Friday, 15 February 2008

Thursday, 14th February, 2008


The "ambitous" and "expeditious" treatment for cotton was bad news for the Unites States, the world's leading exporter, which paid cotton farmers $2billion to $4billion in trade distorting subsidies in most recent years...
The proposal would cap annual trade-distorting subsidies at $450 million, not including indirect payments...
It also comes amid high cotton prices - buoyed along with prices of other crops by the U.S ethanol boom - and shrinking acreage. This year, cotton plantings are expected to be about 3.5 million hectares, while the cotton crop is expected to be the smallest in 10 years, at 15.4 million bales.


France acknowledged Thursday that it transported Libyan munitions to the Chadian Army during a rebellion this month, shedding new light on the role played by French troops based there during the fighting...

A report that France had sent munitions from Libya for Déby's Soviet-made T-55 tanks first appeared in La Croix, a Catholic newspaper in France.
Quoting unidentified diplomatic and French military sources, the report also said that French troops had participated in the fighting and that Déby could not have survived without French military help.
At the Paris news conference, a French military spokesman, Captain Christophe Prazuck, said that French forces had opened fire "about 10 times" during the violence, but only in self-defense.
There was no fire from French airpower, he said.
Two French soldiers, including one from the special forces, were lightly wounded in the siege of Ndjamena, Prazuck said.
Rebels fired rocket-propelled grenades against French military positions near the Ndjamena airport, and French troops responded with "proportionate" firepower to repel them, he said.

The New York Times said Thursday that would eliminate about 100 newsroom jobs this year, citing growing financial strain.
The cuts will be achieved primarily through attrition and buyouts, but layoffs are a real possibility, the executive editor, Bill Keller, said.
The Times has 1,332 newsroom employees, the largest number in its history; no other American newspaper has more than about 900. There were scattered buyouts and job eliminations in the newsroom in recent years, but the overall number continued to rise, largely from the growth of its Internet operations.
The New York Times Company has made significant cuts in the newsrooms of some of its other properties, including The Boston Globe, as well as in nonnews operations. Company executives say the overall headcount is 3.8 percent lower than it was a year ago.
But with the industry ad revenue declingin by 7 percent last year, and 4.7 percent at The Times the company is under increased pressure from shareholders - notably two hedge funds that recently bought about almost 10 percent of the common stock - to do something to improve its bottom line.
For 2007, the Times Company recently reported earnings of $209 million on revenue of $3.2 billion


Philip Balboni, who built New England Cable News into the largest U.S. regional news network, is leaving the station next month to start the first U.S.-based Web site devoted exclusively to international news.
The site is expected to begin operating early next year with correspondents in nearly 70 countries. The company, Global News Enterprises, will have its headquarters on the historic Boston waterfront.
The business so far has raised more than $7 million from a group of local investors led by the billionaire Amos Hostetter Jr., a co-founder of Continental Cablevision, one of the first U.S. cable companies. Benjamin Taylor, former publisher of The Boston Globe, and Paul Sagan, president of Akamai Technologies, are also among the investor group.
"There is a tremendous interest in what is happening in the world," said Balboni, who turns 65 Friday. "The world in every respect is globalizing, and we're being swept up in it with the economy, our lives, our leisure times, our children's education. And the American people are not being well-served by our media. The moment is right for this."

COMMENTARY: When we torture (Nicholas D. Kristof)

The most famous journalist you may never have heard of is Sami al-Hajj, an al-Jazeera cameraman who is on a hunger strike to protest abuse during more than six years in a Kafkaesque prison system.

Al-Hajj's fortitude has turned him into a household name in the Arab world, and his story is sowing anger at the authorities holding him without trial.
That's us. Al-Hajj is one of our forgotten prisoners in Guantánamo Bay.
If the Bush administration appointed an Undersecretary of State for Antagonizing the Islamic World, with advice from a Blue Ribbon Commission for Sullying America's Image, it couldn't have done a more systematic job of discrediting our reputation around the globe...

Suppose the Iranian government arrested and beat Katie Couric, held her virtually incommunicado for six years and promised to release her only if she would spy for Iran. In such circumstances, Iranian investments in public diplomacy toward the United States wouldn't get very far, either.

