Friday, 14 March 2008

Thursday, 14th March 2008


The Kenyan military has sealed off an area where land disputes have flared into violence, and witnesses said helicopter gunships opened fire to drive gunmen from forests and caves.The operation at Mount Elgon, some 500 kilometers (300 miles) northwest of Nairobi, is a reminder that the resolution — at least on paper — of an election dispute has not ended decades-old tensions over land and inequality."Always in this country, people are fighting over land," said Lucy Okello, head nurse at Kitale District Hospital, where four girls were treated Thursday for burns after their village was attacked last week, allegedly by the Sabaot Land Defense Force, a militia group fighting for the redistribution of land in western Kenya.The oldest girl, Joanne Temuko, 15, wailed and held her head in her hands as nurses applied balm to her scorched back.Thirteen other civilians were hacked, shot or burned to death in the attack. There was no claim of responsibility. A member of the SLDF, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said at the time of the attack that his group was simply trying to "correct historical injustices."

Global food shortage
Regarding the article "UN warns on food prices" (March 7): Josette Sheeran, executive director of the UN's World Food Program, has done well to press the alarm bell that international food reserves are at their lowest level in the last 30 years. She warned that WFP may have to ration food due to shortages.
Apparently, high energy and grain prices, the impact of climate change and the growing demand for biofuels have all contributed to the scarcities. And Sheeran indicated that the rise in basic food costs could continue until 2010.
Aside from climate conditions and diversion of grains for biofuels, living standards have improved and people are eating more. There are fewer people below the poverty line.
We need to augment food production by about 15-to-20 percent per year, for the next 3 years, or we may witness violence in the poorer societies of the world. This is a crucial issue confronting world leaders.

Many restaurants have already raised prices, which is impacting shopping patterns. Consumers will downgrade their food purchases in terms of quality in the first phase. In the next phase, they may cut periphery food items like fruits, soups and ice-creams. Finally, we may witness declines in consumption.
Raju Aneja Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, warned European Union leaders Thursday that the bloc would be left with "zero credibility" if they yielded to pressure to water down commitments made last year to combat global warming.


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Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, said he would ask European Union leaders to back a reduction in sales tax on environmentally electrical goods like dishwashers and lightbulbs.

The European Union will not reverse its policies on promoting biofuels because they are an "important weapon" against climate change, Mariaan Fischer Boel, the commissioner for agriculture, said Thursday.
"Bio-fuels are controversial," Boel said at a biofuels conference in Brussels. Still, "they have a solid justification. Non policy U-turn lies ahead."

Volkswagen said Thursday it would roll out more than 20 new models by the end of the decade in a bid to bolster sales to 8 million vehicles in 2011 and close the gap with Toyota Motor and General Motors.

"There are 300 million people in China poised to buy their very first car. In Russia there are 70 million. And in Asia, 250 million people aspire to motorized mobility," the VW chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, said at VW's annual news conference.

The director, 29, who was raised speaking French and English, has sampled different cultures. Her family left the Paris suburbs when she was 10 to live in Singapore. Her return as a teenager to those suburbs, the sensation of going home to a place that had gone on without her, nourished the story of the screenplay that led her to filmmaking. The film seems set in a timeless world of teenage desire, inhabited by lovely, unhappy heroines.
"I've always had a passion for fiction," she said, "and live in the world of fiction, it's always been books and graphic novels. We had a good moviehouse in our suburb. I went for the art movies, and watched bad movies on TV - but also 'Twin Peaks' and 'Indiana Jones,' very smart movies.
"I wanted to write a one-hour-and-a-half movie, plotted like an action movie, not much dialogue, with rhythm, and characters you can identify with. That was vital. Also I like popular cinema. I thought about these things because I'm more a moviegoer than an auteur so I try to be an auteur who can rise to the level of audience demands."

Sciamma at 21 was a brilliant literature postgraduate who did a six-month stint in marketing before taking a stab at the demanding exam for entrance into Fémis, the national film school. She was accepted in the screenwriting section. "I was always interested in learning a craft and writing for movies meant learning something."
The script of "Water Lilies" was her graduation project; the jury suggested that she should make her own movie.

