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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 30 October

by Fran Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:09:36 PM EST

On this date in history:

1821 - Fyodor Dostoevsky, a Russian novelist and writer of fiction whose works include Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, was born. (d. 1881)

More here and here


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by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:10:01 PM EST
European biofuels win last-minute reprieve - EUobserver

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The European Commission has amended its values for the amount of greenhouse gas emissions biofuels release so that certain fuels produced in Europe that previously would not have met new "green" thresholds approved by MEPs now meet them.

The change, based on new data from the commission's researchers, car manufacturers and oil companies, is a convenient move for the European biofuels industry. Diplomats from EU member states are meeting today (29 October) to decide on a working document - seen by EUobserver - on the renewable energy directive that features the new figures and that the EU presidency will use as the basis for compromise negotiations on the legislation with the European Parliament.

Sugar cane good; sugar beet also now good

When proposing the bill, the commission had initially suggested that in order to be included as part of a target that 10 percent of road fuels come from renewable sources, biofuels had to achieve a 35 percent savings in greenhouse gas emissions on what traditional fossil fuels would have emitted.

This standard was low enough that a range of biofuels produced in Europe could meet it. However, the industry committee of the parliament in September more strictly demanded that biofuels achieve a 45 percent savings on fossil fuels immediately, and a 60 percent savings by 2015.

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:14:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
based on new data from the commission's researchers, car manufacturers and oil companies

Well of course. Piebalg's lads and the lobbies cook this up together.

GRRRRRRRRR!

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 05:30:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Lukashenko may come to EU summit - EUobserver

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The upcoming Czech EU presidency is considering inviting autocratic Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko to an extraordinary EU summit in the first half of 2009, if the country introduces pro-democratic reforms.

"It is possible that during the Czech presidency a summit with the eastern partners of the EU will be held - that means with Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. But we are not sure yet if Belarus will participate in it," Czech foreign ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Opletalova told EUobserver.

A Belarus street protestor - geopolitics is higher up than democracy on the EU agenda for now

"We would like to see Belarus there but there are some conditions - Belarus has to become a member of the European Eastern Partnership first and of course there has to be some improvement on its way to democracy."

The Eastern Partnership is a joint Polish-Swedish plan to accelerate EU integration with its post-Soviet neighbours, floated before the Russia-Georgia conflict earlier this year.

The Czech summit idea would be the first major step in the process, with the European Commission currently working on lower-level details, such as visa facilitation and free-trade deals for the six countries in question.

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:14:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Georgia accused of war crimes in South Ossetia - EUobserver

The BBC, the UK public broadcaster, has found evidence in South Ossetia that appears to indict Georgian troops of having targeted civilians during their August attack on Tskhinvali, a claim strongly denied by Tbilisi. Meanwhile, Russian officials have told the EU that unless it recognises the two breakaway regions, it is to keep its monitors out.

Russian troops are set to stay for a long time in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, with no perspective so far for the EU monitors to be let in.

After a visit to Tskhinvali - the capital of South Ossetia - the BBC reported on Tuesday (28 October) evidence including a heavily bombed apartment building that suggests Georgia used indiscriminate force and may have targeted civilians - an action that qualifies as a war crime under international law.

Taya Sitnik, a college lecturer, told the BBC her 21-year-old son bled to death in her arms on the morning of 9 August after a fragment from a Georgian tank shell hit him in the throat as they were both sheltering from artillery fire in the basement of her block of flats.

Mrs Sitnik said she subsequently saw the tank positioned a few metres from the building, firing shells into every floor. Extensive damage to the five-story block appeared consistent with her version of events, the BBC reports.

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:15:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Disputed Far-Rightist Elected to Top Post in Austrian Parliament | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 29.10.2008
In a decision criticized by Austria's Jewish community and other organizations, far-right politician Martin Graf was voted into one of the top posts in Austria's parliament on Tuesday, Oct. 28.

Although Graf is a member of a right-wing nationalist student union that has contacts with neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers, 70 percent of the legislators supported him to become one of the two deputy presidents of parliament. Graf was backed by 109 out of 156 votes.

As the third strongest faction after overtaking the Greens in the Sept. 28 parliamentary election, Graf's Freedom Party had the traditional right to nominate one of their representatives for the post. His candidature was strongly opposed by the Green party.

Graf was voted deputy president of parliament with the support of Austria's two far-right parties, the Freedom Party and the Alliance for the Future of Austria, as well as the mainstream conservative People's Party.

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:16:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Financial crisis should not delay US missile shield - EUobserver
The economic downturn will pass, but security concerns will stay, the general said

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The global economic downturn and a potential Democratic win in US elections should not delay plans to build parts of a missile shield in Europe, the head of the US Missile Defence Agency, general Henry Obering, has said.

"If you don't have national security it won't matter what your economy is doing because you won't be able to protect your citizens and their jobs," he said in an interview with EUobserver on Tuesday

Speaking hours before a trip to Poland and the Czech Republic - where the US missile shield components are to be placed - the general described the project as "a prudent investment in security," which remains necessary to counter the continuing proliferation of a ballistic missile threat around the world.

To support the case, he compared the $83 billion (€66 billion) damage of the 11 September 2001 attack on New York alone to the approximately $120 billion spent on the missile defence programme since it was created in 1983.

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:18:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Europe | Protests over Italy school reform

School pupils, university students and teachers have staged demonstrations across Italy against a school reform law just passed by parliament.

In Rome's Piazza Navona, a popular tourist spot, several people were lightly injured in a clash between left- and right-wing students.

The reform package is expected to cut the education budget.

In primary schools there will be just one all-purpose teacher per class and a grade system for pupils' behaviour.

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:21:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I saw protests going on while I was in Italy.  We chatted to a taxi driver about it and he is convinced that the reforms are purely money saving scams even though the government denies it.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 05:50:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The issues of a one-purpose teacher and such is a facade for TV chat. The law is essentially a massive budget cut which will bankrupt many educational institutions, eliminate what little research still goes on in Italy and put thousands of teachers and researchers out of a job. The law also will privatize many universities.

As a scam we can expect the same thing that happened with government property which was sold off by the previous Berlusconi government, often through a post office box in Copenhagen. The Carlyle group at the time made a killing in buying up dirt cheap prestigious real estate.

There are quite a few photos of the fascist attack in Piazza Navona on internet. Some students reacted in defence while many panicked and fled into the streets. The police- as well as most of the student group leaders- did a good job of bringing back the calm. The fascist managed to devastate the Navona Bar and the newspaper kiosk near by. The police managed to isolate the fascists and detain them. As of last night two or three of them have had their arrests confirmed.

