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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 31 October

by Fran Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:35:59 PM EST

On this date in history:

1291 – Birth of Philippe de Vitry, a French composer, music theorist and poet. He was an accomplished, innovative, and influential composer, and may also have been the author of the Ars Nova treatise.(d. 1361)

More here and video

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by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:36:47 PM EST
Ukraine starts talks on visa-free travel to EU - EUobserver

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The EU and Ukraine on Wednesday (29 October) launched talks on allowing Ukrainian citizens to travel visa-free to the EU, with Kiev hoping to finalise the process by 2012, but Brussels reluctant to commit to a specific date.

This is "really a very remarkable event" for EU-Ukraine relations, Ukrainian foreign minister Volodymyr Ogryzko told journalists in Brussels.

Celebrations of Europe Day in Kiev - a large majority of Ukrainians back their country's EU perspective.

"For us, it is absolutely clear that this [achieving visa-free travel to the EU for Ukrainians] should be done not in decades but in years: it is essentially important to finish this process before 2012," when Ukraine will together with Poland host the next European football championship, he added.

Ukraine itself granted visa-free travel to passport holders from 25 EU states in 2005 to attract visitors for the Eurovision song contest finals in Kiev, extending the deal to Bulgaria and Romania in January 2008.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:40:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU resists calls to send troops to east Congo - EUobserver

French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner has suggested the EU should do more to help UN peacekeepers in Congo, but there is not enough political will among member states to send an EU battlegroup to the conflict-struck African region.

"It's very difficult to say what we can do outside of diplomatic efforts, efforts at persuasion, and efforts so that peace can be achieved by leaning on the two countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda," Mr Kouchner said on Wednesday (29 October).

East Congo - "I hope that the French presidency will make a proposal in the coming days," said French FM Bernard Kouchner

Speaking on behalf of the current EU presidency held by France until the end of December, Mr Kouchner had earlier indicated that Paris would support sending a 1,500-strong military group to Congo to help tackle violence there.

But his suggestion did not receive enough support, as "a certain number of countries refused" the idea, he said on Wednesday, according to AP.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:41:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Johann Hari: How we fuel Africa's bloodiest war - Johann Hari, Commentators - The Independent
The deadliest war since Adolf Hitler marched across Europe is starting again - and you are almost certainly carrying a blood-soaked chunk of the slaughter in your pocket. When we glance at the holocaust in Congo, with 5.4 million dead, the clichés of Africa reporting tumble out: this is a "tribal conflict" in "the Heart of Darkness". It isn't. The United Nations investigation found it was a war led by "armies of business" to seize the metals that make our 21st-century society zing and bling. The war in Congo is a war about you.

Decent piece by Johann Hari. But really, 'Heart of Darkness' is a book about colonial exploitation if there ever was one. It even has a resource war angle.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 09:09:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Second Greatest Risk after Terrorism: London Haunted by Relentless Spate of Stabbings - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Shaquille was 14 when he bled to death beside a park bench. Ben died aged 16, Robert was 18. A total of 27 youths have been stabbed to death in London this year. Police and politicians seem powerless to stop the violence, which stems in part from a growing gap between the haves and have-nots.

London in autumn is no place for people of a nervous disposition. Fireworks are being set off on street corners ahead of Bonfire Night on Nov. 5, and in the southern borough of Southwark, figures with white-painted faces lurk in the shadows trying to lure tourists into the "London Dungeon," a chamber of horrors.

But young people in Southwark and elsewhere in the British capital are in very real fear of their lives. This year alone, 27 teenagers have been murdered in London, more than in the whole of 2007. Most of the murders have been caused by stabbing. Scotland Yard says knife murders among youths are the second biggest security risk in London after possible terrorist attacks.

Figures from the London police show that Londoners aged 17 to 20 are at an above-average risk of being attacked with a knife. More and more teenagers are carrying knives, usually because they're afraid of being attacked themselves. London police have confiscated 2,600 knives from youths searched in the street this year alone.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:42:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And pray tell why this is second after terrorism -- and why nothing is ahead of both?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 07:05:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interview with Dutch Architect Rem Koolhaas: 'The World Needs Europe' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Dutch Architect Rem Koolhaas likes to think in S, M and L, but especially in XL. And that pretty much describes his next project -- a think tank to help overhaul the European Union. In an interview, he discusses the need for a stronger EU role in the world and why we need to stop acting superior when it comes to Russia and China.

Renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, whose innovative buildings can be seen all over the world, was asked earlier this month to mull the future of Europe as a member of a new think tank set up by the European Council of Ministers, the European Union body that represents the interests of the 27 member states. Europe faces many long term challenges, but "if Europe wants the world to listen, it will have to stop talking to itself," he says.

 Koolhaas is one of a group of 12 influential Europeans who have been invited to take part in a think tank on the future of the European Union which is expected to come up with a series of proposals for dealing with diverse issues running a gamut of policies that range from energy to security to migration for the period between 2020-2030.

"My job takes me to countries in Asia and the Arab world all the time and there's hardly a European presence there at all," says Koolhaas. "And you can see how badly it's needed. But Europe is too turned in on itself."

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:44:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interview with Dutch Architect Rem Koolhaas: 'The World Needs Europe' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Short but fascinating comments from the designer of a citadel of PRC propaganda:

NRC Handelsblad: So Europe should loosen its ties with the United States?

Koolhaas: It should become less US-oriented. I am not saying we should turn against the Americans but I think we should also look towards building relationships with Russia, Turkey, the Arab world and China and India, and on an equal basis. China built the Bird's Nest stadium for the Olympics and they chose European architects to design it -- an unbelievably wonderful gesture. We aren't even able to understand that, to appreciate it. The whole world is enthusiastic about it except the European media. We act like we're superior, put ourselves above others. But those days are long gone.

NRC Handelsblad: Are you saying that if we just worked together, democracy in countries such as China will follow automatically?

Koolhaas: That is a typically European way of looking at it. This is an experiment called 'globalization.' If we knew what the outcome was going to be, we would be on a crusade, not conducting an experiment. You can't say: Only democratic countries are ok. And who knows what such a cooperation will bring. We may come up with a new, hybrid system of government.

I think he is being a little ambitious with that "and on an equal basis".  Western governments are not used to treating non-Western governments on an equal basis.  But they are learning, if awkwardly.

