Friday, 8 February 2008

Thursday, 7th February, 2008


"Frankly, I'd be making it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win" if he [Romney] stayed in the race, he said. "I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror."

Almost all biofuels used today cause more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels if the pollution caused by producing these "green" fuels is taken into account, two studies published Thursday have concluded...
The EU has mandated that countries use 5.75 percent biofuel for transport by the end of 2008. In the United States, a proposed energy package would require that 15 percent of all transport fuels be made from biofuel by 2022. To reach these goals, biofuels production is heavily subsidized at many levels on both continents. On Thursday, Syngenta, a major global agricultural conglomerate in Switzerland that is involved in biofuel crops reported that its annual profit rose by 75 percent in the past year...
But the new studies suggested that when land use is taken into account few, if any biofuels, will be acceptable.
"This land-use problem is not just a secondary effect," Searchinger said. "It is major. The comparison with fossil fuels is going to be adverse for virtually all biofuels on cropland."
The only possible exception he could see for now, he said, was sugar cane grown in Brazil, which takes relatively little energy to grow and is readily refined into fuel. He added that governments should quickly turn their attention to developing biofuels that did not require raising crops, such as those made from agricultural waste products.

The price of bread has risen 12 percent in Germany in a year. Butter has increased by 45 percent. Milk is up 25 percent.
"And that's just breakfast," said Holger Schmeiding, an economist at Bank of America in London. "Don't get me started on lunch."

Strohal, normally restrained in his public remarks, spoke in critical terms.
"What is true for every election is also true for this one: Transparency strengthens democracy; politics behind closed doors weakens it," he said. "I regret this development and hope that the Russian authorities can find their way back to unimpeded cooperation with the Odihr and its long-established election observation mandate."
The Russian government, which still struggles to portray itself as democratic even as it has suppressed open elections, news media content and public dissent, reacted angrily.
"We profoundly regret their position," said Mikhail Kamynin, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, according to the Interfax news agency.

The number of taxi licenses in Paris, 15,900, has barely increased over the past seven decades. In 1937, when the current system was set up, it was capped at 14,000.
The report containing economic proposals, by Jacques Attali, a former top adviser to President François Mitterrand said the government should allow at least 6,500 more cabs in the capital and make room for private cars, or "minicabs," to compete at lower rates. As Sarkozy said himself Jan. 23, when the report was released: "Paris is the only city in the world where you just cannot find a taxi."

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan
The increased number of Taliban suicide bombings in southern Afghanistan have heightened concerns that despite the presence of NATO forces - nearly three quarters of them American - the country is slipping towards anarchy.

The Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, said Thursday that "if the Qassam fire from Gaza continues, we shall step up our activities even more and hit the other side harder, until we solve the problem."
Set on what appeared to be a collision course with Israel, Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas in Gaza, said that his group had "long ago adopted resistance as a strategic choice to claim our rights and principles and to protect our people, our land and our holy sites," and that Israel's "targeted attacks and dangerous escalations will only increase our commitment to this choice."

Sadr's office in the Shiite holy city of Najaf released a statement later Thursday threatening to expel militiamen who broke the cease-fire.
"We have nothing to do with anyone from the Mahdi army who violates the cease-fire with armed activities," the statement said. "They will be considered out of the organization. You all must know that our goal is independence."

Iran has developed its own version of an advanced centrifuge that churns out fissile material much faster than other machines and has started testing a series of them at the vast underground facility that houses its uranium enrichment program, diplomats and experts said Thursday...
More significant, said those with knowledge of the issue, was the fact that Tehran has appeared to combine know-how and equipment bought on the nuclear black-market with domestic ingenuity to overcome technical difficulties.

VIEWS: GERMAN MUST PULL ITS WEIGHT... (Jan Techau and Alexander Skiba)
The political elites need to end the disingenuousness that is so characteristic of Germany's foreign-policy debate and engage in some straight talk. And the German electorate needs to understand that in order to shape globalization and preserve the accustomed way of living, Germany must sometimes also fight.