The students are organized in relatively small groups of no more than a few hundred. Each group has a "leader" or who gives instructions and is responsible for the discipline of the group.  These "representatives" coordinate their actions with the other groups and negotiate with the police on what can be done or not.

After the fascist attack I witnessed a heated discussion in which one of the "representatives" was chastised for having made alarming statements to his group about the attack. A plain clothed police officer also intervened to explain how to keep the groups calm. And negotiate on where the students could proceed.

Some of the groups are very young "scuola media"- about 12-14 years old.

In Rome the police forces have been highly cooperative with the students. This is all the more so considering the tactics and general strategy of the protestors. Demonstrations within the city are touch-and-go events thanks to the net and wireless communications. This is an internet generation that uses the network to the hilt. Within a few minutes hundreds of students will suddenly appear as if out of no where anywhere within the city and demonstrate.  It's not as in the past when demonstrations consisted of linear parades that march from a fixed point to another. The students converge from everywhere and often number up to ten thousand if not more.  It's understandable that the law forces have a hard time keeping track of what's going on. At the same time there is a strict policy on the students' part to be non-violent and prevent any attempts by violent elements to exploit the situation- as Cossiga and many government authorities might wish. It's appropriate that the fascists in Piazza Navona were there to "defend" the Gelmini law. Fortunately, they're so damned stupid that made an eloquent point of exactly what berlusconismo is all about.

Generally the Rome population sides with the students despite the fact that they are capable of creating chaos- calm chaos, to cite Moretti's recent film- wherever they arrive. Especially with the traffic. The students have taken back the city and filled it with life. Perhaps it's the revolt against a celluloid reality that made Berlusconi's fortune. There is something "biological" about the whole movement as if it were droves of starlings that pirouette and dance in the Roman sky, descending on Roman plazas in a climax of song. It disorients the TV format and exposes how superficial and poor television is with its sets and stages and cheap newsbites. It's the web as an instrument of vitality, life. It's a new generation. Gelmini and Silvio are old. Very old.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 05:40:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Another comment in dire need of promotion to diary.

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 Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 06:28:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to a report by Curzio Maltese of la Repubblica who was in Piazza Navona, the dynamics of the clash were worse. (I was at Sant'Andrea della Valle, just off Piazza Navona and only saw the kids fleeing.)

According to him the police did not intervene for over five minutes. The fascists- approximately sixty in all- first attacked the youngest children, no more than 14 years old, with clubs. The crowd berated the police for not intervening to protect them. After several attacks militant leftists from the "occupied social forums" intervened against the fascists. An isolated group of fascists was allowed to escape through the police barrier. Maltese who was pursueing them was blocked by the police. The police finally broke up the fight and hauled the remaining fascists away.

The student movements consider the provocation and the tardiness of the police to intervene as a deliberate design to smear the movement as violent.

Senator Cossiga was called to account as he left Palazzo Madama, "Is this what you wanted, Senator?"

As for those us who were outside the Piazza the panicking children did create tension but was calmed by the prompt and responsible response of the student "coordinators" with the collaboration of the police. Apparently the fascist had hoped that their violence would spill out and cause rioting throughout the area. The movement has been ever to conscious of this eventuality and has apparently constantly warned against it.

As for today the city has been totally invaded by one of the most imposing demonstrations I have witnessed in years, more than Veltroni's demonstration last Saturday- and a lot more creative.

It's deeply gratifying to see such a mass expression of Italian brain power in what is otherwise a cheap pornocratic freak show.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 12:49:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Like in Genova at the G8 meeting.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 01:10:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, and please please diary!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 01:10:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Europe | Croatia launches anti-mafia drive

Croatia's new justice minister has announced a package of measures to tackle organised crime, following a spate of mafia-style killings.

Ivan Simonovic told the Croatian parliament that courts would fast-track such cases and witness protection would be improved.

He said the problem needed "a scalpel", because it threatened people's security and Croatia's bid to join the EU.

New legislation would allow criminals' property to be confiscated, he said.

"That way we will hit the mob where it hurts most - their wallets!" he said.

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:22:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU commissioners give little away about their freebies - Times Online

It is a motley collection of items - pewter jugs, a box of cigars, an engraving of the Belgian parliament - but it gives a glimpse of the largesse that is bestowed upon European commissioners as they travel the world in luxury.

The 27 members of the EU's executive body have registered 216 gifts during their four-year term, in line with a code of conduct that requires them to disclose details of presents worth more than €150 (£120) but not of any hospitality or other perks such as private jets, holidays, hotels and restaurants, no matter who paid for them.

Pledges made in 2005 to tighten the code, after an outcry over a cruise on a Greek tycoon's yacht enjoyed by José Manuel Barroso, the Commission President, seem to have fallen by the wayside.

Instead, transparency in Brussels amounts to a quaint list of curios, such as the 12-volume history of Sicily received by the Italian former commissioner Franco Frattini in December 2004, his only entry on the register.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:22:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL. All politicians receive lots of gifts when travelling abroad. Eurosceptic overdrive.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:32:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Uh, maybe not?
EU commissioners give little away about their freebies - Times Online

Pledges made in 2005 to tighten the code, after an outcry over a cruise on a Greek tycoon's yacht enjoyed by José Manuel Barroso, the Commission President, seem to have fallen by the wayside.

Instead, transparency in Brussels amounts to a quaint list of curios, such as the 12-volume history of Sicily received by the Italian former commissioner Franco Frattini in December 2004, his only entry on the register. Related Links

He saw no need to list the skiing weekend with the Bulgarian Interior Minister, which caused a furore when it came to light because Mr Frattini had taken such a close interest in a report on Bulgaria's progress in joining the EU - a report that was criticised for giving Bulgaria an easy ride.


I for one would like to know what and from whom our commissioners receive gifts (including travel).
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 05:23:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Same for our other politicians. (Sarko and his holidayx after getting elected.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 05:29:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, yeah. And they should all have to disclose these things as well. Sure, this piece may likely have been published with Eurosceptic intentions, but it really does bother me that 'pledges for openness' turn into this kind of faux disclosure of silly items received, probably legitimately, while the gifts that matter show up nowhere. Like the stupid voluntary lobbyist registry, and other instances of self-regulation that let various interests pretend at openness. I would like to see real openness in the EU. Fear of excessive Eurosceptisism, that I do share, does not mean I'm willing to excuse this kind of shit, or out of hand dismiss such stories.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:15:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do not disagree with that at all.

