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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 22 January

by autofran Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:11:13 PM EST

On this date in history:

1849 - August Strindberg, was a Swedish writer, playwright, and painter.

More here and here

Welcome to the European Salon!

This Salon is open for discussions, exchange, and gossip and just plain socializing all day long. So please enter!

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by autofran (autofran@mac.com) on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:11:25 PM EST
EU officials to begin work on treaty - EUobserver.com
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - EU diplomats are to start work in the coming days on clearing up the loose ends in the new EU treaty so that it can come into force without any technical glitches once it has been ratified.

An internal document circulated by Slovenia, the current holder of the EU presidency, and seen by EUobserver sets out 33 areas that need to be examined this year if the treaty is to come into force on 1 January 2009 as planned.

The document says it takes into account "the legimate concerns of the institutions and member states that all the necessary preparations be ready in good time to allow for a smooth entry into force of the Treaty."

It notes that EU ambassadors are to start "examining the technical and legal aspects" at the end of January, while Slovenia will assess whether "different arrangements are necessary at a later stage for some of the more sensitive and political points."
by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:14:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't look for democracy in the EU presidency - International Herald Tribune

BRUSSELS: Exactly a year from now, the United States will be swearing in its 44th president. He or she will shoulder the weight of the world. It comes with the territory.

Very much less certainly, but just possibly, Europe may have its first president in January 2009. He - there is no she on the list of likely candidates - would be a man who at least in theory embodies the best shot anyone since Charlemagne has had at representing European unity.

Tony Blair, who's a political Formula One racing team, but not consensual, gets mentioned a lot. At a considerably lower horsepower rating, so does Jean-Claude Juncker, the workaday prime minister of Luxembourg, who may not turn out as consensual as some people think. Other hopefuls lounge or skulk in the wings.

The selection process runs parallel with the American presidential race during the second half of the year (and probably into 2009). But its stage is the closed conference halls of the European Union, whose successes and inadequacies have always reflected its reflexes for deals and ambiguity.

The choice of the European president is true to the EU's historical character. Rather than a popular vote, the selection process will belong to the council of chiefs of state and government created by the Lisbon Treaty, whose ratification must be complete before their choice is made.

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:16:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Don't Look for Democracy in the US Presidency

Exactly a year from now, the US will be swearing in its 44th Resident.  She or She will stage manage the appearance of shouldering the weight of the world, in order to deflect attention from the financial gnomes buried under the Alps in their command and control bunkers.  EU human rights campaigners will once again point to the lack of democracy in amurka, where the one dollar, one vote ethic has been lost to the one million, one vote perversion of the process.

(I'd like to continue this farce, but i'm choking at the demagoguery of insulting the highly competent world of Formula One by comparing it to T. Poodle Bliar.)  Plus i must get some work done.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 04:20:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe we need a ((Neobabble Alert)) sign for WaPo drivel like this.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 12:03:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Rail fares in Britain are the most expensive in Europe - Times Online

Rail travel is more expensive in Britain than anywhere else in Europe, according to research.

For £10, a train passenger in this country can travel 27 miles. In France the same amount would get them 50 miles by rail. In Latvia, which has Europe's cheapest train travel, passengers could get 383 miles on the equivalent sum.

The figures, which were released by the Liberal Democrats, also disclose the scale of fare increases in this country. Six years ago rail passengers could travel 55 miles for £10.

The figures were compiled by comparing European fares published in this year's Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:17:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Surely you are not suggesting that privatisation could in any way fail to reduce prices out of sight?

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi
by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 02:00:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it does keep the little people rather close to home, doesn't it?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 04:21:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Privatisation was never inteneded to have any (downward) impact on fares, it was intended to provide another conduit for public money to slide into a few private pockets with least resistance.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 11:48:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Brussels to unveil EU green strategy amid strong criticism - EUobserver.com
The European Commission is set to table on Wednesday (23 January) a highly controversial set of legislative proposals designed to fight global warming and the EU's dependence on imported energy.

The package has already attracted a lot of attention and criticism, as it will extensively shape future energy and industrial policies in all 27 EU member states.

As part of the proposals, each country will face a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions and a mandatory target for the share of renewable energy in its total energy consumption.

In addition, the commission will overhaul the emissions trading scheme - a cap and trade system designed to curb pollution from industry - as well as the bloc's current state aid rules for funding green projects.
by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:18:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sarkozy promises French fleets he will loosen EU fishing curbs - Independent Online Edition > Europe

President Nicolas Sarkozy has blown up a storm in the troubled waters of European fishing policy by promising to push for the abolition - or weakening - of national catch limits, or quotas.

In comments to French trawlermen in Boulogne-sur-Mer, M. Sarkozy said it was time to "get out of" the quota system which has ruled EU fisheries policy since it was created 25 years ago. He suggested that France would grab the "opportunity" to change the system when it takes over the presidency of the European Union in the second half of this year.

M.Sarkozy's comments - dismissed by opposition politicians and some French newspapers as "demagoguery" - were heavily modified yesterday by his Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Michel Barnier. He said that France did not want to scrap national catch quotas but to "improve" them by fixing the limits for several years, instead of 12 months.

EU officials and British fishermen's leaders complained yesterday that M. Sarkozy's comments were "crowd-pleasing" rather than helpful. They said that EU quotas, although often criticised, were essential for the management of threatened fish stocks and to organise a fair division of catches between national fishing fleets.

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:19:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sarkozy never stops blundering like this. He is:

  1. ignorant;
  2. beset with an inferiority complex that makes him say anything he thinks will please.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 01:48:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But as spectator sport, it's better than "Dangerous Housewives" or whatever that show is.  (This comment ignores the significant follow-on effects of the disaster that is Sarko.)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 03:46:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sarko is the last example of France having to follow US tendencies (albeit protesting a lot against americanisation/globalisation - these words are insults in french - while doing so).

On a lighter note, this reminds me the endless critics against "big brother" a few years ago. A typical US product of media shit, according to (french) critics at the time. The famous last stand resisted for less than one year before the program was on french TV.

Sometimes, it is infuriating, but more often it's just ridiculous.^_^

by Xavier in Paris on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 04:07:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Desperate Housewives, sadly.  Dangerous Housewives might be interesting.  Just think of the possibilities . . . four suburban housewives start a jihadist terror cell, or go on a cross-country bank robbing spree to pay off their ARMs, or start an armed revolutionary movement to tear down the oppressive class system that restricts their ability to buy overpriced junk.
by Zwackus on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 01:58:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Putin to revive Soviet muscle-flexing parade | Russia | Guardian Unlimited
It was one of the highlights of the Soviet calendar - a chance for the communist superpower to show off its military might and for ordinary citizens to check that their gerontocratic leaders were still alive, perched on top of Lenin's tomb.

But 17 years after the last hammer and sickle tanks trundled through Red Square, the Kremlin is to revive on May 9 the Soviet-era practice of parading its big weaponry, the Russian defence ministry confirmed yesterday. As well as 6,000 marching soldiers, it will show off its latest tanks and rockets - such as the new intercontinental ballistic missile, Topol-M.

"Under the plan adopted by the president, land and air military equipment will be involved in the parade on Red Square," General Yuri Solovyov said. The parade will include the new S-300 missile defence system that Russia has just sold to Iran.

