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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 16 April

by Fran Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:39:58 PM EST

On this date in history:

1889 - Birth of Charlie Chaplin, an Academy Award-winning English comedic actor and filmmaker. Chaplin became one of the most famous actors as well as a notable filmmaker, composer and musician in the early to mid "Classical Hollywood" era of American cinema. (d. 1977)

More here and video

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by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:40:39 PM EST
Gordon Bajnai elected as Hungary's new prime minister | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 14.04.2009
Hungary's new prime minister plans to immediately introduce austerity measures and economic reforms and demand sacrifices from many Hungarians, including cuts to pensions and public sector pay. 

In Tuesday's ballot, 204 deputies in the 386-seat parliament voted in favor of Bajnai, 41, to become Hungary's new prime minister. He will take over from Socialist Ferenc Gyurcsany, who resigned on March 21. Gyurcsany said last month that a new interim government and a new prime minister were needed to turn the country's economy around.

Hungary is suffering its deepest economic crisis in nearly 20 years and has been one of the countries in Eastern Europe worst hit by the financial and economic crisis. Financial meltdown was averted only by a massive bailout package of international organizations last October.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:42:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Europe | Protests as Hungary PM sworn in

Several thousand people have been protesting in the Hungarian capital Budapest, over the appointment of a new prime minister, Gordon Bajnai.

Police said protesters threw objects and tried to break through fencing surrounding the parliament building.

There were reports that several police and protesters were injured in clashes.

Mr Bajnai replaces Ferenc Gyurcsany, who announced his decision to resign in March, saying he considered himself a hindrance to further reforms.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:45:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See Yet another government collapse by DoDo on March 30th, 2009

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:52:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU says UK failing to protect internet users' privacy - EUobserver

The European Commission has threatened to take the UK to court over "structural" failures to guarantee internet users' privacy, in line with European law.

In a formal letter sent from Brussels to London on Tuesday (14 April), the commission gave UK authorities two months to respond to criticism of new web surveillance technology or face legal action at the Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

Phorm tells advertisers what internet users have been searching for

The complaint centres around US-based software company Phorm, which uses records of people's surfing activity obtained from internet service providers to help advertisers target customers more accurately.

UK internet provider BT has run tests with Phorm since 2006, prompting a stream of queries from MPs, MEPs, rights groups and citizens. But the technology has been given the all-clear by British regulators.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:43:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Internet privacy: Britain in the dock - Home News, UK - The Independent
'Big Brother' state comes under fire as European Commission launches inquiry into secret surveillance of web users

Britain's failure to protect its citizens from secret surveillance on the internet is to be investigated by the European Commission. Related articles

The move will fuel claims that Britain is sliding towards a Big Brother state and could end with the Government being forced to defend its policy on internet privacy in front of judges in Europe.

The legal action is being brought over the use of controversial behavioural advertising services which were tested on BT's internet customers without their consent.

Yesterday, the EU said it wanted "clear consent" from internet users that their private data was being used to gather commercial information about their web shopping habits.

Under the programme, the UK-listed company Phorm has developed technology that allows internet service providers (ISPs) to track what their users are doing online. ISPs can then sell that information to media companies and advertisers, who can use it to place more relevant advertisements on websites the user subsequently visits. The EU has accused Britain of turning a blind eye to the growth in this kind of internet marketing.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:46:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Polish media uncover evidence of CIA prison - EUobserver

Journalists from Polish TV station TVP and daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita say they have obtained new evidence that Poland ran a secret CIA prison used for extra-judicial extradition of terrorism suspects.

The evidence - documents and witness statements related to a Polish judicial investigation to see if the facility undermined Polish sovereignty - point the finger at the country's former Socialist government.

A map from the Council of Europe showing the network of alleged US extraordinary rendition flights

The new information suggests that in December 2001, Poland designated 20 secret service agents to help in Washington's new war on terror and leased part of a military base in Stare Kiejkuty in the northwest of the country to the US.

Clandestine US flights to the nearby Szymany airport begn in December 2002. At least five subsequent flights by a suspicious Gulfstream jet landed in Szymany in 2003.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:43:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Prosecutors Not Just Targeting Demjanjuk: Germany Has Sights on Several Alleged Nazi War Criminals - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

John Demjanjuk is not an isolated case. German investigators have set their sights on other presumed Nazi war criminals, raising the question of how the law should deal with the aged accessories of the Holocaust.

When he had completed the job, SS Colonel Karl Jäger, filled with pride, wrote in his report to his superiors: "Today, I am proud to report that the objective of solving the Jewish problem for Lithuania has been achieved by Task Force 3. There are no longer any Jews in Lithuania ..."

War crimes suspect John ("Ivan") Demjanjuk is expected to be extradited from the United States to Germany for trial imminently. It was Dec. 1, 1941, and German troops had occupied Lithuania, which was part of the Soviet Union, since the summer. According to Colonel Jäger's meticulous account, his subordinates had killed exactly 47,326 men, 55,556 women and 34,464 children.

But Jäger did not claim all the credit for himself and the 120 men he commanded. He was only able to achieve his goal, the ardent Hitler supporter wrote, because one of his subordinates had managed to "secure the cooperation of the Lithuanian partisans."

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:44:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
US halts deportation of alleged Nazi war criminal | World | Deutsche Welle | 15.04.2009
The deportation of the alleged Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk has been blocked in a last minute court ruling. US authorities are to review whether the 89-year-old is too ill to be extradited to Germany. 

A US federal appeals court has for the time being halted the deportation of the alleged Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk. The ruling came hours after US agents took Demjanjuk from his Ohio home to deport him to Germany. He has meanwhile been released from federal custody and allowed to return home with an electronic tracking bracelet around his ankle, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.

Two judges from the federal appeals court in Cincinnati had ordered the deportation be stopped while it weighed whether Demjanjuk deserved another hearing and prosecutors' response that the legal case was at an end. Demjanjuk's son had petitioned the court to consider whether deporting his 89-year-old father to Germany amounted to torture, because of his frail health.

He had been scheduled to be flown immediately to Munich, where he faces charges in the deaths of 29,000 Jews. Prosecutors in Germany accuse him of being an accessory in 1943 killings at Sobibor death camp, where he is alleged to have personally led Jews to the gas chambers at the camp in Polish territory then occupied by Nazi Germany.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:44:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Special Reports | French boats block Channel ports

French fishing boats have mounted a blockade of three Channel ports, interrupting ferry and freight traffic in a dispute over fishing quotas.

At Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk fishing fleets were preventing ships entering or leaving the harbour.

However, ferry company P&O says the Calais blockade has now been lifted and stranded passengers are on the move.

British police have warned of serious delays and have started parking lorries on the M20 motorway.

Richard Barclay, returning from an Easter break in Belgium with his family, said some passengers had showed signs of frustration towards the port authorities, but "most people are just resigned to wait".

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:46:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FT.com / Europe - Romania offers citizenship to 1m Moldovans
The president of Romania has offered fast-track citizenship to up to 1m Moldovans, saying Bucharest could not stand idly by as an "iron curtain" descended on its eastern border.

The move, which would effectively give EU citizenship to almost a quarter of the population of Europe's poorest state, comes amid rising tension over contested elections in Moldova this month.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:46:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ukraine Says 3 Tried to Sell Bomb Material - NYTimes.com

MOSCOW -- The metal cylinder supposedly contained eight pounds of plutonium 239, a highly dangerous radioactive material that could be used in a nuclear weapon or a dirty bomb. The price: $10 million, sought by three Ukrainian men, officials said Tuesday.

The men did not make a sale, the officials said, but were arrested in an undercover operation in Ukraine last week that was conducted by the Ukrainian Security Service. Still, while the plot was foiled, it underscored longstanding concerns that unsecured radioactive material in the former Soviet Union might fall into the wrong hands.

Marina Ostapenko, a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian Security Service, said it had turned out that the radioactive material was not plutonium 239. A preliminary analysis indicated that the material was most likely americium, a much more common and less potent radioactive material, Ms. Ostapenko said in a telephone interview from Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:48:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In other words it was a hoax, or a scam to ripoff very ill-informed, would-be buyers.

Americium is by the way an excellent poison, ten times more potent than polonium 210 and lasts a good 400 years. Get a team of perfidious boy scouts to clean out all the smoke detectors in Kiev and you'll come up with a handsome amount of americium.

As far as "unsecured radioactive material in the former Soviet Union" there just ain't that much lying around now-a-days save for a cautionary note on Georgia. Urban legends die hard.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 04:54:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yet it would seem that eight pounds of americium in powder form surrounding a core of plastique and detonated in a high density metropolitan area populated with governmental, financial and business entities would be a major disaster.  Do they use americium in smoke detectors in Ukraine?  Doesn't seem like a good idea.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 07:16:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You of course cannot be refering to a nuclear explosion which is far beyond rogue technology. Further, a far larger quantity of americium would be necessary for critical mass.

As for distributing powder with an explosion it would be disastrous. However, it would have to be inhaled or ingested to do damage to living organisms.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 02:23:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was not aware that any quantity of americium could achieve critical mass.  But were an area dusted with the stuff, it would have to be evacuated until de-contaminated.  Basic "dirty bomb."  Small explosion.  Big contamination.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 01:13:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
83 kilos. A brief discussion among others can be found on the Canadian Nuclear Society site. The article notes that you would need 400 million smoke detectors to get 83 kilos- or $124,000,000. That makes a very heavy Bertha to haul around as extra luggage.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has several articles behind subscription walls.

Judging by the NYT article, the tricksters were selling it at rock bottom prices, whether plutonium or americium. The difference being that plutonium is understandably a tightly controlled material while americium is- or was- a commercially available radioactive material subject to general license transactions. Not that you can just go out and buy a key if you could afford it.

As for a dirty bomb I had best remain in my armchair on that. Americium emits alpha particles, like polonium, which don't get farther than a few centimeters. Real short-term damage can only be achieved through inhalation or ingestion. I think you'll get a better deal banking on phosphorous of Falluja fame.

I've the impression it's another hoax.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 05:39:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Why Europe Won't Fight by Pat Buchanan on Creators.com - A Syndicate Of Talent

"No one will say this publicly, but the true fact is we are all talking about our exit strategy from Afghanistan. We are getting out. It may take a couple of years, but we are all looking to get out."

Thus did a "senior European diplomat" confide to The New York Times during Obama's trip to Strasbourg.

Europe is bailing out on us. Afghanistan is to be America's war.

During what the Times called a "fractious meeting," NATO agreed to send 3,000 troops to provide security during the elections and 2,000 to train Afghan police. Thin gruel beside Obama's commitment to double U.S. troop levels to 68,000.

Why won't Europe fight?

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:50:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Afghanistan is to be America's war.

Afghanistan was America's war from the get-go. After 9/11 NATO invoked "article 5" which allowed all of NATO to respond to aggression and the Bush administration declined help. Then the US dropped the ball by shifting attention to Iraq and NATO is expected to pick up the pieces...

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

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:55:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey! You-hoo. Lookie over here. You forgot Canada!! Everybody forgets Canada. Damn. It's Canada's war too!!! No respect I tell you.

4 April 2009
Strasbourg, France

"Canada's principal objective at this Summit was to emphasize the importance of the commitment of NATO and its Allies to securing and stabilizing Afghanistan," said the Prime Minister, who was joined by Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon at the summit.  "This was Canada's key priority going into the summit and it remains Canada's key priority today."


My impression is that Harper and his born-again creationists want this war fairly badly. On the other hand they probably also want to stay in power too.

Have you been touched by his noodly appendage?

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 07:35:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why won't Europe fight?

Because they're not a bunch of idiots or servile pawns?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 06:53:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Parents to be hit with penalties if children misbehave at school - Telegraph
Parents will be hit by severe penalties if children misbehave under a back-to-basics crackdown on indiscipline in schools, it is announced today.

A three-year Government study into classroom behaviour will call for greater use of parenting contracts for mothers and fathers failing to keep children in line and £50 penalties for those condoning truancy.

More schools will also be encouraged to use traditional methods such as detentions, suspensions, isolation rooms and lunchtime curfews to punish badly behaved pupils. They will be told to order pupils to remove caps and confiscate mobile phones.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:57:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As East and West Pull on Moldova, Loyalties and Divisions Run Deep - NYTimes.com

CHISINAU, Moldova -- If the residents of Chisinau ever forget that they live on a fault line, they can count on Christmas to remind them. Skip to next paragraph The New York Times

Both Romanian and Russian influences are felt in Moldova.

For two years running, the city's 30-year-old, Romanian-educated mayor, Dorin Chirtoaca, has erected a Christmas tree in time for Dec. 25, when the holiday is celebrated in Romania and Western Europe.

