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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 29 October

by Fran Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:40:39 PM EST

On this date in history:

1882 - Birth of Jean Giraudoux, a French novelist, essayist, diplomat and playwright. He is considered among the most important French dramatists of the period between World War I and World War.(d. 1944)

More here and here


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by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:41:11 PM EST
Financial crisis builds Polish euro-entry momentum - EUobserver

The financial crisis is building momentum for Poland to swiftly join the EU's single currency on 1 January 2012, with a positive political climate for the euro also developing in the Nordic states.

"The world crisis has shown that it's safer to be with the strong, among the strong and to have influence on the decisions of the strong," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Monday (27 October), adding that his pro-euro policy is "not based on any orthodoxy, any ideology" of deepening EU integration.

Warsaw - almost two third of Poles are keen on euro entry ahead of a potential referndum

The remarks came after a meeting with the chief of Poland's main opposition party, Law and Justice head Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who opposes an early entry date and wants Poland to hold a referendum on the move.

"I am not excluding that Poland's entry into the euro zone could be played out in a referendum," Mr Tusk said, PAP reports. "The suggestion of a calendar to change the constitution [to allow the currency shift] and then a referendum is worth considering, but it would have to take place fast."

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:45:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fran:
"The world crisis has shown that it's safer to be with the strong, among the strong and to have influence on the decisions of the strong," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Monday (27 October), adding that his pro-euro policy is "not based on any orthodoxy, any ideology" of deepening EU integration.

It's hard to express how mismatched these words and actions seem.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 07:48:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mediterranean tuna fishery reduced, but not banned - EUobserver

Threatened bluefin tuna stocks in the Mediterranean won a reprieve although not a ban on the fishery from EU ministers on Monday (27 October), who agreed to a common position on fishing for tuna ahead of an international meeting on the conservation of Atlantic tuna next month.

Fisheries ministers, meeting in Luxembourg requested the European Commission press for greater protection for the tuna at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, from 17-24 November.

Deepsea fisheries saw reductions to their quotas

ICCAT manages regional fisheries, including Mediterranean bluefin tuna stocks.

The ministers are wiling to accept reduced quotas for the tuna, a shortened fishing season and increased controls, but ruled out a complete ban.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:52:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Steve Richards: At this rate, it won't be long before we're joining the euro - Steve Richards, Commentators - The Independent

The calls for a significant cut in interest rates get louder. In the US there is speculation that before very long rates will be close to zero. The long list of those keeping their fingers crossed here that the Bank of England will deliver a headline-grabbing reduction next week includes home-owners with big mortgages, small businesses, big businesses, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister.

The first three on the list are not surprising. It would be odd if those who owe large sums were looking desperately for a rise in the cost of borrowing. One one level the last two make sense as well. Of course Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling are not biting their fingernails in the hope that interest rates soar. Yet their appearances on the list still seem a little strange, the newly mighty Prime Minister and more self assured Chancellor praying helplessly at the altar of the Bank.

Their subservience is the consequence of the government's supposedly one unequivocally successful policy. The Bank of England's independence is seen widely as Mr Brown's great historic move, the one that brought about economic stability for a decade. But gaping cracks are starting to appear now that the economy has slid in to recession, and Mr Brown, credited in some quarters for saving the world, waits to hear what the non-elected Governor and his anonymous committee of worthy academics decides to do next. It was all so much easier in the good times.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:53:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU, Russia To Resume Partnership Talks Despite Georgia | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 28.10.2008
French foreign minister says the EU is back on track to restart partnership negotiations with Russia. But that does not mean Moscow and the bloc have settled their differences over the Caucasus.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner announced the resumption of talks on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in St. Petersburg.

Those talks had been put on hold, after Russia launched military action against Georgia's attempt to retake control of the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in late summer.

"I want to underline the EU-Russian partnership talks were never suspended, they were simply delayed," Kouchner told journalists after his talks with Lavrov.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:54:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just kind stand Kouchner...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:21:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry CAN'T STAND

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:22:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Me neither. But talks on partnership with Russia are good.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:56:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Definitely!

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 06:53:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EU Must Honor Africa Aid Commitments: EU Parliament Chief | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 28.10.2008
European Union members must stick by their commitments to aid on Africa, irrespective of the global financial crisis, European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pottering said Tuesday, Oct. 28.

"It would be completely immoral if we didn't stick to these promises. It is our duty to prevent this continent becoming separated from the rest of the world," Pottering told a media briefing in Johannesburg.

Compared with the several hundred billion dollars industrialized countries were ploughing into shoring up their banking systems, the amount needed to avoid hunger in the world - which he put at 30 billion euros ($37.5 billion) - was small change, he said.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:56:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Compared with the several hundred billion dollars industrialized countries were ploughing into shoring up their banking systems, the amount needed to avoid hunger in the world - which he put at 30 billion euros ($37.5 billion) - was small change, he said.

kinda puts it all into perspective, huh?

 anyone who thinks the banks will only need several hundred billion of the peoples' money is snorting horse tranquilizer, hell that will barely pay the bonuses and platinum parachutes.

it's a vicious cycle...the more they pay themselves, impoverishing taxpayers, the less worth money has, people feel poorer, and need more credit from banks, making banks richer...

the less money is worth, the more fear the rich feel, so they get greedier, and invent more highflying games, couched in doublebubblenew-speak that use money to make money (that's hard work), using underpaid immigrant labour to throw up apartments in dubai and double their investments in 3-6 months, or go privatise bolivian rain.

and hannity types will crow that these are the movers and shakers we need for a good economy, on media outlets that conveniently are owned by interests that thrive on war and social injustice, and they deserve medals for it, madness...

this will not stand, obviously!

thanks fran, snippets like that shed some light in the murk.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 at 01:02:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Europe | Georgia denies war crimes claim

President Mikhail Saakashvili has denied that Georgia's armed forces committed war crimes during their attack on South Ossetia in August.

Evidence obtained by the BBC in the breakaway region suggests Georgia used indiscriminate force, and may have targeted civilians.

Witnesses said tanks had fired on an apartment block, and civilians were shot at as they fled the fighting.

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband has raised the issue with Tbilisi.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 05:26:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The lower house of czech parliament started to discuss ratification of the radar treaties (radar and SOFA) today after the opposition failed to remove it from the program.

The senate is expected to vote on them tomorrow as it's the last session of the senate with before new senators are sworn in. Previously the ruling ODS had a majority in the senate.

by jv (euro@junkie.cz) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 06:07:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is obstruction possible in the Czech Senate?

Also, could you diary this with later developments?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 08:00:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
SPECIAL FOCUS - Finances
by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:41:43 PM EST
Cause of the Financial Breakdown: It's Not a Crisis of Confidence - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

The real problem with the economy is that long accepted patterns of cross-border technology transfer, trade and finance are simply unsustainable.

