U.S. offers to cut farm subsidies by $1.4 billion to help trade talks
GENEVA: The United States offered on Tuesday to cut its ceiling on trade-distorting farm subsidies to $15 billion in a bid to close world trade talks this year, but leading developing countries said it was not enough.
"This is a major move, taken in good faith with the expectation that others will reciprocate and step forward with improved offers in market access," U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab told reporters.
The move came on the second day of a meeting aimed at reaching a long-awaited breakthrough on farm and manufacturing trade issues at the centre of the nearly seven-year-old Doha round of world trade talks.
Because of high international farm prices, current U.S. spending on trade-distorting farm programmes is about $7 billion, or well below the $48.2 billion ceiling the United States is allowed under World Trade Organisation rules.
But Schwab said the offer -- which is dependent on other countries opening their markets to more foreign farm and manufactured goods -- would require Congress to rewrite recently passed farm legislation.
World Bank should improve environmental record, review says
NEW YORK: The World Bank and its partners need to do a far better job of considering the environmental effects of projects they finance in poor countries, its internal review group concludes in a new report.
The review, released on Tuesday, examined some of the $400 billion in investments in nearly 7,000 projects from 1990 to 2007. It found that recent commitments to environmental sustainability by the bank and sister institutions, including the International Finance Corporation, were often not matched by changes within the lenders' bureaucracies or on the ground where dollars were turned into dams, pipelines, palm plantations and the like.
Authors of the 181-page environmental report, the first by the bank's Independent Evaluation Group since 2002, said it was vital for the bank and its partners to intensify their focus on measurable environmental protection, given rising vulnerability to environmental risks and the increasing flow of financing for projects related to climate change. The report is on the Web at www.worldbank.org/oed.
"They need to begin to see the inextricable link between sustaining environment and reducing poverty," Vinod Thomas, the director-general of the evaluation group, said in an interview. "It is clear now from the Amazon to India that if environmental sustainability is not raised as a priority then all bets are off."
Venezuela and Russia pledge to cooperate
MOSCOW: President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia said Tuesday that their countries would more closely coordinate their actions on global oil and gas markets and that they would work together on foreign policy, a sphere in which both countries have sought to counter U.S. influence.
Chávez, who is expected to sign contracts to purchase more than $1 billion worth of Russian arms, called for the two nations to become "strategic partners" to defend against what he called a U.S. threat to his country.
"That will guarantee the sovereignty of Venezuela, which the United States is now threatening," Chávez said at the start of two days of planned meetings, according to the official Russian news agency RIA-Novosti.
Russia trumpets ties with Venezuela's Chavez
MOSCOW: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday hailed closer ties with Venezuelan socialist leader Hugo Chavez, overseeing energy deals bringing the two key oil producers and rivals of the United States closer together.
Upbeat after the cordial reception, Chavez declared, albeit hypothetically, that Russia would be welcome to deploy a military base in his country, if it asked for such.
"If Russia's armed forces want to be present in Venezuela, they will be given a warm welcome," Chavez told a news conference in response to a question. The idea did not, however, seem to have been on his Moscow agenda.
Chavez, who met Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, said he had felt "strong human warmth" while meeting Medvedev and "personal chemistry immediately appeared between us".
"We are already big and good friends," he said.
"We are considering issues linked to our strategic partnership, be it in the energy sector, industry, finance, science and technology, or military issues," Chavez said.
BP reassigns geologists and engineers working at its venture in Russia
MOSCOW: In another sign of its deepening troubles in Russia, the British oil company BP on Tuesday reassigned all BP geologists and engineers working at its TNK-BP joint venture here to projects outside of Russia.
After police raids, labor inspections and visa complications, most had already left anyway. But the formal announcement marked another low for the company.
Food and oil prices take toll across Asia
JAKARTA: While prices are rising in the United States and Europe, the biggest increases are being felt in Asia, with double-digit inflation already a problem in India and Vietnam and with other countries facing the same risk.
Sharp rises in global food and oil prices are now spilling over into wages and broader measures of inflation across Asia, as the Asian Development Bank noted in a report released Tuesday. Workers are demanding higher wages to cover their rising living costs, and companies are imposing higher prices for a wide range of goods to cover accelerating production costs.
"The epicenter of the inflationary storm is really in Asia," said Cyd Tuano-Amador, the managing director of monetary policy at the Philippines Central Bank.
Higher inflation in Asia is also starting to contribute to higher prices in the United States. According to the Labor Department in Washington, prices for imports from Pacific Rim countries - mostly Asian goods - rose 2.7 percent in the 12 months through June after falling 1.4 percent in the preceding 12 months.
Asia's top central bankers, who are preparing for their annual gathering Monday in Shanghai, have been unable to develop a united response to deal with the worst inflation threat in the region in at least a decade.
Falling oil output in Indonesia has undermined Asian pricing
SINGAPORE: Dwindling crude oil output in Indonesia has not only forced the country to leave OPEC but also undermined oil pricing in the Asia-Pacific region, where traders have used its Minas field output as a benchmark grade for decades.
Traders estimate that production of Minas crude, once above 400,000 barrels per day, has fallen to about half that level as the field, which began commercial production about half a century ago, ages.
Less than 50,000 barrels per day of Minas are exported, yet it is still used as a price marker for up to one million barrels a day of Indonesian, Vietnamese and Sudanese crude, a legacy from an era when Minas was the largest oil field in Southeast Asia.
"Minas is a very frail benchmark," said John Vautrain, vice president of Purvin and Gertz, an energy industry consultancy. "It is hard to hedge against it. Brent would be far easier to hedge."
The U.S. major oil company Chevron operates the Minas field, which was discovered in 1944 on Sumatra island and which produces more than half of Indonesia's crude. Chevron declined to comment on its flow rates but said work was under way to sustain production.
Indonesia, a net exporter until two years ago, decided to withdraw from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries this year, with crude output expected to fall to 927,000 barrels per day against rising fuel demand at 1.2 to 1.3 million barrels.
Falling output drives up Minas prices and exposes the market to aggressive bidding, pushing the Indonesian crude above Brent values for five of the past six months, making it a bane for refiners grappling with high costs.
Vietnam raises domestic fuel prices by up to 36 percent
HANOI: Vietnam raised domestic fuel prices by as much as 36 percent Monday to bring them closer to international costs, raising the possibility of even higher inflation, more interest rate increases and slower economic growth.
Pakistan also has increased fuel prices, by up to just over 17 percent, in the wake of a soaring global crude oil market.
Retail gasoline prices in Vietnam were raised by 31 percent. A liter of the popular 92-octane gasoline grade now retails at 19,000 dong per liter, or $4.35 per gallon, up from 14,500 dong per liter previously, an official from the importer and retailer Petrolimex said.
Petrolimex also raised retail prices of diesel by 14.3 percent to 15,950 dong per liter and the price for fuel oil by 36.8 percent to 13,000 dong.
The fuel increase came less than two weeks after the government pledged to keep fuel prices unchanged until the end of the year and to cover losses by state-run importers despite mounting pressure from high global energy prices.
Indian finance minister calls for oil-buyer solidarity
NEW DELHI: While the U.S. Congress mulls what, if anything, should be done to dampen oil markets, where prices remain high by historic standards, nations outside the United States are watching closely and hoping for big changes.
"Speculators have played a greater role in the market than either buyers or sellers," the Indian finance minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, said in an interview, citing a hotly debated theory about the price of oil. Noting testimony given in congressional hearings in Washington, Chidambaram said the inflow of some $250 billion into commodities index investing indicates that speculators have had a big role in the run-up in prices.
"Why are these markets not regulated?" asked Chidambaram, a Harvard-educated MBA who spent most of his political career in economics and finance.
Chidambaram has become a vocal champion of some of the Asian nations whose fast-growing economies are threatened by still-high oil prices - countries that rely on oil imports but have little leverage over prices.
Ethanol industry braces for EPA decision on its future
The ethanol industry, until recently a golden child accustomed to favorable treatment from Washington, is facing a critical decision on its future.
The governor of Texas, Rick Perry, is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to temporarily waive regulations requiring the oil industry to blend ever-increasing amounts of ethanol into gasoline. A decision is expected as soon as this week.
Perry, a Republican, says the billions of bushels of corn being used to produce all that mandated ethanol would be better suited as livestock feed than as fuel. Feed prices have soared in the past two years as fuel has begun competing with food for cropland.
"When you find yourself in a hole, you have to quit digging," Perry said during an interview. "And we are in a hole."
His request for an emergency waiver cutting the ethanol mandate to 4.5 billion gallons, from the 9 billion gallons required this year and the 10.5 billion required in 2009, is backed by a coalition of food, livestock and environmental groups. Farmers, carmakers, ethanol and other biofuel producers are lobbying to keep the existing mandates.
Solar panel makers are developing neater and cleaner products
NEW YORK: Bulky and obtrusive rack-mounted solar panels may be a thing of the past.
Encouraged by recent advances in technology, solar panel makers are scrambling to come up with neater and cleaner products that will overcome the aesthetic objections of home owners to traditional solar panels.
