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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 27 October

by Fran Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:10:06 PM EST

On this date in history:

1914 - Birth of Dylan Thomas, a Welsh poet who wrote exclusively in English. In addition to poetry, he wrote short stories and scripts for film and radio, which he often performed himself. (d. 1953)

More here and here


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by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:11:44 PM EST
Europe's secret plan to boost GM crop production - Green Living, Environment - The Independent

Gordon Brown and other European leaders are secretly preparing an unprecedented campaign to spread GM crops and foods in Britain and throughout the continent, confidential documents obtained by The Independent on Sunday reveal.

The documents - minutes of a series of private meetings of representatives of 27 governments - disclose plans to "speed up" the introduction of the modified crops and foods and to "deal with" public resistance to them.

And they show that the leaders want "agricultural representatives" and "industry" - presumably including giant biotech firms such as Monsanto - to be more vocal to counteract the "vested interests" of environmentalists.

News of the secret plans is bound to create a storm of protest at a time when popular concern about GM technology is increasing, even in countries that have so far accepted it.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:14:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A good article, recommended.

I'm not surprised by this. The technocrats at the French Agriculture Ministry, hand in hand with industry and its lobbyists as they have always been, are quite determined to push GM crops through against public opinion. The moratorium in France is only for one year. Expect 2009 to be the big rollout year.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:47:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
giving the REAL pros and cons of Genetically Modified foods from a scientist's point of view without the industry/environmental biases?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 07:37:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What's a "scientist's point of view without the industry/environmental biases"?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 12:10:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Industry is all "tell whatever lies, cherry pick the data as long as your company makes maximum short term profits".

A LOT, not ALL, environmental stuff is designed to get headlines and find someone to sue, regardless of the data.  I say this from having worked as a volunteer scientist for a local CA "environmental" group.  Very disheartening.

How about someone doing an "educational" series here at ET starting with the basics of chem/biochem/agriculture/food chem and sticking to the data with SOME speculation?

That's what I mean.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 12:36:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, we'd need a volunteer for the chem/biochem/agri/food chem aspect... Now, who might that be? <scratches head> Any ideas?

On that score (chem etc), the problem is, imo, that the "science" has been almost entirely industry-led and has followed Mon$anto's agenda. Studies that  indicated the need for further research into non-agenda aspects (side-effects on health? on soil micro-organisms?) have been trashed or shelved or otherwise discontinued. The corpus shows signs of bias, one might say...

There are also very considerable economic/political aspects, not least the M$ goal of getting a corner on the world's seeds. (Oh, M$ is not to be confused with M$, the Windoze people, except for the sharing of the gatekeeper principle).

I wanted to write something more complete about it, but I haven't found time.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 02:16:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
a diary series on the "Embryonic Police State" which began to depress the HELL out of me so I put it in hibernation, and a series devoted to saying CONGRATULATIONS TO PAUL KRUGMAN for winning the Nobel Prize in economics but that didn't look very promising (I was going to use it as a way to promote ET; I'll approach Amy Goodman/Democracy Now within the next month[after the election bro-ha-ha is over] as a way to get ET on some valuable radar screens), but I may have the time/mentality to handle a GM foods series.  All the areas are in my field.

Give me a couple weeks to begin the research; I may contact companies just to let them know what I'm doing so they can send me their relevant data.

This might actually be fun.  Not a photo series but us science nerds are a different sort.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 04:12:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Food diplomacy

Monsanto in Iraq | Uruknet | old news

Back to one of the most blatant orders of all: Order 81. Under this mandate, Iraq's commercial farmers must now buy "registered seeds." These are normally imported by Monsanto, Cargill and the World Wide Wheat Company. Unfortunately, these registered seeds are "terminator" seeds, meaning "sterile." Imagine if all human men were infertile, and in order to reproduce women needed to buy sperm cells at a sperm bank. In agricultural terms, terminator seeds represent the same kind of sterility. ...

As Jeffrey Smith explains, author of Order 81: Re-Engineering Iraqi Agriculture:

"To qualify for PVP [Plant Variety Protection], seeds have to meet the following criteria: they must be 'new, distinct, uniform and stable'... it is impossible for the seeds developed by the people of Iraq to meet these criteria. Their seeds are not 'new' as they are the product of millennia of development. Nor are they 'distinct'. The free exchange of seeds practiced for centuries ensures that characteristics are spread and shared across local varieties. And they are the opposite of 'uniform' and 'stable' by the very nature of their biodiversity."

'I wanted to see how UK did it' | Independent | lastweek's news

Last month the UK's former chief scientist Sir David King said anti-scientific attitudes among Western NGOs and the UN were responsible for holding back a much-needed green revolution in Africa. "The problem is that the Western world's move toward organic farming - a lifestyle choice for a community with surplus food - and against agricultural technology in general and GM in particular, has been adopted across the whole of Africa, with the exception of South Africa, with devastating consequences," he said.

The research conducted by the UN Environment Programme suggests that organic, small-scale farming can deliver the increased yields which were thought to be the preserve of industrial farming, without the environmental and social damage which that form of agriculture brings with it.

An analysis of 114 projects in 24 African countries found that yields had more than doubled where organic, or near-organic practices had been used. That increase in yield jumped to 128 per cent in east Africa.



Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 08:43:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is so badly written it's painful.

An analysis of 114 projects in 24 African countries found that yields had more than doubled where organic, or near-organic practices had been used. That increase in yield jumped to 128 per cent in east Africa.

An 128% increase is "more than double".

And earlier...

Sir David King said anti-scientific attitudes among Western NGOs and the UN were responsible for holding back a much-needed green revolution in Africa.
is followed by
The research conducted by the UN Environment Programme suggests that organic, small-scale farming can deliver the increased yields which were thought to be the preserve of industrial farming, without the environmental and social damage which that form of agriculture brings with it.
without a "however" "but" or any other connecting element so it's hard to follow the logic of the article.

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 Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 03:57:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
PR style is a tactical arm of Europe's "secret plan to boost GM production," I suppose.

I myself was irritated by these dangling bootstraps:

Backers of GM foods insist that a technological fix is needed to feed the world. But this form of agriculture requires cash to buy the patented seeds and herbicides - both at record high prices currently - needed to grow GM crops.
[...]
Organic certification in countries such as the UK and Australia still presents an insurmountable barrier to most African exporters, the report points out. It calls for greater access to markets so farmers can get the best prices for their products.

Dangling bootstraps require me to locate, then read the unnamed UN Environment Programme study to find out what "greater access" signifies in which markets.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 09:06:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Pay rises and Christmas parties cancelled as four in five companies cut costs, according to IoD survey | Business | The Observer
Businesses brace for recession but Brown insists the UK is better prepared than other countries

Almost four in five British businesses are cutting back on everything from hiring new staff to paying for the office Christmas party, as they batten down the hatches for a deep recession.

Even before Friday's official figures revealed that the economy had swung into reverse for the first time since 1992, bosses had begun a series of austerity measures, according to a survey of more than 1,000 firms by the Institute of Directors.

Gordon Brown and Bank of England governor Mervyn King both conceded last week that a recession was in store. 'After 15 years of economic growth the party is over,' said Graeme Leach, the IoD's chief economist. 'The pressure on the corporate sector to do something to cut costs is now really starting to come through - but I think people need to be prepared for a lot more bad news over the next 12 to 18 months.'

Four out of 10 businesses said they had cut back on recruitment; 27 per cent had reduced pay or bonuses; and another 27 per cent said they were squeezing the entertainment budget, including the Christmas party fund. Only 22 per cent had taken no cost-cutting measures in response to the credit crunch, suggesting its effects are now spreading beyond the banking and housebuilding industries.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:15:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spain honours International Brigades volunteers as civil war row grows | World news | The Observer

Barcelona has paid homage to the last few survivors of the International Brigades volunteers who fought to defend Spain against the fascist-backed General Francisco Franco during the 1936-39 civil war.

At ceremonies across the city yesterday the handful of survivors, now mostly in their nineties, were fêted to mark the 70th anniversary of the brigades' departure from Spain. They were reminded that at their official send-off from Barcelona in 1938 they had been told: 'You are history. You are legend ... We will not forget you.'

'They've stuck to that. It's a hero's return,' said Jack Edwards, aged 94, who travelled to Spain as a 21-year-old in 1936. 'I was sad when I left, because I had made so many friends.'

Four of the 23 surviving brigade members who made it to Barcelona yesterday were British, including the former Transport and General Workers Union leader Jack Jones.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:15:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When the surviving Brigadists visited Spain in 1996 they suffered various snubs by the then new right-wing government of Jose Maria Aznar.

Just in case anyone thought the Two Spains don't exist any longer.

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 Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:56:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Ad blitz exhorts Italy, 'Meet the Romanians' - International Herald Tribune

ROME: In desperation to try to mend its image with Italians weary of mass immigration, Romania seems to have borrowed a line from Donald O'Connor in "Singin' in the Rain" - "make 'em laugh!"

Nelu, an artist who lives in Milan, opens a documentary about Romanians living in Italy with a joke that plays easily with Italian audiences.

The son of Dracula asks his father what he does for a living. Dracula answers: "It's simple, I suck people's blood." The son: "You mean like politicians?" And Dracula says: "Hey, let's not exaggerate."

That touch is at the core of a €4.2 million campaign sponsored by the Romanian government and introduced last month to counter lurid media accounts of crimes said to be committed by Romanians. Branded "Romania, pleased to meet you!" the campaign has taken out ads in print and on television.

In a globalized world, it seems somewhat unreal that one European people should have to spend money like this to introduce itself to another. After all, both are among the 27 nations in the European Union, and the Romanians are proud of their Roman heritage.


by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:18:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany to Oppose EU Plans for Full-Body Airport Scanning | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 24.10.2008
Germany is to oppose European Union plans to install full-body scanners at airports as protection against hijackers, a government spokesman said Friday.

The devices have been described as "strip scanners" because they construct an image of each traveller's body without clothing in an attempt to reveal any concealed weapons.

"I can tell you with complete clarity that we are not going to cooperate in this mischief," an Interior Ministry spokeswoman said Friday at a government news conference.

Nonetheless, German federal police said Thursday they would seek to commission an engineering study of the devices.

Full-body scanners are already in use at some US airports, as well as at London's Heathrow and Amsterdam's Schiphol airports, to speed up security checks and to avoid the hand-frisking of passengers.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:18:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh for the love of all that is holy, they should just outlaw aviation altogether and be done with it.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 06:59:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Romania opens door to Gazprom pipelineEUobserver

Romania is open to investing in the Gazprom pipeline South Stream, not just the EU Nabucco project, designed to reduce energy dependency on Russia, Romanian minister of economy Varujan Vosganian said on Thursday, contrary to the president's statements.

A Gazprom delegation is expected in Bucharest next week, just a month ahead of general elections.

Russian gas is currently imported and at a price of €418 per thousand cubic meters, is almost double the price a  - year ago

"Romania is ready to support any EU project, both Nabucco and South Stream," the liberal minister, whose party is at odds with the country's conservative President Traian Basescu, said, newswires report.

Only a day before, Mr Basescu renewed his calls on the European Commission and EU member states to "accelerate Nabucco," in order to decrease the EU's energy dependency on Russia.