Looks like a financial crisis, smells like one, too... Is the market and economic turmoil nothing more than a crisis of confidence? To listen to Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson, you might think so. "At the root of the problem is a loss of confidence by investors and the public in the strength of key financial institutions and markets," Bernanke told the Economic Club of New York on Oct. 15.

On Oct. 20, Paulson went further, explaining the bank recapitalization program this way: "Our purpose is to increase confidence in our banks and increase the confidence of our banks so that they will deploy, not hoard, their capital. And we expect them to do so, as increased confidence will lead to increased lending."

The implication of the Bernanke-Paulson view is that the underlying economic system is fundamentally sound, so that restoring trust in the financial system will put us back on a growth course. From that perspective, the infusion of massive amounts of capital into banks, which replaces the money lost in bad mortgages, will enable lending to begin again. Once investors see that all is well, then they will cease their irrational behavior, and start putting money back into stock markets and companies around the world.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:44:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How long can the US balloon its national debt, manufacture less and less, and things just "keep on"?

Why do I feel that this path is non-sustainable?  I was raised in different times and I'm not "with it"?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 05:27:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Stock Market this, interest rates that, and well-paying jobs keep leaving the US.  For how long?  Till everyone is in the entertainment industry or mowing lawns?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 05:29:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and most importantly in the Army...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:26:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ooooh.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 10:21:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ECB chief indicates fresh interest rate cuts - EUobserver

The European Central Bank's president, Jean-Claude Trichet, has indicated that the bank could cut interest rates at its nearest meeting as economic trends across the monetary union and the whole of the EU worsen.

"I consider possible that the governing council will decrease interest rates once again at its next meeting on November 6," Mr Trichet said at a banking conference in Madrid on Monday (27 October), according to Reuters.

Mr Trichet says the ECB will cut rates if the shape of eurozone's economy will require so

"It is not a certainty, it is a possibility," he added.

If realised, the ECB's move would come as the second reduction of interest rates within one month, following a cut in early October from 4.25 to 3.75 percent, in a co-ordinated move with five other central banks, including the US Federal Reserve.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:45:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Business | Iceland's interest rate up to 18%

Iceland's central bank has raised its key interest rate to 18% from 12% as the country battles against a complete financial collapse.

The increase comes less than two weeks after it cut rates from 15.5%.

News of the rise came as Iceland's prime minister said the country needed another $4bn (£2.6bn) in loans.

Iceland has been struggling to avoid collapse since it was forced to take over its three biggest banks, which had been hit by the credit crunch.

The prime minister made his comments on the sidelines of a meeting with other Nordic countries.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:46:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany Seeks to Block French Plans on Tackling Financial Crisis | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 28.10.2008
French President Sarkozy's advocacy of state intervention to tackle the global financial meltdown has raised hackles in Germany. Chancellor Merkel is leading efforts to stymie greater government control of money markets.

As EU governments scramble to shore up their teetering banks and reassure jittery investors and citizens amid a worsening credit crisis and looming recession, fears are growing of a widening rift between Europe's largest economies, France and Germany, over how to handle the financial crisis.

 

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who holds the rotating EU presidency, has called for an "economic government" for the 15-nation euro zone and urged EU countries to take stakes in strategic industries as the financial crisis bites. The French president has also announced the creation of a sovereign wealth fund for France to protect key firms from hostile foreign takeovers.

 

Sarkozy is reportedly pushing his plans ahead of emergency talks on the global market turmoil in Washington on Nov. 15 between the world's richest nations and largest emerging economies.

 

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:47:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jousting Egos: Germany and France Compete for Role of Financial Savior - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

As tremors shake markets around the world, European partners Germany and France have gone separate ways in fighting the crisis. Sarkozy wants to bring banks and threatened industries under the government's protection, but Merkel is opposing such state intervention.

Nicolas Sarkozy has a talent for timing. The French president knows exactly when to shine a spotlight on himself. Timing, one of the indispensable requisites of statesmanship, is critical in politics.

On Tuesday of last week, the time had come, once again, for a forceful appearance. Sarkozy, wearing a dark suit and a purple shirt, stood in front of the members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, insisting on the need for a "European economic government." It sounded like high diplomacy, at least until the president mentioned his first concrete proposal. In the future, Sarkozy said, governments, through state-owned funds, should hold direct stakes in important companies, not just banks. "We cannot continue the way we have been going," he told his audience.

Sarkozy is also a man of quick decisions. Two days later, the first fund in France was already a done deal, and it is expected to have been established by the end of the year.

The climate is undoubtedly right for far-reaching proposals. Four weeks ago, no responsible politician would have dared to call for the nationalization of entire industries, and he would have been ridiculed or pronounced insane if he had done so. But then the financial crisis still appeared to be an American problem.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:55:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The German government is trying to let on that it does not want this economic government because it does not like what the French propose for it. But this is a ploy, of sorts. It would be small trouble for the German government to state that while they support the idea of economic governance at the EU level, they want to arrange it differently. They would probably have enough support from other eurozone countries to shape it in a way that is closer to what they would propose than to what the French are proposing.

So what this is about right now is just stalling and obstructing any kind of further move towards economic governance at the EU level. The German position is reactive. This bodes ill for any kind of effective common action among EU countries, whether through the EU or between governments.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 06:05:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So what this is about right now is just stalling and obstructing any kind of further move towards economic governance at the EU level.

And why would Germany not want that?

They're going to find themselves with the EU presiding over a currency shock of the Asian type between  Euro/non-euro currencies due to freedom of movement for capital, and no economic governance to deal with it.

So much talk about asymmetric shocks within the Eurozone and now we're looking at an asymmetric shock due to excessive lending by Eurozone banks to non-Eurozone EU countries.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 06:16:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
And why would Germany not want that?

Inertia? I don't know. They used to see economic governance as a French plan to push through France's ideas about economic policy on the EU level, but I have no idea why that should still be the case, looking at the countries in the eurozone.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 06:29:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would appear to them "EU Economic Governance" means "whatever the Bundesbank says, goes".

Maybe Germany will really let the Euro implode?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 06:59:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"whatever the Bundesbank says, goes"

It does unfortunately look as if Merkel is relying on this default position to repulse economic governance. Germany is not adverse to protecting its own strategic industries, so the laissez-faire type objections to French proposals don't seem sincere. Sarkozy is an annoying showman, but Merkel looks flat-footed at the moment.