They are building their technology directly into different kinds of roof tiles, hiding them in walls and lining the tops of patio awnings with them.
"Bottom line, people don't want goofy-looking roofs," said Julie Blunden of SunPower, a solar panel manufacturer.
SunPower is making solar panels designed to work seamlessly with both flat roof tiles and the curved, Spanish-style clay tiles popular in parts of California and other sunny places. SunPower, controlled by Cypress Semiconductor, is the leading U.S. manufacturer, but has half its sales in Europe.
U.K. group urges 'New Green Deal'
LONDON: The world needs leaders with the vision to forge New Deal-type policies to confront the potentially disastrous combination of climate change, high inflation and economic slowdown, a British research group said Monday.
The recommendation is made in "A New Green Deal," a report by the New Economics Foundation. It uses the convergence of the credit crisis, climate change and booming food and fuel prices to argue for new economic policies similar to those instituted in the United States from 1933 to 1938.
The report urges that every home must generate its own power, that an oil legacy fund must be set up using taxes on oil and natural gas companies to help pay for green transformation, and that carbon should be priced according to its climate impact.
Interest rates should be cut to help investment in green energy and transport infrastructure, and global financial companies should be broken up so that the failure of one would not destabilize the economy, said the New Economics Foundation, an independent group.
"A credit crisis, coupled with high and rising oil prices and long-term climatic upheaval, are conspiring to create the perfect storm," said Andrew Simms, director of the foundation. "Instead of desperate bailing-out, we need a comprehensive plan and a new course to navigate each obstacle in this new phenomenon. We need a modern Green New Deal that has the scale, boldness and vision previously only seen, for example, in Roosevelt's response to the Great Depression."
Draughty companies seen wasting billions
LONDON: Businesses are wasting 2.5 billion pounds a year in energy bills swollen by inefficiencies such as draughty windows or leaving lights and computers on, the Carbon Trust said on Tuesday.
Racing oil prices have added to the cost of wasted energy but businesses are not responding far enough according to the private, government-funded agency whose mandate is to drive cuts in UK carbon emissions and so help fight climate change.
"We're talking about money that could be saved by making quick and easy changes such as encouraging staff to turn off computers and lights, turning down the heating, or maintaining equipment properly," said Hugh Jones, solutions director at the Carbon Trust.
Oil was trading at around $130 on Monday compared with $75 at the same time last year, a doubling in prices that has driven up linked gas and electricity prices.
Businesses were starting to conserve energy more, to help them weather a global economic slowdown.
CYCLING TOUR DE FRANCE
Mountains take their toll in the Tour de France
JAUSIERS, France: The Tour de France cannot be won in one day, the saying goes, but it can be lost.
Two riders among the top five at the beginning of the 16th stage on Tuesday might have done just that, losing crucial time on the final climb of the day and a long descent to this Alpine village.
Denis Menchov, a Russian rider for Rabobank who started the day in fourth place, 38 seconds behind the race leader, Frank Schleck, crossed the summit of the Bonette-Restefond Pass with the top contenders but then lost 35 seconds on the 23.5-kilometer descent, about 15 miles. He finished the day in fifth place overall, 1:13 behind Schleck, of CSC-Saxo Bank, who kept the yellow jersey for a second day. The results were worse for Christian Vande Velde, the American rider for Garmin-Chipotle, who started the day in fifth place only 39 seconds behind Schleck. Vande Velde could not stay with the leaders' group on the climb of Bonette-Restefond and then crashed on the descent, finishing the stage more than 2½ minutes behind the race leaders. He now rests in sixth place, 3:15 behind Schleck.
The stage, which crossed two climbs rated "beyond category" in steepness and length, was won by Cyril Dessel of the Ag2r-La Mondiale team. He became the second Frenchman to win a stage in the 95th edition of the Tour. Dessel was part of a group of four riders who came down the mountain together, and he jumped ahead of his rivals in the final corner, roughly 500 meters from the finish. After the stage, Dessel said he had spotted the turn on the race map as a good place to attack when his team was plotting race strategy Tuesday.
The top three places in the overall standings were unchanged, with Schleck leading Bernhard Kohl of Gerolsteiner by 7 seconds and Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto by 8 seconds. Carlos Sastre, Schleck's CSC teammate, moved up to fourth place, 49 seconds back.
French doping chief says battle is being won
JAUSIERS, France: French anti-doping chief Pierre Bordry has not ruled out further positive tests in the Tour de France but said he believed cycling would be cleaner after the race finish in Paris.
"I believe cycling will be a cleaner sport after this Tour than it was at the start. We're cleaning the sport, we're almost there but I can't rule out that there is some dirt left," he said before the start of the 16th stage in Cuneo.
Three riders -- Spaniards Manuel Beltran and Moises Duenas and Italian climber Riccardo Ricco, winner of two mountain stages -- have failed dope tests for banned blood-booster EPO since the start in Brest earlier this month.
Bordry said on Tuesday that Ricco had tried to avoid the test which he tested positive after the fourth stage.
"The targeted tests we're making are based on the parameters of riders we hold and other information we obtain from various sources," Bordry added. "They're not random tests.
"In the case of Ricco, it is true that we have tested him many times and the repetition of efforts paid off."
The French anti-doping agency (AFLD) had conducted blood tests before the start of the Tour, which revealed a number of odd parameters, then daily urine tests after stages and unannounced blood, urine and capillary tests in team hotels before and after stages.
"A number of rider profiles seem to indicate that they have stopped doping practices for fear of being caught," Bordry said.
He added that targeted testing was as much a deterrent as a means of repression.
Asked why Tour leader Frank Schleck of Luxembourg was twice controlled in his team's hotel in Cuneo on Sunday and Monday evening, Bordry said such moves were often tactical,
"A rider who's been tested one day does not necessarily expect to be tested again the next day," he said.
India confidence vote opens way for U.S. nuclear agreement
NEW DELHI: The Indian government survived a motion of confidence in Parliament on Tuesday, paving the way for India to seal a landmark nuclear agreement with the United States but leaving the entire parliamentary process tainted by allegations of bribery.
In a wider margin of victory than had been predicted, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who initiated the confidence motion, won 275 votes, while his opponents secured 256 votes and 11 members abstained.
The vote followed two days of acrimonious debate and constant heckling of speakers, including Singh, who was unable to finish his closing speech to the legislature.
Bus blasts not linked to Olympics, China says
BEIJING: Chinese investigators have found no evidence that fatal explosions on two public buses in the southwestern city of Kunming were terrorist attacks linked to the Beijing Olympics, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.
The Monday explosions killed two people and wounded 14 in separate blasts that struck two buses during the morning rush hour. The explosions, both caused by ammonium nitrate placed under seats, occurred within 65 minutes of each other and hit buses traveling on the same No. 54 route, state media reported.
On Tuesday, the authorities in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, offered a reward of 100,000 yuan, about $14,660, for information leading to arrests in the case. Meanwhile, a leading Chinese newspaper, the Southern Metropolis Daily, reported that some residents of Kunming received a cryptic text message on the same morning as the explosions.
"Listen up, ants," the text started, according to the newspaper. "If you receive this message, please don't take bus route 54, 64 or 84."
China denies text message preceded bomb blasts
BEIJING: A Chinese official dismissed reports that a bizarre text message had warned residents of Kunming to avoid buses hours before two bomb blasts killed two passengers in Monday's rush hour, state media said.
The attack, which came during a nationwide security clampdown ahead of next month's Beijing Olympics, also wounded 14 people in the city, capital of the mountainous southwestern province of Yunnan.
Local media reported that police were investigating a text message allegedly received by residents hours before the blast, warning them not to take buses on Monday morning.
"The general mobilisation of ants... (I) hope citizens receiving this message will not take bus lines 54, 64 and 84 tomorrow morning," the Southern Metropolitan Daily quoted the message as saying.
The explosions, which came within an hour of each other, hit two line 54 buses close to each other, blowing holes in the side. In both cases, ammonium nitrate was wrapped under the seats.
Optimism high in China, survey shows
WASHINGTON: Buoyed by years of extraordinary growth and with the promise of the Olympic Games just ahead, the Chinese hold strikingly positive views of their national economy and of the direction their country is heading, ranking first in both measures among 24 countries recently surveyed. They were almost universally optimistic about prospects for the Games, which open Aug. 8.
But the survey, part of the Pew Global Attitudes Project, also found rising concern in China about the corollary costs of rapid growth. Respondents' biggest concern - expressed by 96 percent - was rising prices. Corruption and environmental degradation also worried majorities of Chinese.
56 people said trapped in China coal mine
BEIJING: A coal mine flood left 56 people trapped in China's southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, state news agency Xinhua said.
The flood occurred at the Nadu mine in Tiandong County, Xinhua said late on Monday, citing the Guangxi Work Safety Administration.
Rescuers have so far failed to contact the miners underground, the report said.
