Sunday, 30 March 2008

Saturday, 29th March 2008


The imported fruits and vegetables found in our shopping carts in winter and early spring are grown with types and amounts of pesticides that would often be illegal in the United States.
In this case, the victims are North American songbirds. Bobolinks, called skunk blackbirds in some places, were once a common sight in the Eastern United States. In mating season, the male in his handsome tuxedo-like suit sings deliriously as he whirrs madly over the hayfields. Bobolink numbers have plummeted almost 50 percent in the last four decades, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey.
The birds are being poisoned on their wintering grounds by highly toxic pesticides. Rosalind Renfrew, a biologist at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, captured bobolinks feeding in rice fields in Bolivia and took samples of their blood to test for pesticide exposure. She found that about half of the birds had drastically reduced levels of cholinesterase, an enzyme that affects brain and nerve cells - a sign of exposure to toxic chemicals.
Since the 1980s, pesticide use has increased fivefold in Latin America as countries have expanded their production of nontraditional crops to fuel the demand for fresh produce during winter in North America and Europe. Rice farmers in the region use monocrotophos, methamidophos and carbofuran, all agricultural chemicals that are rated Class I toxins by the World Health Organization, are highly toxic to birds, and are either restricted or banned in the United States. In countries like Guatemala, Honduras and Ecuador, researchers have found that farmers spray their crops heavily and repeatedly with a chemical cocktail of dangerous pesticides.

Food prices are soaring, a wealthier Asia is demanding better food and farmers cannot keep up. In short, the world faces a food crisis and in some places it is already boiling over.
Around the globe, people are protesting and governments are responding with often counterproductive controls on prices and exports - a new politics of scarcity in which ensuring food supplies is becoming a major challenge for the 21st century.
Damaged by severe weather in producing countries and plundered by a boom in demand from fast-developing nations, global wheat stocks are at 30-year lows. Grain prices have been on the rise for five years, ending decades of inexpensive food.
Drought, a declining dollar, a shift of investment money into commodities and use of farm land to grow biofuel crops have all contributed to food woes. But population growth and the growing wealth of China and other emerging countries are likely to be more enduring factors.
World population is set to hit 9 billion by 2050, and most of the extra 2.5 billion people will live in the developing world. It is in these countries that the population is demanding dairy and meat, which require more land to produce.

"This is an additional setback for the world economy, at a time when we are already going through major turbulence, but the biggest drama is the impact of higher food prices on the poor," Angel Gurría, head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, said.
In Gurría's native Mexico, tens of thousands took to the streets last year over the cost of tortillas, a national staple whose price rocketed in tandem with the price of corn.
Global food prices, based on United Nations records, rose 35 percent in the year to the end of January, markedly accelerating an upturn that began, gently at first, in 2002. Since then, prices have risen 65 percent.
In 2007 alone, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's world food index, dairy prices rose nearly 80 percent and grain 42 percent.

"The recent rise in global food commodity prices is more than just a short-term blip," the British research group Chatham House said in January.
"Society will have to decide the value to be placed on food," it added, and how "market forces can be reconciled with domestic policy objectives."
Many countries are already facing these choices.

DUBLIN, Ireland
From Rome's Colosseum to the Sydney Opera House, floodlit icons of civilization went dark for Earth Hour, a worldwide campaign to highlight the waste of electricity and the threat of climate change.
The environmental group WWF urged governments, businesses and households to turn back to candle power for at least 60 minutes Saturday starting at 8 p.m. (0000 GMT) wherever they were.

"What's amazing is that it's transcending political boundaries and happening in places like China, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea," said Andy Ridley, executive director of Earth Hour. "It really seems to have resonated with anybody and everybody."
Earth Hour officials said they were hopeful of mobilizing 100 million people to turn off their nonessential lights and electronic goods for the hour. Electricity plants produce greenhouse gases that fuel climate change.


