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UN: SERIOUS HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES ONGOING IN IRAQ – Report cites ongoing widespread ill-treatment, torture of detainees by Iraqi law enforcement authorities

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 2, 2008

First Published 2008-12-02

PUBLISHED BY ‘MIDDLE EAST ON LINE’

GENEVA – Serious human rights abuses including the torture of detainees are ongoing in Iraq, even though the general security situation has improved, a United Nations report published Tuesday said.

There are “ongoing widespread ill-treatment and torture of detainees by Iraqi law enforcement authorities, amidst pervasive impunity of current and past human rights abuses,” said the UN Iraq mission’s report on the human rights situation in Iraq for the first half of this year.

The mission said it found through visits to prisons that many prisoners have been held for many months without recourse to defence, even though some have not even been charged formally with a crime.

Minorities also continue to be targetted by organised armed militia, with members of the minority groups having to pose as Kurdish or Arab to get access to health care or education.

Meanwhile, women also faced harrassment on their mode of dress, while in the Kurdistan region, the mission still gets reports on violent killings, burning and domestic violence of women.

A UN independent expert last month also raised concern on the domestic assault on women, in particular at the rise of honour killings, in which women deemed to have broken moral codes are killed by members of their own family, and the impunity which is afforded the perpetrators.

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Posted in FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, HUMAN RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, IRAQ, THE LAST DAYS OF GEORGE WALKER BUSH - 2008/Jan. 2009, THE OCCUPATION WAR IN IRAQ, THE PRESIDENCY - USA, USA | Leave a Comment »

BEYOND THE BAILOUT STATE

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 2, 2008

First Published 2008-12-02

by Steve Fraser – (*)

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE MIDDLE EAST ON LINE’

The American way of life, including its economy of mass consumption, has depended on maintaining the country’s global preeminence by any means possible: economic, political, and, in the end, military, says Steve Fraser.

Roosevelt’s Brain Trust vs Obama’s Brainiacs

On a December day in 1932, with the country prostrate under the weight of the Great Depression, ex-president Calvin Coolidge — who had presided over the reckless stock market boom of the Jazz Age Twenties (and famously declaimed that “the business of America is business”) – confided to a friend: “We are in a new era to which I do not belong.” He punctuated those words, a few weeks later, by dying.

A similar premonition grips the popular imagination today. A new era beckons. No person has been more responsible for arousing that expectation than President-elect Barack Obama. From beginning to end, his presidential campaign was born aloft by invocations of the “fierce urgency of now,” by “change we can believe in,” by “yes, we can!” and by the obvious significance of his race and generation. Not surprisingly then, as the gravity of the national economic calamity has become terrifyingly clearer, yearnings for salvation have attached themselves ever more firmly to the incoming administration.

This is as it should be – and as it once was. When in March 1933, a few months after Coolidge gave up the ghost, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated president, people looked forward to audacious changes, even if they had little or no idea just what, in concrete terms, that might mean. If Coolidge, an iconic representative of the old order, knew that the ancien régime was dead, millions of ordinary Americans had drawn the same conclusion years earlier. Full of fear, depressed and disillusioned, they nonetheless had an appetite for the untried. Like Obama, FDR had, during his campaign, encouraged feverish hopes with no less vaporous references to a “new deal” for Americans.

Brain Trust vs Brainiacs

Yet today, something is amiss. Even if everyone is now using the Great Depression and the New Deal as benchmarks for what we’re living through, Act I of the new script has already veered away from the original.

A suffocating political and intellectual provincialism has captured the new administration in embryo. Instead of embracing a sense of adventurousness, a readiness to break with the past so enthusiastically promoted during the campaign, Obama seems overcome with inhibitions and fears.

Practically without exception he has chosen to staff his government at its highest levels with refugees from the Clinton years. This is emphatically true in the realms of foreign and economic policy. It would, in fact, be hard to find an original idea among the new appointees being called to power in those realms – some way of looking at the American empire abroad or the structure of power and wealth at home that departs radically from views in circulation a decade or more ago. A team photo of Obama’s key cabinet and other appointments at Treasury, Health and Human Services, Commerce, the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, the State Department, the Pentagon, the National Security Council, and in the US Intelligence Community, not to speak of senior advisory posts around the President himself, could practically have been teleported from perhaps the year 1995.

Recycled Clintonism is recycled neo-liberalism. This is change only the brainiacs from Hyde Park and Harvard Square could believe in. Only the experts could get hot under the collar about the slight differences between “behavioral economics” (the latest academic fad that fascinates some high level Obama-ites) and straight-up neo-liberal deference to the market. And here’s the sobering thing: despite the grotesque extremism of the Bush years, neo-liberalism also served as its ideological magnetic north.

Is this parochialism, this timorousness and lack of imagination, inevitable in a period like our own, when the unknown looms menacingly and one natural reaction is certainly to draw back, to find refuge in the familiar? Here, the New Deal years can be instructive.

Roosevelt was no radical; indeed, he shared many of the conservative convictions of his class and times. He believed deeply in both balanced budgets and the demoralizing effects of relief on the poor. He tried mightily to rally the business community to his side. For him, the labor movement was terra incognita and – though it may be hard to believe today – played no role in his initial policy and political calculations. Nonetheless, right from the beginning, Roosevelt cobbled together a cabinet and circle of advisers strikingly heterogeneous in its views, one that, by comparison, makes Obama’s inner sanctum, as it is developing today, look like a sectarian cult.

Heterogeneous does not mean radical. Some of FDR’s early appointments – as at the Treasury Department – were die-hard conservatives. Jesse Jones, who ran the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, a Hoover administration creation, retained by FDR, that had been designed to rescue tottering banks, railroads, and other enterprises too big to fail, was a practitioner of business-friendly bailout capitalism before present Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was even born.

But there was also Henry Wallace as Secretary of Agriculture, a Midwestern progressive who would become the standard bearer for the most left-leaning segments of the New Deal coalition. He was joined at the Agriculture Department — far more important then than now – by men like Mordecai Ezekiel, who was prepared to challenge the power of the country’s landed oligarchs.

Then there were corporatists like Raymond Moley, Donald Richberg, and General Hugh Johnson. Moley was an original member of FDR’s legendary “brain trust” (a small group of the President’s most influential advisers who often held no official government position). Richberg and Johnson helped design and run the National Recovery Administration (the New Deal’s first and failed attempt at industrial recovery). All three men were partial to the interests of the country’s peak corporations. All three wanted them released from the strictures of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act so that they could collaborate in setting prices and wages to arrest the killing deflation that gripped the economy. But they also wanted these corporate behemoths and the codes of competition they promulgated subjected to government oversight and restraints.

Meanwhile, Felix Frankfurter (another confidant of FDR’s and a future Supreme Court justice), aided by the behind-the-scenes efforts of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, fiercely contested the influence of the corporatists within the new administration, favoring anti-trust and then-new Keynesian approaches to economic recovery. Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins used her extensive ties to the social work community and the labor movement to keep an otherwise tone-deaf president apprised of portentous rumblings from that quarter. In this fashion, she eased the way for the passage of the Wagner Act that legislated the right to organize and bargain collectively, and that ended the reign of industrial autocracy in the workplace.

Roosevelt’s “brain trust” also included Rexford Tugwell. He was an avid proponent of government economic planning. Another founding member of the “brain trust” was Adolph Berle, who had published a bestselling, scathing indictment of the financial and social irresponsibility of the corporate elite just before FDR assumed office.

People like Tugwell and others, including future Federal Reserve Board chairman Marriner Eccles, were believers in Keynesian deficit spending as the road to recovery and argued fiercely for this position within the inner councils of the administration, even while Roosevelt himself remained, until later in his presidency, an orthodox budget balancer.

All of these people – the corporatists and the Keynesians, the planners and the anti-trusters – were there at the creation. They often came to blows. A genuine administration of “rivals” didn’t faze FDR. He was deft at borrowing all of, or pieces of, their ideas, then jettisoning some when they didn’t work, and playing one faction against another in a remarkable display of political agility. Roosevelt’s tolerance of real differences stands in stark contrast to the new administration’s cloning of the Clinton-era brainiacs.

