schmidbauer Knew of BND Talks

Berlin - Former Intelligence Coordinator Bernd Schmidbauer (CDU) [under Helmut Kohl - ed.] has admitted being aware of BND's contacts to journalists. "I knew that then-BND Director Volker Foertsch was conducting background discussions with journalists in order to locate leaks in the intelligence service," Schmidbauer told the "Berliner Zeitung", according to an advance report in the paper's Thursday edition. At the same time, he denied accusations that he had authorized the BND to spy on journalists: "But I never authorized or approved the observation of journalists."

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 05:25:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Kryvorizhstal could be sold for $6 bln - Ukraine govt. official

KIEV, May 15 (RIA Novosti) - Ukraine's authorities have said that Kryvorizhstal, the country's largest steel mill, could be sold to a group of investors for $6 billion.

A 93% stake in Kryvorizhstal was sold for 24.2 billions hryvnas ($4.8 bln) to Mittal Steel, the world's leading steel producer, in October, but the country's property fund has indicated that the plant may be re-sold at an auction because the current owned are not honoring their commitments.

"There are several domestic and foreign investors who are ready to pay 30 bln hryvnas (about $6 bln)," Valentina Semenyuk, the head of the country's State Property Fund, said Wednesday.

The October sale was seen as a test case for the country's new "orange" regime, following allegations of corruption over previous privatizations in the country. Officials including President Viktor Yushchenko declared themselves satisfied with the auction at the time.

Before November 2005, a controlling stake in Kryvorizhstal belonged to the Investment Metallurgy Alliance, controlled by Viktor Pinchuk, son-in-law of former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.

Semenyuk declined to name the new investors, citing considerations of commercial secrecy, only saying that it would not be another reprivatization attempt, but the government's move to exercise control over investment obligations.

by blackhawk on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 06:05:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Russia needs nuclear market competition in U.S. - Kiriyenko

MOSCOW, May 18 (RIA Novosti) - Russia needs open competition on the U.S. nuclear market, not concessions, the head of Russia's nuclear agency said Thursday.

Sergei Kiriyenko is set to visit the United States May 18-24 to hold talks with U.S. companies and the Department of Energy, in particular with regard to restrictions on Russian companies on the U.S. market.

"In the United States, we will certainly discuss the lifting of discriminatory restrictions on access to the U.S. market for Russian nuclear products and services. We need no indulgences - we need open competition on this market," Kiriyenko said.

Russia is currently allowed to operate on the U.S. market only through special intermediary agents, and restrictions on imports from Russia of low-enriched uranium have been in force since the Soviet era.

Difficulties began in 1991 when Russia started supplying a large amount of natural uranium to clients worldwide, including the U.S., bringing down prices and provoking anti-dumping procedures.

by blackhawk on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 06:06:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Russian army chief warns over non-nuclear ICBMs

MOSCOW, May 18 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's most senior army officer issued a grim warning Thursday that the use of inter-continental ballistic missiles with conventional warheads could lead to devastating consequences.

Gen. Yury Baluyevsky, chief of the General Staff of Russia's Armed Forces, suggested the launch of the missiles carrying non-nuclear warheads could lead to members of the nuclear club launching a counterstrike.

"This [the use of non-nuclear ICBMs] may trigger an irreversible reaction in countries with nuclear arsenals because they will be unable to identify the type of warhead on a ballistic missile and its target," he said.

The general's comment came following the United States' declared intention to place non-nuclear warheads on its ICBMs.

"Our American colleagues say that they [missiles] can be used to kill bin Laden," he said, but suggested that this was not the best way to deal with the al-Qaeda leader and was "an expensive pleasure."

In this context, Baluyevsky called for an international legal framework for such missiles.

by blackhawk on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 06:08:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What in fuck do the Americans think they're doing? You can't go lobbing bloody ICBMs around the place.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 06:10:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Talk about stealth news. Looks like most of us missed this:

Arms Control Today: Pentagon Defends Global-Strike Plan

A recently unveiled initiative to arm some U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) with conventional warheads has lawmakers wondering whether dangerous misunderstandings and miscalculations could arise with other nuclear powers, particularly Russia. Pentagon officials downplay the possibility, contending that the benefits of the new capability outweigh the potential risks.

The Department of Defense is asking Congress this year for $127 million to start replacing nuclear warheads with conventional warheads on 24 Trident D-5 SLBMs. Within two years, two dozen missiles would be equally dispersed among 12 separate submarines, which means each vessel would carry 22 nuclear-armed and two conventional-armed missiles. The conventional warheads, four per missile, would be either a solid slug or a bundle of rods known as a flachette round, not explosive warheads.