Hewlett-Packard has agreed to a financial settlement with The New York Times and three BusinessWeek magazine journalists in connection with the company's spying scandal, which stemmed from its surreptitiously obtaining private phone records...
Phone records that were compromised included those of the three BusinessWeek staff members - Ben Elgin, Peter Burrows and Roger Crockett - and the family phone records of The New York Times reporter, John Markoff, and his wife, Leslie Terzian Markoff.
"What HP did was an affront to the free press," said Terry Gross, a San Francisco lawyer who represented the reporters for BusinessWeek - which is part of the McGraw-Hill Companies - their families, and The New York Times.
"They didn't like what reporters were writing," Gross said, "and they broke into their private telephone accounts to identify who their sources were."...

The New York Times said it had pursued a claim against Hewlett-Packard in part to send the message that "corporate misconduct aimed at silencing the press is not acceptable and will not be tolerated." The Times pursued the claim on Markoff's behalf, and he did not individually seek compensation.
The Times donated its money from the settlement to groups including the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Investigative Journalism Program at the journalism school of the University of California, Berkeley.
Gross said the BusinessWeek reporters also planned to give some of their settlement money to charity...

Two reporters for The Wall Street Journal were also targets of Hewlett-Packard investigators, but The Journal has said it will not take part in legal action or settlement talks.

Anyone who thought platinum prices could not go higher after spiking 60 percent in six months got a rude shock Thursday, when the metal hit $2,025 an ounce...
A big part of the problem has been the power shortages in South Africa, which accounts for 80 of the global production of platinum...
"Electricity is a problem in South Africa and it's going to stay like that for year's to come," said Walther De Wet, a metals analyst at Standard Bank...
Nearly two-thirds of the demand for the metal is used in making catalytic converters, a pollution-control device. That demand has soard 135 percent in nearly a decade, to 4.24 million ounces.

MENTON, France
Banks, who is originally from Maine; her Italian husband, Pierluigi Mezzomo; and their two sons, then 5 and 10, cleansed and blessed the place. They walked in the front door carrying salt, Indian basil and a small metal bowl that, when struck, made a large, gong-like sound. They toured the house, sprinkling salt in every bedroom and bathroom corner. Then they paused outside as Banks read a poem she had written for the occasion.
House, with your squared walls like arms spread wide,
Hold us and shield us from the cold and harm. ... it began.
She then buried the words, written on bamboo, at the base of the 100-year-old orange tree that stands guard outside the kitchen window.

"My initial intention was to sell both of the properties when they were built but now that I have got to know Morocco and seen the potential of the resort, I am going to hold on to them," said McDougall [an education program director in the Atlanta school system], who paid 1.6 million dirham, or $210,000, for each of the 110-square-meter, or 1,184-square-foot, apartments. Each also will have a 50-square-meter terrace.
"I have a large extended family and I really look forward to us all going over and if I keep both places, we might just fit," McDougall said. The 31-year-old already owns an apartment in Manhattan, land in Salt Lake City, an office block in northern Georgia and two acres of beachfront in the Dominican Republic. Of all those places, though, he says he is most excited about Morocco.
"I am really interested in the culture," he said. "In between renting out my apartment I hope to spend long spells of six months or so in Morocco getting to know the country."

Guanacaste, the jungle-covered coastline of northwest Costa Rica, is attracting some heavy hitters. AOL founder Steve Case is developing a resort in the province, and there are projects in the works anchored by Ritz Carlton and JW Marriott hotels.
Last year
Mel Gibson reportedly paid $25.8 million (€17.6 million) for a 163-hectare (402 acre) ranch on the coast, adding a little extra celebrity luster.
But there are clear signs of movement. In many areas prices have increased by more than 50 percent in the last year. And more than $5 billion flowed into property developments in 2007, primarily foreign investments into Ho Chi Minh City, where an apartment priced at $80,000 in 2006 might sell for $240,000 in 2007 (about €55,000 to €164,000), Gonzalez says.

I have been trying unsuccessfully to get United Airlines Mileage Plus to credit me with the miles that I earned for flights taken with their partner airline Swiss International in July 2006. When I checked in for the Swiss flight, the electronic ticket included my American Airlines' AAdvantage number, since I was told that Swiss was a partner in that program. On the return four days later, I learned that Swiss was now a partner in United's Mileage Plus program. I contacted Mileage Plus, enclosing a copy of the requested electronic ticket and wrote letters asking that my miles be credited. Nothing happened. What can I do?
Stephen H. Vogel, Key Biscayne, Florida
"I don't believe I should be condemned to death or forced into hiding as I am now," Hirsi Ali said at a meeting in the European Parliament in Brussels. "The EU is about shared values and the most precious is freedom of opinion and conscience."

REVIEW: 'In the Blood,' Andrew Motion's memoir of childhood
Motion's purpose is to evoke more than to question. Setting down the details of his country childhood, he is driven mainly to preserve, rather than unearth and confront. At times this makes for a bland diffuseness; one pierced by breathtaking phrases rather than by a breathtaking wrestle with events and character (even his own). The memoir's energy lies less in a vital urge to face the past than in an urge to shape it with language.

OPINION: WE'VE WON! (Daniel Gavron)
Hamas, which rules Gaza, refuses to recognize Israel, but even that movement seeks a long-term truce, which is tantamount to de facto recognition.
Far more significantly, Fatah, the official Palestinian leadership, is negotiating peace with Israel. The member states of the Arab League, headed by Saudi Arabia, are on record as recognizing Israel within its pre-1967 borders. The world's only superpower, the United States, is solid in its support of Israel under any conceivable president.
The other four permanent members of the UN Security Council, the European Union and the overwhelming majority of the members of the United Nations all recognize pre-1967 Israel.
Wake up, fellow Israelis, it's over, we've won! What is more we've won a lot: more than 8,000 square miles out of the 10,400 square miles of the British Mandate for Palestine. And most Palestinians have accepted this territorially lopsided resolution of the 100-year-old dispute.

OPINION: Delusions in Canterbury (Mona Eltaway)
He probably thinks his "tolerance" for Shariah is progressive in light of the Islamophobia that mars parts of Europe today. But it is a tolerance that condones only the most conservative options for Muslims. It is at best a form of the racism of lower expectations - the cheapest bargaining chip of liberal guilt.
Witness the archbishop's insistence that he wasn't advocating the "inhumanity" of Shariah à la Saudi Arabia or Iran, where adulterers are stoned and thieves have hands amputated. No, he told us, he was just referring to the use of Shariah to resolve marital disputes.
But that is precisely where the "inhumanity" of Shariah lies for women. As a Muslim woman - born in Egypt, raised in Saudi Arabia - I can only laugh at the archbishop's naïveté. In Egypt, as in many Muslim countries, the legal system has been completely modernized, with the exception of one area that remains caught in the web of edicts issued by Muslim scholars who lived centuries ago - family law. Shariah is used only to govern the lives of women and children.
OPINION: Integrating Islam into the West (Phillip Blond and Adrian Pabst)
The trouble with all the European models is that they enshrine the primacy of secular law over and against religious principles. Far from ensuring neutrality and tolerance, the secular European state arrogates to itself the right to control and legislate all spheres of life; state constraints apply especially to religion and its civic influence. Legally, secularism outlaws any rival source of sovereignty or legitimacy. Politically, secularism denies religion any import in public debate and decision-making. Culturally, secularism enforces its own norms and standards upon all other belief systems. In consequence, the liberal promise of equality amounts to little more than the secular imposition of sameness. As such, contemporary liberalism is unable to recognize religions in their own right or grant them their proper autonomy.
By contrast, the United States offers a strong integrated vision that allows for the public expression of religion under the auspices of a state that guarantees not just individual rights but also the autonomy of religious communities. Even though minorities in the United States have suffered discrimination, the American model of religious integration explicitly shields religion from excessive state interference. Thus loyalty to the state is not necessarily in conflict with loyalty to one's faith. Perhaps this explains why American Muslims appear more integrated and less alienated than their European counterparts. In part, this is because the European Enlightenment sought to protect the state from religion, whereas the American settlement aimed to protect religion from the state...
Paradoxically, what other faiths require for their proper recognition is the recovery of the indigenous European religious tradition - Christianity. Only Christianity can integrate other religions into a shared European project by acknowledging what secular ideologies cannot: a transcendent objective truth that exceeds human assertion but is open to rational discernment and debate. As such, Christianity outlines a non-secular model of the common good in which all can participate.
Rather than trying to defend religion through the guise of secular multiculturalism, the Archbishop of Canterbury should have been defending religious pluralism through Christianity. What Muslims most object to is not a difference of belief but its absence from European consciousness. Thus the recovery of Christianity in Europe is not a sectarian project but rather the only basis for the political integration of Muslims and peaceful religious coexistence.
At the same, he said, Obama "had developed almost a new style of campaigning." He added: "He merges modern campaign technology -he has the full list of names, the follow-up effort, all the literature distribution - with these phenomenal rock-arena political revivals. In a caucus state, it's formidable."
WAUKESKA, Wisconsin
"I don't seek the presidency on the presumption that I am blessed with such personal greatness," McCain said, "that history has annointed me to save my country in its hour of need."

"Today, Hezbollah and the Islamic Resistance are ready to confront any possible Israeli aggression on Lebananon," he said. Your killed Imad outside the battleground. Our battle was inside the Lebanese territory; you crossed the borders. Zionists, if you wanted open war, let it be an open war anywhere."

The Pentagon is planning to shoot down a malfunctioning intelligence satellite before it crashes to Earth, just a year after American officials protested when China shot down a broken weather satellite.

MEANWHILE: History written in concrete (Michael Johnson)
The European Commission in Brussels was moved a couple of years ago to support conservation, putting up €100,000 to finance an Atlantic Wall virtual museum that has been traveling around Europe. The lead organizers, based at the architecture department of Milan's Politecnico university, are looking for future destinations.
The main designer of the museum, Gennaro Postiglione, a professor at the architecture school, believes the bunkers have been left abandoned until now because they were "too terrifying. People opted for virtual deletion from their memory." But he feels strongly that it is healthier to face the past.
Others have joined the effort to conserve the structures. Sébastien Devière, of Binche, Belgium, works in the construction field and devotes most of his free time to defending the Atlantic Wall and expanding his Internet site, "Le Mur de l'Atlantique" (
Postiglione's associate in the Wall project, the Paris-based architect Giulio Podavani, supports the conservation of the bunkers for professional reasons, but worries that we talk too much about how memories will teach us to avoid repeating history. "In fact," he says, "humanity has never learned from its past."

Mike Leigh's "Happy-Go-Lucky," an incongruous eruption of good cheer from the British kitchen-sink miserablist, has its vocal admirers - it was bought by Miramax and seems likely to win an award at Sunday's closing ceremony - but how one feels about the film will depend on one's ability to stomach the brutally chirpy heroine (Sally Hawkins).

One person with knowledge of Societe Generale's trading control systems confirmed Kerviel's claimed that his immediate superiors - themsevles former traders with years of experience - had several clear warnings that Kerviel was trading beyond his authority.

UBS, the largest Swiss bank and the largest in Europe in terms of assets, posted a fourth quarter net loss of $11.3 billion, as it wrote off $13.7 billion in soured U.S investments, mostly on subprime loans.
It also said it has lost $2 billion on so called Alt-A mortgagges, confirming fears that U.S credit problems had spread well beyond the subprime sector of the housing market...
One worrying sign that things could get worse is that UBS said it had additional exposures od $26.6 billion on Alt-A mortgages.

COMMENTARY: Sarkozy needs gravitas (William Pfaff)
The Cécilia-Carla imbroglio has badly damaged him. That his marriage was in crisis when he was elected is something no one blames him for, nor that he has found a new wife. But that this should be all over the global press in a frenzy of what current Franglais quaintly terms "pipolisation" (a defectively phonetic allusion to the "people" who feature in celebrity magazines) has not gone down well.France remains a very formal country, in which dignified usages and formal language provide a useful distance in daily life, as well as an indispensable and relaxing courtesy. The concierge and the baker's wife are invariably "madame," and should you inadvertently bump into the postman or the immigrant street cleaner at the corner, you say "pardon, monsieur."

Prosecutors on Thursday accused one of Germany's most prominent chief executives, Klaus Zumwinkel of Deutsche Post, of evading €1 million in taxes, after conducting early morning raids at his home and office.

Fund managers, like so many of us, consistently think they are smarter than they are and that their ideas are of an unusually high quality. And to keep thinking these reassuring thoughts, they ignore evidence that contradicts their beliefs while paying rapt attention to data or news that confirms their own biases.But not the depressed, whom multiple research studies have shown to have more accurate and realistic views of their own abilities and insights, according to James Montier, a strategist at Société Générale who specializes in behavioral finance, the study of how emotion and thinking patterns influence economics and investment."The depressed tend to be less optimistic," Montier said. "And they certainly would be less prone to the chronic optimism that characterizes pretty much all of the market participants we come across."Montier thinks that human beings have been hard-wired by evolution to have optimistic or bullish outlooks.
While that is very useful when you need to leave the cave and hunt saber-toothed tigers and the summit of your ambition is to make it to age 20 and pass your genes along, it leaves investors today with some in-built problems in analyzing company or economic prospects."All behavioral biases have some evolutionary reasons for existing," Montier said, "and it's very tough to overcome those deep-rooted impulses."

GJILAN, Kosovo
"I don't believe justice was done because I lost out on two years worth of rent, " she said on a recent day at a Serbian community center, where she volunteers.
She added: "I say hello and goodbye to my Albanian neighbors. I have not had any problems. But if they brough me a cake I would refuse. You never know, it could be poisoned."


No comments: