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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 24 March

by Fran Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:12:40 PM EST

On this date in history:

1927 - Birth of Martin Walser, a German writer. He became famous for describing the conflicts his anti-heroes have in his novels and stories.

More here and here

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by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:13:18 PM EST
This WEEK in the European Union - EUobserver

EUOBSERVER / WEEKLY AGENDA (23 -29 March) - The European Parliament will gather for its third to last plenary session before it ends it legislative term and will host UK prime minister Gordon Brown as well as discuss the results of last week's EU leaders' summit.

Mr Brown will appear before MEPs on Tuesday to outline his approach to the G20 meeting in London at the beginning of April. Member states last week agreed a single message of more financial oversight as their response to the global economic crisis and rebuffed US calls for increased spending. It will be up to Mr Brown to manage the split between Brussels and Washington on whether further fiscal stimulus is needed, with the US saying Europe should be spending more.

Gordon Brown will appear before MEPs on Tuesday

Eurodeputies will deal with a series of legislation - voting on updating rules dealing with the content and labelling of cosmetics (Tuesday); improving air traffic control systems (Wednesday) and putting biometric information into visas for third country nationals visiting Europe (Wednesday).

On Tuesday, MEPs will decide whether to approve economic partnership agreements with 15 Carribean states and the Ivory Coast. These agreements have been criticised in the past by development NGOs who say the EU is asking too much from these poorer countries in return for trade access.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:15:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The US Ruling Class considers the Caribbean as their own little fiefdom.

This could get ... amusing.

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

by ATinNM on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 09:36:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Careful there AT.  Mighty afew doesn't like the use of the word "elite" so I'm not sure how the term "US Ruling Class" will go over.  His exact comment was:

I'm getting tired of hearing shit about "elites".

Who do you mean, and what evidence of gaming the entire lives of all people do you have?

Oooooh, afew is getting tired of hearing this shit.  I tremble before the might of afew.  LOL

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 07:13:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European influence (and economic presence) in the Caribean and Latin America is often underestimated...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 09:54:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, the above poster is definitely incorrect.  The Caribbean islands are strongly influenced by the UK, in particular, not to mention France with three Francophone islands.   The Dominican and Cuba are Spanish speaking.

Really, beyond the Bahamas/Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico the US does not have a huge amount of control.

by paving on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 01:22:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Port of New Orleans (PNO) is hugely important for the US.  The Mississippi and Ohio river complex ships a large portion of US exports as well as a large portion of US imports, especially petroleum and other industrial chemicals.  The majority of US trade with Latin and South America flows through PNO.  Without the PNO or if the trade to/from PNO is limited the US would undergo strategically damaging economic harm.

For this reason, the US Navy considers domination of the Caribbean as one of its fundamental missions.  

PNO is also a reason why the US/Cuba spat has gone on for all these decades.  Cuba, because of its geographic location, is in the Strategic Offensive/Tactical Defensive position to put a real crimp in the PNO's operation.  

Historically, the US has gone bonkers at anyone moving into the Caribbean.  To put it in perspective, there hasn't been a serious threat to US military domination of the Caribbean since the Cuban Missile Crisis.  In that little fiasco, the US task force had orders to attack as soon as that Soviet Convoy continued past the Blockade Line.  No further orders were needed, no reference up the chain of command was allowed.  They pass it.  You attack and sink 'em.  Charming, eh?

Military domination of the Caribbean is the sina qua non of US foreign/economic policy.  

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

by ATinNM on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 08:16:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The cowardly EU « Europe not EU

I am back from my holidays and a blogging hiatus to find that  EU finds it easier to rally behind a mindless G20 Obama love-in on fiscal and bank bailouts than it is to hold a summit on preserving jobs

EU heads of state and government have decided to run away from cancel a Prague meeting, originally scheduled for May 7, which aimed to bring together national leaders with businesses and trade unions.

Only last week, the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso was insisting that it would be a "fundamental error" not to hold the summit.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:16:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Europe | France to consider ethnic census

France is for the first time launching a commission to investigate ways of measuring the country's ethnic make-up.

The commission is being set up by President Nicolas Sarkozy's adviser on tackling discrimination, Yazid Sabeg.

Mr Sabeg said it was "essential to measure how effective are official policies combating discrimination".

But opponents say his idea breaches the French principle of equality for all. Classifying people by race or religious beliefs is currently illegal in France.

Mr Sabeg, a businessman of Algerian descent, argued that the country's egalitarian principle might be fine in theory, but in fact had done nothing to stop the growth of racial discrimination.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:17:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If there were a French equivalent to "anti-American" Sarkozy would be it.  
by paving on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 04:26:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's actually a pretty good summary of Sarko.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 09:55:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
CAP 'health check' not open for debate - EUobserver

European commissioner for agriculture Mariann Fischer Boel has issued a robust defence of reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) agreed last year - a series of changes Brussels calls the CAP 'health-check', saying the current crisis in the dairy sector was no excuse for a return to a more interventionist policy.

The economic crisis has lead to falling demand for EU dairy exports.

"I am not going to re-open the agreement that we made in the health-checK. I hope this is clear enough so we can stop this blurred discussion that is sending totally the wrong signal to the farmers," she said on Monday (23 March) after agriculture ministers met in Brussels to discuss falling milk prices.

"Farmers believe sometimes that one minister or another will be able to put pressure on the commission to re-open the whole discussion. This is not going to happen. It is actually dead, this idea."

Earlier in the day, a note circulated around the commission and other national delegations in Brussels in which Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia argued that "unconventional approaches" were now needed to deal with the dire situation.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:20:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brussels cool on Bulgaria steering group idea - EUobserver

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The Bulgarian government has asked EU member states to send "experienced" diplomats to hold "key positions" in the administration in order to help boost reforms in the country.

But the unusual proposal has been rebuffed by European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, who said the Bulgarians should carry out the reforms themselves.

The Bulgarian PM (l) with Mr Barroso (r) - does Sofia need European experts?

"The reforms in Bulgaria, in the Bulgarian administration, must be carried out by the Bulgarians themselves. Nothing can substitute your own efforts," Mr Barroso told Bulgarian daily Dnevnik in the margins of an EU summit in Brussels on Friday (20 March).

"We co-operate with you, we have increased the co-operation, but there is no way that we substitute the efforts that depend on the government, the administrations, and all levels of the Bulgarian state," he added.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:20:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The FT explicitly presented this as the Bulgarian govt trying to trick the EU into giving them  a "clean bill of health" prior to the elections.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 09:56:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Finalists Emerge in Closely Watched Macedonian Poll | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 23.03.2009
Candidates from Macedonia's conservative and leftist parties will enter a runoff presidency election after an initial round of voting, which met most international standards, according to European election watchdogs. 

The election has been regarded as a crucial step for Macedonia's hopes of joining the European Union and NATO.


International law professor Gjorgje Ivanov has emerged as clear favorite to win Macedonia's presidency, after a first round of elections was held on Sunday, March 22.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:22:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hungarian prime minister offers to resign - EUobserver

Hungarian prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany surprised socialists at a party conference on Saturday (21 March) by offering to stand down on condition parliament can agree a new leader to be elected by MPs on 14 April.

"If I'm the obstacle to change then I'll eliminate this obstacle," he said, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Mr Gyurcsany (top) - Hungary's parliament is set to agree on a new prime minister on 14 April

Mr Gyurcsany, just back from a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels last week, heads the Hungarian socialist party that currently holds a minority government.

The country is facing its most serious crisis in over a decade, with the central bank predicting economic contraction this year of 3.5 percent and some analysts saying it is likely to be closer to 5 percent.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:24:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spain's defence minister shot down over Nato gaffe - Europe, World - The Independent
Controversial politician in trouble over announcement to pull troops out of Kosovo

The Spanish Defence minister, Carme Chacón, suffered a dramatic fall from grace after announcing that Spain would shortly withdraw from Nato operations in Kosovo, only to have the decision reversed yesterday following a diplomatic row.

On a morale-boosting trip to troops in Kosovo last week, Ms Chacón, Spain's first female defence chief and a star of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's majority female cabinet, declared: "The mission has been completed and it's time to return home."

But her announcement burst like a bombshell among Nato officials, the US administration and senior diplomats who complained she had acted unilaterally and failed to inform them through the proper channels.

Madrid swiftly back-pedalled yesterday, saying the timetable for withdrawal was flexible. "Carme Chacón will meet Nato's secretary-general next week to explain the reasons for the withdrawal and to reach a joint decision on a timetable," Mr Zapatero's spokesman said. "The decision to leave has been made but we can be flexible over the timetable, be it one year, 18 months or eight months."

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:30:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Al Jazeera English - Europe - Spain confirms Kosovo troop pullout

The Spanish government has confirmed it will withdraw most of its troops from Kosovo by the end of the summer, despite criticism from Nato and the United States.

Carme Chacon, Spain's defence minister, had announced last week that the country would withdraw its 600 troops from the Nato-led force in Kosovo.

Confirming the decision on Monday, Chacon said that Spain could not take part in Kosovo's process of consolidating its own institutions, as it does not recognise the province's declaration of independence.

