Saturday, 23 February 2008

Friday, 22nd February, 2008


VADUZ, Liechenstein
While the snow-covered Alps and green meadows that surround Vaduz create a bucolic ambiance, agriculture accounts for less than 2 percent of the economy.

Empty villages in Tuscany

In Tuscany's poorer areas, whole towns are becoming depopulated and thousands of acres of agricultural land falling into disuse. The trend is particularly severe in the hilly land surronding the Monte Amita.

On Friday, the State Department ordered all nonessential diplomats and the families of all American staff at the U.S Embasssy in Belgrade to leave Serbia after the attack on the embassy.

The International Atomic Energy said Friday that it had confronted Iran for the first time with evidence supplied by the United States and other countries that strongly suggested the country had experimented with technology to make a nuclear weapon, but the Iranians officials dismissed the documents obtained from an Iranian scientist as "baseless and fabricated."
U.S. allies in Europe have expressed puzzlement about the intelligence estimate, and some have suggested its timing was intended to reduce the chances that Bush could take military action against Iran's nuclear sites in coming months, a notion intelligence officials deny. In recent weeks, the director of U.S. national intelligence, Mike McConnell, told Congress he now has regrets about how the intelligence estimate was presented, saying it had failed to emphasize that Iran is moving ahead with the hardest part of any bomb project: producing the fuel. Designing a crude weapon is considered a far easier task.

After millions of dollars and years of research, South Korean scientists successfully engineered kimchi and nine other Korean recipes fit for space travel. When the Russian space authorities this month approved them for Ko's trip, the South Korean food companies that participated in the research took out full-page newspaper ads.

TINACO, Venezuela
“Judas is not just any donkey,” El Heraldo, a newspaper in Barranquilla, Colombia, reported last October, when public health officials barred him from entering the country because of sanitary rules governing the import of donkeys. “He was born and grew up in a beautiful and well-managed hacienda.
“Jon is a well-mannered and shy biochemist,” the newspaper continued in its description of Mr. Dunham, who did in fact earn his college degree, from Denison University, in biochemistry. “He was unsatisfied with living in the materialist realm, with the eternal anguish of getting the dollars for the gluttony of consumer society: laptop, new car, Chanel No. 5, cellphone, the latest release by Madonna or Shakira.”
Well, sort of.

When the Palestinians poured into Egypt, suddenly, officials in both Jordan and Egypt - the only neighbors with peace treaties with Israel - grew frightened that Israel planned to solve its Palestinian problem by forcing Egypt to absorb Gaza, and Jordan the West Bank.
"The crisis was an awakening for those who didn't know or were not familiar with plans or ideas to drop Gaza on Egypt's shoulder," said an Egyptian government official speaking on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the subject. Israeli officials have said that they would like Egypt to take over administration of Gaza.
"People no longer trust that a Palestinian state can be established, for one sole reason: the brutality of the Israeli state and the retreat of the Arab world," said Abdullah el-Ashaal, a former assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister and a professor of international law at Cairo University, who was articulating a widely held position in this region. "And this is why there is a return to the radicalization of the Arab attitude, meaning the words 'peace process' no longer hold any meaning."

"If you want to honestly help me, do as you are told and tolerate what I am going to say because I only call for doing good things and staying away from doing bad things," Sadr said in the statement read Friday, the Muslim holy day. "I cannot tolerate the sins of sinners and the wrongdoing of wrongdoers, for I fear the day of judgment."

The European Commission said Friday that Poland and Romania had been dodging its requests to clarify their possible role in the U.S. extraordinary rendition program.
A former Romanian defense minister, Ioan Mircea Pascu, has said that the calls by the European Union for further inquiries on rendition were unwelcome and that the EU was simply ignoring Bucharest's denials that it had permitted such prisons on Romanian territory.

