Tuesday, October 31, 2006

And if we could hit a curveball we'd be Albert Pujols

Or had a few billion dollars, Bill Gates.

But, France already is Alfred E. Neuman. What, we worry?:

...French decline is not inevitable, any more than British decline was inevitable in the 1970s. There is nothing that necessarily predisposes the French to conservatism or resistance to change. Just because political leaders in the past have failed to push through bold reforms—Mr Chirac himself, in 1986-88; Alain Juppé, a former prime minister, in 1995—does not mean that the country is unreformable. The unruly French do not make the task easy, but winning them over is a question of political leadership—the courage to level with voters and tell them why things need to change.

.... Some of those who defend the status quo argue that France is a civilised country that has simply chosen different priorities. Like a misunderstood teenager, it wants to do things its own way. It still believes in solidarity and social cohesion, in small farmers and local markets. It does not want to abandon its poor to the streets and its shopkeepers to Wal-Mart.

....Politicians will have to explain that tightening welfare rules need not rip a hole in the safety-net; that subjecting hypermarkets to more competition need not drive the boulanger or patissier from the high street; that removing pharmacists' monopoly on non-prescription drugs need not deprive every village of its green cross. They will also have to persuade voters that the prize is worth having.

....The two presidential front-runners—Ségolène Royal on the left and Nicolas Sarkozy, currently the interior minister, on the right—are both in their early 50s, and both claim to offer a break with the past. But is this new generation as reform-minded as it sounds? And how can it build a consensus for change in a country that seems so resistant to being nudged out of its comfort zone?

Effortless Stupidity

From John Kerry, reporting for duty and inadvertently saying what he really thinks of men in uniform.

Then follows it up with an explanation that reads like a James Lileks parody:

Washington – Senator John Kerry issued the following statement in response to White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, assorted right wing nut-jobs, and right wing talk show hosts desperately distorting Kerry’s comments about President Bush to divert attention from their disastrous record:

“If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the
more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck
there, they're crazy. This is the classic G.O.P. playbook. I’m sick and tired of
these despicable Republican attacks that always seem to come from those who
never can be found to serve in war, but love to attack those who did.

I’m not going to be lectured by a stuffed suit
White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium, or doughy Rush Limbaugh, who no
doubt today will take a break from belittling
Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease to start
lying about me just as they have lied about Iraq. It disgusts me that these
Republican hacks, who have never worn the uniform of our country lie and distort
so blatantly and carelessly about those who have.

The people who owe our troops an apology are
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney who misled America into war and have given us a
Katrina foreign policy that has betrayed our ideals, killed and maimed our
soldiers, and widened the terrorist threat instead of defeating it. These
Republicans are afraid to debate veterans who live and breathe the concerns of
our troops, not the empty slogans of an Administration that sent our brave
troops to war without body armor.

Bottom line, these Republicans want to debate
straw men because they’re afraid to debate real men. And this time it won’t work
because we’re going to stay in their face with the truth and deny them even a
sliver of light for their distortions. No Democrat will be bullied by an
administration that has a cut and run policy in Afghanistan and a stand still
and lose strategy in Iraq.”

What was that again?

Perhaps this explains why Bill Clinton thinks he was the nemesis of Osama, and John Kerry says he was running guns to the Khmer Rouge:

MAASTRICHT - People who consciously pretend as if they can not remember something, thus to lie, with that behaviour disturb their real memories. As a result, they can eventually remember little of what in reality has happened. That becomes clear from research from the University of Maastricht.

....According to researcher Kim van Oorsouw, who will graduate November 30th following her doctoral study into amnesia and criminal behaviour, suspects who say they have a black-out, should be directly subjected to a memory loss test.

Extra! Extra!

Just in time for the new French Network, someone found a job in France:

PARIS, Oct 30, 2006 (AFP) - French unemployment fell to 8.8 percent of the workforce in September, President Jacques Chirac said in an interview to be published Tuesday by the daily Le Figaro.

"Unemployment has fallen for the past year and a half. In September there were 30,000 fewer jobless people. That took us below the level of nine percent to 8.8 percent," Chirac said.

"We are headed in the right direction," he added....

According to International Labour Organization data, French unemployment was last at 8.8 percent in October 2001.

Labor Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said the lower rate of unemployment was the result of measures such as a New Work Contract created in August 2005 that "addresses the concerns of very small companies".

Borloo said France had entered a "virtuous cycle" that did not depend on demographic effects such as the number of people in the workforce.

Virtue being a French value?

Dead Air in August?

'Au contraire', say the French:

PARIS, Oct 31, 2006 (AFP) - A round-the-clock international news channel France is to launch in December will challenge the 'Anglo-Saxon' views spread by market leaders BBC and CNN by relying on 'French values', the network's chief said Tuesday.

France 24, as the network is called, will start broadcasting in English and French on the Internet on December 6 and then via satellite two days later, its chairman and chief executive, Alain de Pouzilhac, told Le Figaro newspaper.

Like its British and US rivals, it is homing in on "opinion leaders" around the world by dishing up a diet of news, features and discussion.

But those viewers, Pouzilhac claimed, have become increasingly "sceptical of the world vision offered by the Anglo-Saxons like BBC World and CNN International."

Instead, he asserted, they "are looking for contradictory opinions — which is what France 24 is proposing by relying on French values."

He did not define what those values were in the interview, beyond saying that the channel would highlight "diversity (and)... confrontation, without forgetting the culture and French art of living."

Monday, October 30, 2006

Next French Export?

Her neighbors hope it doesn't catch on:

PARIS, Oct 30, 2006 (AFP) - The targeting of vehicles by maurading gangs of youths is pretty much a French phenomenon in Europe, according to officials in various countries.

French authorities are currently grappling with a wave of bus torchings -- including one on the weekend that left a badly burned woman on the verge of death -- that is adding to the "normal" arson count of around 70-100 vehicles each night.

Nine buses were incinerated last week, seven of them in the Paris region. The spate of attacks coincided with the first anniversary of the 2005 suburban riots that gripped France -- a three-week orgy of violence that left 10,000 vehicles smoking wrecks.

....In Britain, theft is the main cause attributed to the thousands of arson attacks on vehicles there.... Rioting, in contrast, does not usually involve vehicle burning....

In Germany, there are few examples of cars bearing the fiery brunt of urban disgruntlement, beyond some copycat torchings that occurred during the French riots.

.... A Belgian police spokeswoman, Eels Clemput, said car burnings in her country were "in general to get rid of prints after a bank robbery or theft." ....

In Greece, a small hardcore group of anarchists occasionally set fire to cars belonging to the police or media organisations during major street protests.