Her own film, which has a violent bedroom defloration scene, also takes risks. The tomboy heroine realizes that she is in love with a girl and suddenly collides against the vital question: Will it always be that way for her?
When this question was put to Sciamma by interviewers, the director said that she is open in discussing her lesbianism, but nobody quite dared bring up the issue.
"Nobody asked outright," she said. "In France, we think we are so liberated, but are we? Only at Cannes: some of the interviewers got snide, all they wanted was an outing and I don't mind talking openly, but I don't like snide. In England they asked openly."
Yet in England, there are problems releasing the movie: "They have something like the Children's Protection Act - and I think that the atmosphere of the movie also disturbs them," she said.
She is very curious to see how American audiences react. "I think it's a movie that moves people. Everybody
says it's a movie for Americans because it's a movie they wouldn't make there. We'll see."


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Global stocks tumbled Thursday, as the investment fund Carlyle Capital said it had succumbed to the credit crisis and new economic data showed U.S. retail sales fell in February.
Carlyle Capital, a unit of Carlyle Group, one of the world's biggest investment funds, said its creditors were planning to liquidate its assets after they failed to reach an agreement on restructuring its debts. The company, which is listed in Amsterdam, had as much as $21 billion of assets, mostly triple-A rated debt backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It said it expected its lenders would "promptly take possession of substantially all" of its remaining assets.
"If banks are unwilling to lend, then this is the lifeblood of capitalism being restricted,” said Justin Urquhart Stewart, co-founder of 7 Investment Management in London. “Hedge funds and other weaker operations are being broken like people stepping on twigs.”
Jérôme Kerviel, the former trader at the bank Société Générale, has told French investigators that an assistant on his trading desk conducted at least one large fictitious transaction last spring on their boss's own computer - as the boss himself looked on, according to a court document obtained Thursday by the International Herald Tribune. The testimony showed Kerviel continuing to press his case that his superiors knew what he was doing in amassing trades that the bank blamed for nearly €5 billion in losses.
The list of things that have not changed is long, and includes the fact that house prices in the United States are still falling, will keep falling for a long time and will destroy much more capital in the process.
Bank balance sheets are still impaired and probably will get worse, and banks will still strictly ration credit, making interest rate cuts less effective.
"The Fed has bought some time and time is a precious commodity now," said Nick Parsons, head of markets strategy at nabCapital in London. "We'll see if it's enough, but I doubt very much that it is."
As for turning around the stock market, Parsons noted that the rally Wednesday was one of 20 since 2000 in which the S&P 500 had risen more than three percent. The other 19 were during the 2000-2003 bear market.
Willem Sels, credit strategist at Dresdner Kleinwort in London, notes that credit markets do not share the euphoria shown by equities, indicating that bank risk appetites had hardly been whetted.
"Once again we think the Fed is pushing on a string," he wrote in a note to clients. He said banks' lack of appetite for risk and the "very violent price moves of hedge fund positions" were leading to the "tightening of some prime brokers' policies."
That "will not change with the Fed intervention, and should keep the threat of forced selling firmly in place," he said in the note.
If margin calls from bank prime brokerage desks, which lend money to hedge funds, keep coming, it is unlikely this will be the last of the Fed's creative efforts.
This does however bring up the issue of how much ammunition the Fed has left. Its ability to swap government debt for mortgage debt without losing control of short term rates, which is unthinkable, is limited by the size of its balance sheet.
Steve Randy Waldman, who writes at, estimates that after the most recent $200 billion is exhausted, the Fed will have $300 billion to $400 billion left, unless it finds a way to expand its balance sheet.
And again, this is all predicated on the ability of the mortgage bonds and other securities pledged to the Fed to hold their value.
Should bonds be downgraded or the Fed change its mind about their value, the Fed might ask for its Treasury securities back.
Given that U.S. house prices are falling fast, this scenario is far from impossible.
Richard Syron, who as chief executive of Freddie Mac is at the epicenter of the housing and debt bust, was truly pessimistic in an appearance before investors and analysts.
It is an "extraordinary environment in housing finance," Syron said. "It's not incorrect to say we are in a 100-year storm in the housing industry, and we have to treat it as such."
The pension fund of the Turkish Army is preparing to invest outside the country for the first time, and has $3 billion to spend on purchases in Europe this year.
The $25 billion Ordu Yardimlasma Kurumu fund, known as Oyak, might use some of the money for infrastructure investments like roads and bridges, its chief executive, Coskun Ulusoy, said in an interview. He said he also was interested in mines that could provide raw materials for Oyak's steel-making venture.
"We're looking west," Ulusoy said late last month at his headquarters here. "I'm going to diversify."

A group of Tibetan exiles in northern India who began a six-month march this week to protest China’s control of their homeland were arrested early Thursday. They then began a hunger strike that they say will continue until they are released.
India’s attitude toward Tibetans who protest China’s control of their birthplace has been slowly shifting from support toward repression, some human rights advocates say. Arresting peaceful marchers, some carrying photographs of Gandhi, “signifies a toughness that does not seem legitimate,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, a South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch.
“It was probably done because India did not want to displease China,” Ms. Ganguly said.
The official slogan of this summer's Beijing Olympics may be "One World, One Dream," but Beijing's real mantra has been something more prosaic, and in the end, much more problematic: no politics.
Over the coming months, China will offer the world an astounding spectacle. Not the Games themselves, but rather the spectacle of a nation that is in the midst of breathtaking change and yet clings to habits of statecraft so dated that they seem like relics of the Middle Ages.
The following list is not exhaustive, but it gives an idea of what is being demanded: Smile, approve of us, behave, do not criticize, don't dare protest and, back to the mantra, banish all thoughts of politics from your minds.
That's asking an awful lot, and like requiring someone to hold their body rigid for an extended period, it will demand an immense and painful effort, and it brings the risk of self-injury.
The Olympics are intended to quicken Chinese heartbeats in their love for the motherland, and people will be encouraged to see nitpicking foreigners (Steven Spielberg, for example) for what they supposedly are, offensive outsiders who fall into a long tradition of hostility to China.
This brings to mind a saying about propaganda, which is defined as a kind of magic practiced by people who don't believe in it for people who do.
A crude, practical example of how this all works was delivered last week after the Icelandic singer Björk ended a concert performance of her song "Declare Independence" in Shanghai with the cry "Tibet! Tibet!" Beijing said that act not only broke Chinese law, but even more preposterously, "hurt Chinese people's feelings."
China responded Thursday to a U.S. report critical of its human rights record by releasing its own review attacking the rights record of the United States as "tattered and shocking."
The Chinese State Council, or cabinet, released the report two days after the U.S. State Department took Beijing to task for widespread human rights violations.
China's report criticized violent crime in the United States, its large prison population and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It is high time for the U.S. government to face its own human rights problems with courage," the report said, "and give up the unwise practices of applying double standards on human rights issues and using it to suppress other countries."

The official account is that the prisoner asked to go to the toilet while waiting for family members to visit, then simply disappeared from the Whitley Road Detention Center.
If this is true, said Lee Kin Mun, a leading political blogger who calls himself Mr. Brown, the government should "take a leaf from school exams, where security seems to be tighter" and where students must be escorted to the bathroom.
The country's founder, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, boiled the whole debacle down to one word: complacency.
He used the incident to strike again with his frequent warning that Singaporeans must work hard to protect the modern but fragile country he created from a social or economic explosion.
"It shows that it is a fallacy, it is stupid, to believe we are infallible," he said. "We are not infallible. One mistake and we've got a big explosive in our midst. So let's not take this lightly. I think it's a very severe lesson on complacency."

"I am against the boycott of books," Peres said Wednesday. "Books are written to awaken reflection, to try to make sense of ideas."
Sarkozy's spokesman called for calm.
"It is not books that we should fear," David Martinon said at a news conference Thursday.
"It's sad and a shame," said Martine Heissler, who was helping to run a stand at the fair for Tribune Juive, a monthly for the French Jewish community. "We're not talking about Kalashnikovs here. We're talking about books, the language, words."
She said the 39 Israeli writers being honored were mainly from the political left and supported Palestinian statehood.
"Once more, it's a closing instead of an opening," she said.

In 1939 the editor of a Zionist newspaper in New York sent a letter to Mahatma Gandhi pointing out that in Nazi Germany “a Jewish Gandhi would last about five minutes before he was executed.” Gandhi stuck fast to his nonviolent principles. “I can conceive the necessity of the immolation of hundreds, if not thousands, to appease the hunger of dictators,” he replied.
The actual number, of course, was six million, a figure that haunts Nicholson Baker’s “Human Smoke,” a pacifist interpretation of the events leading to World War II. As Mr. Baker sees it, the United States should never have entered the war; France made a civilized decision when it decided not to fight on; and Roosevelt and Churchill deserve equal billing with Hitler as the grand architects of history’s most destructive war.
Muddled and often infuriating, “Human Smoke” sounds its single, solemn note incessantly, like a mallet striking a kettle drum over and over. War is bad. Churchill was bad. Roosevelt was bad. Hitler was bad too, but maybe, in the end, no worse than Roosevelt and Churchill. Jeannette Rankin, a Republican congresswoman from Montana, was good, because she cast the lone vote opposing a declaration of war against Japan. It was Dec. 8, 1941.
Mr. Baker’s title, a grim reference to the crematoriums at Auschwitz, effectively demolishes the edifice he tries to construct. Did the war “help anyone who needed help?” Mr. Baker asks in a plaintive afterword. The prisoners of Belsen, Dachau and Buchenwald come to mind, as well as untold millions of Russians, Danes, Belgians, Czechs and Poles. Nowhere and at no point does Mr. Baker ever suggest, in any serious way, how their liberation might have been effected other than by force of arms.
Writers are free to take on any subject they please. But Mr. Baker’s decision to tackle World War II seems curious. By talent and temperament, on brilliant display in novels like “The Mezzanine” and “Vox,” he is an obsessive miniaturist, a painter wielding a brush with a single hair. In turning to nonfiction, it was completely in character for him to delve into the intricacies of library card catalogs and newspaper archives, the subject of “Double Fold.” War and peace are something else entirely.
World War II was a deeply unfortunate conflict in which many lives were lost. Mr. Baker is right about that, but not about much else in this self-important, hand-wringing, moral mess of a book. In dedicating it to the memory of American and British pacifists, Mr. Baker writes, “They failed, but they were right.” Millions of ghosts say otherwise.

Despite widely varying national retirement systems, people in five major European countries and the United States share the view that the systems are broken and that they will have to work 5 to 10 years longer than they would like, a poll conducted by Harris Interactive for the International Herald Tribune and France 24 shows.
"The No. 1 problem is not retirement," Gurría [Ángel Gurría, head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris] said in a television interview being shown Friday on "The Talk of Paris" program on France 24. "The No. 1 problem, with a population which is aging, and with a population which in many countries of the OECD is falling in absolute terms, is how to have more of the population working.
"That is the only way in which some of our countries can continue to have growth."
When people from the six nations were asked when they thought they would actually retire, the earliest were the French, at 64.2 years old, and the oldest the Americans, at 67.2.
"This is good news for politicians who want to move the effective age of retirement to age 65 or beyond," Sapir said. "They don't need to fear being bold in making the necessary reforms."
ACCRA, Ghana
According to a 2005 World Bank study, a whopping 47 percent of college-educated Ghanaians live abroad. The problem is especially acute in medicine, where 54 percent of physicians who trained here between 1999 and 2004 left to work elsewhere.
That's in a country with just 2,000 doctors, or one for every 11,000 inhabitants. By comparison, the United States has one doctor for every 2,000 people. Some hospitals here have no doctor at all, while others hire a single physician to care for thousands of patients.
So who's at fault for this grim state of affairs? Like the African-American speaker at my conference, many Ghanaians blame their own "greedy" professionals. Ghana gave them skills, the argument goes, but they won't give back. They value their pocketbooks more than their patriotism.
Never mind that they remit millions of dollars back into Ghana, or that large numbers of overseas professionals return home. By some estimates, for example, 60 percent of Africans who go to the United States eventually come back.
No, the real question is whether any human being has a greater duty to his or her "own kind" - be it race, ethnicity or nation - than to humanity as a whole. Compared to other Americans, do middle class blacks have a special responsibility to lift inner-city African-Americans out of poverty? Do Ghanaian physicians have a higher obligation - than any other doctor, in any other nation - to treat Ghanaian patients?

Schools in Germany should offer Islam - along with Christianity and Judaism - as a required religion class in the future, the interior minister said Thursday, but he insisted that the courses be taught in German.
Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said that it would take a while before Muslim community leaders worked out a legally binding agreement with the state, but that an agreement on the issue had been reached.
"It will take some time, but we are moving ahead," Schäuble said after a third conference with representatives of Germany's estimated three million Muslims. Other participants said it would take several years before the classes became available.
Erdogan, who visited the site of the fire last month, said he had seen Nazi symbols on the door of the house.
During the trip, Erdogan spoke to a crowd of around 16,000 people of mainly Turkish origin in Cologne and urged them to resist assimilation, sparking criticism from Merkel and other members of her government.
Schäuble acknowledged that more needed to be done to make Muslims feel at home in Germany but hit out at Erdogan for telling Turks to resist becoming part of German society.
"I'm not insisting that all Turks become Germans - but when they want to become German citizens they cannot remain Turkish," Schäuble told the Süddeutsche Zeitung
Britain on Thursday granted a gay Iranian teenager a reprieve from deportation to Iran , where he says he could be hanged for his homosexuality.
Kazemi came to Britain to study in 2005, lawyers have said. He later learned that his lover in Iran had been hanged after being charged and convicted of sodomy. Homosexuality is illegal in the Islamic Republic.