China has gone to extraordinary lengths to spruce up its image before next month's Olympics: shuttering factories to reduce air pollution, mopping up algae in sailing waters, harassing critics and threatening journalists.
To win the right to act as host to the Games, Beijing promised to expand press freedoms for foreign reporters and implied that opening China to the world would help expand human rights more generally.
We will never know whether China's leaders intended to keep their word. What we do know is that the International Olympic Committee, corporate sponsors and governments around the world should have held China to its word. They have not, and China has read their silence as complicity.
China has jailed critics, denied visas and threatened news organizations that negative coverage could jeopardize their chance to cover the Games.
According to Human Rights Watch, at least 10 foreign journalists, including Newsweek's China bureau chief, have received anonymous death threats since they reported on the violence in Tibet. Government authorities have also used police intimidation and bribery to try to silence parents demanding an accounting for the reprehensibly shoddy construction that caused schools to crumble, killing thousands of children in the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan Province. Thousands of people have been evicted from their homes in Beijing as the city cleans up for international TV crews.
Confronting income inequality in China
BEIJING: When L'Occitane en Provence, the French cosmetics retailer, looks at Hong Kong for a share listing because Asia is the fastest-growing market for its fig-scented soaps, this speaks volumes about the rise of the region's middle class.
Brands from Pizza Hut to Rolls-Royce are increasingly counting on China, where retail sales rose 21.4 percent in the first six months, to drive growth.
Richemont, whose products include Cartier jewelry and Mont Blanc fountain pens, last week cited strong demand in China and Hong Kong for quarterly sales that exceeded forecasts.
But alongside growing numbers of wealthy people, there were still 204 million Chinese in 2005 living on less than $1.25 a day, according to the latest available data from the World Bank. This disparity is one of China's greatest social and political challenges.
The issue is addressed in a new essay by the World Bank's chief economist, Justin Yifu Lin. Before his recent appointment, Lin was a prominent Peking University professor who frequently advised the government on development issues.
In "China's Dilemma," a collection of papers co-published by the Australian National University and the Asia Pacific Press, Lin argued that fundamental flaws in China's economic model were partly to blame for the yawning gap between rich and poor.
Lin criticizes a basic Communist Party economic tenet that puts, in the name of "efficiency," the interests of corporations before those of workers and leaves it to government redistribution policies to deal with the ensuing inequalities.
"It is our task to ensure that in the course of development, the income of the poor grows faster than that of the rich, but it should not be accomplished by redistribution," Lin writes.
Companies may be achieving high profits thanks to the emphasis on "efficiency," but it is only because the state shields them from market competition and lavishes subsidies on them, Lin argues.
"Essentially, however, these profits are a kind of wealth transfer that will inevitably lead to social instability," he warns.
Serbia provides details on the arrest of Karadzic
BELGRADE: Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader under indictment for war crimes, spent years disguised behind a flowing white beard and long hair, living and working in Belgrade as a practitioner of alternative medicine, and "freely walking in the city," the Serbian authorities said Tuesday.
But a combination of a new Serbian government friendly to the West, assurance from the European Union that the former pariah nation could be welcome as a member of the bloc and a methodical house-by-house search of a Belgrade neighborhood led to his dramatic arrest Monday as he was crossing Belgrade reportedly on a bus, officials said.
The arrest, which still leaves one of the most notorious operatives of the Balkan wars at liberty, Karadzic's wartime ally, General Ratko Mladic, nevertheless brought a semblance of relief to the widows and surviving families of the 8,000 men and boys whose massacre in Srebrenica in 1995 Karadzic stands accused of helping to engineer.
Senior Serbian officials gave their version of his arrest, which was announced late Monday, at a televised news conference in Belgrade on Tuesday but took no questions.
Contrary to some reports, the officials indicated that the arrest took place Monday after officers followed Karadzic for several hours from mid-afternoon until evening.
A nationalist hero among Serbian radicals and one of the tribunal's most wanted criminals for more than a decade, he reportedly hid out in caves in the mountains of eastern Bosnia and in monasteries earlier in his years as a fugitive. Before his political career, he was a medical doctor who worked as a psychiatrist in Sarajevo, Bosnia's capital.
A photograph displayed to reporters showed Karadzic with long white hair and a flowing white beard - his appearance markedly different from the clean-shaven figure with a distinctive quiff of gray hair familiar before the 13-year hunt that led to his arrest. He also seemed to have lost weight.
The photograph was shown by Serbia's war crimes prosecutor, Vladimir Vukcevic, and a senior government official, Rasim Ljajic, who is responsible for Serbia's relations with the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
Vukcevic said Karadzic has remained silent since his arrest, but a judge had concluded that he should be transferred to the tribunal. Karadzic has three days in which to appeal the decision, the prosecutor said. His lawyer said he would appeal the ruling, according to news reports.
Karadzic had lived under the alias Dragon Dabic and had adopted a "very convincing" false identity, Ljajic said.
The Serb police said Karadzic's false identity was so convincing that he had worked at an alternative medicine clinic near Belgrade, walked the streets of the capital undetected and on two occasions had even given public lectures on alternative medicine, disguised as Dabic.
The details were the first to emerge since his arrest was announced. Ljajic said Karadzic had been captured "while he was traveling from one location to another."
"How convincing his false identity was, we can tell you that he has been freely walking in the city, being very public about his appearance," Vukcevic said. "Even the people he rented a flat from were unaware of who he was."
Last week, security forces raided the Sarajevo apartment of Ljiljana Karadzic, the ex-politician's wife. They seized documents and materials as clues for their search. In recent weeks, homes of other known supporters of Karadzic were searched.
The officials gave no details of the continuing hunt for Karadzic's wartime ally, Mladic, who is also being sought for trial in The Hague on genocide charges. Some analysts saw the arrest of Karadzic as an indication that Mladic would soon be seized.
By far the biggest reason underlying the arrest, analysts said, was formation two weeks ago of a pro-Western coalition government determined to join the European Union, the world's biggest trading bloc. The EU had made it clear that Serbia's failure to hand over indicted war criminals, including Karadzic, would serve as an obstacle to Serbia joining the Union.
The arrest of Karadzic has a particular resonance for the West because the newly elected government in Serbia is made up of the moderate Democrats of President Boris Tadic and the Socialist Party of Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian strongman, which went to war with the West in the 1990s but is now determined to bring Serbia back into the western fold.
"The main reason for why the arrest has come now is the change of government and a total determination to enter the European Union and escape from the isolation of the past," said Dejan Anastasijevic, a liberal commentator based in Belgrade.
MAN IN THE NEWS
A leader turned ghost
CAMBRIDGE, England: With his arrest on Monday after more than 12 years on the run, Radovan Karadzic seems virtually certain to face trial in The Hague — and the prospect of life imprisonment — for his role in masterminding massacres that war crimes prosecutors have described, in indictments drawn up against him, as "scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of history."
But in his own mind, at least until he vanished from view in 1996 and became one of the most hunted men in Europe's history, Karadzic saw himself as a sophisticated intellectual, a psychiatrist and poet with an intuitive understanding of his people, the Bosnian Serbs, and of the challenge to their survival, as he saw it, that came with the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.
It was in his intellectual guise that he liked to present himself to visitors at the height of his power, when he ruled as president of the self-styled Srpska Republic and supreme commander of its armed forces, in the mountain redoubt of Pale, above the besieged city of Sarajevo.
At the Panorama, the converted ski hotel he used as his headquarters, he liked to hold court, of an evening, and make a show of his grasp of culture, politics and history.
It was a Lilliputian scene, at once absurd and menacing. Only a few miles away, artillery guns under his command were shelling Sarajevo into rubble, filling its soccer fields with graves, with a toll of more than 10,000 killed before the siege ended. Further afield, murderous paramilitaries working in the Serbian nationalist cause were driving tens of thousands of Muslims and Croats from their homes, making refugees of 1.5 million people, in the process known as "ethnic cleansing."
Still ahead, in those first two years of the war that lasted from 1992 to 1995, was the worst atrocity of all, the one that came to define the madness that seized Karadzic and his partner in the Bosnian slaughter, the army commander General Ratko Mladic, who remains uncaptured even as the government in Belgrade prepares to hand Karadzic over to the tribunal in The Hague: the genocidal massacre in 1995 of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.
One night in the late spring of 1992, brandishing a Cuban cigar and downing successive glasses of French Cognac, Karadzic admonished a reporter from The New York Times for a dispatch from eastern Bosnia in which the reporter described terrified groups of Muslim women and children fleeing across the mountains from towns overrun by Serbian paramilitaries, who had gone house to house rounding up Muslim men, and killing them. This, the reporter had written, was the reality of "ethnic cleansing."
"No, no, no," Karadzic said, leaning forward intently at his desk. As though correcting an errant pupil, he said the reporter had failed to understand ethnic cleansing, presenting it as an abomination to those taking to the mountains, whereas it was, in reality, quite the reverse. Far from being forced from their homes, he said, the fleeing Muslims were being given an opportunity for which they should be grateful — the chance to "return" to the only place they could ever truly be at home, in towns and villages elsewhere where they could live with other Muslims, away from Serbs.