VIEWS: BUT CAN IT? (Peter Rudolf)

What are the lessons for NATO if one looks at the problems of burden- and risk-sharing to which Germany is rather central?
First, formulating and executing an integrated common strategy for counterinsurgency warfare and state-building seems to be beyond the reach of NATO.
Second, different strategic cultures with respect to the legitimacy of military force and with respect to the parliamentary control of force impair a common approach.
Whether the operations in Afghanistan will in the end be a success or a failure, the mission has already demonstrated the limitations of NATO. Less ambition in the future may be necessary to preserve NATO as a valuable security services institution.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates
Vice City is essentially about a street thug who fights mafia lords and takes over the city. There are missions, but while you're not doing them you can drive around the city in a stolen car and kill people at random. Then the police come, and you have to kill them.
Vice City has sold 15 million units, and there are even more fake copies. Millions of kids play it all over the world. And you don't see all of us running around shooting police officers, do you?
The game did not "train" Moore to do what he did. It was a video game set in an imaginary world. Punching keys into a keyboard is very different from pulling the trigger on a gun. But of course, playing the game obsessively for months may have had an impact.
The game manufacturers cannot be blamed. They're simply making a game that takes you into an imaginary world. The problem here lies with the parents.

With minimal public notice and no formal environmental review, the U.S. Forest Service has approved a permit allowing a British mining company to explore for uranium just outside Grand Canyon National Park, less then five kilometers from a popular lookout over the canyon's southern rim.

A concert by the New York Philharmonic in North Korea on Feb. 26 will be broadcast that evening on New York's public television station, WNET, and distributed two days later on PBS.

The screen print of the mdoel Kate Moss by the English grafitti artist Banksy sold for $191,000 at a street art auction in London.

The common link between the record paintings is not to be found in aesthetics. It is provided by the period in which they were created. All date from the mid-1960s. The £3.94 million paid for one of Cy Twombly's random scribbling exercises, "Untitled (Rome)" of 1958; and the £1.34 million that greeted the appearance of Yves Klein's solid blue panel painted in 1961 and dubbed by the artist "IKB 93," provided further evidence of the focus on works consecrated by the passage of time. These are perceived as "safe" bets.
The only substantial prices paid for more recent work went to artists whose notoriety amounts to another form of widely recognized consecration...
Unlike the art of the past, where the rarity factor stimulates bidders and where selection criteria are more clearly defined, some aspects of the vast and infinitely diverse category described as "Contemporary Art" contain a strong element of whimsy. And if one thing does not agree with the spontaneity of whimsy, it is a threatening environment in which buyers instinctively turn to verifiably sound fundamentals.

Morally duplicitous torture porn: how else to describe "Untraceable," a bleak, rainwashed horror thriller whose predatory villain delivers a scolding lecture about Internet voyeurism and the dark side of human nature? That lecture arrives as a contemptuous "I told you so" at the end of the movie after the designated fied has streamed live video of his hideous crimes on his own Web site,
As cynical as it is , "Untraceable" leaves a sharp, lingering aftertaste. When the killer crows that it won't be long before we are paying to download commercially sponsored atrocities on our cellphones, you have the uneasy feeling that he might be right.

Andrea Chasanow and Nick Gentle picked a tricky time last summer to search for a house. Property prices had been booming for years here but the effects of the global credit crunch were being felt when they saw a house that they wanted and made a bid.
"We were terrified. I wasn't sleeping. I wasn't eating. If you're a first-time buyer buying at the top of the market, there's no coming back from that," Chasanow, 30, said.
Eventually they were successful in getting the Victorian townhouse in their ideal neighborhood, Primrose Hill. But the search process was rocky and, they said, they felt the mood in the market shift palpably. They paid £2.166 million, or $4.2 million, for the 2,200-square-foot, five-level house, which needs renovating.
Still settling into their new home, the pair are no longer as anxious about whether their investment will hold its value; they do not plan to sell for many years. "This is the sort of place we could live in for a long, long time, possibly until we can't climb the stairs anymore," said Gentle, 30, a foreign exchange options trader in London...
"It's a little weird to spend all this money and not be able to take a shower," said Chasanow, who acknowledged that she felt some sticker shock at the scale of London house prices.