The change, described by senior American and Pakistani officials who would not speak for attribution because of the classified nature of the program, allows American military commanders greater leeway to choose from what one official who took part in the debate called “a Chinese menu” of strike options.
Instead of having to confirm the identity of a suspected militant leader before attacking, this shift allowed American operators to strike convoys of vehicles that bear the characteristics of Qaeda or Taliban leaders on the run, for instance, so long as the risk of civilian casualties is judged to be low.
The new, looser rules of engagement may have their biggest impact at a secret
Central Intelligence Agency base in Pakistan whose existence was described by American and Pakistani officials who had previously kept it secret to avoid embarrassing President Pervez Musharraf politically. Mr. Musharraf, whose party lost in this week’s election by margins that surprised American officials, has been accused by political rivals of being too close to the United States.
The base in Pakistan is home to a handful of Predators — unmanned aircraft that are controlled from the United States. Two Hellfire missiles from one of those Predators are believed to have killed a senior Qaeda commander, Abu Laith al-Libi, in northwest Pakistan last month, though a senior Pakistani official said his government had still not confirmed that Mr. Libi was among the dead. A C.I.A. spokesman declined on Thursday to comment on any operations in Pakistan.

A film review Friday about this year's Oscar-nominated shorts misidentifed the animation technique used in Aleksandr Petrov's "My Love". It was hand-drawn using oil paint on glass, not pastels.

A British chef with a string of previous convictions for sex crimes was jailed for life Friday for murdering an aspiring model.
Mark Dixie, 37, who told the court he had sex with the corpse of Sally Anne Bowman, 18, but had not killed her, was told he would not be eligible for parole 34 years.

Matthew Bryza, U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said the incursion was "not the greatest news," Reuters reported from Brussels, while a Pentagon spokesman said the U.S. military had urged Turkey to bring the operation to a "swift conclusion," Reuters reported from Washington.
Even so, a flurry of recent visits by senior officers of both countries, including one this month by General Ergun Saygun, deputy chief of the Turkish General Staff, seem to indicate a relatively high level of mutual cooperation.
The operation is "more than a random hunt," said Sedet Laciner, head of the International Strategic Research Institution, which is based in Ankara.
It is "based on advanced technology, international cooperation and fine targeting," he said. "It is much more sophisticated and professional than operations in the past."

Spending by Clinton campaign worries supporters
Nearly $100,000 went for party platters and groceries before the Iowa caucuses, even though the partying mood evaporated quickly. Rooms at the Bellagio luxury hotel in Las Vegas consumed more than $25,000; the Four Seasons, another $5,000. And top consultants collected about $5 million in January, a month of crucial expenses and tough fund-raising.
The firm that includes Mark Penn, Clinton's chief strategist and pollster, and his team collected $3.8 million for fees and expenses in January; in total, including what the campaign still owes, the firm has billed more than $10 million for consulting, direct mail and other services, an amount other Democratic strategists who are not affiliated with either campaign called stunning.
Howard Wolfson, the communications director and a senior member of the advertising team, earned nearly $267,000 in January. His total, including the campaign's debt to him, tops $730,000.
The advertising firm owned by Mandy Grunwald, the longtime media strategist for both Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, the former president, has collected $2.3 million in fees and expenses for production costs, and is still owed another $240,000.
"Fees and payments are in line with industry standards," Wolfson said. "Spending priorities have been consistent with overall strategic goals."
"I do think that words are important and words matter," Clinton said, "but actions speak louder than words, and I offer that."

Capping a frenzied search by helicopter high in the Andean Mountains of western Venezuela, rescue teams said Friday that they had found the debris of a plane carrying 46 people that had crashed shortly after taking off from the provincial city of Mérida.

