Wednesday, January 31, 2007

How to be a victim 101

Short answer: make yourself one by claiming victimhood!

Top marks to the Muslim Council of Montreal for turning different cultural practices--some of them not even their own--into an attack on Islam.

A town in Quebec put out a statement noting that it frowns on stoning women to death (OK, this seems directed at Islam), female circumcism, burning women alive, and other pursuits, and expects new arrivals to abide by Canadian laws and standards.

Although provocative, Islam was not mentioned; moreover, the practice of burning women is associated with certain Hindus, not Muslims.

Nevertheless, it didn't stop the president of Montreal's Muslim council from being outraged:
[T]he president of the Muslim Council of Montreal, Salam Elmenyawi, condemned the council, saying it had set back race relations decades.

He told Reuters news agency: "I was shocked and insulted to see these kinds of false stereotypes and ignorance about Islam and our religion."
Just to inform him: Stoning women is accepted practice under Sharia law in the following countries (wikipedia 1, 2): Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Afganistan, Sudan, and parts of Nigeria. I imagine that most people agitating for the adoption of Sharia law in the west would include that aspect of Sharia.

French anti-Americanism now part of the presidential campaign

Nicholas Sarkozy: Card carrying American neo-conservative? That's what French voters are being told by the Socialist party. Which in France is about as damning as finding a rat in the bouillabaisse.

The IHT's Roger Cohen has a piece ($) on France's anti-Americanism and how the Socialists have incorporated it into their campaign. Evidently, the Socialist party feels France is willing to swallow just about any tripe about America.
[...] Being the anti- France, the United States, it often seems, cannot be seen for what it is. So freighted is America with meaning, it ceases to be visible. It becomes an abstraction shaped by prejudice rather than a country intelligible through experience. It serves a purpose at the price of being severed from itself.

These reflections stirred on reading an eloquent example of Gallic delusion: the statement just published by Ségolène Royal's Socialist Party about Nicolas Sarkozy, her chief opponent in the French presidential election. This 87-page work amounts to a relentless exercise in Sarkozy-bashing through his depiction as that incarnation of menace: a card-carrying crypto-American.

Entitled "The Worrying 'Quiet Rupture' of Mr. Sarkozy," and displayed on Parti-socialiste.fr, the party's home page, the work begins by asking: "Is France ready to vote in 2007 for an American neo-conservative carrying a French passport?"

That gets the ball rolling. The party's core argument runs roughly as follows: America is bad, Sarkozy is its agent, ergo he is dangerous. The publication really has little more to say about Royal's center-right rival.

One chapter is entitled "Nicolas Sarkozy or the Clone of Bush." A memorable sentence, among many such gems, says: "Yesterday Europe was importing jeans, coke, rock 'n' roll and cinema from the United States. Now Nicolas Sarkozy is proposing that we import God!"

Apart from shipping God from Galveston to Dieppe and so destroying the lay French state, Sarko is accused of heading up "a sort of French subsidiary of Bush and company." He's said to manipulate the suffering of French Jews to partisan ends and to pander with equal unscrupulousness to the sensibilities of Catholics and Muslims.

"When one listens to Sarkozy, one would think one was listening to the evangelist George W. Bush addressing Hispanics of Catholic tradition in the last campaign," the pamphlet opines.

Really?

The Socialist Party portrait of American society evokes a place rotten to the core, stricken by obesity and a high murder rate, driving exploited workers to the limits of endurance, imprisoning 2 percent of its population, engaged in a failed affirmative action experiment that has only "made a racial issue of all problems," and beset by an ominous religious fervor.

The real U.S. unemployment rate, it is preposterously suggested, is not 5.1 percent, but 9 percent. America under Bush has no interest in international law because its sole international aim is "the promotion of the American empire."

The death penalty, torture, renditions, secret prisons, short or non-existent vacations, absent or expensive health care, a Darwinian labor market and the worship of "the individualist entrepreneur" complete this happy picture of France's ally.