The decision to revive this symbol of the cold war is likely to provoke criticism from opposition parties, which accuse Vladimir Putin of turning Russia into a pastiche of the Soviet Union. The parade might also raise a few quizzical eyebrows inside the British embassy in Moscow. Last week, Russia closed the British Council's two regional offices in St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg using what UK officials described as "classic KGB tactics".

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:20:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmmm, big parade seems like he's compensating for something lacking somewhere...... :-))) Those missiles are pretty phallic looking aren't they ? Harking back to those gay porno pics of Putin chopping wood, working out (the sweat, the sweat).

Ya don't think he's trying to admit to say something do you ? he hee heee {evil chuckle}

...sorry poemless...couldn't resist

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 12:12:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We Americanskis should have one of these every July 4th.

Think of the crap WE could roll out.

"We're number one, we're number one!"

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 02:13:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Poland to consult with Russia on U.S. missile shield - International Herald Tribune

MOSCOW: The Polish foreign minister pledged Monday that Warsaw would consult with Moscow about the missile defense facility that the United States wants to install in Poland.

Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, visiting Moscow, also signaled that Warsaw could soon unblock partnership talks between Russia and European Union.

The new Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, has said he will resume talks with the United States on accepting a missile defense base in Poland but only after consulting with NATO and other neighboring countries - indicating a greater hesitancy over the plan than had the previous government, which firmly supported the U.S. move.

Sikorski, who held talks with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, said that missile defense consultations did not signal any concessions to Russia.

"The United States is our ally, and this decision is to be made by the United States and Poland," he said.

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:20:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Poland to consider lifting veto on Russia-EU partnership talks - International Herald Tribune

MOSCOW: Poland's foreign minister signaled Monday that Warsaw could soon unblock Russia-EU partnership talks, and pledged to consult with Moscow about the missile defense system elements the U.S. wants to install in Poland.

Radek Sikorski, visiting Moscow, said the removal of Russia's ban on Polish meat last month has paved the way for Poland to consider lifting its veto on talks between Russia and the European Union.

"I'm very glad that the trade embargo is gone," Sikorski told reporters after talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. "I think it would allow us to resume talks on providing a mandate for the continuation of Russia-EU contacts."

He later said Russia-EU talks on a new cooperation agreement would likely begin within six months, the Interfax news agency reported.

"I would be very surprised if negotiations on a basic agreement between the EU and Russia do not begin in the first half of the year," Interfax quoted Sikorski as saying.

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:25:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
this is a very positive move. Poland has gone from being a genuine impediment to progress in the EU to being a positive influence. Wish I could say the same for UK.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 11:50:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So much for all of those Pollack jokes my older brother used to tell.

How many Pollacks does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Any takers?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 01:57:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Europe | Prodi to speak on cabinet crisis
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi is set to address parliament after the departure of an ally threatened to topple his fragile ruling coalition.

Speaker Fausto Bertinotti said the centre-left PM had asked to address the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, on the "general political situation".

There had been speculation he would resign on Monday after a former ally ruled out rejoining the government.

Clemente Mastella, the former justice minister, called for an early election.

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:21:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For details of the developing crisis see yesterday evening's open thread.

I will try to keep you abreast of the news here when possible. For background information on Mastella's case, I brought it up in my recent diary on papal shenanigans.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 01:44:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Prodi's discourse in parliament will begun around 11:30 this morning. He will then ask for a confidence vote. He remarked that he wants to look into the eyes of those who vote against him. The procedure of confidence vote implicates that each member of the parliament must walk up to the government bench and voice their vote.

A fitting ritual. With the Pope's god on his side, Mastella may muster the courage to trash a government over his wife's arrest.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 04:35:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Europe | Stranded migrants saved in Alps
Six Ukrainian asylum seekers - some without shoes - have been rescued after getting lost in the snowy Swiss Alps.

The mother and her five children ran into difficulties while trying to cross illegally from Italy into Switzerland.

They were saved late on Sunday after a local radio enthusiast picked up their walkie-talkie distress signals.

"Some of the children were just wearing socks," Ticino regional police spokesman Marco Bordoli told the BBC.


The mother and her children, aged nine to 21, got stranded near Monte Lema - a 1,600m (5,250ft) mountain in the canton of Ticino, Mr Bordoli said.

They were saved because the mother was carrying a children's walkie-talkie - a device capable of sending radio signals, he said.

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:21:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
PM sets out vision for life after Bush - Independent Online Edition > World Politics

Gordon Brown is preparing the world for "life after Bush" by seeking an outline agreement this year on major reforms to international bodies and eventual moves to dismantle nuclear weapons.

Although aides insist the Prime Minister has a good working relationship with George Bush, the outgoing President is seen as an obstacle to reform.

Mr Brown discussed his plans with Chinese and Indian leaders during a four-day visit to their countries which ended last night. He will raise them privately at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week and with his French, German and Italian counterparts at joint talks in London next week.

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:23:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Life after Bush will consist of Brown racing Sarko across the Altantic to plant a great big kiss on the butt of the new Pres.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 12:13:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What's this "after Bush" crap.  Jeb Bush is just waiting in the wings.

ONWARD, the Bush dynasty!  Take that Europe!  WE have royalty now too.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 02:16:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Musharraf begins European visit in Brussels - International Herald Tribune

BRUSSELS, Belgium: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, responding to what he called the West's "obsession" with democracy, pleaded Monday to be allowed time to achieve higher standards of human rights and civil liberties.

Addressing another international concern, Musharraf, told an audience in Brussels that despite the turmoil in his country, Pakistan's nuclear weapons were secure under his rule and would not fall into the hands of the terrorists and extremists that plague the country.

"While we believe in democracy and human rights and civil liberties please allow us time to reach what you have reached. And you have taken centuries to reach it," Musharraf said during an appearance before journalists and analysts at the start of an eight-day European tour.

The Pakistani president, who met with senior European Union and NATO officials, also pledged that Feb. 18 elections will be "fair, transparent and peaceful."

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said after meeting the former military leader that the conduct of those elections would determine the EU's relations and engagement with the country.

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:24:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And while he's at it he can shop around for a new home...

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 04:08:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Prosecutor says former Kosovo prime minister is guilty of war crimes - International Herald Tribune

THE HAGUE, Netherlands: A prosecutor at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal said Monday he had "overwhelmingly proved" that Kosovo's former prime minister and two other former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters were guilty of murder, torture, rape and persecution of Serb civilians and called for them to be imprisoned for 25 years.

A defense lawyer countered that there was no evidence of former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj being involved in any of the crimes.

Presenting his closing arguments at the trial of Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj, prosecutor David Re said at least 40 civilians -- mostly Serbs -- were murdered in 1998 in a region of Kosovo controlled by Haradinaj.

The killings, "could not have happened without Haradinaj's knowledge or his complicity," Re said.

Prosecutors "overwhelmingly proved the guilt of the three accused ... of the crimes charged," he said.

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:27:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU data regulator says Internet addresses are personal information - International Herald Tribune

BRUSSELS, Belgium: IP addresses, a string of numbers that identifies a computer, should generally be regarded as personal information, the head of the European Union's group of data privacy regulators said Monday.

Germany's data protection commissioner Peter Scharr leads the EU group preparing a report on how well the privacy policies of Internet search engines operated by Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and others comply with EU privacy law.

He told a European Parliament hearing on online data protection that when someone was identified by an IP, or Internet protocol, address "then it has to be regarded as personal data."

His view differs from that of Google, which insists an IP address merely identifies the location of a computer, not who the individual user is -- something strictly true but which does not recognize that many people regularly use the same computer terminal and IP address.

