Thursday, 20 March 2008

Wednesday, 19 March 2008


Opponents of gene-altered crops won a victory in France on Wednesday when the country's top court upheld a ban - for the time being - on a corn variety produced by the U.S. seed company Monsanto.Growers had argued that the economic harm they faced was serious enough for the month-old ban to be lifted immediately, before the start of the spring planting season. In addition, proponents said allowing plantings could benefit consumers at a time of rising food prices.The Conseil d'État maintained the ban on the variety, known as MON810, until it could rule on its scientific underpinning. Hearings in that case are expected to be held in the coming months.In his ruling, Judge Jean-Marie Delarue pointed out that a report, issued in January by a committee of French experts, had called for more studies on the product's safety.French officials were correct to have paid attention to "new elements brought to light by the committee that could be seen as posing a grave risk to the environment," Delarue wrote.The decision was a success for environmentalists and for farmers opposed to genetically modified food products. They had warned that the corn, which resists pests, could pollute other crops and pose threats to the environment and human health.Other farmers, backed by the biotechnology industry, argue that the products could help lower costs and reduce the use of pesticides."We are disappointed," said Stéphanie Piécourt, a spokeswoman for Monsanto in France. Corn growers "will not be able to benefit from the economic, agricultural and environmental advantages that this product offers."In January, President Nicolas Sarkozy recommended banning MON810, and on Feb. 7, the French Agriculture Ministry imposed the ban, saying it should remain in place until a review of the product - required every 10 years - was completed by EU authorities.Efforts to overturn the ban were led by the General Association of Corn Growers in France and a number of biotechnology companies including Monsanto and Pioneer, a division of the U.S. chemical company DuPont.Cédric Poeydomenge, a spokesman for the French association of corn growers, said farmers had hoped to plant 100,000 hectares, or 247,000 acres, using the pest-resistant corn.He said farmers would plant nonmodified corn this year, but would face €10 million, or $15.6 million, in potential losses from pests and from purchasing large amounts of insecticide.Poeydomenge said only about 22,000 hectares were planted with MON810 last year although product was appropriate for use on 700,000 hectares of France, in regions affected by pests that include Poitou-Charentes, Midi-Pyrénées and the Rhône Valley.France plants a total annual crop of about 3 million hectares of corn for food use and for feeding cattle, Poeydomenge said.Battles over gene-altered crops have been fought across Europe for more than a decade but there now are signs that some governments and policymakers are prepared to ease long-standing opposition.Nathalie Moll of Europabio, an industry association in Brussels, said she expected MON810 to be cultivated this year in at least seven EU countries including Spain and Germany. MON810 has been used in the United States for more than a decade.Officials at the European Commission have deemed many genetically modified products safe and want to introduce more of them into the bloc to normalize trade relations with countries like the United States, and to reduce costs for farmers.But several governments, including those in Austria and France, are extremely wary of softening their stance on genetically modified foods because of continuing distrust among many citizens who consider gene-altered products to be "Frankenstein" foods.

The production of one kilogram of beef requires 16,000 liters of water, according to to the Unesco-IHE Institute for Water Education. That compares with 1,500 liters for a kilogram of grain.

Like FourWinds Capital, the agricultural company Monsanto has been increasing its research on climate change , said its head of technology strategy and development, David Fischhoff.

Hemant Kalbag of A.T. Kearney, a consulting company, estimates that processed foods will grow at 15 percent annually over the next four years. "We have a young population with higher disposable incomes, living away from the large joint families and seeking greater convenience," Kalbag said.
Dutta, the Kellogg India executive, agreed, saying, "The market's constantly evolving and creating demand for products that you never thought would have had a chance."
Large Indian companies are also seeking a larger share of the market. For example, ITC, India's largest cigarette maker, is broadening its range of instant ethnic foods and pasta, cookies and salty snacks.
"Increasingly, Indian consumption patterns are mirroring global trends such as a preference for protein and for functional foods," Pankaj Gupta of Tata Strategic Management Group said. "So companies can choose to go after the mass market or focus on niche segments which are also viable now."