"It is in this," the Socialists conclude triumphantly, "that Nicolas Sarkozy sees the future of French society!"

There are a couple of problems with all this. The first is that although some of the individual claims have some merit — a health care system that leaves more than 40 million people without insurance is a bad system — the composite picture is wildly distorted, a collage of doom and gloom.

The America in which French companies from Accor to Business Objects prosper, which grows and creates jobs in ways France can only dream of, which is restlessly self- transforming rather than irksomely self-obsessed, which has assured the postwar European security from which France and the European Union have benefited — this United States is nowhere to be seen.

The second is that although Sarkozy has been happy enough at times to don the mantle of the American agent provocateur — man of action, man of movement, man unafraid to suggest you should earn more for working more — he's been rowing back of late toward the Gaullist mainstream. In this light, Bush clone sounds like quite a stretch. [...]

"The Socialist line of attack is weaker now because Sarkozy is playing the neo-Gaullist rather than the liberal card," said Stephane Rozes, a political analyst. "Moreover, America is an ambivalent rather than negative image for many in France."

That ambivalence may be tending more positive as the end of the Bush era looms and the French are able to indulge their Kennedy fantasy — the perennial notion that some JFK-like figure, in this case Barack Obama, will emerge to personify the French idea of what America ought to be. [...]

The Socialists, in their Bush obsession, cite Sarkozy's reply to a question about how, if at all, Bush differs from him. "He's been elected president twice," is Sarko's pithy response.

Say what you like about the candidate of the Union for a Popular Movement, he looks the facts in the eye, more so at least than his America- mangling detractors.
That he does. God (or whatever secular abstract the Socialists wish to invoke) help France if Royal gets into power. Any hope of meaningful change will be lost.

Fortunately, the Socialists have a lot of scaring to do in this election. Sarkozy is running a better campaign and seems to understand the mood of the public on key questions such as immigration, and law and order.

Royal in contrast is making one blunder after another on the campaign trail, while offering only platitudes, nostrums, and other warm and fuzzy promises to care for the French people. No change is required is the sub-text of her campaign; France is perfect as it is, and only minor, painless tinkering is needed.

Biofuels not the panacea once thought

File it under unexpected consequences. Going green isn't quite so easy, as advocates of palm oil as a biofuel have discovered, to their dismay. That palm oil based biofuels emit fewer green house gases is well known. However their increasing popularity has led to palms being planted and harvested in ways that add far more greenhouse gases than would be the case if petroleum had been substituted for palm oil.
Just a few years ago, politicians and green groups in the Netherlands were thrilled by the country's early and rapid adoption of "sustainable energy," achieved in part by coaxing electricity plants to use some biofuel — in particular, palm oil from Southeast Asia. [...]

But last year, when scientists studied practices at palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia, this green fairy tale began to look more like an environmental nightmare.

Rising demand for palm oil in Europe brought about the razing of huge tracts of Southeast Asian rain forest and the overuse of chemical fertilizer there. Worse still, space for the expanding palm plantations was often created by draining and burning peat land, which sent huge amount of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Factoring in these emissions, Indonesia had quickly become the world's third-leading producer of greenhouse gases that scientists believe are responsible for global warming, ranked after the United States and China, concluded a study released in December by researchers from Wetlands International and Delft Hydraulics, both in the Netherlands.

"It was shocking and totally smashed all the good reasons we initially went into palm oil," said Alex Kaat, a spokesman for Wetlands, a conservation group.

Biofuels, long a cornerstone of the quest for greener energy, may sometimes produce more harmful emissions than the fossil fuels they replace, scientific studies are finding.

As a result, politicians in many countries are rethinking the billions of dollars in subsidies that have indiscriminately supported the spread of all of these supposedly "eco-friendly" fuels, for use in power vehicles and factories. The 2003 European Union Biofuels Directive, which demands that all member states aim to have 5.75 percent of transportation fueled by biofuel in 2010, is now under review.