As a rationale for genocide it was dizzying, but at the same time wholly in character for the quixotic Karadzic, who seemed to have been forged by the vicissitudes of his past to become the principal architect of an attempt to re-engineer Bosnian history.
Born to a poor rural family in Montenegro on June 19, 1945, he carried in his bones much of the tortured history of the region during World War II, when his father, Vuk, was a member of the Chetniks, Serbian nationalist guerrillas who fought the Nazi occupiers of Yugoslavia and the communist partisans of Tito.
When the Chetniks lost to Tito, his father went to jail, and he had a lonely childhood in the care of his mother, Jovanka, learning from her the romantic legends that have sustained Serbian nationalism for centuries.
In 1960, he moved to Sarajevo, and graduated from the university there in medicine, specializing in psychiatry. He concentrated on paranoia, but developed a reputation among colleagues at the university, where he taught, and among patients, for a quirkiness of character and professional lapses that made him, among the city's intelligentsia, something of a figure of fun.
At the same time, he wrote and published his own poetry, hiring halls at the university for public readings of work that critics in Sarajevo tended to belittle for its dark and often obscurantist themes, many of them rooted in Serbian legend.
In his personal style he was florid, given to double-breasted suits and a carefully coiffed shock of hair. Later, as a war leader, he liked to don camouflage fatigues, and have his photograph taken with the gun crews shelling Sarajevo. He was a celebrated gourmand, becoming greatly overweight by the time that he made his mark in politics.
He began as a liberal, but as the strains on Yugoslavia's survival grew after Tito's death in 1980, he moved to the right, helping to found, in 1990, the Serbian Democratic Party, which became the vehicle for hard-line Serbian nationalism in Bosnia, and a handmaiden in the cause of a Greater Serbia that found its principal champion in Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader in Belgrade.
In April 1992, after the Muslim leader in Bosnia, Alija Izetbegovic, declared the republic's independence, Karadzic, declaiming against what he described as a plan to implant an "Islamic republic" in Bosnia, left Sarajevo for his Pale redoubt and declared the foundation of the separate Serbian republic.
The grandiose manner he developed in the years of conflict was encouraged, many who knew him then believed, by the willingness of the United Nations and the Western powers, primarily the United States and Britain, to negotiate with him, in Pale and at diplomatic encounters across Europe.
Talks with emissaries like Cyrus Vance, the former United States secretary of state, and David Owen, the British foreign secretary at the time, took place even as the paramilitaries enlisted in the Serbian cause were laying waste to much of Bosnia. The death toll from the 43 months of war has been estimated at 150,000 to 200,000, and United Nations investigators have concluded that the deaths were accompanied by as many as 20,000 rapes.
Fearing arrest under United Nations war crimes warrants following the 1995 Dayton agreement that ended the war, Karadzic and Mladic quit their posts and went into hiding.
Despite numerous raids by NATO troops, many led by American units, both men remained at large until Monday.
Successive chief prosecutors at the Hague tribunal belabored NATO commanders in Bosnia, and their political superiors, for being, as they implied, insufficiently zealous in their pursuit of the two fugitives.
In Montenegro and in Serbian nationalist strongholds in Bosnia, Karadzic continued to be feted, in absentia, as a hero, with his image printed on T-shirts and his name painted on walls. In 2004, he even managed to get a novel published in Belgrade, and newspapers there said he had been spotted relaxing at cafes in the Serbian capital.
In an Op-Ed article in The New York Times in 2003, Carla Del Ponte, then the chief prosecutor at The Hague, expressed her own outrage.
"Only when fugitives like Dr. Karadzic and General Mladic are transformed from symbols of a lack of backbone into symbols of the international community's resolve will Bosnia and Herzegovina and the other traumatized states of the region stand a chance of establishing rule of law," she wrote. "The time has come to summon the will and bring Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic to justice.
"It's what their victims, and the rest of the world, deserve."
WITNESS - An encounter with Karadzic in the snow
Giles Elgood is a Reuters journalist based in London. He covered the war in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995, from both sides of the front line. He joined Reuters in 1980 and has reported from countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. In the following story, he describes meeting the now-arrested Bosnian Serb leader in 1994.
By Giles Elgood
I first began to wonder what Radovan Karadzic was like when I realised one of his soldiers had put a round through the window of the Sarajevo hotel room I had just checked into.
The sniper's bullet had hit the wall, the ceiling and the wall again before dropping on the pillow of the bed -- luckily before I arrived.
I didn't get to talk to Karadzic himself for a few months, and when I did, the Bosnian Serb leader was more interested in expounding on his own supposed underdog status than in whether his men should be shooting at the press.
He had just been told by NATO that it would start bombing his troops if they didn't pull back from the Bosnian capital, and he was keen to sow what dissent he could in the ranks of the alliance.
By then I was familiar with the Karadzic persona, at least as it came across on television -- the trademark grey bouffant hair sweeping over his ears, the dark suit and the slightly sibilant English.
But late on a snowbound night in Pale, the Bosnian Serbs' mountain headquarters in January 1994, the effect was more sinister. Sarajevo, the city his forces were in the process of reducing to rubble, lay just over the next hill.
The leader was surrounded by his black-clad, shaven-headed security detail -- what had they been doing during the ethnic cleansing at the start of the war, I wondered -- and the hotel where Karadzic held court was wreathed in a stifling fug of Balkan cigarette smoke and plum brandy fumes.
After fulminating for a while on the evils of NATO, Karadzic turned to one of his favourite topics -- himself.
As an outsider from rural Montenegro, the former psychiatrist had always struggled to get himself and his Serbian poetry taken seriously by the Sarajevo elite and the war seemed to have brought out similar feelings of grievance.
The West would tear itself apart over the Serbs, he predicted, while he would eventually prevail over all odds.
It would be like the biblical fight between David and Goliath, he told me: "You will know that David survived."
That was then, and now he is in custody and it remains to be seen whether he will be able to muster the same level of defiance when he appears before a war crimes court after more than a decade on the run.
In the event, the Serbs pulled back enough of their big guns from around Sarajevo to avoid NATO air strikes at that point and the war in Bosnia had nearly two more years to run after my interview with Karadzic.
I returned to my base in Belgrade a few weeks later and there, was able to uncover one of the more trivial aspects of Europe's most terrible conflict since World War Two -- where Karadzic kept that haircut in shape.
I was told that in between spells at the Bosnian front line, he visited the barber at one of Belgrade's best-known hotels.
I went there myself for a trim, but sadly my Serbo-Croat was not good enough to elicit the secrets behind the notorious Karadzic "do".
Karadzic snared by spy tip and political will
LONDON: NATO forces sought him for years, swooping on potential hideouts in helicopters and armoured vehicles, but Radovan Karadzic turned up under the very nose of the Serbian authorities in a bland Belgrade suburb.
Serbian government sources said the indicted war crimes suspect, arrested on Monday evening, had been under surveillance in Serbia for several weeks after a tip-off from a foreign intelligence service.
But the timing of his arrest, just two weeks after a new, pro-Western Serbian government took office, suggests the decisive factor behind his capture was political resolve.
"At the end of the day this was going to be a problem that the Serbs solved themselves," said Nigel Inkster, a former senior official with Britain's MI6 foreign intelligence service who now works for the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.
"Ultimately it did boil down to political will."
How close did Western intelligence come over the years to pinpointing the whereabouts of Karadzic?
"At intervals they might have had a good idea but clearly he kept on the move," Inkster said.
SEWAGE TANK SEARCHED
For well over a decade, the hunt for the fugitive wartime Bosnian Serb leader, wanted for genocide and war crimes, was marked by short bursts of military activity followed by long lulls.
NATO and European Union soldiers conducted dozens of raids -- the last as recently as March -- on the homes of Karadzic's wife and children in Pale, his wartime stronghold southeast of Sarajevo. They even searched the sewage tank, his wife Ljiljana said, perhaps expecting to find him hiding in the ground like former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
In April 2004, dozens of U.S., British, German and Slovenian troops in helicopters and vehicles descended on Pale at night and raided a Serbian Orthodox church and the home of a priest, wounding him and his son. But there was no trace of Karadzic.
A 1999 book said the U.S. and French presidents, Bill Clinton and Jacques Chirac, had planned a joint commando raid to snatch Karadzic and were prepared to run the risk he would be killed in the operation. It never took place.
Karadzic was living in Belgrade when he was eventually arrested, heavily disguised with long white hair and a beard, and posing as a practitioner of alternative medicine.
"He happily, freely walked around the city," Serbia's war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic told reporters.
Inkster said that if Serbia's government could track down and arrest Karadzic, it should be able to find his army commander Ratko Mladic, the other chief suspect sought by the war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia in The Hague.
The capture of both men is a prerequisite for closer ties with the EU and eventual membership for Serbia.
"This was a man who until relatively recently was receiving his army pension. I think if the Serbs want to find Mladic, they can find Mladic," Inkster said.