The divergent remarks come a few days after Romanian gas officials went to Moscow, with Russian newspaper Kommersant claiming Gazprom is considering re-routing South Stream through Romania.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:19:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mayor of Moscow speaks out for Russians in former Soviet republics - International Herald Tribune

TSKHINVALI, Georgia: On a clearing in this disputed city, where enemy homes were bulldozed after the conflict in August, Mayor Yuri Luzhkov promised this month to build a new neighborhood for the South Ossetian separatists here.

Grinning widely before a boisterous crowd, which hailed him as a liberator, Luzhkov said he would spend more than $100 million on houses, schools and shopping centers. "We are celebrating a great victory - a victory for freedom and independence," he declared.

The pledge was notable for its cost - a sizable sum in this impoverished breakaway enclave of 70,000 - but also because Luzhkov is the mayor of Moscow, not Tskhinvali. The money is to come from Moscow's city budget.

Yuri Luzhkov is a mayor with a foreign policy. A former Soviet apparatchik who yearns to restore Russia's regional hegemony, he has supported ethnic Russians and stoked separatism in nations along the country's borders. He has championed a new Russian nationalism that the Kremlin effectively backed with force when it wrested South Ossetia from neighboring Georgia this summer.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:22:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A final favour? How Mandelson's last act in Brussels boosted Russian oligarch - UK Politics, UK - The Independent

Peter Mandelson's last act as European Trade Commissioner was to advocate new trade rules that will directly benefit the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Less than a month ago, in one of his final speeches before being recalled to the Cabinet and after he accepted hospitality on the Russian's yacht, Lord Mandelson announced a new EU trade strategy giving multinational companies freer access to raw materials, including scrap aluminium and natural minerals used in the production of the metal.

Mr Deripaska owns Rusal, the world's largest aluminium producer, which has subsidiaries in Europe. The companies import both scrap aluminium and aluminium-containing minerals from Africa and India. The new rules would exempt such companies from paying expensive export duties, to the anger of development charities.

The Secretary of State for Business promised yesterday to be more careful in his contacts with wealthy businessmen after he became embroiled in allegations of a conflict of interest for staying on Mr Deripaska's yacht.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:23:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Peter Mandelson oligarch Oleg Deripaska linked to mafia boss - Times Online

The Russian oligarch who gave hospitality to Peter Mandelson is this weekend revealed to have been linked to the former boss of one of Russia's most powerful criminal gangs.

A High Court judgment details the alleged social and business links between Oleg Deripaska and Anton Malevsky, a Russian mobster. Malevsky was then reputedly the head of an organised crime gang and his brother Andrei had a 10% stake in Deripaska's company.

Deripaska insists that the arrangement with Malevsky was a protection racket that was forced upon him. But a High Court judge, Mr Justice Clarke, said in a preliminary judgment in July that he considers Deripaska may not have always told the full truth about his links to the mobster, who was killed in a freak parachute accident in 2001.

Deripaska, the richest Russian businessman in the world before the credit crunch, is unable to travel to America after his visa was withdrawn. The decision was made after a series of allegations in American courts about alleged criminality in his business. These claims are strongly denied by Deripaska, who says courts have ruled the allegations lack "factual support".

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:24:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Aluminum was the deadliest business in Russia in the 90s - control of the industry was fought by various groups in ultra violent ways, and it took several years, and many dead people before consolidation. That the resulting companies were sold off (at large profit) to new owners that made an effort to appear respectable (ie they borrowed money from Western bank, listed shares in London and hired Western grandees to their boards) seems to have made that past forgettable.

Not that it's wrong, but this looks like Mandelson-hunting (it couldn't happen to a nicer person, lol) rather than real indignation at mafia practices. I'm sure Mandelson finds it unfair too :-)

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 04:57:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Commission 'broke its own rules' over Peter Mandelson's meetings with Oleg Deripaska - Telegraph
MEPs and freedom of information campaigners last night accused the European Commission of breaching its own transparency rules by refusing to publish details of meetings between Lord Mandelson and the controversial Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Pressure is growing on the Commission to release records of Lord Mandelson's meetings with Mr Deripaska while he was serving as European Trade Commissioner.

Lord Mandelson, who left Brussels on October 3 to take the job of Business Secretary in Gordon Brown's Cabinet, admitted for the first time yesterday that he knew the Russian oligarch since at least 2004, when the pair dined together at a fashionable Moscow restaurant just weeks after he was appointed Trade Commissioner and shortly before taking up the post.

He met Mr Deripaska several times over the next four years, culminating in a number of social events on the Greek island of Corfu in August this year at which shadow chancellor George Osborne was also present.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 04:11:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Europe | Conservatives seek Lithuania win

Lithuanians are voting in the second round of general elections in which the main conservative opposition hopes to build on gains made two weeks ago.

The Homeland Union led after the first round on 12 October, while the governing Social Democrats were fourth.

After casting his vote on Sunday, Homeland Union leader Andrius Kubilius said he expected on Monday to "take the initiative" to form a coalition.

Mr Kubilius, 51, served as Lithunainan prime minister during 1999-2000.

The second round will decide 68 seats of the 141-seat parliament.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:29:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The conservatives take 44 seats; TV showman Valinskas takes 16 seats; the Liberal Movement 11 seats - and that's already a (minimal) majority. Zuokas' liberals (with 8 seats) may join.

Socialdemocrats have 26 seats. See a new diary.

by das monde on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 12:06:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Police will use new device to take fingerprints in street | Politics | The Guardian

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.

Liberty, the civil rights group, cautioned that the law required fingerprints taken in such circumstances to be deleted after use. Gareth Crossman, Liberty's policy director, said: "Saving time with new technology could help police performance but officers must make absolutely certain that they take fingerprints only when they suspect an individual of an offence and can't establish his identity."



The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 04:33:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
SPECIAL FOCUS - The Financial continues
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:12:50 PM EST
Asia, EU Call for Quick, Firm Response to Financial Crisis | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 25.10.2008
Asian and European Union leaders on Saturday called for the international community to act quickly and decisively at a conference on responses to the global financial crisis next month in Washington.

"We have all understood that it would not be possible simply to meet and have a conversation," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said of the planned summit on the crisis on November 15.

  

Speaking for the EU's rotating presidency, currently held by France, Sarkozy said a pointed discussion and decisive action were needed on detailed financial issues, including global currency markets.

  

"We need to discuss these problems and we need to come up with solutions," he told reporters at the close of the seventh biannual Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).

  

Sarkozy said he expected Asian nations such as China, India, Japan, Indonesia and South Korea to play a "very important role" at the Washington summit.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:19:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EurActiv.com - D. Bank sees green 'opportunities' in economic slump | EU - European Information on Climate Change
Funding shortages and recession fears should not be used as excuses for shying away from tackling climate change, while governments have a key role to play by setting the right carbon price on polluters, according to a new report by Deutsche Bank.

"The current economic downturn presents governments with an historic opportunity to 'climate proof' their economies as they upgrade infrastructure as a core response to the economic downturn," argues Mark Fulton, head of climate change investment research at Deutsche Bank, in the report, entitled 'Investing in Climate Change 2009 - Necessity and Opportunity in Turbulent Times'.

The report argues that, as a sector, climate change has 'built-in advantages' for investors, assuming governments are able to set up a functioning carbon market with some level of predictability concerning future prices of emitting CO2.

"The debate around climate change is shifting away from costs and risk towards the question of how to capitalise on exciting opportunities," states Fulton.


by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:21:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
changes will still allow them to remain ultra-wealthy and things will get done.  If they fear a loss of status/wealth/power they will pull whatever strings they have, to the end of this planet's viability.

Interesting system you have set up.  Even Greenspan admits it's counter-survival.  Glad I was never a part of it.  "Don't blame me!  I was just an observer."

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 07:51:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EurActiv is very informative. Consider this report on the last Energy Council summit in the context of "exciting opportunities." I detect conflicting interests in state-owned divestitures and capital de-regulation before "completion of the single market." The headline is, as they say, Orwellian.

Energy ministers clinch deal on liberalisation | EurActive | 13 Oct 2008

France and Germany successfully led a coalition of countries against the plans, finally obtaining the right for former state monopolies - such as EDF and GDF in France and E.ON and RWE in Germany - to retain ownership of their gas and electricity grids, provided that they are subjected to outside supervision. ...

Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Portugal and Poland... will forbid energy producers from buying up the transmission businesses of energy companies in European countries where full unbundling has been introduced.

Ministers also approved the so-called 'Gazprom clause', aimed at limiting the ability of energy companies from outside the bloc - including Russia's state-owned Gazprom - from buying up distribution networks. ...

Germany had originally pushed for bigger countries, with larger energy networks, to have a greater say over the agency's [ACER] decisions. But under the final deal, all countries will have the same voting weight.  



Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 10:56:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Banks exploit legal loophole to seize homes - Times Online

Banks and credit card companies are exploiting obscure legal powers to seize the homes of thousands of people who cannot pay their credit card bills.

In some cases, people owing as little as £1,000 have been served with charging orders - the legal instrument enabling a creditor to order the sale of a property.

The practice has emerged days after Yvette Cooper, chief secretary to the Treasury, called on banks to do more to allow people to keep their homes.

According to the Ministry of Justice, 97,026 charging orders were granted by courts in England and Wales last year, a tenfold increase since 2000.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:24:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
they're looking to shrink and will do whatever it takes to do it.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 04:58:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The State | 10/26/2008 | Kuwait moves to prop up major bank after losses
KUWAIT CITY --Kuwait's Central Bank stepped in Sunday to prop up one of the country's biggest banks and said it was considering guaranteeing deposits in domestic banks - in one of the first concrete signs that the global financial crisis may next hit the oil-rich Gulf.

In Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, the government said it would deposit $2.7 billion into the Saudi Credit Bank to help lower-income citizens deal with financial difficulties, the country's Al-Ektisadiya newspaper reported.

The two moves came just a day after finance ministers from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council held an emergency meeting to echo assurances, which they have repeatedly voiced over the past few weeks, that the region's banks face no liquidity crisis.

Kuwait's decision to stop trading in shares of Gulf Bank sent a shock wave through the country's bourse, which closed down almost 3.5 percent and brought its year-to-date losses to over 19 percent.

"The halting of Gulf Bank shares spread panic in the bourse today, because the government has been saying banks are safe from (global financial crisis) losses," said investor Ahmed al-Fadhli in a telephone interview.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:25:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ban Of CDS Gets Some Traction - Moon of Alabama

While not driven by my recommendation to declare all Credit Default Swaps null and void the general idea seem to get a bit of traction.

At The Agonist Sean-Paul Kelly asks:

It seems to me that one of the most significant problems we face right now (and going into the future) is CDSs. What would happen if the Federal Government simply said: "they are all dead trades. if you sold protection you are off the hook, if you bought it, too bad"?

He points to a NYT piece which includes this:

Janet Tavakoli, a finance industry consultant who is president of Tavakoli Structured Finance, said the stock market's gyrations are a result of a severe lack of confidence in the very officials who are charged with cleaning up the nation's mess.
...
She also suggests that financial regulators impose a form of martial law, allowing them to rewrite derivatives contracts that bind counterparties to terms they may not even comprehend.