"All politicians receive lots of gifts" AND "Same for our other politicians" were by no means meant as excuses. The Times is letting other politicians off the hook (and that includes the members of the strongest EU body, the European Council), and not really putting EU officials on it by scoring cheap Eurosceptic points.

Then again, the problem can only be attacked separately across the institutions politicians are part of. So yes, the Commission should be pushed to disclose the gifts its members receive much more strictly, and with consequences even in the case of formal misbehavior when no bad action can be proven.

(BTW, a belated off-topic reaction to a discussion you had with dvx: I use the same consideration when thinking about affairs of bosses and underlings, so I was surprised at your take on the DSK-Piroska affair -- especially as I'd consider "between consenting adults" another American meme, where Europeans should be more aware of the grey zones of consent, especially in workplace relationships.)

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

by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:43:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, to me, the DSK-Piroska affair, and other affairs between bosses and subordinates might be of some interest to the organization if there is a question of favourable/unfavourable treatment because of it. However, I fail to see why there would be a public interest. I.e. I don't see how such an affair would impact the ability of a public figure (DSK) to do his public job (manage the IMF). Now, if he was sleeping around with some high up Hungarian official one might wonder if there is a conflict of interest relating to the loans issued just now.

Well, to me it seems that American indeed do care what happens between consenting adults, believing somehow that 'immoral' personal behaviour is an indication of something relating to public functions. I just don't see that.

As for Paul Wolfowitz, I also don't think his affair, that did seem to lead to favourable treatment of the lover, were of great public interest. That infraction alone would in my eyes not be enough to disqualify him in his job. And I would indeed rather that we didn't care about the sex part of it. There where plenty of other reasons to hate the guy, though. And I think there was quite a bit more of cronyism going around with this guy. The sex bit though, this does not bother me.

That people end up having sex with those they work with is hardly surprising. After all these are the people they meet on a day to day basis and therefore has some opportunity to get it on with. And for those that are married, it is probably the easiest way if you wanna sneak one beside the spouse. (Supposing that you have to do some sneaking, that is. Though fanatical monogamism do seem to be rather rampant.)

by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 12:15:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was "gifts" such as all expense paid trips to the British Open at St. Andrews, etc. arranged by Jack Abramoff that has brought many US Congress members low.  The US law on this is such that donors effectively cannot pay for any sit down meal for a member.  They now have to dine off of hors d'ourve trays using tooth picks while standing up! That even applied to the two party's conventions.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 12:24:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ukraine factions unite to secure IMF loan - International Herald Tribune

KIEV, Ukraine: Ukraine's Parliament put aside weeks of political infighting on Wednesday to pass legislation aimed at securing an emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund as the country feels the effects of the global financial crisis.

The party of the prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, had put forward its own legislation. But it said it was burying its differences with the president, Viktor Yushchenko, and would vote for his proposals in order to secure the funds, which are needed to prop up the country's ailing markets and relieve pressure on the public finances.

"Now we have put our political ambitions off to the side," said Nataliya Korolevskaya, a member of Tymoshenko's party. "The health of the economy is now more important."

Together, the two parties have 227 votes, enough to secure the passage of the legislation in the 450 seat Parliament.

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:23:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
UK will face peak oil crisis within five years, report warns
Declining availability of oil will hit the UK earlier than generally expected, with potentially devastating implications for the UK economy, report warns
By Duncan Clark, The Guardian

The risk to the UK from falling oil production in coming years is greater than the threat posed by terrorism, according to an industry taskforce report published today.

The report, from the Peak Oil group, warns that the problem of declining availability of oil will hit the UK earlier than generally expected - possibly within the next five years and as early as 2011.

Oil supply could then rapidly decline, or even collapse, the report warns, with potentially devastating implications for the UK economy.

The report was issued today by the recently established UK industry taskforce on peak oil and energy security, a group of eight companies including transport firms Virgin, Stagecoach and FirstGroup, engineers Arup, architects Foster and Partners, and energy giant Scottish and Southern.

Entitled The Oil Crunch, the report argues that the risk of an early peak in oil production poses a bigger threat to UK society than tightening gas supplies, terrorism or the short-term impacts of climate change.


by Magnifico on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 05:23:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Magnifico:
a group of eight companies including transport firms Virgin, Stagecoach and FirstGroup, engineers Arup, architects Foster and Partners, and energy giant Scottish and Southern.

These aren't DFHs or doomsters - with the possible exception of Foster, these are all frontline transport and energy companies who will be trying to do realistic strategic modelling.

It's probably optimistic to expect a useful response from Whitehall, but at least the point is being made in public.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 02:10:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The smallest non-city-state state of Germany, Saarland, a former coal-and-steel region bordering on Luxembourg and France, will hold regional elections on 30 August 2009. But as polls go, it is bound to produce an even more insane result than the Hessen elections.

It's again because of the Left Party. Saarland was the base of Oskar Lafontaine, SPD leader turned Left Party co-leader. So a large part of the SPD party structure defected to the Left Party, resulting in a party not just hoping to pass the 5% limit, but be a major party like in East Germany.

The latest poll is (with changes vs. a poll last month by the same pollster in parantheses):

CDU: 38% (-4)
SPD: 25% (+3)
Left Party: 23% (+3)
FDP (liberals): 6% (+-0)
Greens: 5% (-1)

  1. If you consider just the three big parties, it is a giantr boondoggle. Here the SPD-Left Party animosity is personal at the level of the respective leaders. The SPD leader would also have a hard time selling a Grand Coalition.

  2. The two small parties fell back to the 5% limit. It now looks that even if both make it above, even together they will fail to be in a position of balance.

I just can't imagine the outcome if the Left Party comes out on top and Red Oskar will get to be PM and has to form a government...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 06:04:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
SPECIAL FOCUS - Still the Finances
by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:10:46 PM EST
Record rescue package for battered Hungarian economy - EUobserver

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Hungary is to receive a record sum of €20 billion in a rescue package agreed by the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and designed to help Budapest cope with the devastating damage to national finances and the forint caused by the global credit crunch.

Hungary is to receive international aid to prevent an economic meltdown

The financial aid is due to be delivered through three channels: the EU will provide a loan of €6.5 billion under a "medium-term assistance facility" that is allowed for member states under the bloc's rules; the IMF will provide assistance of €12.5 billion and the World Bank aid is worth €1 billion.

The rescue plan comes attached with specific conditions on how Hungary should repair its public spending this and next year and also reform its fiscal governance. The move comes after the Hungarian central bank raised interest rates to 11.5 percent in a bid to strengthen the country's currency.