In the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Poland, the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland, the phenomenon is practically unknown -- at least for now.

Meet Me in St Louis

And carry heat, cause it's dangerous there:

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A surge in violence made St. Louis the most dangerous city in the country, leading a trend of violent crimes rising much faster in the Midwest than in the rest of nation, according to an annual list.

The city has long fared poorly in the rankings of the safest and most dangerous American cities compiled by Morgan Quitno Press. Violent crime surged nearly 20 percent in St. Louis from 2004 to last year, when the rate of such crimes rose most dramatically in the Midwest, according to FBI figures released in June.

"It's just sad the way this city is," resident Sam Dawson said. "On the news you hear killings, someone's been shot."

And, just as in the recently concluded World Series, Detroit is number two:

The second most dangerous city was Detroit, followed by Flint, Mich., and Compton, Calif.

The bad news for St. Louis was good for Camden, N.J., which in 2005 was named the most dangerous city for the second year in a row.

Camden Mayor Gwendolyn Faison said Sunday she was thrilled to learn that her city no longer topped the most-dangerous list.

Going to the dogs

Is British healthcare:

Plans by a debt-ridden NHS hospital to treat sick cats and dogs to raise money were criticised yesterday as a "hygiene disaster waiting to happen".

Ipswich Hospital in Suffolk is hoping to reduce a deficit of £24 million by giving radiotherapy to pets.

The hospital expects to make £50,000 a year – enough for two nurses – from weekend treatment for cats and dogs suffering from cancer.

....Jan Rowsell, a spokesman, said: "Our radiotherapy staff wanted to explore whether the equipment could be used to treat pets on a Saturday morning when nobody is using it."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Over 9 Billion Sold

Not (no pun intended) Big Macs:

EUFAULA, Ala. — In Eufaula, Alabama's condom production has survived an onslaught of Asian competition, thanks to the patronage of straitlaced members of Congress from the Bible Belt state.

Behind the scenes, the politicians have ensured that companies in Alabama won federal contracts to make billions of condoms over the years for AIDS prevention and family-planning programs overseas, though Asian factories could do the job at less than half the cost.

In recent years, the state's condom manufacturers fell hundreds of millions of condoms behind on orders, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) began buying them from Asia. The use of Asian-made condoms has contributed to layoffs scheduled for next month.
But Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., has quietly pressed to maintain the unqualified priority for U.S.-made condoms and is likely to prevail if the past is any guide.

"What's wrong with helping the American worker at the same time we are helping people around the world?" asked the senator's spokesman, Michael Brumas.

....Alabama's members of Congress have long preserved several hundred factory jobs in the state by insisting that USAID buy condoms made in Alabama, though most have done so discreetly.

....The U.S. government, the world's largest donor of condoms, has bought more than 9 billion of them in the past two decades. Under President Bush's global AIDS plan, which dedicates billions of dollars to fight the pandemic, one-third of the money for prevention must go to promoting abstinence.

But that leaves two-thirds for other programs, so the federal government's distribution of condoms has risen, to more than 400 million a year.

Friday, October 27, 2006

We are not amused...

...said Ukraine to the Blonde Ukraine Greenpeace Activist...over Nude Posters:

A Greenpeace activist in Ukraine faces deportation after she posed naked for a series of environmental awareness posters.

Oksana Golubova, a beautiful blonde and head of the local Greenpeace office in Ukraine’s largest seaside resort area of Crimea, was attempting to protect the peninsula’s nature from careless tourist attitude.

The girl posed as a model for a series of posters together with dead animals and birds. The message she intended to send to the world was human holidays are a threat to nature, the Express Gazeta newspaper reports.

However instead of feeling guilty, the authorities and residents of the peninsula, where tourism is the only source of income, cracked down on the activist herself. She was accused of being immoral, unpatriotic and of trying to ruin the region’s economy.

If Golubova continues her agitation, Crimea’s Prime Minister Viktor Plakida has said, he will personally see that she gets deported from the peninsula.


That isn't the half of it:

Brussels. We have them for everything for shopping to travelling. Now people in Flanders are to be given 'loyalty' cards . . . for demonstrating their willingness to speak Flemish.

Civic bosses in Flemish Brabant want to increase the number of French-speaking people living in the area to speak Flemish. So, under a novel plan put forward by the local communes, retailers are being asked to speak only in Flemish to people who come into their shops.

Shoppers will be issued with a 'loyalty' card and those who make an effort to cooperate given points. Once they have amassed sufficient points, they will be eligible to enter a draw with a weekend away the first prize.

A spokesperson for Flemish Brabant said shoppers who make mistakes in their attempt to speak Flemish will be corrected.

"It may seem a strange idea but it is hoped this will encourage more French-speakers resident here to speak Flemish."

Great idea, insult your customers.


Spain celebrates a new low in unemployment:

MADRID — The number of people out of work fell to its lowest point since 1979, according to figures published on Friday.

The National Institute of Statistics said unemployment fell by 72,000 in the third quarter of the year.

The total number of people out of work now stands at 1,765,000 - or 8.15 percent of the 'economically active' population.

This is the lowest figure for 27 years.

But, then they take not working seriously in Spain:

MALAGA — An entire village went on strike in protest at plans to build two golf courses, 800 luxury homes and two hotels.

The Spanish daily El Mundo reported on Friday none of the children in Ceuvas del Becerro, near Malaga, went to school and all shops and businesses were closed.

Police and emergency services even maintained a minimum service, joining in the protest.
Isabel Teresa Rosado, the mayoress of Ceuvas, said the strike had been a success.

"The whole town went on strike. The support has been overwhelming, with 100 percent of businesses closed," she said.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

At least they're a good bad example

Looking back on the anniversary of the French Muslim rioting:

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the start of three weeks of rioting in suburbs across France, sparked by the accidental deaths of two teenagers who hid from police in an electrical sub-station in the poor, immigrant Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois.

The story became a top international news story, as television viewers around the world watched pictures of burning cars and schools, dramatic evidence of the failure of the country's integration efforts.

"The riots were watched with great interest," recalled Arnauld Miguet of the London School of Economics.

"The British considered that the French model had failed in a way but at the same time it wasn't all negative as there were plenty of things to learn," he told AFP.

....For Italian centre-left senator Andrea Manzella the French riots revealed a "social fragility".

....Belgium was "concerned and horrified" at the situation in neighbouring France, says University of Liege philosophy professor Edouard Delruelle.

"The no-go zones, this type of incipient civil war, the de facto ghettos... create an image seen with a certain amount of fear," said Delruelle, a former Belgian rapporteur on intercultural dialogue.

....Fyodor Lukianov, chief editor at the "Russia in Global Politics" review, said parallels were drawn between what happened in the French suburbs "and what could happen in Russia if we don't seriously face up to our own problems of integration".