"If you make biofuels properly, you will reduce greenhouse emissions," said Peder Jensen, of the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen. "But that depends very much on the types of plants and how they're grown and processed. You can end up with a 90 percent reduction compared to fossil fuels — or a 20 percent increase."

"Its important to take a life cycle view," he said, and not to "just see what the effects are here in Europe." [...]

On the surface, the environmental equation that supports biofuels is simple: Since they are derived from plants, biofuels absorb carbon while they are grown and release it when they are burned. In theory that neutralizes their emissions.

But the industry was promoted long before there was adequate research, said Reanne Creyghton, who runs Friends of the Earth's anti-palm oil campaign in the Netherlands. "Palm oil was advertised as green energy, but there was no research about whether it was really sustainable." [...]
Moreover, the Europe driven demand for palm oil pressured local prices upward, to the extent that many families were unable to buy it for their food needs.
Oil needed by poor people for food was becoming too expensive for them. "We have a problem satisfying the Netherlands' energy needs with someone else's food resources," said Creyghton of Friends of the Earth. [...]
Those Indonesian fires that are periodically in the news? Palm oil cultivation seems at least partly to blame.
In recent years Indonesia has been plagued by polluting wildfires so intense that they send thick clouds of smoke over much of Asia. [...]
Yet another case of something working well in theory, but not in practice. The reckless production of palm oil problem can be solved, but probably at costs that prevent the wide scale adoption of palm oil.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Diversity doesn't unite

Good piece in today's Telegraph on the problems of taking diversity too seriously. The author rails against the multi-culti desire to *celebrate* differences to the point where anything goes. His call to end overt displays of other cultures goes too far, in my opinion, but otherwise he hits the mark with his essay.
An important and timely study published by the Policy Exchange think tank yesterday finds that young British Muslims are much more likely to be drawn to radical Islam than their parents. Thirty-seven per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds would prefer to live under Sharia law than the laws of this country. These findings may not come as a surprise: many will remember an NOP poll last August which reported that 45 per cent of British Muslims believed that 9/11 was an American-Israeli conspiracy. But it's important continually to draw attention to the disease of Islamic extremism in Britain in order to motivate a Government, long on rhetoric, to take decisive action.

For what it's worth, the authors, Munira Mirza, Abi Senthilkumaran and Zein Ja'far, are, well, not quite white supremacists. They indicate, rather, a growing number of British Asians, such as myself, who are critical of multiculturalism, the race relations industry and the peculiar culture of celebrating diversity. The report advocated that "people should be entitled to equal treatment as citizens in the public sphere, with the freedom to also enjoy and pursue their identities in the private sphere". But what we have seen in Britain over the last two decades is a fetish for celebrating our differences in the public sphere. [...]

Trevor Phillips has spoken of Britain ''sleepwalking into segregation". It seems to me that we have unthinkingly accepted the notion that celebrating our differences takes us closer to overcoming them. Our differences are not what bind us together as a people. If anything, we speak of these differences as things which need to be bridged. Anyone who has worked in the field of international development, as I have, will tell you that nation-building in states that are ethnically homogenous, all other things being equal, is an easier task than nation-building where there is diversity. Iraq is a case in point. We have our work cut out in Britain but the task of bringing about integration is not impossible. Calling attention to differences does not help.

This has been one of the worst effects of the pernicious doctrine of multiculturalism. The fetish of celebrating differences found champions in the radical Left in Britain in the Eighties among people who regarded themselves as counter-cultural or subversive, particularly many employed in local government, and who projected their own fixation with difference on to others. Successive British governments over the past two decades have taken up and promoted multiculturalism so that even today we hear it in the rhetoric of politicians.

When Tony Blair said last December that immigrants should sign up to British values – "belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage" – he was striking the right note. In the same speech, however, he also said that we should celebrate our diversity. The Prime Minister strives, as ever, to be all things to all people.