And both times, the 67-year-old, Soviet-educated president, Vladimir Voronin, has ordered it removed, because Moldova officially celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7, in keeping with the Russian Orthodox calendar. The dispute has taken on a loopy, Keystone Kops character, with reports of fir trees detained by the police in the forest or "abducted during the night by unknown persons."

As the world learned last week, though, the divisions within this society are dangerous and deep. In a way, Moldova is grappling with the same challenge as Georgia and Ukraine -- trying to join the West after decades of Russian influence. But Moldova's narrative is complicated by its history of domination: over the last two centuries, the territory once known as Bessarabia was ruled by the Russian czar for 106 years, then by the Romanian king for 22 years and then by the Soviet Union for 51 years.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 03:00:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Times: World Cup invitation brings down final part of Iron Curtain

All that separates Armenia and Turkey is a narrow bridge across the River Araks and almost a century of enmity that began with the massacres of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 and continued with the Iron Curtain that divided the Soviet Union from the West.

The Soviet legacy in the Caucasus and the painful burden of history have conspired to keep the border closed long after the end of the Cold War. Now more than 70 years of separation may be only weeks from ending as relations between Turkey and Armenia undergo a remarkable thaw.
by Sassafras on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 05:24:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FT.com / Europe - Berlin rethink on `bad bank' plan
The German government's plan to take over illiquid securities from the country's banks in a bid to hasten the sector's recovery may not cover so-called toxic assets at the heart of the crisis.

Under one model favoured by Peer Steinbrück, finance minister, the state would assume only the risks associated with illiquid assets - mainly corporate and sovereign bonds, for which there is currently a limited market but which are not at great risk of default - people familiar with the plan said.

The fact that banks could have to carry almost all the losses linked to their toxic assets - mainly complex, hard-to-value products such as collateralised debt obligations and credit default swaps - would be a blow for many German institutions, which have lobbied for the creation of an all-encompassing, government-backed "bad bank" to park troubled assets.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 03:51:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:41:01 PM EST
Why Poles hate voting in European Parliament elections

Only 13% of Poles are planning to vote in the European Parlimanent election, the newest Eurobarometer tells us. That's less than in any other country in the EU.

The average for the whole EU is 34%, while among the most interested Belgians 70% plan to vote (which is still not enormous considering that voting is obligatory in Belgium).

People often ask me why the Poles are not interested in European elections. The last time, in 2004, only 21% voted, which was the second lowest in the EU after Slovakia.

Five years ago there seem to have been two main reasons: 1. national elections were approaching, so the political parties were saving their fire; 2. we had recently voted (in large numbers - 58% participation) to join the EU and had just joined. The typical reaction of a less educated Pole was: "I already said yes, what are they asking me again?".

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:58:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Liberal campaign launch as colorblind as the other European Parties' - European Federalists

Tomorrow the Liberals are having their Campaign Lunch. But without a candidate for the position of Commission President they are not offering much real influence for the voters and are missing a great opportunity for political leadership among the other European Parties that also seem to be unable to present the voters real choices.

ELDR adopted their election manifesto already in October in their Congress in Stockholm. It was an excellent move to have the Congress half a year before the other European parties and it provided a great opportunity to put forward new ideas and to show political leadership. But then somewhere along the road this opportunity was lost - 6 month later there is still no liberal candidate for the Commission from the third largest group in the European Parliament. Instead they have nominated a candidate for the President of the European Parliament - a position that does not even come close to the executive power the Commission president has.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:58:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jon Worth » A manifesto for the next European Commissioner for Communication Strategy

The 2004-2009 Barroso Commission is starting to wind down. Brussels has its eye on the European Elections in June, and the selection of a new Commission due to take office from 1st November.

One of the Commissioners for whom I have developed quite some respect since 2004 is Margot Wallström; she has a refreshingly frank approach that has won her some friends outside the Commission (although few inside it by all accounts) and has been determined and diligent in making the most of a near-impossible task - communicating the EU. However Margot has no intention of serving a further term, and even if she wanted to the centre-right Swedish administration would not nominate her (Wallström is a Social Democrat).

So what should the new Communications Commissioner actually do? I assume the portfolio will still exist; as far as I'm concerned it's still very much needed.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:59:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Julien Frisch: European Parliament elections 2009 (80): Eurobarometer, Twitter, and piecemeal approaches to the European Dream
Hm, I realise that this is my 80th blog post on the European Parliament elections. That is not much, taking into account that the first one was published already in early July 2008. At the time I thought there would be many more.

But at the time, I also thought there would be much more attention in the European Parliament elections.

Okay, I admit that there is much more attention than in July 2008. But considering the fact that we are some 7 weeks ahead of one of the largest democratic votes on this planet, "deception" could be the word that describes best how I think about this campaign. And the coverage of what is going on:

Yesterday and today, the most discussed issue in the European news and blogs and Twitter was the latest Eurobarometer survey and the finding that we might face a record low participation. See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:59:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:41:30 PM EST
FT.com / US / Economy & Fed - US prices drop for first time since 1955
Prices in the US declined in the year to March for the first time since 1955, the labour department said on Wednesday, easing fears that aggressive government stimulus measures could kick-start inflation.

The 0.1 per cent monthly decline in March was largely due to falling energy prices and was the first fall after two months of increases. Consumer prices were down by 0.4 per cent year-on-year.

The monthly figure trailed the 0.1 per cent rise that economists had forecast and compared with a 0.4 per cent increase in February.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:48:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Poland to ask IMF for $20.5-billion flexible credit line | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 15.04.2009
Poland on Tuesday said it planned to ask the IMF for a $20-billion (15-billion-euro) credit line to bolster reserves and fend off currency attacks as it bucks the recession. 

Finance Minister Jan Rostowski told reporters that Warsaw had asked the International Monetary Fund to open a "Flexible Credit Line" (FCL), a strings-free program designed to encourage countries to act proactively to combat the financial crisis.

"This will increase the reserves of the Polish central bank by one third... to immunize Poland against the virus of the crisis and the attacks of speculators," Rostowski said. "This isn't emergency funding," he insisted.

"I can say that during talks with the IMF it was clear that Poland is considered a pillar of stability in the region" and that the IMF aimed to reinforce that role, he added.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:49:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Poland continues drive towards euro - EUobserver

The Polish government is pressing ahead with its ambitious plans to adopt the euro by 1 January 2012 as fears that the move would be premature under the current environment appear to be subsiding.

To join the currency shared by 16 of the EU's 27 member states, Poland would first have to first enter a two-year antechamber known as Exchange Rate Mechanism II, which allows only limited currency fluctuations between - in this case - the zloty and the euro. The Polish government hopes to enter ERM-II before the end of June.