Well, some of our readers are flying blind

The Whiner Community files another lawsuit to get things the way they think they ought to be:

In the case of the National Federation of the Blind v. Target, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ruled that retailers can be sued if their websites are not accessible to the blind. In her opinion for the US District Court for the Northern District of California, Patel wrote that "the 'ordinary meaning' of the ADA's prohibition against discrimination in the enjoyment of goods, services, facilities or privileges, is that whatever goods or services the place provides, it cannot discriminate on the basis of disability in providing enjoyment of those goods and services."

Target had argued that its websites were not covered by the provisions of the ADA, only its physical stores. ....

The issue of website accessibility is not a new one. A few years ago, the National Federation for the Blind sued AOL, but the case never went to trial as AOL agreed to make its sites fully navigable for the visually impaired.

....NFB v. Target appears to be the first case in which a judge has ruled that the ADA covers a web site in addition to meatspace locations. So does this mean that every website in the US, including your blog, needs to be fully ADA-compliant? Mazen M. Basrawi, Equal Justice Works Fellow at Disability Rights Advocates, thinks so. He believes that the ruling requires that "any place of public accommodation is required to ensure that it does not discriminate when it uses the internet as a means to enhance the services it offers at a physical location."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Revoltin' Readers Need a Picture Drawn for Them

Ever obliging, the FLUBA Committee on Educating the Uneducable answers the fans at Angry Bear who stumbled upon a reference to 'same point in business cycle comparisons' and were stumped.

For those who have eyes to see it is obvious that the upward slope of the GDP growth beginning at the end of the 1990-91 recession is interrupted at the end of the Clinton Administration and remains essentially flat for about two years.

Then the growth resumes after the 2001 recession. At a pace very similar to (or even perhaps a little steeper than) that after the previous recession. Similar graphs can be drawn for other economic statistics, such as unemployment or total employee compensation.

All of which ought to be obvious to people with advanced degrees in economics. Of course, when the perennially angriest of the Bears can't even be bothered to click on a link provided:

I guess Roland Patrick was too busy thinking up his smear of Senator Kerry....suggest[ing] Lt. Kerry was giving guns to the Khmer Rouge. But does he have a shred of evidence for this outrageous LIE?

Had he, he would have found said evidence; Senator John Kerry making the claim to Tim Russert in January 2005 on Meet the Press:

SEN. KERRY: I still have the hat that he gave me, and I hope the guy would come out of the woodwork and say, "I'm the guy who went up with John Kerry. We delivered weapons to the Khmer Rouge on the coastline of Cambodia."

A very strange bird...

...is this pelican in London,
whose beak holds what his belly can
for about twenty minutes:

Families and tourists in a London park were left shocked when a pelican picked up and swallowed a pigeon.

The unusual wildlife spectacle in St James's Park was caught on camera by photographer Cathal McNaughton.

He said the Eastern White pelican had the unfortunate pigeon in its beak for more than 20 minutes before swallowing it whole.

.... "The pelican was on the towpath preening itself, and there were a lot of tourists watching it.

"Then the bird got up and strolled along until it reached one of the pigeons, which it just grabbed in its beak.

"There was a bit of a struggle for about 20 minutes, with all these people watching. The pelican only opened its mouth a couple of times.

"Then it managed to get the pigeon to go head first down its throat. It was kicking and flapping the whole way down."

Das Wowerkind?

Berlin begins to face the brave new world of economic reality:

The German capital is looking for ways to reduce costs, following a court ruling denying it federal support to pay off its mammoth 61.6 billion euros ($77 billion) debt.

The ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court last week came as a stunning reverse for Berlin's charismatic Mayor Klaus Wowereit, who was just one month ago re-elected to a new term.

"I was not so naive to believe that l would be returning to Berlin with a trunk full of money. But the negative news is that we are not to get any money at all," said the man nicknamed Wowi by the city's tabloid press.

....Every year Berlin, which has a population of around 3.3 million, has to pay 2.5 billion euros in interest on its debts.

Which the FLUBA Currency Converter makes to be just shy of $1,000 per year per ein Berliner. But, they've got plenty of options for relief, from which to choose:

Among the belt-tightening measures suggested were cuts to the culture budget, introducing university fees for students and selling off some of the 270,000 city-owned apartments.

For years, there has been speculation that one of Berlin's three heavily subsidised opera houses might have to close. .... Currently, the powerful State Opera House where Daniel Barenboim wields the baton, is being restored at a cost of 130 million euros.

....The three Berlin universities - the Free University and Technical University in the west, and the Humboldt University in the central Mitte district, could face pressure to introduce fees.

The cost of running two zoos - one at Tierpark in the eastern part of the city, the other in Charlottenburg, close to the Zoologischer Garten railway station - has also come under question.

Some of Berlin's many libraries, sports Facilities and swimming pools could also face closure as the city battles to regain financial viability in the coming years.

Remember the Chrysler Bailout!

Appears to be the battle cry of Michigan's John Dingell as he looks to the Democrat takeover of Congress:

...Dingell has always frustrated many ideologues on the left by his willingness to work with Republicans to protect the hometown industry, Detroit's automakers. He is deeply wary of the zealotry with which Al Gore and others pursue global warming, for example. Yes, he says, global warming would be on the committee's agenda if he is chairman, but the first goal would be "to gather the facts" - even though global warming ideologues consider the debate closed.

But automakers and other old-line manufacturers blame many of their economic woes on the fact that health care costs are soaring. Detroit places the cost at $1,500 a car, roughly double what they pay for steel. Among other things, Dingell favors immediate relief through a "Medicare for All" system - perhaps starting with laid-off auto workers. He says he would also work to replace the Bush drug plan with a direct government benefit.

"One-third of the $2 trillion or so that we are spending is eaten up in management fees and corporate bureaucracy," he claims, and elimination of that would allow even bigger benefits.

Of course, as humorist P.J. O'Rourke once pointed out, if you think health care is expensive now, wait until it's "free." And in even daring to raise the possibility of what Republicans like to term "socialized medicine," Dingell risks reminding Republicans why they should get to the polls. But Dingell makes one thing clear: while there may not be many new ideas on the Democratic side of the aisle, as many Democrats themselves have complained, there are plenty of old -- arguably bad -- ideas awaiting resurrection.

A few rotten apples

The difficulty of finding seasonal labor now hits the apple orchards of Eastern Washington:

This tract of Broetje Orchards is filled with jumbo red- and golden-delicious apples, hanging from branches that arc across long, fruit-scented rows.

