Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Tuesday, 19th February, 2008


Food prices led the overall increase in consumer prices in January, climbing 18.2 percent. Economists had expected a sharp increase, partly because the harvest was poor last year for many crops and partly because snowstorms began to hurt food production and distribution in late January.

Undercover video taken at the Westland/Hallmark Meat of Chino, California, shows workers shocking, kicking and shoving debilitated cattle with forklifts, prompting the government to pull 143 million pounds, or 65 million kilograms, of the company's beef.
Bo Reagan, vice president of research for the Colorado-based National Cattleman's Beef Association, said the videotaped incident was not indicative of how most slaughterhouses operate.
"The welfare of our animals - that's the heart and soul of our operations," Reagan said.
U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines mandate that an inspector must review sick or injured animals, called "downer" cattle, before they can be slaughtered. The 1958 Humane Slaughter Act sets strict rules for the humane treatment of animals.

"What happened in this case was that there were some animals that were harvested out of compliance," he said.

Two former Westland/Hallmark employees were charged Friday. Five felony counts of animal cruelty and three misdemeanors were filed against a pen manager. Three misdemeanor counts - illegal movement of a non-ambulatory animal - were filed against an employee who worked under that manager. Both were fired.
No charges have been filed against the company, but an investigation by federal authorities continues. A phone message left Monday for Westland/Hallmark president Steve Mendell was not returned.

A town grapples with overly rapid development
A rival complex, Adrere Amellal, offers an eco-tourism alternative with bungalows and guest houses made of date-palm wood and kershef, a mixture of mud and rock salt. The swimming pool is fed by a natural spring, and its 40 rooms have no electricity. Still, Adrere Amellal is considered a luxury resort; Charles, the prince of Wales, and his wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles, stayed there last March."Siwa can benefit from bringing tradition and knowledge together," said Mounir Neamatalla, the hotel's developer and head of Environmental Quality International, a Cairo consulting firm.Neamatalla thinks progress is inevitable; it just has to respect limitations to prevent problems like the water table dropping. The airport will convert Siwa into an inland Sharm el Sheik, he predicted."We're at a crossroads," he says. "Siwa is not just a place, it's a mood."

BUSINESS OF GREEN: Those who aspire to be green may want to cut back on travel
When Brand and his colleagues were commissioned by Tesco, the British supermarket chain, to analyze employees' carbon emissions over a year, they found that car and air transportation contributed the largest portion - more than 75 percent - of personal emissions for many people, particularly those younger than 30.
All over the developed world, people are turning down the thermostats in winter to reduce heating emissions. They are changing conventional light bulbs to low-energy fluorescents. They recycle cans, bottles and newspapers as never before. But few have been willing to give up the car or the chance for an exotic summer vacation.
A survey released this year by Defra, the British environment agency, found that 80 percent of people were concerned about climate change, and three quarters would be prepared to change their behavior "in some way" to limit climate change.
But not in the ways that count most: Only 5 percent of car drivers said that they had driven less because of environmental concerns. Only 10 percent of people who had flown in the past year said that they would fly less this year because of climate-change concerns.

Porsche, angered by the London mayor's planned £25-a-day tax on gas-guzzling cars driving in the city center, threatened Tuesday to take him to court.

The world's largest hotelier, InterContinental, on Tuesday met forecasts with a nearly 19 percent rise in 2007 profit and said it would carry on opening a hotel a day despite fears of a U.S-led global recession.

"Jérôme Kerviel was not supposed to be taking any open positions," said Jean Dermine, a specialist in asset and liability management at Instead, a leading French business school, referring to the former trader's role as an arbitrageur, which did not allow him to place large "open" or speculative bets. "So the big question is, why was there not a process in place to make sure that every trade being entered into the bank's computers was real and not fake?""It seems like this is a pretty basic question, to which we have not yet heard a convincing answer," Dermine said.Risk management experts said the futures markets where Kerviel was active were extremely liquid, resulting in daily trading volumes valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars. This allows individual traders to assume very large positions without drawing much attention. Still, a loss of the size that was on Kerviel's trading book in July would have been unlikely to escape notice in Société Générale's back office, they said."Large losses would have implied very large margin calls, which the bank would have had to cover in cash," Dermine said.

Credit Suisse shook investor confidence on Tuesday when it said that pricing errors by a handful of traders on some asset-backed securities had contributed to new write-downs of $2.85 billion, only a week after the Swiss bank reported solid fourth-quarter earnings.