Since breaking away from Serbia in 2008, Kosovo has adopted the trappings of full statehood including an anthem, constitution, flag, security force and an intelligence agency.

Spain is one of five European Union countries that refuses to recognise its independence, fearing that it could set a precedent for separatists at home.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:32:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Foreign correspondent writes home: oh look, a woman Defence Minister!! Oh look, the Spanish get it all wrong!!! Oh look, the Americans really sock it to Spain!!!!

Spain's defence minister shot down over Nato gaffe - Europe, World - The Independent

Ms Chacón's action prompted a dressing down from a US state department spokesman who said he was "deeply disappointed in Spain" - an expression he repeated a blistering four times in a single press conference.

Ooooh ooooh oooh blistering!!!!! The silly woman doesn't know who commands NATO!!!!! Now she's got the message, you can bet!

The fact that the Spanish government said "the decision has been made" is cited but not commented on. The fact that Spain does not recognize Kosovo is not mentioned. An entire article of froth, Anglo bile, and misogyny (from a woman). Thank you, Independent. (The UK press at its best?)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 06:13:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Government has been forced to issue non-denial denials, clarifications, confirmations, contradictory statements... It's turning into a minor embarrassment for ZP.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 06:30:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's still a lousy article.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 09:46:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EU to Help Modernize Ukraine's Natural Gas Network | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 23.03.2009
The energy-thirsty EU has agreed to help Ukraine make expensive but necessary improvements to its giant gas supply network in exchange for more reliable transit service and greater market transparency. 

The European Union on Monday, March 23, signed a joint declaration with Ukraine, vowing to help the former Soviet country overhaul its gas transit system. Ukraine has agreed to reforms which will include setting up an independent company to oversee the multi-billion-euro project.

Ukraine's 40-year-old natural gas system is in desperate need of an upgrade. Experts have estimated that Ukraine, which has 13,500 kilometers of pipes, needs 2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion) over the next few years just to keep its system functioning properly. The European Union has a keen interest in having Ukraine's system running smoothly as some 20 percent of the bloc's natural gas supplies come from Russia via Ukraine.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:33:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Putin Slams Europe Over Gas Deal With Ukraine | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 23.03.2009
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sharply criticized a gas agreement between the European Union and Ukraine, warning that energy deals which sideline Russia could jeopardize Moscow's ties to the 27-member bloc. 

The EU agreed on Monday, March 23, to help Ukraine make expensive but necessary improvements to its gas supply network in exchange for more reliable transit service and grater market transparency.


"It seems to me the document about which we are talking is, at a minimum, ill-considered and unprofessional because to discuss such issues without the basic supplier is simply not serious," Putin said in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.


Russia's former president also hinted that his country might have to re-think its relationship with the European Union.


"If the interests of Russia are ignored then we will have to start re-examining the principles of relations with our partners," he said.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 05:07:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is about Russia trying to make the EU pay for investments that it needs to make, or pay for (or pay the Ukrainians to do). As soon as real money will be asked for (beyond studies and working groups, which are just pocket change in these matters), these talks will go nowhere.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 09:58:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EU downgrades jobs summit - EUobserver

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - A planned EU jobs summit has been downgraded to a low-key affair without the presence of EU leaders, following concerns that the meeting would only underline the fact that there is no magic formula for getting people back into the workplace.

Goaded into action by criticism that it was doing too little to tackle the effects of the economic crisis, the Czech Republic, currently at the helm of the EU's six-month rotating presidency, in February called two extraordinary summits - one on anti-protectionism and one on employment, with the latter to take place in May.

The economic crisis has seen a wave of social unrest in Europe

But EU leaders meeting last week for their regular spring gathering decided that a full-blown jobs summit is "not the best way of handling things," said an EU official, who added that this was the "general feeling around the table."

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:35:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But EU leaders meeting last week for their regular spring gathering decided that a full-blown jobs summit is "not the best way of handling things," said an EU official, who added that this was the "general feeling around the table."

jobs, jobs, jobs...

when will they start having conferences about meaningful work?

instead of overproducing stuff we don't really need, so have to be solicited to buy...

they're running out of options, the wheels are off.

'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 Mar 23rd, 2009 at 05:20:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Faith Diary: Motoring with Mary

A group of traditionalist Protestants has objected to the use of the European Union emblem on car registration plates in the Netherlands, on the grounds that the circle of 12 golden stars on a blue background symbolises the Roman Catholic veneration of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

The National Foundation for the Preservation of the Political Reformed Principles is concerned that the symbol is too close to the 12-star halo surrounding Mary's head in Roman Catholic art.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 10:06:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well someone had to twig to it in the end...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 06:26:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But oddly enough.

So now we know - Europe is a clandestine papist plot to bring on the Apocalypse and attack protestantism, not necessarily in that order.

Is anyone surprised?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 06:45:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Um. I have it on good authority that the EU is a plot to bring in a communisitiitic world government under the Jews and the Free-masons and destroy the Catholic faith, so that can't be right.

Mind you, this is from the same people who considered the Papacy to be a conspiracy out to destroy the Catholic Church, so consider the source.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 06:51:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
With an Apocalypse, you could destroy both Protestantism and Catholicism, and inaugurate the reign of a many headed and probably rather radioactive Satan to boot.

We should be watching Brussels carefully, just in case.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 07:00:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]

"You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious."

Money is a sign of Poverty - Culture Saying
by RogueTrooper on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 07:10:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I've had it on good authority that the current and previous two presidents of the United staes have all been the Antichrist. I think there must be a communication problem.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 07:02:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama is certainly not the Antichrist. For the explanation why, go to around 6:15 here:

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 07:27:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The National Foundation for the Preservation of the Political Reformed Principles

Cannot. Be. Serious.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 06:38:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I was hoping that one of our local readers would pop up and tell us it's all anti-european propaganda.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 06:41:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You misunderestimate the fatalists and flat earthers of the Reformed Party.

Link: http://www.eni.ch/featured/article.php?id=2816

And note my emphasis:

The Reformed foundation is a group of members of the Political Reformed Party (SGP), who judge the SGP to be insufficiently Calvinist. Founded in 1918, the SGP is the oldest political party in the Netherlands, and is known for its refusal to take part in any government Cabinet.

I wrote up on the SGP, briefly, during my diaries for the general elections:

SGP (Political Reformed Party)
The Dutch Christian Fundies.  They are the oldest political party, have never been in the government and for as long as I remember are stuck with two to three seats in parliament. Perhaps they could have twice as many seats, if the party wasn't constantly proclaiming that women have no role in politics and shouldn't be entitled to vote. Most of their adherents come forth from the Dutch Bible Belt. At the county-level, SGP often joins forces with the ChristenUnie, but in this election the ChristenUnie has refused to go together. This may have something to do with the fact that many find the SGP simply too extreme. Hopefully by 2050 the party will finally collapse under the influence of inbreeding and sheer stupidity.
by Nomad (Bjinse) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 07:21:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:13:43 PM EST
Barroso: the candidate of all European parties - European Federalists

This is as confusing as it is absurd. In yesterday's meeting the EPP leaders back Barroso for a second term as President of European Commission but still no party is behind Barroso's ambition to renew his mandate as President of the European Commission.

One could expect that if the leaders of a party back a candidate of the same party and nobody in the party opposes, this candidate would become THE candidate of THE party. Not in European politics.

Same as EPP, the European Socialist Party has no official candidate for President of the European Commission. When Rasmussen, PSE President, was asked about the PSE candidate in the presentation of the PSE manifesto he said that they hadn't decided on a candidate "yet". At the same time socialist prime ministers such as Zapatero, Socrates or Brown already openly expressed their support for Barroso. I guess it is easy to back a candidate when the contest is a false one...

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:29:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First Polish expat running for the European Parliament

A Pole will be running for the European Parliament from Belgium. A first in the history of Poland's elections to the EP. 

The candidate is 26-year old Bartosz Lech and he will be 4th on the Ecolo (Greens) list in French-speaking Belgium. The Greens have just informed me of this.

European regulations allow any EU citizen to run for the EP from any member state they are living in, irrespective of their nationality. Some have taken advantage of the opportunity: the former Finnish race car driver Ari Vatanen is representing France in the EP.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:29:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fini's National Alliance Commits Euthanasia

For the past several years every parent of preschool kids has spent a small fortune for Gormiti's, Italy's answer to Pokémon. Just as the threadbare plots of hardcore films are devised to assist improbable combinations of body fluids, Gormiti scripts are devised to present enumerable opportunities to spend money on improbable biped forms which are divided up into "Peoples." The Isle of Gorm is inhabited by "the People of the Air," "the People of the Forest," "the People of the Volcano," and so on.

It's no surprise that the Island of Italy, too, now has invented similar products, such as "the People of Liberty," "the People of Life," "the People of Love," and so on, all motivated by "the Force of Virtue," "the Force of Values," and so on.

Sunday saw the demise of the historical democratic fascist party, born after the Second World War as the Italian Social Movement (MSI) and transformed into the National Alliance under the guidance of Gianfranco Fini. In their last congress in Rome the party committed euthanasia to be absorbed by Berlusconi's personal political entity, the blob now known as "the Party of the People of Liberty." It may spell the twilight of Gianfranco Fini's political parabola. The more militant fascist elements had long since become Berlusconi's favoured lieutenants, although nominally remaining in the National Alliance. Fini has filled a number of high profile institutional roles that have given him an aura of statesmanship. Yet that may be no more than the efficacious Sino-Italian strategy of promoting an adversary to an imminent position of  weakness.

He will be no dauphin for that is strictly a family affair.

Berlusconi declared that with his new personal political entity, "The People of Liberty," he trusts to have 52% of the popular vote. The Democratic Party leader, Dario Franceschini, asked why he had simply not gone for 92%.

In the queer world of Italian politics, one may hope that the absorption of the historical democratic fascist party by Berlusconi's political entity might bring the latter to more moderate positions. But as the cult Steve McQueen film showed all too clearly, a blob is a blob.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 06:47:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
fini is scary....anything to diminish his influence would be good for italy.

talking of 'blob', i watched it the other day for the first time for quite a while. for those who don't know it, it's a 15 minute round up/collage of video, broadcast in peak evening viewing time on Rai, the state tv.

the satire really bites, all done through clever (often brilliant) juxtaposition of comedy, ads, kitsch and such to 'serious' pols yapping. the effect is chaplinesque, heavy on political pratfalls, gleefully wicked, even risqué.

it's a treasured national institution, and does a great job both of skewering the self-important and highlighting the felliniesque surreality show that is italian politics...

i don't know 'le canard enchainé', but i'd say it's a good equivalent of Private Eye in the UK, though totally different in its humour.

'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 Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 03:35:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We are in a situation in which Fini is a lesser evil. He is far more moderate than Berlusconi or such party fellow members as Ignazio La Russa or Maurizio Gasparri.

Berlusconi has constantly insulted and been enraged by Fini's positions on issues. But numbers are tyranny. Berlusconi cannot do without him. Just four days ago, Berlusconi called him a traitor.

It is out of the question that Fini would ever be a successor to Berlusconi. Their visions of the state and government are incompatible.

The Italian program "Blob" is fantastic, a national institution. I was referring however to the 1950's horror film with a very young Steve McQueen in which a Blob absorbs everything, turning it into an indistinct mass, a paradigm of our times.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 06:55:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unlike Burlesconi, the 80s remake is hilarious.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 07:02:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great trash remake!
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 07:51:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Berlusconi cannot do without him. Just four days ago, Berlusconi called him a traitor.
I just love Italy. Must move there ASAP!

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 09:05:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Doncha just love the temperament!

Passion is of course a good thing, and I am often reminded by the lack of it in Nordic discussions. But passion is not a weathercock spinning any way the wind takes it - or at least useful passion is not.

For me, passion is more intellectual than hormonal. So-called passionate people such as Berlusconi are entirely guided by the contents of their trousers. I doubt if any of his passion is guided by any organ above the belt.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 09:36:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's below the belt, Sven :-P

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 09:54:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He, Berlusconi...

I recall an article I recently read about some paparazzi who managed to photo him having sex with five(5!) models (called "vielos", "velioris" or something like that). The man is 72 years old! And the girls probably were only slightly older than that, all five of them together.

Ah, well, poor deGondi. I remember when he moaned that we were just making fun of his country, and that no one ever wrote about the cutting edge hi-tech industrial companies of Milano and so on...

Well. Sure. But... Italy is just too outrageous! I mean, Cicciolina, Gladio, P2, the nuclear phaseout, Berlusconi becoming prime minister, resigning because of corruption, becoming prime minister again, resigning again etc, Mussolini, Mussolini fandom, Mussolinis granddaughter as a major politician, Italian commercials (what we in the rest of Europe call soft porn), mobs attacking gypsie camps, Lega Nord wanting to build a wall along the Slovenian border, the Pope, the Eternal City, great wine, greater wine, Mussolini wine, even greater food, Carabineris, the N'drangeta, the N'drangeta having shootouts at Pizzerias in small German cities, a complete failure to deal with the trash in Napoli, Mara Carfagna as minister of equality just because Berlusconi want to oogle at her tits, Berlusconi insulting people like Sarko at random (about his wife!) etc etc etc!

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 10:46:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, and might I add the fact we are in a situation where a democratic fascist party is "the lesser evil"! ;D

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 10:50:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The bankruptcy of the city of Catania, one of the historical subversive power strongholds of Italy (highest votes for the MSI, highest number of P2 members, traditional source of Secret Service Directors, all deviant even if not P2 members) is due to the slipshod management of a highflying Neapolitan doctor, two-time mayor Umberto Scampagnini, who devastated the city's coffers. Elected simply because he's Berlusconi's personal doctor- that is, he put false hair back on his pate and delivered a throbbing member at a moment's notice. Berlusconi takes a medical preparation whose secrets are only known to Scampagnini and the Catanese pharmacy that prepares it. We only know that it contains endorphins and that he is rumoured to rely on mechanical contraptions to satisfy his cunt-struck lust.

Catania votes en masse for anything Berlusconi throws their way and then goes and dumps garbage in front of city hall because public administrators haven't been paid in ages. The national light company cut the city electricity for not paying bills for years. All the city cops have been promoted to officer: there are only four simple cops in all Catania. Scampagnini ran the city from a deluxe hotel suite and dallied with Brazilian samba dancers (Ah! The sultry Surama!) at the city's expense.

So yes. Catania is governed below the belt. Berlusconi throws extraordinary state fundings at Catania whenever necessary. Doesn't even personally pick up the bill. He probably even writes off the pharmacy bill. Italy subsidizes Silvio's dick.

Another reason for Starvid to love Italy. Even I love Catania- despite what I have just written.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 12:55:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:14:08 PM EST
Tackling the Financial Crisis: HRE Bailout Turning into High-Stakes Poker - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Before going through with its plan to nationalize beleaguerd Hypo Real Estate, the German government must first try to buy the shares of the ailing mortgage lender. An offer is being prepared -- much to the delight of speculators.

 Time is running out for Hypo Real Estate. It is only a small passage in the controversial expropriation law passed by the lower house of the German parliament, the Bundestag, on Friday. But government financial experts know full well that many speculators have taken careful note of that handful of words in the new law.

The passage states that although the government is entitled to expropriate the shareholders of Hypo Real Estate (HRE), it can only do so "if the expropriation authority has first made a serious, but ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to complete an alternative purchase."

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:18:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
HRE is only a news item because it is 25% owned by a big hedge fund. Otherwise it would have been nationalised quickly and for a lot cheaper than this painful process.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 10:38:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Abu Dhabi to become major Daimler shareholder | World News | Deutsche Welle | 23.03.2009
An Abu Dhabi based state investment fund has agreed to take a 9.1 percent stake in Germany's Daimler auto group. The deal, to be approved at the annual shareholders meeting on April 9, will make Aabar Investments Daimler's biggest shareholder, topping the 6.9 percent stake held by Kuwait. Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche said he was looking forward to pursuing joint strategic initiatives with Aabar Investments. The two companies plan to collaborate developing electric vehicles. As well as Mercedes, Daimler also makes Smart cars and is the world's leading truck maker.
by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:19:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Business | Unions press G20 to take new tack

Union leaders from the UK and overseas have put forward a global five-point plan they want G20 leaders to adopt as a way of tackling the economic crisis.

The plan includes job creation, some bank nationalisation, tackling wage deflation, and climate change action.

The ITUC union body said global economic "neo-liberalism" had failed.

The G20 meeting in early April brings together leaders from industrial and emerging market countries that make up 85% of the world economy.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:20:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Direct Stake in Opel Would Be Bad News for Germany, Says Merkel | Germany | Deutsche Welle | 23.03.2009
Chancellor Angela Merkel made resolute use of the word "no" during an important appearance on television, stressing that Germany will neither buy a direct stake in the struggling carmaker Opel, nor hold early elections. 

"We do not have the intention" of taking a direct stake in Opel, Merkel said during an interview on public television Sunday, March 22. She added that Berlin's involvement in the company would "not be good news" for Opel employees.


It was the first time in more than two years that Merkel appeared on a talk-show to explain her policies to millions of viewers. She has, however, used newspaper and radio interviews to defend government policies over the past two weeks.


The chancellor is scheduled to visit an Opel factory in the town of Russelsheim on March 31.


by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:22:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tax Haven Clash Takes on Symbolic Proportions | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 23.03.2009
A German-Swiss tax-haven row has angered the Swiss defense minister so much he no longer wants his chauffeur to show up in a Mercedes. But German politicians are more concerned with the dispute's political consequences. 

Swiss Defense Minsiter Ueli Maurer has replaced the Mercedes S430 he used to ride in, with a Renault Espace. The symbolic move is meant to show his discontent with the ongoing tax-haven disagreement between Switzerland and Germany.