OPINION: The real power struggle
The clan wars have been heating up for months. Last October, in an article in the newspaper Kommersant, Viktor Cherkesov, the head of the Federal Drug Control Service, called for a cease-fire among the warring siloviki, saying there could be no winners. He said that the state corporatism credited with saving Russia during the Putin era would collapse if the infighting continued.
One Russian commentator, Alexander Golts, observed about the siloviki: "They stood together as long as they were robbing others of their assets. But after dividing the spoils, they realized that they can only expand their wealth by robbing one another."
Whether or not any or all of the allegations against secretive Kremlin officials are fabricated or true is outweighed by the fact that they are coming to light at all, an indication that no one is deemed untouchable.
Russia is far more volatile than anyone now wants to believe. We do ourselves no favor by generously pretending that Russia is going to hold some type of "flawed" vote, when the real election will be determined by the scorecard of the clan wars.
LETTERS: The rich and everyone else
David Brooks, in his column "A Democratic presidency" (Views, Feb. 13), correctly points out the hard choices that will have to be made. However Robert Reich, ("Totally Spent," Views, Feb. 14) makes a counter argument that makes conventional thinking dysfunctional. The fact that 1 percent of the people in the world have 40 percent of the wealth, and 1 percent in the United States have about one-fifth, renders arguments about what "we" can afford absurd.
Since the super rich do not pay their fair share of taxes, there is no need to agonize about cutting school programs or providing universal health care. Imagine a group of castaways sitting in a lifeboat. One is sitting on a closed box containing food, fresh water and a short wave radio, but says "It's mine," and will not open it. That is the situation in the U.S., with its lightly taxed super rich.
Dr. Richard von Fuchs, Sopron, Hungary
Big risks in a British tax plan for wealthy foreigners
Under British tax law, foreign-born residents can opt for non-dom status. They are not taxed on their worldwide wealth, just on the money they earn in Britain or bring into the country. In effect, that made London a refuge for the super-rich. They could live virtually tax-free in one of the most exciting and dynamic cities in the world. U.S., German, Swiss and French business people flocked to work in the City, as London's financial district is known. In total, 115,000 people had non-dom status, the equivalent of a medium-sized city.

My husband and my children are my universe, but my parents are my North Star. I have lived abroad for a decade, moving to a new country as if it were a new state. "Home" for me remains the house that my grandfather built, which my mother and father still live in. My brothers and I know that even in the middle of the night we can come home and let ourselves in.

The gown was almost wanton - fluid but curvy with a neckline that plummeted dangerously. "It makes me feel sexy and beautiful," said Natasha DaSilva, who slipped it on for a fitting last week.
Cut away at the rear to reveal a tattoo at the small of her back, the dress suggested a languorous night in the honeymoon suite.
Except that DaSilva, who will be married on Long Island in September, plans to wear it at the altar.
"Why not?" she asked. "I want to look back in 20 years and feel like I looked hot on my wedding day."

Volkswagen's long-running corruption scandal has blackened its name and tainted some of Germany's most influential executives. On Friday, a court handed down the first jail time in the affair, sentencing VW's former top labor leader to nearly three years in prison.
The court found the chief employee representative, Klaus Volkert, guilty of inciting fraud against VW, Europe's largest carmaker, after he was paid more than €2.5 million, or nearly $4 million at current exchange rates, in what the court said were improper bonuses.
Three British bankers, known as the NatWest Three, were each sentenced Friday to 37 months in jail for their role in a multimillion-dollar fraud involving the failed energy trader Enron.
"Andy Fastow and the culture of greed at Enron corrupted everybody and everything it came in contact with," said Dick DeGuerin, Darby's lawyer, adding that the three Britons "are as much victims as anybody else."

Newest Restaurants Still Reflect Flush Times
SOMEBODY forgot to clue Daniel Boulud in to all of this recession talk. John Fraser and Ed Brown didn’t get the memo, either.
All three chefs recently opened, or are about to open, ambitious restaurants in Manhattan, and that’s only the half of it. They located these restaurants on the Upper West Side, which is by reputation as hospitable to fine dining as Florida was to Rudy Giuliani.
With about 110 seats, Eighty One, which will serve contemporary American food, is nearly as large as Ouest and larger than Telepan, two prominent Upper West Side peers. It faces nearby competition from Mr. Fraser’s restaurant, Dovetail, which opened with about 80 seats in December.
But Mr. Brown expressed optimism about Eighty One, into which more than $3 million has been poured.
“It’s not my feeling that we’re in a recession,” he said. “The rest of the country? Maybe. But we’re in our own country of New York.”
And in New York, he added, people and money — and people with money — are different. “Those who have it seem to always have it, and they’re going to go out to eat and maybe even spend more on dining,” he said.


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