Wednesday, 30 January 2008

A Place in the Auvergne, Tuesday, 29th January, 2008


Melitus Mugabe Were, a freshman lawmaker, could have been one of the keys to unlocking the crisis in Kenya, but he never got the chance.
On Tuesday morning, as he pulled up to the gate of his home, Were was dragged out of his car and shot and killed. "Whoever did this has killed the dreams of many," said Elizabeth Mwangi, a friend.

Mohammed, 25, said in an interview Monday that he had no idea that it was possible to sell kidneys. He had been picking up odd jobs in Delhi for the past two years and sending money to his family in Gujarat. Two weeks ago, he said, he was approached by a bearded man as he waited at the early-morning labor market by the Old Delhi train station. The man offered him an unusually generous deal: one and a half months' work painting, for 150 rupees a day, with free food and lodging.
He was driven four or five hours away, to a secluded bungalow, surrounded by trees, where he was placed in a room with four other young men, under the watch of two armed guards.

"When I asked why I had been locked inside, the guards slapped me and said they would shoot me if I asked any more questions," Mohammed said, lying in his hospital bed, wrapped in an orange blanket, clenching his teeth and shutting his eyes in pain. He said the men were given food to cook for themselves and periodically nurses would come to take blood samples from them.
One by one they were taken away for surgery.
"They told us not to speak to each other or we would pay with our lives," he said. "I was the last one to be taken."
Two beds away in the drafty isolation ward at the Gurgaon Civic hospital, Shakeel Ahmed, 28, a laborer from Uttar Pradesh, said he, too, had been promised well-paid white-washing work. After several days locked up with Mohammed, he said, a blood sample was taken and a few hours later, against his will, he received an injection that caused him to lose consciousness.
"I had no idea about kidney transplants, but when they made me lie down on the stretcher, I was terrified," he said. "I knew that these people meant to do evil to me. When I woke up a doctor said my kidney had been removed. He said I would be shot if I ever told anyone what happened."
The men said there were no post-operative medical checks and no discussion of money or other compensation.

"It's a very American invention," John Goldkamp, a professor of criminal justice at Temple University, said of the commercial bail bond system. "It's really the only place in the criminal justice system where a liberty decision is governed by a profit-making businessman who will or will not take your business."...
In England, Canada and other countries, agreeing to pay a defendant's bond in exchange for money is a crime akin to witness tampering or bribing a juror - a form of obstruction of justice.

"We are seeing more and more victims turn into perpetrators," said Evangelia Vamvakaki, head of the Greek police's sex-trafficking unit. "It's a recent, and escalating, phenomenon."...
"The traffickers say, 'O.K., go home but come back with a new girl,' " said Vera Gracheva, an expert on former Soviet states at the countertrafficking office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, based in Vienna. "They do it - they are scared of what will happen if they don't."
Well-dressed and with full wallets, they return to their hometowns to lure girls - usually poor and desperate - with promises of easy cash.
"There are many cases they even approach relatives," said Mariana Yevsyukova of La Strada, a support group for trafficking victims in Ukraine.

But the new report, released Monday by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent federal agency, examined nearly 200 Parsons construction projects contained in 11 major "job orders" paid for in a huge rebuilding contract. There were also three other nonconstruction orders. The total cost of the work to the United States was $365 million.
The new report finds that 8 of the 11 rebuilding orders were terminated by the United States before they were completed, for reasons including weak contract oversight, unrealistic schedules, a failure to report problems in a timely fashion and poor supervision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which managed the contracts.
"There was a confluence of shortfalls here," said Stuart Bowen Jr., who leads the inspector general's office. "It was obviously an unworkable plan."

The leader of the Conservatives, David Cameron, has expelled from the party a member of Parliament who gave his son almost £50,000 in public money.
The lawmaker, Derek Conway, had said his son had been acting as a researcher while at college and that the money had been paid in salary to him.
But the House of Commons standards committe found the son had done little or no work for him, and Conway now faces a possible police investigation.

Chinese bloggers also have taken up Hu's cause. One blogger, Guo Weidong, wrote a poem that began:
Call on the Beijing government!
Immediately release Hu Jia!
The Chines people, shackled in chains, welcome the Olympics!

In a blow to universal health care coverage in California and possibly its prospects nationwide, a state Senate committee has rejected a sweeping plan by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that would have offered insurance to millions of uninsured residents.
The Senate Health Committee defeated the plan Monday as Democrats and Republicans alikes said they found it too nebulous and potentially too costly for a state facing a $14.5 million defecit.
The loss in California, the nation's most populous state and often its most influential, bodes poorly for universal health coverage, an issue that just a year ago appeared to have found its moment.