Jubilation in Sarajevo upon news of arrest
SARAJEVO: Honking cars, singing crowds, overflowing bars: The streets of Sarajevo were jammed with euphoric crowds as Bosnian Muslims celebrated the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, Bosnia's most wanted war crimes suspect.
News of the arrest Monday evening of the former Bosnian Serb leader spread throughout the Bosnian capital within minutes - even before it was reported by the local media.
Residents poured into the streets singing, chanting, calling everyone they know. Many spilled out of bars in the city center in shock - overwhelmed at the news they had been waiting to hear for more than a decade.
Ignoring the pouring rain, young men ran down the main street waving Bosnian flags. Some dropped to their knees, slammed their palms against the ground and chanted, "This is Bosnia!" - in apparent retort to Karadzic's wartime attempts to annex the country to Serbia.
Karadzic faces 15 war crimes charges including genocide, murder and inhumane acts committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.
"I still cannot believe it," said Zijah Sehic, 18, leaving one of the raucous crowds to go home and watch more news on television. "I can't wait to see him in the tribunal in a few days."
Bosnian TV carried reports from other mostly Muslim-dominated cities in Bosnia, where similar street celebrations were taking place.
In Kozarac, in northern Bosnia, the organizer of a rock concert interrupted the program to announce the news but received only laughter from the audience and thumbs-up for a good joke.
Only after enough mobile phones rang did the crowd begin to grasp what had happened, said Zinaida Mahmuljin, who was in the audience. Then the party really started, she said.
Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military chief who has also been indicted for war crimes, remains at large. The families of thousands of victims of the Srebrenica massacre, masterminded by Karadzic and Mladic and seen as Europe's worst atrocity since World War II, regard the arrest as a light at the end of the tunnel.
In Srebrenica, Munira Subasic, who lost two sons in the massacre welled up with emotion as she watched the news on television.
"After 13 years, we finally reached the moment of truth," Subasic said, adding: "I think this brings some settlement in our hearts and brings us forward to the future."
"I hope the tribunal will speed up the trial," said Sabaheta Fejzic, a Srebrenica survivor. "He deserves a lifetime in prison for the atrocities he committed with the help of Serbia and Montenegro."
Fejzic's baby son and husband were taken away from her when Bosnian Serb forces separated women from men and all boys older than 14 in the UN compound in Potocari near Srebrenica. She lost 16 relatives in the massacre.
"Those who had been harboring Karadzic all these years finally arrested him at the moment when the world is giving a green light to Serbia to join the EU," she said. "But the arrest of this butcher is good for both Bosnia and Serbia. Now there is a trace of hope that the same destiny awaits Ratko Mladic."
Despite the arrest of Karadzic, many said they were disillusioned with the West for its failure to arrest him for years.
"They could have arrested him any time they wanted," said a man who identified himself as Mevludin.
Bosnian Muslim politicians said the arrest should be used as an opportunity to get rid of his legacy.
"Karadzic and Mladic are not that important," said the leader of the Social Democratic Party, Zlatko Lagumdzija, a member of Bosnia's wartime presidency who was badly wounded in the war. "What is important is the project they personify."
The Bosnian president, Haris Silajdzic, welcomed the arrest but noted that Karadzic's legacy of ethnic cleansing had left scars that were still visible. More than 100,000 Bosnians are dead, and hundreds of thousands of those expelled in Karadzic's ethnic cleansing campaign have not returned to their homes.
Still, Silajdzic said the arrest would restore victims' trust in the justice system, a comment echoed by others.
"We have been waiting for 13 years, and we lost hope," said Kada Hotic, a survivor of the Srebrenica massacre, the worst atrocity in Europe after World War II. "Now we know - there is justice."
Yet in Bosnia, one group's villain is another group's hero.
Since the end of the war, the country has been divided into a republic run by Bosnia's Christian Orthodox Serbs and a federation between Muslim Bosnians and Catholic Croats.
Overnight reactions from Republika Srpska - a name Karadzic personally gave to the Serb republic - were rare. Officials did not make public comments and the streets were deserted.
Local TV showed a reporter stopping several cab drivers in the northern city of Banja Luka. Most said they had no comment on Karadzic's arrest, but one called it "a tragedy."
Bosnian Serbs have said they would secede if their republic's survival was threatened.
"Karadzic is not Republika Srpska and Republika Srpska has not been created by Radovan Karadzic," said the Bosnian Serb leader, Milorad Dodik. "Republika Srpska was created based on a wish of the people."
Europe welcomes arrest of Radovan Karadzic
Promise of pact led to Karadzic's arrest
BRUSSELS: Europe on Tuesday welcomed the arrest of Radovan Karadzic not just as a victory for international justice, but also as a vindication of the Continent's favored political doctrine: soft power.
"This is a big success for Europe," said Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner of France after meeting his European Union counterparts in Brussels on Tuesday.
While encouraging close ties between Serbia and Brussels, the European Union had also insisted that Belgrade hand over those, like Karadzic, indicted for war crimes.
"We stayed obstinate, we stayed persistent," Kouchner said.
Europeans have certainly had to wait for this moment of success. Karadzic eluded capture for more than a decade and two other genocide suspects, including a Bosnian Serb general, Ratko Mladic, remain at large.
At the same time, the political situation in Belgrade remains precarious in the aftermath of Kosovo's declaration of independence, which enraged many Serbs. So far, however, Europe's approach has worked.
In the last few months, the EU has helped bring a pro-Western political party to victory through Serbian elections while ensuring that the country has powerful incentives to hand over suspected war criminals. The arrest of Karadzic demonstrates how effective EU leverage can be - particularly with neighboring countries that have ambitions to join the 27-nation bloc.
One key moment came in April, ahead of Serbian elections, when the European Union helped the party of the pro-Western president, Boris Tadic, by giving a signal that Serbia could, one day, become a member of the bloc.
The decisions made then were fundamental, according to Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.
"Everyone tells us, the polls tell us, that European support then gave a boost to Tadic that allowed him to win the elections," Gallach said. "If not for the current government in place, we wouldn't have Karadzic in The Hague."
At a meeting in Luxembourg, the EU signed an accord on new ties with Serbia, known as a Stabilization and Association Agreement, or SAA, that was quietly conditional on cooperation with the war crimes court in The Hague.
"It was a gamble," said Katinka Barysch, deputy director of the Center for European Reform research institute in London. "There were people who said that the EU should not intervene in the internal affairs of Serbia. But it paid off."
Tadic's electoral success changed the political situation in Belgrade. Crucially, however, the fine print of the deal kept up pressure on the new government. Under the agreement, the benefits of Serbia's ties with the EU only come into play "as soon as" the EU member states decide "that Serbia fully cooperates" with the UN war crimes tribunal. Until then, the EU nations would neither try to ratify the agreement nor apply the trade-related economic benefits through an interim agreement.
To get them to do so, Belgrade needed to arrest suspected war criminals. Speaking on condition of anonymity, one EU diplomat said the Serbian government seemed determined to "show it means business early on" in its period in office. Implementing the interim agreement would help encourage inward investment and confidence in Serbia, persuading foreign firms that Serbia is on the road to joining a free-trading bloc of almost 500 million people. Moreover, with Croatia the next nation in line to join the EU, the pressure on Serbia to follow suit has increased.
"I think they also realize that, if Croatia is on the fast track to EU membership, they are really going to get left behind," the diplomat said.
On Tuesday, the Belgrade government won support from the EU enlargement commissioner, Olli Rehn, who said that "from the Commission's point of view, we should start implementing the interim agreement, that is the trade-related part of the SAA agreement now."
Gallach added that now, "we can discuss whether this conditionality can be lifted, because they've shown total cooperation with the tribunal. A lot of people around the table see Karadzic's presence in The Hague as incredible proof."
That idea will now be debated by senior diplomats from EU member states - though the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Finland are cautious about offering too much before Mladic, is handed over too. A decision may be postponed until the autumn.
For the time being, soft power is winning.
"Serbia had to take a decision whether it is going to take a step toward the EU or move away," Barysch said. "They have decided they want to remain on the path to the EU - and that's good."
Senior Taliban commander killed, British Army says
A senior Taliban commander in southern Afghanistan has surrendered to the Pakistani authorities and British forces killed another Taliban leader, the British Army said on Tuesday.Mullah Rahim, the top commander for Helmand Province, surrendered after British forces had killed two other Taliban leaders in little over three weeks.Hours after his surrender, another senior Taliban commander, Abdul Rasaq, also known as "Mullah Sheikh," was killed in a British missile strike 15 kilometers, or 9 miles, north of the town of Musa Qala in Helmand Province on Monday morning, the British Army said in a statement. Three other insurgents also died.Rasaq led Taliban actions around Musa Qala and was active in the insurgency for a number of years, the British Army said."The Taliban's senior leadership structure has suffered a shattering blow," Lieutenant Colonel Robin Matthews, a spokesman for the British Army, said in the statement.