It was this openness to a variety of often untested solutions – including at that point Keynesianism – that helped give the New Deal the flexibility to adjust to shifts in the country’s political chemistry in the worst of times. If the New Deal came to represent a watershed in American history, it was in part due to the capaciousness of its imagination, its experimental elasticity, and its willingness to venture beyond the orthodox. Many failures were born of this, but so, too, many enduring triumphs.

Beyond the Bailout State

Why, at least so far, is the Obama approach so different? Some of it no doubt has to do with the same native caution that caused FDR to navigate carefully in treacherous waters. But some of it may result from the fallout of history. Because the Great Depression and the New Deal happened, nothing can ever really be the same again.

We are accustomed to thinking of the Bush years – maybe even the whole era from the presidency of Ronald Reagan on – as a throwback to the 1920s or even the laissez-faire golden years of the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century. In some respects, that’s probably accurate, but in at least one critical way it’s not. Back in those days, faced with a potentially terminal financial crisis, the government did nothing, simply letting the economy plunge into depression. This happened repeatedly until 1929, when it happened again.

Since the New Deal, however, inaction has ceased to be a viable option for Washington. State intervention to prevent catastrophe has become an unspoken axiom of political life in perilous times. Of course, thanks to regulatory mechanisms installed during the New Deal years, there was no need to engage in heroic rescues – not, at least, until the triumph of deregulation in our own time.

Then crises began to erupt with ever greater frequency – the stock market crash of 1987, the savings and loan collapse at the end of that decade, the massive Latin American debt defaults of the early 1990s, the collapse of the economies of the Asian “tigers” in the mid-1990s, the near bankruptcy of the then-huge hedge fund, Long Term Capital Management, later in that decade, the dot-com implosion at the turn the century, climaxing with the general global collapse of the present moment. Beginning perhaps with the bailout of the Chrysler Corporation in the late 1970s, these recurring crises have been met with increasingly strenuous efforts to stop the bleeding by what some have called “the bailout state.”

The Resolution Trust Corporation, created to rescue the savings and loan industry, first institutionalized what Kevin Phillips has since described as a new political economy of “financial mercantilism.” Under this new order the state stands ready to backstop the private sector – or at least the financial sub-sector which, for the past quarter century, has been the driving engine of economic growth – whenever it undergoes severe stress.

Today, the starting point for all mainstream policymakers, even those who otherwise preach the virtues of the free market and the evils of big government, is the active intervention of the state to prevent the failure of private-sector institutions considered “too big to fail” (as with most recently Citigroup and the insurance company AIG). So, too, the tolerance level for deficit spending, not only for military purposes but, in extremis, to help stop ordinary people from going under, is infinitely higher than in 1932. Ronald Reagan was prepared to live with such spending, if necessary, even as he removed portraits of Thomas Jefferson and Harry S. Truman from the Cabinet Room and replaced them with a canvas of Calvin Coolidge.

The question for our “new era” – not one our New Deal ancestors would have thought to ask — has become: How do we get beyond the bailout state? This is one crucial realm where genuinely new thinking and new ideas are badly needed.

At the moment, as best we can make out, the bailout state is being managed in secret and apparently in the interests, above all, of those who run the financial institutions being “rescued.” Often, we don’t actually know who is getting what from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury, or on what terms, or even which institutions are being helped and which aren’t, or often what our public monies are actually being used for.

What we do know, however, is anything but encouraging. It includes tax exemptions for merging banks, prices for public-equity stakes in failing outfits that far exceed what is being paid by governments (or even private investors) abroad for similar holdings. Add to this a stark lack of accountability, aggravated by the fact that the US government has neither voting rights (nor even a voice) on boards of directors whose firms would be in bankruptcy court without Washington’s aid.

Living in an Empire of Depression

Are we, then, witnessing the birth of some warped, exceedingly partial version of state capitalism — partial, that is, to the resuscitation of the old order? If so, lurking within this string of bum deals might there not be a great opportunity? Putting the economy and country back together will require massive resources directed toward common purposes. There is no more suitable means of mobilizing and steering those resources than the institutions of democratic government.

Under the present dispensation, the bailout state makes the government the handmaiden of the financial sector. Under a new one, the tables might be turned. But who will speak for that option within the limited councils of the Obama team?

A real democratic nationalization of the banks – good value for our money rather than good money to add to their value – should be part of the policy agenda up for discussion in the Obama era. As things now stand, the public supplies the loans and the investment capital, but the key decisions about how they are to be deployed remain in private hands. A democratic version of nationalizing the financial system would transfer these critical decisions to new institutions created by the Congress and designed to pursue public, not private, objectives. How to subject the flow of credit and investment capital to public control ought to be on the drawing boards if we are to look beyond the old New Deal to a new one.

Or, for instance, if we are to bail out the auto industry, which we should — millions of jobs, businesses, communities, and what’s left of once powerful and proud unions are at stake – then why not talk about its nationalization, too? Why not create a representative body of workers, consumers, environmentalists, suppliers, and other interested parties to supervise the industry’s reorganization and retooling to produce, just as the president-elect says he wants, new green means of transportation – and not just cars?

Why not apply the same model to the rehabilitation of the nation’s infrastructure; indeed, why not to the reindustrialization of the country as a whole? If, as so many commentators are now claiming, what lies ahead is the kind of massive, crippling deflation characteristic of such crises, then why not consider creating democratic mechanisms to impose an incomes policy on wages and prices that works against that deflation?

Overseas, if everything isn’t up for discussion – and it most certainly isn’t – it ought to be. What happens there bears directly on our future here at home. After all, we live in the empire of depression. America’s favorite export for more than a decade has been a toxic line-up of securitized debt. Having ingested it in lethal amounts, every economy in the world from Iceland’s and Germany’s to Russia’s and Indonesia’s is either folding up or threatening to fold up like an accordion under the pressure of economic disaster.

Until now, the American way of life, including its economy of mass consumption, has depended on maintaining the country’s global preeminence by any means possible: economic, political, and, in the end, military. The news of the Bush years was that, in this mix, Washington reached for its six-guns so much more quickly.

A global depression will challenge that fundamental hierarchy in every conceivable way. The United States can try to recapture its imperiled hegemony by methods familiar to the Obama-Clinton-Bush (the father) foreign policy establishment, that is by using the country’s waning but still intimidating economic and military muscle. But that’s a devil’s game played at exorbitant cost which will further imperil the domestic economy.

It might, of course, be possible, as in domestic affairs, to try something new, something that embraces the public redevelopment of America in concert with the global South. This would entail at a minimum a radical break with the “Washington Consensus” of the Clinton years in which the United States insisted that the rest of the world conform to its free market model of economic behavior. It would establish multilateral mechanisms for regulating the flow of investment capital and severe penalties and restrictions on speculation in international markets. Most of all, it would mean lifting the strangulating grip of American military might that now girdles the globe.

All of this would require a capacity for re-imagining foreign affairs as something other than a zero-sum game. So far, nothing in Obama’s line-up of foreign policy and national security mandarins suggests this kind of potential policy deviance. Again, no Rooseveltian “brain trust” is in sight, even though unorthodoxies are called for, not just because of the hopes Obama’s victory have aroused, but because of the urgency of our present circumstances.

If original thinking doesn’t find a home somewhere within this forming administration soon, it will be an omen of an even more troubled future to come, when options not even being considered today may be unavailable tomorrow. Certainly, Americans ought to expect something better than a trip down (the grimmest of) memory lanes into the failed neo-liberalism of yesteryear.

(*) – Steve Fraser is a visiting professor at New York University and the author of Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace. He is a regular contributor to TomDispatch.com and co-founder of the American Empire Project series (Metropolitan Books).