All the scarier in that, whatever the Europe.Is.Doomed element in media communication on the subject, the risk of an Asian-type crisis with emerging CEE countries seems real.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 04:16:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I note that while what has been done could cause troubles all on itself, the further growth of the foreign-denominated loan bubble appears to be stemmed: after pressure from governments, several private banks announced that they are curbing or totally ending the issuing of such credits.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 07:54:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Investors Worried: VW Surge Plays Havoc with German Stock Index - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Speculators have lost billions in the current surge of Volkswagen's stock. Traders and investors are worried about how VW's wildly soaring share price is distorting Germany's stock market, the DAX. So far, market regulators are declining to intervene. ANZEIGE
var qcPage="www.spiegel.de/international/artikel"; if (qcPage.indexOf("center")==-1) { document.write(''); }

 VW on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange board -- the stock more than doubled again on Tuesday. The spectacular surge in Volkswagen's share price has burned speculators who had bet on a fall in the stock of Europe's largest carmaker in the financial crisis. Hedge funds lost up to €15 billion in just one day on Monday as VW stock prices skyrocketed, the Financial Times reported.

Those funds had entered into short-selling of VW shares -- selling borrowed VW stock hoping the price would fall so they could repay with lower-priced shares and pocket the profit -- and scrambled to buy VW stock when they saw the share price rise in the wake of sports car maker Porsche's announcement that it had increased its VW stake.

Such short-selling is always risky, but it rarely goes as wrong as it has with VW stock.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:49:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
M of A - Volkswagen Shorts Get Run Over

The financial turbulence brings up all kind of strange stories like Citibank's crazy business model. Here is another one.

As the recession settled in, car sales have tanked and car makers are in trouble. But this week Volkswagen shares exploded and for a few minutes Volkswagen was, on paper, the world's most expensive company. This is the mother of all short squeezes.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 05:09:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BP profits soar 148% on record oil prices - Times Online

BP reported third-quarter profits up 148 per cent to $10 billion (£6.4 billion) amid growing concern that oil companies are not passing on the benefits of lower oil prices to consumers.

The oil giant said this morning that it had benefited from crude prices hitting a record of $147 a barrel in mid-July, although the company had lost some production due to hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and Russia's invasion of Georgia.

BP's better-than-expected figures are likely to prompt controversy over whether the world's major oil companies are passing on lower costs to consumers quickly enough.

The price of oil has fallen rapidly from its peak in July to $63.41 today and Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave warning last week that he would call in the Office of Fair Trading if producers did not pass the benefits of lower prices on to consumers.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:49:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interview with Swiss Foreign Minister: 'German Finance Minister Fomenting Prejudice' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück blasted Switzerland last week for being a haven for tax dodgers. Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey says the attack was unwarrented. Germany, she says, "obviously needs money."

The Swiss are not happy about German accusations that they are soft on tax evaders. Here, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey. SPIEGEL: Ms. Calmy-Rey, German Minister of the Finance Peer Steinbrück threatens to include Switzerland on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) black list of tax havens. He says that in the future both the carrot and stick should be used. As a result, you requested a meeting with the German ambassador. Why are you so angry?

Calmey-Rey: We were astonished and above all disappointed by his tone. I deplore his comments. This is not how to talk with a partner country. The substance of the statements is also false. Our banking confidentiality does not make us a tax haven -- our taxation levels put us in the middle of the pack of OECD states.

SPIEGEL: Steinbrück says that Switzerland's confidentiality rules are an open invitation to Germans looking to evade taxes. Isn't there some truth to this?

Calmey-Rey: No. We have a double tax treaty with Germany. We are very active in the fight against tax fraud and have signed a similar agreement with the EU -- something not even all EU member states have done. And we are administering a withholding tax on interest from the EU countries of origin -- 131 million Swiss francs went to Germany in 2007 alone. Where else does one country levy taxes for another?

SPIEGEL: But Swiss banking secrecy also protects German tax evaders.

Calmey-Rey: Tax evasion is also traced and punished in Switzerland, but in an administrative rather than criminal proceeding. In addition, we provide administrative assistance to foreign investigators.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:51:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Our banking confidentiality does not make us a tax haven

The large numbers of "high-worth" individuals residing in Switzerland or using its banking facilities must have got something wrong.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 04:28:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Commission warns crisis could cause subsidy race - EUobserver

European Union competition commissioner Neelie Kroes has urged EU countries to avoid a "subsidy race" while trying to protect business from recession, saying that one state's cure can't aggravate the other one's illness.

"There is no national route out of this crisis. It would be a disaster to start a subsidy race with member states spending money not to deal with the underlying problems, but to deal with the problems caused by other member states' subsidies", Ms Kroes said in a speech delivered at The Centre, a Brussels think-tank, on Tuesday (28 October).

Neelie Kroes says Europe cannot afford to have one member state's cure aggravating the illness of others.

The appeal came just hours after the European Commission approved Germany's €500 billion rescue package for banks and stated it is "preparing to grant financial assistance to Hungary".

Ms Kroes stressed the importance of state aid rules to prevent "beggar-thy-neighbour national responses" by ensuring that aid does not give recipients a disproportionate advantage and putting them in a privileged position in relation to their competitors.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:54:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh. So a tax cut race to the bottom is okay, but a subsidy race is not. But what would you expect of Neelie.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 07:44:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Iceland Hopes for Support from Nordic Neighbours | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 28.10.2008
Economic output in Iceland was estimated to drop some 10 per cent next year, the prime minister of Iceland said Monday, Oct. 27, leading to calls for help to the country's Nordic neighbors.

"We are going to get through this crisis and move on," Prime Minister Geir Haarde told reporters before a meeting of Nordic prime ministers in Finland.

Haarde said he hoped the cash-strapped North Atlantic nation will be able to get loans from its Nordic neighbours.

The global financial crisis that has battered Iceland was one of the main topics at the meeting of the Nordic Council organization that groups Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden as well as three self-ruling territories including Greenland.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:57:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
nrc.nl - International - Dutch government invests three billion in Aegon
The Dutch government is to invest three billion euros in the Dutch insurance company Aegon. In return for the financial aid, the state will appoint two non-executive directors at Aegon. The move was announced by the company and the finance ministry on Tuesday morning.

Aegon needs "a more substantial buffer" to support its AA credit rating, the company said.

Aegon is the second Dutch company that has applied for a capital injection from a government fund set up earlier this month to help fundamentally healthy financial institutions cope with the worldwide credit crisis. Last week the ING bank applied for ten billion euros from the fund.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 06:23:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
WORLD
by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:42:04 PM EST
Report Finds Iraq Water Treatment Project to Be Late, Faulty and Over Budget - NYTimes.com

A huge American-financed wastewater treatment plant in the desert city of Falluja, which United States troops assaulted twice to root out insurgents in 2004, was supposed to be the centerpiece of an effort to rebuild Iraq, a country smashed by war and neglect, and bring Western standards of sanitation.

Instead, the project, which has tripled in cost from original plans to $100 million and has fallen about three years behind schedule, has become an example of the failed and often oversold program to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure with American dollars and skill.

The project was so poorly conceived that there is no reliable electricity to run pumps and purification tanks, and no money left to connect homes to the main sewer lines, which now run uselessly beneath Falluja's streets, according to a report by federal investigators to be released Monday.