U.S. again becoming a major coal exporter

These days, people really are taking coals to Newcastle.
That flow is part of a vast reorganization of the global coal trade that is making the United States a major exporter for the first time in years and helping to drive up domestic prices of the one fossil fuel it has in abundance.
Coal has long been a cheap and plentiful fuel source for utilities and their customers, helping to keep electric bills in the United States relatively low. But rising worldwide demand is turning U.S. coal into another hot global commodity, with domestic buyers having to compete with buyers from countries like Germany and Japan.

"Watch out, consumer," said David Khani, a coal analyst at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group. "You're probably going to see accelerating electricity prices in 2009, 2010 and 2011."



The Families of Flight 93 have reached an agreement with a coal mining company to buy 1.5 square miles of land for a national memorial to the people killed on one of the airliners hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001, the organization said Tuesday.
Financial terms of the purchase from PBS Coals Inc. were not disclosed.



Coal mining is making a comeback in Britain as the quest for secure energy supplies chips away at environmental objections and record high prices for the raw material make pits economically viable.

Source: Reuters article published in IHT 20/03/08



Another looming difficulty is the concentration of policy making in the person of the president. This is a familiar pattern in the French system. The Foreign Ministry, the prime minister's office and the presidential staff often have different views, and it is only when the president takes a stand that the policy is settled.
But with Sarkozy it is even more difficult for French officials - let alone anyone else - to predict how a policy is going to turn out.
He has, for example, talked of an openness to reforming the Common Agricultural Policy. But some of his comments have suggested he wants it to revert to an earlier age of price supports for farmers. On defense policy, Sarkozy has said he may take France back into the integrated military command of NATO yet he remains vague about France's quid pro quo for doing so.
"Across a range of policies," the European diplomat said, there is "a lot of talk about French ambition and very little clarity about French objectives."


After the Iraqi Army increased patrols in this northern city this year, Colonel Haji al-Zibari found himself chasing two insurgents in a weapons-laden truck.
The driver and his passenger veered off the road, jumped out, fired a few shots and disappeared into the city.
So Zibari, then the second-in-command of the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Iraqi Army Division, drove their truck to a traffic circle in the middle of a known insurgent haven on the crowded west end of the city and doused it with gasoline. He lit a gas-soaked rag on fire, tossed it on the ground and fired a burst from his AK-47, blasting the burning cloth into the truck. "This is what we do to insurgents' property," he shouted to the rooftops.



McCain said at a news conference in Amman that he continued to be concerned about Iranians "taking Al Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back." Asked about that statement, McCain said: "Well, it's common knowledge and has been reported in the media that Al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran. That's well known. And it's unfortunate."
It was not until he got a quiet word of correction in his ear from Senator Joseph Lieberman, the independent from Connecticut who was traveling with McCain as part of a congressional delegation, that McCain corrected himself. "I'm sorry," he said, "the Iranians are training extremists, not Al Qaeda."



After ruling out talks with Hamas, the militant Islamist group, the Bush administration is using Egypt as an intermediary to open a channel between Israel and representatives of the group, in what some diplomats say could be a softening of the American stance.

Trading rooms were buzzing with rumors Wednesday morning that HBOS, the largest mortgage lender in Britain, was in trouble. The speculation had wiped about £3 billion, or $6 billion, off its market value before the Edinburgh-based lender could deny them, saying it had "ready access" to funding.
"We will not tolerate market participants taking advantage of current market conditions to commit abuse by spreading false rumors and dealing on the back of them," said Sally Dewar, the FSA's managing director for wholesale and institutional markets.

“We’re exposing parts of the capital markets that most of us had never heard of,” Ethan Harris, a top Lehman Brothers economist, said last week. Robert Rubin, the former Treasury secretary and current Citigroup executive, has said that he hadn’t heard of “liquidity puts,” an obscure kind of financial contract, until they started causing big problems for Citigroup.
I spent a good part of the last few days calling people on Wall Street and in the government to ask one question, “Can you try to explain this to me?” When they finished, I often had a highly sophisticated follow-up question: “Can you try again?”