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:28:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Universities join battle against terror as guidelines are agreed - Times Online

University leaders have agreed to inform the police of any extremist behaviour by students or visiting speakers that they suspect may lead to terrorism.

A new "tool kit" for universities issued today by Bill Rammell, the Universities Minister, advises universities to draw up a national watch list of guest speakers who should be banned from speaking on campus. It also suggests that universities consider setting up multi-faith chaplaincies instead of separate prayer rooms for different faiths, to promote integration and prevent pockets of extremists forming.

Where they are allowed, Muslim chaplains should be trained to support vulnerable students who are being groomed, bullied or harassed by violent extremists so that these concerns can be passed to the police.

Mr Rammell was adamant, however, that Muslim students - particularly those coming from overseas - did not have the right to demand special treatment from British universities. "Britain technically is a Christian country with many secular features. It's those two things. It's not anything else. If you expect that you would have the same response to your faith needs in Britain as would happen within a Muslim or Islamic country, [you] would be disappointed," he said.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 12:08:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess that's the new definition of academic freedom - that is, in this day and age, freedom is largely academic.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 05:09:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Typical, he says that "Britain technically is a Christian country with many secular features". It's not. It's a secular post-enlighenment country with considerable tolerance for faith communities.

that may seem like mere wordplay bordering on sophistry, but it isn't. Christians may be the majority faith community and may have played a lrge part in the development of present-day culture, but they don't ge to make the rules any more. Nor does any other religion.

And whenever they try to push their luck with anti-abortion or blasphemy, they'll get a slap from the real majority who don't want god-botherers getting in their face.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 12:00:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
German Minister Criticizes French Nuclear Stance | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 21.01.2008
German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel has taken a sideswipe at France for exporting nuclear technology. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has placed the French nuclear industry at the heart of his foreign policy.

Gabriel said in an interview with the German newspaper Nordwest Zeitung that he was uncomfortable with plans to construct atomic plants in countries "that are hardly reputed to be repositories of stable democracy."


"Anyone who praises nuclear energy as a panacea to energy policy issues should not be surprised if there is a growing danger of the proliferation of atomic weapons," Gabriel told the paper on Monday, Jan. 21.


The minister, a member of the Social Democratic Party, said the example of Iran showed that it was not such a big step from civilian use of nuclear energy to the development of atomic bombs.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 04:11:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by autofran (autofran@mac.com) on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:11:41 PM EST
Pre-emptive nuclear strike a key option, Nato told | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited
The west must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the "imminent" spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, according to a radical manifesto for a new Nato by five of the west's most senior military officers and strategists.

Calling for root-and-branch reform of Nato and a new pact drawing the US, Nato and the European Union together in a "grand strategy" to tackle the challenges of an increasingly brutal world, the former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that a "first strike" nuclear option remains an "indispensable instrument" since there is "simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world".

The manifesto has been written following discussions with active commanders and policymakers, many of whom are unable or unwilling to publicly air their views. It has been presented to the Pentagon in Washington and to Nato's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, over the past 10 days. The proposals are likely to be discussed at a Nato summit in Bucharest in April.

"The risk of further [nuclear] proliferation is imminent and, with it, the danger that nuclear war fighting, albeit limited in scope, might become possible," the authors argued in the 150-page blueprint for urgent reform of western military strategy and structures. "The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction."

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:18:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
given what we know from sible Edmonds, the reason why there is no chance of a nuclear free world is that we were determined to sell expertise and materials to anyone who wanted it. Waiting to find the suggestion that A Q Khan was a CIA-asset.

Changing no-first-use is tantamount to global suicide. We'd rather destroy the world ourselves than let the Soviets terrists bomb it first. How perfectly MAD !!!!

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 12:17:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
a radical manifesto from the west´s most senior MADmen, in preparation to make the EU accept fkg Petraus as head of Nato???

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 04:55:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No light, no heat, no bread: stark reality for the powerless in Gaza | Israel and the Middle East | Guardian Unlimited
When it opened its doors seven years ago, the European Gaza hospital was one of the biggest foreign investments in the long-troubled Gaza Strip and one of the leading medical centres in the Palestinian territories. Yesterday, the 250-bed hospital was sliding rapidly into crisis, turning away patients for routine operations and struggling to manage emergency cases, as the sole power plant in Gaza halted electricity production after Israel stopped all fuel supplies.

Israel said its closure of the Gaza strip was intended to halt the firing of makeshift rockets by Palestinian militants into southern Israel.

Yet Israel's stark new policy has meant no fuel or food aid has come into Gaza since last Thursday. Large parts of the overcrowded strip had no power, leaving it without lights and heating, closing bakeries and forcing hospitals to rely on generators and their own limited fuel reserves. As night fell nearly all Gaza City was in darkness. Simply put, it was "collective punishment," said the European commissioner for external relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

Osama Nahal, a paediatric doctor in the European hospital's special care baby unit, looked resigned. "Politics is politics, but the care of human beings must be away from politics," he said. His unit now has 10 newly-born patients, of whom two are on ventilators.

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:19:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The poor and the sick suffer as Israel cuts power to Gaza - Independent Online Edition > Middle East

Mansour Rahal lay unconscious in the intensive care unit of Gaza City's Shifa hospital, linked to an electrically powered ventilator, the coloured monitor above his head showing his heart, respiration and oxygen saturation rate.

On Thursday last week, the teenager was driving his donkey cart through Beit Lahiya when it was destroyed by a missile which targeted militants in a nearby car. The rocket killed his mother and older brother, and Mansour contracted meningitis after suffering severe head wounds.

His hopes of survival yesterday depended on there being enough diesel to keep in operation the four generators which were Shifa's only source of power. His doctor, Kamal al-Geathny, said: "If we lose power, he and six other patients in this unit will die."

This was the scene at the hospital yesterday before Israel authorised limited supplies of fuel and medicine to Gaza after a wave of international condemnation for its imposition of a four-day-old total embargo, which left much of the Strip without electricity. The EU called the blockade a " collective punishment" of the Palestinians in Gaza.

The embargo caused industrial diesel to run out, shutting down Gaza's only power station on Sunday, plunging Gaza City into darkness. Large parts of it are still without power.

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:26:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I got Godwin'd the last time I pointed out the obvious reference, but does anyone remember Warsaw.....

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 12:18:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
didn't you know that asking obvious questions is anti-semitism?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 12:32:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Top Stories
  • Guardian - "The west must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the 'imminent' spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, according to a radical manifesto for a new Nato by five of the west's most senior military officers and strategists. Calling for root-and-branch reform of Nato and a new pact drawing the US, Nato and the European Union together in a 'grand strategy' to tackle the challenges of an increasingly brutal world, the former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that a 'first strike' nuclear option remains an 'indispensable instrument' since there is 'simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world'."

  • NYT - "Fears that the United States may be in a recession reverberated around the world on Monday, sending stock markets... into a tailspin and puncturing the hopes of many investors that Europe and Asia would be able to sidestep an American downturn."

  • WaPo - "Sen. Barack Obama took the pulpit of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s church here Sunday and drew a clear link between King's vision of an America free of segregation and racism and the central tenet of his own presidential campaign, a call for unity after years of partisan rancor and division... The Illinois Democrat spoke to more than 2,000 people in the large, modern sanctuary of Ebenezer Baptist Church, across the street from the original structure where King and his father preached."

