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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 13 May

by afew Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:58:42 PM EST

 A Daily Review Of International Online Media 

Europeans on this date in history:

1940 - Winston Churchill makes his "blood, toil, tears, and sweat" speech to the House of Commons. Most apt.

More here and here

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by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:18:15 PM EST
Denmark rebuilds borders, Commission alarmed | EurActiv
Denmark's centre-right government yesterday (11 May) agreed to introduce border controls at its ports and airports, as well as along its only land border with Germany and its bridge to Sweden. The European Commission asked for additional information and said it would not accept any roll-back of the Schengen treaty.

The Danish government caved in to the demands of the Danish People's Party, a populist and anti-immigration party that has been holding up approval of its 2020 economic plan.

"We have agreed on permanent border controls which we will implement as soon as possible," Finance Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said on TV 2 News after the border deal had been struck with the Danish People's Party and the small Christian Democratic Party.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:30:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Denmark's populist border controls reintroduced but many remain sceptical | World news | The Guardian

The rightwing Danish People's Party (DPP) laid on a spread of bacon crisps and pink champagne to celebrate the agreement on tighter border controls. But many Danes refuse to toast legislation they see as damaging to the country's reputation around Europe.

"It is an expression of xenophobia," said Carl Carstensen, a history teacher from Vejle, an hour's drive just north of the German border. "I guess Pia Kjaersgaard [the DPP leader] is scared of all the people who will come flooding up from the Arab countries. Presumably, the idea behind this is to catch criminals but it is border control officers who are at the borders, not police. Unless the officers have police privileges it doesn't make any sense."

The DPP is a key supporter of Denmark's Liberal-led coalition, and has been criticised for making concessions on the government's new financial plan in order to secure a populist deal on border control.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 05:03:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What do the left-wing parties say? (JakeS?)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 02:54:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Barnier to endorse Spanish-style Internet policing for EU | EurActiv
The European Commission is contemplating making Internet providers police their networks to tackle illegal downloads, a highly contested measure which is currently being scrutinised by the European Court of Justice.

Sources close to the Commission claim that the EU executive will try and replicate a Spanish law which forces Internet providers to come down hard on users for making illegal downloads.

A draft of the EU's upcoming Intellectual Property Rights strategy, due out on 24 April, will reportedly announce upcoming amendments to existing EU law that "should tackle the infringements at their source and, to that end, foster cooperation of intermediaries, such as Internet service providers".

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:33:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I never heard of that law, I wonder how it works in practice.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 02:55:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Google around for Sinde Law.

Economics is politics by other means
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 04:48:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
due out on 24 April

The article is now corrected to 24 May.

The Sinde Law was passed on 15 February, so I guess there is not much practical experience yet. From what I found on Google upon Migeru's suggestion, it seems focused on closing down websites hosting files – that doesn't seem to be suited against peer-to-peer file exchange and sites hosting torrents only, or sites owned by SPaniards on servers abroad. If so, and if the EU does pull through in following the SPanish example, hopefully with the same stupidity...

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

by DoDo on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 05:34:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Spain earthquake: Lorca residents assess damage

Residents in the Spanish town of Lorca are assessing the damage from quakes that killed nine people and forced thousands to spend the night outdoors.

The mayor of the historic town, with a population of 90,000, said: "Almost no-one slept in their homes".

Some 20,000 buildings are believed to have been damaged in what was Spain's worst earthquake for 50 years.

The magnitude 5.2 tremor hit early on Wednesday evening, around two hours after a quake measuring 4.4.

Those who died - including at least one pregnant woman and a child - were killed by falling masonry in the second tremor.

Regional officials say at least 130 people have been injured, with several in a serious condition.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:35:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was somewhat surprised that a 5.3 could have caused serious enough damage to kill so many people. There is a fault zone cutting across western Hungary that produces magnitude 4-5 quakes every 30 years or so (195: 5.6, 15/08/1985: 4.9, 29/01/2011: 4.7), which is 'weak enough' and 'rare enough' for authorities and the public not demanding earthquake-proof building codes. Yet these quakes were all very close to the surface (the last one just 5 km), casualties were rare (only the first killed a few people). However,

2011 Lorca earthquake - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The magnitude 5.1 (Mw) main shock occurred inland on 11 May at 18:47 local time (16:47 UTC) about 2.5 km northeast of Lorca, Spain, at an extremely shallow focal depth of 1 km (0.6 mi).

An epicenter very close to a major city also counts.