Credit Suisse's chief executive, Brady Dougan, described the mispricings, which came to light last week during a special review for a $2 billion bond sale, as "very disappointing." But he said they most likely were "an isolated incident."
The traders involved were suspended but are still employees of Credit Suisse.

"It's a big shock for the whole market," said Françoise Mensi, a fund manager at Banque Bonhôte in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. "You just don't trust the numbers any longer."

Regarding Credit Suisse, a team of Dresdner Kleinwort analysts wrote in a note to investors that disclosing the losses just one week after reporting a fairly clean set of results is "impressive proof of zero visibility in investment banks' balance sheets."

Banks worldwide have reported more than $130 billion in write-downs for the value of assets, including collateralized debt obligations or other debt backed by U.S. subprime mortgages. But losses have also spread to other non-mortgage related debt as economic growth in the developed world slows. A UBS analyst, Philip Finch, last week said banks could face up to $203 billion in additional write-downs mainly because of a worsening bond insurance crisis.

VADUZ, Lichenstein
The criticism of the German government's methods was echoed by lawyers in Germany, some of whom predicted that the courts would not admit data from a stolen computer disc as evidence in criminal trials. "Of course, we know that secret services pay for information," said Eberhard Kempf, a leading German defense attorney. "But in this case, to pay for stolen data to be used in a legal case is unthinkable."

In Varadero, workers collected garbage and cleaned pools as they normally would. On the highway, workers whitewashed barriers. In the seaside city of Matanzas, Eliana Lopez, a 55-year-old transportation inspector who had heard the news on her way to work, said she expected the revolution to continue, with change coming slowly but surely.

Consider the microcosm of Mumbai. Since 1990, around the time that India opened its gates to the world, the annual number of divorce petitions filed in Mumbai has more than doubled to reach 4,138 in 2007, far outpacing population growth, according to data culled for this article from musty, hand-kept records at the city's family court.
Or, to put it more vividly, Mumbai made divorcés of 30,000 more people in those 17 years than it would have had the annual rate of breakups held at the 1990 level.

But in an India drenched in foreign influences - Hollywood in the theaters, teenagers named Sunita who call themselves "Sarah" and answer calls for Citibank's American customers - an imported idea of love is spreading.
Ever more couples marry each other for each other, out of personal enthrallment rather than a sense of family duty, and even arranged marriages come with new expectations of emotional fulfillment. And it is this new notion of love, with the couple at the core, that makes marriage both more riveting and more precarious than ever before, many Indians believe.

In a recent case in Mumbai divorce court, a woman charged her husband with putting his parents ahead of her. The parents lived in the ground floor; the husband and wife lived in the apartment above. Every night, upon returning from work, the husband stopped at his parents' home first and only then went home. He saw things through a traditional lens, with his wife as one in a range of family obligations. She desired to be the core of his universe, not unlike in the Western home.

One evening two years ago, as her husband poured a drink, she told him they should not waste their money on alcohol. He got up, put on a T-shirt, pulled money from a drawer and made for the door. "I said, 'If you want to go, go. But don't come back,' " Chitra recalled. "And I regret my words, because he never did. He hugged and kissed me, he kissed my daughter, and he never came back."
She added, sitting in the courthouse where she had come for a divorce: "This could happen only in this current generation."

The danger of instability was underlined Tuesday when violence returned to the region and UN police officers pulled out of two Kosovo border posts destroyed by Serbs who reject the authority of the Kosovo government, which declared independence on Sunday.

"We might end up with a situation where Kosovo has limited international legitimacy, cannot make many commercial deals and cannot receive much money from international institutions," Antonio Missiroli, a director of studies at the European Policy Center research institute in Brussels, said.

On Tuesday, there was no let-up from Russia, whose Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister, had spoken by telephone Monday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. During the call, the statement said, Lavrov warned of "dangerous consequences" that "could destroy the principles of world order and the international stability that have been established for decades."
Meanwhile, the risks were illustrated when a mob of Kosovo Serbs burned two border posts in the northern part of Kosovo, prompting NATO troops to intervene and fanning fears that the Serb-dominated north could boil over and entrench a partition of Kosovo.
In Jarnije and Banja, about 29 kilometers, or 18 miles, north of Mitrovica, the police said several hundred Serb men had used plastic explosives and bulldozers to attack the two posts. They vandalized and set fire to passport control booths. No one was injured.