The current economic crisis has highlighted the benefits of euro area membership for some countries

"I think the government will join ERM-II, provided the [zloty's] situation stabilises on the financial markets," Polish Socialist MEP Dariusz Rosati, who sits on the European Parliament's economy committee, told EUObserver on Wednesday (15 April), adding that the government will likely wait until the last moment before making the decision.

This view is shared by Agata Urbanska, an economist with ING Bank specialising in emerging Europe. She feels that the worst of the currency volatility seen last August is over, in part thanks to Poland's ability to distinguish itself from other eastern European markets and especially from the Baltic states.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:55:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Yellow and the Green: Commerzbank's Merger Crisis - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

In the midst of a major financial downturn, Martin Blessing, CEO of Commerzbank, is charged with managing one of the biggest mergers in German banking history -- despite massive losses and ongoing risks. But there's no turning back, either for Blessing or for Germany's political establishment.

The chancellor's favorite banker looks small in his dark-blue suit and white shirt, especially against a huge green-and-yellow screen. In the pale light of the Dresdner Bank training center, he looks older than he actually is.

Gone is the youthful charm that distinguished Martin Blessing, 45, only a few months ago. An oblong scar on his face from a childhood bicycle accident seems more pronounced. Like Harry Potter's famous scar, Blessing's vanishes on good days.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:55:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
RGE - Roubini Monitor
In brief:  banks are benefitting from close to zero borrowing costs;
 they are benefitting from a massive transfer of wealth from savers to borrowers given a dozen different government bailout and subsidy programs for the financial system;
 they are not properly provisioning/reserving for massive future loan losses;
 they are not properly marking down current losses from loans in delinquency;
 they are using the recent changes by FASB to mark to market to inflate the value of many assets;
 they are using a number of accounting tricks to minimize reported losses and maximize reported earnings;
 the Treasury is using a stress scenario for the stress tests that is not a true stress scenario but rather a benchmark of what the economy is likely to look like in 2009 and 2010;
 a true stress scenario would have considered a much more serious economic downturn..
by Bernard (bernard) on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 04:52:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
financial crap doesn't matter.  I mean, if this was food production, we'd all be eating dog sh*t and the authorities would be claiming it's prime beef.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 06:58:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
U.S. Planning to Reveal Data on Health of Top Banks
By David Sanger and Eric Dash, New York Times

The Obama administration is drawing up plans to disclose the conditions of the 19 biggest banks in the country, according to senior administration officials, as it tries to restore confidence in the financial system without unnerving investors.

The administration has decided to reveal some sensitive details of the stress tests now being completed after concluding that keeping many of the findings secret could send investors fleeing from financial institutions rumored to be weakest.

While all of the banks are expected to pass the tests, some are expected to be graded more highly than others. Officials have deliberately left murky just how much they intend to reveal -- or to encourage the banks to reveal -- about how well they would weather difficult economic conditions over the next two years.

As a result, indicating which banks are most vulnerable still runs some risk of doing what officials hope to avoid.

by Magnifico on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 05:05:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
U.S. Program Lends a Hand to Banks, Quietly
By Loise Story, New York Times

Eager to escape the long arm of government, Goldman Sachs is preparing to return $10 billion in taxpayer funds as fast as the ink can dry on the check. But the bank, and a number of others, is quietly holding on to other forms of public support that come with virtually no strings attached.

Banks have been benefiting from an indirect subsidy adopted by the federal government at the height of the financial crisis last fall that allows them to issue their debt cheaply with the backing of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

That debt -- more than $300 billion for the banking industry so far -- helped otherwise cash-strained banks to keep their businesses running even when it was virtually impossible for other companies to raise funds. The program will continue to bolster scores of banks through at least the middle of 2012.

The value of the assistance, economists say, is incalculable, because it helped keep participating banks alive despite the panic sown in financial markets after Lehman Brothers collapsed.

by Magnifico on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 05:07:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
allafrica.com: Africa: Will Economic Crisis See Debt Spectre Return?

Finance ministers from low income African, Asian and Caribbean regions will meet in Washington DC this month to compare notes on how to deal with the impact of the economic slowdown on their people and ensure that never again will their populations have to labour under unpayable debt.

The ministers will discuss among other things: what their countries need to do to avoid slipping back to the problems of excessive and unmanageable debt; the adequacy of the response of the IMF and World Bank; share practical experiences in dealing with crisis, and debt management.
by Sassafras on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 05:19:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A 'Copper Standard' for the world's currency system? - Telegraph

Hard money enthusiasts have long watched for signs that China is switching its foreign reserves from US Treasury bonds into gold bullion.

They may have been eyeing the wrong metal. China's State Reserves Bureau (SRB) has instead been buying copper and other industrial metals over recent months on a scale that appears to go beyond the usual rebuilding of stocks for commercial reasons.

Nobu Su, head of Taiwan's TMT group, which ships commodities to China, said Beijing is trying to extricate itself from dollar dependency as fast as it can

"China has woken up. The West is a black hole with all this money being printed. The Chinese are buying raw materials because it is a much better way to use their $1.9 trillion of reserves. They get ten times the impact, and can cover their infrastructure for 50 years."

Well, bless me! Here was me thinking the Chinese might be interested in buying Units redeemable in natural gas by reference to an Energy Standard....

Obviously a Copper Standard makes much more sense. Can't manipulate that.

......back to the drawing board, then. :-(

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

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 07:32:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FT.com / Asia-Pacific - China's quarterly GDP slows to 6.1%
China's economy grew 6.1 per cent in the first quarter from a year earlier, as Beijing struggled to prop up growth that has deteriorated in the face of the global crisis.

The increase was down from 6.8 per cent in the fourth quarter and 9 per cent for the whole of 2008.

The rapid cooling in Chinese growth has been led by a collapse in exports and private sector investment but aggressive government stimulus measures to boost growth through infrastructure spending kept the economy in positive territory.

The 6.1 per cent GDP growth rate was far lower than the 10.6 per cent recorded in the first quarter of 2008 and less than half the 13 per cent China recorded for the whole of 2007 but the government appears relieved that growth has not deteriorated further.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 03:53:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
COPE - Los agricultores usan internet para saltarse al intermediarioCOPE - Farmers use internet to avoid intermediaries
A través de la red Arco, el consumidor se ahorra un 30% en las compras y el agricultor gana entre un 40% y un 200% más. La iniciativa pretende evitar que los precios de los productos agrícolas se multipliquen hasta por diez en el supermercado.Through the Arco network, the consumer saves 30% on purchases and the farmer earns between 40% and 200% more. The initiative intends to prevent prices of agricultural products from being multiplied ten-fold in the supermarket.
negocios.com - 15-04-09negocios.com - 15 April 2009
Los agricultores españoles se quejan desde hace años de la abultada diferencia de precios entre el origen del producto y el punto de venta en la gran distribución alimentaria, que ha aprovechado un mercado cada vez más desregularizado para obligarles a vender su mercancía incluso por debajo del umbral de rentabilidad. Y es que las diferencias entre el dinero que se paga a los productores por sus cosechas y el precio de venta al público llega incluso a sobrepasar el 1.000% .Spanish farmers have complained for years about the large difference in price between the product's source and the sales point in large food distributors, who have taken advantage of a deregulated market to force them [farmers] to sell their wares even below the profitability threshold. And the fact is the difference between the money paid to producers for their harvest and the sale price to the public can even exceed 1000%
Por ello, en los últimos meses pequeños grupos de productores han iniciado proyectos de ruptura con el esquema de mercado de las grandes superficies. Las iniciativas son variadas, pero los objetivos convergen siempre en dos principios:  eliminar al máximo los intermediarios y promocionar la venta directa al consumidor, una práctica perdida hace décadas.For this reason, in recent months small groups of producers have initiated projects to break with the market scheme of large distributors. The initiatives are varied, but the goals always converge on two principles: eliminate intermediaries as much as possible and foster direct sales to the consumer, a practice lost decades ago.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 03:58:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:41:47 PM EST
11 Pirates Are Seized in Raid by French Navy - NYTimes.com
French forces detained 11 suspected pirates during an assault on what they described as a pirate "mother ship" in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Somalia Wednesday, less than 24 hours after an American cargo ship was attacked by pirates in the same region.

The 11 detainees are being held on board a French frigate, the Nivôse, part of a European Union antipiracy task force patrolling in the area, the French defense ministry said in a statement.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:45:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Somalia says: Let us handle the pirates
By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times

The crisis has again exposed the impotency of Somalia's transitional government, but its leaders hope to turn the negative publicity into international momentum to end their nation's 18-year stint as a failed state.

"We are not being utilized as much as we could be," Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke said in an interview at the government's well-guarded compound in Mogadishu. "We need to fight pirates on land. We have information about how they function and who they are.

"I understand the short-term need to use warships in a crisis," he added, "but the long-term objective should be to build institutions that will deal with pirates from inside the country."


In the meantime, Somali government officials say the international community should move quickly.

Last year, pirates and their business partners netted at least $50 million in ransom. They're reinvesting the money in better weapons and entrenching themselves in coastal communities by hiring young people and bribing elders.

In short, Somalis say, pirates are becoming richer and more powerful than the government.

Said Prime Minister Sharmarke: "It's getting to the point where they are in a position to overthrow the government."

by Magnifico on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 04:57:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Accusations of Abuse: Guantanamo Prisoner Calls Al-Jazeera - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Once a week Mohammed el Gharani, Guantanamo inmate number 269, is allowed to call a relative. But the 'uncle' he claimed to be speaking to was a journalist at Al-Jazeera. He spoke of being beaten with a baton, having his head beaten against the ground and being doused in tear gas.

Prisoners in Guantanamo. Mohammed El Gharani says the running of the camp hasn't changed since Barack Obama took office. Arab news channel Al-Jazeera on Tuesday published the first interview ever conducted with a current inmate of Guantanamo, the US prison camp. "They had a thick rubber or plastic baton they beat me with," said Mohammed el Gharani, a 21-year-old Chadian national who has been held in the camp for seven years.

El Gharani makes further accusations. He says guards broke one of his front teeth, that they beat his head against the ground and emptied about two canisters of tear gas on him. All this happened after he refused to leave his cell. He said six men wearing helmets and protective clothing came into his cell and were accompanied by a soldier with a camera and canisters of tear gas.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:45:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Guantanamo inmate is first to speak from inside camp - Telegraph
A Guantanamo inmate captured in Afghanistan at the age of 14 has become the first to give an interview from inside the camp, claiming he was beaten by his jailors.

Mohammed al-Gharani, who has spent seven years in the camp, said that he had been hit with batons until his teeth broke and tear-gassed after refusing to leave his cell. The mistreatment started 20 days before Barack Obama became the American president, he said.

"Since then I've been subjected to it almost every day," he said. "Since Obama took charge he has not shown us that anything will change."

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:52:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Seeking a Fair Trial: Attorneys File Suit in Germany on Behalf of Alleged Pirates - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

In the latest dispute over the European Union's anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia, lawyers representing two suspects being detained in Kenya have filed suits against the German government. They want Berlin to foot the bill for the suspects' defense and ensure they are given a fair trial.

Two suspected pirates detained by German naval forces in a mission off the coast of Somalia on March 3, who were later turned over to Kenyan officials for prosecution, are now suing the government in Berlin for a fair trial.

Attorneys for the men filed a suit on Tuesday demanding that the German government pay for the men's defense and provide support to a group of suspected pirates currently being held in the Shimo La Tewa prison in Mombasa.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:51:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
11 Pirates Are Seized in Raid by French Navy - NYTimes.com

French forces detained 11 suspected pirates during an assault on what they described as a pirate "mother ship" in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Somalia Wednesday, less than 24 hours after an American cargo ship was attacked by pirates in the same region. Skip to next paragraph Related Room for Debate: How to Catch a Pirate: Readers' Ideas (April 11, 2009) Room for Debate: Capture Pirates, on Land and Sea (April 9, 2009) The New York Times

The 11 detainees are being held on board a French frigate, the Nivôse, part of a European Union antipiracy task force patrolling in the area, the French defense ministry said in a statement.

The French forces initially responded to a distress call from a Liberian-flagged container ship, the Safmarine Asia, which came under attack by rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire from two small pirate skiffs Tuesday night. A helicopter from the Nivôse arrived on the scene and observed the skiffs retreating and returning to the "mother ship" -- actually, a 30-foot boat -- which was being used as a floating base about 460 miles off the Somali coast, according to a statement by the European Union's Maritime Security Center.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:53:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Africa | French warship captures pirates

A French warship has captured 11 pirates off the coast of Kenya, amid clamour for the international community to deal with the problem of piracy.

The gang was captured by a warship from an EU piracy patrol, French officials said, hours after a failed attack on a US ship.

Other pirates released a Greek ship and its 24 crew held since mid-March.

News of the incidents came as the UN special envoy for Somalia said the attacks threatened international peace.

The latest raid involved pirates firing rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at a US-flagged cargo ship, the Liberty Sun, which was carrying food aid for Africa.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 03:01:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Iran to propose new initiative to break nuclear impasse | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 15.04.2009
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said he will shortly offer the West a package of measures aimed a solution to the dispute over Iran's atomic ambitions. But will it really be anything new? 

Ahmadinejad announced the initiative in a televised speech in the southeast Iranian province of Kerman.

"We have prepared a package that can be the basis to resolve Iran's nuclear problem," the Iranian president said. "It will be offered to the West soon."

Ahmadinejad, who is up for reelection this summer, did not give much in the way of specifics about what would be proposed or how the new initiative would deviate from previous ones.

"This new package will ensure peace and justice for the world," he said. "It respects the rights of all nations."

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:54:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said he will shortly offer the West a package of measures aimed a solution to the dispute over Iran's atomic ambitions. But will it really be anything new?

Reporting or editorialising?

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

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:58:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Apart from propagating the obligatory [Europe.Is.Doomed™ Alert]
All of Europe's empires are gone. All her great navies are gone. All her million-man armies are history. Her populations are all aging, shrinking and dying, as millions pour in from former colonies in the Third World to repopulate and Islamize the mother countries.
and Eurabia
Because of Europe's new "diversity," any war fought in a Muslim land will inflame a large segment of Europe's urban population.
memes, the article makes some good points
While NATO provides Europe with a security blanket, it provides America with what she cannot live without: a mission, a cause, a meaning to life.


NATO desperately did not want to go out of business. So, NATO went out of area, into Afghanistan. Now, with victory nowhere in sight, NATO is heading home. Will it go out of business?


Joe stayed in the Army. He couldn't give it up. Soldiering is all he knew. Just like Uncle Sam. We can't give up NATO because, if we do, we would no longer be the "indispensable nation," the leader of the Free World.

It's a pretty sad image, really.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 03:37:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Iran Sanctions Would Be Frozen By U.S. for Talks, Envoys Say - Bloomberg.com
The Obama administration won't impose additional sanctions on Iran if it freezes nuclear development work and joins talks over the future of its program, European diplomats said.

Undersecretary of State William Burns informed Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia of the new U.S. approach to the so-called "freeze-for-freeze" proposal at a meeting in London on April 8, according to the diplomats, who spoke on condition they weren't identified.

Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. said it was prepared to accept a freeze on United Nations and European Union sanctions. President Barack Obama would extend that offer to include U.S. sanctions, which under Bush often targeted Iranian banks.

Obama has echoed Bush's demand that Iran not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon.

The European diplomats said that in return for the new U.S. concession Iran would have to refrain from further development steps, such as adding centrifuges to enrich uranium. The deal would be for a limited time leading up to the beginning of formal negotiations.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 03:44:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Afghan Women Protest New Restrictive Law - NYTimes.com
About 300 Afghan women, facing an angry throng three times larger than their own, walked the streets of the capital on Wednesday to demand that Parliament repeal a new law that introduces a range of Taliban-like restrictions on women, and permits, among other things, marital rape.

It was an extraordinary scene. Women are mostly illiterate in this impoverished country, and they do not, generally speaking, enjoy anything near the freedom accorded to men. But there they were, most of them young, many in jeans, defying a threatening crowd and calling out slogans heavy with meaning.

With the Afghan police keeping the mob at bay, the women walked two miles to Parliament, where they delivered a petition calling for the law's repeal.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:57:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oooops, just saw that you posted the same link too. I'll delete mine.
by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 03:15:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Women protesters against 'marital rape' law spat on and stoned in Kabul - Times Online

Women protesting in Kabul against a controversial new law were pelted with stones, jostled and spat on today as they held what is believed to be the first public demonstration calling for equal rights for women in recent Afghan history.

The protest by about 200 women called for amendment of the controversial Shia Family Law, passed last month by the Afghan Parliament, and enforcement of article 22 of the Afghan constitution, which gives equal rights to men and women.

It provoked a furious reaction from local men and a mob quickly surrounded the protesters amid violent scenes close to the Parliament building.

The new law, which applies to the 15 per cent of the population who are Shia Muslim, has drawn widespread international condemnation since it was passed in March. President Obama called it abhorrent after leaked drafts of the law showed it apparently legalised marital rape and child marriage and reintroduced restrictions on women that were notorious under the Taleban period of rule.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 03:16:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
re afghanistan. someone i know is trying to help an afghan widow in her late 40's, who has been getting death threats from the taliban, and would like to get out as fast as possible.
which countries in europe might offer her political asylum, anyone know?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 03:32:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Pakistani Taliban expand influence beyond Swat
They swarmed the neighboring district of Buner and secured the right to preach in mosques there.
By Huma Yusuf, Christian Science Monitor

In the same week that the Pakistani Taliban secured their demand for Islamic law in the Swat Valley, they moved into a neighboring district and won the right to preach in mosques there. This success in Buner came with little fighting - unlike in Swat, where they'd battled government forces on and off since 2007.

The move suggests that the Taliban, having gained a foothold in Swat, intend to spread their influence more broadly in Pakistan - and may face little resistance in some areas.

This continues their expansion beyond their stronghold in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan to the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), where Swat and Buner are located. The two areas lie about 60 miles from Islamabad, the capital. Already, suicide bombings there and in nearby Lahore have grown more frequent over the past several months.

by Magnifico on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 04:59:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
U.S. transportation secretary calls Portland's streetcar, light rail a "model" for nation
by Dylan Rivera, The Oregonian

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told a national television audience this morning that Portland's light rail and streetcar systems are a model for the nation and he would soon come to Portland to "make some announcements."

On C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" this morning, LaHood also called Portland a model for reducing pollution, "getting people out of their cars" and creating "livable" communities...

LaHood said that Portland's streetcar and light rail systems are a model for efforts to reduce the pollution that automobiles generate.

"They developed a streetcar system and we're going to be going to Portland and meeting with those folks and making some announcements," LaHood said.

"They really are a model, over the years, of getting people out of their cars and creating the livable community idea."

by Magnifico on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 05:01:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Deal by Deal, China Expands Its Influence in Latin America - NYTimes.com
As Washington tries to rebuild its strained relationships in Latin America, China is stepping in vigorously, offering countries across the region large amounts of money while they struggle with sharply slowing economies, a plunge in commodity prices and restricted access to credit.