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

by DoDo on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 03:18:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Earthquakes don't kill people, poorly designed and or constructed buildings kill people! (especially masonry buildings)

There have been nine earthquakes since 1900 with a magnitude less than 6.0 that have killed at least 1,000 people. The worst was the M5.8 1960 Agadir Morocco quake with an estimated 15,000 people killed (from the USGS):

Over one-third of the population of Agadir was killed and at least another third injured by this short-duration earthquake, which lasted less than 15 seconds. It is the most destructive "moderate" quake (magnitude less than 6) in the 20th Century - the direct opposite of the magnitude 8.1 Mongolian earthquake of 04 Dec 1957, which killed very few people. All buildings in the Founti, Kasbah and Yachech sections of Agadir were destroyed or very severely damaged and more than 95 percent of the people in these areas were killed. Over 90 percent of buildings were destroyed or damaged in the Talbordjt district and more than 60 percent were damaged in New City and Front-de-Mer districts. The exact casualty figure is unknown because once it was clear there could be no more survivors in the rubble, much of the area was bulldozed because of health and safety concerns. This moderate quake was so destructive because it was a shallow event right under the city. Also, few buildings had been built to seismic codes because people thought that the area did not have a serious earthquake risk. It had been forgotten that a previous town at this location, named Santa Cruz de Aguer, had been destroyed by an earthquake in 1731.
by Jace on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 03:20:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurointelligence Daily Briefing: German rebellion against second loan tranche for Greece
Bundestag votes in favour of Portugal package, but more and more MPs come out in opposition to a second loan package for Greece; Schäuble says Germany's support was a question of fate for Europe; Der Spiegel says Europe has become the fault line of centre-right politics in Germany; Bild Zeitung has another outrageous article about overpaid and lazy Greeks, and why the crisis will last forever; Antonio Borges and Jean Claude Juncker call for more Greek privatisations; Holger Steltzner bemoans that the ECB is becoming more French, and less German; the IMF warns that the crisis may yet spread to core Europe; El Pais wonders why the IMF still considers Spain to be among the Euro Area 4 peripheral countries; economists and investors overwhelmingly expect a Greek restructuring, according to a Reuters poll; Barclays Capital calculates that Greece needs a 67% haircut; True Finns stay out of government in protest over the decision to support a Portuguese aid package; there were more violent protests in Athens after the serious injury of a protester earlier this week; John Walters argues why Ireland is the victim in this crisis; Christine Lagarde is to revise the 2011 growth forecast upwards following a better than expected first quarter;there is much speculation, meanwhile, about the future of Lorenzo Bini-Smaghi after Mario Draghi's accession to the ECB presidency.
(Google link)

Economics is politics by other means
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 04:51:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I read news reports on the parliamentary debate yesterday, which suggest an internal conflict within the right-wing parties, while passing the vote would not be a problem as SPD and Greens wouldn't oppose. Interestingly, even some government MP criticised the punitive interests on the loans to Portugal, but as long as government policy aims to assuage the chauvinists in the own ranks and Bild, nothing good will come of it.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 05:00:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the chauvinists in the own ranks

Also the neoliberals (the FDP guys still fuming over Merkel's shelving of their tax cut plans).

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

by DoDo on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 05:03:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Süddeutsche has info on the scale of the rebellion:

Koalition: Streit um EU-Finanzhilfen - Genörgel gegen Merkels Griechenland-Kurs - Politik - sueddeutsche.de Coalition: dispute over EU financial bailouts - Gripes against Merkel's Greece course - Politics - sueddeutsche.de
Nach Angaben aus den Fraktionen haben bisher 14 FDP- und fünf Unions-Parlamentarier erklärt, dass sie Merkels Pläne nicht mehr mittragen wollen. Darüber hinaus gebe es "Dutzende" weitere Koalitionsabgeordnete, die der gleichen Meinung seien.According to information from the factions, until now, 14 FDP and five CDU/CSU members of parliament declared that they no longer want to support Merkel's plans. In addition, there are further "dozens" of coalition members of parliament who shared their opinion.