Former Wall Street whiz returns to open boutique investment-banking firm
He's back.
Frank Quattrone, the former star investment banker whose career was derailed by a four-year fight against obstruction of justice charges, announced Tuesday what his next venture will be: the Qatalyst Group, a technology-focused merchant banking group based in San Francisco.
The news came about seven months after a federal judge approved a request by prosecutors to dismiss all remaining charges against Quattrone, formally clearing the way for his return to Wall Street. "The opera is over," he said at the time, referring to the travails of his conviction - later reversed - on charges of hindering a government investigation into initial public offerings at Credit Suisse.

"The brokers aren't going to get hurt," said Mitch Vigeveno, chief executive officer of Turning Point, an executive-search firm in Safety Harbor, Florida. "They have a book of business they can move. The ones who are going to get hurt are other employees, like people in operations and marketing."
Morgan Stanley this week hired 12 Bear Stearns employees with a total of $26.5 million in revenue, a spokesman, James Wiggins, said. "We're seeing very substantial interest on the part of Bear Stearns brokers to come to work at Morgan Stanley," he said.

Profiting as globe runs short of water
As liquidity is drained from credit and money markets and pours into oil and gold, another asset class that coul offer long-term returns to the discerning investor is water.
Water shortages are on the rise, stemming from soaring demand, growing populations, rising living standards and changing diets. A lack of supply is compounded by pollution and climate change.

This year, FourWinds will start raising global funds initially of up to €3 billion to invest in water.

China...has a fifth of the world's population buy just 7 percent of the

A collapese of the Indian summer monsoon from as early as next year is one of the world's most immediate, serious climate risks...

An average European uses 150 to 400 liters, or 40 to 106 gallons, of water daily for personal requirements , the Sustainable Asset Management report said. Consumption in the United States is almost twice as high, but in China the figure is only 90 liters per day on average, while in many developing countries it is below the "critical threshold" of 50 liters a day set by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.


"The Greeks haven't gone mad," said Yiannis Panagopoulos, president of the General Confederation of Greek Workers, the country's biggest labor union. "This new pension package has to be scrapped. It is unjust and unfair to all categories of workers, mainly working mothers and young people entering the labor force."

The bill would raise the retirement age of working mothers to 55 from 50 and would encourage most employees to work past the current retirement age of 65, receiving a 3.3 percent pay increase for every extra year of employment.

Knee-replacement recommendations may favor men

Women are less likely than men to get a recommendation for knee replacement, a Canadian study reports, even when they have the same symptoms.
The researchers selected one man and one woman, both 67, who had identical levels of knee osteoarthritis, as confirmed by two physicians who examined the patients and their X-rays. Then the pair visited 29 orthopedic surgeons and 38 family physicians, with instructions to present their symptoms in exactly the same way: a standard opening sentence describing their problem and ending with the question, "Do you think I need a new knee?"
The researchers found that two-thirds of the doctors recommended knee replacement for the man, while only one-third thought it appropriate for the woman. The study, led by James Wright, professor of surgery at the University of Toronto, appears in the March 11 issue of The Canadian Medical Association Journal.


"Look at the walls of our temple, they have all gone grimy with the smoke that pollutes our air," said a 40-year-old Buddhist peasant named Caidan. The big factory, said a man sitting next to him, benefits only members of the Han Chinese majority."Tibetans get the low-income and the hard-labor jobs," the man said. The Han, he said, "are all paid as technicians, even though some of them really don't know anything."

Even among long-term residents in Lhasa, Han Chinese said they had no Tibetan friends and confessed that they tended to avoid interaction with Tibetans as much as possible. "There's been this hatred for a long time," said Tang Xuejun, a Han resident of Lhasa for the last 10 years. "Sometimes you would even wonder how we had avoided open confrontation for so many years. This is a hatred that cannot be solved by arresting a few people."