Two Impressionist paintings stolen in one of Europe's largest art thefts have been recovered from an abandoned car near the museum where the robbery took place, the Swiss police said Tuesday.

After the news conference, Cortesi [Zurich police spokesman] was asked whether a ransom had been paid. "It is unknown whether a sum of money has moved," he replied. Gloor [museum director], who was standing next to him, said, "I can't give any information on that."

YEREVAN, Armenia
Larisa Torosian, a supporter of Ter-Petrosian who monitored voting in the town of Abuvian, said that after she flagged violations at a polling station she was beaten by a group of people who identified themselves as Sargsyan campaigners. "It is not an election, it's a seizure of power," said Torosian, who had bruises around her left eye.

The two presidential candidates have differing views on the future of Nagorno-Karabakh. Sargsyan, a native of the region and a decorated war hero, appears less likely to compromise than Ter-Petrosian, who was forced to resign in 1998 after advocating concessions there.

Princeton to help students spend 'gap year' abroad
Seizing on students' desire for a year off before college, Princeton University is working to create a program to send a tenth or more of newly admitted students to the U.S. university for a year of social service work in a foreign country before they set foot on the campus as freshmen.

Perhaps the most intriguing item was what purports to be a transcript of a conversation Ruby had with Oswald at Ruby's Dallas nightclub, the Carousel, in which they plot to kill Kennedy to satisfy organized-crime bosses.But the not-terribly-lifelike dialogue reads like a movie script - and may well have been. For example, Ruby responds to Oswald's suggestion that they kill the president by saying, "But that wouldn't be patriotic."

PESHAWAR, Pakistan
Nasra Zahid, 37, a zoology professor who was working at a polling station, said Islam guaranteed women the right to vote. Ms. Zahid, who is religiously observant, wears a black veil that covers her face except for her eyes — an unusual sight in Pakistan, a religiously moderate country. Counting election results on Wednesday night, she said militants were grossly misinterpreting her faith.
“These are not religious students,” she said. “These are terrorists. Our religion gives completely the right to vote to women.”

As Ms. Zahid, the zoology professor, packed up her polling station on Monday night she said she was filled with a sense of relief and despair. Only 280 of the 2,058 women registered to vote in her district had cast ballots. She said she was frustrated by the low turnout but relieved that women had stayed home — and alive.
“In a democratic society, everyone should vote,” she said. “But in this situation, life is more important than voting.”

In a speech here Sunday to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Olmert said that Jerusalem would be addressed only in the "last phase of negotiations" and that Abbas had "accepted it."

"That is not the case," Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian negotiator, said in a telephone interview before the Tuesday meeting. He argued that the issues of Jerusalem, borders and settlements could not be separated.

Now comes the Gillette Venus Embrace, the first five-blade razor for women, and Procter & Gamble, which purchased Gillette for $57 billion in 2005, is starting up the biggest advertising campaign on the women's side of its business since the original three-blade Venus was introduced in 2001.
Developed by BBDO Worldwide in New York, the campaign plays on Venus being the Roman goddess of love, but recasts women as deities in decidedly contemporary settings. In one spot, a leggy woman running with a jogging stroller is the "Goddess of Trailblazing." In another, a woman text-messaging is the "Goddess of Communication." Ads will appear in publications like Marie Claire, Allure, InStyle and Us Weekly, while television spots will run widely, most conspicuously on the Academy Awards on ABC in the United States on Sunday.
"Now we've given women the permission to reveal her own goddess," said Gro Frivoll, who has worked on the Venus account at BBDO for eight years. "Every woman can be the goddess of something, because this allows you to be your most feminine self."

The threat of terror attacks by Islamic radicals in Norway is rising in part because of the country's military presence in Afghanistan, the Norwegian intelligence agency said Tuesday.

KIGALI, Rwanda
"I made a decision not to unilaterally send troops into the Sudan and I still believe it was the right decision" Bush said. "But, having done that, if you're a problem solver, you put yourself at the mercy of the decisions of others, in this case the United Nations. And I'm well known to have spoken out by the slowness of the United Nations. It is - seems very bureaucratic to me, particularly with people suffering."
The president said he was worried - a word he rarely uses - that the rest of the world was not moving "expeditiously quickly" enough to join in the peacekeeping effort.
He appealed to other nations to step up "once and for all" to end the killing in Sudan and said that, as an incentive, he was freeing up $100 million from his foreign aid budget to assist African countries willing to send peacekeeping troops to Darfur.
Rwanda, the first nation to send peacekeepers to Darfur, will get $12 million. It will be used to train a 2,400 troops, over and above the 7,000 Rwandan troops the United States has already trained.
"My message to other nations is, join with the president and help us get this problem solved once and for all," Bush said. "And we will help."