But one group to which he need no longer pander are the multiculturalists, for only the deluded would today promote a dogma that has demonstrably caused enormous harm. He should jettison the language of celebrating diversity and speak unambiguously and clearly about the need to integrate. Moreover, taxpayers' money should have no part in keeping people divided. We need to question the value of a vast race relations industry that churns out with every passing fad of public policy some initiative that only reinforces our differences. We need to question – there are no sacred cows – whether diversity awareness training is doing more harm than good. Some things are not negotiable and we need to be very clear about those.

David Cameron, to his immense credit, drew attention yesterday to the oppression of women in some sections of the Muslim community.

Disturbingly, yesterday's report found that 74 per cent of young Muslims would rather Muslim women wore the hijab. These differences need to be highlighted because they are antithetical to British values.

Let's be clear about something. Ceasing to ''celebrate difference" does not mean that an immigrant cannot hold on to his heritage. It is not a zero-sum game. The key point is that difference is not something we should be revelling in within the public sphere.

What you do in your own home, barring egregious violations of the rights of others (such as the abuse of women), is your own business. We need to move towards a culture in which celebrating diversity beyond the home is widely seen as divisive. To this end, the role of government must be limited. First, it must ensure that taxpayers money is not being spent in ways that promote difference. This means looking at the provision of translation and interpretation services, as well as looking at the way money is being spent in schools, libraries, hospitals and social services, and the provision of English language teaching.

Second, the rhetoric of politicians and opinion-formers must move away from focusing on our differences. The current problem arises from a real threat presented by extremists within the Islamic community. The message to these extremists and those who are in a position to influence their thinking must be a clear one, yes, of inclusion but inclusion only on Britain's terms. When politicians talk of celebrating differences that message becomes confused. This does not mean we should be searching for things we have in common: Islamic extremists and the great majority of Britons share very little in terms of values.

Instead, politicians and opinion-formers need to assert loudly and clearly the call for integration and that means celebrate diversity, by all means, but only in the home. [....]
One thing I would add: explicit criticism of those who want to impose their differences on the rest. Calls for Sharia law in Britain, for example. That is where mult-culti has led to.

Monday, January 29, 2007

RINO mega-carnival is up

A huge number of enjoyable posts are found at Searchlight Crusade, the host of this week's RINO carnival. Seems just about every regularly posting RINO submitted something.

Young British muslims 'getting more radical'

For God's sake, give them what they want before they become even more radical (internal link in the original):
A bleak picture of a generation of young British Muslims radicalised by anti-Western views and misplaced multicultural policies is shown in a survey published today.

The study found disturbing evidence of young Muslims adopting more fundamentalist beliefs on key social and political issues than their parents or grandparents.

The study found disturbing evidence of young Muslims adopting more fundamentalist beliefs on key social and political issues.

Forty per cent of Muslims between the ages of 16 and 24 said they would prefer to live under sharia law in Britain, a legal system based on the teachings of the Koran. The figure among over-55s, in contrast, was only 17 per cent.
Those truly desiring to live under the glories of Sharia law can do so. Many Arab lands would be only too happy to have British-educated lads sweeping their streets; visas should not be a problem.

Nevertheless, even if some of the responses can be chalked up to bravado, the guardians of Islam need to work a bit harder: it is intolerable that a decent-sized minority holds such thoughts.

Breaking: Revolution in Drumlin formation theory!

Of interest only to those fascinated by all things glacial, which means you, dear reader, the theory of how drumlins form is undergoing radical revision.

Here's your chance to be on the cutting edge of science and the guaranteed life of the next party (if you live in Canada, that is):
A new study threatens to overturn our understanding of how glaciers deposit whale-shaped hills known as drumlins. The findings could have implications for the computer models used to predict glacier flow and subsequent changes in sea-level.

Andy Smith of the British Antarctic Survey and his colleagues are the first to see a drumlin during formation. They have visited the same spot of the Rutford Ice Stream in Antarctica three times since 1991. Each time, they have mapped the shape of the glacier bed, which lies 2000 metres under the surface of the ice. [...]
Using seismic mapping, they found:
[Researcher Vaughan says] "What is surprising is that big lumps of sediment are being moved around wholesale rather than being slowly accumulated."

He says the mass of sediment seems like it is encased in the underside of the ice sheet and being dragged along as the glacier moves towards the sea. [....]
What does this mean? Who knows. My guess, though, is that it means nothing more than drumlins can be formed in more than one way. The old theory holds that drumlins accumulate and grow thanks to large meltwater rivers running under the glacier.

I think a look (impossible at the moment) at the provenance of the rocks making up the drumlin would be instructive. (the Wiki article on drumlins is here)

Friday, January 19, 2007

I'm off to Cleveland

Little or no blogging as my wife and I make our way to the USA>>Ohio>>Cleveland. That is if our plane out of Munich can figth through the gale force winds.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Gorbachov shills for Putin

From the fringes, Gorbi tries out for Putin's cheerleader squad:
Russia's resurgence, its insistence on protecting its interests, and its ability to play a proper role in the world, are not to everyone's liking. Strangely enough, when Russia was mired in crisis, the west applauded it; today Russia is accused of rejecting democracy and of having imperial ambitions.

Still, there are no real reasons to fear Russia. My country is facing many problems. Learning new ways and building democratic institutions is indeed hard work. But Russia will never go back. The most difficult part of the road is already behind us.
Russia's methods of protecting its interests (especially in the energy field) would make the mafia blush. Of course, as this is the system that Gorbachov grew up with, he sees it as normal.

Russia's dalliance with democracy was short lived. Gorbachov is wrong, Russia never left the time of the Czars and the Supreme Soviet. The modern Politburo is composed of Putin and assorted oligarchs.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Swissair collapse trial underway

Switzerland's business elite are on trial for criminal negligence over the collapse, in 2001, of Swissair. The airline was the pride of Switzerland, held up as an example of Swiss precision and economy. However, it suddenly collapsed in October, 2001.

A trial involving many of Switzerland's top businessmen is underway. Convictions will be hard to come by for the major charges, after all, being a stupid businessman isn't illegal, but the prosecution will be embarrassing for those involved. And enlightening for the nation. The collapse is still shrouded in mystery. How could a company with billions in the bank go under a few short years later?

Many of the charges are complex (the indictment ran to 100 pages), although the prosecution may be able to collect some convictions for making false statements and tax evasion.
The biggest corporate criminal trial in Swiss history began Tuesday, with 19 former top executives, board members and consultants linked to Swissair facing charges stemming from the financial collapse of the airline that had been an icon of pride of the Alpine country. [...]

The flag carrier was abruptly grounded on Oct. 2, 2001, when it was unable to provide enough cash to pay fuel and landing fees to oil companies and airports that had stopped extending credit. Tens of thousands of passengers were stranded worldwide. Thousands of employees and shareholders lost their life savings, and the country's four main political parties have demanded that former executives be held responsible.

The entire managerial board faces charges that include damaging creditors, mismanagement, making false statements about the business and forging documents. The trial is expected to last until March 9. [...]

As well as leading to losses of investments, pensions and jobs, the company's sudden demise came as a major blow to Swiss pride.

The Swiss public's fascination in the events leading up to the bankruptcy remains strong. A documentary chronicling Swissair's final days was the most popular domestic movie in the country's cinemas last year.

Fischer, currently chairman of the board of the logistics company Panalpina, appeared in the makeshift courtroom in the city hall of Bülach, near Zurich, chosen to handle larger crowds as the proceedings continue. More than 100 people watched the opening session, in which former board member and private banker Benedict Hentsch also was testifying.

In the audience were former Swissair employees, who said they were hoping that the defendants would be sent to prison. But legal specialists have called that unlikely.

Prosecutors have yet to disclose the sentences they are seeking. Under the law, a maximum sentence of five years in prison — or a fine — is possible.