Chua Soon Hook who runs a profitable billion dollar fund for Asia Genesis Asset Management explained on Bloomberg TV how CDS are now used to raid leveraged companies and even  countries.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:27:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See also this article by Ian Welsh I linked to in the OT.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 05:00:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Europe, reacting to crisis by buying gold and literally burying assets - International Herald Tribune

"I haven't forgotten history," says Gert Heinz, a tax adviser in Munich. "If you depend on paper money you can lose everything. We've learned that the hard way after two world wars."

So when Chancellor Angela Merkel went on television recently to tell Germans that their bank accounts were safe, Heinz, who at 68 still remembers the rows of canned food that his mother hoarded in the attic, decided he would rather be safe than sorry.

He converted another chunk of his savings into gold and stocked up on a six-month supply of rice, sugar, flour and a special brand of milk powder that lasts for half a century.

Heinz may be an extreme example, but he is not alone among Europeans who are looking for ways to protect themselves in the face of a financial storm that - at least so far - has affected them much less directly than it has many Americans. Indeed, his reaction reflects the history of a Continent that has weathered wars, revolutions and financial crises over the centuries, burnishing national convictions that are very different from those in the United States.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:27:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reports: BMW, Daimler to Idle Car Plants as Sales Crash | Business | Deutsche Welle | 26.10.2008
German luxury carmakers Daimler and BMW will temporarily close factories as a result of the current economic crisis, according to reports that surfaced over the weekend. And they're not the only ones.

Daimler is to idle factories for five weeks because world sales of its Mercedes cars have slumped, a newspaper reported on Sunday, quoting a company spokesman.

  

The report came as Germany's other main premium car manufacturer, BMW, announced a four-day standstill at one of its car plants, in Leipzig, eastern Germany, amid signs that the world recession will be worse than so far feared.

  

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung said the Mercedes closure would begin in mid-December, but gave no precise date. It said stocktaking would take place on Dec. 12 and plants would not re-open before an annual holiday break at Christmas. Plants re-open on Jan. 12. Approached by DPA news agency, a spokesman declined comment.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:27:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Volvo truck sales plunge 99.7%

The depth of the recession was revealed today as truckmaker Volvo admitted demand across the Continent has crashed by 99.7% as it took orders for just 115 new lorries in the last three months.

That compares to orders totalling 41,970 in the third quarter of 2007. Global orders for Volvo slumped 55% in the last three months while Scania, of which Volvo has majority control, said its western Europe truck orders collapsed by 69%.

Volvo, which also makes trucks under the Renault and Mack brands, reported a 37% plunge in third-quarter earnings to £230m.

I think they mean net orders (ie orders minus cancellations), but it's still a stunning number.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 05:07:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Whoa.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 07:16:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL!  A knee slapper.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 07:33:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed:

Considerably weaker demand in Europe - Nine months ended September 30, 2008 - Volvo

During the quarter, gross order intake in Europe amounted to approximately 20,000 trucks, consisting of both new customer orders and some changed orders. The explanation to why the net order intake only amounted to 115 trucks is that a review of the order book was carried out in close cooperation with customers. The review resulted in that approximately the same number of orders that were received during the quarter was taken out of the order book.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 07:12:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who are you calling terrorists, Mr Brown? - Europe, World - The Independent
After Britain used anti-terror laws to freeze Icelandic assets, the people of a proud island nation hit back...

Standing in front of her net curtains, a half-eaten pancake on one side and a bottle of washing-up liquid on the other, no one could possibly confuse the bespectacled Icelandic lady with Osama bin Laden. But just to ram the point home, she brandishes a handmade sign: "I'm not a terrorist!"

After Gordon Brown used anti-terror laws to freeze the assets of an Icelandic bank, the Land of the Midnight Sun is fighting back. Given Iceland does not have an army, the uprising is less Viking warrior and more citizen's revolt. Yesterday, more than 35,000 people - a ninth of the population - signed an online petition to let the world know that Icelanders are not terrorists. "Gordon Brown unjustifiably used the Anti-Terrorism Act against the people of Iceland for his own short-term political gain," the petition says. "This has turned a grave situation into a national disaster... hour by hour and day by day the actions of the British Government are indiscriminately obliterating Icelandic interests."

Accompanying the petition is a series of portraits of Icelanders holding up their own protestations of innocence. There is the family posing in front of their skiing photos in matching brown and cream knitted jumpers, reassuring "Darling Brown. We are not terrorists but terribly nice and friendly". And there's the blonde toddler. "What did you call me?" she asks, midway through devouring a bowl of ice cream.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:28:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Financial crisis: Alistair Darling suspected Icelandic banks were in trouble weeks before collapse - Telegraph
The Chancellor Alistair Darling suspected that Icelandic banks were in trouble weeks before their collapse, new documents show.

The Treasury has said it acted "swiftly and decisively" in guaranteeing the assets of private UK savers in Iceland following the banks' failure.

But a transcript of a private telephone conversation on October 7 between Mr Darling and an Icelandic minister details his concerns about the country's banks weeks before they collapsed.

In the transcript, published on the website of the Iceland Review magazine, Mr Darling accused Icelandic Trade Minister Bjorgvin Sigurdsson of misleading him "a few months, weeks" earlier about the state of the Landsbanki, Kaupthing and Glitnir banks operating in the UK.

But the full record of the conversation shows that Mr Darling did not believe Mr Sigurdsson's reassurances at the time.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 04:09:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Business | Ukraine set for $16.5bn IMF loan

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is to offer a $16.5bn (£10.4bn) loan to Ukraine to help it "maintain confidence and economic and financial stability".

The country has been badly shaken by the global credit crunch, with stock markets and the Ukrainian currency tumbling and banks needing propping up.

Internal political turmoil has also delayed economic development.

The loan depends on Ukraine being able to balance its budget and make reforms to its banking sector.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:30:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The loan depends on Ukraine being able to balance its budget and make reforms to its banking sector.

Same old same old.

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 Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:53:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I need to comment on the editorials last week in the Economist. The ywere rather sickening (do more reform, don't give up on waging war in Afghanistan, don't be nice with Putin, wimpy Europeans). And John Thornhill had another 'Europe may yet end up needing more reform' piece this week-end. Gah.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 05:10:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have asked in the past, but will ask again: What is the English-language alternative to the Economist? American newspapers are painfully provincial--even the NYT--and the "news" magazines (Time, Newsweek, etc.) are mostly filled with articles about movie stars.

Is there no publication with reasonable European or international coverage that has a non-conservative slant?

by asdf on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 08:09:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That would be ET, so far.

Progressive publications are either jargon filled and academic (and mostly useless) or oriented to specific niches, like the New Statesman, which is the twitching on the corpse that used to be Labour.

The Econo and the FT have a huge captive audience which a progressive magazine would find hard to reach.

It would possible, even easy, to publish an alternative, but it would be rather harder to make it pay its way.

The progressive blogosphere is the nearest alternative - and it's not as if it hasn't been influential.

In the longer term I think it's likely the Econo will wither and die over the next decade or two. There won't be a single left-leaning paper equivalent, but there will be many electronic ones.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 09:41:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yup, I'm in with the good guys.  After the election, I'll try to see what Amy Goodman/Democracy Now thinks of ET.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 07:59:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Balancing the national budget in an economic crisis is exactly the wrong move to make.  And if the neo-libs weren't ignorant of economic history they'd know that.  President Roosevelt caved to the budget hawks in 1936 and extended the Depression by 4 years.  It wasn't until the expansion of Federal spending in 1940 - to build the war machine in preparation for the US entry into World War 2 - that the economy finally turned around.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 10:40:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are voices in every country demanding budget discipline. Just today I saw something about 16 economists saying the UK shouldn't spend its way out of the recession after both Brown and Darling said they would do just that.

The Independent [UK]: Further global rate cut likely, hints PM (27 October 2008)

Yesterday, 16 economists said Alistair Darling's plan to stimulate the economy by bringing forward capital spending on state projects could damage the private sector. Last week Mr Darling, who will outline his response to the downturn on Wednesday, said spending could be brought forward on housing and energy projects.

But in a letter to The Sunday Telegraph, the 16 economists, including Trevor Williams, chief economist at Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets and Peter Spencer, chief economist to the Ernst & Young Item Club, said: "We dissent from the attempt to use a public works programme to spend the country's way out of recession.

"It is misguided for the Government to believe it knows how much specific sectors of the economy need to shrink and which will shrink 'too rapidly' in a recession. Thus the Government cannot know how to use an expansion in expenditure that would not risk seriously misallocating resources."




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 Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 12:14:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I saw that too. I think I've finished swearing at them.

Migeru:

"It is misguided for the Government to believe it knows how much specific sectors of the economy need to shrink and which will shrink 'too rapidly' in a recession. Thus the Government cannot know how to use an expansion in expenditure that would not risk seriously misallocating resources."

Because of course, all these resources were allocated perfectly properly to finance in the last few years...

This is the kind of thing that makes people like me despair at the state of the "economics profession."

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 12:44:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You have to wonder whether these people take it as axiomatic that "the market achieves allocative efficiency".

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 Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 01:06:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
RIP John Galt

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 01:26:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Galt, who shows the world who is really in charge by leading a rebellion of industrialists against laws that interfere with their companies, was in perfect agreement with the essays that Greenspan was writing at the time. In those essays, Greenspan rails against the "statists" and their desire to blame failures leading to the Great Depression on greed and unsafe lending practices. Instead, says Greenspan, the economy was experiencing a "mild contraction" which would have amounted to nothing, had the government not overreacted.
It seems fitting that he would be allowed to prove his theory right and ended up causing an "unsafe lending" crisis rivalling the crash of 1929...

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 Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 01:34:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The answer to that is, "They should get out more."  

(Intellectually speaking.)

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

by ATinNM on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 12:51:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Telegraph: Europe on the brink of currency crisis meltdown


The financial crisis spreading like wildfire across the former Soviet bloc threatens to set off a second and more dangerous banking crisis in Western Europe, tipping the whole Continent into a fully-fledged economic slump.

"The system is paralysed, and it is starting to look like Black Wednesday in 1992. I'm afraid this is going to have a very deflationary effect on the economy of Western Europe. It is almost guaranteed that euroland money supply is about to implode," he said.

by blackhawk on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 07:00:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
CNBS/Squawkbox I can expect ... what?  More wide-eyed craziness?  When do we see people jumping out of windows?  I'm getting bored!  How about old retired people jumping out of Nursing Homes?  I'll settle for that.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 07:14:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
give me a 2 rating?  I didn't use one curse word.  No pleasing some folks.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 08:15:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It appears what I wrote a week ago
What you have here, essentially, is the conditions for an Asian Crisis situation: EU free movement of capital while Hungary stays outside the € makes it possible for Hungary to take on massive amounts of €-denominated debt and it is unclear that EU rules would allow the Hungarian government to put a cap on the amount of €-denominated debt. The Forint is in the European exchange mechanism which creates the conditions for a Soros-attack-on-the-pound situation.
more or less agrees with Ambrose Evans-Pritchard.
Currency pegs are being tested to destruction on the fringes of Europe's monetary union in a traumatic upheaval that recalls the collapse of the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992.

...

The IMF's experts drafted a report two years ago - Asia 1996 and Eastern Europe 2006 - Déjà vu all over again? - warning that the region exhibited the most dangerous excesses in the world.

Inexplicably, the text was never published, though underground copies circulated. Little was done to cool credit growth, or to halt the fatal reliance on foreign capital. Last week, the silent authors had their moment of vindication as Eastern Europe went haywire.