Copyright 2008 Steve Fraser

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Posted in BANKING SYSTEM - USA, BANKRUPTCIES - USA, BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA -(DEC. 2008/JAN. 2009), ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, ECONOMY - USA, FINANCIAL CRISIS - USA - 2008/2009, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, FINANCIAL MARKETS, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, HISTORY, HOUSING CRISIS - USA, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION - USA, INDUSTRIES - USA, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, NATIONAL WORK FORCES, RECESSION, REGULATIONS AND BUSINESS TRANSPARENCY, STOCK MARKETS, THE FLOW OF INVESTMENTS, THE LAST DAYS OF GEORGE WALKER BUSH - 2008/Jan. 2009, THE PRESIDENCY - USA, THE WORK MARKET, THE WORKERS, USA | Leave a Comment »

MYSTERY OF CROCS’ MASS DIE-OFF (India)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 2, 2008

Page last updated at 10:18 GMT, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

PUBLISHED BY ‘BBC NEWS’ (UK)

Measuring up to 6m Some gharials may be feeding on fish that have large toxic loadslong, with elongated narrow snouts, gharials are one of the world’s most distinctive-looking crocodilians.

Just 100 years ago, these fish-eating reptiles were prevalent throughout the Indian subcontinent; but by 2007, there were just 200 breeding adults found in only a handful of rivers in India and Nepal.

Last winter, this already critically endangered species was dealt another cruel blow. Over the space of just five months, more than 100 of the creatures washed up dead on the banks of India’s Chambal river – and nobody knew why.

For the past year, herpetologist Rom Whitaker, who runs the Madras Crocodile Bank, has been followed by a BBC Natural World team as he attempted to solve this mystery.

Here, he explains how scientists may finally be on the verge of finding some answers.

“It’s been a bit like a long drawn out Agatha Christie mystery. Everything we hear about just throws up more questions.

Why is it just a particular 40km stretch of the river that is being affected, and the deaths all occurred over winter?

Why is it that only one particular size class – the medium sized ones – is dying?

And why is it that only one fish-eating animal is being affected?

Death by gout

We started to speculate that it had to be something in the food chain.

Autopsies have told us the deaths were caused by gout, which more or less indicates kidney failure – and this points to the build up of toxins.

The river that they live in – the Chambal – is one of the cleanest rivers in India. But this flows into another river called the
Yamuna, which is a big huge toxic mess.

We think the gharial are moving into the Yamuna and feeding on fish that have big toxic loads.

Then it is likely that they are coming back to the Chambal, having brought with them all this fish they have gorged upon, and this bioaccumulation of toxin is then affecting them.

We believe that the die-off happened in winter because when it is cold, the animals are unable to metabolise anything in their system – they sort of shut down.

This will take a toll on weak, injured or sick animals. And in this case, if they had damaged kidneys, and the kidneys were trying to excrete the uric acid but were unable to, then the uric acid would have spread to the body, causing gout.

Could sights like the mass-hatching of 500 baby gharials soon be a thing of the past?

Ecologist Jeff Lang was able to fill us in on another piece of the puzzle concerning the size of the animals that were dying.

The little crocodilians can bask in what little sunshine is available in the winter, and because they are small they heat up very fast. Even if they have eaten polluted fish, they would be able to metabolise it very fast – in other words, get rid of it as quickly as they consume it.

The very large animals are at a stage of their life where they are not gorging on fish as they have no great incentive to grow fast. They are more likely to be concentrating on patrolling their territory than on feeding.

It is the medium-sized class that are dying – these are feeding on a lot of fish as they want to grow quickly. And in the case of the adult females, they need extra energy for egg production at this time of the year.

But being larger, it takes them a heck of a long time to warm up, and we think that they never do warm up enough to aid digestion and metabolise out the toxins.

‘Educated speculation’

But why aren’t other fish-eating animals affected?

If you are talking about river dolphins, cormorants, otters and pelicans – these are all warm-blooded, and they are eating and expelling waste as fast as they can.

So this accumulation may take place, but it isn’t happening fast enough to kill them – at least not yet. And of course, there is the sinister possibility that people who eat the fish may also be affected.

The other species of crocodile that’s there is the mugger crocodile.

And this animal is not a specialist like the gharial.

Gharials only eat fish, but these muggers eat anything that moves. So we surmise they are not getting the same kind of accumulation of nasty fish in their systems.

This is all speculation – but it is educated speculation. The pieces of the puzzle are beginning to all come together. But it is not enough to just find out what happened.

If they are going to 'The pieces of the puzzle are beginning to all come together' - Rom Whitakerclean up the Yamuna river, we are talking probably about another long decade of really hard work – and there is a chance that a die off could happen again before that.

The Chambal population is the most important last repository of gharial. So it seems that a critically endangered species with this one last bastion left is in real real trouble.

But the problem goes much wider.

The gharial could be the canary in the coalmine. They are telling us something very important – that our rivers are dying, and that could mean us dying next.”

Crocodile Blues is on BBC2 on Tuesday 2 December at 2000GMT as part of the Natural World strand

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PUBLISHED BY ‘BBC NEWS’ (UK)

Posted in ENVIRONMENT, HEALTH SAFETY, INDIA, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION, INTERNATIONAL, REGULATIONS AND BUSINESS TRANSPARENCY, WATER | Leave a Comment »

BRAZIL DESCRIBES NEW PLAN TO SLOW DEFORESTATION

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 2, 2008

December 02, 2008

by Tales Azzoni – Associated Press Writer

PUBLISHED BY ‘WTOP NEWS’ (USA)

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) – Brazil plans to boost spending and programs to significantly slow destruction of the Amazon rain forest by 2017, aiming to reduce global warming by slashing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted when trees are burned.

The plan would reduce deforestation to 1,900 square miles (5,000 square kilometers) a year, an area the size of the U.S. state of Delaware, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Monday _ setting Brazil’s first-ever concrete goal to slow rain forest destruction.

That represents a 59 percent decline over the 4,633 square miles (12,000 square kilometers) of jungle that were destroyed between August 2007 and July 2008, the last yearly period for which data was available.

Environment Minister Carlos Minc said the plan would slow destruction by 72 percent when compared to the 7,330 square miles (19,000 square kilometers) lost on average each year between 1996 and 2005.

The new proposal would boost federal patrols of forested areas, replant 5.5 million hectares (13.6 million acres) of forest, and finance sustainable development projects to give locals alternative work in areas where illegal logging dominates the economy.

“We need to offer help them with one hand, but with the other we have to tell them there will be punishment if they don’t pay attention to environmental preservation,” Silva said, without describing those penalties. He did not say how much the plan would cost.

Deforestation _ both the burning and rotting of Amazon wood _ releases an estimated 400 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, making Brazil at least the sixth biggest emitter of the gas in the world.

The country slowed deforestation by 60 percent between 2005 and 2007, but officials last week said destruction has accelerated slightly in the last year, as rising soy and beef prices prompt farmers to carve more fields and pastures from the rain forest.

Rain forest burning accounts for 55 percent of Brazilian emissions that contribute to global warming, said Carlos Nobre of Brazil’s Economic Research Institute. The rest comes from agriculture, power generation and vehicles.

(Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘WTOP NEWS’ (USA)

Posted in A QUESTÃO AGRÁRIA, BRASIL, CIDADANIA, CRIMES AMBIENTAIS - BRASIL, DEFESA DO MEIO AMBIENTE - BRASIL, ENVIRONMENT, INTERNATIONAL, MINISTÉRIO DO MEIO AMBIENTE, O PODER EXECUTIVO FEDERAL | Leave a Comment »

BRAZIL TO CUT DEFORESTATION BY 70PC

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 2, 2008

December 02, 2008

From correspondents in Brasilia – Agence France-Presse

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE AUSTRALIAN’

THE Brazilian government overnight announced a plan under which it would cut deforestation of the Amazon by 70 per cent over the next decade.

It is the first time Brazil, home to the largest area of tropical woodland on the planet, has set a target for reducing the damage wreaked by illegal loggers and farmers.

Environment Minister Carlos Minc unveiled the initiative in the presence of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and said it would be formally presented at a UN climate change conference underway this week in Poland.

“Just in terms of avoided deforestation in the Amazon, the plan foresees a reduction of 4.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide that won’t be emitted up to 2018 – which is more than the reduction efforts fixed by all the rich countries,” Mr Minc said.

The minister said Brazil hopes to use the plan to “increase the number of contributors to the Amazon Fund” launched last August which aims to collect money from around the world to fight deforestation.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘THE AUSTRALIAN’

Posted in A QUESTÃO AGRÁRIA, AGRICULTURA, ATIVIDADES CRIMINOSAS - BRASIL, BRASIL, CIDADANIA, CIDADES, CRIMES AMBIENTAIS - BRASIL, DEFESA DO MEIO AMBIENTE - BRASIL, ENVIRONMENT, INTERNATIONAL, MINISTÉRIO DO MEIO AMBIENTE, O PODER EXECUTIVO FEDERAL, POLÍTICA REGIONAL, RELAÇÕES INTERNACIONAIS - BRASIL, THE UNITED NATIONS | Leave a Comment »

FINANCIAL CRISIS KILLS OFF AGRICULTURE SCHEMES (Australia)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 2, 2008

December 02, 2008

by Rick Wallace

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE AUSTRALIAN’

THE economic crisis appears to have killed off one of the most divisive trends in Australian agriculture: the growth of aggressively marketed, tax-effective investment schemes.

The future of the schemes, loathed by many growers for buying up land and billions of litres of water, is in jeopardy thanks to the global financial collapse and recent tax changes.

The two largest agricultural managed investment scheme companies, Timbercorp and Great Southern Plantations, are trading at less than 5 per cent of their peak values in 2006. Overall, their plummeting share prices have stripped more than $1.7 billion from their combined market capitalisation.

Timbercorp will quit the MIS sector next year and has begun selling plantations to reduce debt while Great Southern has also announced a major restructure that will reduce its involvement in non-forestry MIS schemes.

Enviroinvest, another MIS operator, controlled by the family of former Liberal politician Roger Pescott, recently went into liquidation with debts of $100 million.

The sector’s woes may change the landscape of horticulture in Australia with investment slowing to a trickle and plantations along the Murray River potentially sold off to foreign investors.

Under restructure plans, Timbercorp will sell some forestry blocks along with almond and olive groves, although it will lease them back. Great Southern is converting some cattle, forestry and horticultural projects to non-MIS based structures.

Analysts predict Great Southern will have to sell more assets if investors don’t support the restructure, although the company is upbeat about its chances.

Individual growers reeling under debt and a decade of drought believe much of the land and water rights controlled by MISs will now be bought up by foreign firms.

Northwest Victorian grape grower and MIS critic Bill McClumpha said many MISs would fold. “The schemes are financially unviable and just an arm of the tax avoidance industry,” he said.

The growth of MISs saw them expand from forestry into almonds, avocados, abalone, pearls, truffles and walnuts, olives and wine grapes. Investors ploughed almost $1.1 billion into them in 2007 at the height of the boom, buying hundreds of thousands of hectares from farmers to establish plantations and orchards.

According to their detractors, who include Liberal senator Bill Heffernan and former Nationals agriculture minister Peter McGauran, the attraction was not so much the returns but the tax deductions they offered.

From July this year, a tax office ruling has meant non-forestry schemes no longer attract the deduction, although this is being reviewed by Treasury and challenged in the Federal Court.

Many of the schemes were sold on commission to high-income earners. To their supporters they offered innovation, economies of scale and capital beyond the reach of the average farmer.

Great Southern spokesman David Ikin said the company would wait on the tax reviews before considering any new non-forestry MIS and Timbercorp is now focusing on agribusiness rather than fund management.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘THE AUSTRALIAN’

Posted in AGRICULTURE, AUSTRALIA, BANKING SYSTEMS, COMMERCE, COMMODITIES MARKET, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, FINANCIAL MARKETS, FOOD INDUSTRIES, FOOD PRODUCTION (human), FRUITS AND FRESH VEGETABLES, GRAINS, INTERNATIONAL, RECESSION, THE FLOW OF INVESTMENTS, WATER | Leave a Comment »

HOW LONG, HOW DEEP IS THE US RECESSION?

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 2, 2008

First Posted 11:04:00 12/02/2008

by Rob Lever – Agence France-Presse – PUBLISHED BY ‘THE PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER’

WASHINGTON, United States – The United States officially joined the ranks of the recession-hit economies, but debate is still raging on how long and how deep the downturn will be.

The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the panel recognized as the official arbiter of business cycles, said it made the determination the recession began in December 2007.

Although a recession is generally defined as two consecutive quarters of declining activity, the panel has its own criteria for determining a downturn, including data on employment, income and industrial output.

Because of the lag time in officially declaring a recession, some analysts say the worst is generally over by the time the news becomes public.

But John Ogg, analyst at 24/7 Wall Street, said it may not be the case this time: “We still think more pain is on the way.”

That message was hammered home with a survey showing the US manufacturing sector sank to its lowest level of activity in November since 1982.

The Institute of Supply Management (ISM) said its manufacturing index slumped 2.7 points to 36.2 percent, far below the 50- percent level that separates expansion and contraction.

Analysts pointed out the overall economy will have trouble escaping deep recession with manufacturing so weak.

“The worsening credit crisis and deepening global slump have pushed the ISM index below the 41 figure that is consistent with past recessions,” said Sal Guatieri, economist at BMO Capital Markets.

“The fact that the index continues to decline points to more than your garden-variety downturn.”

Many analysts have been saying the recession has been raging for months.

“So far in 2008, employers have slashed 1.2 million jobs, and the bad news is expected to continue when we get employment data for November this Friday,” said Michael Fowlkes, analyst at Investor’s Observer.

“Recession fears have now become a reality, and the questions that remain are just how bad and for how long this recession will linger over us.”

Augustine Faucher at Moody’s Economy.com said his firm expects the downturn to last through the first half of 2009 and to be “the worst of the post-World War II era.”

“Even with a substantial stimulus package, unemployment is likely to peak close to 9.0 percent in early 2010,” he said.

According to official government data, the US economy contracted at a 0.2 percent pace in the fourth quarter of 2007 but grew 0.8 percent in the first quarter and 2.8 percent in the second quarter of 2008. It then contracted 0.5 percent in the third quarter, based on a provisional estimate.

But the gross domestic product (GDP) data may have been skewed by tax rebates that stimulated consumer spending, according to analysts.

A major factor in determining recession is employment, which has been declining since last December, the panel said. Other factors include monthly data on income, manufacturing and retail sales.

The NBER makes no forecast on how long a recession will last, but said that in the past they have run from six to 18 months. The panel said it has no definition of the term “depression.”

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said meanwhile the current economic situation bears “no comparison” to the much deeper crisis of the 1930s Great Depression.

“I’ve written books about the Depression and been very interested in this since I was in graduate school, there’s no comparison,” Bernanke told an audience in Austin, Texas.

Bernanke said the situation in the 1930s represented “very difficult circumstances,” because “we didn’t have the social safety net that we have today.”

Brian Wesbury at First Trust Portfolios said there are signs the recession may end soon because of how it developed.

“This time around, the recession is not due to tight monetary policy, higher tax rates, or protectionism,” he said.

“It’s due to a sudden and sharp plunge in the velocity of money — what we have been calling ‘risk aversion hysteria’ – where the speed with which money moves its way through the economy slows down as both consumers and businesses decide they want to increase their cash holdings.”

Wesbury said indications that holiday shopping is better than expected “may be an early sign that the bearishness went way too far.”