Anecdotal evidence is always suspect, but despite Koolhaas's statement that "the Chinese miss Europe on the world's political stage", my impressions from talking to regular Chinese is that they do not express much interest in Europe at all -- except for acquiring status symbols like Porsche Carreras and Louis Vuitton accessories.  The anti-Olympic protests earlier this year (both in the streets and by European politician) did not endear Europe to the Chinese, to put it mildly.

Maybe the Chinese government sees a need to remedy this lack of curiosity in and friendliness towards Europe and thus makes such "unbelievably wonderful gesture"s as selecting a Swiss firm to design the Beijing Olympic Stadium -- and a Dutch firm to design the headquarters of China Central Television.

In contrast, the Chinese express open fondness and warmth towards the USA.  USAn books and magazines dominate "featured" sections of the bookstores (translated into Mandarin, of course).

The only conspicuous European influences I see in day to day life are the large number of German and French cars on the streets (though there are large numbers of American and Japanese cars as well -- not sure what the actual market shares are), and fancy department stores filled with the usual line-up of French and Italian designer goods and brand names.

But in China, impressions, snap-judgements and prejudices are challenged and turned upside down every day (my own included for sure), either by personal encounters or more in depth reading and research.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 10:26:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Europe | Car bomb targets Spain university

A car bomb has exploded in a university car park in Pamplona, northern Spain.

There were no reports of deaths in the blast, which happened at 1110 (1010 GMT), but at least 15 people were injured and some cars were set ablaze.

The University of Navarra is near the Basque Country, where Eta separatists are continuing a violent campaign for independence from Spain.

Local officials said they had received a vague telephone warning, purportedly from Eta, before the blast.

"Eta has once again displayed its vileness," said Jose Antonio Alonso, spokesman for the governing Socialist party.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:45:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This could have been a real tragedy.

ETA screwed up the warning call.  They called the police in the neighboring province of Alava, so they started looking for the car at the university in Vittoria.

They could have created a real massacre with this.

Luckily, the car was parked in a lot towards the edge of the campus, and the campus is fairly spread out.  

I lived in Iturrama, the neighborhood immediately to the north of the University of Navarra, a private school, while studying at the public university in the city.

It should be noted that the university is associated with Opus Dei and holds a position similar to that of Oxford in Britain or Harvard in the US.  Very prestigious.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 11:25:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Chancellor demands cheaper petrol as Shell posts record profits | Business | guardian.co.uk
Trace the rise and fall in crude prices in the last decade

Alistair Darling today called on oil companies to pass on lower costs to consumers by cutting petrol prices as Royal Dutch Shell posted a 71% rise in profits.

The chancellor said that he wanted the recent drop in the oil price, which has halved in recent months, to be passed on to the pumps as soon as possible.

"People are entitled to see the benefit of that falling price reflected in what they actually pay when they fill up the car," Darling told GMTV.

Shell defied the economic gloom this morning and smashed analyst forecasts when it reported a profit of $10.9bn (£6.6bn) for the third quarter of 2008, up from $6.4bn the previous year, thanks to the earlier surge in the price of oil.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:45:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Shell defied helped cause the economic gloom

Parasitcal profiteering, much?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 05:09:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU Lawmakers Demand Hooker-Free Lodging | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 30.10.2008
A group of Scandinavian European parliamentarians has called for the EU Parliament in Strasbourg to stop using hotels where prostitutes are allowed.

The European Parliament convenes most often in Brussels, but once a month it meets in its official seat in Strasbourg, France.


Each time the approximately 800 lawmakers and their staff arrive, the town on the French-German borders sees a boom in prostitution, the German daily news Web site Tagesschau asserts.


Now, a letter signed by 37 parliamentarians -- mainly from Scandinavian countries -- is calling for the body to "only use hotels which issue a guarantee that the hotel is not involved in sex trade, and that all staff have written guidelines on this issue

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:47:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Berlusconi aims to get tough on graffiti - International Herald Tribune

ROME: In his first few months back in office, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has focused on cleaning up Italy's streets - of illegal immigrants, crime and, now, spray paint. Graffiti, he says, must be abolished because "in some of our cities, it feels as though we're in Africa rather than Europe."

His government hopes to issue strict measures Friday that would increase punishments for anyone who marks up private walls or public property.

In the face of shrinking economic growth and a growing dependence on tourism, putting Italy's best face forward is becoming a national imperative. This has not been helped by the recent media coverage of a lingering garbage crisis in Naples, with news photographs showing streets piled high with garbage.

"Italy must recover its image," especially abroad, Berlusconi said Wednesday at a meeting of the Federation of Merchants and Shopkeepers, where he said that the anti-graffiti measures would be discussed at a cabinet meeting  Friday.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:49:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He quoted the "prime minister" of Singapore, "his good friend", who administers two whip blows for that sort of behaviour.

May the "writers" smother his villas down to the last pebble.

(In the meantime he tries to sneak back the article into another bill that will decriminalize fraudulent bankruptcy for his business partners and cohorts who are presently under trial- Geronzi, Tanzi for Parmalat, etc... just like Bush with Enron.)

(In the meantime his deputy, the ineffable Gabriella Carlucci, world-renowned cretin, tries to decriminalize the possession of ancient artefacts with a simple declaration and a modest sum for registration.)

(In the meantime Berlusconi with lame pretexts seeks to shovel through parliament on obscene electoral law for the upcoming European elections which blatantly gerrymanders the nation, allows him to cheery pick his deputies rather than have them elected, and eliminates all parties with less than 5%.)

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 05:22:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because given all the problems and challenges this world faces, we really ought be focusing on combating graffiti.

If you had a 100 million euros, would you spend it on

a) alternative sources of energy
b) ending world poverty
c) finding a cure for cancer
d) buying shitloads of paint and hitting the streets

If you didn't answer d), you're a communist.

And didn't they just cut the education budget, by the way? Fuckers.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde

by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 06:19:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"in some of our cities, it feels as though we're in Africa rather than Europe."

And this is bad, how, exactly?

There are far too many things floating around that feel like the thirties for comfort.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 09:24:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Britain accused of betraying Georgia and handing victory to Russia - Telegraph
Britain is preparing to "sell" Georgia and hand a "victory" to Russia by agreeing to start talks on a partnership agreement between Moscow and the European Union, according to senior European diplomats.

This would amount to a return to "business as usual" and a "clear signal" that Russia had escaped any lasting diplomatic penalty for invading Georgia in August, they said.

Only eight weeks ago, Gordon Brown helped persuade other European leaders to punish Russia for its strike into Georgia by postponing talks on a new "Partnership and Cooperation Agreement" with the EU. Aside from verbal condemnation and a general review of the EU's relations with Moscow, this was the only tangible counter-measure imposed on the Kremlin after the war.

