Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Monday, 24th March 2008


With no income tax and few or no taxes on purchases, Andorra has sacrificed charm for commerce. The road skirting the capital is now a kind of strip mall, with one large duty-free shopping center after another. Main shopping streets are lined with stores offering Swiss watches, French perfumes and nonprescription drugs at knock-down prices.
Outlying towns like Encamp and Canillo swarm with new high-rises that have crushed old village centers.

Andorrans speak Catalan, the language of northeastern Spain, but also some French, and subsisted in years past by raising grains, cattle and, until recently, tobacco. Andorran cuisine was an oxymoron.


The Great Warming Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations By Brian Fagan
Bloomsbury Press. $26.95. 282 pages.

The causes of the Medieval Warm Period remain unclear, and there is debate over what the actual temperatures were. Fagan draws one unambiguous conclusion from the evidence, however, in a final chapter on the present-day implications of the great warming of a thousand years ago. Drought is the great enemy, "the silent and insidious killer associated with global warming," he writes.
Population density has placed enormous pressure on increasingly scarce water resources. As a result modern droughts, brought on by El Niño events, have taken an enormous toll in lives and wreaked measureless economic devastation. Prepare for worse.

Judging from the arid cycles of a thousand years ago, the droughts of a warmer future will become more prolonged and harsher," Fagan writes. "Even without greenhouse gases, the effects of prolonged droughts would be far more catastrophic today than they were even a century ago."



China has sufficient fuel supplies to avoid a recurrence of widespread diesel shortages in the near term, the government said late Monday as it sought to ease concerns about a new supply crisis.
China's major oil firms were reported to be rationing diesel in parts of the country during the past few weeks due to shortages at private stations, causing a repeat of the long lines seen several months ago.
"Supply tightness, even queues and rationing, in southern China was partly due to rising needs in the spring season as well as more demand after the harsh winter weather," the National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement on its Web site.
"But expectations and rumors of a hike in oil products prices also led to fuel hoarding for profiteering in some cases following continuous rises in international oil prices," it said.



Chanel's most devoted fans may revel in the experience of being part of what feels like a very elaborate Chanel commercial. Those looking for something else might not be so rapturous. After 30 minutes of the audio guide, the Blue Noses piece about being clobbered in the head with a Chanel accessory comes to mind.
(The Chanel boutique nearby sells a limited-edition Mobile Art 2.55 bag in black for about $3,000.)
Personal reactions to the show have ranged from comments like "a very nice escape" to "very French, pretentious, verbose, bossy."
As a cultural landmark, Mobile Art will probably be remembered as an important moment. After all, to be successful, both luxury brands and artists need to master the alchemy that transforms a bit of leather and fabric or ink and paper into magic.


"I have vowed in the past, and I will vow so long as I'm president, to make sure that those lives were not lost in vain; that, in fact, there is a outcome that will merit the sacrifice that civilian and military alike have made; that our strategy going forward will be aimed at making sure that we achieve victory," he said.

U.S. coverage of in Iraq plummets
Five years later, the United States remains at war in Iraq, but there are days when it would be hard to tell from a quick look at television news, newspapers and the Internet.
U.S. media attention to Iraq began to wane after the first months of fighting, but as recently as the middle of last year, it was still the most-covered topic. Since then, Iraq coverage by major U.S. news sources has plummeted, to about one-fifth of what it was last summer, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The three TV broadcast networks' nightly newscasts devoted more than 4,100 minutes to Iraq in 2003 and 3,000 in 2004, before leveling off at about 2,000 a year, according to Andrew Tyndall, who monitors the broadcasts and posts detailed breakdowns at tyndallreport.com. But by the last months of 2007, he said, the broadcasts were spending just half as much time on Iraq as they had earlier in the year.

BLUE BELL, Pennsylvania
As part of her argument that she has the best experience and instincts to deal with a sudden crisis as president, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton recently offered a vivid description of having to run across a tarmac to avoid sniper fire after landing in Bosnia as first lady in 1996.
Yet on Monday, Clinton said that she "misspoke" about the episode - a concession that came after CBS News showed footage of her walking calmly across the tarmac with her daughter, Chelsea, and being greeted by dignitaries and a child.


A congressional study by the Joint Economic Committee found that the sums spent on the Iraq war each day could enroll an additional 58,000 children in Head Start or give Pell Grants to 153,000 students to attend college. Or if we're sure we want to invest in security, then a day's Iraq spending would finance another 11,000 border patrol agents or 9,000 police officers.
Imagine the possibilities. We could hire more police and border patrol agents, expand Head Start and rehabilitate America's image in the world by underwriting a global drive to slash maternal mortality, eradicate malaria and deworm every child in Africa.
All that would consume less than one month's spending on the Iraq war.

The head of Germany's intelligence agency said that "several hundred" Muslim extremists are living in Germany and that al-Qaida is forming a strong base in North Africa, a German magazine reported Monday.Ernst Uhrlau, who oversees the BND, the Germany intelligence agency, said that "up to 700 people are being surveilled, in different degrees," according to an interview with Der Spiegel.
"Converts that end up in extremist groups often tend toward political renegades and absolute intolerance and highest radicalism," Uhrlau was quoted as saying by the magazine for its special edition on Islam in Europe.However, he also emphasized that most converts were "friendly people, who discovered Islam in searching for meaning for their lives."
In the interview with the magazine, Uhrlau underlined that northern Africa was becoming a greater security risk.The magazine quoted him as saying that German intelligence and security agencies had followed "with great concern" the activities of a "handful of groups" that have settled in the region."What's growing there is bringing a brand new quality of jihad right to our front door," he was quoted as saying by the magazine.


Earlier last week, in Jerusalem, Angela Merkel, told Israelis, "Threats to you are threats to us." She reaffirmed that Israel's security was Germany's responsibility and a German "reason of state." In "the hour of proof," Merkel said, these would not be "empty words."

In a Europe-wide canvass last year by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, these attitudes emerged:For the Germans and French, if Iran gets nuclear weapons, clear majorities think it's likely the mullahs will attack other countries in the Middle East and supply terrorists with nukes.But majorities in the two countries insist this wouldn't personally affect them.


Using cloning to produce animals that are doomed to a barbarous death adds insult to injury, said Leonardo Anselmi, president of an anti-bullfighting organization, Stop Our Shame.
"It's dangerous to put a tool like this within the reach of such ignorant people," said Anselmi, referring to breeders of fighting bulls. "Before we know it, they'll be crossing a bull with a tiger to see what new creature they can produce for their Roman circus."


When news of the outbreak of extremely drug-resistant TB in South Africa was announced in Toronto in 2006 at an international AIDS meeting, it sent shudders through the ranks of infectious-disease specialists. These virulent strains had rapidly killed 52 of 53 patients. Drug resistance emerges in large part because health care systems too often fail to ensure that patients successfully complete treatments with first and second line drugs, according international health officials.
The medicines to cure ordinary TB here cost about $36 and take six to eight months. The drugs for XDR-TB cost about $7,000 and treatment lasts two years. At the start, patients endure four to six months of painful daily injections in the buttocks or thigh, a morning ritual at Jose Pearson hospital that leaves faces scrunched up in agony.
A 10-year-old boy whose mother recently died here of the disease rubbed cream into his backside to relieve the ache. He now lives on the XDR-TB ward as its solitary child, with no family around.
"I do think about my mother," he said. "But I don't cry because I'll never get her back again."


By Monday evening, results on the Election Commission of Bhutan's Web site showed that Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, had swept the election. "In pursuit of gross national happiness" is its English-language motto, a notion coined by the elder king to refer to a path of development that combines economic indicators with respect for culture, religion and the environment. The party's chief, Jigmi Thinley, is a former prime minister who had a hand in coming up with the gross national happiness policy.

In one of the bloodiest attacks in months on a nongovernmental organization in Afghanistan, gunmen killed five members of a mine-clearing team and wounded seven more in a relatively peaceful northern province, officials said Monday.

Harsh verdict on Western aid
A report by relief agencies in Afghanistan says the violence there is being exacerbated by Western nations' failure to deliver promised aid. It also states that 40 percent of the funds that do reach the country return to groups in the West in the form of profits and salaries, Reuters reported from Kabul.
The Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, an umbrella group for nongovernmental organizations in Afghanistan, writes in the report: "Thus far aid has been insufficient and in many cases wasteful and ineffective."


PATRAS, Greece
Aid groups said children should be regarded as minors rather than migrants. Giorgos Karapiperis, a doctor with a local Red Cross team that is offering shelter and advice to the migrants, said: "We are closing our eyes to a real problem. There are laws which dictate that we help such children."
The death of a 15-year-old on a ferry leaving Patras could have been prevented if such laws had been upheld, said George Moschos, the Greek ombudsman for children's rights. The boy had hidden under a truck and had suffocated on its exhaust fumes. A deportation order was found by the Italian authorities in his pocket.
Port officials in Patras said children hide on trucks regularly. "Around 600 trucks board ships here daily," an official said. "We try to check them all but it's chaos."