Though pockmarked by spring hailstorms, the fruit is sugar sweet and prime for juice.
But there are no bins, no tractors and no crews here. These apples — an estimated 15 million pounds — will not be picked.

"We didn't have enough pickers, so they are going to drop," said Ralph Broetje, who will forgo harvest on 400 of his 5,400 acres of orchards.

Even raising wages couldn't draw enough workers:

Wages have typically climbed by 10 to 25 percent or more, with workers flexing newfound labor muscle to leave one orchard for another if they don't like the pay, according to Sanchez and Mike Gempler of the Washington Growers League.

....experienced pickers can earn from $80 to about $120 a day.

Which would seem to undercut the hysterical charges from some about the lousy labor market

But, Republicans worried about losing control of congress might want to think about what they've sown politically in rural, Red State, America:

Both growers and labor-union officials support a provision introduced in the U.S. Senate earlier this year that would streamline the program for bringing in temporary workers in times of shortage at wages that don't undercut the local job markets, and help resident farm workers who are here illegally gain legal permanent residence.

"Absolutely, we do have common cause about what should happen next. We need to have a legal labor force," said Erik Nicholson, the United Farm Workers Northwest regional director.

The House of Representatives hasn't supported such legislation. The House's Republican majority has backed a bill that would beef up security along the border with a 700-mile extension of fences and barriers on the southern borders.

Growers say that unless the politics change in Congress, they expect more labor shortages next season.

"What we are experiencing this year is a red-flag warning," Broetje said. "We are beholden to these workers, and they should be able to get here without risking their lives to cross the border."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Can we talk?

Since they don't want to work in Greece:

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday invited striking teachers for talks today as pupils’ parents protested outside the Education Ministry, calling for schools to reopen after more than six weeks of industrial action.

....Sources told Kathimerini that Karamanlis will express the government’s willingness to channel a significant portion of the next tranche of European Union funding into education but will also stress that state cash is restricted.

....government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos was more direct. “The prime minister will ask the teachers straight out to return to their schools,” he said. ....

Teachers, for their part, were yesterday cautiously optimistic. “This meeting is a very significant initiative which we intend to use to set out our demands, for which we expect solutions,” the president of the Primary School Teachers’ Federation (DOE), Dimitris Bratis, told Kathimerini.
“We are going to insist on free, state education,” he added.

“We expect essential steps toward fulfilling our demands,” said Grigoris Kalomiris, general secretary of the Federation of Secondary School Teachers (OLME), whose members have been striking on and off for the past month. DOE members have been striking for six consecutive weeks. The main demands teachers are due to press today are a 45 percent rise in starting salaries (to 1,400 euros) and a hike in education sector funding to the tune of 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

A tempo debito

Even the Italian socialists have to admit the obvious:

Rome, October 24 - The government will reform Italy's pension system next year, in a move to resolve structural problems which are slowing down the economy, Premier Romano Prodi said on Tuesday.

....In the multi-year economic blueprint released in July the government announced that the pension reform would have been included in the 2007 budget.

But Prodi was forced to scrap the idea amidst strong resistance from trade unions and leftist members of his coalition.

The premier said on Tuesday he was confident that the reform would be implemented by March 31.

But comments by trade union leaders and even from some cabinet members indicated that he may face an uphill battle.

....Trade unions are already protesting plans to raise the retirement age from 57 to 60 starting in January 2008 under a controversial reform passed by the previous government. The minimum retirement age is then set to rise to 61 in 2010.

....International organisations are also pressuring the government to push ahead with structural pension reforms, noting that the country's 'grey army' has swelled to some 11.5 million, or almost 20% of the population .

Monday, October 23, 2006

Found in Translation?

The Don Rickles of Diplomacy performs a second act:

Rome, October 23 - Italian politicians stewing over a new gaffe by Vladimir Putin urged the Russian President on Monday to brush up his manners and resolve the human rights issue in his country before commenting on the mafia. ....

Reacting to criticism by European Parliament President Josep Borrell over Russia's human rights record, Putin allegedly struck back, saying that Italy was "the cradle of the mafia" and that "a lot of Spanish mayors were in jail for corruption." According to El Pais, Spanish Prime Minister Jose' Louis Rodriguez Zapatero and his Italian counterpart Romano Prodi "were left speechless" by the president's quips and apparently just sat there .

Prodi's spokesman Silvio Sircana attempted to play down the incident, telling reporters that Putin was simply trying to address Borrell's criticism with a bit of irony.

What Putin really said was: "mafia is not a Russian word," said Sircana.

....Another of Putin's remarks created diplomatic shock waves last week. He was reportedly overheard discussing the sexual assault charges against Israeli President Moshe Katsav with visiting Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert at the Kremlin .Russia's Kommersant daily quoted Putin telling Olmert that Katsav was "a powerful guy. He raped ten women."

"We all envy him," the daily quoted Putin as saying.

According to a Kremlin spokesman, Putin's comments were mistranslated .

Emulate the Ostrich

Otherwise the French might discover a problem they have:

PARIS, Oct 21, 2006 (AFP) - The agency in charge of Paris-region hospitals on Saturday confirmed that the husband of a Muslim woman examined by a male gynecologist had physically attacked the doctor, but refused to confirm allegations that the assault was motivated by religious extremism.

....However the agency refused to endorse a statement by the professional association of French gynecologists and obstetricians, who described the assault as a manifestation of "Muslim fundamentalism."

The statement by the CNGOF professional association mentioned a similar incident that occurred in a Paris-region hospital in 2003.

In both attacks, gynecologists were "physically attacked and injured by the husbands of patients on the grounds that as male doctors they should not examine their wives," the statement said.

However the hospital authorities said they had "not at this stage confirmed any religious motivation" behind the latest incident.

French Health Minister Xavier Bertrand on Friday condemned the September incident, but also said he could not confirm that it was related to "religious or cultural motives."

"Hospitals must remain absolutely neutral from the religious and ideological point of view," he said.

The hospital agency said that a total of 185 violent incidents had been recorded in the 38 Paris-region public hospitals in 2005, up from 145 in the previous year.

However the hospital authorities did not record whether there was any religious motive to any of the attacks, because "such records would be discriminatory, and we have a neutral position," the statement said.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Pas libérez pour choisir

Remember when Paul Krugman was extolling French family values of no work, all play:

....the main story is that full-time French workers work shorter weeks and take more vacations than full-time American workers.

The point is that to the extent that the French have less income than we do, it's mainly a matter of choice.

Except when they choose to work more, that is:

PARIS, Oct 19, 2006 (AFP) - A French court ruling that the 35-hour working week must apply in hotels, bars and restaurants triggered uproar in the hospitality industry Thursday, amid dire warnings that it will impoverish staff and jeopardise many struggling businesses.