Although the Bush administration revealed its intentions to pursue conventional global-strike capabilities in its December 2001 Nuclear Posture Review, the SLBM option was first detailed in early February as part of the Quadrennial Defense Review. ...

At a March 29 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, legislators expressed some unease about the SLBM proposal. ...

Even this appeared even one month afther the fact.

Does anyone have any thoughts as to why the Russians waited until to day to come out on this?

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 06:24:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Pentagon officials downplay the possibility, contending that the benefits of the new capability outweigh the potential risks.

Now that's a cost-benefit analysis I'd like to see: global Armageddon vs. maybe killing a couple of terrorists.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 06:27:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As the quote said, it is hardly new: even keeping just very distant tabs with navy stuff, I learned about that last year, from a 2004-something edition of "Flottes de Combat" (french counterpart of Janes'). So it was official before this went to press, back in 2002, in all the "informed circles". Putin-administration knew about that four years ago. The reason they're telling out loud just now might be to put pressure on the US warmongers.

I see one tactical reason for the thing: "penetration" weapons cannot be delivered by cruise missile (they're bulky and need to hammer into the ground from thousands of feet-altitude). Today, the only vectors are the B52, B1B and B2 bombers, which have to get up close to the enemy. And if they're downed, they incur a huge prestige penalty (so much for US technological supremacy), not even considering the cost for the B2.

A ballistic missiles would make to, and the only way to have global range is to use a sub (installing silos in bases in foreign countries could pose diplomatic issues)

by Pierre on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 08:07:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The general's comment came following the United States' declared intention to place non-nuclear warheads on its ICBMs.

Note that these remarks don't (in translation) refer to SLBMs but ICBMs. Is the General, the translator or the journalist confused or is this about something else?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 08:18:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Since the quote referred to the same initial announcement date as the info I had about SLBM's, I thought it was the same. Conventional reentry vehicles could also be fitted to ICBM's, but these are not too fashionable these days, I don't think there's much budget devoted to upgrade or adaptation on them. US ICBM's are old and designed to reach the soviet union almost exclusively. SLBM's are clearly favored: they've been upgraded less than 15 years ago with the 2nd-gen Ohio subs and there range is better I think.

by Pierre on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 09:00:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 11:34:08 PM EST
I'm sorry if this was already mentioned...

Russia to set up oil-product exchange in 2006 - official

by jv (euro@junkie.cz) on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 11:48:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome jv.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 05:08:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yahoo: Venezuela Congress Approves 33.3 Percent Extraction Tax on All Oil Operations

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuela's congress approved a new oil tax that will raise the amount of contributions companies like Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips will have to pay for their heavy oil operations in the country.

Congress approved on Tuesday a bill imposing a new 33.3 percent extraction tax on all oil operations.

The tax will largely impact foreign companies extracting heavy crude in Venezuela's Orinoco River basin: BP PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron, ConocoPhillips, France's Total SA and Norway's Statoil ASA.

Those companies will have to pay the difference between the new tax and their current royalty of 16.6 percent, or an additional 16.7 percent.

The tax revisions allow for a royalty reduction to 20 percent if any operation becomes unprofitable, but experts say that is unlikely at current high oil prices.

Congress is also expected to shortly approve a separate bill that will hike the income tax rate for the Orinoco projects from 34 percent to 50 percent.

by Fran on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 11:50:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
IHT: Getting the terrorists on the phone

News that the phone companies AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth gave customer records to the National Security Agency has set off a heated debate in the United States over the intricacies of espionage law. But legal or not, this sort of spying program probably isn't worth infringing Americans' civil liberties for - because it's very unlikely that the type of information one can glean from it will help win the war on terrorism.

If the program is along the lines described by USA Today - with the security agency receiving complete lists of who called whom from each of the phone companies - the object is probably to collect data and draw a chart, with dots or "nodes" representing individuals and lines between nodes if one person has called another.

Mathematicians who work with pictures like this are called graph theorists, and there is an entire academic field, social network analysis, that tries to determine information about a group from such a chart, like who the key players are or who the cell leaders might be.

But without additional data, its reach is limited: Even when you know everyone in the graph is a terrorist, it doesn't directly portray information about the hierarchy of the cell. Social network researchers look instead for graph features like "centrality": They try to identify nodes that are connected to a lot of other nodes, like spokes around the hub of a bicycle wheel.

