Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Monday, 18th February, 2008


France said Monday that 20 European nations have rejected the latest World Trade Organization proposals for a global trade deal, saying they would be too damaging to European farming.
"We prefer there is no agreement rather than a bad agreement," French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier said, after 20 of the EU's 27 farm ministers met in Brussels to discuss the WTO's compromise proposals put forward 10 days ago.

But Barnier insisted that farming had been unfairly targeted within the global package.
"It is totally unbalanced between concessions that would be made and other issues like services, industry or geographical indications, where we see no progress," he said.


The top supermarket chains in the European Union are potentially "abusing" their market clout to drive down prices to suppliers and should be investigated, the European Parliament said on Monday.

A small number of the largest supermarket chains including Tesco of Britain and Carrefour of France, were becoming "gatekeepers", controllling the access of farmers and other suppliers to consumers, the declaration said.

It said evidence from accross the 27 EU member countries suggested that big supermarkets were abusing their buying power to force down prices paid to suppliers to "unsustainable" levels and impose unfair conditions on them."

The Indian economic boom has not reached Bihar, a state of 90 million people almost completely disconnected from the global economy.It is the poorest state in India and one of its slowest-growing, with "exceptionally low" levels of private investment, according to the World Bank. There is no sign of any foreign investment.

Rajesh Singh received a master's degree in business administration at Bombay University before returning to Bihar to set up a tiny factory on his family's farmland to manufacture jams, juices, sauces, pickles and canned fruits."I realized things in Bihar were not very good, so I decided to start an agri-venture," he said. "It was a mix of good potential and good intentions."

It took Singh five years to get a bank loan of just 500,000 rupees, or $13,000. To get it, he needed to offer three million rupees as security and have 250,000 parked in fixed-term deposits.Today, his loan has been extended to four million rupees - still, in his terms, "a meager amount," equivalent to just 10 days of raw material and labor costs."I had a lot of orders from the U.K., from Sainsbury's for litchis but I couldn't complete them because bankers are not ready to back us," he said. "I am educated and I have assets. If I can't get finance, how can ordinary Biharis get finance?"


The food component of the U.S. consumer price index rose 4.9 percent in 2007, according to U.S. Labor Department data. That factor was part of the largest overall CPI increase since 1990.
On store shelves, Sara Lee has announced three separate price increases for bread over the past year; Hershey announced a 13 percent increase in the price of about a third of its American candy products at the end of January; and General Mills reduced the size of its cereal boxes last year, effectively raising the price per ounce.

In one example of the reasons for higher prices, wheat prices have increased 127 percent in the past year, according to the futures price at the Chicago Board of Trade. Cocoa has been at a 24-year high and is up 45 percent on the ICE, the global commodities exchange.

EU farm ministers fell short of a consensus Monday on allowing imports of five genetically modified products, setting the stage for default approval by the European Commission, Reuters reported.
The products were four insect-resistant types of corn, including three hybrids developed by the U.S. biotechnology company Monsanto. The other corn, GA21, is marketed by the Swiss agrochemicals company Syngenta.
The other biotech product was a potato, known as Amflora, from the German chemicals group BASF. It is engineered to produce high amounts of starch for use in industrial processing, but its by-products can also be used in animal feed.
None of the five are intended for growing in the EU but for use in food and animal feed. EU officials said there were not enough votes to either approve or reject any of the proposals. Therefore, the applications return to the European Commission, most probably for a default approval. Since 2004, the commission has authorized a string of organisms - nearly all corn types.

Politicus: Sarkozy will prevail
It is a view that casts France as a determinedly rigid society, confined by twin conservatisms of the left and right, and in the process of rejecting a leader who offends the system's narrow formats for permissible politics and personal behavior.
At its darkest, that notion considers that this president confronts deep hatreds dredged up from the French psyche of the kind that afflicted groundbreaking politicians like Leon Blum and even, at times, Charles de Gaulle.

But the evidence for certain failure looks more like dread than a fatal conclusion.

"When cameras are taken along on massive police operations during an election period, I think it's a way of influencing opinion, with the goal of spreading fear," said Ségolène Royal, a prominent member of the Socialist Party who lost the May 2007 presidential election to Sarkozy.