....For many cafe-owners and restaurateurs, the ruling was a third blow — coming on top of President Jacques Chirac's failure to win from the European Union a cut to 5.5 percent of valued added tax, as well as an upcoming ban on smoking in public places.

"Have they got it in for us, or what? We feel like we're the outcasts of the state. There are going to be heavy, heavy repercussions — insurmountable ones," said Jean Pournin who employs four people at the Restaurant d'Angleterre in the Mediterranean port of Nice.

Under the 2004 decree hotels, restaurant and bars enjoyed a dispensation from the 35-hour week on the grounds that the industry needs a flexible labour structure. Staff were not paid at overtime rates for hours after the 35th, but instead had an extra week of holiday that could be exchanged for more pay.

But responding to an appeal from the CFDT union, the state council said the arrangement is illegal because there is no reason in law to regard the catering trade as an exception.

It means that employers will be obliged to pay overtime rates for supplementary hours worked — at an increase of 25 percent for establishments with more than 20 staff and 10 percent for the rest. On the other hand the extra week of holiday disappears.

In addition, as the ruling is retrospective staff could be entitled to nearly two years of back payments.

...."This is a unique situation because for the first time ever a union has actually acted to bring down the buying power of its members, especially those in small establishments who will see their pay cheques get smaller," said Andre Daguin, who heads the Union of Hospitality Trades (UMIH).

....However supporters said that if employers "play the game" and strictly apply the 35 hour week, then new jobs will be created.

Pas libérez pour choisir

Remember when Paul Krugman was extolling French family values of no work, all play:

....the main story is that full-time French workers work shorter weeks and take more vacations than full-time American workers.

The point is that to the extent that the French have less income than we do, it's mainly a matter of choice.

Except when they choose to work more, that is:

PARIS, Oct 19, 2006 (AFP) - A French court ruling that the 35-hour working week must apply in hotels, bars and restaurants triggered uproar in the hospitality industry Thursday, amid dire warnings that it will impoverish staff and jeopardise many struggling businesses.

....For many cafe-owners and restaurateurs, the ruling was a third blow — coming on top of President Jacques Chirac's failure to win from the European Union a cut to 5.5 percent of valued added tax, as well as an upcoming ban on smoking in public places.

"Have they got it in for us, or what? We feel like we're the outcasts of the state. There are going to be heavy, heavy repercussions — insurmountable ones," said Jean Pournin who employs four people at the Restaurant d'Angleterre in the Mediterranean port of Nice.

Under the 2004 decree hotels, restaurant and bars enjoyed a dispensation from the 35-hour week on the grounds that the industry needs a flexible labour structure. Staff were not paid at overtime rates for hours after the 35th, but instead had an extra week of holiday that could be exchanged for more pay.

But responding to an appeal from the CFDT union, the state council said the arrangement is illegal because there is no reason in law to regard the catering trade as an exception.

It means that employers will be obliged to pay overtime rates for supplementary hours worked — at an increase of 25 percent for establishments with more than 20 staff and 10 percent for the rest. On the other hand the extra week of holiday disappears.

In addition, as the ruling is retrospective staff could be entitled to nearly two years of back payments.

...."This is a unique situation because for the first time ever a union has actually acted to bring down the buying power of its members, especially those in small establishments who will see their pay cheques get smaller," said Andre Daguin, who heads the Union of Hospitality Trades (UMIH).

....However supporters said that if employers "play the game" and strictly apply the 35 hour week, then new jobs will be created.

If you license them they will not come...

...if they aren't going to be paid:

BRUSSELS - Liberalisation of the energy market in Brussels is getting off to a surprisingly slow start as Electrabel's competitors hold back.

After a bill was passed, which liberalised the energy market in Wallonia and Brussels, many expected a fierce fight between energy suppliers but privatization is taking a different turn in Brussels. According to Le Soir's sources only three of the five newly licensed energy suppliers will try their luck in Brussels.

Electrabel, Brussels's leading energy supplier - the only one until 2007, can rest easy. Its newly licensed competitors do not seem anxious to enter Brussels' liberalised energy market. Belgian newspaper Le Soir reports that Essent, Luminus and Nuon will sell neither natural gas nor electricity in Brussels.

Might there be a reason?

....As Alexander Dewulf, the CEO of the Belgium branch of Dutch multinational Nuon, says "we will not be present in Brussels because of risks relating to unpaid bills."

The new law includes an article that is unacceptable in the eyes of the suppliers.

In Brussels suppliers will be obliged to provide electricity and gas to customers for a period of three months even if the customer in question fails to pay their bills.

Evelyne Huytebroeck, Minister of Energy and author of the new law says that she is determined to protect the rights of the poorest consumers.

Also, licensed suppliers may be liable and have to pay fines should they refuse to supply energy.

Ralph Harris, RIP

One of England's free market heroes, who paved the way for Margaret Thatcher to begin the reclamation of the UK's economy, passes:

The Lord Harris of High Cross, who died yesterday aged 81, was, with Arthur Seldon, one of the founders of the Institute of Economic Affairs, and perhaps the most successful polemicist of the second half of the 20th century, retrieving and advancing free-market ideas which were initially deeply out of favour and providing the intellectual basis for Margaret Thatcher's reforms of the 1980s.

In fact, though Ralph Harris was the first life peer appointed under the Thatcher government, and declared his admiration for her, he hotly denied being a Thatcherite. "But I count it fortunate for Britain… that she was something of an 'IEA-ite'," he wrote. He took his place on the crossbenches, to the approval of his intellectual mentor, Friedrich von Hayek. He decided, too, against obtaining a coat of arms because heraldry could not represent Adam Smith's "invisible hand".

...."A lot of our thinking was deliberately intended to affront [the establishment] and to wake them up," Harris conceded. The IEA had been set up as an educational charity by a Sussex farming entrepreneur named Antony Fisher from the profits of the Buxted Chicken company, and had been inspired by Hayek's Road to Serfdom, which Fisher had read in condensed form in the Reader's Digest.

From the beginning, it made no attempt to put forward proposals which had been devised according to what was "politically possible", but attempted to convince intellectuals and journalists of the case for the market, reasoning that politicians would follow.

The Tories' landslide victory in 1979 brought to the fore many of the policies for which Harris and the IEA had been arguing since the 1950s. Privatisation and cuts in income tax, which had been dismissed as mad by bien-pensant opinion when Harris and Seldon began to publish, became popular and successful planks of government policy.

And no Telegraph obituary would be complete without a mention of its subject's idiosyncracies:

With his centre parting and toothbrush moustache, Harris exuded a gentle, old-fashioned charm which made him excellent company, as well as proving an effective tool for promoting his beliefs.