"The financial assistance package will be provided in the context of a strong commitment by the Hungarian authorities to implement a [parallel] policy programme," the French EU presidency and the European Commission said in a statement, published on the early hours of Wednesday (29 October).

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:13:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU Contributes to Hungary's 20 Billion-Euro Rescue Package | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 29.10.2008
Hungary became the latest country to benefit from European and international financial rescue packages Wednesday Oct. 29 when it was pledged a combined EU, IMF and World Bank plan worth 20 billion euros ($25.5 billion).

The European Union came to Hungary's rescue by extending a loan of 6.5 billion euros ($8.25 billion) to the embattled country, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said in a statement.

Hungary, whose currency, the forint, as well as stocks and bonds have plunged under pressure of the on-going financial crisis, will be given a 20-billion-euro lifeline to help balance a large current account and budget deficit, prop up a partially overvalued currency, support a low stock of foreign reserve and secure a high level of short-term foreign currency debt.

Officials from the EU's executive, the European Commission, confirmed the announcement in a statement released in Brussels.

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:18:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
László Andor: A financial crisis in Hungary cannot be isolated from the rest of the EU | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Over the last 30 years, each and every major international financial crisis has visited Hungary. In 1982, right after Poland; in 1994, right after Mexico; and in 2008, right after Iceland. Always, and rapidly, the road has led to the International Monetary Fund.

This is a special relationship indeed, and also a turbulent one. Most of the former Eastern Bloc countries joined the IMF and the World Bank after 1989, but Hungary did so as early as 1982. It helped to push forward market reforms that others were yet to adopt, and thus Hungary became a model pupil of neoliberalism in the region. It did not, however, help the country get out of its massive foreign debt. Hungary entered the post-communist "new era" with the highest per capita foreign debt and, unlike Poland, the government decided to refrain from potential debt reduction schemes put forward by George Soros among others.

Despite being the most economically advanced of the countries that joined the EU in 2004, Hungary has always remained the most financially vulnerable. In the early period, debt to GDP increased rather than decreased, and the Maastricht type debt ratio only reduced (to about 51%) in a period of extraordinary foreign direct investment in the late 1990s. As other nations made themselves available for transnational corporations, however, this competitive edge vanished.

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:24:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow. I read this article now, it is very insightful.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:52:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fran:
The move comes after the Hungarian central bank raised interest rates to 11.5 percent in a bid to strengthen the country's currency.

dumb questions dept:

what are the dynamics at work here? america slashes interest rates to strengthen their economy, Hungary raises its own interest rates to achieve the same result.

is this the product of different economic philosophies?

can the both be right? or is it guesswork?

someone please clue me in!

'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 Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 12:19:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Melo,
This is the advantage the US has due to the dollar being the de facto reserve currency of the world.  With the meltdown, dollars are rushing back to the US as investors liquidate foreign holdings that have value in an attemt, futile though it may be, to stave off disaster in the US.  As dollars are rushing back to the US to be tossed on various bondfires here, they are made more scarce in the rest of the world, thus strengthening the dollar.  A thoroughly perverse benefit for bad behavior!

Hungary is small and vulnerable.  The only means they have to protect their currency is to increase the interest rate.  This draws investors who have to purchase  Florents in order to get the high rates.  Those purchases then drive up the strength of the Florent.  As far as Hungary's prior virtuous behavior in terms of IMF, etc. criteria, it is "what have you done for us lately?"

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

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 12:39:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks, ARG!

ARGeezer:

bondfires

cute...intentional or not...

:)

'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 Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 01:00:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(Forint)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 03:42:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(Strikes forehead with palm!)  Gaaa!  I am so bad that I must cut and paste.  I looked up the currency on Google, but somehow my "mind" inserted an "l".

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 09:39:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the origin of the word is Florence, the city of bankers...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 09:59:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You were thinking of the origin of this currency name :-) It comes from the name of the Italian city and renaissance banking central Florence. I just looked it up -- the history is the name is that Florence pioneered golden coins in the 13th century, and Hungary's first Angevin king Carl Robert in the early 14th century was the first to adopt the practice for royal mints.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 10:00:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Does Magyar have a problem with the latin phoneme "el"?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 11:12:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Note that Italian lost that "l", too.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 12:01:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ARGeezer:
This is the advantage the US has due to the dollar being the de facto reserve currency of the world.  With the meltdown, dollars are rushing back to the US as investors liquidate foreign holdings that have value in an attemt, futile though it may be, to stave off disaster in the US.  As dollars are rushing back to the US to be tossed on various bondfires here, they are made more scarce in the rest of the world, thus strengthening the dollar.  A thoroughly perverse benefit for bad behavior!

Ummm..are you sure?

I think that liquidation of overseas assets may account for part of it, but "dollars rushing back to the US" doesn't account for what's happened to Norway where interbank borrowing was denominated in dollars and Norway had to buy dollars because it couldn't borrow them.

There's a lot of EuroDollar loans out there, too....

I can't see this dollar strength as any more than a transitional and ephemeral blip. The fundamental strength of Norway - which is oil based - must re-assert itself relative to the US in even the medium term, I would suggest....

I think that the Dollar may be having a Wile-e-Coyote moment, running on fresh air above a chasm...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 11:08:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
CC
Like you, I am not so sure how long this will last.  Not long is my guess.  Without what I have learned in the many knowledgeable economics related posts on ET in the last 6 months, I would never have attempted to venture a response to the original question.  Thanks, ET.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 11:16:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hungary is raising interest rates to try to buttress its currency and prevent a capital flight or a massive default on foreigh loans taken by the private sector, strangling its productive economy and its exporters and risking a massive default on domestic loans in the process.

The US is lowering interest rates in an effort to making credit cheaper and so stimulate the economy.

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 Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 03:35:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Central Bank raised interest rates to try to buttress its currency, full stop. The other effects weren't factored in, this was a short-term decision.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 03:44:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Raising interest rates buttresses a currency by influencing the net cross-border capital flows. It is a short-term decision but that's what it is.

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 Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 07:20:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What about strangling its productive economy and its exporters and risking a massive default on domestic loans in the process?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 07:58:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Collateral damage from trying to reduce or contain the Forint value of the foreign currency exposure.

Do you think Paul Volcker has (or had) many qualms about causing a recession by raising interest rates to 19% in 1981?

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 Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 08:02:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are off in the timescale. A short-term interest rate hike to stop speculators won't have the effect of a two-year interest rate hike like Volcker's double-peaked move to above 20% in 1979-1981 (rate history).