Should I worry?

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 Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 07:32:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Who knows. For the time being, the Forint is strengthening: after reaching up to 285 an Euro and ending at 275 last week, today it improved to near 270 (271.85 right now). Effect of the news of the damn IMF deal, an intervention?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 06:47:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I note some economists and CEOs are arguing for a fast-track joining of the Eurozone, whatever it takes. (I have grave suspicions as to what it would take.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 06:49:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think fast-track to the Eurozone would look like IMF-squared. A horrific welter of reform imposed on a terribly short timescale.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 07:22:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Disaster Capitalism.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 07:40:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Joining the Eurozone with the present restrictions on National Budget deficit is a recipe for economic suicide.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 10:43:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you're trying to deal with a currency crisis, definitely yes. But if you're a creditor or a wealthy person who would hope to be able to get our money out at a favourable exchange rate, who cares whethe rthe economy dies in the process?

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 Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 12:08:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
These people aren't wealthy.  They just own a bunch of 'Claims' measured in 'Money' that if they are fortunate will be redeemed in 'Cash' so they can buy things and pay bills.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 12:54:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...meanwhile, the Budapest stock market's BUX index fell more than 10% upon opening.

Also: yet again, discount treasuries found no buyers.

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

by DoDo on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 06:52:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wouldn't take much stock in short-term movements. Look at the year-to-date exchange rates:



A funny thing happened in July - I didn't include Slovakia as they'll be joining the Euro in January and their currency is pegged.

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 Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 08:03:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also note (looking at the faint part of the long series at the bottom) that the Crown and the Zloty have seen a secular increase in value from 2004 to this year, whereas the Forint has had wider fluctuations and no long-term trend.

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 Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 08:06:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The "wider fluctuation" in the HUF exchange rate seems to be the latest scare in 2006:

What is remarkable is that the same causes of the currency fluctuations were quoted back then (large amounts of loans in foreign currencies) and nobody has done anything about it. Our friend Ambrose again (he seems to be the only one to have talked about that mythical unpublished report "deja vu all over again" from the IMF).
Borrowers have rushed to take out loans in francs and other currencies, but murmurs over the exchange risks are growing, reports Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in Budapest (21 Sep 2006)

...

Over 60pc of total loans to businesses and households are now in foreign currencies, and damn the exchange risk. Though Hungary is the region's pioneer with some $2bn a year in Swiss franc loans, Poland, Croatia, Romania, and lately Turkey are catching up fast. This is Europe's "carry trade", every bit as creative as the better-known yen trade that has juiced the world's asset markets with liquidity at near zero interest rates from the Bank of Japan.

...

"There is nothing we can do to stop foreign exchange borrowing, and we don't even try. As members of the European Union, we have to respect the free flow of capital," he [Hamezc Istvan, director of Hungary's Central Bank] said.

The Central Banker blames the government '4 years ago' (that would be 2002) for making a mess of the economy. Who was in power in 2002? A fistful of Euros also carried the story.

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 Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 08:24:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your quote doesn't support your point. Ambrose is noticing a then new trend at the time the Forint came back from the brink, not the cause of the 2006 movements. The Central Banker is closer to the truth. It has to do with runaway deficits, elections and repercussions, as per my previous comment.

In 2002, the incumbent Fidesz government and the Socialist-liberal opposition ran a heated campaign with outlandish promises. When the opposition won narrowly, the then PM felt they must deliver -- and the combination of Socialist pay and pension increases and liberal tax cuts naturally led to a budget crisis. Nothing much was done about it after that PM was replaced by another Socialist, what's more, the 2006 campaign was again marked by a competition of unrealistic campaign promises. Then the really bad deficit numbers came in quarter by quarter, while the political mess (demand for recounts, riots) left economic players uncertain about what will be done. When PM Gyurcsány geared up in 'reforms' mode, things went back to normal, the Forint was maintained around 250 again.

(I note a subterfuge here: still in 2006, the Central Bank was ruled by a political appointee of the previous, right-wing governent, and there were several public confrontations on economic policy, and mutual accusations of messing up.)

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

by DoDo on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 09:01:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I obviously am not too well placed to assign causes and effects to these things. What seems clear is that exchange-rate risk is excessive due to the amount of foreign loans, and that EEA free movement of capital is partly to blame. So it is vulnerable to an Asian Crisis if the capital flows reverse and a wave of defaults on foreign loans ensues.

The Forint cannot suffer a Soros-attack-on-the-pound crisis because Hungary is not in the Exchange Rate Mechanism. Now, the ERM exchange rate bands are of +- 15% and the Forint has stayed within that band centered at 250 HUF€ for many years so maybe that could be recognised as a way to facilitate speedy Euro accession.

The problem, however, is that Hungary doesn't fulfill any of the other convergence criteria. It would have to reduce its budget deficit by half, its debt by 10%, and reduce inflation and interest rates, even if it were allowed to count its exchange rate history against the exchange rate stability requirement.

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 Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 09:20:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Speedy Euro accession = austerity programme with 'reforms'.

I note the reduction of the deficit by half will be nearly done this year (3.4% is the official predicion, inofficial expectation is still lower), but total debt doesn't improve and inflation is to remain far away from the goal.

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

by DoDo on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 09:38:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Speedy Euro Accession looks unpossible.

If there is a real crisis there are two ways out.

  • ECB intervention to shore up the Forint and bail out the Eurozone creditors. This will probably require some sort of counterpart austerity measures. This is the 'Brussels Consensus' version of the Washington Consensus.
  • The EU relaxes its state aid and free capital movement rules to allow Hungary to restructure its private foreign debt.

For either method to work you need the Hungarian government to take things seriously. As far as exchange rate policy goes they seem to be the only Central-Eastern Europe country without one.

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 Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 12:32:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As far as exchange rate policy goes they seem to be the only Central-Eastern Europe country without one.

From what did you conclude that?

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

by DoDo on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 06:01:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just an impression from looking at the exchange rate history. Either they don't have one or they're not very successful, compared to CZ and PL.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:04:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I keep confusing 'cause' with 'exposure'.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:10:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
After checking the graphs properly, true, but I am not sure about the significance. For the Forint, you see one macro-event: the 2006 elections (spending promises atop loose spending) and the following mess, when the budget was under threat to blow up. On shorter timescales, fluctuations are bigger (say 3% for HUF, 2% for CZK and PLN), but not that much. Otherwise, you have no secular trend, that is you have a constant trend. (Indeed people calculated in the head with 250 Forints an Euro by default in the past few years.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 08:37:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Re: the 250 HUF to the Euro rule of thumb, the problem seems to be that during this year it has fluctuated down 10% and then back up 10% the other way - a 20% swing since July is twice the amplitude of the 2006 shock, in half the time. That would not be a problem were it not for the large number of foreign-denominated loans that Hungarians have taken.

Apparently foreign ownership of Hungarian banks is high, too, so it might be that the Hungarian banks have acted as intermediaries between their customers and their parent companies (like when Abbey started offering Santander Euro mortgages to Britons for property purchases in Spain). So it is unclear what will happen if people start defaulting on these foreign loans.

Is it possible that the Euro is going up against the CEE currencies because Eurozone banks are repatriating capital in order to shore up their balance sheets? We were discussing a similar mechanism regarding the Dollar yesterday, where the Dollar gaining against other currencies is not an indication of strength or a bet on future movements but a consequence of deleveraging by USD-denominated funds.

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 Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 08:46:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not denying a problem this year...

I shall again emphasize too that the foreign-denominated loan problem just came out of the blue for me, I was totally unaware, don't even know anyone who took such a loan. A speculation bubble there could very well have caused the Forint appreciation in the first half of this year (which, BTW, wasn't looked at kindly by the Central Bank at the time).

Is it possible that the Euro is going up against the CEE currencies because Eurozone banks are repatriating capital in order to shore up their balance sheets?

Could be, but the credit crunch, when jittery investors just draw back to safe havens must be a factor, too (also see CEE stock exchanges).

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

by DoDo on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 09:18:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Forint appreciation in the first half of this year (which, BTW, wasn't looked at kindly by the Central Bank at the time).

As discussed in earlier threads here on ET, the Government can always keep its own currency down if it wishes - by accumulating foreign reserves (in this case Euro and Swiss Franc).

Ultimately it seems as though governments should do just that, accumulating reserves in an amount sufficient to cover the foreign loans that its population/businesses take out.

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 Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 09:57:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Op-Ed Columnist - The Widening Gyre - NYTimes.com

Some of these disasters were more or less anticipated. Economists have wondered for some time why hedge funds weren't suffering more amid the financial carnage. They need wonder no longer: investors are pulling their money out of these funds, forcing fund managers to raise cash with fire sales of stocks and other assets.

The really shocking thing, however, is the way the crisis is spreading to emerging markets -- countries like Russia, Korea and Brazil.

These countries were at the core of the last global financial crisis, in the late 1990s (which seemed like a big deal at the time, but was a day at the beach compared with what we're going through now). They responded to that experience by building up huge war chests of dollars and euros, which were supposed to protect them in the event of any future emergency. And not long ago everyone was talking about "decoupling," the supposed ability of emerging market economies to keep growing even if the United States fell into recession. "Decoupling is no myth," The Economist assured its readers back in March. "Indeed, it may yet save the world economy."

That was then. Now the emerging markets are in big trouble. In fact, says Stephen Jen, the chief currency economist at Morgan Stanley, the "hard landing" in emerging markets may become the "second epicenter" of the global crisis. (U.S. financial markets were the first.)

What happened? In the 1990s, emerging market governments were vulnerable because they had made a habit of borrowing abroad; when the inflow of dollars dried up, they were pushed to the brink. Since then they have been careful to borrow mainly in domestic markets, while building up lots of dollar reserves. But all their caution was undone by the private sector's obliviousness to risk.

In Russia, for example, banks and corporations rushed to borrow abroad, because dollar interest rates were lower than ruble rates. So while the Russian government was accumulating an impressive hoard of foreign exchange, Russian corporations and banks were running up equally impressive foreign debts. Now their credit lines have been cut off, and they're in desperate straits.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 10:01:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Russia, for example, banks and corporations rushed to borrow abroad, because dollar interest rates were lower than ruble rates. So while the Russian government was accumulating an impressive hoard of foreign exchange, Russian corporations and banks were running up equally impressive foreign debts. Now their credit lines have been cut off, and they're in desperate straits.

Gah - speechless.

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 Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 10:06:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
naked capitalism

A big reason for the worsening of mood in Japan is that its banks, which have heretofore looked solid by global standards, are suddenly looking as if they too might need to raise capital. The reason? Japanese banks, a legacy of the zaibatsu days, hold substantial equity positions in other companies (note these stockholdings are much smaller than they were in the bubble years, when banks were important members of industrial groupings, later called keiretsu as the linkages weakened). The BIS, in a concession to this Japanese peculiarity, allowed a portion of the value of these shares to be counted towards regulatory capital requirements (forgive me for not checking the current rules, but it used to be 50%).
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 10:16:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good cath. In CEE, too, the foreign-denominated loan problem is not one of public finances but consumers'.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 04:43:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From what I know, that's just what the Central Bank did.

BTW, here is a direct comparison courtesy of the Hungarian Central Bank (pdf!) -- what can you make of it?

Maybe we should do a Socratic Economics on this. I can't promise much understanding, but I can get you all kinds of graphs and data from the Hungarian Central bank and the statistical office.