  • CNN - "Discussions about proposals on the economy and health care were overshadowed by heated exchanges between rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama during Monday night's Democratic debate... Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards jumped in, saying 'Are there three people in this debate, not two?' 'This kind of squabbling -- how many children is this going to get health care? How many people are going to get education because of this? How many kids are going to get to go to college because of this?' Edwards said to cheers from the crowd. 'I respect both of my fellow candidates, but we have got to understand this is not about us personally.'"

  • LA Times - "The Bush administration is beginning its last year in office by quietly scaling back its foreign policy ambitions as it struggles with new obstacles and rapidly dwindling influence. Only a few months ago, senior officials predicted that before their exit, they could deliver the Middle East peace deal that had eluded so many predecessors... the Bush administration is going to be spending the next year managing crises and tidying up messes until the next president takes over, rather than reaching legacy milestones, as officials recently had hoped."

  • WaPo - "The Bush administration is set to announce an overhaul of the nation's emergency response blueprint Tuesday, streamlining a chain of command that failed after Hurricane Katrina in 2005... After years of aggressive lobbying by unhappy state governments, the administration chose to restore FEMA's power to coordinate federal disaster operations. The plan makes clear that the homeland security secretary will remain the president's 'principal federal official for domestic incident management.'"

  • AP - "Interstate 35W bridge collapse survivors and victims' families are giving the state formal notice that they intend to sue. Paperwork to notify the state of potential lawsuits is supposed to be filed within 180 days of an incident -- a deadline that comes up Sunday... As of Friday, the state had received notices from 73 injured survivors and six families of victims killed in the collapse... Three insurance companies and the owner of the school bus that fell with the bridge also filed paperwork."

  • CS Monitor - "Prosecutors in Miami are asking a federal judge to endorse a broad reading of a murder conspiracy statute and material support law to send convicted Al Qaeda recruit Jose Padilla to prison for the rest of his life. If US District Judge Marcia Cooke agrees with the US Justice Department, the severe sentence won't be for any violent act carried out or planned by Mr. Padilla. Instead, he will be punished for what prosecutors say were his dangerous intentions - intentions to conduct unspecified future terrorist operations." Padilla will be sentenced on Tuesday.

  • McClatchy - "U.S. businesses are betting that the federal government soon will put mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and they're making sure they have a say in shaping a vast new regulatory system... The U.S. Climate Action Partnership -- which includes U.S. automakers, other big manufacturers... and energy companies... -- supports a cap and trade system, but its members have questions about key elements, such as how emissions could be offset and how much they'd have to pay for the allowances."

  • CS Monitor - "The 2005 energy bill provided exactly the kind of multiyear support the wind industry says it needs. The impact has been dramatic. Nearly one-third of all US power capacity added last year - about 5,244 megawatts - was in wind. Overall wind-generating capacity soared 45 percent last year, adding the clean-energy equivalent of 10 large coal-fired power plants, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reported last week. Wind power injected $9 billion into the US economy and now employs 20,000 people directly, the industry says." The $1 billion tax credits to solar and wind are set to expire at the end of 2008.

  • Guardian - "17 years after the last hammer and sickle tanks trundled through Red Square, the Kremlin is to revive on May 9 the Soviet-era practice of parading its big weaponry, the Russian defence ministry confirmed yesterday. As well as 6,000 marching soldiers, it will show off its latest tanks and rockets - such as the new intercontinental ballistic missile, Topol-M... The decision to revive this symbol of the cold war is likely to provoke criticism from opposition parties, which accuse Vladimir Putin of turning Russia into a pastiche of the Soviet Union."

  • NYT - "Italy's staggering government appeared near collapse on Monday after the former justice minister said he would no longer support Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who holds a one-vote majority in Parliament's upper house... Mr. Prodi, whose fractured nine-party coalition has lurched from one crisis to another since he took office in May 2006, made no immediate comment. Several allies said, however, that he would discuss the crisis in the lower house of Parliament on Tuesday before deciding whether to resign."

  • Guardian - "The government's top foreign policy advisers were as inept as their US counterparts in failing to see that removing Saddam Hussein in 2003 was likely to lead to a nationalist insurgency by Sunnis and Shias and an Islamist government in Baghdad, run by allies of Iran... None of Whitehall's 'Arabists' warned Tony Blair of the difficulties which have plagued the occupation. The revelation undermines the British claim that it was US myopia which was to blame for the failure to foresee what would happen in postwar Iraq."

  • CS Monitor - "Ever since its 21 signatory nations agreed in 1976 to a set of protocols designed to reduce pollution in the Mediterranean, the Barcelona Convention, which holds biennial meetings, has spearheaded a variety of important environmental initiatives. But this year's reunion in Almera, Spain, the group's 15th, has gone further than most. Participants, including environment ministers from Italy, Tunisia, Israel, Croatia, and Montenegro, agreed that along all 29,000 miles of Mediterranean shore, no construction would be permitted on the 100 meters (about 328 feet) of land nearest the water."

  • Spiegel - "Germany's main carnival parade this year will poke fun at England for failing to qualify for the European Football Championship in June -- with a float depicting a paper-mache English knight in football shorts watching the tournament on TV while the rest of Europe laughs at him. The float will be paraded through Cologne on Feb. 4, Rose Monday, in a procession that usually attracts well over a million people and is broadcast nationwide."

  • BBC News - "Rising sea levels are threatening parts of the Giant's Causeway and other coastal areas of Northern Ireland, the National Trust is warning... The Trust says sea walls will be overtopped more often while waves may swamp part of the Giant's Causeway and in time making access more difficult to some areas of the landmark stones."

  • Guardian - "British scientists have launched an ambitious conservation project to protect some of the weirdest and slimiest creatures on the planet from extinction. The Zoological Society of London's Edge project has identified 100 species of amphibians that have the fewest living relatives, making them evolutionary rarities and precious examples of Earth's biodiversity... Climate change, habitat loss and outbreaks of disease have taken their toll on amphibians around the world. Half of all amphibian species are in decline, while a third are threatened with extinction."

  • BBC News - "Five people have been shot dead in Kenya as opposition leader Raila Odinga made a renewed call for international mediation to end post-poll bloodshed. The deaths of two men and three women in a Rift Valley village was linked by police to the ongoing political crisis. On a visit to a prayer service in Kisumu, Mr Odinga said he was willing to meet President Mwai Kibaki but only if Kofi Annan joined them. The former UN secretary general is expected in Kenya on Tuesday."

  • NYT - "Congo's government reached an agreement on Monday with a renegade general to end an insurgency that has forced more than 400,000 people from their homes in the country's volatile east in the past year and threatened to undermine the new democratically elected government, according to Congolese officials and Western diplomats involved in the negotiations."

  • Guardian - "A tribal sheikh described as 'the poster child for Janjaweed atrocities in Darfur' has been given a senior government position by the Sudanese authorities. Musa Hilal, who is accused of leading militias on a state-sponsored campaign to cleanse parts of Darfur of non-Arab farmers, will act as special adviser to the minister of federal government... Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, defended the appointment".

  • BBC News - "Conservation groups say they have found an unusual threat to East Africa's wildlife - hunting by hungry refugees. A report from the wildlife trade monitoring body Traffic says wild meat is covertly traded, cooked and consumed in Tanzanian refugee camps. Traffic suspects species affected may include chimpanzee, buffalo and zebra."