Also, "prevent a capital flight or a massive default on foreigh loans taken by the private sector" is too much drama -- being forced into a major devaluation (or revaluation) is bad enough, and central banks often try this. (If you look at the Hungarian Central Bank's interest rate history, you can observe the responses to two opposed speculator attacks in 2003, with nothing comparably drastic in 2006.)

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

by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 09:54:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I admit I've been infected by doom porn.

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 Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 10:02:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU is now officially part of the IMF consensus.
"The financial assistance package will be provided in the context of a strong commitment by the Hungarian authorities to implement a [parallel] policy programme," the French EU presidency and the European Commission said in a statement, published on the early hours of Wednesday (29 October).


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 Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 03:45:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The (for me) best commentary I read on the issue comes from András Szigetvári in Austrian magazine Der Standard, which I bilingualise in full:

Finanzkrise in Ungarn: Teurer Kredit für Budapest Financial crisis in Hungary: Expensive credit for Budapest
Um ungarische Banker und Politiker aus der Reserve zu locken, genügt dieser Tage das "I" -Wort. Manche werden ausfällig, andere kommen mit Galgenhumor: Ein Vergleich mit Island lässt niemanden kalt. Das hat seinen Grund: Ungarn mag nicht vor dem Bankrott stehen, aber die Umwälzungen im Zuge der Finanzkrise sind gewaltig. Während Regierungen weltweit große Konjunkturpakete schnüren, geht Ungarn den umgekehrten Weg. Ein Sparpaket wurde vorgestellt, weniger Staat lautet die Devise, die hohe öffentliche Verschuldung gilt als Grund allen Übels.To draw Hungarian bankers and politicians out of their shell, these days it is enough to use the "I" word. Some become abusive, others come with gallows humor: a comparison with Iceland doesn't leave anyone cold. That has its reason: Hungary may not facing bankruptcy, but the upheavals in the wake of the financial crisis are enormous. While governments worldwide are preparing big stimulus packages, Hungary goes the opposite way. A savings package was presented, less state is the motto, the high public debt is regarded as the root of all evil.
Das Problem dabei ist, dass ausschließlich Ökonomen zu Wort kommen. Allzu leicht wird von ihnen vergessen, dass die massiven Sozialausgaben der vergangenen Jahrzehnte nicht wirkungslos waren. Was Armutsindikatoren betrifft, liegt Ungarn im osteuropäischen Spitzenfeld und kann mit westlichen EU-Staaten mithalten. The problem is that only economists get to speak. They forget it all too easily that the massive social spending over the past decades was not without effect. Concerning poverty indicators, Hungary is located in the eastern European [sic! eastern EU] top range and can keep pace with western EU countries.

(Actually, some poverty indicators show almost all new EU members ahead of Western counterparts: say the Gini Index.)

Um an einen Kredit des Währungsfonds (IWF) heranzukommen, begrenzt die Regierung nun die 13. Monatspension auf 300 Euro und streicht 700.000 öffentlichen Angestellten das 13. Monatsgehalt. Vor allem die Streichung eines Monatsgehaltes ohne soziale Abfederung ist ein harter Einschnitt für die Betroffenen, der bisher tabu war. Die Frage danach, ob das sozial gerecht ist, wird kaum gestellt. Wer will in Krisenzeiten schon einen IFW-Kredit blockieren?To access a credit of the [International] Monetary Fund (IMF), the government will now limit the 13th month pension at 300 Euros, and remove the 13th month salary of 700,000 public employees. Especially the deletion of one month salary without social cushion is a hard cut for the affected, which was previously taboo. The question of whether this is socially just was rarely asked. Who wants to block an IMF credit in times of crisis anyway?
In Ungarn wie anderswo kann in der aktuellen Krise binnen weniger Tage und fast ohne politische Diskussionen umgesetzt werden, was vorher unmöglich schien. Und das verdient mindestens genauso viel Beachtung wie die Finanzkrise selbst. In Hungary as elsewhere, in the current crisis, things can be implemented almost without political discussion within a few days that previously seemed impossible. And that deserves at least as much attention as the financial crisis itself.

Disaster capitalism indeed.

For the record, I note that (1) the cut for public employees is supplemented 'socially' by an extra cut for ministers and top managers, (2) there is no final decision -- that's parliament's prerogative, and some trade unions are raising their voices.

Still, this is a rather high price for a credit that is only meant as a safety cushion, and that goes with significant interest payments even if no banks will actually make use of it.

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

by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:32:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bilingual diary?

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 Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 06:21:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
?

Do you mean I should make this comment a diary?

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

by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 06:44:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you're putting in the effort of translating the piece in full...

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 Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 07:18:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, combined it with another article, thanks Fran for the link.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 11:01:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How is Poland doing?
by das monde on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 05:16:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Falling Euro May Signal Deeper EU Woes | Business | Deutsche Welle | 29.10.2008
Euro zone members have watched their currency fall sharply against the dollar in recent days, as forex markets react to the complex global financial crisis. But observers disagree on the possible effects of the decline.

Analysts took conflicting lessons from the euro's fall to two-and-a-half-year lows, with some saying the fall is a short-term problem that could help boost exports, while others saw it as a sign of serious policy discord in the 15-nation euro zone.

In European trading on Tuesday, Oct. 28, the euro touched a low of $1.23 -- the last time it was so weak was in April, 2006 -- before reaching $1.25 in Asian trading. The currency fell even farther against the yen; in all it weakened against 14 of the 16 most active currencies.

Analysts attributed the drop to a number of factors, including the widespread perception that Europe's economy is on the brink of a recession and the expectation that European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet may soon lower interest rates.

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:15:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Isn't this good for the Eurozone?  Didn't we just listen to two years of whining about export trouble due to the strong Euro?
by paving on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 08:04:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Careful what you ask for or complain about.  It will be good for exports but can cause inflation due to increased cost of imports.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 12:42:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the unwritten rules of economic commentary is to interpret any development as a [Europe.Is.Doomed™ Alert]

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 Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 03:43:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Stockmarket Rollercoaster: VW Shares Plunge after Porsche Boosts Supply - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

VW's share price almost halved on Wednesday after Porsche released its stranglehold on the stock and announced it was increasing the supply of tradable VW shares. The German index DAX remained steady thanks to steep gains in world markets.

Shares in Volkswagen nearly halved on Wednesday after its main shareholder, sports car maker Porsche, said it would increase the supply of VW shares, reversing a surge caused by speculators who had pushed VW's market value as high as €278 billion ($348 billion) and briefly made it the world's most valuable company.