"Most of the accused will probably be acquitted," said Christopher Chandiramani, a former bank analyst who said he lost his job before the collapse because he had forecast large Swissair losses. "Stupidity isn't a crime." [...]

The Zurich cantonal, or state, prosecutor's office has produced an indictment more than 100 pages long that is based on four and a half years of investigation.

The trial is being heard by three judges.

Those in the dock include some of the biggest names in the Swiss business world.

Among them is Mario Corti, who stepped down as chief financial officer of the food products giant Nestlé to take over as chief executive of Swissair's now defunct parent company, SAirGroup, in its last months.

Another defendant is a previous chief executive, Philippe Bruggisser, who oversaw the airline's expansion strategy until he was forced out in January 2001.

They and the other defendants — who include Jan Liwinski, former chief executive of the Polish airline LOT, former chief financial officers, top bankers, politicians and corporate leaders — will take turns appearing before the judges in the coming weeks. [....]
The trial will be page one material for Switzerland's newspapers for the next two months.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Nuclear power soon to be in vogue?

Even Der Speigel, with its Greens-certified view of nuclear energy ("Nein Danke") can't help but marvel at the interest in atomic power these days--though they do get their digs in here and there in the article.
Currently there are 435 atomic reactors generating electricity in 31 countries across the globe. They fill 6.5 percent of the world's total energy demand and use close to 70,000 tons of enriched uranium per year. Atomic plants produce one-sixth of the total electricity supply -- roughly on par with hydropower.

That number may soon rocket upwards. At present, 29 nuclear power plants are under construction and there are concrete plans to build another 64. Another 158 are under consideration. On the other end of the equation, only six are slowly being shut down in preparation for decommissioning [Germany is committed to decommisioning its plants--unless some political deal is made--P]. [...]

The international atomic energy lobby loves such talk [The lobby must be an offshoot of the Tri-lateral Commission--I've certainly never heard of it--P]. Almost 21 years after the Chernobyl disaster, and just a couple months after the most recent breakdown at Sweden's Forsmark reactor last July, the risks associated with nuclear power are largely fading into the background. So too are questions about the disposal of spent nuclear fuel and atomic weapons. The industry, in short, is preparing for a new boom. [....]
Like any other energy plant, nuclear power plants run on fuel, in this case, uranium. Thankfully, the world's major suppliers are friendly to the West: Canada and Australia.

Vlad the Terrible continues Russian petroleum bullying

On this day in 1547, Ivan the Terrible was crowned Russia's first Czar. Russia's newest Czar, Vlad Putin, has been busy making a reputation for economic ruthlessness. His latest: putting the squeeze on BP's huge petroleum investment. As it is a proven winner, Russia is seeking greater influence over the project. Putin is using the same methods he employed against Royal Dutch Shell's mega project in December, namely, finding various envirnmental transgressions, and threatening to have the project shut down.
[...] BP's position in Russia is looking more tenuous after another oil major, Royal Dutch Shell, was forced in December to cede control of the world's largest oil and natural gas development, known as Sakhalin 2, to Gazprom, the Russian energy monopoly.

"Time is not on their side, just as it was not on the side of the foreign owners of Sakhalin 2," James Fenkner, a managing partner at Red Star brokerage in Moscow, said by telephone.

Shell and two Japanese partners, Mitsui and Mitsubishi, sold a controlling stake in Sakhalin 2 after an environmental regulator threatened to freeze work on the $22 billion project. Ominously, that same agency, Rosprirodnadzor, has accused TNK-BP of illegal logging and drilling at a massive Siberian gas field called Kovykta. Now one of Browne's partners in the venture, the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, is negotiating on behalf of TNK-BP to resolve this dispute.

Even if BP manages to retain a 50 percent stake in the company, its Russian state-backed partner will have "huge leverage," said Stéphane Foucaud, an oil and gas analyst with Société Générale in London.