The report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent federal office led by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., stops short of saying that officials with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which has primary responsibility for the project, or the American Embassy's own reconstruction bureau, the Iraq Transition Assistance Office, deliberately withheld information on the problems.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:43:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We're number one!  We're number one!

IN INCOMPETENCE !

I can't believe I'm living through the "America sucks just so much" phase of history.  The election of Obama might be the high point in this Death Valley (or is that Valley of Death?).

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 05:37:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Come on. The killing in Falluja was pretty competent.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 05:19:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
2003's mass blowing up of shit infrastructure seems to have been managed successfully too.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 08:35:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And I thought I had a dark sense of humor.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 10:23:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
followers of Melkor.  It is unfortunate for the planet.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 10:31:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Analysis: Foreign Firms Gain Influence with US Campaign Gifts | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 28.10.2008
Foreign firms can make donations to American election campaigns if they have subsidiaries in the US. At least 17 German firms have contributed to the presidential race -- on both sides of the political fence.

The law is clear. Direct or indirect donations from foreigners in connection with elections at a national, state or local level are not permitted. Anyone who knowingly violates the law faces heavy fines or even jail time, according to the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA).

 

It seems like that's all there is to say on the topic of campaign donations from non-Americans. But it's not. In the United States, there's no law without an exception.

 

What is forbidden for foreign residents without a Green Card is allowed for foreign companies. The requirement is that they have an American subsidiary that sets up a Political Action Committee (PAC) to collect donations. The PAC then makes monetary contributions to national, state and local candidates.

 

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:44:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Africa | Somali pirates living the high life

"No information today. No comment," a Somali pirate shouts over the sound of breaking waves, before abruptly ending the satellite telephone call.

They wed the most beautiful girls; they are building big houses; they have new cars; new guns
Garowe resident Abdi Farah Juha
Life in Somalia's pirate townSomali pirates face battles at sea

He sounds uptight - anxious to see if a multi-million dollar ransom demand will be met.

He is on board the hijacked Ukrainian vessel, MV Faina - the ship laden with 33 Russian battle tanks that has highlighted the problem of piracy off the Somali coast since it was captured almost a month ago.

But who are these modern-day pirates?

According to residents in the Somali region of Puntland where most of the pirates come from, they live a lavish life.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:46:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany Urges International Help to Stabilize Pakistan | Germany | Deutsche Welle | 28.10.2008
German Foreign Minister Steinmeier called on the world to do more to help prevent looming economic collapse in Pakistan, a key ally in the international fight against terrorism.

"We believe that the international community has to do what it can, what is required of it, and that is to express its readiness to stand at the side of Pakistan," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Tuesday, Oct. 28, at a joint press briefing with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad.

 

Pakistan is facing a balance-of-payments crisis and has just a few weeks to raise billions of dollars in foreign loans needed to meet debt payments and pay for imports.

 

Steinmeier said an agreement on help for Pakistan was needed within days.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:48:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"We believe that the international community has to do what it can, what is required of it, and that is to express its readiness to stand at the side of Pakistan,"

And what on Earth does that mean in practice?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 07:38:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
U.S. cites self - defense in raiding Syria from Iraq - International Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON: A raid into Syria on Sunday was carried out by American Special Operations forces who killed an Iraqi militant responsible for running weapons, money and foreign fighters across the border into Iraq, American officials said.

The helicopter-borne attack into Syria was by far the boldest by American commandos in the five years since the United States invaded Iraq and began to condemn Syria's role in stoking the Iraqi insurgency.

The timing was startling, not least because American officials praised Syria in recent months for its efforts to halt traffic across the border.

But in justifying the attack, American officials said the Bush administration was determined to operate under an expansive definition of self-defense that provided a rationale for strikes on militant targets in sovereign nations without those countries' consent.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:49:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The World from Berlin: 'Bush's Way of Waving Goodbye to Syria?' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

The US says its cross-border raid into Syria killed a top terrorist. Still, international reaction has been intense and critical. While the German government has kept silent, media commentators haven't been shy about lambasting the US.

Syrians carry the coffin of one of the victims of Sunday's US raid inside Syrian territory. Following its surprise cross-border raid into Syria on Sunday, the United States has responded to a chorus of global consternation by revealing that the target of the attack had been a senior member of al-Qaida in charge of smuggling insurgents into Iraq.

Still, criticism of the unilateral attack has been intense. In Paris, the office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy released a statement Monday expressing "serious concern" and calling for "the strict respect of the territorial integrity of states." Javiar Solana, the EU's top foreign policy official, said that he was "worried" and hoped matters would quickly return to normal. The foreign ministries of China and Russia both joined the chorus, focusing their criticism on US violation of Syrian territory.

A senior US counterterror official told the Associated Press on Monday that the mission had targeted and killed Abu Ghadiyah, also known as Badran Turki Hishan al-Mazidih, a member of al-Qaida who coordinated the smuggling of insurgents via Syria into Iraq.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:56:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The US says its cross-border raid into Syria killed a top terrorist. Still,

What a preposterous wording! As if a claim by the USA is proof, as if an accusation of terrorism is enough grounds for an execution, as if the form of execution (with much collateral damage) is immaterial, as if sovereignity is irrelevant.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 07:36:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who the hell does the US think it is anyway? Israel?

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 01:17:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the Bush administration was determined to operate under an expansive definition of self-defense that provided a rationale for strikes on militant targets in sovereign nations without those countries' consent.

Except when the target is Osama Bin Laden.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 05:31:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Experts: Obama Presidency Likely To Disappoint Foreign Fans | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 28.10.2008
As the US presidential election enters its final week, the vast majority of the world is rooting for Barack Obama. But analysts say that high global expectations of the Democrat will lead to disappointment, if he wins.

On Monday, Barack Obama picked up another big endorsement, this time from the daily Financial Times in London -- a conservative-leaning newspaper usually sceptical of Democrats.

The FT's support is a measure of how much Europeans would prefer Obama over his Republican rival John McCain in the White House. Yet the wording of the paper's endorsement also hints that, whatever the election outcome, everything will not be hunky-dory.

"Rest assured that, should he win, Mr Obama is bound to disappoint," wrote the FT. "He is expected to heal the country's racial divisions, reverse the trend of rising inequality, improve middle-class living standards, cut almost everybody's taxes, transform the image of the United States abroad, end the losses in Iraq, deal with the mess in Afghanistan and much more besides."

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:53:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know Helen will be disappointed.  Or have you changed your mind?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 05:47:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Colin Powell as Mideast Peace Envoy? - Middle East Online

A quiet move is afoot in Europe to persuade the next American President to give Colin Powell the difficult task of reviving the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process, says Patrick Seale.