He was an accomplished amateur conjuror and was fond of bathing in the sea (he took regular dips off Eastbourne).

Harris's favourite dinner was lamb chops with roast potatoes, followed by apple pie, and he always travelled with a portable pepper grinder, in case black pepper could not be found on the table.

To each according to their #1 Seed

'Let them eat grass, I get lobster', might be the bumper sticker on his Mercedes:

From imported lobsters to cognac and Mercedes-Benz cars, the expensive tastes of North Korea's secretive leader, Kim Jong-il, have never failed to stagger those who have witnessed his conspicuous consumption.

However, his love of the finer things in life, in a country where his people have been allowed to starve, is now being challenged by the United Nations sanctions imposed at the weekend.

They include a clause banning the export of luxury goods to North Korea and aim to cut off or at least greatly diminish the dictator's supplies, which he is believed to use to reward senior officials for their loyalty.

.... At one stage, Kim was reported to be the world's biggest single customer for Hennessy's Paradis cognac, although he was later forced to cut down his intake, acting on medical advice, and took up fine French red wine.

Penny for your thoughts...

Considerably more for your feelings, in the UK:

A Muslim teaching assistant who was suspended for refusing to remove her veil during lessons has been awarded £1,100 for "injury to her feelings"

Aishah Azmi, 24, lost her claims that she was discriminated against because of her religious beliefs and that she had suffered harassment.

But an employment tribunal ruled that she had been victimised through the environment created as a result of her stance.

Making the irony piquant is who her employer is:

Mrs Azmi was suspended when she insisted on retaining her niqab while working at Headfield Church of England School, in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Germany to Berlin; 'Drop Dead'

Great Abe Beame's Ghost:

Berlin (dpa) - Germany's top court Thursday refused to sanction a government-funded multibillion dollar bailout for the nation's bankrupt capital.

The court dismissed a suit filed by Germany's largest city, which is saddled with a 60-billion-euro (75-billion-dollar) debt.

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit said the city cannot repay the debt by itself and invoked a constitutional solidarity clause in a bid to win a bailout ruling from Germany's highest court.

The capital had argued that it had got into debt because the government had slashed subsidies after German unification in 1990.

But the federal constitutional court ruled that the massive debt was largely of the city's own making, but "in all probability" could be reduced if spending was brought under control.

....There have been allegations that Berlin's government - a coalition of Social Democrats with the former East German communists now called The Left Party - has not done enough to cut spending and privatize massive state holdings.

The court said the city could earn at least 5 billion euros if it sold the 270,000 apartments - 15 per cent of Berlin's total residential living space - that are under public ownership.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Take Sean Penn...Please!

They ought to be counting their blessings in Holland:

AMSTERDAM — Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has said he is disappointed in the nation's intellectuals, artists and writers, accusing them of a lack of social engagement.

Balkenende said the nation's intellectuals had failed to make their voice heard in the current debate about the problems in Dutch society.

"Where is the social engagement of intellectuals, writers and artists? Why is there an almost frightening silence?" Balkenende wrote in a letter to writer Harry Mulisch.

The Christian Democrat CDA leader said Dutch intellectuals should represent a mirror of Dutch politics.

Of course what happened to Theo Van Gogh might have something to do with it:

AMSTERDAM — Research has indicated that more than 1,400 young Muslims in Amsterdam, or 2 percent of the capital's Islamic population, are potential extremists.

If you're reading this...

...you're sick, say the shrinks:

The US could be rife with "internet addicts" who are as clinically ill as alcoholics, according to psychiatrists involved in a nationwide study.

....Most disturbing, according to the study's lead author Elias Aboujaoude, is the discovery that some people hide their internet surfing, or go online to cure foul moods – behaviour that mirrors the way alcoholics behave.

"In a sense, they're using the internet to self-medicate," Aboujaoude says. "And, obviously, something is wrong when people go out of their way to hide their internet activity."

Nearly 14% of respondents said they found it difficult to stay away from the internet for several days and 12% admitted that they often remain online longer than expected.

More than 8% of those surveyed said they hid internet use from family, friends and employers, and the same percentage confessed to going online to flee from real-world problems.

Approximately 6% also said their personal relationships had suffered as a result of excessive internet usage.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Play it as it lays, Comrade:

Golf lessons are going to be made compulsory for some students at one Chinese university, reports say.

The president of Xiamen University in south-east China was quoted as saying it would help produce "socially elite people with the best education".

....Zhu Chongshi, president of Xiamen University in Fujian province, said golf lessons would be on offer to all students in the next two months.

But he said those majoring in management, law, economic and software engineering courses would "be required" to take the course, the China Daily newspaper reports.

"Golf is not only good exercise, but will teach students communication skills and benefit their future careers," he was quoted as saying.

Better Wining Through Chemistry

Raise a glass to oenology in France:

The French winemaker's mantra has always been "grow good grapes and the wine will make itself," but for all save the most prestigious estates letting nature take its course is no longer good enough.

.... While often loath to admit it, many French producers are now crafting their wares to suit consumer tastes rather than expecting consumers to adapt to the product.

....There is no better measure of this profound change than the growing influence and importance of wine chemists — also called oenologists — in Bordeaux, France's premier wine producing region.

"In 10 years, oenologists have evolved from vine doctor to winemaker," said the president of association representing Bordeaux's wine chemists, Nicolas Guichard.

.... "The tilting point was economic — all production is for naught as soon as it is disconnected from the market," said Jean-Philippe Gervais, head of the vine-and-wine services department of the Gironde region's Chamber of Agriculture. "The oenologist today has a better understanding of marketing, and the imperatives of supply and demand."

Never on Sunday

In modern Europe don't you dare try renting a video:

A court in Germany has stopped a company from operating automated video and DVD rental machines on Sundays, saying they violate Sunday shopping laws.

.... "The operation of an automated video library on Sundays and public holidays represents an overt and clearly visible work practice and as such violates Sunday peace," the judges said.

....Shopping hours are strictly regulated in Germany, with most stores allowed to open only on a handful of Sundays in the run-up to Christmas.

Nice work, if you can get it

And you can get it if you threaten to cry:

The Orlando Magic paid a political consultant and frequent tax critic $200,000 not to oppose plans for a recently announced new arena, the club has disclosed.

The payments were made at two different points to Doug Guetzloe, who also hosts a local radio show billed as "The Voice of the People." The Magic gave him $100,000 to support a similar stadium push in 2001 and another $100,000 this year.

....The Magic's payments were made in support of a $1 billion downtown overhaul - delivering a new arena, renovated Citrus Bowl and new performing arts center.