After zu Googleberg's departure, CDU/CSU and FDP have 331 out of 621 seats, thus a loss of coalition majority needs 21 rebels, only two more than the 19 SZ has info about. However, the article notes with a source in the leadership that

...die meisten Abgeordneten würden am Ende zustimmen, wenn ihnen klar werde, dass sie sonst den Bestand der Koalition gefährdeten. Mehrere Abweichler räumten ein, dass ihr endgültiges Votum noch nicht feststehe. "Das entscheide ich dann, wenn die Abstimmung ansteht", sagte etwa Koppelin....most members of parliament would vote Yes in the end, once they realise that they otherwise endanger the survival of the coalition. Several dissenters acknowledged that their final vote has not been determined. "I decide when the vote is pending," said Koppelin for example.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 05:27:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:18:52 PM EST
Obama, Congress ratchet up deficit-reduction talks | Reuters

(Reuters) - The White House and Congress intensified negotiations on Thursday for a deficit-reduction deal, as major U.S. corporations clamored for lower tax rates they said would increase their global competitiveness.

With the U.S. deficit expected to reach $1.4 trillion this fiscal year, there is added urgency to finding a broad spending-cut deal. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden hosted separate meetings with Republican and Democratic lawmakers in search of a compromise.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:23:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Analysis: Debt limit talks embroiled in chaos | Reuters

(Reuters) - Rival plans to cut the deficit emerge almost daily: gangs, panels and commissions all trying to reach an elusive deal. There are splits between Republicans and Democrats, and mixed messages from all sides.

With pressure mounting in Washington for a budget agreement that can clear a path to raise America's debt limit, only one thing is clear: nobody yet knows how to get there, and a deal appears as far off as ever.

"Nobody can get a handle on this because there is no handle," said a veteran Republican strategist. "The overall picture really is as muddied and unclear as it looks. Anybody who says they know what's going to happen here is lying. They don't."

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:26:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Regulators press on with Wall Street crackdown | Reuters

(Reuters) - A broad crackdown on Wall Street is churning forward, even as regulators assured a Senate panel on Thursday they would seek more input on how to pick which financial institutions need stricter policing.

Members of a new inter-agency council on U.S. economic stability said they would extend their public comment period on how to choose important banks, insurers and hedge funds for heightened surveillance and tougher capital rules.

The concession by the Financial Stability Oversight Council came as a House of Representatives panel was expected to vote on Friday for weakening the consumer protection provisions of 2010's Dodd-Frank law and slowing down implementation of its new rules for derivatives markets.

The measures in the Republican-controlled House were not expected to advance in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:26:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:19:11 PM EST
Security forces target Bahrain medics - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

An Al Jazeera investigation has found evidence that Bahrain's security forces are torturing medical workers to force criminal confessions.

Since pro-democracy protests erupted in the Gulf kingdom in February, doctors and nurses have been targeted, with hundreds facing arrest, Charles Stratford reports in this Al Jazeera exclusive.

The government of Bahrain deployed security forces onto the streets on March 14 in an attempt to quell more than four weeks of protests.

Medics working to save the lives of hundreds of wounded demonstrators were among those threatened and arrested.

"Obviously we remain very concerned about all these reports of human rights abuses there," Mark Toner, the US state department spokesman, said in response to the violations documented in Stratford's reports.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:21:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Deaths reported as tanks shell Syrian cities - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

Nineteen people have reportedly been killed in shelling by tanks in residential areas in Syria as president Bashar al-Assad attempts to crush anti-government protests, defying calls for an end to the brutal crackdown.

Ammar Qurabi, head of the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria, said 13 people were killed in the southern village of al-Harah on Wednesday.

Tanks also shelled a residential district in Syria's third largest city Homs and at least five people were killed, a rights campaigner in the city said. A sixth person was killed by a sniper shot to the head as he stood in front of his house.

Most were killed in shelling, but gunfire killed several of the victims, Qurabi said.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:29:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Within the Arab Left, Contradictions Emerge Over Syria - IPS ipsnews.net
WASHINGTON, May 12, 2011 (IPS) - Though the Arab Spring has heralded newfound hope and optimism across the Middle East, the mood has darkened considerably as entrenched governments have fought back viciously against democratic opposition.

The relatively quick collapse of the governments in Tunisia and Egypt has given way to protracted struggle - along with its many complications - in Syria, Bahrain and Libya. Nowhere has this been demonstrated more clearly than in Syria, where the demand for democratisation has become deeply tangled with geopolitical dynamics, overlapping alliances, and clashing political ideologies.

The situation in Syria has developed differently than the revolutions that swept its neighbours. As one of the members of the so-called Axis of Resistance, Syria has evaded the accusations of subservience to foreign powers that plagued the old guard of Egypt, Bahrain, and elsewhere.