Culture is a fabric composed of gifts from every corner of the world. One way of discovering the world is by digging deeply into its traditions. In music, for instance, at the core of any cellist's repertoire are the Cello Suites by Bach. At the heart of each suite is a dance movement called the sarabande. The dance originated with music of the North African Berbers, where it was a slow, sensual dance. It next appeared in Spain, where it was banned because it was considered lewd and lascivious. Spaniards brought it to the Americas, but it also traveled on to France, where it became a courtly dance. In the 1720s, Bach incorporated the sarabande as a movement in his Cello Suites.
Today, I play Bach, a Paris-born American musician of Chinese parentage. So who really owns the sarabande? Each culture has adopted the music, investing it with specific meaning, but it belongs to us all.


DAVOS, Switzerland

Although the erosion of U.S. power, both hard and soft, under the administration of George W. Bush has been common currency in recent years, it was still a shock to me to hear it said, and generally accepted, that America was no longer known for putting a man on the moon, but for Iraq and Hurricane Katrina, the "twin pillars of incompetence" - a country over-stretched militarily that had squandered its legitimacy to lead. The role of America "as the sun around which other planets rotated" was changing. It was not a multipolar world either, but a nonpolar world.

Yo Majesty broke up for a few years, during which Baynham renounced her homosexuality, found God, married a male Christian missionary, got divorced then reclaimed her lesbian identity. Upon reuniting, the rappers began building a following through MySpace. That led to a recording contract with Domino Records, which will release their debut album this year.

Jérôme Kerviel's unauthorized trades cost Société Générale €4.9 billion, but they also helped to turn the French bank's $3 billion of subprime losses into something of a sideshow.
At a time when investors in European banks are focusing on little other than the lenders' exposure to collateralized debt obligations and other securities linked to the struggling U.S. subprime market, a rogue trader can come as a welcome relief...
Société Générale last week revealed the second-largest write-down as a percentage of total subprime exposure at a European bank, after UBS, according to Lehman Brothers research. The lender said it would write off €1.1 billion, or $1.6 billion, related to the housing market and €550 million related to U.S. bond-insurance companies.
Elisabeth Meyer and Christian Charrière-Bournazel, Kerviel's lawyers, have accused Société Générale of seeking to "raise a smokescreen that would distract the public's attention from far more substantial losses that it had made in recent months, notably in the unbelievable subprime affair."

"The foreign tourists don't go to the theater as much," she [Faith Hope Consolo, a chairwoman of the retail leasing and sles division of the reasl estate company Prudential Douglas Elliman] said. "Their No. 1 pastime is shopping."

Swiss watch exports increased 16 percent last year, the fastest pace in 18 years, as a surging Chinese stock market fueled consumption in Hong Kong.
Exports rose to a record $14,6 billion.


Marchet, the union representative, described the most recent suicide, which occurred last June, as having involved a trader in his thirties who worked in the equities and derivatives department.
"This trader was interrogated by two of his supervisors about some unauthorized trades that he made, involving around €9 million," Marchet said. "Nobody told him that he was fired, but after the meeting he went straight to his desk and emptied out his affairs and walked out of the towers," he said, referring to the two, 100-meter, or 330- foot, buildings that comprise the bank's offices in La Défense.
The trader, a father of two young children, then jumped from a nearby footbridge to his death.
The suicide was still being investigated internally by the bank's workplace safety committee, Marchet said. While a full explanation for the man's actions was not known, he said it seemed clear that workplace stress had played a role.
The other two suicides took place in 2005 and 2006, according to two other union officials.
In 2006, a man working in back office operations killed himself on the suburban train connecting La Défense with the city center.
A year earlier, an older man employed in risk control had committed suicide inside the bank, the officials said.

The Louis Vuitton ad, meanwhile, aims to promote the brand itself, rather than a specific product. A Vuitton bag makes only a fleeting appearance in the ad, which asks, "Where will life take you?"
"It is supposed to touch our clientele and viewers in ways that perhaps other media will not touch," said Pietro Beccari, Vuitton's head of marketing. "This is a way to say Louis Vuitton is different. It is something éphémère, but also something that stays."

A housing market bubble of historic proportions is unwinding in the United States, raising the risk that the current period of poor economic growth there could be measured in years not quarters.
While the first problems emerged in subprime lending, it has become clear that housing is falling across geographies, price categories and borrower types.
And with momentum now behind a fall, the implication is that the process will take a long time and destroy trillions of dollars of capital.
"It is such a big crisis that it is of historic importance," the Yale University economist Robert Shiller said last week in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "It may represent a major turning point and we will see years of falling home prices and associated economic weakness."

U.S. investigators are seeking information from the Wall Street investment banks Goldman Sachs Group and Morgan Stanley regarding their activities related to subprime mortgages...
Goldman and Morgan Stanley are among 21 banks sued on Jan. 10 by the City of Cleveland. The city alleges that fee-hungry banks created a forclosure crisis by offering mortgages that borrowers could not afford but which could be packaged into securities that investors could buy.

Rural France
Living in France
Blogs about France

No comments: