Monday, 2 June 2008

A Place in the Auvergne, Sunday, 1st June, 2008



Emissions credits
A slew of recent media reports have been criticizing the Kyoto Protocol's clean development mechanism. It's time to set things straight.
The clean development mechanism is administered by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The clean development mechanism allows industrialized countries to generate emission credits through investment in emission-reductions projects in developing countries. This is in addition to the implementation of climate-friendly policies at home.
Pundits have been accusing the clean development mechanism of increasing greenhouse gas emissions. The fact is that around 2 billion certified emission reductions - each amounting to one ton of carbon dioxide - are expected to be generated by the end of the first phase of Kyoto in 2012.
If a Chinese mine cuts its methane emissions under the clean development mechanism, and receives financial incentives to do so, then there is a real global climate benefit.

Likewise, if windmills are installed in Morocco and accelerate the implementation of that country's clean energy policy or make its goal more achievable, then there is a clear global benefit for the climate.
The polluter who buys the credits from the offset has contributed to reducing global emissions in a verifiable manner. It matters little to the global climate where an emission reduction has taken place; what's important is that emissions overall are being reduced. Carbon offsetting is therefore not a zero-sum game, but a highly effective tool to reduce global emissions.
Countries have agreed to clinch a new international climate change deal in Copenhagen at the end of 2009. Only recently, parties to the Kyoto Protocol agreed that the clean development mechanism should be continued beyond 2012, when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires.
There is therefore little doubt that the clean development mechanism - along with the other flexible mechanisms of the protocol - will provide the pillars of the architecture of that agreement.
Yvo de Boer, Bonn Executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

US Treasury Secretary Paulson says 'no quick fix' to high oil prices

DOHA, Qatar:

The Treasury chief was in the Mideast to deliver a message to officials of Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing nations that soaring oil prices are putting a burden on the global economy.
He is urging the countries to open up their oil markets to investment that can boost yields, exploration and production.

With oil at record-high prices, Paulson said there is "no quick fix" because it is an issue of supply and demand. Global demand remains strong while "production capacity has not seen new development," Paulson said.
"I don't see a lot of short-term answers," he added.
He said he would like to see "increased investment throughout the world in oil and gas and alternative sources of energy."

Election violence deals setback to Macedonia


Denis McShane a former Europe minister in the government of former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, was in the capital, Skopje, on Sunday as a monitor for the Council of Europe. He said new elections would need to be called for the vote to have any legitimacy.

"This vote is a tragedy for supporters of Macedonia's EU and trans-Atlantic future," he said. "Nobody can form a government on the basis of an election in which police have stuffed ballot boxes and thugs are attacking polling stations."

Peru and Chile fight over potato's origin


Peruvian agronomists, historians and diplomats are chafing at an assertion by Marigen Hornkohl, Chile's agriculture minister, who said last Monday, "Few people know that 99 percent of the world's potatoes have some type of genetic link to potatoes from Chile."
Peru, where the potato is a source of national pride, could not let such a comment pass.
"Obviously the world has known for centuries that the potato is from Peru and that the Peruvian potato saved Europe from hunger," Foreign Minister José Antonio García Belaúnde said here last week. "The entire world knows this."
And if some parts of the world did not have an inkling of the importance of Peru's potatoes, Peru is trying to remedy that through events organized here around the International Year of the Potato, decreed by the United Nations to promote the potato's potential role in easing food shortages in poor countries.

Patients in India face gaping disparities


A government-sponsored National Family Health Survey released last fall says that a woman born in the poorest 20 percent of the population is more than twice as likely to be underweight than one in the richest quintile, and 50 percent more likely to be anemic.
For children, the gap is equally stark. The poorest quintile is more than twice as likely to be stunted, a function of chronic malnutrition, and nearly one third as likely to be fully immunized.
It is not as if the poor do not seek treatment, Jishnu Das, an economist who studies health and poverty for the World Bank, points out. They do, and sometimes more often than the rich. It is just that they are more likely, Das says, to land at the doorstep of a caregiver who is incompetent, ill-trained or indifferent to their needs.
"The poor are not dying and sick because they do not go to seek medical care," he said. "In fact, the poor are going to doctors in droves. There are no good options for the poor. The private hospitals and care they are able to access is of very low quality, and when they try and access government care, they receive no attention whatsoever."
The survey found that two-thirds of Indian households relied on private medical care when sick, a preference that cuts across class.
Asked why they don't use public facilities, the most common answer was poor care.