"Does that mean that going forward, TNK-BP would make decisions that are more in the Russian government's interest" than in its shareholders, he asked.

Any change to the TNK-BP structure could have serious repercussions for BP.

TNK-BP, which has 10.5 billion barrels of reserves, provides about a quarter of all of BP's production. It also brings in 15 percent of BP's net earnings. The company has no other major projects in the works that could take the place of TNK-BP if production falls over the short term.

The best-case scenario is that Gazprom buys out the Russian oligarchs and that the big projects that TNK-BP has planned still go ahead, said Neal McMahon, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein in London. The worst case is that Gazprom takes an even larger stake in the gas fields, including Kovykta, that TNK-BP is developing and forces BP to accept its pipeline and marketing plans, he said. [....]
As Putin has made his aspirations of controlling every aspect of Russia's petroleum very clear, I would bet on the worst case scenario. If it doesn't come to pass sooner, it surely will later.

Monday, January 15, 2007

France sought to join British Commonwealth

Sacre bleu! In 1956 France's Prime Minister Mollet proposed first to form a union with England, and when that didn't work, he sought to have France join the British Commonwealth.

A French historian nearly had a stroke on hearing the news:
Seeing these words for the first time, Henri Soutou, professor of contemporary history at Paris's Sorbonne University almost fell off his chair.

Stammering repeatedly he said: "Really I am stuttering because this idea is so preposterous. The idea of joining the Commonwealth and accepting the headship of Her Majesty would not have gone down well. If this had been suggested more recently Mollet might have found himself in court."
In the "let's ask Britain to be our friend" derby, Prime Minister Mollet's proposal ranks up there with Rudolf Hess's request for an alliance on the eve of the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Germany: Europe needs more nuclear power

Germany is all business after having taken over the EU presidency on January 1st. They've made energy--diversifying imports and developing local solutions--a priority. In a twofer, they argue that more nuclear power is called for, both to reduce dependence on foreign supplies and to lower green house gas emmissions.

Doubtless Russia's ham handed relations with nations that defy its energy ambitions helped Germany to see the light.

Good for them. However Merkel's government previously agreed to phase out atomic power in a deal with its coalition partners. Reversing that will be difficult.
The European Union will not succeed in meeting global targets to limit climate change unless more countries, including Germany, embrace nuclear energy, the German economics minister warned Wednesday.

Signaling his desire for Germany to reverse a government pledge to phase out nuclear power, the minister, Michael Glos, said the EU would not be able to meet the objectives of the Kyoto Protocol unless Germany and others reconciled themselves to nuclear energy. [...]

Opposition to nuclear energy has a long history in Germany. During the Cold War, opposition was linked to deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in West Germany. While German proponents contend that soaring energy needs, climate change and fears of energy-supply disruption make the use of nuclear power more vital than ever, skeptics counter that it is too costly and dangerous to be viable.

Merkel has vowed to uphold a government pledge to phase out nuclear energy, including shutting down all the country's reactors within the next 14 years. But the debate about the wisdom of a such a phase-out has been reignited by the current dispute between Russia and Belarus that has resulted in Moscow's suspension of oil deliveries to Europe.

On Tuesday, Merkel said the confrontation with Russia illustrated the need for a "comprehensive, balanced energy mix in Germany."

Proponents of nuclear energy in Germany and elsewhere received a boost Wednesday when the European Commission published a report saying that nuclear power was a key for Europe to combat climate change and improve its energy independence. It called for an analysis of nuclear energy in Europe and a strategy to increase its use. Nuclear energy is seen as satisfying 30 percent of Europe's energy needs by 2050.
The West has long let overblown fears of a nuclear catasrophe prevent it from embracing nuclear power. Any plans to build new plants can expect stiff opposition in court, further delaying this much needed component of a balanced energy policy. Nevertheless, debate is a necessary precondition to acceptance, and it at least has begun.

