Monday, 28 January 2008

A Place in the Auvergne, Sunday, 27th January, 2008


Suharto, Indonesia's ruler for 32 years, dies at 86
His rule had not been without accomplishment; he led Indonesia to stability and nutured economic growth. But these successes were ultimately overshadowed by pervasive and large-scale corruption, repressive militarized rule and convulsion of mass bloodletting that took at least 500,000 lives when Suharto took power in the late 1960s...
In his last days, a parade of the country's power elite visited the hospital to pay their respects.

"I miss Yugoslavia," said Toha, a 33-year old Slovene entrepeneur..
"We didn't have anything," he said. "Neighbours baked each other cakes; we had a leader we trusted. I remember my mother crying when Tito died. I was only 5, but I knew the world was about to change."


In one incident, witnesses said at least 7 people and possibly as many as 14 had been burned to death after they were trapped inside their house.

"The situation is very bad," said Grace Kakai, a police commander. "People are fighting each other and trying to drive them out of the area. We have to evacuate people."

As an indication of the altered Israeli attitude, the state told the Supreme Court, which was meeting to hear a petition against Israeli efforts to cut electricity and fuel to Gaza, that industrial diesel fuel needed to run Gaza's main power station would now be supplied regularly, although in amounts that do not meet Gaza's needs for uninterrupted electricity...
Sari Bashi, Director of of an Israeli advocacy group, Gisha, part of the cour case, said that "this is part of a stop-start game that continually pushes Gazan residents to the brink, pushing them over, then pulling them back temporarily." She said that "for the last several months, Israel has been slowly reducing Gaza residents to desperation."

MOVIES: Britain, Jan 18-20
1. Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (20th Century Fox)

During the daylong hearing, Drain [a federal bankruptcy judge] who spent roughly an hour on the terms of the payouts and the compensation consultant who devised them, said he would approve Delphi's bankcruptcy exit plan only if the $87 million in incentive pay scheduled for management was reduced, to $16.5 million. Delphi agreed to the cuts...
Bubnovich said the $87 million reward was justified if managers were able to bring Delphi out of bankcruptcy. But in court Drain undressed Bubnovich and his work. He noted the consultant could provide no explanation for why he tied $87 million to the sole criterion of Delphi's emergence from bankcruptcy protection.
"The question raised by the unions, and frankly by me, is whether that analytical process bears any relation to reality," he said in the hearing, according to the transcript.

Global demand for meat has multiplied in recent years, encouraged by growing affluence and nourished by the proliferation of huge, confined animal feeding operations. These assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains, a dependency that has led to the destruction of vast swaths of the world's tropical rain forests.Last week, the president of Brazil announced emergency measures to halt the burning and cutting of the rain forests for crop and grazing land. In the last five months alone, the government says, 1,250 square miles, or 320,000 hectares, were lost.
The world's total meat supply was 71 million tons in 1961. In 2007, it was estimated to be 284 million tons. Per capita consumption has more than doubled over that period. (In the developing world, it rose twice as fast, doubling in the past 20 years.) World meat consumption is expected to double again by 2050, a projection that one expert, Henning Steinfeld of the United Nations, said was resulting in a "relentless growth in livestock production."...
Grain, meat and even energy are roped together in a way that could have dire results. More meat means an increase in demand for feed, especially corn and soy, an increase some experts say will contribute to higher prices.This will be inconvenient for residents of wealthier nations, but it could have tragic consequences for those of poorer ones, especially if higher prices for feed divert production away from food crops. The demand for ethanol is already pushing up prices and explains, in part, the 40 percent rise last year in the food price index calculated by the Food and Agricultural Organization.Though some 800 million people now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This is the case in spite of the inherent inefficiencies: About two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor, an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.The environmental impact of growing so much grain for animal feed is profound. Agriculture in the United States - much of which now serves the demand for meat - contributes to nearly three-quarters of all water-quality problems in U.S. rivers and streams, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

VANTAGE POINT (George Vescey): NFL gets a free pass on doping
While baseball fans fret over the continuing drug investigations, football lumbers toward the Super Bowl without incurring much angst over its assorted scandals.
Why is that?...
I don't suppose there is one football coach in America - from junior high school up - who can really afford to ask how his players grew so big so young. Don't ask, don't tell.

"France is back, yes, France is back," said Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in an interview. "We are pursuing a policy that represents something new - activisim, realism, involvement, even confidence."

Michel Hirstel, 62, a retiree who lives nearby and who, like many French people, has been avidly following the story, described the scene as "very exceptional.""What's so surprising about this to me is that they brought this young man so quickly to the financial police headquarters," Hirstel said."What is a little bit revolting to me is that people are attacking this young man. But this bank has been playing with fire for a long time," Hirstel said, referring to Societe Generale's leadership in financial derivatives products.

SAN JOSE, California
Sony uses E Ink in its e-book Reader, which it introduced in 2006, but the Kindle has a feature that neither Sony nor many e-reader predecessors ever possessed: Books and other content can be loaded wirelessly. from just about anywhere in the United States, using the high-speed EVDO network from Sprint.
This may turn out to be a memorable day in the history of convenience - our age's equivalent of that magical moment that FedEx introduced next day delivery and people asked, "How was life possible before this?"

Under the stewardship of Dow Kim and Thomas Maheras, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup built positions in subprime-related securities that led to $34 billion in write-downs last year. The debacle cost chief executives their jobs and brought two of the world's premier financial institutions to their knees.In any other industry, Kim and Maheras would be pariahs. But in the looking-glass world of Wall Street, they — and others like them — are hot properties. The two executives are well on their way to reviving their careers, even as global markets shudder at the prospect that Merrill and Citigroup may report further subprime losses in the coming months.Maheras, who left his job as co-president of Citigroup's investment bank this fall after being demoted, has had serious discussions with several investment banks, including Bear Stearns, about taking on a top management position, people who have been briefed on the situation said. And he has also been approached by investment firms willing to back him to the tune of $1 billion or more if he decides to start his own hedge fund, these people said.Kim, who until last spring was a co-president at Merrill Lynch with oversight of the firm's trading and market operations, has been crisscrossing the globe in recent months raising money for his new hedge fund, Diamond Lake Capital.The ease with which Maheras and Kim have put themselves back in play is a reminder that for many top Wall Street executives, humiliation and defeat need not result in a professional exile.
And they aren't the only ones. Zoe Cruz, the Morgan Stanley co-president who was forced to leave her job after $10.8 billion in subprime losses, has been approached by investment banks, hedge funds and private equity funds about a senior management role, people briefed on those discussions say....
Rightly or wrongly, there is not likely to be such a generosity of spirit for Jean Larkin, who until recently was a sales executive in Citi's prime brokerage division. Larkin was a 17-year veteran of the firm and was coming off a profitable year for the unit, during which it increased its market share. Last week, just days before getting news of his bonus, he was laid off. Larkin, who is 43 and lives in New York, would not comment on his departure, but people who have spoken to him say he had no idea that his job was at risk. People who know him say he does not hold out high hopes of finding another job anytime soon.

It is hard to know much about the piece of sushi on your palate or the tuna steak in the market. The level of mercury "depends on the species, the size, the age, and perhaps the fishery," said John Kameko at the University of Hawaii. "Tuna supply is global in nature."

A group of Islamic extremists in Frankfurt were planning an attack in Germany, according to a would-be suicide bomber captured by police in Spain, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported Sunday.

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