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

by DoDo on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 04:47:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is the graph that says it all -- development of net household credit uptake:

Thick grey: total, thin grey: consumption and other credit, red: housing credit in Forints, green: in forex

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

by DoDo on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 05:19:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting that it started before EU accession... What is meant by "housing credit"?

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 Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 07:25:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A broader term that includes all kinds of credits given for buying houses. I translated the Hungarian word literally because I'm not sure how much of that is covered by the Anglo terminology of "mortgage": say if the cover is not the house but having a fixed income and paying for 30% of the house price from the pocket, is that a mortgage?

It started before EU accession probably in the form of delayed payment credits.

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

by DoDo on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 05:33:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lets just say 'real estate credit' to avoid 'mortgage'. It is shocking that the domestic credit has gone negative.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 06:47:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Since real estate would include commercial interests, too, what about homeowner credit?

As for domestic-denominated credit going negative, what does that mean at all? Interest payments, or (early) repayments (refinancing)?

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

by DoDo on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 07:54:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, this is 'household credit after all' - but a precise term is a bit beside the point.

I have no idea how net debt can be negative - as it has been since 2006.

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

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 10:26:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you mean housing or household?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 04:07:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I used both, and both appropiately: the aggregate figure (thick grey line) is total credit for households, the two highlighted elements of it are credit to households for buying homes, e.g. housing credit.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 05:36:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So you're saying the foreign credit is mortgage credit?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 05:44:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not saying anything, but from the Central Bank's graph, it does indeed appear that foreign-denominated credit in the household sector is chiefly homeowner credit. (There are foreign-denominated credits in the commercial sector, too.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 07:55:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess I can't make anything better than what would come out of a factor analysis...

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 Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 07:22:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Paul Krugman - Op-Ed Columnist - New York Times Blog

I've been reading reports from Stephen Jen, a former student of mine who's now the chief currency strategist at Morgan Stanley. He points out that since the fall of Lehman, we've been seeing clear signs of currency crises throughout the world of emerging markets, including Eastern Europe. This time, it's not an Asian crisis or a Latin American crisis, it's a global crisis. He adds,

So far,the US financial sector has been the epicentre of the global crisis. I fear that a hard landing in EM assets and economies will become the second epicentre in the coming months, with very damaging feedback effects on the developed world.

Right now I feel like the guy who was told, "Cheer up -- things could be worse!" So he cheered up, and sure enough, things got worse.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 08:56:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
More in a similar vein from Naked Capitalism:

naked capitalism

Harrison has focused on this constellation, and what he sees is not pretty:
In the last few weeks, the currency market is where the action has been....all of this is a prelude to some sort of currency crisis....

But, it is in commodity and emerging market currencies where the trouble is brewing. First, we saw a nightmarish plunge of the Australian and Kiwi Dollar as commodities plummeted. This all out assault on commodity and emerging market currencies then widened to include the Icelandic Krona, the South African Rand, the Polish Zloty, the South Korean Won, the Hungarian Forint, and the Mexican Peso amongst others.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 08:57:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Many world stock markets now off 50% or more from peaks

2:21 PM, October 24, 2008 MONEY & CO. blog, LA TIMES

Here's a club no country wants to join, yet its ranks are swelling: The 50%-Off (Or Worse) Stock Market Club.  Here's a sampling (not meant to be all-inclusive):

Markets down more than 70%: Vietnam (-70.5%), Peru (-73.2%), Ireland (-73.4%), Russia (-73.9%), Iceland (-88.7%).

Markets down between 60% and 70%: Hong Kong (-60.1%), Poland (-62.6%), China (-69.8%).

Markets down between 50% and 60%: South Korea (-54.5%), Italy (-55.2%), Egypt (-56.9%), Brazil (-57.2%), Japan (-58.1%), Singapore (-58.2%), Turkey (-58.5%), India (-58.3%).

Markets down between 40% and 50%: Great Britain (-42.3%), Australia (-43.3%), U.S.-S&P 500 (-44.0%), Spain (-46.4%), Germany (-47.0%), Mexico (-48.3%).

Note that, for U.S. investors who own foreign stocks, the losses in many cases are worse because the dollar has rallied against most foreign currencies in recent months. A strong dollar means stocks denominated in foreign currencies have even less value when translated into dollars.

As of the close of trading on the NYSE on Friday, October 25, 2008.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 12:05:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
G7 warns on yen surge, stirs intervention talk | U.S. | Reuters

TOKYO (Reuters) - The Group of Seven warned on Monday the yen's wild swings threatened financial stability, fanning speculation central banks may intervene to halt a rally in the currency driven by a Japanese exodus from emerging markets.

G7 finance ministers and central bank governors said they were prepared to act, if necessary, but market reaction was muted, reflecting doubts over the will for co-ordinated action and whether Tokyo could succeed acting on its own.

"We are concerned about the recent excessive volatility in the exchange rate of the yen and its possible adverse implications for economic and financial stability," the brief statement said.

"We continue to monitor markets closely, and cooperate as appropriate," the group, comprising the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada, said.

Some analysts took the statement as a code for a possible currency intervention, especially after the Australian central bank stepped into the market for a second day to support its dollar near record lows against the yen.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 05:25:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
GLOBAL MARKETS-Europe shares hit 5-1/2 yr low on recession fears | Currencies | Reuters

LONDON, Oct 27 (Reuters) - European shares plumbed fresh 5-1/2 year lows on Monday, echoing a slide in Asia prompted by a surge in the yen as investors feared a barrage of central bank support would not be enough to ward off global recession.

The yen continued to gain even after Group of Seven finance ministers on Monday singled out the excessive volatility of the currency, which sent Japanese equities to their lowest in nearly three decades.

Little that officials said could convince panicky investors that governments around the world can stem the fast-spreading crisis that has ravaged financial markets and now threatens to erode both economic growth and company earnings.

Emerging market equities fell to their lowest since September 2004, while in Western Europe, shares slid nearly 5 percent in early trade on the FTSEurorfirst 300 index , led by banking stocks and energy companies, which took a hit from a fresh drop in the price of crude oil to 17-month troughs.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 05:39:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Shares plunge as pound buckles - Times Online

Sterling plunged again against the dollar this morning, having fallen through $1.60 for the first time in five years on Friday. The pound lost a further 3 cents to $1.542 amid mounting fears of a prolonged UK recession.

The same fears forced down the FTSE 100, which plunged 185 points, or 4.7 per cent, after the opening with banks and insurance companies leading the way. European stock markets were also down around 5 per cent, following big falls in Asia with Hong Kong's Hang Seng down more than 10 per cent and the Nikkei in Tokyo losing 6 per cent.

Friday's GDP figures showed that the British economy shrank by 0.5 per cent in the three months to the end of September, the first time quarterly GDP has fallen in more than 16 years.

Sterling has fallen 12 per cent from $1.72 in a week and was put under pressure when Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, admitted it was likely that the country was heading for a prolonged and painful recession.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 05:44:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
India Times: Commodity traders hit by arrest of interbank lending (27 October, 2008)
...

"Our banker, State Bank of India, issued a letter of credit (LC) to the exporter's bank in South America, but the bank refused to negotiate the LC and pay the exporter. We will now have to negotiate with another banker to get the consignment totalling 1.5 million tonne of de-gummed soybean oil," said a [South Indian importing] company source.

...

"The effects of the seizure of the interbanking system are spilling over to the real economy. This problem is gradually being felt by a number of commodity importers in the country, which imports nearly half of the 13 MT edible oil requirements it consumes annually," said Gnansekar Thiagarjan, head of Mumbai-based Commtrendz, which provides advisory services to commodity traders across the country.

...

"Curiously, banks are unwilling to lend, particularly for short-term trade transactions, including under letters of credit, which have traditionally been considered a self-liquidating advance and very safe. Banks have stopped this funding not merely to their customers but also to other banks to whom they used to lend under interbank lines of credit arrangement. This is impacting adversely operations of Indian branches abroad," said the [internal banker's] note.




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 Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 06:59:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Watching Squawkbox/CNBC early Fri. morning (CA time) and the big deal seems to be the drop in crude oil prices.

Question:  Why isn't EVERYONE expressing a sigh of relief?  Remember how traumatic the presentation was as the prices rose over the last year? So where is the "relief" over the decline?  

I get the feeling I'm being played for a sucker, a rube.

Let's start there.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 09:16:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Kuwaiti traders protest as shares plunge | The Age | 27 Oct 2008

Kuwaiti traders staged another walkout on Sunday and protested outside the stock market as shares in the oil-rich Gulf region plunged amid growing expectations of a global recession.

The traders, who deserted the stock market on Thursday, the business week's final day, left the trading chamber again after the index dived more than 300 points a few minutes after the opening.
[...]
"We want the government to buy stocks. This month, I have already lost half of my investments in the bourse," one of the protesters, Hussein Tubayekh, told AFP.



Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 09:17:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
losing some of their ultra-wealth.  Should we pass the hat for them?  

Please note:  I'm using NO curse words and it is KILLING me!  Just thought I'd let you know.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 09:21:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm training myself to push back the keyboard, arise, and pour meself a cup o'. At some point, the probability that my destination is lavatory, not kitchen, obtains 2 in 3 aborted curses, roughly.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 01:12:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
WORLD
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:13:09 PM EST
Israeli coalition government talks collapse | World news | guardian.co.uk
Tzipi Livni abandons efforts to form government, making early elections likely and dashing hopes of peace with Palestinians

The Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, today abandoned her efforts to form a government, putting Israel on course for early elections and dashing any remaining hopes of a peace deal with Palestinians before the end of the year.

Livni had been trying to secure a governing coalition since September when she was elected head of the ruling Kadima party to replace the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, who resigned his leadership this year amid a fraud investigation.

But partners in the current coalition, which took power in May 2006, used the changing of the guard to press new demands.

In a statement today, Livni said she was willing to make concessions but had to draw the line at "impossible" demands.

"When I had to decide between continued extortion and bringing forward elections, I preferred elections," she said.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:15:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
`John McCain was never tortured in my jail', says Tran Trong Duyet - Times Online

On one bank of the Truc Bach lake a small electricity sub-station is plastered with flyers touting a local plumber. Along the road is an aerobics studio where youngsters lazily sip coffee and browse the papers. Thirty yards out across the water - rancid and bobbing with dead fish - is moored a handful of pedal boats shaped like swans.

It was within this unlikely triangle of landmarks - exactly 41 years ago this Sunday - that John McCain crash-landed and, say his captors, began his run for the United States presidency.

For even if the cold, barely conscious US Navy officer did not know it at the time, says Le Van Lua and the other Vietnamese whose lives entwined with Mr McCain's that day, this little spot of Hanoi is undoubtedly where pilot turned politician. If fury had prevailed, it is a transformation that might never have happened, says Mr Lua, 61, a factory worker who was the first on the scene after the crash and swam out to retrieve the battered, politically valuable prize.

He mimes clutching Mr McCain's hair in one hand and a kitchen knife in the other: "I didn't care about the politics, I just saw a man who had killed so many Vietnamese that I longed to kill him. He was injured badly and at the time I was desperate to finish him off. We only stopped because we were told he was more valuable alive. Now I'm glad I did stop: that day was truly the turning point in his life."