Try this headline: Black Hole Eats Earth
The world's physicists have spent 14 years and $8 billion building the Large Hadron Collider, in which the colliding protons will recreate energies and conditions last seen a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Researchers will sift the debris from these primordial recreations for clues to the nature of mass and new forces and symmetries of nature.But Walter Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a "strangelet" that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called "strange matter." Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the U.S. National Environmental Policy Act.



The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, adopted in 1992, enjoys almost universal membership. It stands as the only global negotiation framework.
Now, the time has come to implement the ultimate objective of this treaty - the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous climate change.

It is the obvious case for a global solution agreed within the United Nations. No country can effectively address the problem by itself, yet no agreement will serve its purpose unless every country signs up.
The negative impact of climate change affects all aspects of life and all parts of our societies. Recognizing that access to energy is the key to economic growth and welfare, the challenge is to find a solution that responds adequately to the climate issue in a cost-effective way, not hampering but promoting sustainable economic growth and paving the way for a future low-carbon society.

More than 16,000 disabled people, many in wheelchairs, protested in Paris on Saturday to press for increased government aid.
Up to 100 organizations around France joined together to demand a pension equivalent to the minimum wage, €1,280 (US$2,010). The disabled currently receive less than half that, €628 (US$986).


1. Raphael: Je sais que la Terre est plate.

For a temporary best-friend fix, rent a dog (kibble included) for a day
"There are a lot of people out there looking for companionship," said Chris Haddix, 28, who runs the New York branch of Flexpetz. There are usually five or six dogs available for rent, many of them on display in the Wet Nose storefront window, attracting crowds.
Stevenson explained why she was a customer: "I'm single and moved here from Scotland two years ago, and it's been difficult to meet people because everyone in New York just kind of goes about their business. But when I'm walking around with Oliver, I seem to get into so many conversations about him. It becomes a nice way to meet people."

"When a big crisis happens here, they show their true nature," said Liu Xiaobo, a liberal dissident and government critic. "I am really shocked by the language they used concerning the Dalai Lama. They are talking about a 'People's War.' That is a phrase from the Cultural Revolution."

The newly refurbished Route 3 that cuts through this remote town is an ordinary strip of pavement, the type of two-lane road you might find winding through the backwoods of Vermont or sunflower fields in the French provinces.On Leusa, 70, who lives near the road, calls it "deluxe." As a young woman, she traded opium and tiger bones along the road, which was then nothing more than a horse trail.On Monday, the prime ministers of Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam will officially inaugurate the former opium smuggling route as the final link of what they call the "north-south economic corridor," a network of roads linking the southern Chinese city of Kunming to Bangkok spanning 1,800 kilometers, or 1,100 miles.



Israel on Sunday agreed to remove about 50 roadblocks in the West Bank and promised Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is visiting here, that it would upgrade checkpoints to reduce the waiting time for Palestinians who have been hampered in their efforts to go about their daily lives.

Fair Game
If You Can’t Sell, Good Luck

Where's my bailout?
That’s what thousands of individual investors, stuck with auction-rate securities that brokers had told them were “as good as cash,” might have wondered as they watched the Federal Reserve take on $29 billion of malodorous assets from the balance sheet of Bear Stearns.
Everybody knows, though, that only big guys get bailouts. Long-suffering small investors, unable to sell these supposedly liquid securities, have to look elsewhere for satisfaction.
Unfortunately, satisfaction is elusive for these investors.

Market Maker
What ‘the Bear’ Meant for the Street

Back in the days of ticker tape, when Wall Street firms like Morgan Stanley hired young men with pedigrees from colleges like Princeton and clubs like Piping Rock, Bear Stearns was the kind of place where hardscrabble Brooklynites could get a job.
Bear’s former chairman, Alan Greenberg, known as Ace, even had a name for these hires: P.S.D.’s, as in Poor, Smart, with a deep Desire to become rich.

Maybe some of Bear’s senior managers should have more closely read “Memos from the Chairman,” a collection of Mr. Greenberg’s idiosyncratic notes to employees that was published in 1996.
“We want people at Bear Stearns to cry wolf,” he advised. “Forget the chain of command! That is not the way Bear Stearns was built. If you think somebody is doing something off the wall or his/her decision-making stinks, go around the person, and that includes me.”