I want my children and students to learn about a past with causes and effects. I do not want to send them forth armed only with emotion and confusion. I want them equipped with a secure and serene identity that permits them to recognize cruelty, injustice and falsehood and gives them the strength and patience to study, tolerate and defend the identities of others. They should know the difference between what has happened to them and what has happened to others.
Mark Meigs, Professor of History, University of Paris-Diderot

Adamantly secular Turks "hate religious people," said Atilla Yayla, a Turkish political philosophy professor teaching in England. "They don't encounter them as human beings. They want them to evaporate, to disappear as fast as possible."
That attitude surfaced with the repeal of the ban by Parliament this month.
"In the past, when a person with a scarf walked by me, I didn't feel anything toward them," said a 24-year-old lawyer in a Starbucks in a fashionable Istanbul neighborhood the day after the repeal. "Now I just want to hit them."

"We're seeing a change of spirit, said Jan Pieter Krahen, director for Financial Studies at the University of Frankfurt. "Things that were once tolerable are no longer acceptable."

"The time for a political settlement was yesterday," Rice said at a news conference.
But Odinga gave a gloomy prognosis, saying that the negotiations would most likely fail and that Kenya would soon be ungovernable.
"The moment it is announced that the talks collapsed, I am sure there will be an eruption countrywide," he said. "It will be chaos."
The government has dismissed these threats and accused opposition leaders, including Odinga, of inciting their supporters to kill members of Kibaki's ethnic group.

ARUSHA, Tanzania
"The disease keeps sick workers home, school yards quiet, communities in mourning," Bush said at an open-air pavilion at Meru District Hospital. "The suffering caused by malaria is needless, and every death caused by malaria is unacceptable."
"It is unacceptable to people here in Africa, who see their families devastated and economies crippled. It is unacceptable to people in the United States, who believe every human life has value, and that the power to save lives comes with the moral obligation to use it."
In Tanzania alone, malaria kills about 100,000 people a year. Bush said the tremendous loss would not be tolerated.
Bush toured a huge bed net factory in Tanzania, visiting with workers on the green warehouse floor, where machines turn insecticide-soaked pellets into yarn and weave them into nets that are inspected and folded.
Bales of completed nets with tags saying "Usaid, From the American People, President's Malaria Initiative" were prominently displayed.

"Mitrovica has for a long time been the critical area in the south Balkans where things are going to come to a head," said Misha Glenny, an expert on the Balkans. "Whatever the outcome of Kosovo's independence, everyone knows we are heading for de facto partition. But no one is willing to admit it."
Nevertheless, sepratist movements have taken heart from the declaration in Kosovo. The Basque government welcomed the developments in Pristina as a "new example of the right of self-determintation" and criticized Spain for not granting formal recognition.
In Beijing, the government, which has threatened military action if Taiwan declared independence, voiced "grave concern" about the Kosovo action.
"China is deeply worried about its severe and negative impact on peace and stability of the Balkan region and the goal of establishing a multi-ethnic society in Kosovo," said Liu Jianchao, the Foreign Ministry spokesman.
China's hostility to independence for Kosovo aligns it with Russia, a close ally of Serbia's that has struggled with its own separatist movements over the years, most notably in Chechnya.
COMMENTARY: What about all the other Kosovos?HONG KONG
Many in the rest of the world do not even credit the West with good intentions, noting that some influential voices in Western capitals would be happy to see Iraq divided into three states, Shiite, Sunni and Kurd.Even if they appreciate that the European Union and the United States are trying to solve problems rather than introduce new divide-and-rule stratagems, they worry.Take Sri Lanka. Kosovo logic suggests that the Tamils in the north deserve a separate state, an eventuality that would have huge implications for an India which can only exist if its major constituent parts - be they Tamil, Sikh or Bengali - accept an overriding identity and the benefits of diversity and size.
COMMENTARY: The curse of national grievance
I had a Serb neighbor and friend in Paris who, when I first wrote a newspaper article criticizing Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia in 1991 for invading Slovenia and Croatia, accosted me in the courtyard of our building to say: "I know why you wrote that! The American embassy told you to write that. The neo-Nazis in Germany are forcing America to back Croatia and crush Serbia!"
When I said it was not my practice to take my article subjects from the American ambassador (nor his to offer them), he said: "It's the pope then. He's forcing you to write these things; you're a Catholic and the pope is allied with the Nazis and Americans to destroy Serbia and Orthodox Christianity!"
This was an educated, even erudite man of aristocratic origins whom I had known for years, a connoisseur of art, a former official of an international cultural organization, thoroughly cosmopolitan, who had not even lived in Serbia since he was a child. I was dumbfounded. He never spoke to me again.
Kosovo's chances of fielding a separate team at the Beijing Olympics are "unlikley" despite the province's declaration of independence from Serbia, the IOC said Monday. It needs to be recognized by the United Nations as an independent state and meet various sports requirements before gaining Olympic status.