Both the Prime Minister and David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, reaffirmed Britain's position during a European summit two weeks ago.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:57:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
according to senior European diplomats

Who would those diplomats be...

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

by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 07:01:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A senior diplomat from a Central European country recalled how Mr Miliband visited Georgia shortly after the Russian invasion.
(my emphasis)
"Miliband was so strongly in favour of us from the first days of the conflict. Now he is making a U-turn within two weeks just to please Sarkozy. What happened in this world that caused this change?" asked the diplomat.
Someone who identifies Central Europe with Georgia
"Sarkozy wants to have a good summit. He's an Emperor, he's trying to celebrate his victories, he's trying to say that Russia is doing everything it's supposed to do, which is nonsense."
with some anti-French rhetoric for good measure.

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 07:09:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Could this be the surviving Twin?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 07:22:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Andreotti says Craxi warned Gadaffi of imminent raid in 1986

A casual remark by Senator Andreotti on Reagan's attempts to assassinate Gadaffi has been confirmed by the Libyan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdurrahman Shalgam. The minister declared that Craxi had warned him through a friend that the Americans would launch an attack against Libya within 48 hours and that Italy would not allow the attack to be conducted from their territiory. According to the minister Gadaffi's life was probably saved thanks to Craxi.

The Libyans retaliated by launching a missile against the island of Lampedusa, an action now justified because the Americans had used the island for their attack.

Libya and Italy have recently signed a controversial treaty of friendship, partnership and cooperation. Either the treaty is at odds with Italy's NATO obligations or Libya is slipping into NATO through the back door.

Libya has also bought into the major Italian bank UniCredit which is perceived as a means of reinforcing the Berlusconi-Geronzi financial axis and prepare the terrain for an entry into ENI. Following the recent visit of Putin to Libya we may be looking at a Putin-Berlusconi-Gadaffi financial triumvirate on the energy mart.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 05:52:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Crowds Bid Fond Farewell to Airport That Saved Berlin - NYTimes.com

Berliners turned out on Thursday to say their goodbyes to historic Tempelhof Airport, to share a few memories and to protest its closing one last time.

Two vintage airplanes, a DC-3 and a Junkers Ju-52, took off shortly before midnight as the final flights from the airport, which had been the focus of a legal battle that went on for several years.

To those who advocated for its closing, like Berlin's mayor, Klaus Wowereit, Tempelhof was an unprofitable drain on the city's budget. To its supporters it was an architectural masterpiece and a historic monument to freedom.

Tempelhof, although built by the Nazis, is best known as the site of the Berlin airlift of 1948 and 1949, after the Soviets blocked land access to the city. The United States and Britain brought in supplies by air, over 2 million tons of food, fuel and even machinery. It became a symbol of the Allies' commitment to protecting the city and indeed Western Europe.

Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out in favor of preserving the airport earlier this year, and more than 60 percent of the voters in an April referendum said they wanted it kept open. But their numbers fell short of the minimum needed to make the referendum valid. No decision has been made as to what will be done with the airport and its grounds, though the building is a protected landmark and cannot be torn down.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 02:23:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
more than 60 percent of the voters in an April referendum said they wanted it kept open. But their numbers fell short of the minimum needed to make the referendum valid.

LOL. They make much of that majority support, without telling that it was 60% of just how low a turnout: 36.1%. Yes voters were just 21.7% of eligible voters...

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

by DoDo on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 03:46:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Something I missed on the day of the 1956 Revolution on 23 October, when police at last PREVENTED a riot in Budapest, and arrested a bomber.

The official events of both of the rival far-right youth movements (the 64 Shires Movement which spawned the rioters, and youth party JOBBIK which spawned the Hungarian Guard paramilitary) had two 'prominent' guests: Nick Griffin and Roberto Fiore.

Yes, the chairman of the British National Party, and his Italian friend (who hid in Britain after he was sought in connection with the Bologna station bombing), who took Alessandra Mussolini's seat in the European Parliament.

I was aware of ties with the Flemish far-right, but not this.

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

by DoDo on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 04:38:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:37:28 PM EST
Sarkozy boldly attacks financial crisis, but Europe wants results - International Herald Tribune

PARIS: The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is running as fast as he can, but the European recession is gathering pace. After initially good reviews for his leadership and quick response to the crisis, even Sarkozy's vaunted hyperactivity is starting to seem a little counterproductive, especially among his allies.

He is seen as something of a magician, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find meaningful rabbits to pull out of a more tattered hat.

He tried again on Tuesday, faced with major layoffs from French companies like Renault, a quarterly decline of more than 23 percent in building permit applications and a sharp drop in consumer confidence, as measured by the government, to one of the lowest levels in 20 years. The signs of economic caution are everywhere here, including even a sudden drop in the sale of bottled water.

Trying to counteract fears of higher unemployment as the economy slows, Sarkozy announced a new program of subsidized work contracts, warned companies not to make unjustified layoffs and promised to loosen restrictions on short-term job contracts and Sunday work.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:39:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany Plans Growth Package, Discounts Unemployment Drop | Germany | Deutsche Welle | 30.10.2008
German joblessness dropped in October, but the news shed little light in the nation's economic gloom. The government plans to pump some 25 billion euros into rescuing the economy.

Seasonally adjusted unemployment data to be released on Thursday, Oct. 30, is expected to show the numbers of out-of-work Germans slipped by another 10,000 this month, leaving unemployment at 7.6 percent.

Unemployment already fell 29,000 in September. But economists see dark clouds on the horizon. They believe the labor market has yet to factor in the global economic downturn, and that it still reflects the strong economic growth rate from the start of the year.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:39:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Business | VW defies the economic slowdown

Volkswagen has resisted the economic slowdown and reported growing three-month profits.

Net profit from July to September rose 28% to 1.2bn euros ($1.6bn; £950m) boosted by sales in emerging markets.

Improved demand in China, Russia and India helped offset slackening sales in Europe and the US.

VW says it continues to believe that its deliveries, sales and profits will exceed last year's levels despite the "difficult environment".

"We are confirming our forecast for 2008, despite the dramatic deterioration in global economic conditions and the automotive industry environment in recent months," said VW's chief financial officer Hans Dieter Poetsch.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:51:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Guardian says it's currency hedging.