"The tax dispute has annoyed and angered him so much that he has switched to another pool car," Maurer's spokesman said Sunday, March 22.


The quarrel began last week when German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck said the Swiss were like Indians running scared from a cavalry ready to enforce international banking laws. In return, a Swiss politician compared Steinbrueck to a Nazi.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:23:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Consumer activism win!
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 06:09:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Hangover after the Party: Eastern Europe's Economic Crash - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

The global downturn has hit Eastern Europe with particular vengeance. Countries that profited more than many others from globalization and were previously capitalism's rising stars are now seeing demand for exports collapse, along with their currencies. They are bracing for a hard landing.

Ryszard Delewski is a businessman on the verge of bankruptcy. After spending anxious months worrying about the future of his company, it seems to be all over.

Delewski was meeting with a customer in Minsk, Belarus when the telephone rang and the crisis hit home. His bank was calling to inform him that his company, Delkar, was in the red to the tune of 4 million zloty, or about €850,000 ($1.1 million). The amount had accumulated because Delewski had used foreign exchange options to hedge against an appreciation of the zloty. But now the Polish currency had lost almost a quarter of its value against the euro. And no one had explained to Delewski that, if this happened, he would owe compensation payments.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:24:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama plan seeks private investors for risky assets - International Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON: The Obama administration formally presented the latest step in its financial rescue package on Monday, an attempt to draw private investors into partnership with a new federal entity that could eventually buy up to $1 trillion in troubled assets that are weighing down the nation's banks and clogging up the credit markets.

At least partly in anticipation of the program, which has been widely publicized, Asian and European markets were sharply higher. Index futures on Wall Street were also significantly higher.

Initially, a new Public-Private Investment Program will provide financing for $500 billion in purchasing power to buy those troubled or toxic assets -- which the government refers to more diplomatically as legacy assets -- with the potential of expanding later to as much as $1 trillion, according to a fact sheet issued by the Treasury Department.

At the core of the financing package will be $75 billion to $100 billion in capital from the existing financial bailout known as TARP, the Troubled Assets Relief Program, along with the share provided by private investors, which the government hopes will come to 5 percent or more. By leveraging this program through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Federal Reserve, huge amounts of bad loans can be acquired.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:31:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
5% or more from private investors, that's what i call a public-private partnership!  And "private" is backed by public loan guarantees!

What do they take us for?  (You don't have to answer that.)

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

by Crazy Horse on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 04:09:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Geithner plan arithmetic - Paul Krugman Blog - NYTimes.com

Leave on one side the question of whether the Geither plan is a good idea or not. One thing is clearly false in the way it's being presented: administration officials keep saying that there's no subsidy involved, that investors would share in the downside. That's just wrong. Why? Because of the non-recourse loans, which reportedly will finance 85 percent of the asset purchases.

Let me offer a numerical example. Suppose that there's an asset with an uncertain value: there's an equal chance that it will be worth either 150 or 50. So the expected value is 100.

But suppose that I can buy this asset with a nonrecourse loan equal to 85 percent of the purchase price. How much would I be willing to pay for the asset?

The answer is, slightly over 130. Why? All I have to put up is 15 percent of the price -- 19.5, if the asset costs 130. That's the most I can lose. On the other hand, if the asset turns out to be worth 150, I gain 20. So it's a good deal for me.

Notice that the government equity stake doesn't matter -- the calculation is the same whether private investors put up all or only part of the equity. It's the loan that provides the subsidy.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 04:37:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
self-evident » The "Geithner Put", part 1
The Treasury helpfully provides an example, which I reproduce here:

Step 1: If a bank has a pool of residential mortgages with $100 face value that it is seeking to divest, the bank would approach the FDIC.

Step 2: The FDIC would determine, according to the above process, that they would be willing to leverage the pool at a 6-to-1 debt-to-equity ratio.

Let me stress this again: the Geithner plan has the FDIC providing the "non-recourse" loans. I thought the purpose of the FDIC was to insure deposits. Instead, it's being looted. Aieee!

If a bank has a pool of mortgages it wishes to divest and it approaches the FDIC; the FDIC should immediately add the bank to this list.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 10:44:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Geithner Won't Endorse Bonus Tax Bill, Says Right Balance Will Be Found

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner refused to endorse a congressional effort to heavily tax bonuses issued by TARP recipients, saying that the government needs to balance rightful outrage over executive compensation with the need to ensure a quick financial recovery.

"We are going to have to work through this and find the right balance," said Geithner at a briefing for reporters Monday morning. "It is very important that we do things that ensure and raise confidence in the American people that compensation practices are not rewarding failure, that taxpayer money is not being used to reward people who should not be rewarded and that the resources that we are providing are benefiting the overall economy and financial system."

As for the specific bill that passed the House of Representatives last week, which would tax bonuses of TARP recipients at a rate of up to 90 percent, Geithner said that he and the president were "looking carefully" at the legislative process.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:31:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 04:35:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bailing Out the Rich
by Clancy Nolan, Condé Nast Portfolio

The Troubled Asset Relief Program helps those banks that cater to the rich, which had no problem with subprime mortgages or other toxic assets.

The U.S. Treasury Department has doled out nearly $2.5 billion in bailout money to banks that focus heavily on managing assets for the richest Americans.

A review of bank records by Condé Nast Portfolio shows that money under the Troubled Asset Relief Program went to the banks even though they had little or no exposure to subprime mortgages or other toxic assets. One of these firms, Chicago-based Northern Trust, which took $1.6 billion, was widely pummeled for pampering clients at a bank-sponsored golf tournament last month.

Some of the institutions are classified as private banks, which often means they require minimum deposits of at least $1 million--more than 20 times the average American's household income. Their customers rarely default on loans and still have relatively easy access to credit. Such banks don't handle accounts for people who are struggling to make ends meet, or trying to keep their small business afloat.

What they do, discreetly and well, is keep wealthy people's fortunes safe. "It's a further indication that there's no fully articulated plan [for rescuing the economy]," says Elizabeth Warren, chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel investigating the bailout. "At some point, we have a limited number of dollars. We can only mortgage our children's future, and our grandchildren's future to a point before we put our entire country at risk."
by Magnifico on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 04:39:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Toyota City, Japan, the good times rolled . . . away
By John M. Glionna, LA Times

When times were good and the auto business hummed along like a finely tuned engine here in the Detroit of Japan, this tightknit company town was considered a workers' utopia.

City officials were the envy of the nation, nursed by a paternal multinational firm that paid generous wages and showered the community with perks such as a top-notch sports stadium, concert hall and art museum -- all carrying the Toyota brand name.

That was before the worldwide economic pileup that brought widespread personal wreckage to the hometown of the world's mightiest automaker.

Unlike in Detroit, where years of steady decline preceded the current financial crisis, Toyota City's fortunes went from cruise speed to brick wall. Regarded a model of economic prosperity, it endured an unthinkable drop from first in the country to worst in less than nine months.

In this community three hours southwest of Tokyo, it's a phenomenon known as Toyota Shock.

"Toyota City is hurting," said Norio Seki, general director of the city's industrial labor division. "We're in trouble."

by Magnifico on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 05:00:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
China urges new global reserve currency | The Australian
CHINA has called for the creation of a new international reserve currency to replace the US dollar over time, laying down an unusually direct demand for an overhaul of global finance ahead of next week's summit to craft a response to the financial crisis."The re-establishment of a new and widely accepted reserve currency with a stable valuation benchmark may take a long time," People's Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan said in an essay published on the central bank's website, titled "Reform of the International Monetary System".

Mr Zhou didn't explicitly mention the role of the US dollar, but said having a national currency act as an international reserve currency may have outlived its usefulness and that a desired goal now should be creating an international reserve currency that is disconnected from individual nations and is able to remain stable in the long run.

Beijing also reiterated its call for reform of the International Monetary Fund but said it would be willing to consider short-term ways of bolstering the IMF's resources to help it fight the global financial crisis. PBOC vice governor Hu Xiaolian said Beijing would "actively" consider buying IMF bonds if the institution decides to issue bonds.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 07:06:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
China calls for new reserve currency - FT.com / Asia-Pacific

To replace the current system, Mr Zhou suggested expanding the role of special drawing rights, which were introduced by the IMF in 1969 to support the Bretton Woods fixed exchange rate regime but became less relevant once that collapsed in the 1970s.

Today, the value of SDRs is based on a basket of four currencies - the US dollar, yen, euro and sterling - and they are used largely as a unit of account by the IMF and some other international organisations.

China's proposal would expand the basket of currencies forming the basis of SDR valuation to all major economies and set up a settlement system between SDRs and other currencies so they could be used in international trade and financial transactions.

Countries would entrust a portion of their SDR reserves to the IMF to manage collectively on their behalf and SDRs would gradually replace existing reserve currencies.

Mr Zhou said the proposal would require "extraordinary political vision and courage" and acknowledged a debt to John Maynard Keynes, who made a similar suggestion in the 1940s.

IMF may need to "print money" as crisis spreads - Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (28 Oct 2008)

The IMF, led by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has the power to raise money on the capital markets by issuing `AAA' bonds under its own name. It has never resorted to this option, preferring to tap members states for deposits.