Standard & Poor's on Thursday announced an overhaul of its rating process as it responded to widespread criticism about the quality and accuracy of credit ratings.

A small group of scientists, including some psycologists, say they are starting to discover what many Wall Street professionals have long suspected - that people are hard-wired for money. The human brain, these researchers say, responds to high-stakes trading just as it does to the lure of sex...
Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist, has a fancy term for such behaviour [Kerviel refusing to cut his losses when the markets turned against him]: loss aversion. The concept holds that when people find themselves in a hole, they often do irrational things. "When you are faced with extinction, you act like nothing matters," said Andrew Lo, a professor at MIT who has studied the role of emotions in trading. Kerviel, he said, is a case study in loss aversion...
"Clearly, institutional investors want to believe its all scientific," said Mark Yusko, president of Morgan Creek Capital Management.
But Wall Street gets carried away.

Talk of the demise of newspapers is older than some of the reporters who write about it, but what is happening now is something new, something more serious than anyone has experienced in generations.
Last year started badly for the industry and ended worse, with shrinking profits and tumbling stock prices, and 2008 is shaping up as more of the same, prompting even louder talk about a dark turning point.
"I'm an optimist, but it is very hard to be positive about what's going on," said Brian Tierney, publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News. "The next few years are transitional, and I think some papers aren't going to make it."
Advertising, the source of more than 80 percent of newspaper revenue, traditionally rose and fell with the overall economy. But in the past 12 to 18 months, that link has been broken.
In 2007, combined print and online ad revenue fell about 7 percent.
In the past six decades, only one other year - 2001, when there was a recession - had a steeper decline, according to the Newspaper Association of America. Adjusted for inflation, 2007 ad revenue was more than 20 percent below its peak in 2000.
Circulation revenue has declined steadily since 2003, and the number of copies sold has fallen about 2 percent a year. Some of the largest papers - including The San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe and The Los Angeles Times - have lost 30 to 40 percent of their circulation in just a few years...
The paradox is that more people than ever read newspapers, now that some major papers have several times as many readers online as in print. And papers sell more ads than ever, when online ads are included.
But for every dollar advertisers pay to reach a print reader, they pay about 5 cents, on average, to reach an Internet reader. Newspapers need to narrow that gap, but the rise in Internet revenue slowed sharply last year.

Investment funds are pouring money into soft commodities as they cut exposure to struggling stock markets, driving prices of cocoa and coffee to multiyear highs despite market fundamentals that could spoil the party...
Grains and oilseed markets have also benefited from a huge inflow of fund money this year, and wheat prices on the Chicago Board of trade climbed to a record level Wednesday.
Analysts said, however, that their advance is much more strongly underpinned by market fundamentals, with wheat stocks at a 30-year low.

If silence was once the mark of respect between a sporting community and its players, Wednesday sadly re-emphasized that we have lost the modern generation in that regard.
It was meant to be a golden moment, linking the past and the present at Wembley's £757 million stadium when, before a friendly contest between England and Switzerland, the teams bowed their heads and the huge audience was asked to observe the 50th anniversary of the Manchester United plane crash that killed 23 people...
Alas, it took no more than 10 individuals, in both the English and Swiss sectors of an 86,857 audience, to defile the moment. So foul was their abuse, so loud, that the German referee, Felix Brych, cut short the tribute by blowing his whistle after just 26 seconds.
How wretched. How sad that on a crisp and clear London night, the largest crowd gathered anywhere on a day designated for soccer across the globe, a tiny minority should so perfunctorily ruin the decency.

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