Tested: 2008 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera.
What is it? Two-seat supercar and sound-effects machine.
How much? $224,800 base price; $249,895 as tested.
What makes it run? A 5-liter V-10 (523 horsepower, 376 pound-feet of torque); six-speed manual or six-speed automated manual transmission.
Alternatives: Ferrari F430 F1 coupe, $203,904; Porsche 911 GT2 , $192,560; Aston Martin DBS, estimated $265,000.
New York City is probably not on top of anyone's list of best places to drive an Italian supercar that can do 190 miles, or 300 kilometers, per hour.
But trust me: the combination of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera is an underground, under-the-radar thrill. The tunnel, which connects Brooklyn and Manhattan below New York Harbor, proved the perfect concert hall for the Gallardo's 10 soaring cylinders. As I fired its bellicose engine to 8,000 rpm, the Gallardo convinced me - and other drivers, judging by the startled expressions - that we had entered a movie in which a runaway F-16 was strafing its way down the tunnel.
If it's hard for you to put a price tag on that kind of entertainment, allow Lamborghini to do so: That will be $224,800 to start for this lighter, faster, more expensive version of the regular $199,900 Gallardo. The V-8 powered Audi R8, which shares the Lambo's aluminum space frame, all-wheel-drive system and mid-engine layout, is a relative bargain, starting at $118,000.
Moving too fast
What exactly is Kathryn Koromilas ("Speed up or get out of the way," Meanwhile, March 6) running toward - and why so fast? Of course, she is trying to earn enough money to retire so she can relax and enjoy life.
Koromilas should relax now. She should read a book, write some poetry and meditate. When she is 65 years old, she will be too old to enjoy many of the things she is running away from now.
Joseph Distler, Paris
Freed from the grind of corporate life, former Yahoo! C.E.O. Tim Koogle is focusing his energy and a few of his millions on a luxury development in Mexico.
Located on Punta Mita, the fast-growing peninsula north of Puerto Vallarta, the resort, El Banco, includes seven villas that were recently put up for sale, with prices starting at $6.2 million (€4 million). Each is designed in a “proprietary” style dubbed “New World Spanish Colonial,” with an emphasis on “grand arches, gracious courtyards, and hand-craftsmanship,” mixed with modern amenities, according to the marketing materials.
Features include four bedroom suites, a pool, elaborate kitchens, high tech accessories and a “caretaker’s apartment.”
Covering 100 acres, El Banco is the first project developed by Koogle and his wife, Pam. It’s the age old story: boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy and girl spot property on their honeymoon, boy and girl build $100 million resort on property. The overall project includes a 75-suite boutique hotel, called Las Banderas del Banco, a spa, restaurants, cooking school and an assortment of pools and courtyards.
Punta Mita, which was home to little more than a few fishing outposts not long ago, is in the midst of a high-end, master-planned development, anchored by a Four Seasons Hotel and soon-to-open St. Regis.
ANNE GLICKMAN, 34, inherited several million dollars in stock on her 18th birthday. She preferred not to think or talk about the money into her 20s because, she said, as a political activist, her wealth was a bit inconvenient.
“I felt like I was in hiding,” she said.
A dozen years later, the trust fund had grown to eight figures. “Here I was, an activist thinking about class and race, but I wasn’t really factoring in my own personal wealth,” she said. “I decided to give away a large number. It was scary, but I just had to do it.”
So far, Ms. Glickman said, she has given away $1.2 million, and she plans to give away more.
Her mother was not thrilled. “I was shocked,” Francie Glickman said. “I had never heard of such a thing. My response was, ‘That’s a lot of money!’ ”
Anne Glickman is part of a movement of relatively young heirs who practice what they call social justice philanthropy, an outgrowth of ’60s activism that emphasizes giving to small, local groups. Karen Pittelman, 32, a singer in a punk band, said she inherited $3.5 million seven years ago and gave away all but $15,000. Jamie Schweser, 35, an author of the novel “Tales of a Punk Rock Nothing,” said he inherited $1 million eight years ago and gave away three quarters of it.
While most of these philanthropists do not give away their entire fortune, they do give away enough to violate a cardinal rule of wealth management: don’t touch the principal. Heirs are often advised to give away only a percentage of any investment income, and to leave the rest alone.
What motivates people to give away so much of their money? Short of donating a kidney to a stranger, it is hard to imagine acting more altruistically. Is it simply a sense of justice? Guilt? Rebellion? In interviews with almost two dozen of these philanthropists, the reasons given were complex, often having as much to do with family dynamics as politics.
For Anne Glickman, the decision was not about trying to live an ascetic life. “I’m not an antimaterialist,” she said. “I don’t believe you shouldn’t have a nice TV. But people said, ‘What about your unborn children?’ And at the time I think I was sitting on $12 million. I mean, how much do you need to raise children?”
Tyrone Boucher, 25, said he told his father he wanted to donate his six-figure trust fund to groups that work for racial equality. As part of his argument, he pointed to the growing gap between the rich and the poor.
His father, he said, responded: “ ‘Tyrone, we’re not really rich. There are people who have multiple homes and private jets.’
“And I’d say, ‘But the thing is, you’re talking about your friends who are in the top 1 percent, and we’re in the top 5 percent.’
“The point isn’t to dis my dad,” he added. “The point is, what’s enough?”

WELLFLEET, Massachusetts
"There are two kinds of skippers,' 'an old Maine lobsterman said to me once. "Them that's run aground. And them that's gonna."
POROS, Greece
Greek authorities evacuated more than 300 people — mainly Americans, Japanese and Russians — from a tourist ship after it ran aground Thursday in choppy seas off an island near Athens. There were no reports of injuries.

For more than 100 years, until 1969, people who contracted leprosy in the Hawaiian Islands were forcibly removed to the Kalaupapa peninsula, on Molokai, to live out their days in exile. They were lost to their families, and after they died, most were lost to history.
Of nearly 8,000 dead, only about 1,300 lie in identified graves. Time, decay, neglect - and a tidal wave in 1946 - have carried off the burial markers for the others. A visitor to the peninsula, run by the National Park Service and Hawaii's State Health Department, might see a graveyard or two. But there is no real way to perceive the immensity of the loss on that wind-swept triangle beneath the island's sea cliffs.
That the injustice of banishment for Kalaupapa's patients was compounded by their erasure from history is not surprising. The undeserved suffering associated with leprosy - or Hansen's disease, as those affected prefer to call it - is profound. This bacterial disease has been curable since the 1940s, but those who have it are still feared and shunned. Even in Hawaii, Kalaupapa's dead are a historical afterthought, recalled mostly as a backdrop to the lives of saintly individuals who cared for them.

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