Wednesday, 30 January 2008

A Place in the Auvergne, Wednesday, 30th January, 2008


The economy may be slowing down, but Washington's ideas industry is booming.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research institution that was effectively broke seven years ago, just bought a $33 million vacant lot as the site for a new home. The Council on Foreign Relations is expanding its Washington office to a $60 million building. The United States Institute of Peace is erecting a $180 million headquarters of steel and white translucent glass.
Not least, the rapidly growing Brookings Institution - its operating budget is up nearly 50 percent in the past two years alone - just paid $18.5 million for a satellite building across the street from its headquarters...

"To a Wall Streeter, intellectuals are pretty cheap," said Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of "God and Gold: Britain, America and the Making of the Modern World." "There are wedding rings that cost more than I do."
A $20 million increase in the Brookings operating budget in the past two years, bringing it to $60.7 million in 2007, came largely from donations from a few individuals.

For years this segregation was promoted as the best formula for social harmony in a country that advertises itself as "Truly Asia," a place where the palette of skin colors is as diverse as the mosques, churches and Hindu and Buddhist temples that dot the landscape.
But in recent months ethnic relations here have deteriorated to a level that many find alarming. After years of muffled tensions over religious conversions, government funding for minority schools and a longstanding system of special privileges for Malays, the dominant group, ethnic anger has burst to the forefront of Malaysian politics.

In a speech Wednesday to officials of the FSB, the successor agency to the KGB, Putin declared that agents had to be on guard for foreign interference in Russia's affairs, especially during the presidential campaign.

Food industry groups, which won their battle against imposition of a mandatory traffic light system, still criticized the proposals as unworkable.
EuroCommerce, which represents the retail, wholesale and international trade sectors in Europe, attacked the requirement for a minimum type size of 3 millimeters for labels.
"Three millimeters is by far larger than the size used by newspapers. Are they not readable?" Xavier Durieu, secretary general of EuroCommerce, said in a statement. "This new requirement will also lead to an increase of the size of the packages, which goes against all the efforts made by the various actors and contradicts the commission initiatives to reduce packaging waste."

As unusually heavy snowfall and cold weather continued over much of the country Wednesday, the government stepped up emergency efforts to handle a crisis that threatened to become as much a public relations disaster as a logistical one.
Prime Minister Wen Jiabao flew to the southern city of Guangzhou, where more than 600,000 travelers had been stranded by the suspension of normal train services.

So far more than 800 people have been killed and at least 300,000 displaced , with Kenya seeming to tear itself apart along ethnic lines.

An Air-Canada flight from Toronto to London make an emergency landing in Ireland after co-pilot became ill in the cockpit, an airline spokesman said.
"The aircraft landed without incident," a spokesman said. He could not confirm a report that the co-pilot had suffered a nervous breakdown.

Pearson, the publishing company based in London, on Wednesday, ended an eight-year effort to establish itself as a force in German-language business journalism, agreeing to sell its 5o percent stake in The Financial Times Deutschland newspaper to its partner in the venture, Gruner+Jahr.

One of the Big Media's most controversial executives is back after a period of quasi-forced retirement.
Stephen Chao was fired from a top position at News Corp, after, in seperate incidents, he hired a male stripper to disrobe at a company meeting and nearly drowned Rupert Murdoch's dog at a party.
Now he is forming a Web video coompany that he hopes to build into an educational alternative to YouTube.
The site,, aggregates how-to videos from the mundane, (like "how to tie a tie" and "how to market your lawn-care business") to the strange ("how to do Criss Angel's vanishing toothpick trick") and the off-colour ("how to train our cat to use the toilet") and beyond.

Shine [the managing director of Diamond Trading, de Beers' marketing division] said global supplies of diamonds would remain stable becauase of a lack of major new discoveries.
She said big polished diamonds, valued for their rarity by growing numbers of the exceptionally wealthy, would continue to be bid up to higher prices.
"Thee very rare diamonds, whether they are blues or pinks or big white stones, are going to continue to appreciate," Shine said. "Those that are very rare are like pieces of art. The number of billionaires is growing."
Shine said the very wealthy, whether American, Chinese or Russian, wanted exceptional stones.
"Better quality, bigger sizes, all colors - either whites or yellows or blues."
Diamond trading...sold $16.15 billion worth of rough diamonds in 2006...

"We all remember our intial encouters with Starbucks: the exoticism of new language, space, sounds, and smells, Vuelata [chief executive of Fahrenheit 212, an innovation consultancy in New York] said.
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