In recent weeks, China has been negotiating deals to double a development fund in Venezuela to $12 billion, lend Ecuador at least $1 billion to build a hydroelectric plant, provide Argentina with access to more than $10 billion in Chinese currency and lend Brazil's national oil company $10 billion. The deals largely focus on China locking in natural resources like oil for years to come.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 03:27:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:42:10 PM EST
Revealed: the inbreeding that ruined the Hapsburgs - Science, News - The Independent
Dynasty that dominated Europe for more than 500 years was undone by incest, study finds

The Hapsburg dynasty was one of the most important and influential royal families in Europe dating back more than 500 years and producing rulers in Austria, Hungary, Belgium, the Netherlands and the German empire. Then, in 1700, it suffered a sudden demise of its Spanish branch. Now scientists believe they have come up with a definitive explanation.

A study of the extended family tree of the House of Hapsburg has found that the last Spanish Hapsburg king, Charles II, was the offspring of a marriage that was almost as genetically inbred as an incestuous relationship between a brother and sister or parent and child.

Scientists have found that the Hapsburg fashion of marrying their relatives to keep their dynastic heritage intact had dire consequences for subsequent generations, which culminated in the last heir to the Spanish throne being sickly and impotent.

Charles II of Spain was nicknamed El Hechizado - The Hexed - because people at the time thought that his physical and mental disabilities were the result of sorcery. Now a study into the genetics of his immediate ancestors has found that he was so inbred that he probably suffered from at least two inherited disorders.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:46:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
`King of sushi' tuna on brink of dying out - Times Online

The fishing season opens today in the Mediterranean spawning grounds of the "king of sushi" -- the bluefin tuna -- with a grim warning that current catch rates mean it will die out in as little as three years.

Bluefin has become such a soughtafter delicacy in the Far East that ever higher prices are being paid for one of the ocean's swiftest predators -- and the rich red meat that makes it so desirable. But the size of the individual fish caught each year has dropped and conservationists fear that even recent restrictions imposed by the European Union will not save enough adults to keep the bluefin stocks viable.

Its demise is blamed on the introduction of fishing vessels in the 1990s that can round up 3,000 bluefin in one go. Most of the fish are frozen for air-freighting to Japan. The price depends on the fattiness of the meat with a record set last year in Tokyo's Tsukiji Market of $55,700 (£37,400) for a 276kg (608lb) fish.

"For years people have been asking when the collapse of this fishery will happen, and now we have the answer," said Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean, who is calling for a ban on bluefin fishing in the Mediterranean while stocks recover.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:49:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | Ants inhabit 'world without sex'

An Amazonian ant has dispensed with sex and developed into an all-female species, researchers have found.

The ants reproduce via cloning - the queen ants copy themselves to produce genetically identical daughters.

This species - the first ever to be shown to reproduce entirely without sex - cultivates a garden of fungus, which also reproduces asexually.

The finding of the ants' "world without sex" is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Anna Himler, the biologist from the University of Arizona who led the research, told BBC News that the team used a battery of tests to verify their findings.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:50:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
United to Charge Obese Travelers for Second Seat on Full Planes - Bloomberg.com
United Airlines, the third-largest U.S. carrier, may force some obese travelers to buy a second seat if the flight is full and other passengers complain about being cramped.

The guideline, similar to practices at Delta Air Lines Inc., Southwest Airlines Co. and other carriers, was adopted in January and took effect today, said Robin Urbanski, a spokeswoman for United's parent company UAL Corp.
If a flight isn't full, obese passengers will be reassigned to a pair of empty seats and won't be charged for an extra ticket, Urbanski said. Travelers must be able to put the arm rest between seats down to its normal position and buckle a seat belt with one extension belt, she said.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:52:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Kenyan man bites python in struggle to survive - Telegraph
A Kenyan man bit a python that wrapped him in its coils and hauled him up a tree in a struggle that lasted hours, local media said on Wednesday.

Ben Nyaumbe was working on the farm he manages at the weekend when the snake, apparently hunting for livestock, struck in the Malindi area of Kenya's Indian Ocean coast.

"I stepped on a spongy thing on the ground and suddenly my leg was entangled with the body of a huge python," he told the Daily Nation newspaper.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:52:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Politicians Fret Over Berlin Landmark: Fake Soldiers Turning Brandenburg Gate Into 'Disneyland' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, now a symbol of German unification, is being defaced by the presence of performers in Cold War uniforms, say Berlin politicians. The fake soldiers argue that they're making the area more attractive to tourists.

Disneyland? Berlin politicians don't like actors in Cold War-era uniforms to pose in front of the Brandenburg Gate. One of Berlin's most famous landmarks, the Brandenburg Gate, is being exploited by actors wearing Cold War-era uniforms who are lowering the tone by posing for tourists for money, some Berlin politicians are saying.

"It's inappropriate and out of place," Rainer Klemke, the Berlin city official in charge of managing public memorial sites, told the mass-circulation Bild newspaper.

Michael Braun, the cultural affairs spokesman of the conservative Christian Democrats, said the fake soldiers were turning the area into "Disneyland."

"Such soldiers never stood there," he told the paper. "It's a falsification of history."

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:56:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Boeing Executive: Algae Could 'Supply Entire World with Aviation Fuel' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Although oil prices have fallen rapidly, the airline industry is still clamouring for alternative fuel sources. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, chief Boeing environmental strategist Billy Glover explains how a giant mass of algae may fuel jets in the future.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Glover, given the current low price of oil, why would airlines still even be interested in biofuels?

Glover: Indeed, the oil price has changed rapidly. But it has done that many times before and it will continue to do so. Even today, the highest operating expense for an airline is fuel. It remains a priority to find a way to mitigate that situation. That is why Boeing is trying to open up this avenue of alternative fuel. It can help that situation while having a better environmental performance at the same time.

by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:56:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Coral Fossils Suggest That Sea Level Can Rise Rapidly

Coral fossils in canal walls at a Mexican resort show evidence of a rapid increase in sea level 121,000 years ago, researchers say. Other experts on corals and climate are not convinced.  The study, published in the journal Nature, suggests that a sudden rise of 6.5 feet to 10 feet occurred within a span of 50 to 100 years about 121,000 years ago, at the end of the last warm interval between ice ages.