But this isn't as helpful as you might imagine. First, the "central player" - the person with the most spokes - might not be as important as the hub metaphor suggests. For example, Jafar Adibi, an information scientist at the University of Southern California, analyzed e-mail traffic among Enron employees before the company collapsed. He found that if you naïvely analyzed the resulting graph, you could conclude that one of the "central" players was Ken Lay's secretary.

by Fran on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 11:53:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC:  Chavez talks oil on Libya visit

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has described oil prices as "fair" and said he would work to maintain them, during a visit to Libya.

Mr Chavez said he discussed improving bilateral ties and working together on oil with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The two men are expected to sign an agreement but no details are available.

The two nations have contrasting US relations, with the US recently restoring ties with Libya but imposing an arms embargo on Venezuela.

Mr Chavez met Mr Gaddafi in a tent close to the Libyan capital, Tripoli, for talks on the final leg of a visit to Europe and north Africa.

"I'm glad to be here in Libya to strengthen bilateral relations... to maintain the price of oil," Mr Chavez told reporters.

"Today we have a fair price for oil."

Both countries are members of the group of oil-producing nations, Opec, which is next meeting in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas on 1 June.

by Fran on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 12:18:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
NYT: Seeking to Control Borders, Bush Turns to Big Military Contractors

WASHINGTON, May 17 -- The quick fix may involve sending in the National Guard. But to really patch up the broken border, President Bush is preparing to turn to a familiar administration partner: the nation's giant military contractors.

Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, three of the largest, are among the companies that said they would submit bids within two weeks for a multibillion-dollar federal contract to build what the administration calls a "virtual fence" along the nation's land borders.

Using some of the same high-priced, high-tech tools these companies have already put to work in Iraq and Afghanistan -- like unmanned aerial vehicles, ground surveillance satellites and motion-detection video equipment -- the military contractors are zeroing in on the rivers, deserts, mountains and settled areas that separate Mexico and Canada from the United States.


"This is an unusual invitation," the deputy secretary of homeland security, Michael Jackson, told contractors this year at an industry briefing, just before the bidding period for this new contract started. "We're asking you to come back and tell us how to do our business."

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 04:33:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No doubt these companies will turn to their traditional sources of cheap labour to patrol the border, ie illegal Mexicans.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 08:26:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 11:35:03 PM EST
Independent: Models pose a strike in protest at American catwalk invasion

They are not manning pickets or hanging about on the threshold of Gap thrusting flyers in shoppers' hands, but yesterday the fashion models of Italy followed the example of the nation's pilots, judges, teachers, journalists and just about everybody else except parish priests and went on strike.

It was the first such strike in the history of the industry. Stylists, photographers, hairdressers and all the other backroom staff involved in Italy's fashion business downed tools. The enemy: American companies which set up shop in Milan on the eve of big catwalk events, vacuum up the work and then vanish, and rogue agencies which lure girls into "modelling" work which turns out to be something quite different.

Also in their sights are the "unpatriotic" Italian women's magazines which are accused of obsessively locating their fashion shoots abroad, robbing the local industry of work.


Piero Piazzi, a legendary Italian talent scout and manager of an agency called Women Model, known as the "king of models" in Italy, commented: "They take the work in the period of greatest interest. But they shouldn't then just shut up shop. They should stay in business with their office and employees. It should be like in France, with the licences, inscription in a register and the deposit of a sum of money as a guarantee."

by Fran on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 11:45:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
SFGate: FDA urged to limit nanoparticle use in cosmetics and sunscreens

Numerous products such as sunscreens and cosmetics contain potentially hazardous nanoparticles but lack adequate warning labels of their possible health effects, two activist groups charged Tuesday.

The groups -- Friends of the Earth and International Center for Technology Assessment -- formally petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, demanding that the agency better monitor and regulate products containing nanoparticles -- and said they would sue if the agency does nothing.

Their announcement coincided with the release of a report by the groups that highlighted the number of personal care products with nanoingredients, material typically 100 nanometers wide -- far smaller than a red blood cell -- or smaller.

Tuesday's filing was "the first-ever legal challenge on the potential human health and environmental risks of nanotechnology and nanomaterials," the groups claimed in a statement.

"These products pose a clear and present threat," George Kimbrell, an attorney with the groups, said during the telephone press conference from Washington. If the FDA doesn't begin to adopt the necessary monitoring and regulatory actions some time after the 180-day deadline for response has passed, then the groups plan to sue the agency, he said.

The term nanoparticle is derived from "nanometer," or a billionth of a meter. Being so tiny, the particles have exotic physical effects that allow them to penetrate unusually deeply into the skin and organs, the groups said. Nanoparticles, they said, are found in some products sold by cosmetics firms such as Revlon, L'Oreal and Estee Lauder.