 

A quiet move is afoot in Europe to persuade the next American President to give Colin Powell, the distinguished U.S. soldier-statesman, the difficult task of reviving the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The idea has been discussed privately by influential European diplomats but has not yet won official support. It will evidently depend on whether Barack Obama wins next month's U.S. presidential elections. In any event, it is by no means certain that General Powell, who has served as Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would accept to play a Middle East role.

It is widely recognized, however, that a man of his stature could provide powerful backing for Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair who, as the Quartet's Middle East envoy, has been attempting to prepare Palestinian institutions for statehood in the face of tremendous obstacles. With a wider mandate, Blair and Powell together could make a formidable team.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 05:06:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wonder who were these glorious influential diplomats. With his Iraq record, Powell is not much more of a honest broker than the neocons.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 07:31:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bangkok Post | Business news | Iran oil-for-rice deal sought

Thailand is preparing to barter rice for oil from Iran as part of its attempt to empty the government's huge stockpiles more quickly. <...>

Iran is one of Thailand's major rice customers, purchasing around 600,000 tonnes of its one million tonnes in annual imports.

However, it has bought only 60,000 tonnes of Thai rice so far this year, staying on the sidelines during the first half of 2008 when Thai rice prices surged to a record high of $1,080 per tonne.

Iran has high demand for rice but no commercial banks accept letters of credit from Iran because of United Nations sanctions related to Teheran's nuclear programme. <...>

Mr Chaiya also said yesterday that the government might delay its plan to release 2.1 million tonnes of old rice from its stockpile, because prices have fallen and sales would be made at a loss. <...>

"We could hold back the plan for some time until Vietnam sells out its rice at cheaper prices, otherwise we would suffer losses," Mr Chaiya said.

Vietnamese traders currently quote rice export prices at around $400 per tonne, compared with $630 for Thailand's benchmark white rice.

According to Mr Chaiya, Vietnam is likely to speed up selling 400,000 tonnes of surplus rice before the harvesting of the new crop early next year.



Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:02:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Russian gas cartel talks in Tehran unnerve the West - NEW EUROPE - The European News Source
Officials from Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom, the world's largest gas producer, met counterparts from Iran and Qatar on October 21 to discuss setting up a natural gas cartel, similar to the oil-based Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The notion of a gas cartel was brought up in January 2007 by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but it is now gaining momentum and may require just a few more meetings before an accord is finalised. Iran, Russia and Qatar account for nearly a third of the world's natural gas exporters. <...>

... if one looks at the history of OPEC itself, when it was formed in Baghdad in 1960, it was reasonably irrelevant, but it became very relevant in 1973, Weafer said, referring to Yom Kippur oil crisis when the members of the cartel announced an oil embargo in response to the US decision to re-supply the Israeli military during the war. "I suppose that's what the West fears. With the organisation starting with a fairly sensible strategy of working together to develop the LNG business globally, the fear is that at some point it might change to a price-setting mechanism just as OPEC did as a result of the war in 1973 and obviously the rest is history," [Chris Weafer, chief strategist at UralSib investment bank in Moscow] said. A strengthening of economic ties between Tehran and Moscow could also be a source of concern for Washington, which is leading efforts to isolate Tehran and pressure Iran into abandoning its controversial nuclear programme.



Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:07:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
[Moustache of Understanding Alert]

Sleepless in Tehran - NYTimes.com

Have you seen the reports that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is suffering from exhaustion? It's probably because he is not sleeping at night. I know why. Watching oil prices fall from $147 a barrel to $57 is not like counting sheep. It's the kind of thing that gives an Iranian autocrat bad dreams.

After all, it was the collapse of global oil prices in the early 1990s that brought down the Soviet Union. And Iran today is looking very Soviet to me.

As Vladimir Mau, president of Russia's Academy of National Economy, pointed out to me, it was the long period of high oil prices followed by sharply lower oil prices that killed the Soviet Union. The spike in oil prices in the 1970s deluded the Kremlin into overextending subsidies at home and invading Afghanistan abroad -- and then the collapse in prices in the `80s helped bring down that overextended empire.

(Incidentally, this was exactly what happened to the shah of Iran: 1) Sudden surge in oil prices. 2) Delusions of grandeur. 3) Sudden contraction of oil prices. 4) Dramatic downfall. 5) You're toast.)

Chris, what's your take on this column?  Clearly Friedman is not hiding his anti-Iran colors very well, but what do you think of his point that low oil prices, if they continue, will be destabilizing to Iran's economy, and potentially the government?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:20:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
After all, it was the collapse of global oil prices in the early 1990s that brought down the Soviet Union

Let's focus on what's important here - how can I be smug when Friedman actually knows something that I do? Why can't he link falling oil prices to a slowdown in innovation in the telecom market or some such BS instead?

(not commenting on the Iran link, BTW, I have no idea on that, at least in the near term)

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:29:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As Vladimir Mau, president of Russia's Academy of National Economy, pointed out to me, it was the long period of high oil prices followed by sharply lower oil prices that killed the Soviet Union. The spike in oil prices in the 1970s deluded the Kremlin into overextending subsidies at home and invading Afghanistan abroad -- and then the collapse in prices in the `80s helped bring down that overextended empire.

How widespread is this point of view?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:39:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've never heard it before.
by Zwackus on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 07:17:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've read it in several places over the years, although it was never claimed to be the only reason.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 02:04:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was certainly a factor, but this is a hobbyhorse of mine: don't reduce the collapse of the Soviet Union to economics, because that's insufficient.

The Soviet Union survived much worse economic crises than at the end of the eighties/start of the nineties at its infacy, in the early Stalin years, and in the wake of WWII; and the North Korean dictatorship also survived a much worse collapse of the economy.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 02:18:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
THIS, THAT, AND THE OTHER
by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:42:33 PM EST
BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | Arctic ice thickness 'plummets'

The thickness of Arctic sea ice "plummeted" last winter, thinning by as much as 49 centimetres (1.6ft) in some regions, satellite data has revealed.

A study by UK researchers showed that the ice thickness had been fairly constant for the previous five winters.

The team from University College London added that the results provided the first definitive proof that the overall volume of Arctic ice was decreasing.

The findings have been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

"The ice thickness was fairly constant for the five winters before this, but it plummeted in the winter after the 2007 minimum," lead author Katherine Giles told BBC News.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:46:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Protestant Rome: Luther City Revisits the Reformation - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation in the German city of Wittenberg 500 years ago. But, today, only 10 percent of its population is Protestant. Church leaders have launched a major drive to change that -- but have come up against the city's communist past.

The Protestant Church is trying to make the birthplace of Protestantism more Protestant. It's impossible to walk through Wittenberg, also known as "Luther City," without stumbling across reminders of Martin Luther. There's the "Luther oak," then Luther Street, which leads to the Luther House. Along the way are restaurants offering a "Luther menu" (choice of meat or fish) and a travel agency touting a tour boat named after the city, which couples can book for their weddings. The bars serve Luther beer; the bakery has Luther bread. There's a huge memorial to Luther in the main marketplace. And the city is crawling with guides decked out in long frocks à la Luther. The city has been completely Lutherized.