DPA

A Frankfurt trader watching the German stock market's rollercoaster ride this week. Porsche's announcement on Sunday that it had indirect control of 74.1 percent of VW -- a direct stake of 42.6 percent plus options on a further 31 percent -- caused panicked buying of the few remaining available VW shares by so-called short-sellers, speculators who had wrongly bet on a decline in the stock.

Volkswagen shares had doubled on Monday and doubled again on Tuesday, rising above €1,000 at one point and briefly replacing US oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp as the company with the highest market capitalization in the world.

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:16:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sarkozy wants more EU crisis funding - EUobserver

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has called for an EU crisis fund for member states to be extended from €12 billion currently to "at least" €20 billion.

Mr Sarkozy - whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency - will make the proposal to his EU counterparts when they meet in Brussels next Friday (7 November).

Mr Sarkozy wants the EU to have a fund of "at least €20 billion" to be able to better respond to crises.

Currently, an EU "community mechanism" allows member states to receive medium-term loans from a common pot of €12 billion.

"I will propose on 7 November ...that the EU itself, which has at its disposal €12 billion to support a certain number of member states, passes to at least €20 billion in order to increase our ability to respond to the [financial] crisis," the French president said on Tuesday (28 October) shortly before a meeting with UK prime minister Gordon Brown in Versailles, France.

Both men called for an increase in funding for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well.

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:19:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Although, I think Sarkozy's monthly salary qualifies as "funding a crisis"...

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 04:18:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Deutsche Bank CEO Under Fire: The World According to Josef Ackermann - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

The CEO of Deutsche Bank Josef Ackermann is justifiably proud of the fact that his bank has so far been able to weather the financial crisis better than many of its competitors. But he still hasn't won any sympathy points. Perhaps his self-image is to blame.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had invited an illustrious group of guests to the Chancellery to honor a man from the business world whom she especially admires: Josef Ackermann, the CEO of Deutsche Bank.

Today, it would be more accurate to use the past tense -- to say that Ackermann was a man she once admired.

Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackermann is Germany's favorite bogeyman. Some of that is his own fault, but not all. At the time, in February of this year, the chancellor's relationship with her favorite banker was still in good shape. The dinner in Berlin was Merkel's way of thanking Ackermann for having invited her to his 60th birthday celebration, which she was unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts.

Nowadays, the news is that Merkel was apparently irritated over the awarding of the North Rhine-Westphalia Future Prize to Ackermann. Deutsche Bank, in the mean time, has announced that its CEO will not accept the prize.

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:20:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The author makes it a soap opera at the echelons of power.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:36:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A.I.G. Has Used Billions From the Fed but Hasn't Said for What

By MARY WILLIAMS WALSH
Published: October 29, 2008

The American International Group is rapidly running through $123 billion in emergency lending provided by the Federal Reserve, raising questions about how a company claiming to be solvent in September could have developed such a big hole by October. Some analysts say at least part of the shortfall must have been there all along, hidden by irregular accounting.

"You don't just suddenly lose $120 billion overnight," said Donn Vickrey of Gradient Analytics, an independent securities research firm in Scottsdale, Ariz.  Mr. Vickrey says he believes A.I.G. must have already accumulated tens of billions of dollars worth of losses by mid-September, when it came close to collapse and received an $85 billion emergency line of credit by the Fed...later supplemented by a $38 billion lending facility.

Tantalizing support for this argument comes from what appears to have been a behind-the-scenes clash at the company over how to value some of its derivatives contracts. An accountant brought in by the company because of an earlier scandal was pushed to the sidelines on this issue, and the company's outside auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, warned of a material weakness months before the government bailout.

The internal auditor resigned and is now in seclusion, according to a former colleague. His account, from a prepared text, was read by Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, in a hearing this month.

Derivatives!?  Not with 30 to 1 leverage!  Who ever would have thought...?  It is never good when Henry is reading from your internal auditors prepared statement and said  internal auditor is in "seclusion."  Is there no solution except to keep pouring money onto the fire?  A lady we have heard from before has a suggestion. (See 10-26 Salon)
"When investors don't have full and honest information, they tend to sell everything, both the good and bad assets," said Janet Tavakoli, president of Tavakoli Structured Finance, a consulting firm in Chicago. "It's really bad for the markets. Things don't heal until you take care of that."

A.I.G. has declined to provide a detailed account of how it has used the Fed's money. The company said it could not provide more information ahead of its quarterly report, expected next week, the first under new management. The Fed releases a weekly figure, most recently showing that $90 billion of the $123 billion available has been drawn down.

A.I.G. has outlined only broad categories: some is being used to shore up its securities-lending program, some to make good on its guaranteed investment contracts, some to pay for day-to-day operations and -- of perhaps greatest interest to watchdogs -- tens of billions of dollars to post collateral with other financial institutions, as required by A.I.G.'s many derivatives contracts.

No information has been supplied yet about who these counterparties are, how much collateral they have received or what additional tripwires may require even more collateral if the housing market continues to slide.

Ms. Tavakoli said she thought that instead of pouring in more and more money, the Fed should bring A.I.G. together with all its derivatives counterparties and put a moratorium on the collateral calls. "We did that with ACA," she said, referring to ACA Capital Holdings, a bond insurance company that filed for bankruptcy in 2007.

Is she auditioning for a position in the incoming administration?  Dare we hope?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 01:28:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Business | Bank insider urges deep rate cuts

The current financial crisis may be more far-reaching than even the 1929 crash, a Bank of England policymaker has warned.

Professor David Blanchflower is a member of the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), and has often been a lone voice in urging rate cuts.

Now he has said big interest rate cuts are needed to avoid a deep recession.

The last vote was 9-0 in favour of a cut. Blanchflower is seen a rather unserious extremist, so we won't be seeing Fed level cuts in the UK - but the prudent people might agree to another 1% or so, especially with oil down and food starting to drift down.

Not that interest rates are particularly relevant anyway, in the bigger picture.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 02:25:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fears mount in Japan over complex yen products
Traders in Tokyo have given warning that about $90 billion (£55billion) of complex foreign exchange products, sold mainly to Japanese households and institutions, are on the brink of falling "like a house of cards".

What more would we need?  
by das monde on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 05:14:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
WORLD
by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:11:11 PM EST
Russia seeks to negotiate loans-for-oil deal with China - International Herald Tribune

MOSCOW: As chances of rolling over loans with troubled Western banks dwindle in the financial crisis, Russian oil companies are negotiating multibillion dollar lines of credit from a more reliable source: the cash-rich Chinese government.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China was in Moscow on Tuesday for talks with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, about a potential loan-for-oil deal that would be backed by future exports to China, Russian officials said.