More importantly, Syria sits between Lebanon and Iraq, states still struggling to overcome their recent spasms of sectarian violence and instability. Syrians have also watched warily as the revolutions in Libya and Bahrain have produced large-scale violence, continued instability, and foreign military interventions.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:42:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Iraq inquiry: Campbell dossier evidence questioned

A senior ex-intelligence official has disputed Alastair Campbell's evidence about a dossier which outlined the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

Tony Blair's ex-spokesman told the Iraq inquiry last year the September 2002 document was designed to set out UK concerns, not "make the case for war".

But Michael Laurie said those producing it "saw it exactly as that and that was the direction we were given".

Mr Campbell said he had "nothing to add" to the evidence he had given.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:37:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The key claims:

BBC News - Iraq inquiry: Campbell dossier evidence questioned

"Alastair Campbell said to the inquiry that the purpose of the dossier was not to "make a case for war," he wrote. "I had no doubt at this time this was exactly its purpose and these very words were used."

He added: "We knew at the time that the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war rather than setting out the available intelligence."

A similar document produced six months earlier had been rejected as it had "not made a strong enough case", he claimed.

"From then until September (2002) we were under pressure to find intelligence that could reinforce the case."

Not that we didn't knew already at the time the dossier was released, but nice to hear it from one of the involved.

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

by DoDo on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 03:28:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Campbell's background in tabloid newspapers informed his approach to his job, but may not have served him well in this case.

After all, as a tabloid journo you take the "facts" as you know them and then choose the ones that fit your story and twist others to fit. As a political media rep you spin stories in the same way when you present them; highlight the good bits and then bury or de-prioritise those aspects that are less convincing. An ability to cajole, coerce or just plain bully old friends or colleagues into seeing your point of view is a useful asset.

But when it comes to the presentation of a case for war, his habits let him down. Journalism isn't about reporting the facts, it's about writing the story using those facts. That's a process of editing and can be a noble tradition. I've quoted it before "history isn't about facts, it's about argument". One reporter tells one story, another gives theirs and the public choose the version they want depending on their sensibilities. this after all, is how all papers compete, even the broadsheets.

But when you're presenting a case for war you're not entitled to play fast and loose with facts. It's too important; people die. And that's the central accusation against Campbell; that, as a government spokesman, he chose to use his journalistic skills to write a story justifying a war and, in doing his job, he chose the facts that fitted and spun the rest. Nothing he wrote was untrue, but what he wrote was certainly economical enough with the truths available to be considered a lie. And men died because of it.

I can see why Campbell feels there is no case to answer. But, no doubt, Bush and Cheney feel the same. Meanwhile Goldman Sachs are doing God's work.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 06:44:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Armed Conflicts Claim Unprecedented Number of Civilians - IPS ipsnews.net
UNITED NATIONS, May 12, 2011 (IPS) - Afghanistan, once described as the graveyard of empires, is ranked number one as the country with the most "significant rise" in civilian deaths last year, turning it into a veritable killing field, according to a new report by the London-based Minority Rights Group International (MRG).

The annual report, titled "Peoples Under Threat", says civilian killings in Afghanistan have increased every year in the last five years.

"And the continued weakness of the central government, internal disunity and systemic corruption contribute to the poor prognosis," the report notes.

According to the study released Thursday, this year's figure is expected to exceed the 3,000 civilians killed in 2010.

Mark Lattimer, MRG's executive director, told IPS the Taliban or other anti-government forces were responsible for 75 percent of these killings.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:41:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Briefing the Security Council Tuesday, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos offered a higher figure for both civilian deaths and injuries. She said 7,000 civilians were killed and injured in Afghanistan last year, an increase of 19 percent over 2009.

Anti-government elements were reportedly responsible for over 5,000 of those deaths and injuries. Military operations by pro-government forces accounted for some 800 civilian casualties.

I suspect even the second figure is an underestimate due to underreported killings and killings of civilians reported as killings of enemy combattants.

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

by DoDo on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 03:26:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DEVELOPMENT: Civil Society Rejects 'Toothless' Istanbul Plan of Action - IPS ipsnews.net
ISTANBUL, May 12, 2011 (IPS) - Civil society groups have vowed to mobilise citizens of the world's poorest nations to take to the streets, rejecting the Istanbul Programme of Action agreed today by the Fourth U.N. Conference on the Least Developed Countries.

"The plan of action has no teeth and appears to have left the people living in the least developed countries in a worse position than before," said Arjun Karki, the spokesperson for the civil society forum at the conference, known as LDC-IV. "We are appalled and disillusioned," he said.