Foreclosure Machine Thrives on Woes
Nobody wins when a home enters foreclosure — neither the borrower, who is evicted, nor the lender, who takes a loss when the home is resold. That’s the conventional wisdom, anyway.

The reality is very different. Behind the scenes in these dramas, a small army of law firms and default servicing companies, who represent mortgage lenders, have been raking in mounting profits. These little-known firms assess legal fees and a host of other charges, calculate what the borrowers owe and draw up the documents required to remove them from their homes.
As the subprime mortgage crisis has spread, the volume of the business has soared, and firms that handle loan defaults have been the primary beneficiaries. Law firms, paid by the number of motions filed in foreclosure cases, have sometimes issued a flurry of claims without regard for the requirements of bankruptcy law, several judges say.



Like so many of the over-the-top birthday parties that typically appear on “My Super Sweet 16” on MTV, Ariel’s celebration took the fairy-tale-princess theme to new heights.

Horse-drawn carriages delivered teenage guests to a faux-castle tent where they were met with dancing jesters and disco lights. The birthday girl, wearing a white dress and tiara, flew in via helicopter. And the evening ended with fireworks and the arrival of Ariel’s gift from her father: a brand new BMW 325i.
As viewers learned, Ariel’s dad was a successful oilman. “I love oil. Oil means shoes and cars and purses,” Ariel exclaimed to the camera as she and her father stomped around oil drilling sites in the muddy hills near her home in Campbellsville, Ky. When her father pointed to one of the sites and told viewers that it produced 120 barrels a day, Ariel asked, “How many Louis Vuittons is that?” Her father’s answer was “a bunch.”
The show typically attracts younger viewers, but this particular episode, shown in February 2007, caught the attention of an entirely different demographic: government regulators.
Ariel’s father was Gary M. Milby, a man regulators now say was bilking hundreds of investors across the country out of millions of dollars by offering fraudulent investments in nearly 30 oil and gas limited partnerships with names like “Black Gold Oil No. 6” and “Fort Knox Oil No. 8.”

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan

The Tajik police have detained two men suspected in the murder of a Russian television reporter who was found stabbed in a Moscow apartment with a belt around his neck, an official said Saturday.

Ilyas Shurpayev, 32, a reporter for Russia's state-run TV network Channel One, was found dead March 21 in a rented Moscow apartment. He was from the southern Russian province of Dagestan. A doorman at his building said Shurpayev had called down to ask that two young men of non-Slavic appearance be allowed in the building.
The police said the killers set the apartment on fire and took 100,000 rubles, or $4,100. On the day of Shurpayev's murder, unidentified gunmen shot and killed the head of Dagestan's state-controlled TV station, but officials said they did not believe the killings were related.
More than a dozen journalists have been slain in contract-style killings in Russia since 2000. Many appear to have been targeted for beatings and killings because of their attempts to dig into allegations of corruption. The killers have rarely been found.



Jeremic stressed that Belgrade realized its role in bringing Balkan war crimes suspects to the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague was crucial to normalizing relations.

"We shall locate, arrest and hand over Ratko Mladic" and others indicted on war crimes charges, Jeremic told the EU ministers.
Speaking to reporters later, he said Belgrade's commitment to cooperate fully with the war crimes tribunal in would lead "in the very near future" to handing over the last remaining indicted suspects - "first and foremost General Ratko Mladic." He did not elaborate.

Separately, police in southwestern Germany said Saturday they were investigating "in all directions" after a baby carriage was set alight overnight in the entrance of a building inhabited largely by Turks in Backnang, near Stuttgart.
Police said two backward swastikas and the words "now all die" in misspelled German were found sprayed on an outside wall.
A resident extinguished the fire, and two young women were taken to a hospital after inhaling smoke. Police said it appeared that the fire would not have been strong enough to set the entire house ablaze.

It's the end of the era of the white man.
I know your head is spinning. The world can feel like one of those split-screen TVs with images of a suicide bombing in Baghdad flashing, and the latest awful market news coursing along the bottom, and an ad for some stool-loosening wonder drug squeezed into a corner.
The jumble makes no sense. It just goes on, like the mindless clacking of an ice dispenser.
On the globalized treadmill, you drop your eyes again from the screen (now showing ads for gourmet canine cuisine) to the New Yorker or Asahi Shimbun. And another bomb goes off.
There's a lot of noise and not much signal. Everywhere there is flux and the reaction to it: the quest, sometimes violent, for national or religious identity. These alternate faces of globalization - fluidity and tribalism - define our frontier-dissolving world.

But in all the movement back and forth, basic things shift. The world exists in what Paul Saffo, a forecaster at Stanford University, calls "punctuated equilibrium." Every now and again, an ice cap the size of Rhode Island breaks off.
The breaking sound right now is that of the end of the era of the white man.

"It's a matter of survival," said Ashutosh Goel, an analyst with the brokerage firm Edelweiss Capital. "To succeed and thrive you have to be a serious global player and not only focused on the domestic market. You can't remain a purely Indian player."
Nearly all the leading corporations here - including Reliance Industries and the outsourcing company Wipro - are looking overseas, and reports of Indian acquisitions of U.S., European, and Asian brands have become common.
Many see the newfound assertiveness as a reflection of the general feeling in India that the once-stagnant underachiever now belongs among the international elite. "Indian companies have been in the mood for overseas purchases for a few years now and that coincides with the boom in the economy and the general feel-good factor here," said Anjana Menon, an editor at Mint, a leading Indian business newspaper.

When stocks in three big Chinese companies sank below their initial public offering prices last week, investors who bought shares in last year's offers suffered. China's once-roaring IPO market is another casualty.
After spectacular growth last year, when mainland China eclipsed the United States as the world's biggest market for initial public offers of equity, sliding stock prices and concern about oversupply threaten to stifle activity this year.
"The bubble is bursting after rampant speculation pushed prices of newly listed shares to ridiculously high levels at the peak of China's stock bull run late last year," said Zheng Weigang, head of research at Shanghai Securities. "This will slow equity fund-raising in coming months and deter the overpricing of new offers and new listings."
Investors bought a staggering $100 billion of equity in almost 200 newly listing firms from May 2006, when China lifted a yearlong ban on IPOs, to February this year.


NEVER mind brainstorms. These days, Madison Avenue is all about brain waves.
That may be overstated, but it is no exaggeration that agencies and advertisers are growing more interested in neuroscience in their never-ending efforts to improve effectiveness.
The ardor of the ad business to adopt the technical tools of biometrics — measuring brain waves, galvanic skin response, eye movements, pulse rates and the like — is increasing as consumer spending, the engine of the American economy, slows.
In other words, in hard times ads must work harder to move the merchandise.
“Instead of hypotheses about what people think and feel, you actually see what they think and feel,” said Joel Kades, vice president for strategic planning and consumer insight at Virgin Mobile USA in Warren, N.J.



On Tuesday, the Council of Europe plans to introduce guidelines to aid computer crime investigators, building on a cybercrime treaty that has been signed by 43 nations, including the United States. A controversial proposal would require service providers to give the authorities a list of the types of information that they could offer.
On Wednesday, NATO will present a strategy for countering computer attacks at a meeting for heads of state in Bucharest, with a proposal to create a central cyberdefense authority.
"The attacks on Estonia - directed at services on which Estonian citizens rely - could happen anywhere," said James Appathurai, a NATO spokesman. "The only way to defend against them is through multinational, multilateral cooperation."
That kind of military talk concerns privacy advocates and computer experts, who fear that private companies will be pressed into service to police users as part of these strategies.


The IHT, The South China Morning Post and Time Asia, the weekly magazine, each won two top prizes in the Human Rights Press Awards announced Saturday.

The competition, organized by Amnesty International of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Journalists' Association and the Foreign Correspondents Club, cited the IHT's feature reporting on Myanmar and its online article and multimedia coverage of stateless people in Southeast Asia.


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