Swiss reject rightist campaign on naturalization rules

ADLISWIL, Switzerland: Milikije Arifi has lived in Switzerland for more than 30 years, since she was 18, and raised a family here.
She is fluent in German - the principal language in the north of the country - and speaks it with the same Swiss accent as her neighbors. She passed an examination devised to test her knowledge of Swiss and local history and government.
Still, in April, for the third time, the town council in this Zurich suburb denied her and her husband citizenship. Although the law encourages a vote in public and requires a detailed explanation, the council made its decision in private and gave no justification for the denials beyond "insufficient integration."
"We did not break the law. A local community can never be forced to naturalize anybody," said Martin Koller, a member of the council and its immigration committee.

"This is clearly a case of arbitrariness," said the couple's lawyer, Christian Widmer. "The council thinks this woman looks like a Gypsy with her colorful clothes and her jewelry, so they just reject her in this succinct Swiss way."
Although Arifi is not a Gypsy - meaning one of the Roma - there are lingering prejudices against that ethnic group here, as elsewhere in Europe.
Koller, the town council member, said he had voted against naturalizing the Arifis because they were not integrated. "It is not a matter of insufficient language ability or that they are a public threat," he said. "It is that their environment is not so good." He declined to expand.

Mosquito nets are making charity cool

Naomi Levine, an expert on philanthropy at New York University, said young people "more than ever want to do something."
"You won't find them giving money to research," she added. "It's too far off. But a net is something you can hold in your hand. And any time young people get interested in any form of philanthropy, it's a good thing."
Another important factor, experts said, has been the development of an inexpensive long-lasting insecticidal net.
Unlike old nets, which either had no insecticide or had to be dipped twice a year, the new ones keep killing or repelling mosquitoes for three to five years.
When more than 60 percent of the inhabitants of a village use them over their beds while they are sleeping, malaria rates usually drop sharply.

But the champion for her age and weight class is undoubtedly Katherine Commale of Hopewell, Pennsylvania, who has just turned 7 and has raised $43,000.
Her mother, Lynda Commale, said it started in April 2006 when she was watching television while the family slept and learned from a PBS documentary that a child died of malaria every 30 seconds.
"I couldn't sleep," she said. "The next morning, the kids said, 'Mom, what's wrong with you?' I told them - and Katherine was just 5, and she started counting on her fingers. She got to 30, and she looked horrified. And she said 'Mommy, we have to do something."'
With her 3-year-old brother, she built a diorama from a pizza box and some Barbie dolls to represent an African family in a hut. Then, with a piece of tulle and a toy bug, she developed a short skit showing how nets protected sleeping children.
"She tucks it in, she says, 'You're safe now,"' Commale said. "Kids get this in like 90 seconds."


Cohen: The world is upside down

To understand it, invert your thinking. See the developed world as depending on the developing world, rather than the other way round. Understand that two-thirds of global economic growth last year came from emerging countries, whose economies will expand about 6.7 percent in 2008, against 1.3 percent for the United States, Japan and Euro zone states.

We of the developed-world Paleolithic species are fair game for the upstarts now, our predator role exhausted. The U.S. and Europe may soon need all the charity they can get.