9 members of Basque separatist cell arrested over recent bombings
BILBAO, Spain: The alleged leader of a Basque separatist cell believed to be responsible for a string of recent bomb attacks in Spain was arrested Tuesday along with eight other cell members, the Spanish authorities said.
Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said that the leader of the cell, Arkaitz Goikoetxea, and several other cell members were arrested during raids by the police in two towns near the northern Basque city of Bilbao. They were believed to be responsible for many recent attacks, including the May car bombing of a police barracks in Legutiano that killed a police officer.
The Basque group ETA declared a cease-fire in March 2006 but grew frustrated at the lack of progress in peace talks with the government and broke it in December 2006 with a fatal bombing at a Madrid airport parking garage. ETA declared the truce formally over in June 2007 and has regularly detonated bombs since then.
"We can't say that this was ETA's only command cell, but it clearly was its most active, its most dynamic," Rubalcaba said. "It is the cell that without a doubt was behind the majority of the violence since ETA broke the truce."
A Basque police official said the cell is believed to be responsible for nearly a dozen bomb attacks and that some of the detainees' fingerprints were found on the car that exploded at Legutiano.
Palestinian plows into traffic with earthmover and hurts many
JERUSALEM: For the second time in a month, a Palestinian plowed a large construction vehicle into traffic on a busy Jerusalem street on Tuesday, before being shot dead.
The driver was stopped when a passerby got out of his car and shot into the cabin of the construction vehicle. A border policeman who arrived shortly after fired more shots at the driver, the police said, "to confirm his death."
The attack, which left some 16 people injured, took place in Jerusalem's upscale hotel district, close to the King David Hotel, where Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, was due to stay on Tuesday evening. Obama is on a weeklong tour as part of a U.S. delegation.
It occurred near the Israeli presidential residence, where Shimon Peres was having lunch with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in a historic first visit by a Palestinian leader to the residence.
The driver, Ghassan Abu Tir, a Jerusalem resident in his early 20s, came from Umm Tuba, an Arab village in the south-east of the city with a strong Hamas presence. The village lies just within the city limits, in an area that Israel conquered in the 1967 war. The police were treating the case as a terrorist attack; Abbas immediately condemned it.
American women are now equal as victims of poor economy
Across the country, women in their prime earning years, struggling with an unfriendly economy, are retreating from the work force, either permanently or for long stretches.They had piled into jobs in growing numbers since the 1960s. But that stopped happening this decade, and as the nearly seven-year-old recovery gives way to hard times, the retreat is likely to accelerate.Indeed, for the first time since the women's movement came to life, an economic recovery has come and gone, and the percentage of women at work has fallen, not risen, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Each of the seven previous recoveries since 1960 ended with a greater percentage of women at work than when it began.
"When we saw women starting to drop out in the early part of this decade, we thought it was the motherhood movement, women staying home to raise their kids," Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, which did the congressional study, said in an interview. "We did not think it was the economy, but when we looked into it, we realized that it was."Hard times in manufacturing certainly sidelined Tootie Samson of Baxter, Iowa. Nine months after she lost her job on a factory assembly line, Samson, 48, is still not working. She could be. Jobs that pay $8 or $9 an hour are easy enough to land, she says. But like the men with whom she worked at the Maytag washing machine factory, now closed, near her home, she resists going back to work at less than half her old wage.Samson knows she will have to get another job at some point. She and her husband still have a teenage daughter to put through college, and his income as a truck driver is not enough. So Samson, now receiving unemployment benefits, is going to college full time — leaving the work force for more than two years — hoping that a bachelor's degree will enable her to earn at least her old wage of $20 an hour."A lot of women I know, all they did was work at the Maytag factory," said Samson, who joined Maytag's assembly line 11 years ago. "They can't find another job like it and they deal with this loss by dropping out."
Paulson warns of "additional bumps in the road"
NEW YORK: U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr., said on Tuesday that Americans need to remain patient as the economy works through its problems, and he warned of "continued stresses" in the months ahead before a full recovery can be made.
"Our markets won't make progress in a straight line, and we should expect additional bumps in the road," Paulson said in remarks at the New York Public Library in Midtown Manhattan. "We have been experiencing more bumps recently, and until the housing market stabilizes further we should expect some continued stresses in our financial markets."
Although Paulson acknowledged the need for broad reforms of the nation's existing regulatory structure, he sought to assure Americans that he expects the nation to "work through this period," and "emerge stronger and better poised for robust growth."
"The American people have every reason to remain confident that the U.S. banking system is sound," he said.
Paulson spoke just a week after the government announced a plan to help prop up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant mortgage buyers that were recently at the center of widespread market anxiety. The episode, Paulson said, made it "all the more apparent" that systemic reforms are necessary.
Two troubled U.S. banks each post billions in losses
NEW YORK: Moving quickly to put an end to the constant spill of red ink, Wachovia, the banking giant, booked an $8.9 billion loss and slashed its dividend in its first quarter under new leadership.
Wachovia said it would also eliminate about 10,750 jobs, including about 6,350 positions, largely in its mortgage business, and another 4,400 contractors and other positions across the bank.
Also Tuesday, another bank, Washington Mutual, reported a second-quarter loss of $3.33 billion or $6.58 a share, compared with a profit of $830 million, or 92 cents, in the period a year earlier.
Washington Mutual said it had increased its reserve for loan losses by $3.74 billion to $8.46 billion in the quarter, betting on more problems with mortgages. In a statement, the bank said that it would not need to raise additional capital, sending its shares higher in after-hours trading.
Brooks: America's culture of debt
On the front page of Sunday's New York Times, Gretchen Morgenson described Diane McLeod's spiral into indebtedness, and now a debate has erupted over who is to blame.
Some people emphasize the predatory lenders who seduced her with too-good-to-be-true credit lines and incomprehensible mortgage offers.
Here was a single mother made vulnerable by health problems and divorce. Working two jobs and stressed, she found herself barraged by credit card companies offering easy access to money. Mortgage lenders offered her credit on the basis of the supposedly rising value of her house. These lenders had little interest in whether she could pay off her loans. They made most of their money via initial lending fees and then sold off the loans to third parties.
In short, these predatory companies swooped down on a vulnerable woman, took what they could and left her careening toward bankruptcy.
Other people emphasize McLeod's own responsibility. She is the one who took the credit card offers knowing that debt is a promise that has to be kept. After her divorce, she went on a shopping spree to make herself feel better. After surgery, she sat at home watching the home shopping channels, charging thousands more.
Free societies depend on individual choice and responsibility, those in this camp argue. People have to be held accountable for their indulgences or there is no justice. As McLeod herself admirably told Morgenson: "I regret not dealing with my emotions instead of just shopping."
If you go to the online comment section affixed to Morgenson's article, you see advocates of these two positions talking past one another, one side talking the morality of social protection and the other the morality of personal responsibility.
And yet if you look at McLeod's case, and the entire financial crisis that it stands for, there is a third position. This is the position held in overlapping ways by liberal communitarians and conservative Burkeans.
This third position begins with the notion that people are driven by the desire to earn the respect of their fellows. Individuals don't build their lives from scratch. They absorb the patterns and norms of the world around them.
Decision-making - whether it's taking out a loan or deciding whom to marry - isn't a coldly rational, self-conscious act. Instead, decision-making is a long chain of processes, most of which happen beneath the level of awareness. We absorb a way of perceiving the world from parents and neighbors. We mimic the behavior around us. Only at the end of the process is there self-conscious oversight.
According to this view, what happened to McLeod, and America's financial system, is part of a larger social story. America once had a culture of thrift. But over the past decades, that unspoken code has been silently eroded.
Some of the toxins were economic. Rising house prices gave people the impression that they could take on more risk. Some were cultural.
We Americans entered a period of mass luxury, in which people down the income scale expect to own designer goods. Some were moral. Schools and other institutions used to talk the language of sin and temptation to alert people to the seductions that could ruin their lives. They no longer do.
Norms changed and people began making jokes to make illicit things seem normal. Instead of condemning hyper-consumerism, they made quips about "retail therapy," or repeated the line that Morgenson noted in her article: When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.
McLeod and the lenders were not only shaped by deteriorating norms, they helped degrade them. Despite all the subterranean social influences, there still is that final stage of decision-making when individual choice matters. Each time an avid lender struck a deal with an avid borrower, it reinforced a new definition of acceptable behavior for neighbors, family and friends. In a community, behavior sets off ripples. Every decision is a public contribution or a destructive act.
And now the reckoning has come. The turn in the market punishes many of those seduced by financial temptations. (Sometimes capitalism undermines the Puritan virtues, but sometimes it reinforces them.)
Meanwhile, social institutions are trying to re-right the norms.
The government is sending some messages. The Treasury and the Fed are trying to stabilize the system while still ensuring that those who made mistakes feel the pain.
But the important shifts will be private, as people and communities learn and adopt different social standards. After the Great Depression, a savings mentality set in. After the dot-com bubble, a bit of sobriety hit Silicon Valley. Now it's the borrowers' and lenders' turn.
As the saying goes: People don't change when they see the light. They change when they feel the heat.
Hedge fund chiefs look to global macro funds in difficult market
LONDON: Hedge fund managers are looking to global macro funds to try to steer clear of the mess created by the credit crisis while cautiously dipping into a small pool of more risky assets, a Reuters poll found.
The quarterly survey of 13 managers who invest in a basket of hedge funds and manage a total of about $150 billion in assets showed global macro funds leading the way through 2008 as they tend to benefit from periods of high volatility.
Typically global macro funds bet on the direction of markets, currencies or debt, and commodities.
"We have all been complaining for three plus years about the lack of risk premia everywhere and the lack of volatility. Well, be careful for what you wish for," said Mike Hennessy, managing director of investment at Morgan Creek Capital Management in North Carolina.
Just two strategies, global macro and multi-strategy arbitrage, were forecast to provide above average returns in the second half of 2008, roughly in line with a poll taken in April, but down from the five strategies predicted to excel back in January.
Market volatility has increased throughout 2008 with only the more nimble managers able to prosper from wildly seesawing asset prices.
ATHENS: Increasing numbers of affluent Europeans are buying or building luxury properties on the Greek islands, even as the market for top-end holiday homes in other European destinations like Spain and Bulgaria remains stalled, Greek real estate agents say.
Industry experts explain that the range of available properties - from extravagant new villas to bargain plots - has been attracting foreign buyers, some of whom say their investments have doubled or even tripled in value in just a few years.
"The islands have something for everyone, and they are close to home for Europeans, so foreign interest is strong," said Yannis Perrotis, head of CB Richard Ellis-Atria real estate consultants in Athens.
There are about 70,000 foreign owners with property in Greece and, while there are no official records of house purchases by foreign nationals, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that the numbers are continuing to grow.
The British and the Germans make most purchases, according to agents, who agree that the slump in the British housing market and a weak pound have had little impact on top-end property sales. Next are the French, Italians and Scandinavians. There have been fewer U.S. buyers since the dollar fell against the euro, but fast-growing interest from newly wealthy Russians is absorbing the slack.
A chronicle of 4 nonfiction books
Boots on the Ground by Dusk My Tribute to Pat Tillman
By Mary Tillman with Narda Zacchino 344 pages. $25.95. Modern Times.
After the former football player Pat Tillman was killed on April 22, 2004, in Afghanistan, his mother, Mary Tillman, set out to discover the circumstances of his death. But she had no Virgil to guide her through this hellish underworld. Instead, a "casualty assistance liaison," "mortuary affairs personnel" and officers armed with PowerPoint offered assistance.
She found out that families of slain soldiers may wait weeks or months to receive basic information about their deaths. In the case of Pat Tillman, the cause was said to be enemy fire. Five weeks later, the family discovered he had been killed by his own men in a savage battle. Soldiers fired "wildly," with "a lust to fight," Mary Tillman writes, and shot her son's head off. Officials tried to hide details about the incident because, she believes, it made the army look bad during a time - coinciding with Falluja and Abu Ghraib - when the military faced P.R. challenges on various fronts.
Much of the story has been revealed in newspapers and Congressional testimony. Yet "Boots on the Ground by Dusk" offers something other accounts do not: the heartache of searching for answers about a son's death.
April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Death and How It Changed America
By Michael Eric Dyson 290 pages. $24.95. Basic Civitas Books.
Dyson, a Georgetown University sociology professor, examines the impact of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death on his own world as well as on the American psyche. He was 9 when King was shot on the balcony of a motel in Memphis. For a long time after that, he says, he felt afraid when he was at home in a bathroom that "opened onto a small balcony." If King could be killed, he could be, too.
King, of course, predicted his demise long before it occurred. Ultimately, Dyson says, a violent end helped establish his place in the American pantheon. Dyson describes how close Americans have come to achieving King's goals - or how far they have to go. He also evaluates the people who carry on King's legacy, giving high marks to Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey. Some parts of "April 4, 1968" are hokey, yet many are lovely and haunting. "His unknowing final request ... that chilly spring evening," Dyson writes, was for the musician Ben Branch "to play the hymn 'Precious Lord, Take My Hand' at the rally that night, and to 'play it real pretty."'
Rapture Ready! Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture
By Daniel Radosh 310 pages. $25. Scribner.
At one point in "Rapture Ready!" Radosh, who has written for The New Yorker and Playboy, decides he wants to play an extra in "The Great Passion Play," an Arkansas production with "anti-Semitic roots."
A booker tells him they prefer actors who have seen the show. "I was really hoping to do this," Radosh replies. "Then I heard myself say, 'It's something I felt called to do."' The booker asks, "Do you have your own sandals?"
From there, Radosh is off: he visits the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where children climb a leather-saddled triceratops ("Long ago, dinosaurs and people were friends"); observes a "$50 Intimate Issues" sex conference; and hangs out with Bibleman. His goal, he says, is to write about the $7 billion Christian pop culture industry
Radosh can be funny, but he is "parachuting" in, often hitting well-trod ground. He offers a superficial view of things, lacking the sophistication of other writers who have looked at the evangelical world. It seems odd to classify the work of Graham Greene, a writer with a complicated relationship to Roman Catholicism, as "Christian" fiction, as Radosh does. In this book, though, nuance usually falls by the wayside.
Comfort A Journey Through Grief
By Ann Hood 188 pages. $19.95. Norton.
Grace, age 5, dies in April 2002. She had strep, Hood explains, a benign-sounding illness that can mutate savagely and become, in these rare cases, "almost always fatal." Hood, a novelist ("The Knitting Circle," "Ruby"), describes her daughter in the E.R. and life afterward, when she sits with friends who "let me wail at God and the world," reads obituaries and learns to knit. "Every day I picked up my knitting needles," she writes. "I tried to swim to the other side of grief."
Readers will recognize the "little-girl sweat and powder and lavender-lotion smell" she longs for during those days and may try (and surely fail) to imagine a moment in which death takes those things away.
The best memoirs act as a guide to these murky, unfathomable waters - often because the writers themselves seem inadequate to the crisis. In contrast, Hood is larger than life, living, loving and grieving on an operatic scale as she tells an archetypal, nightmarish tale. The book makes you hug your children tight. It makes you cry. It might even give you, as it did me, renewed respect for knitting. But it doesn't offer comfort, not really - only grief.
Tara McKelvey, a senior editor at The American Prospect, is a frequent contributor to the Book Review.
Slowing down to let the moment sink in
It's Monday morning and I meet my new medical student, Nelson, on the hospice unit. I am there to sign a death certificate for a man who died the night before. Nelson is flipping through the patient's chart, and he asks me, "What are we going to do for this patient today?"
I wonder if he's kidding, and I say: "Nothing. He's dead." Later, recalling this conversation, I still cannot believe I said it so matter-of-factly.
Nelson is still holding the chart and I think I see his hands shake.
"Hey, are you O.K.?" I ask. "You do know what you signed up for, don't you? It is a palliative-care and hospice elective. People are going to die every day."
"I know, I know," he says. "I've just never been near anyone who has died before." Then he says, "Wow, it's really a big deal." And he sits down — because he needs to, I think; he needs to respect the moment.
In this moment I learn something from Nelson, a lesson I thought I already knew. I learn to slow down, to feel the gravity of the moment, the power of time and the depth of this important work. Nelson is right. It is a big deal.
Nelson's "wow" makes me think back to my first death. I was a third-year medical student at Mount Sinai. It was a big day for me because my resident was going to let me do a paracentesis.
Patients with advanced liver disease can have something called ascites — too much fluid in the abdominal cavity, which can be uncomfortable and can make it hard to breathe. A paracentesis is a way to remove that extra fluid. You place a needle, and then a catheter, through the skin and muscle under the navel. Then you let it drain into bottles lined up on the floor.
As I was about to start, my patient became unconscious. Someone called a code and what seemed like a million doctors and nurses ran into the room. They did CPR, pushed meds, used the paddles. I had my sterile gloves on, but I was pushed to one side. I heard my patient's ribs crack under the weight of the compressions. I watched residents bag his mouth until the anesthesiologist intubated him and hooked up the ventilator. Electrocardiogram strips littered the bedside; an intern tried to place a central line in his groin. After 20 minutes the lead resident said: "That's it. Thank you all very much. Time of death 3:15."
Everyone left just as quickly as they had arrived, and for a moment, my moment, I was alone with this dead man. Me with my sterile gloves, and him — naked with his mouth open. My eyes filled with tears, and I hoped nobody noticed. I had been so preoccupied by the opportunity to stick a needle into a belly that I overlooked the seriousness of his disease.
I covered him with a sheet crumpled at the foot of his bed. I learned that day that I needed to slow myself down, to appreciate the gravity of the moment, the power of time and the depth and proximity of my work. It was a very big deal.