"We were told that there was an offer by those in the minority that oppose the three community venues to hire him if we did not," Magic chief operating officer Alex Martins said in a written statement.

.... The Magic weren't the only ones paying Guetzloe. A Kissimmee resort gave him $87,000 when it pursued public money to expand a convention center, and the local expressway authority has paid him $107,500 to evaluate opposition to toll increases despite his heavy criticism of the agency.

Monday, October 16, 2006

We don't think this means what you think it means

Italian women earn less than men for pretty much the same reason as everywhere else, but you have to read to nearly the end to find out why:

(ANSA) - Rome, October 16 - Italy's working women earn about three quarters of what men earn on average, according to new statistics from ISFOL, the government-funded research institute.

For salaried workers women the difference is about 23%, or 3,800 euros a year, while for the self-employed the difference can be as much as 40%....

Self-employed women pay themselves 40% less, because....

The startling difference between the pay received by self-employed men and women was mainly the result of women working fewer hours, the report said .

Which fact seems not to have penetrated with the author of this article who explains the smaller difference in pay for employees with the usual suspects:

"There is a tendency to avoid giving roles with more responsibility to women basically because employers are afraid that childcare duties will be a distraction," said Emiliano Mandrone.

He said this was particularly common in the private sector, where bosses were concerned that women would either underperform or disappear for a year to have a baby.

As a result, men tend to get the top jobs and the fat salaries that go with them .

T'Okay, We'll Surrender...We're French

It will have to be by any other name, but the wine will still be dry:

PARIS, Oct 16, 2006 (AFP) - The French wine-growing area of Alsace on Monday officially surrendered to Hungary the label "Tokay" which has been used for several hundred years to designate a local variety of white.

Hungary -- where the Tokay wine region is a UNESCO-designated world heritage site -- has been pressing for decades for the sole right to use the name....

As long ago as 1926 France agreed to phase out the trade-name in return for a Hungarian commitment to stop making "cognac" -- but the deal met insuperable resistance in Alsace where reportedly since the 16th century "Tokay d'Alsace" has referred to wine made from the "pinot gris" grape.

.... Hungary has also won agreement from Italy to stop use of the name "Tocai Friulano" for a variety of grape grown in the north of the country, and under a deal with neighbouring Slovakia "Tokay" can only be used for wine produced in a small area along the Hungarian border.

Hungarian Tokay was made famous in France at the start of the 18th century when King Louis XIV was sent a supply by the Prince of Transylvania. He reportedly described it as a "wine of kings, and a king of wines" -- a slogan used in marketing campaigns ever since.

Ain't gonna happen, no how?

China energizes the English police as the Olympics loom:

China has launched a fresh drive to clamp down on bad English in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Previous attempts to wipe out Chinglish - the mistranslated phrases often seen on Chinese street signs and product labels - have met with little success.

Emergency exits at Beijing airport read "No entry on peacetime" and the Ethnic Minorities Park is named "Racist Park".

....A road sign on Beijing's Avenue of Eternal Peace warns of a dangerous pavement with the words: "To Take Notice of Safe; The Slippery are Very Crafty".

Menus frequently list items such as "Corrugated iron beef", "Government abuse chicken" and "Chop the strange fish".

The mistranslations arise because many Chinese words express concepts obliquely and can be interpreted in multiple ways, making translation a minefield for non-English speakers.

Running Guns to the Khmer Rouge II

The Senator from Massachusetts must have thought it would sound good--the way he told Tim Russert on Meet the Press; 'Was too in Cambodia'--but, who is it who is trying to gain partisan political advantage here:

KERRY: It's a bomb that has been developed because of the unwillingness of this administration to engage in opportunities that every expert says have been there all the time.

President Carter went over there in 1994 and President Carter negotiated an agreement. Now, rather than continue that agreement in 2002, this administration just arbitrarily decided, out of ideological whatever - - anything but Clinton -- they proceed down a different road.

And things have gotten worse. Things have gotten worse in Afghanistan. Things have gotten worse in Iraq. They're not telling the truth to the American people about a civil war in Iraq.

They don't listen to the generals on the ground in Iraq. The generals have said it's a debacle. They've said Rumsfeld doesn't have credibility. They're not standing down while the Iraqis supposedly stand up.

In every aspect of our foreign policy, this administration has misled Americans and misled the world. And they don't have credibility. Chris, this is not political. This is not political.

WALLACE: Well, it's a little political.

KERRY: No, it's not political. No, it's not political. It used to be that foreign policy was something that was done on a bipartisan basis. It used to be that the politics ended at the water's edge.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Not exactly a ringing endorsement

Of one's own policies, when you receive the Nobel Peace Prize for financing poor entrepreneurs, you turn around and use the money to create a non-profit entity with a large French agri-business:

DHAKA: Muhammad Yunus yesterday said he would donate his share of the $1.4-million (BD527,757) prize money to good causes.

Yunus said he would use his share to fund a project to produce low-cost, nutritious food for the poor, an eye hospital, a drinking water project and a health care scheme.

"I will donate all my money to these enterprises. These will be purely social business enterprises, ie not-for-profit organisations," he said.

"I will use the money to finance our joint-venture food company with Danone so that the poor can eat high nutrition food at an affordable price," he said. ....

The French company is the world's biggest producer of fresh dairy products and bottled water with total sales of around $16 billion in 2005.

He sleeps with the Trout Quintet?

On the Musicfront, in Seattle:

The past six months represent some of the most divisive and troubled moments in the history of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, with some orchestra members expressing bitter opposition to Gerard Schwarz, music director for more than two decades, as well as internecine battles among the musicians.

Stimulated by the renewal of Schwarz's contract in the spring, the conflict became increasingly nasty and violent: instruments were vandalized, cars keyed, anonymous phone calls made, mail stolen from backstage mail slots and doorbells at musicians' homes rung anonymously at night.

....John Cerminaro, principal French horn since 1995, is the main target, with Scott Goff, principal flute for more than 35 years, a secondary one. Both are regarded as prime allies of Schwarz.

In late September, Cerminaro found in his Benaroya mail box a razor in a magazine and, in a separate episode, a cup of hot coffee, both of which could have caused serious damage to his hands.

Friday morning at an orchestra rehearsal, Mary Ann Champion, interim executive director, addressed the musicians on what she termed, in an earlier interview, "a safe work environment and incidents backstage." She said she did not plan to mention any names but would tell musicians that management "will not accept inappropriate behavior" and promised "increased security."

The reaction by orchestra members was mixed, sources said. One key player gave Champion the finger as she left the podium.

Cerminaro's comments were subdued. "I have been the principal French horn with the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony and the American Symphony Orchestra, and I have never seen anything like this. Beyond that I will not comment."