The nuclear option is to print money by issuing Special Drawing Rights, in effect acting as if it were the world's central bank. This was done briefly after the fall of the Soviet Union but has never been used as systematic tool of policy to head off a global financial crisis.

Special Drawing Rights have been discussed a great deal by migeru and ChrisCook.  I am curious what you think of this Chinese proposal.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 10:10:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As ChrisCook posted in last Wednesday's Salon, and as the Wall Street Journal notes today:

Monday's proposal follows a similar one Russia made this month during preparations for the G20 meeting. Like China, Russia recommended that the International Monetary Fund might issue the currency, and emphasized the need to update "the obsolescent unipolar world economic order."

China Takes Aim at Dollar | Wall Street Journal

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 10:22:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe it's just the plot to raise interest to otherwise dull G20. Should we expect clash of civilizations in the backdrop of verbal fireworks?
by FarEasterner on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 07:12:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Cuomo Says Some A.I.G. Bonuses Will Be Repaid - NYTimes.com

The New York State attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, said on Monday that he had persuaded nine of the top 10 bonus recipients at the American International Group to give the money back, as the Senate retreated on plans to tax such bonuses.

Mr. Cuomo said he was working his way down a list of A.I.G. employees, ranked by the size of their bonuses, and had already won commitments to pay back $50 million out of the total $165 million awarded this month. But in a reversal of the stand he took last week, he said he did not intend to release any names.

"If the person returns the money, I don't think there's a public interest in releasing the names," Mr. Cuomo said in a conference call with reporters.

In Washington, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, said that efforts to recover bonuses like the ones at A.I.G. through punitive taxes would be delayed. Other officials said momentum in Congress had slowed considerably, given misgivings voiced by President Obama.

Mr. Cuomo said that he hoped eventually to recover $80 million in bonuses paid in March to A.I.G. employees in the United States. But he said an additional $85 million had gone to people outside the United States, and he did not believe his office had the legal standing to pursue them.

That would appear to spare people in A.I.G.'s financial products office in London, the seat of the company's business in credit-default swaps -- the derivatives that nearly sank the company and paralyzed the global financial system last fall.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 04:50:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
U.S. Seeks Expanded Power to Seize Firms - washingtonpost.com

The Obama administration is considering asking Congress to give the Treasury secretary unprecedented powers to initiate the seizure of non-bank financial companies, such as large insurers, investment firms and hedge funds, whose collapse would damage the broader economy, according to an administration document. This Story

View All Items in This StoryView Only Top Items in This Story

The government at present has the authority to seize only banks.

Giving the Treasury secretary authority over a broader range of companies would mark a significant shift from the existing model of financial regulation, which relies on independent agencies that are shielded from the political process. The Treasury secretary, a member of the president's Cabinet, would exercise the new powers in consultation with the White House, the Federal Reserve and other regulators, according to the document.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 05:16:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is baaaad.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 05:27:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a poke in the eye for AIG. 'You sue us, we'll own you.'

I think it's possibly the most positive thing Obama has done - although with Geithner in charge, the chances of any seizures happening are not high.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 06:16:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Depends on the kind of seizures you mean, I guess. I'd say Geithner and his banker BFFs have done an effective job convulsing the global economy.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 06:28:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:14:32 PM EST
Senior Fatah official killed in Lebanon bomb attack - International Herald Tribune

A bomb killed a senior official in the Palestinian Fatah faction and four other people in southern Lebanon on Monday, security sources said.

Kamal Medhat, deputy head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Lebanon, was killed with his companions on a road near Mieh Mieh refugee camp outside the southern city of Sidon.

The bomb, hidden under a manhole cover, hurled one car off the road into a nearby orchard. Another car plunged into what appeared to be a crater left by the blast.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned Medhat's killing as an act of terrorism. Hamas also condemned the attack.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:18:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Venezuela's Chavez calls Obama ignoramus | Reuters

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama was at best an "ignoramus" for saying the socialist leader exported terrorism and obstructed progress in Latin America.

"He goes and accuses me of exporting terrorism: the least I can say is that he's a poor ignoramus; he should read and study a little to understand reality," said Chavez, who heads a group of left-wing Latin American leaders opposed to the U.S. influence in the region.

Chavez said Obama's comments had made him change his mind about sending a new ambassador to Washington, after he withdrew the previous envoy in a dispute last year with the Bush administration in which he also expelled the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:19:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hard to argue with that!
by paving on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 05:12:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
come on Obama, if you can make nice with the mullahs, cesar should be a piece of cake...

obama's too diplomatic to reply in kind, but he should have seen this coming and acted proactively with the US' biggest importer of funjuice.

chavez has flaws, but he's done a great job of community organising, something O. should respect and relate to.

sigh, another deja vu of american flatfooted foreign relations.

played different, he could have had the whole latin american socialist movement eating out of his hand, as he could with europe too.

china, too soon, and russia i fear too late.

middle east, the jury's out. domestic is a fulltime gig right now, saying venezuela exports terrorism, with all the crap america's pulled down there for over a century is just unfair and wrong, as well as ham-handed.

pull out of colombia, apologise for the sorry history, and the pass the olive branch to these new leaders.

the world will have much more respect for that approach, and frankly this talk of terrorism is embarrassing, leave george's demons under his bed, already!

change failed US policy to israel and pakistan, most of yer 'terrorism' (ie pissed off humans) will melt into the sand...

'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 Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 03:53:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Huh, I thought Chavez exported cheap oil for poor families in the Northeast of the USA, not terrorism.

I won't go as far as saying Obama equates helping the poor with terrorism, but the joke is there.

When world history is written, Texas will appear as a long elaborate joke.

by Pinche Tejano on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 12:49:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It appears that Obama has not yet turned his eye toward the "Venezuela problem."  Which is kind of good, really, as it's not much of a problem relatively speaking.
by paving on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 01:33:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Holbrooke on Afghanistan: The New American Determination - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Richard Holbrooke, the new US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, wants to explain Obama's policy on Afghanistan to NATO and the EU. He gave the first details at a conference this weekend in Brussels. One thing is certain: The operation will become more American -- and probably bloodier.

They were just a couple of words, but they said a lot. Richard Holbrooke was sitting on the stage of the Brussels Forum, addressing high-ranking Europeans and Americans who had gathered at the invitation of the German Marshall Fund. You could have heard a pin drop in the ballroom as the recently appointed US envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan explained the new American strategy in those countries. Holbrooke sighed as he said that this is one of the conflicts where US forces were furthest away from their supply routes. "We Americans," he said in reference to this far-off war. Then he quickly caught himself and added, almost sheepishly, "and NATO."

US Marines in Afghanistan: The operation is set to become more American. Indeed, the defense alliance seemed almost peripheral during Holbrooke's presentation. Admittedly, he referred to a comprehensive Western strategy, the link between civil society and the military and the need for a more intelligent approach towards the insurgents.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:27:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
US will appoint Afghan 'prime minister' to bypass Hamid Karzai | World news | guardian.co.uk
White House plans new executive role to challenge corrupt government in Kabul

The US and its European allies are ­preparing to plant a high-profile figure in the heart of the Kabul government in a direct challenge to the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, the Guardian has learned.

The creation of a new chief executive or prime ministerial role is aimed at bypassing Karzai. In a further dilution of his power, it is proposed that money be diverted from the Kabul government to the provinces. Many US and European officials have become disillusioned with the extent of the corruption and incompetence in the Karzai government, but most now believe there are no credible alternatives, and predict the Afghan president will win re-election in August.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:32:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama Says a Way Out of Afghanistan Is Needed
By Helene Cooper, The New York Times

The United States must look for a way out of the war in Afghanistan, President Obama said, in a signal that the military build-up in Afghanistan will not be open-ended and will lead to the eventual withdrawal of American and NATO troops from the country.

"There's got to be an exit strategy," Mr. Obama said in a wide-ranging interview shown Sunday on "60 Minutes" on CBS. "There's got to be a sense that this is not perpetual drift."

European officials have been outspoken about their plans to leave Afghanistan in the next three to four years. Mr. Obama's remarks, which were recorded on Friday, indicated that the administration, which has more troops and resources in Afghanistan than European countries do, is also working toward a long-term strategy.

Last month, he announced that he would send 17,000 more American troops to Afghanistan this spring and summer, adding to the 36,000 already there...

Asked what the United States' mission in Afghanistan should be, Mr. Obama replied: "Making sure that Al Qaeda cannot attack the U.S. homeland and U.S. interests and our allies. That's our No. 1 priority." ...

Mr. Obama said that, so far, he was finding the job of commander in chief "exhilarating," adding that while he was reading more now, most consisted of briefing books.

"You know, you get a little time to read -- history or, you know, policy books that are of interest," he said. "But there's a huge amount of information that has to be digested, especially right now. Because the complexities of Afghanistan are matched, maybe even dwarfed, by the complexities of the economic situation."

by Magnifico on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 04:54:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Iranian Elections: 'Khatami Sacrificed Himself' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Tehran journalist and political consultant Mohammed Atrianfar, 55, says Mohammed Khatami bowed out of the Iranian presidential race to ease political tensions. The mullah state's religious leaders, he argues, have no problems with the remaining candidates going to the polls on June 12.