Roger Agnelli of CVRD [the world's second largest mining company] waved away the United States ("It's full of debt") to focus on the company's ambitions in Asia. It was imperative to be there, he said, because that's where growth, capital and ambition are. China, he noted, will account for 55 percent of iron ore consumption, 31.6 percent of nickel, and 42 percent of aluminum by 2012. Case closed.
Like many other big emerging-market corporations, CVRD has been on a buying-spree. It's not just sovereign wealth funds that are acquiring first-world companies these days. It's the new giants of the NAN (Newly Acquisitive Nations).
Emerging-market mergers and acquisitions are up 17 percent this year to $218 billion, while for the rest of the world they're down 43 percent to $991 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.
The 2007 Unctad World Investment Report said developing-world direct foreign investment totaled $193 billion in 2006, compared to a 1990s annual average of $54 billion. The U.S. 2006 figure was $216.6 billion.


They are not 'holy warriors'

P.W. Singer is a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Elina Noor is an analyst at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies in Malaysia.

Imagine if Franklin D. Roosevelt had taken to calling Adolf Hitler the "leader of the National Socialist Aryan patriots" or dubbed Japanese soldiers fighting in World War II as the "defenders of Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere." To describe the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese Army in terms that incorporated their own propaganda would have been self-defeating. Unfortunately, that is what many American policymakers have been doing by calling terrorists "jihadists" or "jihadis."

The word "jihad" means to "strive" or "struggle," and in the Muslim world it has traditionally been used in tandem with "fi sabilillah" ("in the path of God"). The term has long been taken to mean either a quest to find one's faith or an external fight for justice. It makes sense, then, for terrorists to associate themselves with a term that has positive connotations. For the United States to support them in that effort, however, is a fundamental strategic mistake.

"Muharib" or the more colloquial "hirabi" or "hirabist" would be good places to start. "Hirabah," the base word, is a term for barbarism or piracy. Unlike "jihad," which grants honor, "hirabah" brings condemnation; it involves unlawful violence and disorder.


U.S. may have overestimated North Korea's plutonium


A former U.S. diplomat who recently met with North Korean officials said Thursday at a forum on North Korea that the North was not planning to give up all of its nuclear weapons or material when the agreement was completed.
The former diplomat, Charles Pritchard, who is now head of the Korea Economic Institute and was a North Korea policy coordinator under President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush, said the North Korean officials had told him that they would destroy their nuclear facilities but not necessarily destroy the weapons and material already manufactured. Pritchard said the North Koreans had also told him that they expected to be provided with a set of light-water reactors in exchange for dismantling their nuclear installations.
Tom Casey, deputy spokesman for the State Department, dismissed Pritchard's comments.
"With all due respect to Mr. Pritchard, he's a former government official," Casey said. "I'm not sure who he's talking to. But I think the secretary, the president, and Chris Hill have all made clear that we expect the North Koreans to provide us a declaration that meets the requirements of the six parties."


Bombing wounds 3 in Basque Country in Spain

MADRID, Spain: A bomb exploded early Sunday in the city of Zarautz in Spain's Basque country, slightly injuring three people, a government official said.


Look back at a Cold War escape divides Czechs
PRAGUE: To some Czechs, it was the greatest escape of the Cold War.But in Central Europe, where history is often rewritten, there are many others who view the five young Czechs who trudged 28 days through unfriendly, snow-covered forest to reach West Berlin in 1953, as reckless murderers, the Iron Curtain equivalent of the Islamic terrorists of today.In October of that year, the five Czechs forced their way across Czechoslovakia's border with East Germany, headed for the American sector of divided Berlin. What they thought would take five days took four weeks. They braved starvation, frostbite, bullet wounds and a hunt by 24,000 Soviet soldiers and East German police.Along the way, the self-proclaimed anti-communist fighters - the brothers Josef and Ctirad Masin and their childhood friends Milan Paumer, Zbynek Janata and Vaclav Sveda - hijacked cars, stole submachine guns, drugged adversaries with chloroform, broke into police stations and killed six people, slitting the throat of a policeman with a Boy Scout knife.Eventually, after hiding at night in branch-covered holes and traveling 320 kilometers, or 200 miles, three of them made it to West Berlin. They were debriefed by the CIA and then joined the U.S. Army in hopes of liberating their country. The other two - Janata and Sveda - were captured by the police and executed.
When Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek decided to honor the men as heroes of the Czech Republic, the government expected some controversy in a nation still grappling with its communist past. It was not prepared for a searing debate that encapsulated all the ambivalence associated with the country's recent history.While a minority of Czechs praised the reward as a fitting tribute to freedom fighters who had dared to stand up to a repressive regime, nearly half the population, according to a poll conducted for Czech Television, called them criminals.