Middle East
  • NYT - "A suicide bomber killed 17 people in Salahuddin Province north of Baghdad on Monday in the latest suicide attack outside the capital... In the attack on Monday, a suicide bomber in the village of Hajaj near the northern oil refinery town of Baiji entered a communal hall where a feast was under way, observing the end of the seven-day mourning period for the uncle of a high-ranking security official in the Salahuddin provincial government. The bomber detonated his explosive vest, demolishing the hall."

  • NYT - "From the blast and the high, thin plume of white smoke above the tree line, it looked and sounded like any other attack. The bare details were, sadly, routine enough: a gunner was killed and three crew members were wounded Saturday when their vehicle rolled over a homemade bomb buried beneath a road southeast of Baghdad. Yet, it was anything but routine. Over a crackling field radio came reports of injuries and then, sometime later, official confirmation of the first fatality inflicted by a roadside bomb on an MRAP, the new Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected armored vehicle that the American military is counting on to reduce casualties from roadside bombs in Iraq."

  • LA Times - "Illegal diggers are chipping away at Iraq's heritage at thousands of largely unguarded sites. The artifacts may never be returned... U.S. and Iraqi experts say a tragedy on an even greater scale [than the looting of Iraq's National Museum] continues to unfold at more than 12,000 largely unguarded sites where illegal diggers... are chipping away at Iraq's heritage..."

    "Iraq floats over two seas; one is oil and the other is antiquities," said Abdul Zahra Talaqani, media director for Iraq's Ministry of State for Tourism and Archaeology. "The American forces, when they entered, they protected all the oil wells and the Ministry of Oil . . . but the American forces paid no attention to Iraq's heritage."

  • Guardian -"The political authority of the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, suffered a serious blow yesterday after the country's most powerful figure, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sided with MPs by ordering him to supply cheap gas to villages suffering power cuts in an unexpectedly harsh winter. In a humiliating rebuff, Iran's supreme leader, who has the final say over all state matters, ordered the enactment of a law requiring the government to provide 500m-worth of gas supplies from emergency reserve funds."

  • NYT - "The Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, announced Monday night that he was lifting some of the restrictions imposed on Gaza and that on Tuesday morning he would allow delivery of a week's supply of industrial diesel fuel for the local power station, as well as 50 trucks of food and medical supplies... Israeli officials... denied that international pressure was a factor."

South Asia
  • BBC News - "Militants have attacked a Pakistani security force fort in the troubled South Waziristan region on the Afghan border, killing five soldiers. Militants attacked the Ladha fort and an observation post at 0100 (2000GMT Monday), military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said. At least seven soldiers have been wounded, he said."

  • LA Times - Pakistani "authorities arrested two more alleged militants Sunday in connection with the recent assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto... The arrests took place in Pakistan's mountainous North-West Frontier Province, where a teenage suspect and a man identified as his handler were taken into custody two days earlier."

  • McClatchy - "Pervez Musharraf relaxed his chokehold on Pakistan's airwaves Monday, allowing the nation's largest and most popular television network back on the air 79 days after he forced it to go dark. [Networks] had to agree not to criticize Musharraf, the military, foreign policy or the judiciary, and to limit visual images of terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Also, at least five public-affairs program hosts and news anchors remained blacklisted from the cable channel."

  • AP - "Last year the streets in parts of the old city dropped by nine feet. The reason? A massive garbage haul... The garbage project is part of an effort to clean up and restore old Kabul, after six years of relative peace and with millions of dollars from foreign donors. The Turquoise Mountain Foundation, which is dedicated to traditional Afghan arts and architecture, has spent $1 million on conservation and clean up in the Murad Khane neighborhood since last year. The Kabul organization is financed by both Western and Middle East donors."

  • CS Monitor - "When 3,200 US marines deploy to Afghanistan this spring, the message it sends is that the US remains committed to the security of the country and its future... But the marines destined for Afghanistan are on a one-time, seven-month deployment that fills a gap only for trainers and combat forces, say analysts. They won't supply the kind of counterinsurgency that country needs, they say."

  • Reuters - "A court punished 11 Hindus with life in prison on Monday for gang-raping a pregnant Muslim woman and murdering her family during one of India's worst riots in which hundreds of people, mostly Muslims, were slaughtered. The court also jailed a policeman for three years for falsifying evidence in a trial seen as testing whether Muslim victims of the 2002 riots in Gujarat could get justice."

  • WaPo - "As China's middle class expands, ... hundreds of thousands of new car owners [are] hitting the roads each year, driving up imports of luxury cars, snarling traffic, creating a car culture and reveling in what many Chinese describe as a newfound sense of freedom... Most people in this country of 1.3 billion still do not own a car. For example, in Beijing, a city of 16 million people, there are just slightly more than 3 million cars. But car ownership in China has grown by 300 percent in just six years."

  • Guardian - "Their wealth and fame buy apparently endless privilege. But celebrities' perks do not extend to larger families, Chinese authorities have warned. Sports people and pop stars who violate the one-child policy will face harsher fines and tarnished credit records, according to a senior family planning official. The authorities believe the rich and famous are setting a bad example to ordinary couples - yet barely notice the financial penalties because of their wealth."

  • AFP - "A gangster who shot dead the mayor of Nagasaki apologised on Tuesday for the rare assassination that shocked Japan last year. Tetsuya Shiroo, 60, admitted that he gunned down Mayor Iccho Ito in April during his re-election campaign, but his defence team is expected to deny that the crime was premeditated. He was taken into custody immediately after shooting the mayor twice in the back on a busy street in the southern city."

  • BBC News - "An elected parliament has convened in Thailand for the first time since the military seized power in a coup in September 2006. The session follows polls in December and the announcement on Saturday of the formation of a six-party coalition led by the People Power Party (PPP)... PPP head Samak Sundaravej looks likely to be named prime minister on Friday."

  • SMH - Australian "householders could be offered incentives to cut spending and save more of their income as part of the Federal Government's drive to control inflation. Mapping out a five-point plan to fight inflation yesterday, Kevin Rudd said he wanted to build a national savings culture to help reduce demand pressures which were pushing up prices."

  • SMH - "Australia has flown its first whaling surveillance mission as forces opposing the Japanese fleet in the Antarctic are stepped up. The flight by an extended range Airbus, along with the sighting of a Japanese fishing boat said to be shadowing Sea Shepherd, raise spying over the 'scientific' whaling program to a new level. There are also signs that international attention on the program is creating unrest in Tokyo."

  • Fairfax Media - "Sir Edmund Hillary, New Zealand's greatest hero, has been farewelled by a grateful nation. In a state funeral that shared the Hillary family warm moments with the nation, Nepalese, Indians, New Zealanders and others gathered at St Mary's Church in Parnell, Auckland. Each eulogy was rich in thanks for his life."

  • NYT - "These days, it is easy to form the impression that a war is going on in Mexico... Yet what is happening is less a war than a sustained federal intervention in states where for decades corrupt municipal police officers and drug gangs have worked together in relative peace, officials say. The federal forces are not only hunting cartel leaders, but also going after their crews of gunslingers, like Gulf Cartel guards known as the Zetas, who terrorize the towns they control."

  • AP - "An indigenous-rights activist jailed for setting fire to a farm once owned by Mapuche Indians passed the 100-day mark of a prison hunger strike by urging colleagues to 'continue to fight' for the recovery of their lands. 'Let's keep advancing, more united than ever to defend our rights to land and freedom,' Patricia Troncoso said in a letter".