"The potential for sustained rapid ice loss and catastrophic sea-level rise in the near future is confirmed by our discovery of sea-level instability" in that period, the authors write.  Yet other experts on corals and climate are faulting the work, saying that big questions about coastal risks in a warming world remain unresolved.  One of the most momentous and enduring questions related to human-caused global warming is how fast and far seas may rise.

Studies of past climate shifts, particularly warmups at the ends of ice ages, show that fast-eroding ice sheets have sometimes raised sea levels worldwide in bursts of up to several yards in a century.  A question facing scientists is whether such a rise can occur when the world has less polar ice and is already warm, as it is now, and getting warmer.

Citing the evidence from fossil coral reefs, the authors of the new study say with conviction that the answer is yes.

The field work and analysis are very interesting, but the findings are not without critics, naturally.  The rise they claim to document is about half way to the 7 meter rise that was discussed in Coleman's recent diary 2C is possible but unlikely.  This finding may set a lower bound on what we know has happened in about a century.  Unfortunately, it sets no upper bound on what could happen, though it is a very long way from the "world without ice" possible sea level of 70 meters.  Even a 3 meter rise in a century would be very serious.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 03:15:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tidal-energy project stays on course after UW's tests on Puget Sound
By Michelle Ma, Seattle Times

A tidal-energy pilot project is one step closer to launching in Puget Sound.

Researchers from the University of Washington spent four days last week on board a vessel collecting data, capturing underwater video and measuring velocity in Admiralty Inlet between Port Townsend and Whidbey Island. The channel likely will host one of the nation's largest tidal-energy projects.

UW researchers said last week's tests confirmed the location is ideal for capturing tidal energy. The team gathered some initial data and will return two more times this year to monitor the site.

"The emphasis here is on learning," said Jim Thomson, an oceanographer at the UW's Applied Physics Lab.

Strong currents in Puget Sound are considered among the best in the country for harnessing tidal energy. But the industry is young, and experts acknowledge the technology and its possible impacts on the environment must withstand further testing.

by Magnifico on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 05:03:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Genes Show Limited Value in Predicting Diseases - NYTimes.com
The era of personal genomic medicine may have to wait. The genetic analysis of common disease is turning out to be a lot more complex than expected.

Since the human genome was decoded in 2003, researchers have been developing a powerful method for comparing the genomes of patients and healthy people, with the hope of pinpointing the DNA changes responsible for common diseases.

This method, called a genomewide association study, has proved technically successful despite many skeptics' initial doubts. But it has been disappointing in that the kind of genetic variation it detects has turned out to explain surprisingly little of the genetic links to most diseases.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 03:24:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:42:30 PM EST
Silvio Berlusconi defended as gallant over latest earthquake 'gaffe' - Times Online

A female doctor in the Abruzzo earthquake zone who was told "I wouldn't mind being resuscitated by you" by Silvio Berlusconi said yesterday that the Prime Minister was only being "gallant" and insisted that she was not offended.

Dr Fabiola Carrieri, a specialist in intensive care from Milan who is working in a field hospital in Abruzzo, became an instant celebrity after Mr Berlusconi's remark during his latest walkabout in the tent cities set up to house the tens of thousands of homeless. Italian reports focused on her "long red hair and big blue eyes".

Dr Carrieri said that Mr Berlusconi had paid her a "gallant" compliment to "take the drama out of the situation". She said she had told the Prime Minister in reply that she hoped she would never have to resuscitate him. He had been "trying to raise a smile in the middle of all the sorrow we have all around us", she added.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 02:48:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The article would have been far more informative had it consisted only of the last two paragraphs. Of course no one would have bothered to read it were that the case. The rest is infotainment, a plug for an all-around nice guy.

The earthquake left 294 dead and thousands homeless. Technicians said that of the thousand or so structures surveyed so far, only a third wer usable or habitable. The local prosecutor has opened an inquiry into whether building regulations were violated in L'Aquila and surrounding towns and villages where modern as well as medieval structures collapsed.

Pietro Grasso, the chief anti-Mafia prosecutor, warned that money earmarked for reconstruction could end up in the hands of the Mafia, as happened after the 1980 earthquake in the Irpinia region near Naples, which killed 3,000 people and left 300,000 homeless. Some of those affected by the 1997 earthquake in Umbria are still in temporary prefabricated housing 12 years on because money for reconstruction was allegedly misappropriated by the Mafia.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 04:52:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
in defense of Berlu, if it had been Bill Clinton, he would have said the same thing with his pants down.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 07:45:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
World Agenda: Nicolas Sarkozy puts Barack Obama in the doghouse - Times Online

France has been cooing along with everyone else over the arrival of Bo Obama at the White House, but the master of America's new First Dog is no longer in good odour with President Sarkozy.

Mr Sarkozy is pouring cold water on President Obama's efforts to recast American leadership on the world stage, depicting them as unoriginal, unsubstantial and overrated. Behind leaks and briefings from the Elysée Palace lies Mr Sarkozy's irritation at the rock-star welcome that Europe gave Mr Obama on his Europan tour earlier this month.

The American President's call "to free the world of the menace of a nuclear nightmare" was hot air, Mr Sarkozy's diplomatic staff told him in a report. "It was rhetoric - not a speech on American security policy but an export model aimed at improving the image of the United States," they said. Most of Mr Obama's proposals had already been made by the Bush administration and Washington was dragging its feet on disarmament and treaties against nuclear proliferation, the leaked report said.

Personal pique and French politics are also behind the souring of Mr Sarkozy's self-promoted honeymoon with the United States. On the personal side, the French President is needled by the adulation for an unproven US leader whose stardom has eclipsed what he sees as his established record as a world troubleshooter. "The President is annoyed by what he sees as the naivety and the herd mentality of the media," said a journalist who is privy to Elysée thinking.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 03:18:37 PM EST
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Times Online:
"The President is annoyed by what he sees as the naivety and the herd mentality of the media," said a journalist who is privy to Elysée thinking.
The "naivety and herd mentality of the media" should only be used ad majorem Sarkozy gloriam. Then, it's just fine.
by Bernard (bernard) on Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 04:34:05 PM EST
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I note that the count for comments is again different in the recent v recommended diary lists. The old problem has returned and as I recall, Colman didn't exactly know how the old problem was fixed. Or am I wrong?

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 09:56:01 AM EST
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It's come back again, since it was "fixed", but it's always been a transient problem, not lasting very long. I'm not encountering it right now, so it may have gone away already.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Apr 16th, 2009 at 06:20:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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