Tuesday, 22 January 2008

A Place in the Auvergne, Monday, 21st January, 2008


EU Agriculture Ministers agreed to reduce the time that European farmers waste with painstaking inspections that aim to ensure they meet a series of environmental laws to qualify for agricultural subsidies.

Governments across Asia are scrambling for solutions as it dawns on them that high food prices might not fall soon.
With food accounting for a third of China's consumer price basket and even more in other countries, the situation is a time bomb for the region, where fuel price increases can touch off violent protests.
"If the inflation problem gets out of hand, it could have devastating implications for not only economic but also political stability," said Yiping Huang, an economist with Citigroup in Hong Kong.
In Pakistan, where the government has blamed smugglers and hoarders for a shortage of flour, paramilitary troops have begun escorting wheat trucks to deter thieves.
Malaysia briefly rationed cooking oil this month before the government increased supplies of subsidized oil. In China, where inflation is at an 11-year high, the government has taxed grain exports to increase local supplies and resorted to price controls.India has been considering cutting import duties on edible oil, while in Indonesia the government has subsidized cooking oil refiners and suspended a 10 percent duty on imported soybeans.
The common thread in every country is unease over a sustained rally in global commodity prices that has carried wheat, palm oil and soybeans to new highs.

Much as he has done throughout that career, Breslin rises early each day, at 6 a.m., first to swim at the Reebok gym near his apartment, then to read the city's daily papers, then finally to write. It is a modus vivendi much helped by the fact that, in the early 1980s, he gave up his Olympic bouts of drinking, following, he claims, an epic bender with Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan resulting in a hangover of such destructive force that he was still crippled after three days.

BOOKS (Against the Machine)
He asks, in brief, why are we living so gulibly through what would have been the plot of a science fiction movie 15 yeas ago. Why does the freedom promised by the Internet feel so regimented and constricting? Why do the forms of democracy have their totalitarian side? What happens to popular culture when its sole emphasis is on popularity? How have we gone "from 'I love that thing he does!' to 'Look at all the page views!' in just a few years"? Siegel links all these questions to a fundamental assumption about the Internet, one that has been widely posited by other analysts: that it is a liberating entity, one that generates endless opportunities for creative endeavour.
He is quick to insist that most of these opportunities boil down to business matters, and that "the Internet's vision of 'consumers' as 'producers' has turned inner life into an advance type of commodity.

These days, it is easy to form the impression that a war is going on in Mexico. Thousands of elite troops in battle gear stream toward border towns and snake through the streets in jeeps with 50-caliber machine guns mounted on top, while fighter jets from the Mexican Navy fly reconnaissance missions overhead.
Gun battles between federal forces and mobsters carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers have taken place over the past two weeks in border towns like Rio Bravo and Tijuana, with deadly results.
Yet what is happening is less a war than a sustained federal intervention in states where corrupt municipal police officers and drug-cartel members have worked together in relative peace for decades, officials say. The federal forces are not only hunting cartel leaders - they are also going after their crews of gunslingers, like the Zetas, who terrorize the towns they control.

City officials on Monday launched a new waterbus line here with one particular feature: No day-tripper tourists allowed.
The new line - reserved for holders of the Carta Venezia pass - was introduced to lessen the impact of the estimated 20 million people who visit Venice each year on the city's beleaguered residents, numbering about 60,000 in the historic center at the end of last year.
"It's an extra service for residents who are forced bear the brunt of mass tourism," said Mayor Massimo Cacciari.

A suicide bomber blew himself up inside a funeral tent in a predominantly Sunni village, killing at least 14 people and wounding 17.

DAKAR, Senegal
The Congolese government reached an agreement Monday with a renegade general to end an insurgency that has forced more than 450,000 people from their homes in the volatile east of the country in the past year and threatened to unravel the country's new democratically elected government, according to Congolese officials and western diplomats involved in the negotiations...
While diplomats, analysts and human rights advocates hailed the agreement as a historic step in a region torn by violence, many of the most difficult questions remain unresolved, like the status of Nkunda, the precise arrangements for ensuring the cease-fire and integrating the different forces into the national army and the potentially explosive return of thousands of Congolese Tutsi living as refugees in Rwanda.
Many have been there for years, and others, who will surely not want to leave, have resettled their lands in Congo.

Around 300,000 Afghan children cannot attend school because of violence in the country's other provinces, President Hamid Karzai told Parliament on its opening day Monday.
The number of children unable to go to school is up by 50% from a year ago...

The daily Al-Watan, which is deemed close to the Saudi government, reported Monday that the Interior Ministry had issued a circular to hotels asking them to accept lone women - as long as their information is sent to a local police station.

"China is on a very dangerous march from bicycles to cars without any notion of what they are doing to this planet in terms of air [Idan Offer] said And in Mumbai , he said, "you can't even see the sky."

Iran has the second-largest natural gas reservoir in the world, but its supply network has been overwhelmed by high demand. Both reformist and conservatives are increasingly asking the president why Iranians are dying of the cold while sitting on the huge gas fields.
As much as 56 centimeters of snow fell in areas of norther and central in Iran in early January, the heaviest snowfall in more than a decade. Local media have reported 64 cold-related deaths this winter and say gas cuts are to blame.

World stocks nose-dived and demand for safe bond and currencies soared Monday as fears gripped investors that a deteriorating U.S. economy could drag others down with it.
The losses on the blue-chip stock indexes of Germany, Britain and France alone amounted to more than $350 billion, or roughly the size of the combined economies of New Zealand, Hungary and Singapore.

Sidney Toledano, president and chief executive of Christian Dior Couture, said that, overall, couture figures were up 35 percent in 2007 from the previous year, with new money from across the globe discovering high fashion. The markets may have plunged about 7 percent while all this gorgeous glamour was walking the runway, but high fashion, it seems, is coloring over the gloom and doom and turning a financial crisis into a crescendo of opulence.

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