Business Feed Article | Business | guardian.co.uk

Volkswagen, the third-largest carmaker after Toyota and GM, reaffirmed that 2008 operating profit would see growth with just one quarter left to go, after currency hedging gains offset shrinking gross margins to give a hefty boost to earnings in the three months to September 30. VW's automotive net liquidity at the end of September dropped 15 percent as higher investments forced the company to burn through its cash in the third quarter, a 4.36 billion-euro negative swing in net cash flow versus the year earlier. Volkswagen just began the roll-out of its most important model, the VW Golf, which Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn hopes will lift group sales in 2009 as well, but he has already warned next year would be "critical".
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 07:40:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL... you always have to find reasons for labour market reform, even if nothing is there...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 06:59:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Industry commissioner backs €40 billion car sector loans -EUobserver

The European Commission has backed the idea of offering car manufacturers €40 billion in low-interest loans to ease the transition to greener technologies amidst the ongoing economic crisis.

After meeting with European auto sector executives, including France's Peugeot-Citroen and Germany's Daimler on Wednesday (29 October), industry commissioner Guenter Verheugen said he believed loans requested by the industry could be provided via the European Investment Bank to help the companies develop cars that meet EU carbon emissions targets.

Industry commissioner Verheugen backs aid to car manufacturers to help make the shift to green technology

"We have to make sure the extra effort they must make to have lower emissions is not settled through subsidies but that it should be possible for them to have proper access to credit," Mr Verheugen told reporters at a press conference in Brussels after the meeting.

"Loan subsidies could be provided via the European Investent Bank," he said.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:40:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Car Trouble: Europe and Germany Move to Boost Economy - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

With an economic downturn looming, the EU moved to shore up its automobile industry on Wednesday, provoking the ire of environmental groups. Germany too has cobbled together a package, eyeing incentives to encourage investments in green technologies.

European carmakers received a dose of support from the European Union on Wednesday when Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen backed a request for €40 billion in low-interest loans for the struggling auto sector.

The public money would be reserved for manufacturers to meet tough new EU emissions standards, but it comes against a backdrop of a similar American package for its own car industry.

 Environmentalists say the loans are an attempt to "greenwash massive state aid." The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) has been calling for the cheap line of credit since early October, just after the US government announced a $25 billion package of low-interest loans for American auto giants General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:43:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The European Commission has backed the idea of offering car manufacturers €40 billion in low-interest loans to ease the transition to greener technologies amidst the ongoing economic crisis.

Worked wonders for Airbus, this kind of stuff. That reminds me...

WTO delays ruling in Airbus dispute to 2009 | Markets | Markets News | Reuters (Oct 23rd)

The dispute between the United States and European Union over subsidies for the European Airbus is so complicated that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will not be able to rule on it until next year, a WTO document shows.

The decision prolongs one of the most intractable transatlantic trade disputes, involving tens of billions of dollars, in which both the EU and United States claim the other is giving unfair support to its civil aircraft industry.

WTO dispute panels usually aim to give a ruling within six months, but the panel on Airbus subsidies was formed in 2005.


Aviation financing seen harder to come by in 2009 (AP, October 22nd)

Some airlines and aircraft leasing companies may find it hard to get financing to buy aircraft by the beginning of next year, and a number of orders may be canceled or put off, industry executives attending an aviation finance conference said this week.

While many international airlines and leasing companies have credit agreements with banks in place that predate the current credit freeze, others could have trouble getting financing for aircraft purchases as soon as the first quarter of 2009 with lenders more cautious as the global economy sags.

Boeing and Airbus have about 7,000 orders for aircraft on their books from airlines and leasing companies around the world, according to Robert Agnew, president and CEO of the consulting firm Morton Beyer & Agnew. He noted that customers in the Middle East make up about 25 percent of the Boeing and Airbus order books for wide-body jets.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 08:07:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let them all go under!

</rail lobby>

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

by DoDo on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 03:48:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obviously, we should be concerned about the rail industry as well. No joke there. If lending dries up or becomes much more expensive it'll be hard for them to finance new projects too.

I'm ambivalent about this auto industry loan. On the one hand, it has become more or less inevitable since America is doing it and Japan will probably do it too. And I guess that if our discipline and oversight is better than that of the Americans, the cheaper loans might actually be put to use to bring to the market the cleaner, more recycleable cars the industry is obliged to develop to meet the EU standards that will enter into force in the near future.

Airbus, AFAIK, used the loans to really develop and roll out products, and not to, say, buy up Saab and increase executive compensation while reducing payrolls.

On the other hand, there are sectors of the economy low-interest long term loans could have more return on investment for. Like, say, concentrated solar power. Or offshore wind.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 05:03:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Brussels doubles emergency funding to EU economies - EUobserver

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The European Commission has unveiled a draft version of its plan for the economic recovery of the European Union, a plan that includes an even more generous boost to the emergency fund for EU economies battered by the global financial crisis than had previously been proposed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

After tackling the immediate problems in the financial sector, the EU executive aims to deal with the knock-on effects to the economy

"Europe must confront the economic downturn with the same robust and coordinated approach we have taken on the financial crisis," commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Wednesday (29 October), after an extraordinary college meeting devoted to the ongoing market mayhem.

As part of the commission's plan - to be published at full length on 26 November - Brussels is proposing to more than double the existing financial facility used to provide loans to EU countries facing difficulties.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:42:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Payouts to savers would cripple Icelandic economy, says Geir Haarde - Times Online

The Icelandic economy would be crippled if the country had to pay British savers in its stricken banks the full amount that Britain claims is due, the country's Prime Minister said yesterday.

"I don't want to make comparisons with Versailles, but the debt burden from this type of arrangement would be terrible," Geir Haarde told The Times, referring to the 1919 treaty that left Germany laden with debt and fuelled the rise of Nazism. "It's an enormous number. Everyone has to figure out for themselves whether that would be sustainable.

"There would be no backing in parliament for that kind of a deal," he added, playing what may be his strongest card: that Iceland simply cannot afford to pay the sums that Britain claims it is obliged to find for foreign victims of its financial meltdown. Three weeks after the collapse of its entire banking system, Iceland is locked in a row with Britain over who should compensate savers. Each side is now careful to use cooler language than in the first eruption of insults, but they still clash on their interpretion of Iceland's responsibilities under its membership of the European Economic Area.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:46:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's probably wise to avoid pushing Iceland too far, because if they do they might end up pushing the country into Russia's sphere.

Iceland can't hand over Keyflavik to the Russians because of its membership in NATO, but if they weren't in NATO........

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 11:40:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Business | US economy officially shrinking

The US economy shrank at an annualised rate of 0.3% between July and September, according to figures from the Commerce Department.