One friend Facebook hasn't made: Privacy rights
In a visit to the New York Times editorial board not long ago, a top Google lawyer made the often-heard claim that in the Internet age, people - especially young people - do not care about privacy the way they once did.
It is a convenient argument for companies that make money compiling and selling personal data, but it's not true. Protests forced Facebook to modify Beacon and to ease its policies on deleting information. Push-back of this sort is becoming more common.
In addition to Philip and Charles, Fayed named as parties to the conspiracy former Prime Minister Tony Blair "and his senior henchmen"; MI6, the British secret intelligence service, and its French counterpart, as well as the CIA and the National Security Agency, the electronic eavesdropping arm of U.S. intelligence; and a French photographer, Jean-Pierre Andanson, known as James, who owned a white Fiat Uno of a type that some versions of the crash say struck the Mercedes as it entered the tunnel, causing it to crash. Andanson's charred body was found in a burned-out car in the woods near the French city of Nantes in May 2005.

CALI, Colombia
An army lieutentant colonel and 14 of his soldiers were convicted Monday on murdering 10 elite counternarcotics police agents in an ambush that showed how deeply drug corruption continues to threaten the Colombian security focrces.
Carvajal, a battalion commander, is accused of ordering the ambush on May 22, 2006, in Jamundi, a rural town in western Colombia. An informant had told the anti-drug police that they would find a stash of cocaine at a psychiatric center. When the police pulled up to the center, the soldiers attacked them in a fusillade of 420 bullets and seven grendas. No drugs were found.

Guantánamo, Evil and Zany in Pop Culture
But Guantánamo is no longer just a naval station or even just a detention center. It is an idea in worldwide culture — in more than 20 books and half a dozen movies and plays, with more coming out every month.
It has become shorthand for hopeless imprisonment and sweltering isolation. “The strange new Alcatraz,” one writer calls it, “the gulag of our times.”

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan
A day after a suicide bomber killed 100 people near Kandahar, another attacker set off an explosion as he drove his car near a convoy of Canadian troops on Monday in a crowded street in the border town of Spin Boldak, killing 36 civilians and wounding 38.
At a news briefing later in the day, Khaled [the governor of Kandahar Province, Asadullah Khaled] lashed out at Canadian forces for patrolling in crowded places when there was a known suicide bomb threat in the area. He said the Afghan security forces had received information that a suicide bombing was planned and had warned the Canadian military, but he complained they did not heed the warnings.
"We told NATO six times not to come in these areas, because for the last two days a suicide bomber has been circulating," Khaled said at a news briefing in Kandahar. "But they continue patrolling the area. We repeatedly told them not to come out until we arrest the suicide bomber."

"If someone allows you in their home, act decently," Medvedev said in the interview published on Itogi's Web site. sate
"After all, it's known that state-financed structures like the British Council ... conduct a mass of other activities that are not so widely advertised," Medvedev was quoted as saying. "Among other things, they are involved in gathering information and conducting intelligence activity."

ALMATY, Kazkhstan
United Nations officials issued an urgent plea on Monday for some $25 million in emergency aid to the ex-Soviet Republic of Tajikistan, where the harshest winter in three decades is generating a rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis.
Heavy snowfalls and temperatures around minus 20 degrees Celsius, or minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit, have cut off food supplies to rural communities in the mountainous Central Asian state, and cities are enduring drastically reduced electricity and water supplies.
Officials at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, say that the crisis has already caused a jump in illnesses from the cold and contaminated water, with children and the elderly the most at risk. Maternal deaths also more than doubled last month, according to Tajikistan's Health Ministry.