  • El Nuevo Herald - "Venezuela's controversial President Hugo Chvez has revealed that he regularly consumes coca -- the source of cocaine -- raising questions about the legality of his actions. Chvez's comments on coca initially went almost unnoticed, coming amid a four-hour speech to the National Assembly".

  • BBC News - "Hundreds of protesters from Brazil's landless movement have invaded a farm owned by an alleged Colombian drug lord hours before it was to be auctioned. Police say 300 families took over the property owned by Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia in Rio Grande do Sul state. The ranch, said to be worth nearly $1m (500,000), was confiscated when he was arrested last August."

  • Globe and Mail - A $2-million truth commission will begin travelling around Nunavut today in an attempt to shed light on a dark chapter in Inuit history and also solve a long-standing mystery: Who killed thousands of their sled dogs? ... The Iqaluit-based association established the independent truth commission, which plans to interview more than 200 Inuit and non-Inuit in 13 eastern Arctic communities over the coming year. The commission... is investigating controversial federal government policies that affected the Inuit between the 1950s and 1980s."

  • Guardian - "When Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser was sued by Monsanto for growing the firm's GM crops, which he claimed blew on to his land, the company's eventual victory in the Canadian supreme court was overshadowed by accusations of aggressive tactics and corporate bullying. Now, Schmeiser, of Bruno, Saskatchewan, is back to launch another slingshot at Monsanto, and this time he is suing the billion dollar business for 300 in his local small claims court. At stake, he says, is millions of pounds of compensation for those who have seen their land contaminated with GM material, and the rights of organic farmers and others to produce GM-free crops. Monsanto calls the case 'specific and local'."

  • AFP - "A powerful volcano erupted under the icesheet of West Antarctica around 2,000 years ago and it might still be active today, a finding that prompts questions about ice loss from the white continent... The explosive event -- rated "severe" to "cataclysmic" on an international scale of volcanic force -- punched a massive breach in the icesheet and spat out a plume some 12,000 metres (eight miles) into the sky". While volcanic heat may be the cause of some Antarctic ice melt, the scientists state warming ocean water is the primary factor.

By the numbers
  • Bush has 363 days left. 3,929 U.S. and 4,237 total coalition confirmed deaths in Iraq. Over $487,734,000,000 has been spent on the Iraq invasion and occupation. The U.S. federal debt is now over $9,196,074,000,000.

by Magnifico on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 12:37:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Sen. Barack Obama took the pulpit of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s church here Sunday and drew a clear link between King's vision of an America free of segregation and racism and the central tenet of his own presidential campaign, a call for unity after years of partisan rancor and division... The Illinois Democrat spoke to more than 2,000 people in the large, modern sanctuary of Ebenezer Baptist Church, across the street from the original structure where King and his father preached."

this was a braver speech than this suggests. He drew a specific parallel between the racist prejudice & discrimination that the black community experience and the discrimination and prejudice experienced by gay people, especially at the hands of black churches. He called the black community out on their homophobia from a black church pulpit.

All of the damage from the cosseting up to the ex-gay community at his rally last year is officially healed.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 12:38:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Eugene Robinson - What's Gotten Into Bill? - washingtonpost.com

Obama's candidacy not only threatens to obliterate the dream of a Clinton Restoration. It also fundamentally calls into question Bill Clinton's legacy by making it seem . . . not really such a big deal.

That, I believe, is the unforgivable insult. The Clintons picked up on this slight well before Obama made it explicit with his observation that Ronald Reagan had "changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not."

Let's take a moment to consider that remark. Whether it was advisable for Obama to play the role of presidential historian in the midst of a no-holds-barred contest for the Democratic nomination, it's hard to argue with what he said. I think Bill Clinton was a good president, at times very good. And I wouldn't have voted for Reagan if you'd held a gun to my head. But even I have to recognize that Reagan -- like Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union -- was a transformational figure, for better or worse.


Both Clintons have trouble hiding their annoyance at Obama's impertinence. Bill, especially, gives the impression that Obama has gotten under his skin. His frequent allegations of media bias in Obama's favor recall the everybody-against-us feeling of the impeachment drama, when the meaning of the word "is" had to be carefully parsed and the Clinton White House was under siege.

Obama hit back in an interview that aired Monday on "Good Morning America," saying the former president "has taken his advocacy on behalf of his wife to a level that I think is pretty troubling" and promising to "directly confront Bill Clinton when he's making statements that are not factually accurate."

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 04:14:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As Abortion Rate Drops, Use of RU-486 Is on Rise - washingtonpost.com

Thirty-five years after the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision, a pill that has largely faded from the rancorous public debate over abortion has slowly and quietly begun to transform the experience of ending a pregnancy in the United States.

The French abortion pill RU-486, on the market since 2000, has become an increasingly common alternative, making abortion less clinical and more private. At a time when the overall number of abortions has been steadily declining, RU-486-induced abortions have been rising by 22 percent a year and now account for 14 percent of the total -- and more than one in five early abortions performed by the ninth week of pregnancy.

The pill, often called "miffy" after its chemical name mifepristone and brand name Mifeprex, also has helped slow the decline in abortion providers, as more physicians who previously did not perform the procedure discreetly start to prescribe the pill.

"The impact and the promise is huge," said Beth Jordan, medical director of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. "It's going a long way towards normalizing abortion.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 04:15:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Feeling Misled on Home Price, Buyers Are Suing Their Agent - New York Times

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Marty Ummel feels she paid too much for her house. So do millions of other people who bought at the peak of the housing boom.

What makes Ms. Ummel different is that she is suing her agent, saying it was all his fault.

Ms. Ummel claims that the agent hid the information that similar homes in the neighborhood were selling for less because he feared she would back out and he would lose his $30,000 commission.

Real estate lawyers and brokers say the case, which goes to trial in North County Superior Court on Monday, is likely to be the first of many in which regretful or resentful buyers seek redress from the agents who found them a home and arranged its purchase.


Agents representing buyers rarely had the opportunity to make mistakes during the last real estate boom, in the late 1980s, because the job hardly existed then. For decades, residential transactions almost always involved brokers who, whatever assistance they gave the buyer, legally represented only the seller.

The long boom that began in the late 1990s put an end to that one-sided world. As prices spiked, buyer's agents and brokers became popular as sounding boards, advisers and negotiators. The National Association of Realtors estimates they are now involved in two-thirds of all residential purchases.

That makes this the first housing collapse in which large numbers of buyers had a real estate professional explicitly looking after their interests. The Ummel case poses the question: In a relationship built on trust, where promises are rarely written down and where -- as in this case -- there is no signed contract, what are the exact obligations of these representatives in guiding their clients through a sizzling market?

"Agents have a lot of fiduciary duties, but they don't make money unless they close the sale," said Joel Ruben, a real estate lawyer in Manhattan Beach, Calif. "In an inflated market, there are built-in temptations to cut corners."

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 04:31:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by autofran (autofran@mac.com) on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:12:02 PM EST
Venetian transport leaves tourists high and dry - International Herald Tribune

VENICE: City officials on Monday launched a new waterbus line here with one particular feature: No day-tripper tourists allowed.

The new line - reserved for holders of the Carta Venezia pass - was introduced to lessen the impact of the estimated 20 million people who visit Venice each year on the city's beleaguered residents, numbering about 60,000 in the historic center at the end of last year.

"It's an extra service for residents who are forced bear the brunt of mass tourism," said Mayor Massimo Cacciari.