SPIEGEL: Former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, 67, is now running for the office of Iranian president. To which political camp do you assign Mousavi?

Mir Hossein Mousavi, Iran's former prime minister and candidate for the upcoming presidential elections. Atrianfar: He is a conservative who respects the principles of the Revolution: justice, independence. But he is not one of the conservatives that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad represents. He was never a hardliner. It doesn't fit to him. He is an artist, a modernist, a man from the world of culture. For that reason, Mousavi is more representative of the camp of technocrats and pragmatists. Some of his positions, such as when he calls for more openness, even sound reform-oriented.

SPIEGEL: We have heard relatively little about Mousavi in many years. What prompted him to get back into politics?

Atrianfar: He said recently that he had the feeling that the country would be ruined if the mismanagement of the current administration continued. He is running to protect Iran, the Revolution and the system from decline.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:28:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see Khatami's withdrawal as a defacto endorsement of Mousavi
by paving on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 05:13:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Double Dose Of Comeuppance: Gorbachev Bids Goodbye to Unrestrained Capitalism - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

The former Soviet President sees financial collapse and escalating violence in Afghanistan as a deserved blowback against the United States.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev says the U.S. is getting a double dose of comeuppance with the swirling financial crisis and escalating violence in Afghanistan.

"We need to find a new model of capitalism, taking the best of the old model and the best of socialism," says former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev. Although such former Warsaw Pact nations as Hungary and Latvia are in serious financial trouble, Gorbachev rejected concerns that one or more of them could be forced to drop out of the European Union. He also denied a claim by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker that the U.S. never vowed not to expand NATO into Eastern Europe.

The 78-year-old Gorbachev made the remarks in an interview at a "Reconciliation Forum" hosted in Washington by the American Business Council, which also was to feature Archbishop Desmond Tutu. This year coincidentally marks the 20th anniversary of the first irreparable cracks in the Soviet Bloc, symbolized by the November 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall. Gorbachev himself stepped down in December 1991, just as the Soviet Union itself ceased to exist.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:29:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cautiously, Japanese military extends its reach - International Herald Tribune

CAMP MAKOMANAI, Japan: Col. Kenji Sawai, commander of the 18th Infantry Regiment, stands in his headquarters dressed from head to foot in white camouflage. Skis clutter the hallways of his outpost in the snow-covered mountains of northern Japan, along with stacks of white ponchos, gloves and boots.

For decades, the mission for Japanese officers like Colonel Sawai has been fairly straightforward: defend the homeland. Narrowly defined, for Colonel Sawai and his infantrymen, that means protecting Hokkaido, the island where the regiment is based, from invasion. Now that definition is changing.

The political leadership and military planners -- with the blessing of the United States, their nation's closest ally -- are cautiously moving the military away from its longtime role as a stay-at-home force, thanks largely to a pacifist Constitution written by U.S. occupiers to keep Japan from rearming after World War II. The new stance, while still centered on national defense, allows troops to be sent all over the world for a broad range of operations.

Lawmakers are mulling over calls from Washington for Tokyo to get "boots on the ground" to bolster President Barack Obama's stepped-up efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan. The United States has said that it would welcome a dispatch of soldiers.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:30:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Reporting from Washington and Mexico City -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ventures south of the border this week at a moment when the tricky dynamics of the U.S.-Mexico relationship are on full display.

It's too soon to call it a rough patch, but a flap over cross-border trucking and unwelcome words about the drug war have led Mexico to push back against its powerful neighbor recently.

The trade dispute got tetchy last week when Mexico raised tariffs on scores of U.S. imports -- retaliation for Washington's decision to stop funding a program that allowed some Mexican trucks on U.S. highways under a free-trade agreement.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:38:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]

At a time when wind turbine makers are constanty trumpeting their mammoth machines made expressly for gusty offshore wind farms, why is Siemens promoting a wind turbine specially designed to operate in areas with little wind?

Since only 3 manufacturers of some globally reputable 35 make already installed mammoth turbines, including Siemens, Vestas and REpower; and since only 2 or perhaps 3 more are planning on near term offshore installations (Multibrid, Bard and perhaps Enercon), this is hardly the industry "constantly trumpeting."  All manufacturers in offshore focus far more on their onshore turbines.  Though it's great that Siemens has a low-speed turbine.

Siemens just announced its newest 2.3 megawatt wind turbine, which is designed to operate best where wind speeds are low to moderate. That's the opposite approach of most recent wind-turbine development, which sees makers scrambling to make turbines twice that size that can withstand the much heavier ocean breezes.

Funny, but Siemens has nearly the same amount offshore as market leader Vestas, if not more.  Siemens offshore is 3.6 MWs, greater than Vestas 3.0.  

But catering to the less-windy places, oddly enough, is crucial to wind power's global growth.

That must be why so many major manufacturers, such as Vestas, Nordex, REpower, GE and others, have also developed and marketed low-wind turbines, BEFORE Siemens.

That's because of wind power's law of diminishing returns: As more wind power is developed, each new site is slightly less attractive. The best, windiest spots usually get developed first, leaving less-windy areas for future development. That's especially true in countries that were early wind-power leaders, such as Germany and Spain, and slightly less true for the wide-open and undeveloped expanses of the U.S. Great Plains.

The energy powers that be want you to believe that all the best sites are already taken, so we don't have battles about filling our landscape with turbines.  and the idea this is only "slightly less true for the wide-open and undeveloped expanses of the US Great Plains" is laughable if one takes the time to look at a map comparing Germany's North Sea Coast with the american west.

Siemens' new machine, for example, reaches full output at paltry wind speeds of 12 meters per second. (For the metrically-challenged among us, that's 26.6 miles an hour.) That's lower than other machines in the Siemens stable--and a lot lower than the wind speeds required by rival machines such as those made by Denmark's Vestas and Spain's Gamesa.

False.  Vestas' new low-speed machine reaches full output at virtually the same speed, as does REpower, Nordex and GE and the rest, because, well, the wind itself provides the basic design parameters of any machine.

But that doesn't mean Siemens has the low-wind speed market cornered. General Electric just unveiled its new 2.5 megawatt turbine that operates at full capacity with winds of 28 miles per hour. Its older workhorse, a 1.5 megawatt machine, hits full stride at the same speed as Siemens' new turbine.

here the article finally admits it own bias, acting as PR for Siemens.  Would have been nice to admit that the other companies already have commercial or pre-commercial turbines operating, in GE's case, by the hundreds!

Plenty of clean tech's advances are all about glitz. But sometimes the real advances come when companies start looking down market.

that should read:  Plenty of WSJ journalism is all about glitz.  The real advances come when journalists start looking down at their homework.

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

by Crazy Horse on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:53:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd guess it went like this: editor receives PR release, hands PR over to hack with a contact or two, hack talks to contacts, reads PR, puts piece together -> Siemens buys advertising.

Everyone is happy.

It would be naive to assume that any research into windpower was required or expected.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 06:24:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can you post as a diary?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 10:44:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, I Needed That | TPM | 23.3.09
As part of their efforts to make the scale and scope of Bernie Madoff's crimes clear to Judge Denny Chin in deciding the terms of his plea, confinement and eventual sentencing, the folks at the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York submitted emails from Madoff's victims describing the injury they had suffered and the punishment they believed Madoff deserved.

When you read through the emails, though, you do sort of wonder what level of vetting was applied to these emails or who some of those people even are. And when you get to the email on page 36 you get the sense that the quality control on which emails they threw on the pile maybe wasn't all that high.

Here's the text of that email .

FROM: [redacted]
SENT: Saturday, March 07, 2009 6:38 PM
My Name is Mr. [redacted] but my origin is from Republic of Congo. I have an inherited fund I want to invest in a business in your country with a help of a local. I don't know about what business but I found it wise to invest the funds in your country with your collaboration with me.


by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 04:42:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Colombia Orders Return of Stolen Farmland
U.S. Pact Is Motivation For Move, Critics Say

By Juan Forero, Washington Post

As with so many crimes of war, what happened here in the dense, humid jungles of northwestern Colombia more than a decade ago might easily have been forgotten. Illegal militias forced hundreds of poor black farmers off their land, which politically connected businessmen then seized and turned into lucrative palm oil plantations.

The displaced farmers, well aware that the hundreds of thousands of people uprooted by Colombia's long civil conflict rarely returned home, thought they would never see their land again. But in this case, the government recently ordered nine palm oil companies to return thousands of acres to the farmers, and the attorney general's office is investigating the firms' operators on accusations of homicide, land theft and forced displacement.