Mr. Bandele, 40, often visits New York, where he has many friends in theater and among writers. But he said he was not entirely sure how “Oroonoko,” which deliberately avoids taking sides along racial lines, would be received by an American audience.
“There were nights at the R.S.C. when the audience was predominantly American because of tourist season,” he said, “a mixture of black and white, and the response was always very emotional. At the end people would come out like this.” Backlighted against a window in the stage manager’s office, Mr. Bandele touched a hand to his face in a gesture of crying. (Reviewers have not been as moved. Charles Isherwood, writing in The New York Times, called it “a strangely bland if superficially exotic work of theater.”)
In the Oxbridge-y atmosphere “I was always getting into big rows with my friends, all children of the families running Nigeria, about their only being there because of their parents, whereas I’d actually passed the entrance exam,” he said.
But Mr. Bandele wouldn’t have had it otherwise. “I am a writer because I have always been an inside outsider,” he said, adding that he felt intimately tied to the “poets and praise singers” who traveled from town to town for hundreds of years in what became Nigeria.

It's the limit - in more ways than one
"Now more than ever, people like to have things that are unique and personal," said the designer Jeremy Scott, who is based in Los Angeles. "In a time of instant media saturation, living in a YouTube nation, any single image can blanket the collective pop culture in a second with the click of a finger.
"With everything becoming so widespread, it's nice to have some things that, simply put, just aren't," he said.

The BBC World Service, which started its scratchy shortwave transmissions to listeners cut off by "desert, snow and sea" 75 years ago, ended its last English-language shortwave services in Europe on Monday.
Simon Spanswick, chief executive of the Association of International Broadcasters in London, said that the move by the BBC "probably sounds the death knell for traditional analogue shortwave broadcasting in the developed world."

"There is so much data moving now, the infrastructure is not up to speed," said Kaj Relander, a partner in London at Accel Partners, a venture capital company owns a stake in Cambridge Broadband Networks, a wireless equipment maker in Britain.
The volume of data on wireless networks is surging 50 to 1,500 percent a year, said Carl-Henric Svanberg, the chief executive of Ericsson, the world's largest maker of wireless networks. In May 2007, the volume of data for the first time exceeded voice information on the hundreds of wireless networks that Ericsson manages for operators, Svanberg said last week at the Mobile World Congress at Barcelona.

The nationalization of Northern Rock, the first of a British bank since 1984, and the inability of the government to find a buyer illustrate the severity of the current global financial market crisis. Even though no other government has so far been forced to bring a lender under its control since the turmoil started last year, Northern Rock is not the only bank that has depended on government help for survival.

Danish state workers reached an agreement with the government for a pay increase of 12.8 percent over the next three years as the country faces what the central bank has called the "worst labor shortages in decades."

For Apple, the booming overseas market for iPhones is both a sign of its marketing prowess and a blow to a business model that could be coming undone, costing the company as much as $1 billion over the next three years, according to some analysts.
But those economic realities do not play into the mind of Daniel Pan, a 22-year-old Web site designer who says a friend recently bought an iPhone for him in the United States.
He and other people in Shanghai often pay $450 to $600 to get a phone that sells for $400 in the United States. But they are happy.
"This is even better than I thought it would be," he said, toying with his iPhone at an upscale coffee shop. "This is definitely one of the great inventions of this century."
Most people in Shanghai seem to want the glory that comes with showing off a real iPhone to friends.
"My friends envy me a lot," said Pang, the Web designer. "They say, 'Wow, you can get an iPhone.' "
Upper crust meets middle class in new J.C Penney line
The American Living ads closely resemble the familiar campaigns for Ralph Lauren that present picture-perfect preppies in all-American settings like July Fourth parades, small-town picnics and golf courses.
The similarities are no accident: The American Living ads are produced by the Global Brand Concepts division of Polo Ralph Lauren, under the aegis of David Lauren.
The photographer and director for the ads is Bruce Weber, whose work has been featured in campaigns for Ralph Lauren as well as other upscale brands like Calvin Klein and Abercrombie & Fitch.
Asked whether he feared consumers might mix up the American Living campaign with the others because they all have the trademark Weber touch, Boylson replied, "How could it be anything but a plus?"


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