"It's evident that tourism is growing," the mayor said during an interview on the line's maiden voyage. "If people want to come to Venice they can come, but we have to allow residents to live better."

Marcello Panettoni, director general of the Venice transport authority, said the new line was a response to citizens' complaints that the hordes of tourists cramming onto waterbuses, with luggage in tow, had been leaving residents on dry land.

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:20:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Satirical Carnival Float: Germany Makes Fun of England's Football Woes - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

Germany's carnival is thumbing its nose at English football this year with a float that reflects pure, unadulterated Schadenfreude at England's failure to qualify for the European Football Championship.

In the design for the carnival float, Germany thumbs its nose at the English knight, condemned to watching the tournament on the television. The message reads: "We're Off to the European Championship Without England." Germany's main carnival parade this year will poke fun at England for failing to qualify for the European Football Championship in June -- with a float depicting a paper-mache English knight in football shorts watching the tournament on TV while the rest of Europe laughs at him.

The float will be paraded through Cologne on Feb. 4, Rose Monday, in a procession that usually attracts well over a million people and is broadcast nationwide.

"We often see the English as very big-headed when it comes to football, and it's good to take a swipe at them," Christoph Kuckelkorn, the director of the procession, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "This is my third year in the job and I've been trying to give the parade a little more bite."

It's the latest salvo in an age-old footballing rivalry between the two nations that has simmered since 1966, when England won the World Cup by beating Germany 4-2. Ask any German over five about that match and they will point out that England's third goal should not have been allowed. Ask any England fan, and they will reply: "So what?"

by Fran on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 12:20:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
'Tree Of Life' Has Lost A Branch, According To Largest Genetic Comparison Of Higher Life Forms Ever
ScienceDaily (Jan. 22, 2008) -- Norwegian and Swiss biologists have made a startling discovery about the relationship between organisms that most people have never heard of. The Tree of Life must be re-drawn, textbooks need to be changed, and the discovery may also have significant impact on the development of medicines.

The discovery by Norwegian and Swiss researchers has gained attention from biologists worldwide. The findings come from the largest ever genetic comparison of higher life forms on the planet. Of 5000 genes examined, researchers identified 123 common genes from all known groups of organisms; these common genes have been studied more closely.

Lost a Branch

"The results were pretty astounding. All non-bacterial life on Earth--called eukaryotic life-- can now be divided into four main groups instead of the five groups that we have been working with up to now," says Kamran Shalchian-Tabrizi, an associate professor from the University of Oslo's Department of Biology who has also worked with the Department of Zoology and Animal Biology and the Department of Genetic Medicine and Development, at the University of Geneva, Switzerland.

The Tree of Life (see illustration) has, through the discovery that the two formerly separated branches share a similar evolutionary history, lost one of its branches, and this will both improve and simplify quite a bit of scientific work in the future.


"The Tree of Life tells the story of life on Earth, and our research can say something about how quickly life developed. Our discovery suggests that there were fewer big "events" than we have previously assumed in the development of higher life forms. The more we know about the branches on the Tree of Life, the more we can find out about life's Big Bang, the beginning of life on Earth," says Shalchian-Tabrizi.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 04:34:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Courtesy of Google in my gmail mailbox...

Discovery Channel: Discovery News (January 17 2008)

In the rush to shore up or rebuild aging highway bridges, dams and other crumbling U.S. infrastructure, one question has been overlooked: Which infrastructures are we better off without?

A team of engineers and ecologists contend the United States is at a critical point in its history, when the smartest strategy for dealing with certain old, nearly useless dams, levees, roads, bridges, offshore oil platforms and other structures is to remove them.

"Rehabilitation might not be rehabilitation, but removal," said Martin Doyle, an environmental geographer and river specialist at the University of North Carolina. Doyle is the lead author of a paper on the challenges and opportunities posed by today's infrastructure crisis published in the Jan. 18 issue of Science. "I'm not talking about blowing up Hoover Dam," he added.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 05:33:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by autofran (autofran@mac.com) on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:12:21 PM EST
Good morning to all. This is another early and long, springlike, day ahead for me.

Hope you all have a nice one.

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:31:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good morning, and thanks for the special focus section-- much calmer reading about the markets than some of the comments over at DKos.
by lychee on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 04:55:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sweeping statement of a love affair with bling - Times Online

It would not be Paris without the distant rumble of discontent. So when the cherished haute couture shows of France - those twice yearly celebrations of ultra-bling - got under way yesterday with the usual ode to extravagance at Dior, the French media continued to grumble ominously about their President Bling-Bling.

There may be an irony in this. Or there may not. The French mentality does not appear to have any difficulty drawing a distinction between vulgar-for-the-sake-of-it vulgarity (Sarkozy and his supermodel girlfriend/fiancée/wife) and work-of-art vulgarity produced by honest artisans. Perhaps that is why Marie-Antoinette, the original Madame Bling, got the chop and Rose Bertin, the architect of some of her most flamboyant frocks, lived to dress Josephine Bonaparte.

Perhaps the truth is that French culture does not have a problem with vulgar clothes so much as with the people who wear them. All that really matters is that couture remains a proud flag-waver for the nation and, as of recently, one that is sort of making money.

According to Le Figaro sales are up 30 and 40 per cent at Givenchy and Lacroix respectively; Chanel has increased production - if that isn't too prosaic a word for something that can take hundreds of hours to hand stitch - by 20 per cent, up from 350 pieces in 2006. The number of couture houses may be down from 106 just before the outbreak of the Second World War to six today but France can hold its head high.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 12:04:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All that really matters is that couture remains a proud flag-waver for the nation

I don't think most French people give a damn one way or another about haute couture.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 02:15:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Skip ahead to the 3 minute mark of this video for a good explanation of the current market turmoil.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 03:30:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Random question: how does one use one credit card to pay off another? Withdraw cash from the first card?

I only ask because I was watching one of the UK news programmes last night and some drooling idiot of an economic commentator said "We've all  had the experience of using our Mastercard to pay off our Visa" and Sam and I wondered how that works since we've never been insane or desperate enough to try to do that.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 05:11:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can use a "balance transfer", especially since periodically you'll get a promotional offer of 0% interest on balance transfers (for a fee, though). You can't use balance transfers between cards from the same provider.

Or if you're really dumb and desperate you can use a cash advance at an exorbitant interest rate from one card to get cash to pay the other one.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 05:17:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Today at 5 am I arrived to Kolkata from Puri. Yesterday visited famous black pagoda - Sun Temple in Konark, it is famous for erotic sculptures but they are not seen from the ground, their photos available from hawkers.
Otherwise from Orissa I have not so good impressions, the state is sadly undeveloped, garbage and litter everywhere, people are quite rough (even in tourist industry where they try to be nice but hiccups occur here and there).
Kolkata is at its usual. After arrival I decided to cross to the city by Howrah bridge by walking, first it was too early for hoteliers to wake up, second - there is underbridge flower market, a feast for eyes.
While I was making photos, one lay man and one policeman warned me not to make photos on the bridge.
Such a leftover from the past, people are still suspicious when I tried to make pics of innocent buildings and institutions or just frenetic street scenes.
After crossing the bridge I was walking walking into Northern Kolkata, 6 am but everywhere I have seen children in school uniform, workers brushing their teeth and washing themselves up on the streets, pavements broken, buildings weathered, etc. I stay in modest hotel on Mirza Ghalib St, which is in complete mess, as municipal authorities are digging this road (apparently to put down some communications). I had a lunch in Pizza Hut in smart mall on Camac St 22, just to the south from Park St (never mind that across the road yet another dump site spilled over Camac St), then went to Victoria Memorial to photograph it at sunset. Ticket to the park ground surrounding museum costed me 4 Rs or 10 cents. On the way there I made photos of cricketers and just people seeking respite from the city on extensive lawns called Maidan, it was sadly littered. The biggest disappointment - city has no decent bookshops, at least I could not find any. Oxford bookshop on Park St is overpriced and has meagre selection, absolutely no books on Bengal or North Eastern India' history.
I remember it was the same lack of interest in serious books in Mumbai, only novels or textbooks.
For tomorrow I have not decided yet, possibly i'll visit Dakshineshwar and Belur Math of Ramakrishna society, the day after tomorrow I'm leaving by Darjeeling Mail to Himalaya.
by FarEasterner on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 08:34:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:13:22 PM EST
With autofran I can not position this section further up - so could you please uprate it, so that it moves up. thanks!
by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:14:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Crash! Biggest fall in shares since September 11 - Independent Online Edition > Business News

t was the day that the fear factor took over. From Asia to South America, share prices tumbled yesterday as the world's investors gambled that a US recession was now inevitable. In London, the City endured its darkest day since the nadir of 9/11. What Alan Greenspan once called the "irrational exuberance" of traders gambling on rising asset values has gone. In its place, a deep-rooted pessimism has taken hold.

In a single session, a massive £84bn was wiped off the value of Britain's biggest companies, as the FTSE 100 index plummeted by 5.5 per cent, closing 323.5 points lower at 5578.2. Last week the index dipped beneath the 6,000 mark for the first time since the credit crunch began in August. It was the eighth consecutive day of losses. Since Christmas Eve, the FTSE has dropped by almost 1,000 points and last night analysts were predicting further falls.

While President George Bush has authorised an economic rescue package to address the US sub-prime crisis, market experts believe the plan has come too late. And no one believes the world's other major economies will remain unscathed as America plunges into an economic downturn. For the world's biggest companies, recession in an export market as vital as the US can only spell trouble.

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:15:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pretty clear now that a US recession cannot be just shrugged off by China or the rest of the world.

Looks pretty ugly our there.

by HiD on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 12:40:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you owe China a billion dollars, it's your problem.  If you owe China a brazillion dollars, it's China's problem.

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 10:41:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
there was a speical programme on Radio4 this morning. It was strange how the analysis seemed pretty accurate on what had gone wrong and why. However, it was equally disconcerting to hear City brokers and analysts speaking confidently about how the Far East will bail them all out and how there are plenty of other markets gagging for investiment and "don't worry, the markets won't tolerate strict regulation so we'll all be back on the gracy train tomorrow".

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 11:46:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's not forget that when someone says "the markets will like this or hate that", what it expresses is the will of the wealthy. One dollar, one vote. Welcome back to censitary voting.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misres
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 12:08:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Asian markets continue plunge - CNN.com

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Japan's Nikkei index plunged below 13,000 for the first time in more than two years Tuesday as global markets tumbled on fears that a U.S. economic slowdown will lead to a global recession.

Tokyo investors are worried about how a possible U.S. recession could hurt exporters' profits.

After dropping more than 3 percent on Monday, the Nikkei fell nearly 5 percent on opening Tuesday. Across the Korea Strait in South Korea, Seoul's KRX 100 index was down about 4 percent.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index, which fell 5.5 percent on Monday -- its largest percentage drop since the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States -- fell another 5 percent in opening trading on Tuesday.

Shares in India's Sensex fell nearly 11 percent -- a four-month low -- on Monday.

The Australian Securities Exchange was down nearly 5 percent, and the Singapore stock exchange was down about 3.7 percent in early trading.

Europe's main three indices, the FT-100 in London, the CAC 40 in Paris and the DAX in Frankfurt fell between 5 and 7 percent on Monda

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:16:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tokyo just closed at -752.89 or -5.7%.

I am beginning to enjoy watching clever American and Brit bankers panic. Even talks are the same; e.g., "soft landing v. hard landing" is exactly what we tirelessly debated 15 years ago.

When you feel that the market hit the bottom and can't go any further down, it will plunge again, and again and....

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 01:32:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hong Kong is down 9 % now.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 01:40:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I heard two different idiots on French public radio this morning suggest it was a good time to buy "to the sound of cannon".
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 02:10:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
or when blood splashes over the walls?
by Xavier in Paris on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 02:38:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought that noise was the thud of brokers impacting upon pavement.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 04:10:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Humor is getting a bit grim around here but I love it!

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 01:51:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah-ha, speculators have black monday.
by FarEasterner on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 08:01:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]

EU Officials Call for Calm as Stock Markets Plunge | Business | Deutsche Welle | 21.01.2008
Top European finance officials stressed on Monday, Jan. 21, that their economies remained solid as global stock markets plunged on concerns about a risk of recession in the United States.

"The excess of volatility of the markets is not good news," EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said as he arrived for a meeting of euro zone finance ministers due to focus on financial sector stability.


"I hope they will become more quiet because at least in Europe the fundamentals of our economies are sound," Almunia added. "It seems that the markets are considering the possibility of a more pronounced slowdown, even a recession in the US."


Global stock markets skidded deep into the red as US President George W. Bush's tax plans to revive the world's largest economy left investors disappointed.

by Fran on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 11:18:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
World markets plunge on US recession fears - Times Online

More than £77 billion was wiped off the value of Britain's stock market yesterday in its biggest one-day percentage loss since September 11, 2001. Shares across the world plunged over fears that the threatened US recession will undermine the global economy.

London's leading shares tumbled by 5.5 per cent in brutal market conditions, with the FTSE 100 index losing more than 323 points, its steepest points fall on record, to end the day at 5,578.2.

George Soros, the billionaire investor who prompted Britain's withdrawal from the European exchange-rate mechanism on Black Wednesday in 1992, said the situation was "much more serious than any financial crisis since the end of the war". Investors were "drowning in a sea of red," said Henk Potts, an equity strategist at Barclays Stockbrokers.

The losses in London and across Europe came as global markets remained fearful that President Bush's plans for tax cuts to stave off a US recession would not give a big enough boost to growth. Warnings from two leading US banks that the losses from America's sub-prime home loans crisis were spreading to China triggered a sell-off of shares in Asia, which quickly rippled around the world.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 12:06:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Seen in the figaro in France, from french COFACE chairman (state based company specialised in export risk insurance)

«Pas de récession aux États-Unis cette année»

No recession in US this year

Aujourd'hui, nous constatons une augmentation lente des défauts de paiements, ce qui devrait, selon nous, amputer la croissance mondiale de 0,3 à 0,4 point de base. Nous ne croyons pas au scénario d'un recul du produit intérieur brut (PIB) pendant deux trimestres consécutifs, qui constitue la règle pour qualifier une récession.

Today, we can see a slow increase in US companies failure to pay debts, which could lead to a decrease around 0,3 to 0,4 GNP points. We do not believe to the two quarters long GNP decrease, which is how is qualified a recession.

I beg your pardon for the translation, which is a bit awkward, but I'm just posting this before going to a meeting, and it ma have been a bit quick.

by Xavier in Paris on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 02:48:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Grr, I'm going to be asleep for the NYSE's bloodbath this morning.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 03:12:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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