More than 800 million people live in the 48 countries are classified as least developed; 33 of these are found in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Programme of Action for the decade 2011 to 2020 declares that the ownership and primary responsibility for development lies with the least developed countries themselves. LDCs are called on to incorporate the Programme of Action into their national development strategies, plans and programmes and identifying the domestic authorities responsible for overseeing implementation and multi- stakeholder engagement by parliamentarians and the private sector.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:41:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
HONDURAS, [Quotha]: In Morazan, Yoro, Héctor Francisco Medina Polanco, 35 years old, was shot dead as he was leaving Channel 9 news, Omega Vision, where he was General Coordinator.

Colombia Reports: Amnesty International (AI) commended human rights progress made in Colombia under President Juan Manuel Santos, but said the country still faces serious problems, during a Thursday presentation in London, Colombian media reported.

Colombia Reports: A leader of a group of peasants reclaiming land they were forced to leave by illegal armed groups, was assassinated in northern Colombia said the human rights ombudsman Wednesday.  "[Martha] Gaibao, the spokesperson in a process of resettlement of 17 families displaced in the municipality of La Apartada in the department of Cordoba, was shot several times by unknown perpetrators who subsequently fled" said Volmar Perez, Human Rights Ombudsmen, reported news agency AFP.

MEXICO CITY -- A Guatemalan court has acquitted a former president, Alfonso Portillo, of charges that he embezzled state money. The decision appeared to be a setback to United Nations-sponsored efforts to reform Guatemala's corruption-racked judicial system.

The Raúl Reyes Affair:
Colombia Reports: Venezuela's dismissal of a report on ties between Caracas and Colombian rebel group FARC is "completely invalid," said the head researcher of the IISS report who insists the links between Chavez and the guerrillas are proven.
Setty's Notebook, FARC links to GW Bush campaign? Hmmm: The Raul Reyes files are exactly like the Wikileaks files. There may be edits, inaccuracies and fabrications in there, but it can't all be fake. And most likely, none of it is fake. And yet, there are tidbits in there that are almost too weird to be true. (...) Which I would translate as:
We met with the Chinese emissary. He demonstrated the best intentions and said a a man from the FARC should be sent to China June 15 to demonstrate what they have and see on-site qualities that fulfill our needs. He'll be attended by people from the Party who work in Intelligence. It's foreseen that any deal would be paid in advance or by credit card. Before, a meeting was held ... There it was agreed to send oil to China and that the Chinese would pay part in arms. It would seem to be a "commission" [kickback]. To the Chinese man, it is foreseen that as they receive oil, we, to avoid getting entangled, we would pay the Venezuelans our part. He accepted.
(...) And then there is this one, which to my mind is the weirdest thing I have seen in this whole collection. This is dated Nov 23, 2000, after the Bush-Gore election but long before the winner had been finally chosen by the Supreme Court:
Its foreseen for December 6 that a delegation will arrive in Caracas of US Republicans linked to the oil industry and very grateful to Chavez for the crude oil prices that he defends at the international level. Upon winning the presidency, this Republican faction would seek to withdraw gringo advisors from Colombia. It's been foreseen that they want to converse with us. To do this, I propose to you that Olga and I make a stop in Caracas on our way from Rome to attend to the case. Hugs, RYCHY

MercoPress: London-based BP this week received approval from Brazil's ANP energy regulator for its purchase of assets from US-based Devon, a deal signed in 2010, but put on hold following the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 08:40:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Raúl Reyes Affair should reduce the IISS's credibility the same way the South Ossetia cluster bomb claims should have reduced Human Rights Watch's credibility.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 03:37:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
TEPCO to exclude central Tokyo from rolling blackouts in summer (Japan Today)

Tokyo Electric Power Co plans to exclude central Tokyo from a rolling blackout program this summer, company officials said Friday.

Any planned blackout, due to electric power supply shortages triggered by the utility's damaged nuclear power station, could cause serious confusion in central Tokyo that features a heavy concentration of railway networks, traffic lights, medical institutions and government offices, they said.

by Jace on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 03:27:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:19:43 PM EST
Japan reactor leak 'serious setback' - Asia-Pacific - Al Jazeera English
One of the reactors at Japan's crippled nuclear power plant has been damaged more severely than originally thought, officials said, a serious setback for efforts to stabilise the radiation-leaking complex.

The data released on Thursday also showed that the water level in the core of Unit 1 at the Fukushima Daiichi plant is much lower than previously thought, leaving the portion of the fuel rods still intact fully exposed.

Other fuel has slumped to the bottom of the pressure vessel and is thought to be covered in water.