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER’

Posted in BANKING SYSTEM - USA, CENTRAL BANKS, COMMERCE, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, ECONOMY - USA, FINANCIAL CRISIS - USA - 2008/2009, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION - USA, INDUSTRIES - USA, NATIONAL WORK FORCES, RECESSION, REGULATIONS AND BUSINESS TRANSPARENCY, STOCK MARKETS, THE FLOW OF INVESTMENTS, THE LAST DAYS OF GEORGE WALKER BUSH - 2008/Jan. 2009, THE PRESIDENCY - USA, THE WORK MARKET, THE WORKERS, USA | Leave a Comment »

BANANA FIRM SUED OVER TOXIC WASTES (Philippines)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 2, 2008

First Posted 23:39:00 11/29/2008

Edwin O. Fernandez – Inquirer Mindanao PUBLISHED BY ‘THE PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER’

COTABATO CITY, Philippines—The local government of Magpet in North Cotabato has sued one of the country’s major banana producers over its disposal of suspected toxic wastes in at least two villages there.

Mayor Efren Piñol on Saturday said toxic chemical wastes from the plantation of AJMR Holdings had leaked into the villages of Basak and Datu Celo and the company did nothing about it.

The villages are near the company’s banana plantations, which are at the foot of Mt. Apo.

The Inquirer repeatedly tried but failed to reach officials of AJMR in Davao City.

AJMR is a holding company of the AMS Group of Companies, which counts Sumifru Corp. of Japan as one of its major shareholders.

Contaminated drainage

Piñol said villagers of Datu Celo were the first to notice the chemical spill, which filled their drainage system.

The complaints also started coming in from residents of Basak.

Last week, Piñol said he personally saw the chemical wastes flowing in the canals of the two villages.

“I already called AJMR officials and informed them of the spill but it seems they had ignored the matter,” Piñol said.

The company’s apparent lack of interest to remedy the situation has prompted the town to sue AJMR for violation of environmental laws, according to Piñol.

“It was just appropriate to file a complaint against AJMR, which seems to be neglecting its responsibility of keeping the people safe from these chemicals,” Piñol said.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘THE PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER’

Posted in AGRICULTURE, COMMERCE, COMMODITIES MARKET, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, ENVIRONMENT, FOOD INDUSTRIES, FOOD PRODUCTION (human), FRUITS AND FRESH VEGETABLES, HEALTH SAFETY, JUDICIARY SYSTEMS, PHILIPPINES, REGULATIONS AND BUSINESS TRANSPARENCY | 1 Comment »

JUSTIÇA CONDENA DANIEL DANTAS A 10 ANOS DE PRISÃO POR CORRUPÇÃO ATIVA (Brasil)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 2, 2008

Publicada em 02/12/2008 às 12h21m

PUBLISHED BY ‘PORTAL G1’ (Brasil)

SPTV

SÃO PAULO – O juiz DANIEL DANTAS - FOTO - ZERO HORAfederal Fausto de Sanctis, da 6ª Vara Criminal Federal de São Paulo, condenou o banqueiro Daniel Dantas a 10 anos de prisão por corrupção ativa e a pagamento de R$ 14 milhões em multas. De acordo com a Justiça Federal, o banqueiro ofereceu US$ 1 milhão para subornar policiais federais. Também foram condenados Hugo Chicaroni, apontado como lobista de Daniel Dantas, e Humberto Bráz, ex-presidente da Brasil Telecom.

Na sentença, o juiz não manda expedir mandado de prisão, o que significa que o banqueiro poderá recorrer em liberdade.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘PORTAL G1’ (Brasil)

Posted in A CORRUPÇÃO NO APARELHO DO ESTADO, A INDÚSTRIA DA COMUNICAÇÃO, ATIVIDADES CRIMINOSAS - BRASIL, BRASIL, CIDADANIA, COMBATE À CORRUPÇÃO - BRASIL, CORRUPÇÃO - BRASIL, CORRUPÇÃO NA POLÍTICA, CORRUPTION, CRIMES EMPRESARIAIS, DANIEL DANTAS, ECONOMIA - BRASIL, ECONOMY, FINANCIAL SCAMS, INTERNATIONAL, LAVAGEM DE DINHEIRO, MONEY LAUDERING, O PODER JUDICIÁRIO, O SISTEMA BANCÁRIO - BRASIL, O SUPREMO TRIBUNAL FEDERAL, OS JUDICIÁRIOS ESTADUAIS, POLÍCIA FEDERAL, TELEFONIA - FIXA E MÓVEL | Leave a Comment »

MONOSYLLABIC, ONOMATOPOEIC OR SHORT SENTENCE ECONOMIC ANALYSIS … WOULD YOU TAKE IT SERIOUSLY ?!!!

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 2, 2008

December 2, 2008

CARTOON BY ‘FRED HUBNER’

CHARGE BY FRED HUBNER

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL IMAGE

Posted in ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, FRAUD, USA HUMOR | Leave a Comment »

THE GREASY GRAVY TRAIN OF LOBBYISM – THERE IS A LONG LIST OF GOVERNMENT SPINNERS IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR (UK)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 2, 2008

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

by Terence Blacker PUBLISHED BY ‘THE INDEPENDENT’ (UK)

TERENCE BLACKER - LEISURE TIME

In a saner world, the news that government-appointed bodies are now paying millions to communicate with the Government which appointed them, and are employing former government employees to do so would cause surprise, perhaps even outrage. Today, the idiocy and graft at work within the system barely merits a second glance.

Here is the way the self-propelling gravy train of lobbyism runs. A state-funded quango wishes to represent its case, usually a request for more money, to a government department. In order to do so, it hires a consultancy firm with specialist knowledge and a full book of useful contacts. Many of these companies, according to a report, are run by those who until recently had been working at a senior level in government. So for example Weber Shandwick, an outfit run by Colin Byrne, former chief press officer to the Labour Party, now works on behalf of the Crown Estate, the British Museum and others. John Prescott’s former adviser Mike Craven is co-founder of a PR firm which works for the Heritage Lottery Fund. The list of government spinners and advisers who are now enjoying the fruits of the enterprise culture is a long one.

This type of legalised, officially sanctioned insider-dealing represents, in a particularly putrid form, one of the great social changes of the past five years. The heritage of the Blair and Brown administrations has been a dense network of agencies, support programmes and advisory bodies which were set up to dispense guidance and funds from central government. Each is committed to various worthy social policies – sustainability, equal opportunity, regeneration, diversity and so on – and has developed its own procedures and rules.

But the more complicated that the system has become, with its vocabulary and coded phrases, the more it has fed on itself, becoming a vast, bloated bureaucracy. The once-noble aims have been lost in confusion, but a whole professional sector has developed and grown rich upon it. Lobbyists and spinners who used their political careers as a stepping-stone to private advancement are its aristocracy, but below them is a vast army of consultants, publicists, advisers and strategists – people who can explain the ways of government, or rather “interpret current funding and policy trends”, to the outside world.

These experts understand the code of policies and directives, how to gain access to funding, which words and phrases will gain a positive response, how – to use an over-used but unavoidable phrase – to “tick the right boxes”.

They are the future. A university careers adviser 20 years ago would have pushed his brighter, more ruthlessly ambitious students in the direction of the City; today, the advice would be to join the world of PR and consultancy, to become one of those people who understand how the big bureaucracy works and how best to take advantage of it.

No wonder there is a profound cynicism about the way government works. The system is now so confused, the language employed so obscure and coded, that only those working in the public sector truly understand it. Jargon is everywhere, simultaneously patronising and confusing those who are outside the public sector bubble and are unable to untangle the newspeak of 2008.

One thing is clear, even without the help of consultants or advisers. A bureaucracy, borne of spin and good intentions, has become unwieldy and dangerously self-serving.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE INDEPENDENT’ (UK)

Posted in COMMERCE, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, FINANCIAL MARKETS, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION, INDUSTRIES, INTERNATIONAL, JUDICIARY SYSTEMS, REGULATIONS AND BUSINESS TRANSPARENCY, THE MEDIA (US AND FOREIGN), UNITED KINGDOM | Leave a Comment »

TROUBLED WATERS: WHY WE FELL OUT OF LOVE WITH BOTTLED WATER (AND HOW THE INDUSTRY PLANS TO WIN US BACK)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 2, 2008

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Report by Martin Hickman PUBLISHED BY ‘THE INDEPENDENT’ (UK)

Bottled water. We all hate it now, don’t we? Few products can rival its spectacular fall from grace. Government ministers rail against it (“morally unacceptable” in the pleasingly direct words of the environment minister, Phil Woolas) and shoppers no longer think it is fashionable.