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:15:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
McCain and the POW Cover-up | Sydney Schanberg | The Nation Institute

The sum of the secrets McCain has sought to hide is not small. There exists a telling mass of official documents, radio intercepts, witness depositions, satellite photos of rescue symbols that pilots were trained to use, electronic messages from the ground containing the individual code numbers given to airmen, a rescue mission by a special forces unit that was aborted twice by Washington--and even sworn testimony by two Defense secretaries that "men were left behind." This imposing body of evidence suggests that a large number--the documents indicate probably hundreds--of the US prisoners held by Vietnam were not returned when the peace treaty was signed in January 1973 and Hanoi released 591 men, among them Navy combat pilot John S. McCain.
...
Throughout the Paris negotiations, the North Vietnamese tied the prisoner issue tightly to the issue of reparations. They were adamant in refusing to deal with them separately. Finally, in a February 2, 1973, formal letter to Hanoi's premier, Pham Van Dong, Nixon pledged $3.25 billion in "postwar reconstruction" aid "without any political conditions." But he also attached to the letter a codicil that said the aid would be implemented by each party "in accordance with its own constitutional provisions." That meant Congress would have to approve the appropriation, and Nixon and Kissinger knew well that Congress was in no mood to do so. The North Vietnamese, whether or not they immediately understood the double-talk in the letter, remained skeptical about the reparations promise being honored - and it never was. Hanoi thus appears to have held back prisoners--just as it had done when the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and withdrew their forces from Vietnam. In that case, France paid ransoms for prisoners and brought them home.


Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 08:24:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU and Cuba formally restore ties - EUobserver

The European Union has officially renewed ties with Cuba after a five-year freeze in relations and announced it will deliver millions of euros in aid to the Communist-led island.

Development commissioner Louis Michel and Cuban foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque signed a joint declaration in Havana on Thursday (23 October) that restores bilateral co-operation between the EU and Cuba and recognises the country's political independence and the principle of non-intervention in its domestic affairs.

Millions of euros of aid are to be delivered to Cuba to help reconstruction after two hurricanes hit the island in the summer

Havana has also agreed to a political dialogue with Brussels "without taboo," according to Mr Michel.

"We have stated the will to deepen a constructive and respectful dialogue that must be based on strict respect, without taboo," said Mr Michel after signing the declaration, newswires report.

The commissioner added that the occasion marks the renewal of "strong, strategic, useful, positive and respectful relations" with Havana.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:20:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
U.S. rearming Lebanese Army - International Herald Tribune

BEIRUT: For years, the Lebanese military was ridiculed as the least effective armed group in a country that was full of them. After the army splintered during the 15-year civil war, its arsenal slowly rotted into a museum of obsolete tanks and grounded aircraft.

That is starting to change. At the gates of the military base in Karantina, just north of Beirut, groups of soldiers drive in and out all day in new American Humvees and trucks, some of them toting gleaming new U.S. rifles and grenade launchers.

The weapons are the leading edge of a new American commitment to resupply the military of this small but pivotal Middle Eastern country, which emerged three years ago from decades of Syrian domination.

The new wave of aid, the first major American military assistance to Lebanon since the 1980s, is meant to build an armed force that could help stabilize Lebanon's perpetually fractured state, fight a rising terrorist threat and provide a legitimate alternative to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah. That organization, which controls southern Lebanon, has refused to disarm, arguing that it is the only force capable of defending the country against Israel.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:22:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
in this part of the world (like elsewhere).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 05:12:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Republicans fear a Barack Obama victory would turn America sharp left - Times Online

If Barack Obama wins the American presidential election in nine days' time, it will be because he has beaten the Republicans at their own game, according to Karl Rove, the noted "architect" of President George W Bush's two victories.

The Democrats have copied Rove's formidable tactics and ground operation, pumping out a disciplined message, assembling a broad-based coalition which includes young first-time voters and African-Americans, and drowning their Republican opponents with money.

"I've got to tell you, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," Rove said in an interview. "I can say, I'm deeply flattered."

Rove recalled how Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, outlined their electoral strategy at the Democratic convention in August: "He explicitly said we have deliberately copied the army of persuasion of the Republicans."

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:24:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Anything the Republicans fear just has to be a good thing.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 05:16:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
how that has become the new go-to default setting.  If the Repubs/Faux News don't want it, go for it.

Like a new bible.  And I'm NOT religious.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 05:21:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
its the TV equivalent of the UK's Daily Mail rule.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 05:23:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
way over my head.  Please explain.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 05:27:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Daily Mail is a UK mid market tabloid.throughout its history it has been somewhat right wing. People  on the left have a smilar feeling in the UK. If the Mail thinks it's a good idea its probably wrong. For instance its coverage of the lead up to the second world war.

Daily Mail - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In early 1934, Rothermere and the Mail were sympathetic to Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists[6]. Rothermere wrote an article, "Hurrah for the Blackshirts", in January 1934, in which he praised Mosley for his "sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine"[7], though after the violence of the 1934 Olympia meeting involving the BUF, the Mail withdrew its support for Mosley.

Rothermere was a friend and supporter of both Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, which influenced the Mail's political stance towards them up to 1939. During this period, it was the only British newspaper consistently to support the German Nazi Party.[8][9] Rothermere visited and corresponded with Hitler on many occasions. On 1 October 1938, Rothermere sent Hitler a telegram in support of Germany's invasion of the Sudetenland, and expressing the hope that 'Adolf the Great' would become a popular figure in Britain.

In 1937, the Mail's chief war correspondent, George Ward Price, to whom Mussolini once personally wrote in support of him and the newspaper, published a book, I Know These Dictators, in defence of Hitler and Mussolini. Evelyn Waugh was sent as a reporter for the Mail to cover the anticipated Italian invasion of Ethiopia.

Rothermere and the Mail supported Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement, particularly during the events leading up to the Munich Agreement. However, after the Nazi invasion of Prague in 1939, the Mail changed position and urged Chamberlain to prepare for war, not least, perhaps, because on account of its stance it had been threatened with closure by the British Government.



Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 05:35:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you.  Always learning something here.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 05:57:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Me too.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 07:28:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama lead drops to 5 points | U.S. | Reuters

Republican rival John McCain has dropped to 5 points, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Sunday.

Obama leads McCain by 49 percent to 44 percent among likely U.S. voters in the daily tracking poll, which has a margin of error of 2.9 points. Obama's lead has dropped over the last three days after hitting a high of 12 points on Thursday.

"Things are trending back for McCain. His numbers are rising and Obama's are dropping on a daily basis. There seems to be a direct correlation between this and McCain talking about the economy," pollster John Zogby said.



Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 07:43:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
bulllll---shit
by paving on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 06:17:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
hmm, i remember kossaks deciding deliberately to do this in 2003.

circumstances have helped a lot too, especially if you define them as fruit of unregulated bubble ponzi schemes pseudo-economies...

'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 Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 05:07:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Republicans fear a Barack Obama victory would turn America sharp left"

I fear the Republicans will be wrong (and they usually are).

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

by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 07:05:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
US chiefs plan troop surge in Afghanistan - Times Online

American military chiefs are to send up to 9,000 troops to Helmand next year, potentially sidelining the UK's 5,000-strong force in the southern Afghanistan province. The first of three US brigade combat teams is expected to be operational by the spring. Their main base is under construction alongside the British headquarters at Camp Bastion.

The move comes amid US frustration that the British have insufficient soldiers and helicopters to maintain security and reconstruct Helmand, with the Taliban acting freely in large tracts of the province.

President George W Bush is expected to announce a surge of US troops into southern Afghanistan after next month's White House election.

General David McKiernan, the US commander of all allied forces in Afghanistan, has asked for at least four brigade combat teams for Afghanistan, but most will go into Helmand.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:24:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
let's make sure that the US Army's second defeat of the decade is a big and humiliating one too. And let's take NATO down along with it.

Except that it will be Obama that will have 'lost.'

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 05:18:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I must say I cannot look forward to a Taliban victory in Afganistan with pleasure.  The US has blown two opportunities to turn things around there:  first after the withdrawal of the Soviets in the 80s and then after the fall of the Taliban in 2002.  Neither time were we willing to spend on education and infrastructure even a small fraction of what had been spent on military success.  I feel bad for the women and children mostly.

Rumsfield and Cheney had as goals at the start of 2000 to roll back all encroachments that had been made against the US imperial presidency after Watergate.  They succeeded and then some.  The last thing these arrogant fools wanted to hear was cautions about trying to build democratic, modern societies out of defeated feudal or tribal societies.  They insured that, on a functional level, the US Government learned nothing from Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos.

As long as there is a danger that these sorts of people can periodically gain control of the US Government, that government constitutes the single biggest threat to the continued existence of what we laughingly call civilization.  The US needs to be effectively counterbalanced.

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

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 07:46:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Iranian president suffering from exhaustion - CNN.com

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has fallen sick from exhaustion but the illness is not as serious as political opponents suggest, an Ahmadinejad ally told Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a recent meeting with Iraq's former prime minister Ibrahim al-Jafari.

"The president will eventually fully recover and will continue with his work, but the shame of this thing will be left forever for some people," Mohammad Esmail Kowsari said in the IRNA report.

The rumor that Ahmadinejad is seriously ill "is an old ploy aimed at influencing the elections" which are set for next June, Kowsari -- a member of Iran's parliament -- was quoted as saying.

Kowsari called it "psychological warfare" aimed at creating division among fundamentalists who make up Ahmadinejad's political base.

Another IRNA report said President Ahmadinejad missed several events in recent days because of his illness.

It quoted Mansour Borghei, an official at the president's office, saying Ahmadinejad "was feeling ill because of being overworked."

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:25:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Middle East | 'US aircraft attack Syria border'

US helicopter-borne troops have carried out a raid inside Syria along the Iraqi border, killing eight people including a woman, Syrian authorities say.

The official Syrian news agency Sana said the raid took place in the Abu Kamal border area, in eastern Syria.

It said that American soldiers on four helicopters had stormed a building under construction on Sunday night.

The US says it is investigating. It has previously accused Syria of allowing foreign militants into Iraq.

"Four American helicopters violated Syrian airspace around 16:45 local time (1345 GMT) on Sunday," state television and Sana news agency said.

It said that "American soldiers" who had emerged from helicopters "attacked a civilian building under construction and fired at workmen inside, causing eight deaths".

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:29:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Senior military sources confirmed the raid to Richard Engle, NBC's Baghdad correspondent, on the NBC evening news today, Sunday.  A squad of special ops was set down by two helicopters while helicopter gun ships stayed aloft.  The assault was allegedly on an Al Quaida leadership compound at a rural farmhouse not too far into Syria.  Syria has summoned the US Ambassador to protest the incursion.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 07:54:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Remains to be seen what this about, but damn ...

 Syria claims US helicopters attacked village

By Our Foreign Staff
Last Updated: 7:07PM GMT 26 Oct 2008
Media reports gave conflicting accounts of the incident, which they said had involved an air strike on civilians.
State television, quoting unnamed officials, said that an attack took place near the Syrian border town of Abu Kamal. It gave no further details on the incident.
The private television channel al-Dunia said that nine people had been killed when an unknown number of American helicopters attacked the village of Al-Sukkiraya.