The findings also indicate a greater-than-expected leak in that vessel. Radioactive water pouring from troubled reactors has flooded around the complex, hindering work to bring the plant under control.

However, temperatures in the unit are still far below dangerous levels because the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., continues to inject new water to keep the rods cool.

That radioactive water is apparently leaking into and through the larger containment vessel.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:22:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
DSB wants to dump AnsaldoBreda - Politiken.dk

DSB has ordered lawyers to investigate how the Danish state railways service can get out of a contract with the Italian train producer AnsaldoBreda for IC4 trains that do not fulfil requirements.

Denmark ordered 83 IC4 trains from AnsaldoBreda in 2001, only 42 of which have been delivered and most of which have extensive technical problems.

"DSB doesn't believe that the DSB trains will ever run in the way they envisaged and certainly not to the extent envisaged. So we have to find out whether we can even expect them to run properly. Will they ever be able to fill the role envisaged when they were ordered," said Transport Minister Hans Christian Schmidt following a Transport Committee meeting.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:32:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is now developing into the most disastrous rolling stock order in history.
  • These trains were originally ordered in December 2000, for delivery from March 2003 to July 2005.
  • The first unit was delivered to Denmark in autumn 2003, but only a second followed by the time the entire batch was supposed to have been delivered, and even their testing wasn't completed as they had several problems.
  • AnsaldoBreda was first forced to pay compensation in November 2005.
  • The first commercial run was in June 2007, with a single unit and as local train, but commercial runs ended after exhaust problems.
  • DSB first threatened to cancel the contract in its June 2008 ultimatum, demanding 15 functional sets within 12 months – at the time, they had 5 sets.
  • Commercial runs were started again in August 2008 (five years delay).
  • In May 2009, barely meeting the 15-functional-sets ultimatum from a yeare earlier, AnsaldoBreda again agreed to pay compensation, adding up to half of the original contract price(!). Also, a a new delivery schedule lasting until 2012 was agreed. By the new schedule, DSB was supposed to have 44 trains by the end of 2010, and 53 by the end of March.
  • At the time AnsaloBreda was still doing development work (!), making all deliveries unique and fault-prone.
  • DSB was in a bind over a cancellation of the program because government plans foresee mainline electrification from around 2020: if they dumped the IC4s and issued a big new diesel mutliple unit order for delivery in the middle of the 2010s, those trains would not have been amortised by the time DSB would have to buy new electric multiple units to replace them.

As noted before, I think this mess is a cascading result of AnsaldoBreda focusing its efforts on getting an also problematic electric locomotive delivered to Italian State Railways; and this mess also resulted in the delay of deliveries of Dutch-Belgian high-speed trains.

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

by DoDo on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 04:18:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Over a billion tons of food wasted every year: UN
Rome (AFP) May 11, 2011
Around a third of the food produced in the world every year -- around 1.3 billion tons -- gets lost or wasted, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation said on Wednesday.

"Given the limited availability of natural resources it is more effective to reduce food losses than increase food production in order to feed a growing world population," the FAO said in a report.

FAO said the amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world's annual cereals crop.

Some 925 million people around the world suffer from hunger.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:46:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Factory farms the only way to `feed the world'? Not so, argues Science paper | Grist

To "feed the world" by 2050, we'll need a massive, global ramp-up of industrial-scale, corporate-led agriculture. At least that's the conventional wisdom.

Even progressive journalists trumpet the idea (see here, here, and here, plus my ripostes here and here). The public-radio show Marketplace reported it as fact last week, earning a knuckle rap from Tom Laskway. At least one major strain of President Obama's (rather inconsistent) agricultural policy is predicated on it. And surely most agricultural scientists and development specialists toe that line ... right?

Well, not really. Back in 2009, Seed Magazine organized a forum predicated on the idea that a "scientific consensus," analogous to the one on climate change, had formed around the desirability of patent-protected genetically modified seeds. If I must say so, my own contribution to that discussion shredded that notion. If anything, a pro-GMO consensus has formed among a narrow group of microbiologists -- the people who conduct gene manipulations to develop novel crops. But no such accord exists among scientists whose work takes them out of the laboratory and into farm fields and ecosystems: soil experts, ecologists, development specialists, etc.

The latest evidence against any consensus around Big Ag as world savior: In a paper [PDF] just published in Science, a team of researchers led by the eminent Washington State University soil scientist John P. Reganold urges a fundamental rethinking of the U.S. ag-research system

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:51:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 06:52:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Improving photosynthesis? Solar cells beat plants at harvesting sun's energy, for now
ScienceDaily (May 12, 2011) -- In a head-to-head battle of harvesting the sun's energy, solar cells beat plants, according to a new paper in Science. But scientists think they can even up the playing field, says researcher David Kramer at Michigan State University.

Plants are less efficient at capturing the energy in sunlight than solar cells mostly because they have too much evolutionary baggage. Plants have to power a living thing, whereas solar cells only have to send electricity down a wire. This is a big difference because if photosynthesis makes a mistake, it makes toxic byproducts that kill the organism. Photosynthesis has to be conservative to avoid killing the organisms it powers.

"This is critical since it's the process that powers all of life in our ecosystem," said Kramer, a Hannah Distinguished Professor of Photosynthesis and Bioenergetics. "The efficiency of photosynthesis, and our ability to improve it, is critical to ...

Guess what?

...whether the entire biofuels industry is viable."

No shit.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:56:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
An oldie back from 2004

In the editor's note:

Note that even under the very best of conditions photosynthesis is less than 2% efficient at turning sunshine into biomass. The average is much lower than this. Humans as a single species already use around 40% of the available energy from this process, known as the Earth's primary productivity. To think that we could mimic photosynthesis industrially, and improve its efficiency seems hugely arrogant. Four billion years of evolution have been working towards the same end.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 07:43:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Evolution is not an optimising process. It's a "good enough" process.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 10:30:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not globally optimising anyway. Probably not even locally.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 10:31:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A Japanese government panel says the country's next-generation high-speed train should take an almost straight route between Tokyo and Nagoya.

The Central Japan Railway Company plans to begin operating the magnetically levitated - or maglev - train between the two cities in 2027.

In its report to the transport ministry on Thursday, the advisory panel says that sending the trains through tunnels in the southern part of the Japan Alps would cost less and produce a greater economic effect than its two alternatives.

The new route is expected to serve as Japan's main artery, together with the existing Shinkansen bullet train line.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 09:03:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The test track, which is being extended and is supposed to form a part of the line in the future, is already almost completely in tunnel. However, this test track extension is the only reason I think that there is any chance that the entire line will actually be built. The 2027 date was a recent delay from 2025.

To re-state my scpetical take on maglevs:

  • energy use advantages are overrated by spin: at high speeds, most of the train resistance is aerodynamic not friction;
  • the ability to climb higher grades is also overrated (at high speeds, it is not only side acceleration in curves but vertical acceleration in vertical curves in valleys/on mountaintops that constrains track layout);
  • higher top speed and higher acceleration at higher speeds are the real advantages over normal high-speed trains;
  • noise emissions on elevated track and the pitch of that noise are disadvantages;
  • expensive track (whether elevated or tunnel) is a big disadvantage;
  • the biggest disadvantage is that maglevs need an entirely new network: unlike conventional high-speed trains, maglev trains can't continue on conventional track where dedicated tracks are unfinished or uneconomical, and thus constrained to existing maglev tracks.

Connecting a 32-million and a 17-million metropolitan area, Tokyo-Osaka is one of the 2-3 places in the world where maglev may be viable even considering conventional HSR. The existing Shinkansen line already provides the world's most-frequented long-distance rail service (by a wide margin) with over 100 million passengers a year, fairly saturated, and with not much further potential for a speed-up, and a parallel line would enable enhanced services for also highly frequented intermediate stations. Still, I would rather have a second conventional high-speed line built: while slower until Osaka, it would bring destinations further south within the magic three-hour radius.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 04:44:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A question: capacity by any train is constrained by (among others) max speed, acceleration, braking, switches. How well does maglev do on braking and switching?

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 07:48:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you mean the capacity of the whole system (number of trains that can travel a line times number of passengers on a single train) rather than a single train?

In normal service braking (which is relevant to line capacity), the limiting factor is deceleration that is still comfortable for passengers, which is around 1.2-1.3 m/s². Both conventional high-speed trains and maglevs have brake systems that can sustain that deceleration for almost the entire braking process from initiation to stopping (and more in emergency braking), so all the difference comes from the higher top speed. Say if you compare 270 km/h (Tokaido Shinkansen line speed) and 500 km/h, braking distances should be lengthened to about 3.4 times.

I'm not sure what you mean by switches: maybe operation of a two-track line by using both tracks in both directions, that is sometimes diverting one train on the 'wrong' track? If yes, then I have two notes: on one hand, the higher acceleration of maglevs should mean that slowing down for track changes is less of a time loss; on the other hand, Japanese Shinkansen lines are operated in a strict one track one direction mode, so they may want to continue the same operational (and, as it wouldn't work without it, maintenance) practice.