Wittenberg, in fact, is as important to the history of Protestantism as Rome is for the Catholic Church. But there's an essential difference: While Rome is full of Catholics, less than 10 percent of Wittenberg's 46,000 citizens are Protestants.

The city has been the venue for a handful of miracles, such as apparitions of Mary or the comeback made by Russian Orthodoxy after 70 years of Soviet suppression. But in today's Wittenberg, the real miracle to behold is something more like a miracle of disbelief: Luther can't be avoided here, but the beliefs he stood for are easy to miss. An official from the organization responsible for the city's Protestant churches describes the ironic tension by saying it's "a tension that isn't always easy to take."

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:47:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Reformer's Rubbish: Archaeologists Unveil Secrets of Luther's Life - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Archeologists have uncovered Martin Luther's household waste, including beer mugs, toy marbles and a child's crossbow. The find is being shown in a new exhibition that casts the religious reformer's private life in a new light.

Brother Martin, a stout man, was sitting on the toilet in the Wittenberg Monastery, wearing the black robe of the Augustinian Order, when he was suddenly struck with the fundamental concept of his reformist body of thought.

Martin Luther himself noted, in two after-dinner speeches (Nos. 1681 and 3232b), that Protestantism was born in the sewer: "The spiritus sanctus imparted this creation to me on dis cloaca."

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:48:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm bugged by these articles on irreligiousness in former 'communist' states, where authors just can't get a grip on the fact that people wouldn't join the newly free churches in droves. As if near 100% membership in established churches pre-'communism' was a result of the voluntary decisions of individuals.

But I like the article's ending:

A woman with a friendly smile sells the admission tickets for the Luther House, the former monastery where Martin Luther would go on to live with his family. She can explain Luther's history well -- but not his present. He has no meaning for her except, of course, for his relevance to her job. She says she's 40 years old and an atheist. But then she adds, "You know, the socialist education." Anyway, she suggests, atheists are the most tolerant. There are so many people, Catholics and Protestants both, wanting to convert them.

Sure, she's been working here a few years, she admits, but will she become religious? No, she says, that's just not going to happen.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:39:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree. Further, I find the lack of respect for the lack of faith of atheists kind of offensive. I mean, this article is more or less lamenting these pitiful people's lack of faith. Is anyone in mainstream German publications discussing how Protestant churches could seek to convert Muslims or Jews, for example. I mean, they don't have the 'right' faith, from a Protestant point of view, so conversions should be sought. However, I'm sure that such a move would be considered offensive against their faith. But somehow those without faith are free game and should be indoctrinated. We can freely talk of how to bring the faithless to church, somehow implying that atheism is not worthwhile or worthy of respect.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 04:00:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
respect for each others' humanity ought to be more than enough...i think atheists get no respect because they're for the absence of something!

(disclaimer: i'm not an atheist, but i'm not entirely rational either :) i empathise with atheists, often much more than with 'religious' people, lol.)

if you're attached to your faith and 'brand loyalty' especially, then atheism is seen as an active force for evil, rather than the passive state of being it is, since it's the non-adoption of a belief.

you can't put your finger on atheism, making it much more alien and scary to simple folk.

if you're more the 'active' type atheist, then you're practically a 'godless commie, and yer gonna go to HELL', lol.

but since atheists don't believe in hell, it's a pretty empty threat!

so atheists seem impervious to the fears that make many people 'believe'. idiot-logic then persuades religious peeps that atheists have no conscience, which of course is utter bullshit, because in reality, if you have no insurance and you want to keep driving, you tend to drive very carefully!

trying to explain how it looks from this side of the chasm!

it's duality that's the problem, not atheism, imo.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 04:30:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
i think atheists get no respect because they're for the absence of something!

No, atheists aren't "for" the absence of something (if that makes any sense; it doesn't for me). Various atheists are for all kinds of things, but things called "god" aren't among these.

so atheists seem impervious to the fears that make many people 'believe'. idiot-logic then persuades religious peeps that atheists have no conscience, which of course is utter bullshit, because in reality, if you have no insurance and you want to keep driving, you tend to drive very carefully!

That's actually an interesting analogy. Some strong atheists argue that athesists are more moral because they don't have sacrifices, confessions, and other tricks to silence consience.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 07:25:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
More moral? I'd agree that atheists could be more open-minded to moral decision making...

Somewhat related: interesting essay by Pascal Boyer on religion as a construct of evolution.

by Nomad on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 08:06:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nomad: Somewhat related: interesting essay by Pascal Boyer on religion as a construct of evolution.

Thought-provoking article.  I wonder just how much of such research has been going on already.  I found this paragraph particularly interesting:

Being human: Religion: Bound to believe? : Article : Nature

Research has shown that unlike conscious beliefs, which differ widely from one tradition to another, tacit assumptions are extremely similar in different cultures and religions. These similarities may stem from the peculiarities of human memory. Experiments suggest that people best remember stories that include a combination of counterintuitive physical feats (in which characters go through walls or move instantaneously) and plausibly human psychological features (perceptions, thoughts, intentions). Perhaps the cultural success of gods and spirits stems from this memory bias.


Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 10:46:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo:
No, atheists aren't "for" the absence of something (if that makes any sense; it doesn't for me)

so they're not 'for' the absence, are they 'against' the presence (of ye olde godde)?

DoDo:

but things called "god" aren't among these.

p

semantics alert!

what people worship becomes their 'god', and for many it's not religion, (and has no moral overtones) but their agenda or ambition or passion, it can become a (reality-bending) obsession just like religion.

'god' is just three little letters, it only means what you think it means -if anything!-, and just like anything else is an empty canvas for projections of all shapes and colours.

people give it way too much power, imo. as symbols go, (all words are symbols) it has a lot of juice, but at the end of the day it's all baggage we have loaded onto it.

the beautiful thing is that each one of us has a brand new consciousness, and are not entirely beholden to the past, that we cannot transcend it and discover new delineations that may not be entirely original, or just may be, for they feel that way.

bla bla... sorry for the superfluous verbiage...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 02:56:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
so they're not 'for' the absence, are they 'against' the presence (of ye olde godde)?

Neither. Are you against the presence of vampires? Jedi knights? Greek gods?

semantics alert!

what people worship becomes their 'god'

Indeed semantics. Why do you insist to call whatever people worship a god? I entirely agree with you that 'god' is not a clearly defined term and its meaning depends on which theist one asks, but it's a leap from there for you to call other people's things 'god' when they don't call it so themselves.

And do you think an attachment to some agenda or ambition or passion is necessarily worship?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 03:50:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
so they're not 'for' the absence, are they 'against' the presence (of ye olde godde)?

Neither. Are you against the presence of vampires? Jedi knights? Greek gods?