"People here cannot forgive Paumer and the Masin brothers because they showed that you could fight against communism and survive and win," said Petr Placak, a leading liberal commentator. "Most Czechs believe you had to suffer quietly and wait for better times, so it is far easier to call them 'killers' than to accept responsibility for our own impotence."

"They never do anything for themselves," he said. "The older generation should be ashamed they collaborated with the communists. They always have some damn excuse."


Put a little science in your life

Brian Greene, a professor of physics at Columbia, is the author of "The Elegant Universe" and "The Fabric of the Cosmos."

In physics, just to give a sense of the raw material that's available to be leveraged, the most revolutionary of advances have happened in the last 100 years - special relativity, general relativity, quantum mechanics - a symphony of discoveries that changed our conception of reality. More recently, the last 10 years have witnessed an upheaval in our understanding of the universe's composition, yielding a wholly new prediction for what the cosmos will be like in the far future.
These are paradigm-shaking developments. But rare is the high school class in which these breakthroughs are introduced. It's much the same story in classes for biology, chemistry and mathematics.
At the root of this pedagogical approach is a firm belief in the vertical nature of science: You must master A before moving on to B. Certainly, when it comes to teaching the technicalities - solving this equation, balancing that reaction, grasping the discrete parts of the cell - the verticality of science is unassailable.
But science is so much more than its technical details. And with careful attention to presentation, cutting-edge insights and discoveries can be clearly and faithfully communicated to students independent of those details; in fact, those insights and discoveries are precisely the ones that can drive a young student to want to learn the details. We rob science education of life when we focus solely on results and seek to train students to solve problems and recite facts without a commensurate emphasis on transporting them out beyond the stars.
Science is the greatest of all adventure stories, one that's been unfolding for thousands of years. Science needs to be taught to the young and communicated to the mature in a manner that captures this drama. We must embark on a cultural shift that places science in its rightful place alongside music, art and literature as an indispensable part of what makes life worth living.
It's the birthright of every child, it's a necessity for every adult, to look out on the world, as the soldier in Iraq did, and see that the wonder of the cosmos transcends everything that divides us.


If U.S. presidents faced question time

British experts like Peter Riddell of The Times of London suggest that the real problem might not be the president's inability to answer questions, but getting members of Congress to ask decent ones. British queries tend to be short, fast and bitingly to the point, a skill set not widely available in Washington.



Dowd: Cult of deception

It turns out that our president is a one-man refutation of Malcolm Gladwell's best seller "Blink," about the value of trusting your gut.

Every gut instinct he had was wildly off the mark and hideously damaging to all concerned.
It seems that if you trust your gut without ever feeding your gut any facts or news or contrary opinions, if you keep your gut on a steady diet of grandiosity, ignorance, sycophants, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, those snap decisions can be ruinous.


Obama quits his church after months of criticism

ABERDEEN, South Dakota:

"Our relations with Trinity have been strained by the divisive statements of Reverend Wright, which sharply conflict with our own views," they wrote. "These controversies have served as an unfortunate distraction for other Trinity members who seek to worship in peace, and have placed you in an untenable position."
But at a news conference after a town-hall-style meeting here on Saturday, Obama sounded pained as he confirmed his decision to leave the place he had considered his spiritual home. A sermon by Wright, a longtime pastor at the church, even provided the phrase — "the audacity of hope" — that became Obama's campaign theme and the title of his latest book.
"I make this decision with sadness," said Obama, speaking in subdued tones as he stood before a bland background. "This is where I found Jesus Christ, where we were married, where our children were baptized. We are proud of the extraordinary works of that church."


Former Israeli Cabinet minister Joseph Lapid dies

JERUSALEM: Joseph Lapid, a former justice minister, journalist and outspoken critic of Israel's Orthodox religious establishment, died Sunday after a long bout with cancer. He was 76.
A Holocaust survivor, Lapid was one of Israel's most prominent print journalists and notable TV personalities, renowned for his sharp tongue, acerbic pen and dry wit.
Lapid was born Tomislav Lampel in 1931 in the former Yugoslavia to Hungarian parents. The family was seized by the Nazis when Lapid was a child and he spent the war in the Budapest ghetto. He survived with his mother and emigrated to Israel in 1948.
Lapid, known by his nickname "Tommy," went on to become a prominent journalist and later the director general of the Israel Broadcasting Authority. He was also a regular panelist on a popular TV news show, where he became notorious for his outspoken, and colorful, opposition to religious coercion in Israel.
In 1999, he entered politics as head of the secularist Shinui Party. He led the party to a surprise performance in 2003 elections, gathering 15 seats in the 120-seat Knesset and securing him the post of justice minister under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"Tommy was a Holocaust refugee who lived the Holocaust experience his entire life," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at cabinet meeting. "Tommy Lapid was a Jew in every fiber of his soul. We lost a precious man, a dear Jew and a friend who cannot be replaced."


Earl Eaton, a dreamer who grew up glorying in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado as a hunter, hiker, prospector and skier, then looked anew at a nameless 11,570-foot-high mountain and envisioned what became Vail, now one of America's most popular ski resorts, died May 25 in Eagle, Colorado. He was 85.
The cause was prostate cancer, his son Carl said.
After a trek to the mountaintop in 1957, Eaton and a friend, Pete Seibert, named the mountain Vail, obtained permits, brought in investors and quietly bought property. The resort opened in 1962.

U.S. official condemns Myanmar junta over relief


"It's becoming pretty clear that the regime there is not going to let us help," Gates [Defense Secretary Robert Gates of the United States], in the strongest remarks to date by a high-ranking U.S. official, said in Singapore before heading to Bangkok on the third leg of a weeklong trip to Asia. "I'd say that unless the regime changes its approach, changes its policy, more people will die."

When asked whether the government's actions were tantamount to genocide, Gates stopped short of that accusation. "This is more akin, in my view, to criminal neglect," he said.

Stagehands at Bertelsmann take the spotlight


In the glamorous world of Bertelsmann, a global media conglomerate with music, television and publishing properties, services were viewed as strictly a backstage function.
Now, with Ostrowski [Hartmut Ostrowski was a young star in Bertelsmann's printing and services division in the 1990s] at the helm of Bertelsmann, the stagehands are striding into the spotlight. Last month, he named Markus Dohle, a 39-year-old German who runs the company's printing operations, as the chief executive of Random House, the world's largest consumer book publisher.

Networking sites boom but ads slow to follow


The slogan for Badoo, based in London, is "I am here." The site has no advertising; instead it earns money by exploiting the vanity that, presumably, drives many people to social networking sites in the first place. Badoo lets users pay one euro to move their profiles up in the site's search rankings. Those who pay often enough may end up briefly on the Badoo home page. Badoo has said that 5 million of its 12 million users have done so.

Last call on Underground turns ugly

LONDON: The police arrested 17 people and closed six Underground stations here after a party involving thousands of people to mark the last day of drinking alcohol on the Tube turned ugly.
Six assaults were reported on subway staff and police officers. Several damaged trains had to be withdrawn from service on a night of mayhem that had been dubbed "Last Round on the Underground" by revellers.

I'm determined to improve the safety and security of public transport in London and create a better environment for the millions of Londoners who rely on it," Johnson said. "I firmly believe that if we drive out so called minor crime then we will be able to get a firm grip on more serious crime."
The ban will apply to buses, Underground trains, trams and stations.
But the RMT union called the liquor ban "half-baked" and said it could lead to more assaults on staff who will be in the front line against "aggressive drunken behavior." Bob Crow, the union's general secretary, said, "The ban has been poorly thought through, is being implemented in haste and could put our members in danger."

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