Nelson comes and goes, and I have a new student. Again, I'm rushing to get everything done. This time I am on the hospice unit and I go in to see a patient I haven't seen since before the weekend. She is sleeping, and her hair is brushed back from her face. I introduce myself to her son. He tells me he thinks she is comfortable, but had a rough night. I decide not to wake her, because I figure rest is more important than agitating her out of her sleep. I am on my way off the unit when her son calls after me: "Can you come back? My mom wants to tell you something."
I am back at the bedside. This time her eyes are open. I touch her cool hands. "Do you want to tell me something?"
She holds my hand to her face and pulls me close. "I wanted to thank you for this. Thank you."
There it is again — another moment, another near miss. I was rushing to get the day started. I would not have awakened her. I would have just moved on to the next thing I had to do. I would have missed the chance to feel the "wow." It is a very big deal. How quickly we forget, and how lucky we are to be reminded, before it's too late.
Jessica L. Israel is chief of geriatrics and palliative medicine at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, New Jersey
Russia scorns methadone for heroin addiction
MOSCOW: The conference seemed innocuous enough: a Moscow hotel, slide shows and several dozen doctors and specialists gathered to discuss how to treat heroin addiction. But then members of a Kremlin youth group called the Young Guard arrived, crowding the hotel's entrance and denouncing the participants as criminals and paid agents of the West.
The focus of their outrage was methadone, a drug prescribed by doctors around the world to wean addicts from heroin. A synthetic form of opium, methadone is central to a therapy endorsed by the United Nations and 55 countries, including the United States.
But not Russia. Though heroin abuse is widely linked to the country's HIV epidemic and the spread of criminality, the issue of methadone treatment is all but taboo here.
Methadone, typically taken by mouth in liquid form, blocks addicts' cravings for heroin by binding to the brain's opioid receptors. Methadone has critics in many countries, who argue that it replaces one form of opiate addiction with another; in Russia even talking about it can provoke legal sanction.
"There is no possibility to have a normal discussion about this issue," said Dr. Vladimir Mendelevich, director of the Institute for Research Into Psychological Health, in Kazan, 500 miles east of Moscow.
After the conference in February, which Mendelevich helped organize, Moscow's legislature began an inquiry into whether he had engaged in "drug propaganda," and it called on prosecutors to open a case against him, he said.
Danish embassy bomber reportedly "from Mecca"
ISLAMABAD: The suicide bomber who carried out an attack on the Danish embassy in Islamabad last month came from the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, an al Qaeda leader said in a rare interview with a Pakistani news channel.
Geo News aired the interview late on Monday with veteran al Qaeda member Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, in which he elaborated on the June 2 attack that killed six people, all of them Pakistanis.
The bomber was a young man from the land "where the Prophet was born" and the "land of Mecca", said the bespectacled, bearded and turbaned Yazid.
Soon after the blast, Yazid had claimed responsibility for al Qaeda in a posting on an Islamist website.
The interview with Geo was said to have been conducted at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan a few days ago.
An Egyptian who served time in jail with al Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri after the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981, Yazid is now commander of operations in Afghanistan.
He has been referred to as al Qaeda's third most senior figure, after the elimination or capture of five earlier occupants of the Number Three spot since 2001.
Earlier, the September 11 Commission described Yazid as the network's "chief financial manager".
It was unclear, from what Yazid said, whether the embassy bomber was a Saudi, as many non-Saudis have settled in Mecca, or whether he had been recruited while visiting the city, which is closed to non-Muslims.
Yazid said the bomber had come to join a jihad in Indian Kashmir or Afghanistan, but became enraged by the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in Danish newspapers in 2005.
During the interview, Yazid openly acknowledged al Qaeda's responsibility for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and berated the Pakistani government of President Pervez Musharraf for subsequently "betraying" the Islamist cause by siding with the United States.
Yazid defended the tactic of using suicide attacks and was unapologetic about the fact that the attack on the embassy killed Pakistanis, including one security guard on the gate and two policemen.
Al Qaeda justifies killing fellow Muslims by deeming them to have become heretics, excommunicated from the Islamic community because of their loss of faith.
Yazid said al Qaeda was not to blame for any of the bomb attacks in Pakistan late last year that targeted mosques.
Iran offers 2 pages and no ground in nuclear talks
PARIS: The Iranians called their proposal a "None paper."
Indeed, for officials of the six countries sitting on the other side of the table, the paper addressed none of their ideas for resolving the crisis over Iran's nuclear program.
Instead, the informal two-page document that Iran distributed at nuclear talks in Geneva on Saturday ignored the main six-power demand on curbing Iran's enrichment of uranium and called for concessions from the other side.
The title of the English-language text had two mistakes. "The Modality for Comrehensive Negotiations (None paper)," it read, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times. (Diplomatic jargon for an unofficial negotiating document is "nonpaper.")
For the six powers — the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany — the paper's substance was just as disappointing as its style. Sergei Kisliak, the Russian deputy foreign minister, could not suppress a laugh when he read it, according to one participant.
Syria moves ahead in recognizing Lebanon
BEIRUT, Lebanon – The foreign minister of Syria reiterated on Monday that Syria intends to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon, for the first time since the two nations gained independence more than 60 years ago.
"We are determined to open an embassy and to exchange diplomatic representation," Walid Muallem told reporters here. "But this determination has to be shared."
Earlier this month, at a conference of Mediterranean countries in Paris, Presidents Bashar Assad of Syria and Michel Suleiman of Lebanon agreed to open embassies in each other's capital. That conference, orchestrated by President Nicholas Sarkozy of France, was seen as ending the diplomatic isolation of Syria that followed the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, in a car bomb.
Muallem met on Monday with Suleiman and invited him to visit Damascus. The visit would be the first by a Lebanese official in more than three years. The Lebanese press said the trip would take place in a week or 10 days, Agence France-Presse reported.
U.S. military says Iraq troop "surge" has ended
BAGHDAD: The U.S. troop "surge" in Iraq that President George W. Bush ordered last year has ended after the last of five additional combat brigades left the country, a U.S. military spokesman said on Tuesday.
The remaining troops from that brigade departed over the weekend, leaving just under 147,000 American soldiers in Iraq, the spokesman said.
"The final elements of the surge brigade have now left, getting out a few days ahead of schedule," he said.
The U.S. military had 20 combat brigades in Iraq at its peak in 2007, with troop levels around 160,000-170,000.
The current number is well above the 130,000 troops in Iraq when Bush ordered the deployment in January 2007. The Pentagon said last February it expected 140,000 troops to be in Iraq once the five brigade drawdown had finished.
Obama says committed to Iraq withdrawal plan
AMMAN: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said on Tuesday he was committed to a 16-month timetable for a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, after a trip in which he met Iraqi leaders and U.S. officials.
Obama was speaking in the Jordanian capital as part of a tour of the region in which he has sought to shift the focus of U.S. military efforts from Iraq to Afghanistan, where al Qaeda and the Taliban are resurgent.
The question of when to withdraw some 147,000 U.S. troops in Iraq overshadowed the first term senator's trip. Obama has made his opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 a centrepiece of his election campaign.
"What I have proposed is a steady, deliberate draw down over the course of 16 months," he told a news conference in Amman.
Obama has said the draw down would enable more troops to be deployed in Afghanistan, where insurgent attacks in the past two months have killed more U.S. soldiers than in Iraq.
He described the situation in Afghanistan as "perilous and urgent" and said al Qaeda and the Taliban were planning more attacks in the United States.
"In Afghanistan and the border region of Pakistan, al Qaeda and the Taliban are mounting a growing offensive against the security of the Afghan people and increasingly the Pakistani people, while plotting new attacks against the United States," he said.
Obama says he would not hesitate to overrule American commanders
AMMAN: Senator Barack Obama said Tuesday that there was "no doubt security has improved in Iraq," but that he would not hesitate to overrule American commanders and redirect forces to fight what he called "a perilous and urgent" battle against terrorism in Afghanistan.
"My job as a candidate for president and a potential commander in chief extends beyond Iraq," Obama told reporters in Jordan after finishing a three-day tour of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama, who is on a weeklong trip through the Middle East and Western Europe, lauded the efforts of the U.S. military to reduce violence in Iraq.
He conceded that top U.S. commanders had said they resisted the idea of a timetable for withdrawing troops, saying that they wanted to "retain as much flexibility as possible."
Asked whether he intended to ignore their advice, Obama declared: "No, I'm factoring in their advice, but placing it in this broader strategic framework that's required."
Prisoners sleeping in cell toilets
LONDON: Prisoners are having to sleep in the toilet area of their cells to ease overcrowding at a jail in northern England, a watchdog said in a report on Tuesday.
Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers said cells designed for two inmates had been turned into three-man rooms by putting a bed in the shared toilet.
Inspectors uncovered the practice during an unannounced visit to Doncaster Prison in February. The jail has nearly 1,000 inmates, 200 more than its normal capacity.
"We were disappointed to find that two-person cells had been turned into three-person cells by placing a bed in the shared toilet," Owers said in the report. "This was unacceptable."
Prison governors are having to cope with record numbers of inmates. Earlier this year, Justice Secretary Jack Straw urged magistrates to jail fewer criminals to ease overcrowding.