An unknown number of helicopters ...
.
by Loefing on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 05:07:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, Fran, for the repeat post.
by Loefing on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 08:20:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No problem, you can add a different source for the same topic by hitting the reply button. :-)
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 04:14:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Middle East | 'US troops' strike inside Syria

US helicopter-borne troops have carried out a raid inside Syria along the Iraqi border, killing eight people including four children, Syrian officials say.

The official Syrian news agency Sana said the raid took place in the Abu Kamal border area, in eastern Syria.

It said that American soldiers on four helicopters had stormed a building under construction on Sunday night.

The US says it is investigating. It has previously accused Syria of allowing foreign militants into Iraq.

Syria has summoned the US and Iraqi envoys in Damascus to protest at the raid.

"Syria condemns this aggressive act and holds American forces responsible for this aggression and all of its repercussions," a government official said.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 02:35:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Syria condemns `US aggression' after cross-border raid - Times Online

American military helicopters attacked a farm in eastern Syria close to the border with Iraq yesterday, killing eight people, the Syrian Government said. There was outrage in Damascus and the Foreign Ministry summoned the US and Iraqi envoys to protest about the operation.

Four American helicopters targeted a civilian building under construction, firing on the workers inside shortly before sunset, according to a government statement carried by the Syrian state news agency. The structure was at al-Sukkari farm, five miles (8 km) inside the Syrian border.

They "opened fire on workers inside the building, including the wife of the building guard, leading to the [death] of eight civilians," the statement said.

A resident of a nearby village reported that the aircraft flew along the Euphrates into the area of farms and several brick factories.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 02:36:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
McClellan Endorses Obama | The Trail | washingtonpost.com

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan, who angered many Republicans earlier this year with a memoir criticizing President Bush, said today that he's voting for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

McClellan told CNN that Obama's message "is very similar to the one that Governor Bush ran on in 2000," apparently referring to the current president's early pitch as a reformer and a moderate.

"From the very beginning I have said I am going to support the candidate that has the best chance for changing the way Washington works and getting things done and I will be voting for Barack Obama," McClellan said during the interview, which was taped for the Saturday broadcast of a new CNN show, "D.L. Hughley Breaks the News."

Next?

USAns for Obama, just please don't get cocky.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 07:50:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The loathsome Justin Webb seems to think The Econo is next.

BBC NEWS | The Reporters | Justin Webb

There is more to come in the Appalachia-rocking endorsements, I can reveal: the Economist newspaper will be next. Being a fair-minded chap, the Economist editor - the decider - appointed two senior journalists to make the cases for Obama and McCain. At the time of writing, the white smoke has not yet appeared but McCain has less hope being chosen by the Economist than Sarah Palin has becoming an honorary citizen of Paris. Paris France that is...
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 07:22:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Minority Leader Fights for Survival

Democrats aiming for a 60-seat, filibuster-proof Senate majority are targeting Mitch McConnell.

By Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 27, 2008; Page A01

PADUCAH, Ky. -- If Barack Obama wins the presidency on Nov. 4, Mitch McConnell, the Senate's minority leader, could be one of the few obstacles confronting Democrats as they seek to enact a sweeping agenda and roll back eight years of Bush administration initiatives.

The architect of the revival of the Republican Party in this state, McConnell is fighting for his political survival and to avoid the fate of former senator Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), who was ousted in 2004 by voters who rejected the argument that his position as his party's leader in the Senate gave him an unparalleled ability to deliver for his state.

With polls showing Democrat Bruce Lunsford trailing McConnell by only a few points, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pumped money into advertising attacking McConnell earlier this month. Former president Bill Clinton campaigned alongside Lunsford on Friday in this western Kentucky city along the state's border with Illinois.

Democrats, already favored to win the presidency and hold both houses of Congress, have set their sights on controlling 60 seats in the Senate, which would give them a filibuster-proof majority. To get there, they'll need an upset or two in a deep-red state such as Georgia, Mississippi or Kentucky, where Bush won by 20 points in 2004.

"You cannot pass a single bill in the U.S. Congress outside of the budget with just a majority vote if 41 senators decide to filibuster and shut you down," Clinton told a crowd of more than 500 here. "And the man who was the leader of implementing President Bush's policies, if you leave him there, will be the leader of stopping a new direction for America every time they can muster 41 votes. That's why this Mitch McConnell seat is so important."



"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 12:27:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hard to convey how important it is McConnell is defeated.  The Senate Minority Leader has the latent power to slow down and halt the Congressional legislative process.  As one of the architects of the dismantling of regulatory oversight, McConnell is deeply tied to the 'Washington Consensus.'


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 11:14:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let it be so.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 12:12:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
THIS, THAT, AND THE OTHER
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:13:34 PM EST
Half of Doctors Routinely Prescribe Placebos - NYTimes.com

Half of all American doctors responding to a nationwide survey say they regularly prescribe placebos to patients. The results trouble medical ethicists, who say more research is needed to determine whether doctors must deceive patients in order for placebos to work.

The study involved 679 internists and rheumatologists chosen randomly from a national list of such doctors. In response to three questions included as part of the larger survey, about half reported recommending placebos regularly. Surveys in Denmark, Israel, Britain, Sweden and New Zealand have found similar results.

The most common placebos the American doctors reported using were headache pills and vitamins, but a significant number also reported prescribing antibiotics and sedatives. Although these drugs, contrary to the usual definition of placebos, are not inert, doctors reported using them for their effect on patients' psyches, not their bodies.

In most cases, doctors who recommended placebos described them to patients as "a medicine not typically used for your condition but might benefit you," the survey found. Only 5 percent described the treatment to patients as "a placebo."

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:18:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Troubled Times for Tacheles: Landmark Berlin Squat Battles Eviction - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

It is a classic Berlin faceoff: the squatters against the investors. Usually the latter win, but property at the landmark Berlin art squat Tacheles is under receivership and the fate of the site is uncertain.

The future of the Tacheles squat in central Berlin is uncertain. The artists at Tacheles, an iconic squat in central Berlin, have been waiting for the other shoe to drop for a decade.

"We knew the lease would be up. It was hardly a surprise," says Martin Reiter, the long-haired Austrian who heads the co-op that runs Tacheles. After all, the existence of the bombed-out warren of 31 ateliers, a cinema, theater, bar, restaurant and back garden, has always felt a bit tenuous. And with their current deal set to expire at the end of December, anxiety about the future of Tacheles, Yiddish for "straight talk," is growing.

Reiter and a group of fellow artists moved into the building, just down the street from Berlin's iconic New Synagogue, after the Berlin Wall came down 19 years ago and turned it into one of the best-known exhibition spaces in the city. An investment fund called Fundus Group bought the complex and neighboring properties in the early 1990s and negotiated a 10-year lease with the artists in 1998. Rent is a symbolic one deutsche mark, or 50 euro cents per year.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:21:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Smart Idea: Cars for Rent, From Almost Any Curb - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Want to rent a Smart car for 19 cents a minute? Just flash your driver's licence at a device by the windshield, and off you go. That's the essence of a pilot project starting in the German city of Ulm on Friday.

Rain is crashing down and you are late for work. The bus is late and there's no taxi in sight. Why not rent a car? It sounds insane, but it will soon be possible for citizens of Ulm, the focus of a pilot project by Daimler, which wants to make car rental as "easy as using a mobile phone."

The company plans to make a fleet of 50 blue-striped Smart cars available in Ulm to customers who sign up for the project. It will work like car-sharing in Europe and North America, but without the designated parking spots: Customers can unlock a car using a driver's license outfitted with an electronic chip, then type in a PIN code, and drive off. When they're finished, the car can be almost left anywhere in Ulm, waiting for the next driver.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:21:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but 50 cars is nowhere near enough. Paris is looking to repeat the success of the velib with an autolib, working on the same principle - but the key to velib's success is the ubiquity of the system - with bikes literally at every street corner.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 05:21:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you familiar with Caisse commune?
by Loefing on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 08:25:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Vatican suspends bishop who adopted woman, 26 - CNN.com

NEW DELHI, India (AP) -- The Vatican has suspended a Roman Catholic bishop in southern India after he adopted a 26-year-old woman, a senior church official said Saturday.

Bishop John Thattungal's conduct will be investigated by a three-member committee of bishops.

Bishop John Thattungal, 58, will be barred from performing any religious or administrative duties until a formal inquiry into his conduct is completed, said the Rev. Stephen Alathara, a spokesman for the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council, in a telephone interview from the southern Indian city of Kochi.

Alathara said the bishop's adoption of the woman earlier this year had upset other priests in the Kochi diocese.

"The majority of the priests were unhappy and asked for his resignation," he said, adding that the Vatican ordered the suspension on Thursday.

He said there are questions surrounding the legality of the adoption because the woman is not a minor.

Thattungal could not be reached for comment, but news reports in Kerala have quoted him as saying, "I have only fatherly love toward the woman who has spiritual powers. This relation is giving me spiritual refreshment."

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:25:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ABC News: Italian Farmer Vows Green Revolution

Global warming was a sore subject in Italy this week. (Phoebe Natanson/ABC)

First Italy squashed Europe's hope to push through a climate package that would show the world Europe was serious about halting global warming.

Then the European Environment Agency announced that Italy, Denmark and Spain were still "off their Kyoto track" and would not meet their individual countries' targets for cutting emissions under the Kyoto Accord.

But in all this gloom, there was a bright spot in Umbria, the "green heart "of Italy.

A small Italian olive and wine producer has decided it's his task to make a big example and has decided to show the way.

Meet Lorenzo Fasola-Bologna, a dashing 37-year-old with a winning smile, big ideas and lots of energy. He calls his project "the 360 degree Green Revolution." He has set himself a challenge: to cut his family farm's CO2 emissions to zero by the end of 2009.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:26:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Italian police to use 200mph Lamborghini - Telegraph
Italian police unveiled the latest weapon in their war on speeding motorists yesterday - a muscular, blue and white Lamborghini capable of travelling at 200 miles per hour.

The new Gallardo, which boasts a 560-horsepower engine, will prowl Italy's autostradas in search of the country's notoriously lead-footed drivers.

The custom made sports car is equipped with a specially designed mini fridge, which will be used to transport organs and plasma to help save the lives of traffic accident victims. It also comes with a defibrillator for use in emergencies.

It will be based in the Lazio region around Rome but will be deployed all over Italy. Its formidable speed will ensure nervous glances in rear view mirrors from drivers across the country.

An elite team of 30 police officers will be trained in how to handle it by Lamborghini. "Our best test drivers will give the selected policemen a special course," said a company spokeswoman.

The Gallardo, which costs £140,000, will replace an older Lamborghini which the police have been using since 2004.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 04:12:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"So many members of the armed forces have been dying on sport bikes like the [Kawasaki] Ninja that the Navy and Marines have made special training mandatory for sport bike riders this year. In one weekend in September, the Navy lost four men in sport bike accidents. Some military officials are concerned that industry pressure to sell motorcycles and lax state licensing are allowing riders with poor skills on the road.

"We've got machines right now that are governed at 187 miles per hour that you can buy on a showroom floor in our country and not even have a motorcycle license to buy it," Mr. Wisnieski said."

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/26/us/26sportbike.html?ref=todayspaper&pagewanted=print

by asdf on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 08:18:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Multigenerational Gay Housing Project Starts in Germany | Germany | Deutsche Welle | 26.10.2008
A multigenerational living project aimed at gays and lesbians got one step closer to being realized when organizers laid a ground stone for the building this week.

Organizers of the building project Villa Anders -- which translates in English as 'A Different Kind of Villa' -- say it is a unique pioneer project in Germany.

Under a rainbow-colored logo and the motto "Better living -- we just went ahead and did it," the project is realizing its plan to build multigenerational, mixed-income living spaces for gay, lesbian and transgender singles, couples and "rainbow" families.

[...]

The project is selective in terms of sexual identity, with living space available for gays, lesbians, transgenders -- and a 15 percent quota of straight people who may be part of an otherwise gay or lesbian family constellation.

[...]

Should it succeed, Villa Anders would be Germany's first such center for gay living, a fact that even Juengst acknowledges is surprising.

"There have been many attempts but they all failed," Juengst said. There was the community in Hamburg that failed because the neighborhood rejected it, and one in Frankfurt that didn't get off the ground because it was too complicated, involving a care center and an old age home. Currently, Berlin is working on a project similar to Villa Anders, but it is also different -- aimed only at homosexual men, and leaning more toward the old-age home model.

"To my knowledge, we are the only one for both gays and lesbians," Juengst said.



The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 04:16:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I just noticed that the city doesn't get mentioned until way, way down in the article.

This is Cologne.

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

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 04:17:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
SF Chronicle: A move to secede on California-Oregon border

From earlier this month. I didn't find anything about it already here using the search function.

(10-05) 04:00 PDT Yreka, Siskiyou County -- Some folks around here think the economic sky is falling and state lawmakers in Sacramento and Salem are ignoring their constituents in the hinterlands.

Guess the time is ripe to create a whole new state.

That's the thinking up here along the border between California and Oregon, where 12 sparsely populated, thickly forested counties in both states want to break away and generate the 51st star on the nation's flag - the state of Jefferson.

You can see the signs of discontent from Klamath Falls to Dunsmuir, where green double-X "Jefferson State" flags hang in scores of businesses. You can hear the talk of revolution at lunch counters and grocery lines, where people grumble that politicians to the north and south don't care.

You can even hear the dissent on the radio, where 21 area FM stations broadcast from Oregon into California under the banner of "Jefferson Public Radio."

"We have nothing in common with you people down south. Nothing," said Randy Bashaw, manager of the Jefferson State Forest Products lumber mill in the Trinity County hamlet of Hayfork. "The sooner we're done with all you people, the better."

Talking about secession has been a quasi-joking conversational saw since 1941, when five counties in the area started things by actually declaring themselves - briefly - to be the state of Jefferson. But now, with the economy in trouble and unemployment soaring, the idea of greater independence is getting its most serious consideration since World War II.

by lychee on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 05:48:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Demographic implosion in Muslim societies
Just as the world at large is experiencing an unprecedented collapse of demography, the UN Population Division reports a sharp decline of fertility rates (number of births per woman) in Muslim and Arab countries, excluding Afghanistan and Yemen.

The myth of "doubling population every 20 years" has been shattered against the cliffs of demography... [The] UN Population Division has reduced its 2050 population projections by 25 percent, from 12 billion to 9 billion, possibly shrinking to 7.4 billion.

For instance, the fertility rate in Iran [has] declined from nine births per woman, 30 years ago, to 1.8 births in 2007. The Muslim religious establishment has also played a key role in decreasing fertility rates in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, from eight and seven births per woman 30 years ago, to less than four and less than 2.5 respectively in 2007. [...]

Demographic precedents suggest only a very slight probability of resurrecting high fertility rates following a sustained period of significant reduction.

Booo... even Muslims are going to die out because of low fertility. We forecast with demographic precedents we have...

by das monde on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 09:57:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Someone print this out and make Mark Steyn eat it.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 10:01:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
With the possible exception of Saudi Arabia and Egypt this isn't exactly news. In the case of Iran, it is the result of a serious government policy, including a requirement (unique in the world?) for couples to take a course on contraception before getting a marriage license (this is what the meaningless "also" in the third paragraph above presumably was meant to refer to).

The article does not mention a small drop in fertility rates (about 1 child per woman, I think) among Orthodox Jewish women, and Bedouin, believed to be a result of a cut in government subsidies (the ones that resulted in Livni's failure to build a coalitiion).

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 11:25:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
KLATSCH
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:13:54 PM EST
Je t'aime (again): The French love affair with Serge Gainsbourg - Features, Music - The Independent
As a new warts-and-all exhibition demonstrates, France has rediscovered its affection for Serge Gainsbourg, the anti-hero who came up with the sexiest pop record ever. John Lichfield reports

To the British, Serge Gainsbourg was once the ugly, pouting, unshaven French bloke who sang with the fresh, English rose, Jane Birkin, on the rudest pop record ever, "Je t'aime ... Moi Non Plus". To the French, he was either a pop intellectual rebel or a drunken, pretentious, unpatriotic bore.

In the past decade, Gainsbourg, born 80 years ago this year, has become a cult hero and inspiration to British bands from Portishead to Placebo. A young, fast-rising London band has named itself after one of Gainsbourg's best-loved, and strangest, albums, Melody Nelson.

Serge Gainsbourg has also been rediscovered by young people in his home country as one of the few truly original musicians that France produced in the classic years of pop and rock. He is now seen as a precursor of Queen or David Bowie, as someone who successfully spliced rock and classical music and a writer who produced poetic rather than crass pop lyrics (although he also wrote plenty of those).

Gainsbourg, whose first album appeared a half-century ago, is the subject of an ambitious, hi-tech exhibition which began this week at the Musée de Musique in Paris. There is also a series of tribute concerts at the Cité de Musique, to which the museum belongs, including one next Tuesday by Jane Birkin, now a fresh, 61-year-old English rose and the most popular Briton living in France.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:14:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gainsbourg is also very popular here in the states.  Francois Hardy is also enjoying a steady level of success.  
by paving on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 06:27:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The idea that at some point Gainsbourg was forgotten and needed to be rediscovered in France is absurd.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misŤres
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue Oct 28th, 2008 at 05:54:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
IMF director keeps his job despite affair - International Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON: The International Monetary Fund said over the weekend that it would stand by its managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, despite concluding that he had shown poor judgment in a sexual affair with a subordinate.

After receiving a report from an outside law firm, the executive board of the fund said Saturday that there was no evidence that Strauss-Kahn had abused his power or shown favoritism in his brief relationship with a senior official at the fund, who later resigned to take a job in London.

Still, the longest-serving member of the board, A. Shakour Shaalan, described the affair as a "serious error of judgment" on the part of Strauss-Kahn, 59, a former French finance minister who took charge a year ago and is now steering the fund through the most serious global financial crisis in decades.

In a statement, Strauss-Kahn said, "I am grateful that the board has confirmed that there was no abuse of authority on my part, but I accept that this incident represents a serious error of judgment."

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2008 at 03:23:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fran:
his brief relationship with a senior official at the fund, who later resigned to take a job in London

So she loses her job and he keeps his?

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

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 04:13:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That doesn't necessarily follow. My emphasis below.

IMF director keeps his job despite affair - International Herald Tribune

The inquiry, by the firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, concerned a brief relationship between Strauss-Kahn and Piroska Nagy, then an official in the Africa department. Nagy left the fund in August as part of a buyout of nearly 600 employees instituted by Strauss-Kahn to cut costs.

At issue was whether Strauss-Kahn had sexually harassed Nagy, pressed her to leave the fund or used his authority to give her preferential treatment in her buyout. In all cases, the report found no evidence.

FT.com / World - Probe clears IMF chief of abuse of authority

The investigation centred around a brief affair Mr Strauss-Kahn, a 59-year-old French former finance minister, had with a then IMF official, Piroska Nagy, in January of this year.

Ms Nagy subsequently left the fund, took a buyout under a general staff reduction programme and joined the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London. Both Mr Strauss-Kahn and Ms Nagy are married.

The independent investigation concluded that Mr Strauss-Kahn had not pressured Ms Nagy to leave the IMF, nor intervened to secure her a more favourable financial settlement when she left.


Sex in January, she leaves in August under a buyout programme of 600 employees. No evidence of wrong doing was found. Is it really impossible to believe that what happened was that two adults had sex, enjoyed it, and then carried on as professionals without favour or disfavour? It seems her leaving took place quite a while before this story broke, so why should we believe that she lost her job due to it? (As I believe you are suggesting above...)
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 05:35:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What bothers me isn't the sex, it's Strauss-Kahn's appalling lack of judgment in entering into an affair with a subordinate, however innocently it played out.

There is a reason why avoiding boss/subordinate relationships is a cliche of career advice. The reasons are even more urgent in politics.

He knows, or must know, that he needs to avoid not only impropriety, but the appearance of impropriety; that sexual harassment has become a serious issue in US labor law; that there are no secrets in Washington; and that Wolfowitz's naked nepotism at the sister institution had made this a particularly sensitive issue.

A politician of his experience must know all this - but still he had a fling with a subordinate. What does that say about his judgment?

This investigation was necessary because there was a prima facie appearance of impropriety. Even though (thankfully) no evidence was found to substantiate improper behavior, the fact that it was necessary - a distraction when he should be thinking about how to stem the global meltdown - reflects poorly on his judgment.

The fact that Ms Nagy's name would be all over the media if the affair came to light (with who knows what impact on her career and her marriage) is another fact which a seasoned politician should have been able to anticipate.

I see a lot of reasons why they (and particularly he) should have refrained. So I question his judgment.

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

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 06:55:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
dvx:

He knows, or must know, that he needs to avoid not only impropriety, but the appearance of impropriety; that sexual harassment has become a serious issue in US labor law; that there are no secrets in Washington; and that Wolfowitz's naked nepotism at the sister institution had made this a particularly sensitive issue.

A politician of his experience must know all this - but still he had a fling with a subordinate. What does that say about his judgment?


I don't know. Maybe he was thinking: "Screw those anglo idiots and their obnoxious prudery." How would an affair with a subordinate be viewed in France? (I don't know the answer to that one. Would be interesting to know.) Is the IMF director working under US labour law? If not, why would US law have a bearing on how he conducts himself?
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 08:30:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Affairs" are more or less a private matter in France. Rumors are that Sarkozy had affairs with quite a few women, for example, including the now-subordinate Rachida Dati...

I have quite a few (computer programer) friends that live with former interns they supervised...

The general "you can't have normal social relationships with people you meet at work" attitude is a bit frightening.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misŤres

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 09:28:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As I though then, I just wasn't sure if there was a different view of sex with subordinates. Does anyone have an answer to under which labour laws the IMF operates? My guess would be that as an international organization it is bound by no nations' laws directly, and probably will have its own staff rules for professional conduct.

Anyway, I find it rather annoying that the US (or rather, some Americans) tend to view every situation in terms of US law or US customs. In particular when it come to sex where both the left and the right seems to be in bizzaro land. For the right, if a woman fails to keep her legs together, she's a vile, lose temptress and who leads herself and the man into sin. For the left, if a man fails to keep his pants zipped, he's abusing his position and sexually harassing her.  

by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 09:42:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Only sexual hypocrisy is worthy of mention and exposure. Whatever else consenting adults do is their own business.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 09:54:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I am not mistaken the allegation is that she got a higher severance package than she would otherwise and she did not lose her job over the affair but chose to move to the London job.

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 Mon Oct 27th, 2008 at 06:12:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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