You only have to remember how cool Perrier was in the late 1990s to appreciate how low mineral water has sunk. A few years ago, to clutch a bottle of mineral water was a statement of wealth and vitality; a marker of metropolitan sophistication. It was clean, cool and fresh – and often stylishly French, too.

Now, though, bottled water is in danger of being a has-been. After three decades of constant growth which saw sales rise by a factor of 100, from 20m litres a year in 1976 to 2,000m litres in 2006, the rise and fall of the sales chart is starting to resemble one of the mountains pictured in the advertising. Unless the slide is halted, bottled water will become history, a consumer fad that couldn’t live up to the hype. Unlikely, certainly, but the industry is spooked.

Mineral water is being assailed on all sides. Two years of extremely cloudy summers have hit demand; and now, the collapsing economy is causing consumers to question whether they need to spend £1 or £2 on something they can get for a fraction of the price at home. Most vexingly to its multinational cheerleaders, bottled water has become a symbol of environmental lunacy. How can one defend a product that is trucked hundreds or thousands of miles in plastic bottles when it gushes out of taps almost free? The Government has announced that it is banning mineral water from civil service meetings. Consumer groups call on diners to ask for tap – and millions are doing so. Mineral water is no longer cool; it’s dumb, bought by gullible clothes-horses who care more about their skin than the planet.

For two years the executives of the £2bn-a-year bottled water industry have sat tight, hoping things would improve, silently fuming as their product’s reputation dripped away. Now, they are striking back. Britain’s three biggest bottled-water companies, the Swiss food giant Nestlé, the French dairy corporation Danone and Highland Spring have founded a lobby group to restore its reputation. The trio met in Cambridge earlier this month to hatch a plan to restore mineral water to its rightful place in the public’s affections.

In months to come, there will be lobbying from the Natural Hydration Council and a massive advertising campaign that will seek to re-educate the public about the benefits of bottled water. And it will get dirty. The bottled water camp is throwing mud at the tap water companies, with talk of chlorine, septic tanks, contamination and irresponsible leakage. The companies are fighting for their lives. And they complain about dark forces doing down their transparent, beautiful product. How did water get this murky? And should we be buying San Pellegrino or Badoit – or not?

With his considerable frame filling a chair at the University Arms Hotel in Cambridge, Nick Krzyzaniak, managing director of Danone Waters UK and Ireland, is probably not what customers imagine the boss of Volvic to look like. He does not have wavy hair and a Gallic accent. He is 46, from Michigan and has spent most of the last two decades sealing boardroom deals in the US. Now he has been given the task of reviving bottled water – and he intends to succeed. Key to his mission is making Brits love mineral water again. He has a point, or several, to make.

Bottled water is a “stunning” product – healthy, pure and cheaper than many other less healthy drinks. It comes from some of the most pristine areas of the world (in Europe, say, the Alps or the Scottish Highlands) where it spends years being filtered and purified by natural processes. It has no calories, sugar, or additives.

But the problem is that while tap water costs one tenth of a penny per litre, Evian costs almost £1, if not more – making it as expensive as the petrol you put into your car.

Danone’s solution to this is to tell the public that tap and bottled are not the same, even if they look the same. In his presentation to fellow industry members in Cambridge, Mr Krzyzaniak shows a picture of two identical looking glasses of water. “But are all waters created equal?” his presentation asks. “NO!” screams the graphic. There are pictures of the production of bottled and tap water. Bottled water drifts down from clouds over mountains, percolates through rocks and ends up in clear bottles. Tap water comes from groundwater, risking “contamination” from pesticides and fertilisers and a grey blot in the ground marked “septic tank”. A dissected water pipe shows it is all furred up inside, like an old kettle.

“We are in a pristine, highly protected remote location, whether it is the Scottish Highlands or Evian in France, compared to a very industrialised product which is tap water,” explains Krzyzaniak, castigating its mass-produced rival.

“Tap water is treated with chlorine to be disinfected – there are 110,000 tons of chlorine used every year to cleanse the product; and they need to do that.

“I make the same comparison,” he adds. “Is organic food more healthy than genetically modified, pesticide-treated food? It’s not killing anyone today, we would never say anything like that, but there is definitely a value difference. Our studies show that the Thames river water system recycles five to seven times before it disseminates from the system, so it’s been through five to seven people before it leaves the system, which to me is a slightly scary proposition.”

Bottled water executives accuse the tap water industries of spreading anti-bottled-water propaganda to distract attention from the above-inflation rises they will be imposing on households between 2010 and 2015. And they accuse the Government of casting around for green villains, when it should be improving its own environmental record, particularly on increasing recycling facilities for PET plastic, used for bottled water.

“It’s a distraction for the politicians,” complains Les Montgomery, chief executive of Highland Spring, who is building a railway to his factory to reduce the use of trucks and who uses 25 per cent recycled content in his PET bottles (he would like to use more).

“The recycling infrastructure is not there in the UK; that’s got to be politically driven – it’s got to be managed by the politicians.

“We are apolitical. But the impact that the statements have had on our industry,” adds his marketing director Sally Stanley, “have been significant and it’s been really lazy, sound-bite driven. It’s easy for people to latch on to the so-called ‘facts’ that they’re being communicated if they don’t know any of the detail behind our industry.”

The “detail” here is that, in fact, fruit juices, beer and wine almost certainly harm the environment more than bottled water. Unlike water, ingredients have to be grown (grapes, barley, hops, sugar, etc), all at a cost to the environment. Like water, the drinks are then transported long distances (New Zealand sauvignon blanc, Italian lager, the list is extensive).

Admittedly, carbon labelling is in its infancy, but the work done so far suggests that other soft drinks have a carbon footprint up to 10 times higher than bottled water. Danone, which has lightweighted its bottles and uses the train in France, calculates that production of one litre of Evian emits 198 grams of carbon dioxide.

When Tesco checked the Co2 of its orange juice, it found a litre cost 1,040 grams. Even the environmentally friendly Adnams brewery in Suffolk cannot reduce the Co2 of its East Green bitter below 864 grams.

Bottled water executives, though, really want to make a breakthrough on health rather than the environment. Studies show that organic food shoppers are more motivated by their own health than the planet: organic food is more of a “me” thing than an “us” thing.

And for all the environmental controversy, the industry fears it is the coming recession that most threatens to accelerate the 9 per cent decline in sales from the peak in 2006: shoppers must be convinced that bottled water is better than tap water.

Given that many people in the UK are now so positive about tap water, this is going to be tricky. According to Danone’s figures, only 2 per cent of Japanese consumers believe their tap water is as healthy as bottled water. In Spain the figure is 13 per cent, in France 31 per cent, and in the UK it is 45 per cent.

Almost three-quarters of British people (72 per cent) believe that tap water is of good quality and only 9 per cent believe that it’s bad quality. With good reason – the Drinking Water Inspectorate says that 99.96 per cent of UK water meets EU standards, unlike many parts of the developing world where drinking water is highly dangerous.

But these figures do not impress the bottled water industry: “99.96 per cent of your water being good enough is not good enough – 100 per cent of our water has to be good enough, because that 0.4 per cent, that fraction there, is not good enough. That should be challenged more,” says Montgomery.

A key issue here is “consistency”, adds Krzyzaniak. “Tap water changes from glass to glass,” he says, explaining that chlorine wears out over time, meaning that the quality can vary depending on how long it has been sitting in the pipe. “And it also depends on the source, depending on where you picked up along the Thames. Could you be near a treatment centre, could you be near a highly agricultural centre, could you be near a waste treatment centre?

“Brits have one of the strongest beliefs in the healthiness of their drinking water and its provision is a fundamental reason to separate first and third world nations. But these water utilities are not municipalities; they are companies that are making profit selling the water, so they have to establish it is safe – and we do agree it’s safe – but it’s the inconsistency, and now with more modern drugs, chemicals and other things being introduced, it’s much more susceptible to hormones, carcinogenics, and [other] things.”