After breakfast together on Dec. 26, the family had scattered: Florence and Mathilde to their room, the three younger children with a nanny to the "Kids' Club" on the beach, and Philipon to an adjacent gym.
He was on a treadmill when he saw people running. A post-Christmas prank, he thought, until he saw the wall of water. He jumped from the machine as the gym windows exploded. The wave flipped him as if he were "in a huge washing machine."
Wedged under a pick-up truck, he thought: This is how it ends. But the debris-filled tide yanked him onward. He clung to a palm tree. When the water began to rush back out, he floated on a plastic container of cooking oil.
There were dead everywhere. On the first floor of the hotel, he found his wife and daughter, who had scrambled to safety on the roof. They looked down at the Kids' Club, now a flattened ruin.
Philipon scrambled onto the beach but could find no sign of life. After evacuation to a hospital, where he witnessed the triage of the dead, he returned. Charles, his oldest son, had been a champion swimmer. Might he?
But there, under the ruins, was the boy's corpse.
It took six more months to identify the other boys - Octave on April 1, 2005, and Auguste on July 3. "It was impossible for me to think of the future until I had found their bodies," Philipon says.
Three children gone: The hardest thing still is thinking about what they might have been.
I look at Philipon, 45, seeking some clue. His brown eyes have a boyish candor. He is bereft of self-pity, a man who's come home.
Coca-Cola brought him back to Paris to a great job, but when the offer from Bollinger came, he had no hesitation. The very French history he had fled was now a comfort. The bottom line still matters, but community, friends and tradition offer new rewards.
Philipon and his wife found strength - in their Catholic faith, which he calls their "grace," and their roots. In October, 2006, they had a son, Constantin, and late last year, a daughter, Penelope. "We now have three on earth and three in the sky," he says.


Inexcusably, the International Olympic Committee has done little to defend its values and has stuck with plans to have the Olympic torch pass through Lhasa.
Boycotting the Games doesn't work; we know that from experience. But the idea of Bernard Kouchner, France's foreign minister, about not attending the opening ceremony is worth considering. What message does it send if dignitaries lend their prestige to China's coming out party as if nothing happened in Tibet?


As the nonpareil war profiteer in Iraq, Blackwater Worldwide keeps outdoing its own mercenary record. Blackwater executives have used inside influence as administration fund-raisers to multiply their no-bid war contracts a thousandfold to more than $1 billion. Blackwater guards redefined Ugly American for the Iraqi people in September in fatally shooting 17 civilians in a burst of "spray and pray" panic on Baghdad's streets.
And now congressional investigators report dodgy bookkeeping by which Blackwater insists its 850 operatives in Iraq are separate contractors, not employees. That little device has allowed the company to avoid paying an estimated $50 million in U.S. payroll taxes.

In 1980-1982, Singh said, people in the most affluent group could expect to live 2.8 years longer than people in the most deprived group (75.8 versus 73 years). By 1998-2000, the difference in life expectancy had increased to 4.5 years (79.2 versus 74.7 years) and it continues to grow, he said.
After 20 years, the lowest socioeconomic group lagged further behind the most affluent, Singh said, noting that "life expectancy was higher for the most affluent in 1980 than for the most deprived group in 2000."
"If you look at the extremes in 2000," Singh said, "men in the most deprived counties had 10 years' shorter life expectancy than women in the most affluent counties (71.5 years versus 81.3 years)."
The difference between poor black men and affluent white women was more than 14 years (66.9 years versus 81.1 years).

Serbia proposed dividing newly independent Kosovo along ethnic lines on Monday, a move that was immediately rebuffed by Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership in Pristina.
"This proposal is a provocation from Belgrade, and we reject it 100 percent," Kosovo's deputy prime minister, Hajredin Kuqi, said in a telephone interview from Pristina. "We want to help create cooperation between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo - not divisions."
"Now it is more than clear that the merciless destruction of Serbia in the NATO bombing had only one goal, and that is to turn Kosovo into the first NATO state in the world," Kostunica said in a statement.

Wall Street Journal's Marketplace getting a makeover
Murdoch has said that he wants to broaden The Journal's appeal with more general-interest news. Now, the front page has shorter articles and more breaking and nonbusiness news, and particularly favors politics. The paper has set aside pages for world news and added a sports page.
Several months ago, people briefed on the new management's plans said that Marketplace, the second section of the paper, would be replaced. But now, newsroom employees — who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the changes — say the section will be reshaped.
Plans call for fewer business features on the section's first page. The section front also has featured columnists who will be shifted inside, except Walter Mossberg, the technology columnist. The Marketplace front page will instead have more hard news articles about events in the corporate world.
Robert Christie, a Dow Jones spokesman, declined to comment on specific changes, except to quote Marcus Brauchli, the managing editor, as saying, "There are a lot of evolutionary changes going on."
Unlike the bigger budget Rwanda-themed films of recent years, "Munyurangabo" does not explicitly revisit the 1994 slaughter of Tutsis by extremist Hutus. It is instead a quiet accounting of the aftermath, tracing the ripple effects as they are felt among friends and within households, setting the thirst for vengeance against the possibility of reconciliation.
And unlike most movies set in strife-torn faraway lands and made by American or European directors, "Munyurangabo" declines to provide the requisite surrogate figure - usually a noble do-gooder - for the Western audience. The desire to remove the presence, and even the perspective, of the outsider-observer was "partially a test," Chung said, "to see if we could bridge gaps between cultures."

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