The gross domestic product (GDP) figures were better than expected, although they show the sharpest contraction of the economy since 2001.

Consumer spending, which makes up two-thirds of the US economy, shrank by 3.1%, the first contraction since 1991.

The 0.3% fall followed 2.8% growth in the previous three-month period.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:50:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Merkel, Brown Call for Global Reforms to Finance System | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 30.10.2008
Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Brown said their nations will cooperate to keep the global financial crisis from spreading by working to reform international institutions and encouraging banks to restart lending.

Both leaders agreed to "strengthen" the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) with a new facility on which countries threatened by the global crisis -- especially the emerging economies -- could draw.


It was "vital" that further contagion of countries by the current global financial crisis be prevented, especially in eastern Europe, Brown said after the meeting Thursday, Oct. 30, in a reference to recent IMF aid packages for Hungary and Ukraine.


Additional resources for the IMF should be provided by countries with "considerable reserves," said Brown. Earlier this week, he said China and the oil-rich Gulf states should be called upon to provide extra money for the fund to alleviate the current global financial crisis.


by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 05:43:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Citigroup, Credit Suisse Link Loans to Swaps. | Bloomberg | 30 Oct 2008

Citigroup Inc. and Credit Suisse Group AG are among banks tying corporate loan rates to credit- default swaps, raising borrowing costs and exposing companies to derivatives accused of crippling the financial system.

Banks are toughening terms following $678 billion in writedowns and losses, rising funding costs and a jump in companies drawing on lines they'd already negotiated. Before markets seized up this year, most rates on $6 trillion of revolving loans were based on a borrower's debt rating and priced at an amount over the London interbank offered rate.

The inclusion of the swaps shows that banks are shifting away from setting loan pricing by relying on debt ratings and Libor, a benchmark rate that is set each day in London by tallying the cost of 16 banks to borrow from each other. ...

FirstEnergy, with utilities in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, agreed this month to link interest rates on a $300 million credit line to the cost of Libor as well as the sum of the spread on its default swaps and those of Credit Suisse, according to a regulatory filing.

Loans from the Zurich-based bank would require total interest payments of about 6 percentage points over Libor if the power company draws on the bank line, according to regulatory filings and Bloomberg data. That's almost 14 times the spread on a $2.75 billion credit line the company negotiated in 2006.

USD LIBOR panelists: Credit Suisse, UBS AG / BoA, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup / Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Norinchukin Bank, Rabobank / Royal Bank of Canada / HBOS PLC, HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland / Westdeutsche Landesbank, Deutsche Bank

Tying. Who can say for certain that reporter intended to use this term in this context? I'd say it's intentional. Tying is a well-documented monopoly practice. For example, Shapiro and Varian write in Information Rules:

Certain commercial practices are a red flag to antitrust authorities. Exclusive dealing provisions are in this category: a monopolist who insists that its customers not deal with its competitors is in for some tough questions. Tying is another suspect practice: a monopolist who insists that customers take another product if they want the monopolized item are likely to be challenged. This sounds simple, but it can be devilishly hard to determine whether there really are two products involved instead of one. [1999:309]

www US, EC discursion

Evidently, government banking regulators have conceded "free market" competition to select TBTF corporations. The last semblances of antitrust enforcement is out the door. Cost of capital will pass through to retail.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 12:14:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
These credit default swaps are what caused the current crisis.

AIG has pissed away almost all the billions of dollars that the US government gave them, and the majority of it was on settling up these swaps.

So the government is giving money to pay off swaps, but won't give money to homeowners to stay in their homes which would likely have a huge multiplier effect.

Let's say that there's a $1 million bloc of loans in default.  

But this underlying asset is linked to $20 million in CDS.

If the government had given the money to pay off the loans, the CDS are settled.  But instead of taking the logical route, the government gave the money to the banks, and they've used it to pay off CDS.

That's the scam, and that's the reason that the numbers being tossed around are so huge.  The value  of the underlying asset in default is a small fraction of the CDS contracts that are based off it.

The real irony of this situation is that if the government had used the money given to AIG to pay off the difference between the purchase price and the depreciated value for home owners, refiguring the monthly payment to match.  They could have halted the foreclosure surge in its tracks, and prevented loss in associated loans from bleeding into the CDS market.  Fixing the problem for a fraction of what they've spent.

It isn't economics driving the response here, it neo-liberal ideology.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 02:14:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
AIG has pissed away almost all the billions of dollars that the US government gave them, and the majority of it was on settling up these swaps.

Not quite pissed it away.

What this means is that AIG are now the proud owners of gazillions of dollars in defaulted loans which have been delivered to them by the people who entered into the swap with AIG.

The value of these is unclear, but is unlikely to be zero.

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

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 09:36:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not necessarily, given that you don't have to have an interest in a loan in order to enter into a CDS on it.

Say you loan me some money, and MfM enters into a CDS with AIG which requires AIG to pay him in the event that I default, in exchange for some periodic payments as long as I don't default.

When I default, AIG pays MfM the agreed sum, but the loan is still between you and me (and you got my collateral). AIG gets nothing.

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 09:40:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes indeedy. This is not a US-specific policy event; the capital market is after all transnational. And it is not good news for you and I ... if we are waiting on justice departments to litigate "part-nationalized" torts.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 10:25:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:37:49 PM EST
Syria puts US embassy under guard amid Damascus protest | World news | guardian.co.uk
Troops carrying batons and shields are stationed in Damascus as crowds decry American 'terrorist' raid on border

Hundreds of Syrian riot police surrounded the US embassy in Damascus today as tens of thousands of protesters gathered nearby to denounce a US raid that killed eight people near the Iraqi border.

The crowds converged on Youssef al-Azmi square, about a mile from the embassy -- which was closed for the day because of security concerns.

Troops wearing helmets and carrying batons and shields took up positions around the embassy and the adjacent US residence building. Two fire engines were parked nearby.

There were no signs of violence as protesters formed circles and danced traditional dances

"America the sponsor of destruction and wars," read one banner, as protesters waved national flags and pictures of the Syrian president, Bashar Assad.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:45:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How many times has even the Guardian put "terrorist" in scare quotes when it was American officials branding someone thus?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 06:45:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ExxonMobil Posts Biggest Quarterly US Profit In History

HOUSTON - Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest publicly traded oil company, says it shattered its own record for the biggest profit from operations by a U.S. corporation, earning $14.83 billion in the third quarter. bolstered

Bolstered by this summer's record crude prices, the Irving, Texas-based company said Thursday that net income jumped nearly 58 percent, or $2.86 a share in the July-September. That compares with $9.41 billion, or $1.70 a share, a year ago.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:46:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pakistan earthquake: Thousands displaced as death toll rises to 300 - Telegraph

The 6.4-magnitude earthquake, that hit before dawn on Wednesday, flattened mud-brick houses and triggered landslides in Ziarat in the province of Baluchistan bordering Afghanistan.