If signed, the deal would mark a significant commitment from Russian companies to redirect some of their energy exports to Asia at a time when Russia's relations with the West are strained.

Few details of the proposed deal have been made public. The Russian deputy prime minister for energy, Igor Sechin, said after the talks Tuesday that "considerable" sums of money were being negotiated.

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:12:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds to me like the Ruskies have this thing locked.
by paving on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 08:06:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fran:
The Russian deputy prime minister for energy, Igor Sechin, said after the talks Tuesday that "considerable" sums of money were being negotiated.

will they have to be paid in american dollars?

'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 Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 12:43:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A Spanish Blowout: The Iberian Giants of US Wind Energy - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Backed by their parents' capital, Iberdrola Renovables, from Spain, and EDP Renovaveis, from Portugal, are poised to exploit the downturn and snap up smaller rivals.

Spanish and Portuguse firms are positioning themselves to dominate the US wind energy market. In the wheat fields of Washington State's Klickitat County, the blades of 133 wind turbines spin rhythmically in the breeze. Built in 2006 near the town of Bickleton, the installation -- known as the Big Horn Wind Project -- produces enough electricity to power 60,000 homes and is one of hundreds of renewable energy projects that have sprung up across the US in recent years.

Yet Big Horn also embodies another trend in America's alternative energy sector. Along with 24 other wind farms around the country, it is owned by Spain's Iberdrola Renovables, a majority-controlled spin-off of European utility Iberdrola. Already the world's largest wind farm operator, Iberdrola Renovables now is the second-biggest wind-energy company in the US, behind only Florida Power & Light. Another European firm, Portugal's EDP Renovaveis -- a subsidiary of domestic utility Energias de Portugal -- is the third-largest, making these two Iberian companies among the leading players in America's push into alternative energy.

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:17:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maldives have first new leader in 30 years - Telegraph

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had ruled for 30 years, was defeated by Mohamed Nasheed, a former "prisoner of conscience", in the country's first democratic election.

Mr Nasheed, the leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) who is known on the islands as "Anni", won 54 per cent of the vote in a two-horse presidential race with Mr Gayoom.

Mr Nasheed becomes the third president since the island nation in the Indian Ocean was granted independence from Britain in 1965. Over 209,000 Maldivians were registered to vote in the contest and turnout was extremely high at 86 per cent.

There was jubilation in the capital, Male, at the result, not least among Mr Nasheed's supporters. "It is a very happy result - it speaks for itself," said the MDP vice president, Ibrahim Hussein Zaki. "We are very happy that President Gayoom peacefully conceded defeat - he called Nasheed last night".

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:23:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gates calls for modernization of U.S. nuclear weapons
By Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times

Unless the United States modernizes its inventory of nuclear weapons and develops a replacement warhead, the atomic arsenal's long-term safety and reliability will deteriorate, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warned Tuesday.

Gates also broke with the Bush administration by saying the United States "probably should" ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, an international agreement prohibiting new testing of nuclear weapons...

"No one has designed a new nuclear weapon in the United States since the 1980s, and no one has built a new one since the early 1990s," he said...

"To be blunt," Gates said, "there is absolutely no way we can maintain a credible deterrent and reduce the number of weapons in our stockpile without resorting to testing our stockpile or pursuing a modernization program." ...

"Currently, the United States is the only declared nuclear power that is neither modernizing its nuclear arsenal nor has the capability to produce a new nuclear warhead," Gates said...

"Let me be clear: The program we propose is not about new nuclear capabilities -- suitcase bombs or bunker-busters or tactical nukes," he said. "It is about safety, security and reliability."


by Magnifico on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 04:23:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hm.

Is this self-advertisement for being kept by Obama?

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

by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 04:26:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it would be a strategic political blunder by Obama to have a Republican as the Defense/War Secretary. "Weak on defense" is the knock against Democrats, so rather than reinforce that misperception, Obama would help his party strengthen their defense/war image by nominating a Democrat.

I would be surprised, but not shocked, if Gates was kept on.

by Magnifico on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 05:17:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Keep Gates : Buffalo News Editorials : The Buffalo News
Gates is nothing of the showboat his predecessor was, but his stock has risen lately because of suggestions that Barack Obama might seek to keep him on as secretary of defense, should he win the election.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 05:30:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not the first time ETribbers have some serious concerns re Obama's foreign policy:
European Tribune - Obama's big foreign policy article
Obama's big foreign policy article

by Jerome a Paris
Thu May 31st, 2007 at 09:24:35 AM EST

...and also:
European Tribune - US vs Europe in 2009

US vs Europe in 2009

by Jerome a Paris
Mon Feb 25th, 2008 at 06:40:28 AM EST

by Bernard (bernard) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 06:28:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He serves at-will to the President.  It may be prudent to keep him on-board for say a year or two to manage the Iraq draw-down rather than waste that time while someone new learns the lay of the land.  Once this task is completed Obama can move to replace him. Provided Gates tows the line this doesn't seem too bad a way to go.  
by paving on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 08:09:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not much learning is needed for an immediate full withdrawal, which would be the option I favour (and, apparently, most of even the US-installed Iraqi political elite, not to speak of the population).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 03:54:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The President and the Defence Secretary provide political direction. The President may be called Commander in Chief as a throwback to the times, in the late 18th century, when Kings still ran their armies if they were so inclined, but at the operational and planning level I'd be shocked if the US military were not run from the joint chiefs on down.

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 Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:22:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
China meeting for Dalai Lama envoys - International Herald Tribune

Chinese officials and emissaries of the Dalai Lama are expected to resume talks on Friday about the future of Tibet despite low expectations for a breakthrough and growing disillusionment among exiled Tibetans over the halting diplomatic process.

Thubten Samphel, a spokesman for the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, confirmed that two senior envoys left New Delhi on Thursday for a five-day trip to Beijing. He said the Chinese had not provided a schedule but predicted that talks would begin on Friday.

"They will get down to business," he said in a telephone interview. <...>

The precise agenda for this week's Beijing meeting is uncertain, though Chinese authorities have said they are only willing to discuss the future of the Dalai Lama himself and possible terms for his return to China. Tibetan envoys believe the talks should be framed around the future of Tibet, greater religious tolerance and other issues. The two sides have long sparred over what would constitute the Dalai Lama's goal of "genuine autonomy" within China.

"The task at hand is to develop a system that would grant the kind of autonomy required for the Tibetans to be able to survive as a distinct and prosperous people within the People's Republic of China," said one of the senior Tibetan envoys in the talks, Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, during a speech earlier this month at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.



Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 08:06:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
THIS, THAT, AND THE OTHER
by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:11:46 PM EST
Dutch Municipalities Plan New Campaign Against Drug Tourists | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 29.10.2008
Municipal officials in the Netherlands are taking another crack at stopping drug tourists flooding into their country to take advantage of the country's soft drugs policy.

The Dutch association for municipalities, VNG, announced Tuesday, Oct. 28 that it will host a soft drugs summit in the third week of November in Maastricht. Participants will seek ways to discourage tourists who visit the Netherlands to take advantage of its liberal drug laws. By extension, the summit also seeks to reduce drug-related crime.

The summit comes in the wake of last week's decision by the south- western Dutch towns of Roosendaal and Bergen op Zoom to gradually close their local "coffee shops" in an attempt to reduce drug-related crimes.

All Dutch cities and towns close to the German or Belgian borders are invited to the summit. After the summit, the VNG will present the cities' common position to the government.

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:16:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | Tags unlock young salmon secrets

Miniature tag technology has helped unlock the mysteries of the journey undertaken by juvenile salmon in the North-West United States.

A team of researchers fitted the novel devices to 1,000 of the young fish and tracked their progress from the Rockies through the Pacific to Alaska.

The scientists hope to use the tags in the future to learn more about the movements of other small fish species.

The study was part of a 10-year global project called Census of Marine Life.

Although tags have been used in the past to track mature salmon along their coastal migration, it is the first time the technology has been used on juveniles, otherwise known as smolt.

by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:21:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fingerprints at the nursery | Telegraph | 29 Oct 2008

George Bathurst, Managing Director of Honeycomb Solutions said: "This cutting edge system will revolutionise the way we keep our children safe by ensuring that only authorised people can get into the classroom. Even when you have authorisation staff will know who you are, and when arrived. This can be monitored centrally, providing an additional layer of security. We predict that within the next five years this system will become common place across the country."

Fingerprints off the street | Guardian | 27 Oct 2008

Every police force in the UK is to be equipped with mobile fingerprint scanners - handheld devices that allow police to carry out identity checks on people in the street.

The new technology, which ultimately may be able to receive pictures of suspects, is likely to be in widespread use within 18 months. Tens of thousands of sets - as compact as BlackBerry smartphones - are expected to be distributed. The police claim the scheme, called Project Midas, will transform the speed of criminal investigations. A similar, heavier machine has been tested during limited trials with motorway patrols. To address fears about mass surveillance and random searches, the police insist fingerprints taken by the scanners will not be stored or added to databases. ...

The tender document for Midas states: "Bidders' solutions ... should include, but may not be limited to, fingerprint identification capability." Plans for a police Facial Images National Database (Find) were suspended last year but are being reviewed. One of the companies bidding for the Midas contract, Northrop Grumman, told the Guardian: "A lot of the hand-held [devices] we are considering have cameras so they can support fingerprint and facial images".



Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 07:52:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
MarketTrustee:
George Bathurst, Managing Director of Honeycomb Solutions said:

"Mmm. Pork. Pork rich and tasty. More pork!"

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 02:15:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As Gas Prices Go Down, Driving Goes Up - NYTimes.com

... With auto companies closing factories that produce sport utility vehicles in favor of smaller, gas-efficient cars, it may be hard to veer back to the gas-guzzling days very quickly. But Dan Lopez, business manager at the Ford dealership in the Louisiana town of Sulphur, near here, says he has already noticed a shift. Truck sales froze over the summer, he said, but now "some people are gradually getting back into the truck market. We're used to the comforts, frills and whistles, and so if gasoline goes down to a reasonable level, people will not stay in a little boxy fuel-efficient car." <...>

Data compiled by MasterCard Advisors, covering both credit and cash sales of gasoline, had been showing a strong decline of gasoline consumption in early October, when prices were still high. For the weeks ending Oct. 3 and Oct. 10, for example, gasoline sales were down 9.5 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively, compared with the same weeks in 2007.

But a MasterCard Advisors report released Tuesday showed that in the last two weeks, with pump prices falling, consumption of gasoline was down only 6.4 percent in each week compared with the same weeks of 2007.

Michael McNamara, vice president of MasterCard's SpendingPulse data service, said gasoline consumption declined in recent months because of a combination of the slowing economy and high prices at the pump. "You are starting to get some easing from one of the two pressure points," he added.

Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, said: "Demand is trickling back among everyday people." He added that gasoline retailers around the country were telling him "they are probably past the bottom of demand destruction for 2008, meaning they see subtle signs that gasoline demand is increasing." ...



Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 09:02:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Never mind.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 09:25:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
KLATSCH
by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:12:07 PM EST
Lectures see Tony Blair earnings jump over £12m - Times Online

Tony Blair's earnings since leaving Downing Street are calculated to have topped £12 million, more than six times his previous lifetime income.

The former Prime Minister, who tours the world speaking to audiences including investment banks, private equity firms and chambers of commerce, is now said to be the highest-paid speaker in the world. Since launching himself on the speaking circuit last October, Mr Blair is understood to have earned more from speeches than Bill Clinton, the former US President, did in his first year after leaving the White House.

As the stock market has plummeted and the housing market has slumped, the man who as Prime Minister championed the "light-touch" system of financial regulation blamed by some for the current crisis is enjoying an unprecedented boom of his own.

Mr Blair receives £84,000 of taxpayers' money to run a private office and is entitled to an annual pension of £63,468, but this pales to insignificance beside his private earnings. He has made £4.6 million from his memoirs, an estimated £2 million from JPMorgan Chase -- including bonus -- and £500,000 from Zurich Financial Services. On top of that he has exceeded the $9.2 million (£5.8 million) that Mr Clinton earned, according to his wife Hillary's financial disclosures, from speeches in his first year outside the White House.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 03:22:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One senior official said: "There's a view in the UN that he's not making any progress and that from all the status that he brings to the position, he doesn't seem to be achieving anything . . . He's meant to work on the distribution of aid to Palestinians ..."

They said "Palestine" but he heard "philistine", so he naturally started aid distribution to himself.

by det on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 03:59:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
det: They said "Palestine" but he heard "philistine", so he naturally started aid distribution to himself.

In fact, the two words come from the same root.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:37:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks again for the Salon, Fran.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 09:05:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The SO would like to know if anyone has a good recipe for Bara Brith.  Apparently it is a Welsh, or Welch, bread and supposedly really, really wonderful.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 11:17:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bonk!
see more crazy cat pics

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:22:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Another good time for a rebrand.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:42:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the US launch of McVities Ginger Nuts was a failure...

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 05:25:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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