Animal studies have shown that some nanoparticles can penetrate cells and tissues, move through the body and brain and cause biochemical damage. But whether cosmetics and sunscreens containing nanomaterials pose health risks remains largely unknown, pending completion of long-range studies recently begun by the FDA and other agencies.

by Fran on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 11:52:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nano-particles such as atoms or molecules perhaps ? Make anything without those and you get a Nobel prize.

So I'm not entirely sure what the problem is.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 07:45:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a funny one. Lots of scientists stumble upon the concept. And yes, they are probably badly named.

However, asbestos is probably a good analogy.
In that 0.01 to about 20? ish micrometre range of molecules inhalation of asbestos does nasty things to people. It's because particles of that size are generally rare in "nature" we haven't evolved effective protections against it.

Likewise, the purpose of engineering nano-molecules is usually to create more perfect spreading/layering behaviours. That involves engineering some combinations of molecules whose electronic configurations are unusual. Thus, whilst our body engages with small molecules all the time in the environment it's probably possible to construct one that our bodies let slip through in ways they shouldn't.

One of the greatest collective geniuses of the human race is that whilst what I have described is the pattern for a nasty kind of weapon, we tend to create these things by accident when making stuff like lipstick. It's just the way we are. That's why some science and testing and waiting before commercialisation shouldn't be construed as a bad thing, despite what the companies will tell us.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 09:18:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC: Europe diary: Westminster and Bulgaria

In rural Bulgaria it's pretty common to see a farmer making his way to his fields in a cart pulled by a single old nag. The police in the capital, Sofia, can rely on a little more horsepower.

It's the only place I've ever seen the police drive a Porsche convertible. Complete with blue flashing light and repainted in white with smart blue stripes. This is not profligacy with public money but something odder. Like the BMW and Merc driven by the Bulgarian police, it's been stolen somewhere in Europe, shipped to Bulgaria by criminal gangs, and then confiscated.

So far they've been luckier than one judge, who was proudly going to work in a top-of-the-range four-wheel-drive until its German owner spotted it and demanded it back. So if this is your long-lost car do contact the Bulgarian police. I'm sure they'll be delighted to hear from you.

by Fran on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 12:22:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that driving a confiscated car is a practice which the police authorities in other countries also have.

I read this article over the weekend, comments below are also interesting.


I can resist anything but temptation.- Oscar Wilde

by Little L (ljolito (at) gmail (dot) com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 03:24:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember seeing a Porsche in Moscow that still had the French insurance sticker on the mirror, complete with license plate details and policy number...

But in Moscow, they got lots of nice cars for all tha public administrations for the 750th ammiversary of the city a couple years back, when all businesses in the city wre invited to pitch in 'voluntarily' as contributions to the enlivening and refurbishing of the city. So the Volvo dealers gave Volvos to the police, the Mercedes dealers gave Mercedes to City officials, etc...

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 03:59:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...and good cars always grab the eye and induce respect:-).

I can resist anything but temptation.- Oscar Wilde
by Little L (ljolito (at) gmail (dot) com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 04:33:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 11:35:24 PM EST
Guardian: Fireworks, hooters and dancing in Barcelona's streets as late goals bring on the party of parties

Two moments of magic in a far-off city have anxious fans spilling out of bars into spontaneous fiesta

It started as an evening of tense and unusual silence in one of the busiest, loudest cities in Europe as Barcelona's streets emptied and its bars filled to overflowing with fans glued to TV screens showing the final in Paris.

It ended with a wave of noisy euphoria that engulfed the city centre as the streets filled with hooting cars and Vespa scooters while fireworks lit the sky and added to the cacophony of joy.

At the Speed 58 bar in the city's Gracia neighbourhood, ranks of Barcelona fans suffered gloomily in front of the huge screens as Arsenal went ahead and the dream of a second Champions League trophy seemed to drift away. Speed 58 is more than just a bar. It is one of some 1,500 official penyas, or fan clubs, that Barcelona FC has dotted not just around the city, Catalonia and the rest of Spain but as far away as Stockholm and Mexico City.

The fans here were convinced Barcelona, eternally envious of the number of European Cups won over the years by their arch-rivals Real Madrid, deserved to win. By halfway through the second half, with Barcelona trailing 1-0, the claret-and-blue clad fans, or culés, jammed into the bar had already decided the referee was to blame for what looked like yet another lost opportunity. There was nervous scoffing of plates of butifarra, the white Catalan sausage, tapas of anchovies, mussels and squid along with occasional shouts of "Visca Barça!".

by Fran on Wed May 17th, 2006 at 11:58:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is kcurie sober yet?
by Nomad on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 07:00:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean he's normally sober? ;-)
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu May 18th, 2006 at 09:19:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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