This is an example of clash of metaphors/frames/narratives.

Atheism fits a theistic frame as "denial of God".

An atheistic frame simply doesn't include a concept of God.

When a theist and an atheist debate, the theist tries to bring God into the debate which to the atheist is as irrelevant a concept as an invisible pink unicorn. But, seen from the theist frame, the atheist must be either 'for the absence' or 'against the presence' of God.

So debates on morality/cosmology stay at the level of jousting to set the frame, which makes the, about as pointless as a debate on nuclear energy, probably even more :-P

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:14:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In truth, theism is built on the most basic frame our brain possesses: the family.  God of the Old Tesatment is  amazingly recognizable as the apotheosis of a Semitic pater familius circa 1,000--300 B.C.  In the father's image created they Him.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 02:19:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, all out reasoning is metaphoric according to Lakoff so yeah, it is possible - even easy - to conceptualise things as people (animism), natural events as people's actions (polytheism), and then to conceptualise all these people as families, clans, and warring factions (pantheons and mythologies). But just because it's possible doesn't mean it's required.

Lakoff has a book amusingly titled Women, Fire and Dangerous Things, maybe I should get ahold of a copy.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 04:43:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To be fair, some monotheisms, notably Judiasm, attempted to use taboo to abstract the conception of the theistic deity.  Some point to this as an "advance."  Perhaps it did produce a broader acceptance of abstraction away from purely anthropomorphic conceptions amongst believers as a whole.

But polytheistic religions, such as the Hindu, have produced much more subtle and sophisticated views, but left those views restricted to a highly educated Brahmin elite, while the popular religion is full of gods and demons.  Reportedly, the Buddha sought to diminish the role of the theistic deities and demons among his followers, but they crept back in amongst the broadest based traditions.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 12:04:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
great comment, fascinating thread, ta to all.

pink unicorns and fsm's aside, 'g-o-d' is a word that shouldn't even exist, in an atheistic frame, because its meaning is meaningless, there's no 'there' there.

no teleology, just random events...

my point was that the concept of 'god', (existent or not), is a useful one, because even if atheists are right and there is no religious 'god', people worship, and love between two atheists can be divine, just as making money and power into worshippable attributes can be diabolical.

so 'god' is 3 letter symbol for what we don't know for sure (yet?), a just-out-of-reach-by-definition code for 'too abstruse for present cognitive faculties', or a la heinlein, 'ungrokkable'.

it's also shorthand for 'obey me, because my orders come from unquestionable authority', which is what has given the whole shebang such a bad rap.

but what we project on those 3 letters contains the best and the worst of our flailing in ignorance, and our foibled efforts to understand why.

and the erroneous-or-not fact of god's existence becomes moot, if god didn't exist, we'd have to invent something similar, just to express what we haven't put to bed in the cosy blankets of consensus 'common wisdom' yet, and the very concept, even without any scientific backing, pulls forth some of the most deeply thoughtful, and human comments on the subject.

QED, god is an uplifting force, that can take you on a wild ride or dump you on the coral, whether you believe or not, the mere entertainment of making space for the god-possibility gives birth to more self-knowledge, as we pan through the pebbles of the hoary arguments, looking for the sparkle of gold.

a good author can write himself right out of his own plot, letting the characters 'take over' and in my view, does and will.

but we're all guessing in the dark on this one, even the most enlightened mystic is never sure which of tomorrow's perceptions will give the lie to today's.

'cause it's more fun that way. (and was designed to be, lol!)

ergo atheists who 'make sense', like so many here.

playing in these waters can be a massive wank, or the deepest existential analysis, depends on the weather, or what you had for breakfast.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 06:07:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
my point was that the concept of 'god', (existent or not), is a useful one, because even if atheists are right and there is no religious 'god', people worship, and love between two atheists can be divine, just as making money and power into worshippable attributes can be diabolical.

Oh, sure, God is a useful term even in an atheistic frame when discussing religious experience and theism, but not necessarily in other realms.

so 'god' is 3 letter symbol for what we don't know for sure (yet?), a just-out-of-reach-by-definition code for 'too abstruse for present cognitive faculties', or a la heinlein, 'ungrokkable'.

You're grasping at straws. If you want to talk about the ineffable, the ungrokkable or the noumenon, do so. God is a whole other ball of wax (molded into a voodoo doll?)

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 06:15:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're grasping at straws.

possibly... i fail to see an alternative, in this field, though i'd rather phrase it differently... perhaps 'throwing the kitchen sink at the wall to see if it sticks' comes closer.

could save some time plumbing... ;)

If you want to talk about the ineffable, the ungrokkable or the noumenon, do so.

i'm not good enough yet...

God is a whole other ball of wax (molded into a voodoo doll?)

i don't get what you meant by that, though it sounds interesting. pardon my density, care to elaborate?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 04:38:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you will appreciate this, melo ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 08:12:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ta sven, that was really amusing!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Nov 2nd, 2008 at 05:32:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Imprint of famine seen in genes of Second World War babies 60 years on - Times Online

Malnourishment in the womb causes genetic changes that can still be seen when people reach middle and old age, according to new research that shows how strongly environmental influences can interact with the human genome to shape health.

A study of children born during the Dutch "Hunger Winter", a famine that struck at the end of the Second World War, has found that some still bear its lasting genetic legacy more than six decades on.

The results offer some of the best evidence yet for the importance of epigenetics, a process by which environmental factors can change the way genes are switched on and off in the body.

Epigenetics suggests that the genome can "remember" certain influences to which it is exposed, particularly early in life, which cause modifications to DNA that in turn alter the way it operates. On occasion, these changes may even be passed on from one generation to the next.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:50:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Housing development for homosexuals built in Germany - Telegraph
A housing development solely for homosexual men and lesbians is being built in Germany

Villa Anders, which means "Alternative Villa", in the working-class district of Ehrenfeld in Cologne is aimed at raising their profile in the community.

It will also allow homosexual Germans the chance to live together in a discrimination-free environment, according to the organisers of the project, the Gay and Lesbian Living Association (VSLW).

The development is expected to cost around €6.7m (£5.3m) and will receive some support from the German state.

Tenants have been found for all but 15 of the 70 flats, which they are expected to move into by the end of 2009.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:50:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also see via dvx two days ago.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 07:03:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nearby Solar System Looks Like Our Own at Time Life Formed | Wired Science from Wired.com

A nearby solar system bears a striking similarity to our own solar system, raising the possibility it could harbor Earth-like planets.

Epsilon Eridani, located about 10.5 light-years from our sun, is surrounded by two asteroid belts that are shaped by planets, astronomers at SETI Institute and Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced today.

But it's the possibility that currently undetected smaller planets could lie within the innermost asteroid belt that make the solar system intriguing to astrobiologists.