Next; checking to see just what's in those violin cases?

Friday, October 13, 2006


Belgian childcare, say the kids:

Brussels - A large-scale investigation into the quality of Belgian childcare shows that although children feel comfortable in their crèches, they often lack focus in their activities.

....The investigation was unique in that it focused on how the 8,000 participating children themselves perceived the day care.

....We specifically noticed that children sometimes tend to be a bit bored", says professor Ferre Laerens of the Catholic University of Leuven. "Although they are involved in some activity or other, the children lack moments of real intensity and are not always that focused", he adds.

It appears that 40 percent of the childcare initiatives do not come up to 'normal' standards on this criterion.

She's Scary Allright

Unemployment in France not high enough for you? Vote for la fille:

(AFP) - France should tax businesses that move jobs outside of the country, and then tax their products when they are imported back into the country, French presidential election frontrunner Ségolène Royal said in an interview published in The Times on Friday.

Speaking from the town of Poitiers, western France, in the Poitou-Charentes regional council where she is the socialist head, Royal told the newspaper: "We have to prevent this wildcat outsourcing."

"The workers have no power. We need to tax businesses who want to move out jobs and tax their products when they re-import them," she said.

"The capitalists have to be frightened ... There is no alternative. They can't just dispose of people as they wish. They have to be held accountable."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Shall We Dance?

What with all this harmony:

PARIS, Oct 12, 2006 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday that restructuring at plane maker Airbus should be "distributed harmoniously" between plants at Hamburg in Germany and Toulouse in France, at the end of a Franco-German ministerial meeting.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel then said that "France and Germany must remain on a equal footing" within EADS, the parent aerospace group behind Airbus.

Though not three (or more) part harmony, it seems:

MADRID — The delays over the Airbus 380 Project have claimed its first victims in Spain, with the loss of 180 jobs from a company which supplies parts for the motor.

Turbo Propulsores, based in the Basque Country, announced the job losses on Wednesday.

....Spain, a minority partner in Airbus parent EADS, had said it wants to raise the country's stake to safeguard jobs.

Spanish economy minister Pedro Solbes said he wanted to protect the EADS and Airbus work carried out in Spain....

The country owns 5.4 percent of EADS through state holding company SEPI.

.... France has paid more attention to the Spanish shareholding since Russia unexpectedly grabbed a 5 percent stake in EADS via a state bank and hinted it could buy more.

Nor is there unanimity even within countries:

Paris/Hamburg (dpa) - Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday the German government had not taken any decision yet on whether to buy a stake in EADS, the parent company of the troubled planemaker Airbus.

....Merkel's remarks came after Mayor Ole von Beust of Hamburg - where Airbus has one of its main plants - announced after talks with the new CEO of Airbus, Louis Gallois, that he welcomed a federal German government "decision" to buy a holding in Airbus.

Von Beust, who is one of Germany's 16 state premiers and a Christian Democrat ally of Merkel, later backtracked, but said, "I remain convinced that the federal government must act if industry does not do its patriotic duty."

The later comment was an attack on DaimlerChrysler, the German-US automotive company that holds 22.5 per cent of EADS and said Wednesday it aims to reduce its holding to 15 per cent but no lower.

The French government owns 15 per cent of stockmarket-listed EADS, which was created to unite western Europe's disparate aerospace companies so that they can compete with big US corporations.

But, to do so successfully, Airbus needs to replace a little harmony with efficiency. And when someone choreographed with that in mind, he was asked to resign:

Before being forced to step down earlier this week, former Airbus head Christian Streiff had recommended moving the task of fitting the A380 interior from Hamburg to Toulouse, where Airbus has its headquarters.

A Bridge Too Far...

...and possibly too crooked for Italy's government:

Italy has abandoned controversial plans to build a bridge between the country's mainland and the island of Sicily.

The structure would have crossed the Messina Straits, forming the world's longest single-span suspension bridge.

But Italian MPs voted to scrap the proposed construction, saying they had other priorities for Italy's impoverished southern island.

There were also concerns that organised crime networks could hijack the lucrative project.

But that wouldn't stop a profit seeking company.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Spare the Rod...Spoil the CEO

Everyone responding to the question admitted to not being pain free growing up:

The debate over whether CEOs are born or made remains unresolved, but there is one thing they overwhelmingly have in common.

As children, they were paddled, belted, switched or swatted.

Child psychologists wince at such a finding. They warn that spanking slows mental development and hinders achievement. They say the last thing parents need in the back of their minds is a suggestion or justification that the rod is the road to vision, ruthless drive and other leadership traits common to CEOs.

But USA TODAY interviewed about 20 CEOs over three months and, while none said they were abused, neither were any spared.

....Eve Tahmincioglu interviewed 55 CEOs about their backgrounds for her book From the Sandbox to the Corner Office: Lessons Learned on the Journey to the Top, which went on sale Friday. The book includes chapters on such things as how CEOs attacked their first jobs and how they overcame bad bosses, but Chapter One is called "Parents: Less Carrot, More Stick."

She found that most CEOs had tough disciplinarians as parents.

....Sara Blakely....says she was "spanked and spanked often," so much that she would wear all of her days-of-the-week underwear at the same time to soften the blow.

Today, she is the founder and owner of a women's undergarment manufacturer that has passed $100 million in retail sales this year.

Blakely says she thought of a name for her company while sitting in Atlanta traffic. It's a name that nobody seems to forget.


Remember the Maginot Line!

Let the Franco-Prussian War of the 21st Century begin (and the best man will probably be Boeing, winning):

BERLIN — Germany's economy minister pledged Wednesday that his government will do all it can to protect Airbus sites in the country and ensure that the burdens of a restructuring drive are divided fairly.

Airbus parent EADS' announcement of a further delay to the flagship A380 superjumbo and a cost-cutting drive was followed by concerns in Germany that production work could be moved to France, putting jobs at risk.

Economy Minister Michael Glos said the German government "will work with all its strength for the German sites."

Meanwhile, Jacques Chirac laid down covering fire from Paris:

PARIS, Oct 11, 2006 (AFP) - The sole objective for Airbus is to "correct structural faults" that have been responsible for the difficulties plaguing the aircraft manufacturer, a source close to French President Jacques Chirac said Wednesday.

"The sole and unique objective is to correct the structural faults to allow delays (in deliveries) to be overcome," the source said.

While the Russians remained coyly neutral:

Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a visit to the southern German state of Bavaria, meanwhile held out the prospect of increased Russian investment in EADS.

But Bavarian premier Edmund Stoiber played down Russia's designs on the company, whose German arm is based in Bavaria.

"In certain strategic sectors of the economy there are some limits to mutual participation," he said.