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

by DoDo on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 09:43:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Will Natural Gas Fuel America in the 21st Century? - EnergyBulletin / Post Carbon Institute
A detailed new energy report argues that the natural gas industry has propagated dangerously false claims about natural gas production supply, cost and environmental impact. ...

The most significant of the natural gas industry's claims - one that has been bought hook, line and sinker by everyone from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) and the Obama Administration, to leading environmental groups - is that the United States has a 100-year supply of cheap natural gas. The report shows this to be a pipe dream. Natural gas would require higher costs and unprecedented drilling efforts to meet even baseline supply projections. In fact, the U.S. faces a decline in domestic gas supplies in the very near future unless drilling rates quickly increase.

Also debunked is the perception that shale gas is better for the climate than coal. Building on other recent analysis, the report shows that shale gas is worse than coal over a 20-30 year timeframe, even after efforts to mitigate fugitive methane emissions. This should have major implications for those who have touted natural gas as a near-term bridge to a clean energy future.

Report (PDF, 13MB)

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 08:00:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:20:05 PM EST
BBC News - John Demjanjuk guilty of Nazi death camp murders

A German court has found John Demjanjuk guilty of helping to murder more than 28,000 Jews at a Nazi death camp in World War II.

He was sentenced to five years in prison, one year less than prosecutors had asked for, but will be released pending a possible appeal.

Prosecutors said the Ukraine-born Demjanjuk, 91, was a guard at Sobibor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943.

He denied serving as a guard, saying he was a prisoner of war and a victim too.

Lawyers for Demjanjuk have said they will appeal against the conviction.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:35:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Neanderthals died out earlier than previously thought, new evidence suggests
ScienceDaily (May 11, 2011) -- Direct dating of a fossil of a Neanderthal infant suggests that Neanderthals probably died out earlier than previously thought.

Researchers have dated a Neanderthal fossil discovered in a significant cave site in Russia in the northern Caucasus, and found it to be 10,000 years older than previous research had suggested. This new evidence throws into doubt the theory that Neanderthals and modern humans interacted for thousands of years. Instead, the researchers believe any co-existence between Neanderthals and modern humans is likely to have been much more restricted, perhaps a few hundred years. It could even mean that in some areas Neanderthals had become extinct before anatomically modern humans moved out of Africa.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:57:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They found that the fossil was 39,700 years old, which implies that Neanderthals did not survive at the cave site beyond this time.

Hm. I seem to recall another child Neanderthal from Gibraltar... from 2006:

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Neanderthals' 'last rock refuge'

A study in Nature magazine suggests the species may have lived in Gorham's Cave on Gibraltar up to 24,000 years ago.

...The earliest samples of charcoal date to 33,000 years ago, while the youngest date to 24,000 years ago - much more recent than anyone could have imagined.

But evidence for a presence 24,000 years ago is limited, so the researchers can only say with confidence that Neanderthals were in the cave until 28,000 years ago.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 04:50:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Map from that article:

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

by DoDo on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 04:52:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This paper criticises and updates the 2006 dating, but the new date for Gibraltar's Gorham Cave is still 30-32,000 years ago.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 04:55:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Billionaire's role in hiring decisions at Florida State University raises questions: A conservative billionaire who opposes government meddling in business has bought a rare commodity: the right to interfere in faculty hiring at a publicly funded university.  A foundation bankrolled by Libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch has pledged $1.5 million for positions in Florida State University's economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting "political economy and free enterprise."

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 06:59:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The 10 Hottest Women on the Texas Sex Offenders List - Houston News - Hair Balls

You probably would not be too surprised to learn that the vast majority of people in the Texas Department of Public Safety's sex offender list are male.

And most are not good-looking.

But there are females on there, too. Most of them are not good-looking, true, but who takes a good mugshot besides Tom DeLay?

We combed through 15 of the biggest counties in Texas and came up with the ten hottest women in the database. Warning: In some cases, we picked out the best of a series of mugshots. Alternative choices were starkly different. So click on each link before you send any marriage proposals.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 07:37:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 04:20:29 PM EST
Rush job, In Wales must be out there doing real-life things again.


by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 12th, 2011 at 05:02:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well done and thank you.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 06:57:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As kcurie says, A pleasure. But thanks.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri May 13th, 2011 at 09:00:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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