The government, however, is motivated as much by self-interest as altruism, say human rights groups, which also charge that state negligence coupled with aid for the palm oil companies helped facilitate the land seizures. President Álvaro Uribe's administration urgently wants a free-trade agreement with the United States, and Democrats on Capitol Hill have made clear that the pact is contingent on human rights advances in Colombia, particularly for blacks and other marginalized groups.

by Magnifico on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 04:43:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is an older classic, one you might enjoy:

The Chiquita Money and the Monkey Fix
- A Refugee Paradox

While most people fixate on the pay-off to narco-terrorist in Colombia, there is a huge humanitarian crisis that is a result of this type of hush money. While I applaud Colombia for keeping its nose clean lately, especially in respect to the wild times of the late 80s and early 90s, this issue is one that needs to be addressed.

Yes, paying off narcos is bad, thanks Chiquita Banana for validating them! But what is worse is that the narcos are pushing off indigenous people who have to flee their ancestral lands. The narcos do this to create new growing fields and labs to process their drugs. Case in point, the Wounaan, who live in northwestern Columbia.

One of the biggest crying shames about Colombia is that due to their past reputation they cannot take advantage of eco-tourism. Even once shady cities like Cali are relatively safe these days, though no one has told the tourism board. Colombia also has part of the last great frontier on earth, the Amazon.

Here the land is so virgin, indigenous tribes who have never had contact with the outside world still subsisted on basic hunting and gathering. But what where once was a location where only the foolhardy use to tread to see some of God's most amazing work, now finds itself under attack by narcos.

See, Colombia has pushed the narcos out of the cities and into the jungle, especially their labs. So in the narcos' search for "privacy", they are whole scale kicking indigenous people off the land not seen since the USA turned out their own Native Americans.

So with the payoff money that Chiquita is paying the narcos, they are not only supporting the drug war, they are in effect destroying the last of the world's oldest and smallest indigenous groups.

Now for the record, so you know this just isn't a pinche yarn, from the UN Refugee Agency:
Colombia: Wounaan indigenous people fleeing ancestral lands

   Hundreds of Wounaan indigenous people have now fled to the small town of Istmina in western Colombia after two of their leaders were killed in their ancestral territory last week by members of an irregular armed group. By yesterday (Thursday) afternoon, some 400 people had arrived and a boat carrying 200 people had to stop for the night in a small settlement further downriver after running out of gasoline. In the next few days, many more families are expected to make their way upstream from the Wounaan ancestral territories, some eight hours by boat on the San Juan River.

    All five Wounaan communities in Medio San Juan, or a total of 1,748 people, have taken refuge or want to take refuge in Istmina, home to 12,000 people of mostly Afro-Colombian descent. The director of UNHCR's bureau for the Americas, who went to Istmina on Tuesday when informed of the crisis, met with local authorities to ask them to provide the displaced indigenous people with adequate assistance, including shelter, food and security. He also met with the displaced people, who stressed that it was extremely important that their community should not be split and asked to be able to remain as a group near the San Juan River. The river, they explained, is an integral part of their culture and key to their survival as a community.

    Those arriving said some 1,000 people remain in Wounaan territory waiting to make the trip upriver. There are not enough boats and gasoline for them to travel together in one group, and Wounaan leaders say they are very worried for the safety of those families that will be last to leave. They are also extremely concerned about the community's long-term prospects, saying that they cannot go back as long as irregular armed groups continue to be present on their territory.

    Further to the south in Colombia, in the department of Nariño, hundreds of people are also fleeing this week because of violent clashes between the army and an irregular armed group. By Thursday, up to 800 people had left the remote mountainous areas where they lived to seek safety in the villages of El Ejido and Madrigal, to the north of the department. UNHCR is coordinating with the local authorities and other partners to ensure that the displaced receive proper assistance.

That's right, Chiquita Banana is supporting the land grab against these people. So every time you eat a Chiquita banana, remember, you just kicked another indigenous person off their ancestral land.

And now for the monkey fix paradox.

There is a tribe of people in the south, who were also kicked off their land by the narcos. They are called the Huaorani, and hail from the Ecuadorian Oriente.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Huaorani is that large parts of their population rejected all contact with the outside world. Being adapt hunters, as anyone who has been to the Amazon knows is tough as hell, their animist view of the world has created an extensive collection of hunting and eating taboos.

This is very important, work with me here.

So the Huarorani, pushed off their land by lab-building narcos, start to arrive at far-flung Colombian towns seeking refugee. Mostly unable to adapt to our way of life, they have become trapped in a cycle of dependence since most are just waiting to return to their mother jungle.

This has worked out okay, though there was a tax on resources. But every Saturday night, the non-Huarorani in the area noticed something very odd happening. The Monkey Fix.

Part of the Huarorani culture is the hunting of animals, especially monkeys. While it is forbidden by their culture to kill birds of prey or land-based predators, monkeys are in the house.

And unfortunately, they really have a taste for several monkeys on the endangered species list. And specific monkeys on the list were a requirement per their animist religion to be eaten every Saturday.

Think of it as Communion Bread of a totally different sort.

So now, in a liberal paradox, where would you side on the Monkey Fix issue?

Do you side with the cultural rights of a displaced indigenous people following their traditions?

Or do you side with the rare monkeys who are destined to be slow roasted on a pike over a fire?

Or do you think this can all be absolved by not paying off narcos and making the journey back to their beloved forest a reality for these people?

Long story short, don't eat Chiquita bananas, they lead to Monkey Fix paradoxes.

When world history is written, Texas will appear as a long elaborate joke.

by Pinche Tejano on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 05:16:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Chiquita Brands International is the goddamn United Fruit Company.  

Changed the name but not the value.

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

by ATinNM on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 09:08:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can you post this as a diary? This deserves to be read more widely!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 10:45:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sunni Militiamen Say Iraq Didn't Keep Promises of Jobs - NYTimes.com

BAGHDAD -- The American military marked another milestone the other day in the initiative perhaps most responsible for taming the violence in Iraq: All but 10,000 of the 94,000 Sunni militiamen -- many of them former insurgents who agreed, for cash, to stop killing American soldiers -- had been turned over to the control of the Iraqi military.

Significantly, the militiamen themselves were not celebrating.

The same day, one group of the fighters north of Baghdad announced they were resigning from their Awakening Council, the Iraqi name for what the Americans call the Sons of Iraq. And in the town of Salman Pak, councils in southern Baghdad and its suburbs, an area once called "the ring of death," met to denounce Iraqi efforts to integrate them.

These are among the signs that the fighters' patience is fraying badly at a difficult moment. After months of promises, only 5,000 Awakening members -- just over 5 percent -- have been given permanent jobs in the Iraqi security forces. Those promises were made last year when Iraq was flush with oil money.

Now with Iraq's budget battered by falling oil prices, the government is having trouble paying existing employees, much less bringing in Sunni gunmen already regarded with suspicion by the Shiite-led government.

In interviews with leaders from a dozen local Awakening Councils, nearly all complained that full-time jobs were lacking, that pay was in arrears and that members were being arrested despite promises of amnesty.

Good thing we gave them all those guns, huh?

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

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 04:53:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sudan's President Makes Trip Abroad - NYTimes.com

In a snub of the International Criminal Court, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan traveled on Monday to Eritrea, barely three weeks after the court issued a warrant for his arrest on war crimes charges for atrocities committed in Darfur.

It was Mr. Bashir's first trip abroad since the court issued its warrant, and it seemed to come as something of a surprise to people in the region. The trip had not been announced in Sudan, and foreign news agencies said that even those close to the Sudanese government had not been apprised of Mr. Bashir's plans.

Leaving the confines of Sudan could place Mr. Bashir at greater risk of being arrested. The criminal court charged him with war crimes and crimes against humanity for playing what it called an essential role in the murder, rape and displacement of vast numbers of civilians in Darfur.

More than 2.5 million Darfur residents have been chased from their homes and as many as 300,000 have died in a conflict pitting the Arab-dominated government against non-Arab rebels.

Mr. Bashir's trip "is an indication that we will never be blackmailed by the I.C.C. verdict; it will not put us in a corner," said Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem, Sudan's permanent representative to the United Nations. He denied that the trip was a surprise and said, "His international schedule of visits will go on unchanged."

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 04:57:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:14:55 PM EST
NGO 2.0: Using the Web to Reunite Refugees - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Facebook is great if you want to find long-lost classmates. But what if you're a refugee looking for family members? A new Web site seeks to provide those displaced by war or disaster with a platform to search themselves -- provided they have Internet access.

Facebook addicts will, of course, tell you that the social networking site is full of ways to stay connected. You can poke. You can chat. You can write on your friends' walls. You can play Scrabble.

More to the point, though, you also have a decent chance of finding that cute girl who sat next to you in the fifth grade -- the one you haven't seen in 15 years. That, at least, was the function that caught the imaginations of Danish brothers Christopher and David Mikkelsen. Years ago, the two realized that a social networking platform might be a great tool refugees could use to help them find their families. Now, just a few months after the launch of www.refunite.org, the site has made great strides toward becoming the go-to search engine for displaced people around the world.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:17:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
British scientists to create 'synthetic' blood - Science, News - The Independent
Human embryos will be used to make an unlimited supply for infection-free transfusions

Scientists in Britain plan to become the first in the world to produce unlimited amounts of synthetic human blood from embryonic stem cells for emergency infection-free transfusions

A major research project is to be announced this week that will culminate in three years with the first transfusions into human volunteers of "synthetic" blood made from the stem cells of spare IVF embryos. It could help to save the lives of anyone from victims of traffic accidents to soldiers on a battlefield by revolutionising the vital blood transfusion services, which have to rely on a network of human donors to provide a constant supply of fresh blood.