Some estimates calculated that up to 600 people may have died and 2,000 homes been destroyed.

"The death toll may be 300 or even more," said a provincial official.

"The search for bodies is still going on," Faisal Edhi of the Edhi Foundation, the country's largest ambulance service, said by telephone from Ziarat, one of the worst-affected areas of Baluchistan province.

"We think by the end of the operation the total number of deaths may approach 400."

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:58:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At Least 64 Die in Bombings In a Northeast Indian State - NYTimes.com

There were no immediate reports that any group had taken responsibility for the bombings.

For many years, Assam State has been riven by a separatist insurgency led by the United Liberation Front of Assam, which demands independence for this region of some 26 million people and is often blamed by the authorities for bombings. Last month, ethnic clashes left 57 people dead in the area when indigenous Bodos fought with Bengali-speaking Muslims. <...>

Khagen Sharma, the inspector general of police in Assam State, said the authorities suspected that the attacks may have been orchestrated by the United Liberation Front of Assam working with militant jihadist groups. He said the police had been on high alert after tips that an attack might be imminent. <...>

The blasts in Assam were the latest in a series of bombings in several parts of India as national elections approach. Before Thursday's explosions, about 150 people had died in seven recent attacks around the country. ...

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 08:50:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FT.com / Asia-Pacific / China - Kidnap alleged in China dispute

A British scrap metal company has accused Chinese customers of abducting its chief trader for ransom in a case that underlines the challenges of doing business in China. <...>

Goldarrow said Mr Srivastav went to Ningbo this month to seek $1.2m in due payments from Ningbo Yibao and associate companies. It alleged that James Xu, a Ningbo Yibao trader, instead told him he would not be allowed to leave the city until Goldarrow paid compensation for quality problems with a previously delivered scrap shipment. <...>

When Mr Srivastav slipped away to a Shanghai airport to return to the UK, he said, he was dragged from the terminal by a group of men and bundled into a people carrier. "I was shouting, `Help! Help! Help!" he said. "I was totally terrified...one guy pointed his finger like a gun and put it to my temple." <...>

Mr Srivastav said he was taken to a Ningbo police station where he appealed for protection but was returned to Guanghe staff. "I said, `Please put me in jail', but they said, `We can't put you in jail because you haven't committed any crime'."

The embassy in Beijing said it did not become involved after concluding it was a business dispute. Ningbo city police confirmed they had been involved in a case involving Guanghe and a foreigner but declined to give further details by telephone.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 12:49:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a blog called Shanghai Scrap covering this (by non-Chinese standards) bizarre story:

Shanghai Scrap » Scrap Trader Kidnapped, Held for Ransom in Ningbo.

In response to the ISRI travel advisory, and increasing attention paid to the alleged kidnapping, the Chinese Nonferrous Metals Industry Association Recycling Branch sent the following letter to Robin Weiner, President of ISRI...:

Dear Ms. Weiner,


I'm sorry to say that the "kidnapping" mentioned by a UK company is not the fact. The truth is that the suppliers from England miss-loaded scrap copper with aluminum scrap. Then, the representative of supplier came to Ningbo to negotiate their Chinese buyer, and agreement finally reached after long time discussion during which some unpleasant things happened. This is just a single case in trade disputation, so we can not call it "kidnapping".


Best regards,
Ma Hongchang
Vice Secretary General
China Nonferrous Metals Industry Recycling Metal Branch (CMRA)

Apparently the British embassy in Beijing concurred.  (Though I would love to find out what "unpleasant things happened".)

More here as well: Shanghai Scrap » Alleged Ningbo Kidnapper Responds!

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 01:01:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Paul Krugman - When Consumers Capitulate - NYTimes.com

... According to Thursday's G.D.P. report, real consumer spending fell at an annual rate of 3.1 percent in the third quarter; real spending on durable goods (stuff like cars and TVs) fell at an annual rate of 14 percent. <...>

To appreciate the significance of these numbers, you need to know that American consumers almost never cut spending. Consumer demand kept rising right through the 2001 recession; the last time it fell even for a single quarter was in 1991, and there hasn't been a decline this steep since 1980, when the economy was suffering from a severe recession combined with double-digit inflation. <...>

... if consumers cut their spending, and nothing else takes the place of that spending, the economy will slide into a recession, reducing everyone's income.

In fact, consumers' income may actually fall more than their spending, so that their attempt to save more backfires -- a possibility known as the paradox of thrift. <...>

... the fact is that we are in a liquidity trap right now: Fed policy has lost most of its traction. It's true that Ben Bernanke hasn't yet reduced interest rates all the way to zero, as the Japanese did in the 1990s. But it's hard to believe that cutting the federal funds rate from 1 percent to nothing would have much positive effect on the economy. In particular, the financial crisis has made Fed policy largely irrelevant for much of the private sector: The Fed has been steadily cutting away, yet mortgage rates and the interest rates many businesses pay are higher than they were early this year. <...>

... what the economy needs now is something to take the place of retrenching consumers. That means a major fiscal stimulus. And this time the stimulus should take the form of actual government spending rather than rebate checks that consumers probably wouldn't spend. ...

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 02:49:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Documents detail Iranian training of Iraqi militias

... [Special Forces veteran and former director of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, Col. Joseph] Felter and his co-author, Brian Fishman, quote from an interrogation with a member of an Iranian-trained network known as the Special Group Criminals: "Iran does not care about the fight between Shi'a and al-Qaeda. Iran just wants to force Coalition Forces out of Iraq because Iran is afraid Coalition Forces will use Iraq as a base for an attack in the future. Iran is training people to fight Coalition Forces, not al-Qaeda."

Felter notes that in 2004, when Najaf seemed headed toward chaos, "Iran intervened and took strong steps to ensure the continued viability of the electoral political process." Iran would like to see a weakly federated Iraq strong enough to prevent chaos or a Sunni power grab while still giving Iranian leaders a chance to have serious influence in the Shiite-dominated and oil rich region of southern Iraq, Felter said.