Bush's appearance here - and especially his visit to the moving Kigali Memorial Center, where 250,000 Rwandans are buried in mass graves - could not help but evoke reminders of his predecessor, Bill Clinton, who has apologized repeatedly to Kagame for his administration's failure to intervene in the 1994 genocide. During a visit here two years ago, Clinton expressed his regret in stark terms.
"The United States just blew it in Rwanda," Clinton said then.
But Bush is not one to second-guess himself. Asked if he worried he would have regrets, he said he did not. "I'm comfortable with the decision I made," Bush said. "I'm not comfortable with how quickly the response has been."
Bush also drew a parallel to Kenya, where long-simmering ethnic grievances are playing a role in postelection bloodshed. Bush said he was not suggesting that "anything close to what happened here is going to happen in Kenya."
"But I am suggesting there's some warning signs that the international community needs to pay attention to," he said.

The Iraq Interior Ministry has ordered the police to round up beggars, vagabonds and mentally disabled people from the streets of Baghdad to prevent them from being used by insurgents as suicide bombers, The Associated Press reported Tuesday, citing a ministry spokesman.
The decision came after a series of suicide bombings, including two carried out by women in who struck pet markets in Baghdad on Feb. 1, killing nearly 100 people. Iraqi and U.S officials have said the women were mentally disabled and apparently unwitting bombers.

A Turkish ground offensive against Kurdish rebel hideouts in norther Iraq remains possible, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Tuesday.

The Dogan news agency reported that 100 military vehicles, including armoured personnel carriers and ambulances, headed towards the Iraqi border on Tuesday.

Mr. Zardari said his party would seek talks with the militants in the tribal areas along the Afghan border, where the Taliban and Al Qaeda have carved out a stronghold, as well as with the nationalist militants who have battled the Pakistani Army in Baluchistan Province.
Many in Pakistan, including several parties that boycotted the elections, have been strongly opposed to Mr. Musharraf’s use of the army to battle tribesmen in the name of the campaign against terrorism, which is seen as an American agenda.
“We will have a dialogue with those who are up in the mountains and those who are not in Parliament,” Mr. Zardari said. “We want to take all those along who are against Pakistan and working against Pakistan.”

EDITORIAL: Not following through on the global tobacco threat
A new report issued by the World Health Organization offers the first comprehensive analysis of tobacco use and control efforts in 179 countries. It notes that tobacco will kill more people this year than tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria combined. It warns that unless governments do more to slow the epidemic, tobacco could kill a billion people by the end of the century, the vast majority in poor and middle-income countries.

It is impossible to believe claims by many companies that they are not trying to addict new smokers but are only trying to convert adults who are using inferior local brands. The WHO survey contends that the industry is targeting teenagers and women in developing countries.

Sir Winston Churchill has pnuemonia of the lower lung and pleurisy, according to an official medical bullentin tonight.

Thus it was not possible to confirm officially that Churchill smoked two cigars today, one before lunch and one after, although it had been reported authoratively enough to seem probable.

COMMENTARY: Echoes of 'Nam
Forty years ago this week, as twilight fell over the Republic of South Vietnam, I was lying on a stretcher in the rain outside a military hospital on a base near Hue. There were so many casualties that day that we had to wait our turn for overworked and overwhelmed doctors to attend to us.
The surgeon who eventually operated on me was furious - furious that he had been told to treat Americans first, leaving our South Vietnamese allies out in the rain.

In a strictly military sense, Tet was a defeat for the communists. But as Clausewitz, said, "War is a continuation of policy by other means . . . a real political instrument." And politically, Tet showed there was no light at the end of the tunnel, and that to fight on in an endless war was not something the American public was going to stand for. Vietnam showed that we could win every battle and still lose the war. if I am not mistaken, we have never lost a battle in Iraq or Afghanistan.

LETTER: The American dream
I taught "The Great Gatsby" for 30-odd years in my American literature classes at the Ecole Centrale Paris and was stunned by the article "Gatsby Speaks to new Americans" (Feb. 18).
The story of James Gatz/Jay Gatsby is an American tragedy, a story of obsession with money. His "dream" is to possess Daisy, a wealthy brat whose value he converts into money and calls it love. He will do anything to amass the wealth to buy her and does - briefly. Gatsby's fortune is as dirty as it gets and he winds up floating in his swimming pool with a bullet in him.
Some role model.
To have one of the greatest works of American literature so misunderstood and ill-taught is yet another American tragedy. The American Dream? In the last two pages, Fitzgerald makes it clear that, even in 1926, the American Dream was finished.
Andrew Davidson, Paris

"I can't tell people what value to place on their pet," he said. "What people choose to do with their disposable income is up to them."
For Shirley Trenholme, this meant paying for open-heart surgery to repair a heart valve in her 10-month-old flat-coated retriever, Arnie.
Brockman performs about eight similar open-heart operations each year at the college, which is the only place in Europe to offer this kind of treatment.
"You have to do what you can afford, but in my case I would have been prepared to raise the money somehow," Trenholme said by telephone. "As it was a puppy I bred, I couldn't not let him have it."
The nearly £10,000 operation was only available due to the largesse of a previous pet-owner who did not want to fly her animal to the United States for surgery.
Instead she donated £40,000 worth of equipment so Brockman and his team could set up a surgery - a gift that has saved the lives of dozens of other animals, Brockman said.
"The United Kingdom is a country of real pet lovers," he said. "There is no doubt about it."

MEANWHILE: Violence and healing on a wintry farm
I have grown used to the idea that nearly everything around me in nature happens unobserved and unrecorded. A snowy winter sometimes retains a transcript, but even those are rare. The bills of animal mortality are almost completely invisible otherwise. Who thrives, who dies, there is no accounting at all, only the fact of thriving and dying.
That wing-print allowed me to glimpse the uncompromising discipline of nature. But it will stand in my mind as the model of an almost perfect ephemerality, a vision of life itself.
The snow has melted away, taking with it the squirrel's track and the arc of those wings and my own track up the hill and the burnished spots where the horses rolled in the snow.

MIT economists help their profession get its groove back
Kremer and two other economists, in fact, did the textbook experiment and found that textbooks did not improve test scores or graduation rates in rural western Kenya. On the other hand, another randomized trial in the same part of Kenya found that treating children for intestinal worms did lift school performance. That study has led to an increase in financing for deworming programs and, as Alan Krueger of Princeton says, is "probably improving millions of lives."
Banerjee estimates, conservatively, that $15 billion a year out of roughly $100 billion in annual development aid worldwide could be spent on programs that have been proven to work. Unfortunately, the actual figure is much closer to zero than to $15 billion.

From: Lesley Poole
Date: 19 February 2008 1913
To: info at
Subject: Not books, but music....

Hi Ian,

I read A Place In My Country over Christmas last year, then again last month! The first time was too emotional for me to be rational - the second time was probably more rewarding, because I'd faced the fact that you left, and therefore didn't cry...well, not much!

It occured to me at the time that you might find the music of Show of Hands interesting, and I've finally got round to contacting you.

I 'found' the band last year, through hearing the song's Steve Knightley's absolute rant about what has been lost in has been confused by some people as 'little Englander' stuff, but that's not what Steve writes about; there's also Country Life, a song concerned with many of the issues you write about in Place In My Country.

I'm nothing to do with Show of Hands I should add, just an avid fan...we have a website called Longdogs (another Knightley song!) and we have a mission to spread the word - and very evangelical we are too!

Anyway, there you go, if you get a minute you'll find Roots and Country Life on YouTube. It's good, honestly!

Meanwhile, I wait for your next book with keen anticipation...I note that you're giving no clues, so guess it's pointless asking about Norman and co., and whether you keep in touch.

Thanks for a great book Ian,

Best wishes,

Lesley Poole

Thomson's bid for Reuters reduces the number of major companies selling information and trading systems to the financial services industry from three - Reuters, Thomson and privately owned Bloomberg - to just two, although Reuters is more focused on Europe, while Thomson is stronger in North America.
The merged company would generate sales of over $11 billion and edge out Bloomberg in terms of market share. Reuters has a partnership with the International Herald Tribune to produce its business pages.


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