The multimillion-pound deal involving NHS Blood and Transplant, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and the Wellcome Trust, the world's biggest medical research charity, means Britain will take centre stage in the global race to develop blood made from embryonic stem cells. The researchers will test human embryos left over from IVF treatment to find those that are genetically programmed to develop into the "O-negative" blood group, which is the universal donor group whose blood can be transfused into anyone without fear of tissue rejection.

by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:21:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Shuttle and space station dodge debris
By Robert Block, LA Times

With his ship still docked at the International Space Station, shuttle commander Lee Archambault fired up Discovery's steering jets Sunday to move the linked craft into a new position that will reduce their chances of colliding with a piece of space junk.

According to NASA, Archambault turned the station and the shuttle 180 degrees with the shuttle leading the station as it orbits Earth. That should increase the natural drag of the craft on the edge of the atmosphere enough to slow them down by about a foot per second, and lower their orbit just enough to avoid a piece of debris threatening the station.

"Had we not taken this action, the first time of closest approach would have been about two hours into Monday's spacewalk," NASA said in a news release.

The debris is part of a spent Chinese satellite and is estimated to be 4 inches across. It is in a similar altitude as Discovery and the station but in a slightly different inclination, meaning the debris would have crossed the shuttle-station orbit repeatedly for several days. The maneuver eliminates that risk, NASA said.

This is the third time in the last few weeks that the station has had to worry about space junk speeding around Earth on a possible collision course.

We humans sure know how to pollute.

by Magnifico on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 04:59:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Rivals Say I.B.M. Stifles Competition to Mainframes
By Ashlee Vance, New York Times

I.B.M. has dominated the mainframe computer business since the category was created four decades ago. And it still gets about one-quarter of its $100 billion in annual revenue from sales, software, services and financing related to the machines.

So when an upstart, Platform Solutions in Sunnyvale, Calif., developed software that turned standard servers into systems that mimicked I.B.M.'s expensive mainframes, Big Blue fought back. After legal action failed to fend off the pipsqueak, I.B.M. resorted to a bear hug: it bought Platform in July for $150 million. And then it promptly terminated the innovative product.

Despite eliminating the Platform threat, I.B.M. still faces the wrath of many in the computer industry. The Computer and Communications Industry Association, a trade group backed by the likes of Google, Oracle and Microsoft, described the Platform deal as "a clear attempt by I.B.M. to purchase a company solely to foreclose competition in the mainframe marketplace, protecting its cash cow at the expense of consumers."

And T3 Technologies, a small company that resold Platform's products and was devastated by I.B.M.'s move, has filed an antitrust complaint against I.B.M. with regulators at the European Commission.

by Magnifico on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 05:04:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Always good to see Google, Oracle and Microsoft being ironic.

$150 million was way too cheap. Platform had IBM over a barrel and could reasonably have held out for ten times as much in the longer term.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 06:30:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
NASA's early lunar images, in a new light
Pictures from the mid-1960s Lunar Orbiter program lay forgotten for decades. But one woman was determined to see them restored.
By John Johnson Jr., Los Angeles Times

Rising over the battered surface of the moon, Earth loomed in a shimmering arc covered in a swirling skin of clouds.

The image, taken in 1966 by NASA's robotic probe Lunar Orbiter 1, presented a stunning juxtaposition of planet and moon that no earthling had ever seen before.

It was dubbed the Picture of the Century. "The most beautiful thing I'd ever seen," remembered Keith Cowing, who saw it as an 11-year-old and credited it with eventually luring him to work for NASA.

But in the mad rush of discovery, even the breathtaking can get mislaid.

NASA was so preoccupied with getting an astronaut to the moon ahead of the Soviets that little attention was paid to the mountains of scientific data that flowed back to Earth from its early space missions. The data, stored on miles of fragile tapes, grew into mountains that were packed up and sent to a government warehouse with crates of other stuff.

And so they eventually came to the attention of Nancy Evans, a no-nonsense woman with flaming red hair that fit her sometimes-impatient nature. She had been trained as a biologist, but within the sprawling space agency she had found her niche as an archivist.

Evans was at her desk in the 1970s when a clerk walked into her office, asking what he should do with a truck-sized heap of data tapes that had been released from storage.

"What do you usually do with things like that?" she asked.

"We usually destroy them," he replied.

by Magnifico on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 05:12:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
New Scientist - Neutron tracks revive hopes for cold fusion

Twenty years to the day that two electrochemists ignited controversy by announcing signs of cold fusion at an infamous press conference in Utah (watch a video of the 1989 event), a separate team has made a similar claim in the same US state. But this time, the evidence is being taken more seriously.

Back in 1989, Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons at the University of Utah announced the tantalising prospect of abundant, almost-free energy, but their claims of fusion reactions in a tabletop experiment were dismissed by nuclear physicists, not least because such reactions normally occur inside stars. The few watts of extra energy they found were widely considered a fluke.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 06:31:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The pie fight will begin in ....

4 ....

3 ....

2 ....

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

by ATinNM on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 09:20:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good News for NPR: Its Most Listeners Ever - washingtonpost.com

At a time when newspapers, magazines and TV news continue to lose readers and viewers, at least one part of the traditional media has continued to grow robustly: National Public Radio.

The audience for NPR's daily news programs, including "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered," reached a record last year, driven by widespread interest in the presidential election, and the general decline of radio news elsewhere. Washington-based NPR will release new figures to its stations today showing that the cumulative audience for its daily news programs hit 20.9 million a week, a 9 percent increase over the previous year.

The weekly audience for all the programming fed by Washington-based NPR -- including talk shows and music -- also reached a record last year, with 23.6 million people tuning in each week, an 8.7 percent increase over 2007.

While almost every news organization saw its audience spike during the political campaign last year, NPR's surge continues a trend that goes back to at least the fall of 2000, when the organization began aggregating audience data from hundreds of affiliated public stations across the country. NPR saw a big audience increase after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has added listeners since. Its audience has grown 47 percent since 2000, according to figures from Arbitron.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 05:18:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Whythatsdelightful - Apology noted. Now what?

Well, for whatever reason, the Express apologised for the Dunblane story on Sunday. Here's the link. Take a moment to read it.

This is certainly an apology, and it was advertised on the front page, which is enough like the first demand on our petition to get by. For that reason, we're shutting it down on Saturday and handing it in next week. Matt Nida, who drafted the petition, will deliver it to Express Group Newspapers, the PCC and Downing Street so as to show the strength of feeling that this story has induced in over 10,000 people in a single week.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Mar 24th, 2009 at 08:35:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 03:15:18 PM EST
2008 BOB Winner | Sunlight Foundation | 23 March 2009

Fundraisers on video

American News Project journalist Harry Hanbury deserves some sort of award for his quest to go to every single congressional fundraiser held in Washington, DC in a single day. Check out this great video report in which he captures lobbyists, staffers, and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), one of the GOP's biggest fundraisers, on tape. And we're blushing that Hanbury relied on us truly to figure out where to party....

Lawmakers hoop it up

The active spring fundraising schedule contains many fundraisers organized around hoops. (Thanks to our intrepid intern Tim Wiseman, not just for ferreting these out, but also for his basketball wisdom):

  • On March 19, a March Madness reception for Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY), whose alma mater, the University of Kentucky won't be dancing for the first time in 17 years. There are three other KY schools in the Big Dance (Western Ky., Louisville, and Morehead St.), but all are from outside Chandler's district. Cost for entry? $5,000 for a "PAC host," $2,500 for a "PAC sponsor," $1,000 for a "PAC friend," $500 for an individual. ...

Financial industry woos lawmakers with fundraisers

We've obtained invitations for several parties where donors are invited to discuss financial industry issues with lawmakers on key committees:

  • A March 17 financial services industry dinner for Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) a member of the House Financial Services Commitee, at the Matchbox restaurant in China Town. Organizing the fete: lobbyists Len Wolfson (Mortgage Bankers Association of America);  Rodney Hoppe, (Ryan, Phillips et al); and  Paul Kangas, (Property Casualty Insurers Assn/America). Donations requestion: $500 "personal," $1,000, PAC. ...

Lawmakers recess for cash

With Congress out of session, USA Today reporter Fredreka Schouten reports today that lawmakers are taking their fundraising to ritzy locales. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) invites guests to the Snake River Lodge & Spa near Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) asks his donors to a weekend in Vail. And Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) is holding a fundraiser at Honolulu's Waikiki Beach. (Here's another ski weekend not mentioned in the story: a fundraiser in Park City, Utah for  Republican Sen. Robert Bennett.) ...

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 05:31:04 PM EST
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