Importantly, Felter points out, "The United States and Iran are not engaged in a zero-sum game in Iraq. Both countries want greater stability and democracy, as well as a reduction of U.S. troops. Neither Washington nor Tehran wants a hostile relationship that could lead to unnecessary conflict." These mutual interests are shared by Iraqis as well and, according to Felter, could provide groundwork for potential future cooperation and for compromises in which all sides' interests are better met than with the status quo.

Perhaps paradoxically, Iran may have less influence in Iraq once U.S. forces have gone home, Felter said. At that point, Iraqi Shiite militants will no longer share a common enemy with Iran, and Iraqi nationalism may rise to the forefront, thus exacerbating age-old rifts and animosities between Iraqi Arabs and their Persian neighbors.

Felter's paper, "Iranian Strategy in Iraq: Politics and 'Other Means,'" can be found along with the supporting intelligence documents at http://www.ctc.usma.edu/Iran_Iraq.asp.

This article appears to corroborate Robert Baer's analysis of Iranian influence in Iraq.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 03:26:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am veeery sceptical when people from the American security establishment attempt to analyse Iran (and won't give any credibility to 'confessions' achieved in US captivity), but the above is interesting for the non-totally-negative view of Iran.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 03:57:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colorado Agrees to Restore Voters to Rolls - NYTimes.com

DENVER -- Tens of thousands of Coloradans who had been removed from the state's voter rolls will be allowed to vote in next week's election and given extra protections so their ballots are counted, under an agreement reached late Wednesday in federal court here.

The voters' names had been removed by Mike Coffman, the Colorado secretary of state, who said he did so because the voters had moved out of state or were listed more than once on the rolls. But Mr. Coffman was sued by a coalition of voting rights and other groups who said such purges were generally prohibited by federal law within 90 days of an election.

Under the agreement, voters removed from the rolls will be permitted to cast provisional ballots, and those ballots will be counted unless election officials can prove the voters were not eligible. To strike such ballots, county election officials must conduct an extensive records review on each one, a decision that must then be reviewed by Mr. Coffman's office.

"This is unprecedented," said Elizabeth Westfall, a lawyer for the Advancement Project, a civil rights group that helped file the lawsuit. "We are really thrilled that there will be this degree of unprecedented scrutiny and protection for these purged voters when they cast their provisional ballots."

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 04:48:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bloomberg.com: Mizuho $7 Billion Loss Turned on Toxic Aardvark Made in America  
Rekeda [and] his team led Mizuho into a business it knew little about, securities backed by U.S. subprime mortgages, where it lost 672 billion yen ($7.1 billion), more than any bank in Asia. Most of the losses were related to defaults on collateralized debt obligations.

Mizuho expects as much as 20 billion yen in potential further losses on bonds and bad loans related to bankrupt Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., company spokeswoman Masako Shiono said on Sept. 16. Moody's Investors Service, citing ``questions regarding the effectiveness of Mizuho's risk management and its risk appetite,'' continues to give the bank a negative outlook.

You would think that Japanese would know everything about bad mortgages... At the same time,

Japanese interest rates cut for first time in seven years

In a move some criticized as half-hearted, the bank cut the key interest rate from 0.5% to 0.3% at the end of a meeting that revealed deep divisions among the nine members of the bank's policy board.
by das monde on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 05:07:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hedge funds working to limit redemptions | Reuters

Dozens of hedge funds have told investors they cannot get their money back right now as managers try to limit a wave of redemptions to safeguard all their clients' investments -- as well as their own futures.

Only a few months ago, hundreds of the world's estimated 9,000 hedge fund managers made it tough for wealthy investors to put money into their funds by requiring high investment minimums of $1 million or more and charging heavy fees.

Now managers are making it hard for investors to get out.

by das monde on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 05:56:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:38:16 PM EST
Head of Italian museum displaying 'blasphemous frog' sacked - Telegraph
The head of an Italian museum who offended the Pope by exhibiting a wooden sculpture of a crucified frog has been sacked amid a debate over artistic freedom.

Corinne Diserens, the Swiss director of the museum in Bolzano, in the mountainous north-east of Italy, was dismissed after months of controversy over the bright green, bug-eyed amphibian, which is nailed to a cross and holds a frothing mug of beer and an egg.

She had refused to remove the work by the late German artist Martin Kippenberger despite protests from the Vatican that it was blasphemous.

She said the museum had a right to artistic freedom, and kept the frog on display as originally planned from May to September.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:56:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
French winegrowers protest against legislation which 'could outlaw wine tasting' - Telegraph
Winegrowers have staged protests across France against new anti-alcohol legislation they say could make the country's age-old tradition of wine tasting illegal.

Vintners demonstrated in wine growing regions including Alsace, the Loire, Bordeaux, and Nantes to protest a part of a draft law designed to tackle the growing problem of "le binge drinking" in France, but which they say could be interpreted as outlawing wine tasting.

Article 24 of the hospital, health, patient and territory bill makes it illegal to offer free alcoholic drinks with a promotional aim. This was drawn up to halt soirées sponsored by drinks companies and the rise of open bars, in which young people - often students - pay an entrance fee to drink as much as they like.

"But as it is written, article 24 amounts to banning free wine-tasting in our wine cellars or in wine fairs," said Patrice Laurendeau, president of the winegrower's federation of the Anjou region.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 05:00:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Article 24 of the hospital, health, patient and territory bill makes it illegal to offer free alcoholic drinks with a promotional aim. This was drawn up to halt soirées sponsored by drinks companies and the rise of open bars, in which young people - often students - pay an entrance fee to drink as much as they like.

<head explodes>

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 05:15:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Shortcuts - Multitasking Can Make You Lose ... Um ... Focus - NYTimes.com

AS you are reading this article, are you listening to music or the radio? Yelling at your children? If you are looking at it online, are you e-mailing or instant-messaging at the same time? Checking stocks? <...>

While multitasking may seem to be saving time, psychologists, neuroscientists and others are finding that it can put us under a great deal of stress and actually make us less efficient.

Although doing many things at the same time -- reading an article while listening to music, switching to check e-mail messages and talking on the phone -- can be a way of making tasks more fun and energizing, "you have to keep in mind that you sacrifice focus when you do this," said Edward M. Hallowell, a psychiatrist and author of "CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap!" (Ballantine, 2006). "Multitasking is shifting focus from one task to another in rapid succession. It gives the illusion that we're simultaneously tasking, but we're really not. It's like playing tennis with three balls."