"This system probably looks a lot like ours did when life first took root on Earth," said SETI's Dana Backman, lead author of a paper on the 850-million-year-old star that will appear next year in The Astrophysical Journal, in a release.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 05:14:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why China May Save The Electric Car | Forbes

... In August, China said it would begin developing a large-scale demonstration project in 10 or more cities to put at least 1,000 hybrid, fuel-cell and all-electric vehicles on the road in each of those cities and provide the necessary infrastructure for the project. The government is also providing funds for the construction of a nationwide network of charging stations. Before the end of the year, China's government will likely finalize regulations needed to begin large scale EV manufacturing. <...>

While speaking at Reuters Global Environment Summit two weeks ago, Alex Molinaroli, president of Johnson Control's battery unit, said he believed China and, to a lesser extent, India would adopt electric cars faster than other countries because of the size and relative lack of reliance on gasoline for transport. "If one in 100 folks around the world end up in electric vehicles, just the sheer numbers say that China and India will have a real place in it," Molinaroli said.

Meanwhile, multiple firms from South Korea and Japan are also jockeying for position in China's nascent market. In 2009, Mitsubishi Motors (other-otc: MMTOF.PK - news - people ) plans to start selling the i Miev, a small, snub-nosed hatchback that is powered by lithium-ion batteries, bringing it to market a year ahead of rival electric cars from General Motors and Renault-Nissan (nasdaq: NSANY - news - people ). Toyota (nyse: TM - news - people ) has also developed a next-generation all electric vehicle.

China has hardly conceded the field to foreign car makers. In fact, Chinese EV manufacturers appear keen on exporting electric vehicles to U.S. and European markets. In September, the Italian company IDB Group entered into an agreement with BYD Automotive for IDB to sell and service BYD cars in Italy.



Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 04:27:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Basic question: where would the supply for the extra electricity demand come from?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 07:01:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, presuming the electric cars are any more efficient than the combustion brethren, then you could just burn oil for the electricity (that otherwise would feed the cars) and still come out ahead.
by Zwackus on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 07:22:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo: Basic question: where would the supply for the extra electricity demand come from?

Unfortunately, in the short term: mostly coal.

But over time: water, wind and sunlight.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 07:30:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I doubt it. The extra demand would outstrip current demand multiple times.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 07:32:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it's not like there is going to be enough oil to supply that extra demand with conventional cars either.

The only option is to go with renewables, which the Chinese are turning to in a huge way.  Unfortunately, it will take a very, very long time to be able to supply that demand.

I forgot to mention nuclear.

You're right, though.  It would be worth doing the numbers in detail, over 20, 50, even 100 years from now.  Maybe the world will be uninhabitable by then anyway.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 07:43:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I just do not think that current Western levels of car ownership can be reached and sustained in China. Even the country's renewables resources won't be enough for that, and I have my grave doubts about the sufficiency of uranium resources (not to mention doubts about safety in future hundreds of reactors in China). A reduction of transport sector exposure to oil should focus on other fields than the private car.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 07:48:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good point about uranium.

I have read grandiose claims about the potential for solar energy being enormous, even virtually unlimited, once certain technical and economic hurdles are overcome.

There is the issue of transferring the energy generated from remote solar farms to heavily populated areas.

And there are obviously dire environmental and social factors to take care of.

But do you think it is possible that there are inescapable physical limitations that no amount of technological advancement and investment can overcome in order to sustain Western level of car ownership in China?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 08:03:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
well, there will be a lot less trucks hauling useless plastic junk* around, remember, destroying demand, along with the 3 -flations, the small and fleet will darwinise the lumbering guzzlers!

*they'll be hauling that by rail

:)

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Nov 1st, 2008 at 05:02:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
KLATSCH
by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:42:58 PM EST
Glamorous French Minister Rachida Dati faces sack - Telegraph
France's glamorous cabinet minister Rachida Dati could be ousted in a government reshuffle, amid complaints over her high-handed manner, authoritarianism and political inexperience.

France's judges and prison staff are no longer on speaking terms with Miss Dati, 42, the justice minister and France's first top cabinet member of North African origin.

Such is their fury against her methods that President Nicolas Sarkozy was obliged to step in personally to quell tensions, meeting the country's main magistrate's union at the Elysée palace.

The USM union said it was "satisfied" by Mr Sarkozy's reassurances but that it would not have to see whether there was any change in his protégé's "behaviour". "She is in systematic denial of all problems posed," said its president.

Elisabeth Guigou, a former Socialist justice minister, said that Mr Sarkozy's personal intervention was a "disavowal" of Miss Dati.

Mr Sarkozy has reportedly transferred much of her power to his own judicial adviser at the Elysée, Patrick Ouart.

by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:51:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fran:
... glamorous ... her high-handed manner, authoritarianism and political inexperience.

What we USAns can look forward to.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:25:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Charles Bremner - Times Online - WBLG: Sarkozy, the natural leader of Europe
Listening to the crackly radio in the Cévennes hills this morning, I heard President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela congratulating Nicolas Sarkozy on his enlightened leadership.

It seems that Sarkozy's recent self-appointment as the strongman of a new protective Europe has won the approval of the Latin American populist. You can see why.

The financial mess of the past month has opened a boulevard for the French president to do what he believes he does best: rushing into the breach to take charge. In so doing, he has cast himself as the scourge of international capitalism.      

It has been a good autumn for Super Sarko. Before the banking drama, he had already ridden to the rescue to halt the Russian advance on Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, last August. Then he got his chance to use France's six-month turn in the presidency of the European Union to rescue the continental economy.
[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:57:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thought I would post a link to some Maracatu dancing (not me).

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 12:45:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
maracatu: Thought I would post a link to some Maracatu dancing (not me).

Fabulous!

(embedding here for convenience sake)



Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 02:55:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am NAMOTDP (Not A Member Of The Diary Police.)  

Quick Reminder:  If you go to the front page, go to the very top of the front page, and look to the top left corner it proclaims:

(Note the word "European.")  

Please keep this in mind when writing diaries okthnxbai?

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

by ATinNM on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 11:24:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What ?!!!!

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 11:31:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
1) we're a week out from an election the results of which will impact much of the rest of the world and 2) many European contributors appear to be awol at the moment, for a variety of reasons and 3) right under the ET box is something about Stop Blair, but I would not put out a call for more Blair diaries.

I say hold your breath for a week and accept the election in America is going to be in the front of a lot of people's minds right now.  If you don't like people's diaries, don't read or recommend them.  Or - IDEA: write a diary of your own on a topic YOU think is important instead of "not" policing those of others.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 11:43:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Huh, my latest diary is built around a quotation form an Indian importer of South American soybean oil. So European, that...
Or - IDEA: write a diary of your own on a topic YOU think is important instead of "not" policing those of others.
Thanks.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:18:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Will the members of the Diary Police please identify themselves?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:19:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sigh...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 06:10:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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