Why would tap water companies want to discourage sales of bottled water, though? Why would they be worried by mineral water? “It’s a way of disguising some of the raising of prices they are going to have to do,” says Krzyzaniak. “You are hearing there will be 13-14 per cent raises in the next few months. They are going to have to request massive amounts of money to help re-sill the pipes. If you look at a tap water company today they don’t have the money to do that. But more than anything, it’s a way of gaining control of the water system.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the water companies do not share this view. Barrie Clark, director of communications at Water UK, the trade body for water utilities, says: “We will be very disappointed if there is a suggestion that bottled water is better or superior than tap water. We believe that good hydration is essential for good health. And we say good water is good water wherever it comes from; bottled and tap, both of which have been properly presented to the consumer so that they are entirely healthy and safe to drink.”

Both sides of the water industry agree on this need for hydration – a word you will soon be hearing more of thanks to the Natural Hydration Council. According to the NHC, people need two litres of liquid a day to replace that lost in urine and sweat.

One of the reasons the bottled-water industry split from the British Soft Drinks Association was the BSDA’s insistence that people be urged to drink any liquid, such as fruit juice or coffee, to hit the target.

But is there any truth in the suggestion that we do need to drink two litres of anything a day? The Food Standards Agency recommends that adults drink 1.9 litres of liquid daily, preferably water. “Water is the best choice for quenching your thirst between meals. It is totally calorie-free and contains no sugars that damage teeth. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try sparkling water or add a slice of lemon or lime,” the Government agency says.

Scientific studies, though, are downright dismissive of the two-litre advice. Much of our liquid comes from food and in any case, we tend to drink when we are thirsty: we don’t need to gulp down masses of water. In a review of scientific data published this year, the Department of Physiology at Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire in the US found no evidence for the message that we should drink eight glasses of eight fluid ounces a day – two litres.

“No scientific studies were found in support of eight by eight,” said the researchers.

“Rather, surveys of food and fluid intake on thousands of adults of both genders – analyses of which have been published in peer-reviewed journals – strongly suggest that such large amounts are not needed … This conclusion is supported by published studies showing that caffeinated drinks may indeed be counted toward the daily total, as well as by the large body of published experiments that attest to the precision and effectiveness of the osmoregulatory system for maintaining water balance.”

Our livers are very effective at removing toxins. The less you drink, the darker your wee will be, because the toxins will be expelled in a less diluted form, but that is not necessarily a problem.

But the amount of sugary, fizzy drinks we consume, at a time of mass obesity, almost certainly is. We drink four times as much sugary drinks as we do bottled water. The bottled-water industry argues that it could help solve public health crises like obesity.

In the absence of a Government drive to recreate the Victorian public drinking fountains, they’re probably right. (Though re-filling a water bottle before you travel is the next best environmental solution.)

“We’ve done plenty of work on it and if you have a look at what consumers would buy in the absence of bottled water,” says Sally Stanley at Highland Spring, “they would revert back to buying the carbonates of old. Would that be good? I don’t think so. We’ve spent an awful lot of time and effort trying to wean children off carbonated soft drinks that are sugar-laden or diet carbonated drinks which contain other ingredients. And my goodness, hardly any of them drink bottled water or tap water.”

“When you look at obesity, dental health, drink driving, drugs,” she continues, “almost every public health campaign that the Government will fund has as part of its solution water.

“Taps aren’t available in pubs always, they aren’t available in cars – the last time I looked. I think we’ve got to be bit more measured about what we’re communicating to consumers, because the campaigning against bottled water will, ultimately, impact on the health of children and the health of adults who would otherwise drink other beverages.”

So, taking everything into account, bottled water isn’t so bad. Faced with a choice of fruit juice, cola, beer or wine, Perrier or Evian is a better choice for your body and the planet. That doesn’t mean that we should stop asking for tap in restaurants, or refilling bottles at home, or urging politicians to find ways of serving water on the go. Nor does it mean we should take the mineral water industry’s insistence that we endlessly swig on a bottle too seriously. But, with so many environmentally damaging and unhealthy drinks out there, mineral water is more saint than sinner.

Dripping points

PRICE

0.1pence……… cost of litre of tap water

90p………cost of litre of mineral water

SALES

£2bn……… annual bottled water sales

£10bn……… tap water sales

TRUST IN TAP WATER

72% of people in UK believe tap water is good quality

9% believe it is bad quality

FALLING BOTTLED WATER SALES

2,075m litres – estimated bottled water sales 2008

-9% – decline in sales over the past two years

But still double 10 years ago…

990m litres – bottled water sales in 1998

And 100 times 30 years ago…

20m litres – bottled water sales in 1976

DEFLATION

Between 1997 and 2008, price of bottled water fell 8.2%

CALORIES (PER LITRE)

Tap water ……… 0

Bottled water ……… 0

Smoothie ……… 550

Beer ……… 350

Orange juice ……… 480sugar (per litre)

Tap water ……… 0

Bottled water ……… 0

Smoothie ……… 48 grams

Coca-Cola……… 106 grams

Orange juice ……… 106 grams

CLIMATE CHANGE (Co2 per litre)

Tap water ……… 0.2 grams

Bottled water ……… 198 grams

Smoothie ……… 686 grams

Beer ……… 864 grams

Orange juice ……… 1,040 grams

ANNUAL CONSUMPTION PER PERSON (AVERAGE)

97 litres ………fizzy drinks

55 litres ……… concentrated squash

36 litres……… bottled water

23 litres……… fruit juice

23 litres ……… juice drinks

MARKET SHARE

56% ……… tea, coffee and other hot drinks

8% ……… fruit drinks

8% ……… alcohol

8% ……… miscellaneous

7% ……… carbonated soft drinks

7% ……… tap water

3% ……… bottled water

3% ……… milk

BOTTLED WATER TYPES (UK)

Mineral water ……… 60%

Spring water ……… 26%

Bottled drinking water (‘table’ water) ……… 11%

Purified water ……… 3%

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE INDEPENDENT’ (UK)

Posted in COMMERCE, COMMODITIES MARKET, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION, INDUSTRIES, INTERNATIONAL, REGULATIONS AND BUSINESS TRANSPARENCY, WATER | Leave a Comment »

FINANCE WELL RUNS DRY FOR DIAMOND MINERS

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 2, 2008

December 1, 2008

by Melanie Lee PUBLISHED BY ‘BUSINESS REPORT’ (South Africa)

Singapore – Ructions in financial markets and a slowdown in economies threaten to cut output of rough diamonds by up to 40 percent by top miners, as banks slow lending and demand weakens, an industry official said on Monday.

Freddy Hanard, chief executive of Antwerp World Diamond Centre, an organisation representing the Belgian diamond industry, said the cut in financing would lead to the world’s top miners, De Beers and Russia’s Alrosa, slashing production of rough diamonds by up to 40 percent.

“The diamond business is a very capital intensive business, that means they rely on a very high level on external funding,” Hanard told Reuters in an interview in Singapore.

“The banks usually finance two parts of a diamond business balance sheet, the receivables and purchases – in these present circumstances, it is extremely difficult for them to finance both,” he said.

Antwerp, the world’s diamond trading capital, handles around 80 percent of the world’s rough diamonds and half of all polished diamonds each year.

ABN Amro, the world’s biggest diamond financier, came under the Belgian government in October after its parent company Fortis Bank had to be bailed out.

Another big diamond financier Antwerp Diamond Bank said last month the company was already seeing a recessionary impact on consumer spending and the capacity to service debt could come under strain.

De Beers, which accounts for around 40 percent of global rough diamond supply and is 45 percent owned by mining group Anglo American, said last month it will cut output at two of its new Canadian mines by 10 to 20 percent.

Hanard however said reduced supplies will not cause a big change in polished diamond prices because consumer demand from the United States, which accounts for nearly 50 percent of the world’s diamond consumption, was set to slow.