Of course, it depends what you're doing. For some people, listening to music while working actually makes them more creative because they are using different cognitive functions.

But despite what many of us think, you cannot simultaneously e-mail and talk on the phone. I think we're all familiar with what Dr. Hallowell calls "e-mail voice," when someone you're talking to on the phone suddenly sounds, well, disengaged.

"You cannot divide your attention like that," he said. "It's a big illusion. You can shift back and forth." ...

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 04:12:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Shortcuts - Multitasking Can Make You Lose ... Um ... Focus - NYTimes.com

  • people were interrupted and moved from one project to another about every 11 minutes. And each time, it took about 25 minutes to circle back to that same project.

  • "people actually worked faster in conditions where they were interrupted, but they produced less"...

  • people were as likely to self-interrupt as to be interrupted by someone else.

"As observers, we'll watch, and then after every 12 minutes or so, for no apparent reasons, someone working on a document will turn and call someone or e-mail," she said. As I read that, I realized how often I was switching between writing this article and checking my e-mail.

  • "Ten and a half minutes on one project is not enough time to think in-depth about anything."

  • "We need to recreate boundaries," he said. That means training yourself not to look at your BlackBerry every 20 seconds, or turning off your cellphone. It means trying to change your work culture so such devices are banned at meetings. Sleeping less to do more is a bad strategy, he says. We are efficient only when we sleep enough, eat right and exercise.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 04:22:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sherlock of rock

It's the most famous chord in rock 'n' roll, an instantly recognizable twang rolling through the open strings on George Harrison's 12-string Rickenbacker. It evokes a Pavlovian response from music fans as they sing along to the refrain that follows:

It's been a hard day's night
And I've been working like a dog

The opening chord to A Hard Day's Night is also famous because for 40 years, no one quite knew exactly what chord Harrison was playing. Musicians, scholars and amateur guitar players alike had all come up with their own theories, but it took a Dalhousie mathematician to figure out the exact formula.

by das monde on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 05:53:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Odd that no one ever asked Harrison when he was still alive -- unless he was intentionally keeping it a mystery?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 07:33:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:38:37 PM EST
Czech Republic Prime Minister Smashes Reporter's Head Against The Wall (VIDEO)

The prime minister of the Czech Republic was not having it when a reporter with a video camera interrupted him as the prime minister was pushing his baby carriage. We think Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek may have overreacted, however. There was really no call for smashing this journalist's head against the wall.


by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:41:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bad manners can lead to getting yourself pushed against a wall. Who knew? Grabbing his camera and having the baby drool on it until it went up in flames might have been a bit more appropriate though.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 07:02:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or he could just have done what the finance minister of Hungary, János Veres, did two years ago:

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

by DoDo on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 07:32:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 07:37:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
President Bling-Bling: French Have a Laugh at Sarkozy's Expense - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Nicolas Sarkozy is known to be one of Europe's most status-conscious politicians. That, of course, has made him a ripe target for satire. A new YouTube hit pokes fun at "President Bling-Bling," while a dismissed lawsuit allows a Sarkozy voodoo doll to continue its brisk sales.

Nicolas Sarkozy is known for his hyperactive governing style, but this past week he's outdone himself. He continued steering Europe through the financial crisis, while also making headlining appearances in national court and YouTube.

Sarkozy doesn't like this toy. Admittedly, the French president wasn't personally involved in the production of the animated music video currently coursing through YouTube. But, the hundreds of thousands of people who have watched the clip will have had no trouble identifying the short, cigar-smoking, Rolex-clad man who grinds and raps through the video as Monsieur Le Président. If viewers need a further hint, the Sarkozy look-alike references one of the president's most popular nicknames: "I am the king of Bling-Bling, ok?"

Indeed, the video has struck a chord with the French partly because Sarkozy is said to bear many of the traits -- the inflated ego, the attraction to material wealth and the tendency for his diction to slip into vulgarisms -- of American gangster rappers. The video offers a parody of the president's restless and highrolling lifestyle: the smoky voice of Sarkozy's pop-star wife Carla Bruni is briefly heard near the start of the video before the "king of Bling-Bling" rides through town in a sports car, shows off his array of high-priced cell phones and joins a host of scantily clad women on a nightclub dancefloor.

by Fran on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 04:47:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
can be inspired by intense dislike on the one hand,

and by intense liking on the other:

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 03:53:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Slepton.com is not your Young Republican Democrats Independents network.

H/T BlackAgendaReport.com

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 10:34:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Top Tory says date rape might just be a 'disagreement' between lovers | Mail Online

Date rape should be treated differently from attacks on women by strangers, John Redwood has said.

The former cabinet minister - now a senior Tory party adviser - suggested rape accusations made by women against their partners should be treated as "disagreements" between lovers.

Labour ministers seized on the remarks, which were made in the wake of Tory leader David Cameron's pledge to toughen up rape laws.

Mr Redwood wrote on his website blog: "They [Labour] decided to set date rape alongside stranger rape.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 06:24:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Date rape should be treated differently from attacks on women by strangers, John Redwood has said.

So should domestic violence, right?

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 06:25:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just when Cameron is having success rebranding the Tories as modern, the relaity is blurted out...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 06:42:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Has Obama's status as someone whose father was an African black rather than someone from an African American background made any great difference to his viability as a candidate? Is he generally seen as "black" in the same sense that someone who could trace his ancestry back to slaves would be?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 07:06:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
These questions were addressed early in the primary season by MSM. The commentary (subtitled "American Legacy") falls in the category "Not Black Enough" with "Not Black" (subtitled "Race Ideology/Fractional Rules of Humanity or instrumental statistical method, e.g. Slaughter-house, Scott, Plessy). Oft cited contemporary demonstrations of the controversies are John Stewart's interviews with "Black experts" such as Cornel West as well as polemic delivered by recurring "Neo-liberal" character actor Larry Wilmore. Most recently 29 Oct Stewart prompted Obama to address the question posed by his race "authenticity". (Incidentally, Comedy Central operates the worst API of codecs ever.)

Arguably, individual efforts to litigate Mr Obama's disqualification to run for POTUS converge at a where rhetorical hostility toward "aliens" and "subalterns"  and nativism validate racist principles of "American" political economy.

None of the foregoing ought to understate race propaganda produced by self-identified "conservative" MSM celebrities such as Rush "Magic Negro" Limbaugh or Tucker "Who me?" Carlson.

Much less a body of academic literary criticism, deconstructing racist idiom and semiotic fervor in the US.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Fri Oct 31st, 2008 at 11:33:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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