"I don't think many white Americans can understand that when blacks say we are angry with the United States, or with racist white Americans, or American history, that we do not dislike America," Carole McDonnell wrote on the blog African American (Black) Opinion.


The Supreme Court threw out a death sentence and murder conviction Wednesday because a Louisiana prosecutor kept blacks off the jury in a trial he called his "O.J. Simpson case."By a 7-2 vote, the justices said state prosecutor Jim Williams improperly excluded blacks from the jury that convicted Allen Snyder of killing his estranged wife's companion. Snyder is black and the jurors were white.

Trust your sister? Better think twice
Many parents assume children will outgrow their differences. But research shows that childhood sibling behavior, good or bad, often continues into adulthood.
"We do know that there is a lot of evidence for continuity," Dunn said. "The pairs who get on very well when they're little ones are also likely to be quite positive to each other later on."
Fighting with a sibling is a normal part of childhood, and surveys suggest that young children have about five sibling conflicts a day, Apter says. In families as in nature, sibling battles may actually serve a purpose, bringing more parental attention to both children: in a nest that includes cowbird chicks, for instance, the more jostling and competition for food, the harder the parents work to feed all of them.
But some parents unknowingly sabotage sibling relationships by putting too much responsibility on the older child. Older children are often forced to play with younger siblings and to help care for them, creating resentment. And some parents make the mistake of treating the older child as a confidant, disrupting the sibling relationship.
"It puts a burden on the older child when you turn them into your confidant," Millman said. "It effectively separates the child from peers."
But one of the biggest mistakes parents make is expecting children always to resolve their own conflicts.
"When you ask parents what are the best ways to help kids manage their conflicts, they will tell you the right things: talk with kids together, get each one to tell their side, help them find a solution," said Laurie Kramer, professor of applied family studies at the University of Illinois. "But when you look at what parents actually do - and we've done this by hooking kids up with wireless mikes - we see that the most common strategy when kids are having conflict is to actually do nothing."

Studies of sibling pairs from birth through high school as reported in The Journal of Family Psychology in 2005, Kramer said, found that a child's socialization with friends before the arrival of a brother or sister could predict a more positive sibling relationship.
Based on her research, which has followed 28 sibling pairs through adolescence, Kramer developed an intervention aimed at 4-to-8-year-olds to reduce sibling conflict. Children who complete the program play better together and have more positive interaction, she says.
In one exercise, fighting siblings are each given a pair of toy glasses. "We teach them 'see it your way, see it my way,' " Kramer said. "It's a visual way to get an abstract idea across."
Emotional control can be taught by asking children to take a break and draw a picture to illustrate their feelings. Relaxation techniques during which a child learns to tense and relax muscles can also help.
Another exercise mimics "The Newlywed Game": siblings are quizzed about a brother or sister's likes or dislikes. "They think they know some things about brothers and sisters, but it turns out they learn about some differences," Kramer said.
No parent can intervene in every sibling dispute, but Kramer says parents can make their own job easier in the long run by taking some time to mediate sibling fights and help children learn perspective and emotional control.
"It's important to not just say, 'Work it out yourself,' " she said. "The kids need to have the skills to do that."

The production of one kilogram of beef requires 16,000 liters of water, according to to the Unesco-IHE Institute for Water Education. That compares with 1,500 liters for a kilogram of grain. Like FourWinds Capital, the agricultural company Monsanto has been increasing its research on climate change , said its head of technology strategy and development, David Fischhoff.

The apology and the payment represented a shocking U-turn. For months, papers from the Express Newspapers group used shady, innuendo-laced information, interviews with unnamed sources and an unerring ability to put two and two together and get six to promote a disturbing theory: that the McCanns had killed their daughter, disposed of her body and then cynically pretended to be distraught about her death.
In the offending articles, The Express pursued such angles as Kate McCann's demeanor after Madeleine disappeared - was she too cool, too unemotional? - whether Gerry McCann was hiding an explosive temper under his affable exterior, what they might have done with Madeleine's body after her supposed murder, and whether Madeleine's blood was found in a car the McCanns rented after she had disappeared.

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