Polished diamond prices have fallen by almost 11 percent since August, according to Polishedprices.com . – Reuters

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

PUBLISHED BY ‘BUSINESS REPORT’ (South Africa)

Posted in BELGIUM, CANADA, COMMERCE, COMMODITIES MARKET, DIAMONDS, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, ECONOMY - USA, FINANCIAL CRISIS - USA - 2008/2009, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, FINANCIAL MARKETS, INTERNATIONAL, MINING INDUSTRIES, RECESSION, RUSSIA, SOUTH AFRICA, THE FLOW OF INVESTMENTS, USA | 1 Comment »

ARAB ECONOMIES TO GROW DESPITE SETBACKS

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 2, 2008

December 1, 2008 at 9:10 AM EST

OXFORD ANALYTICA – Exclusive – PUBLISHED BY ‘THE GLOBE AND MAIL’ (Canada)

SUBJECT: The impact of the world economic downturn on Arab economies.

SIGNIFICANCE: In contrast to the severity of the downturn in other parts of the world, the Arab world appears likely to experience relatively moderate losses. However, certain countries may be particularly vulnerable.

ANALYSIS: The IMF’s latest downward revisions of growth rate projections for 2009 place Arab countries in third place at 5.3 per cent after China and India at 8.5 per cent and 6.5 per cent respectively, although World Bank figures are somewhat less optimistic. Positive growth prospects reflect two key factors:

Macroeconomic fundamentals are positive, in particular the prospects for sustained investment growth, which will be driven by accumulated oil revenues and continuing oil incomes.

Regional capital markets, which have been hit by the crisis, are among the smallest and least significant in emerging markets.

Investment. Buoyant investment activity is now and will continue to be supported by oil income and wealth: The current account surplus of oil economies is expected to double to some $132-billion (U.S.) in 2008 against $77-billion in 2007.

Arab sovereign wealth funds possess at least $1.53-trillion in assets, with considerably more in reserves and accumulated private wealth.

Despite the slashing of oil revenues due to the present fall in oil prices, accumulated assets are likely to make up the difference from a regional standpoint – although particular countries may suffer.

Intra-Arab foreign direct investment has been rising steadily, from $8.8-billion between 1985-1995, to nearly $17-billion between 1995-2002, to $77-billion between 2002-07, with $14-billion in 2007 alone: FDI accounts for 12 per cent of regional capital formation compared to 7.8 per cent in developing countries as a whole.

GCC investors are now investing around 25 per cent of their oil wealth in the region compared to 15 per cent in 2003.

In oil, gas and energy, $520-billion worth of projects are planned for 2009-2013, down from a projected $650-billion before the crisis; even if only $400-billion worth are financed, $8-billion to $10-billion a month of investment will take place.

The crisis in Europe and the United States will strengthen the need for geographic diversification, and will confirm intra-Arab investments as a key category in Arab portfolios.

Investors will likely diversify away from real estate and tourism into other sectors such as food, transport, and medical diagnostics.

There have been official promises to maintain intra-Arab capital and investment flows, although the use of resources in domestic bailouts may limit the fulfilment of such commitments.

Market losses. The four largest markets – Dubai, Egypt, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia – have lost up to half of their value, mirroring heavy losses elsewhere. Another four markets – Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman – registered relatively moderate losses of 20-40 per cent. All had fallen from historical highs in summer, 2008.

There are a number of channels of contagion from global financial markets:

Exits by non-Arab investors have most seriously affected the more open Arab stock markets, namely those of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Exposure to the US prime and sub-prime markets has affected players in Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE.

A more significant channel is heightened fear and uncertainty about the unfolding global recession; the region’s markets, whose trends have been dominated by excitement and herd behaviour, joined the global panic.

Negative sentiment overwhelmed the effects of positive fundamentals, including the strong results of many listed corporations for the first half of 2008.

Mitigated impact. Yet there are good reasons to believe that the falls in Arab markets will be less enduring, and have less negative broader impact, than in markets elsewhere:

The fall in OECD financial markets is the most severe in decades; in contrast, wild swings in the region are common.

Arab stock markets are highly volatile, narrow and illiquid; only a small proportion of total capitalization is traded.

The dominance of financial institutions in market indices made their fall in the present crisis inevitable; financials constitute 56 per cent of the S&P’s Pan Arab index, compared to 16 per cent in the Latin America index and 36 per cent for Africa.

Remarkably, the four smallest markets – Beirut, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunis – retained gains, indicating that intra-Arab investments have constituted a successful portfolio diversification strategy.

Arab markets are still constructing operational and regulatory structures. Gaping holes remain in corporate governance rules and practices, and the culture of retail investors is still underdeveloped. In 2007-2008 a series of investigations targeted insider dealings and share manipulation. Fines were handed to listed firms, brokers, and investment companies in Jordan, Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. However, the relative unsophistication of markets and their lesser significance in the broader economies has shielded Arab countries from the worst effects of the financial crisis.

Slowdown. The downside risks are not to be underestimated in a deep and complex world crisis: Oil revenues will be dented by declining world demand, forcing oil-rich countries to engage in belt-tightening and possibly threatening FDI flows to other Arab countries.

The cost of finance, in terms of spreads, has already risen to all-time highs, and all types of capital raised are below 2007 levels.

Falls in exports will cause losses across the region; many once-booming industries such as petrochemicals and fertilizers are now faced with sliding markets.

Falls in tourism will hit players such as Morocco, Egypt, and Dubai; falls in remittances will hit North African countries.

Dubai’s fall is likely to be the sharpest, linked as it is to the bursting of an enormous real estate bubble; mortgage lending had quintupled in the last five years, and government debt is high at around $70-billion.

Egypt, which is poor and heavily indebted, is likely to be hit hard by declines in the stock market, oil and gas income, and Suez revenues; even a moderate downturn is likely to feed growing public discontent.

CONCLUSION: Losses on Arab stock markets have wiped out abnormally high returns, but not the prospects of solid positive returns. The region is finally drawing on what has long underpinned East Asian and European growth: domestic and intra-regional investment. Supported by ample reserves and SWF resources, this strength should help the region to weather a world recession. Growth prospects are therefore dented, but remain positive.

From the Oxford Analytica Daily Brief

Copyright 2008 – Oxford Analytica Ltd. All rights reserved.

Founded in 1975, Oxford Analytica’s 1,000+ analysts provide international organizations with monitoring, research and consultancy services that explore the strategic implications of policy, economic, financial, industry, trade and security developments around the world.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘THE GLOBE AND MAIL’ (Canada)

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SAUDI ARABIA’S KING WANTS US OVER A $75-PLUS BARREL

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 2, 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008 – Added 1d 22h ago

by Associated Press PUBLISHED BY ‘THE BOSTON HERALD’ (USA)

CAIRO, Egypt – Saudi Arabia’s king says the price of oil should be $75 a barrel, much higher than it is now, but his oil minister Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, left, attends a meeting with King Abdullah bin Abdul al-Saud at the king´s hunting lodge in Saudi Arabia to discuss current issues in the Middle East Jan. 17, 2007
indicated yesterday that no measures will likely be taken until OPEC meets again next month.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi said that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will “do what needs to be done” to shore up falling oil prices when the group meets Dec. 17 in Algeria, but for now it was “too early.”

Other ministers at the hastily convened OPEC meeting in Cairo did not entirely rule out production cuts, including Libyan oil official Shokri Ghanem, who, ahead of the meeting, said “all options are open.”

But Naimi, whose country is the world’s largest oil producer, said the bloc needs to wait until the Algeria meeting to assess the impact of earlier production cuts.

Naimi’s comments came after Saudi King Abdullah told the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Seyassah in an interview published Saturday that oil should be priced at $75 a barrel.

“We believe the fair price for oil is $75 a barrel,” he said, without explaining how the price could be raised.

The price of crude stood at about $147 a barrel in mid-July.

On Friday, the U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for January delivery was trading at about $54 per barrel.

© Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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PUBLISHED BY ‘THE BOSTON HERALD’ (USA)

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