France's role in Rwanda genocide probed

Rwanda's Hutu-led attack on the Tutsi in 1994 (800,000 killed in less than three months) was the last example of genocide from a century known for genocide. From the Turk's attacks on the Armenians through Nazi Germany's near wiping out of Europe's Jews and the USSR's attempts at class genocide, the century pretty much started and ended with horrific attempts to wipe out *enemies* of the state.

France has long viewed parts of Africa as its special responsibility and diplomatic playground, and has been ruthless about advancing its interests there. Rwanda fell very much into that category. France supported the Hutu elite at the expense of the Tutsi minority, and may have been complicit in the bloodbath which followed the death of Rwanda's Hutu president.

A French investigating judge is now blaming the victims. He asserts that but for the Hutu president's death, the genocide wouldn't have occurred. He may have opened a can of worms.

The Guardian's Chris McGreal writes a very interesting article:
[...] [Judge] Bruguière's interpretation is highly contentious given that Hutu extremists had been threatening to kill Habyarimana for months and that plans for the genocide were well laid before the death squads went into action. It has not helped the judge's case that he did not visit Rwanda, but he did take evidence from men on trial at the international tribunal for organising the massacres, such as Théoneste Bagosora who might be regarded as the Himmler of Rwanda. Two of Bruguière's key witnesses, disaffected former RPF soldiers, have since accused him of using the indictments for political ends in an ongoing campaign by France against the present Rwandan leadership. [...]
Fed up with France's determination to absolve itself of blame (France supported, equipped and trained the Hutu elite, even during the genocide), Rwanda has opened its own investigation of France's role.
The commission has been delving into a stack of official papers abandoned by the defeated Hutu regime that sources say throw new light on the extent of French support for it, with large weapons shipments to the army, the training of the militias which later carried out the genocide, and French soldiers involved in frontline combat against the RPF [Tutsi insurgents--P] by overseeing the firing of artillery and by flying helicopter gunships. The year before the genocide, there were so many French weapons sloshing around Rwanda that hand grenades were on sale next to the fruit in Kigali market for about £1 each.

The commission's public hearings may cause France to regret resurrecting the past. One witness, Isidore Nzeyimana, a former military instructor, told the commission he worked with French officers who trained members of the Interahamwe [a Hutu militia, heavily implicated in the massacres--P], which led the killing. [...]

When the genocide started, Paris made no secret of where its loyalties lay. The French military flew in ammunition for government forces and, in the following weeks, a stream of Hutu officials travelled to Paris, including Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, who was later convicted of genocide by the international tribunal, for meetings with President François Mitterrand and the French prime minister. Even as the mass graves filled across Rwanda, Paris engineered the delivery of millions of dollars' worth of weapons to the Hutu regime from Egypt and South Africa.

Africa has traditionally been considered such a special case in Paris that France's policy is run out of the presidency. At the time, the "Africa cell" was headed by Mitterrand's son, Jean-Christophe, a close friend of the Habyarimanas. He later said that there could not have been a genocide because "Africans are not that organised". France's president did not deny what had happened, but took a view no less racist: "In such countries, genocide is not too important."
Nice bit of insight into how France views its African friends.

Now to why France supported the Hutu even once the extent of the attacks became known: France really, really, dislikes losing influence to the Anglo-Saxons, above all in Francophone Africa.
He [a French historian close to the government] added: "Of course, the arch-enemy in this cosy relationship, the hissing snake in the Garden of Eden, is the 'Anglo-Saxon'." Prunier [the historian--P] said French governments viewed "the whole world as a cultural, political and economic battlefield between France and the Anglo Saxons ... It is the main reason - and practically the only one - why Paris intervened so quickly and so deeply in the growing Rwandan crisis."

The RPF's invasion of Rwanda in 1990 rang all the alarm bells about encroaching Anglo-Saxon influence. The rebel front was dominated by Tutsis whose families had been driven into exile by wholesale massacres around the time of Rwanda's independence from Belgium in 1962. Many families settled in neighbouring Uganda where their children grew up speaking English, joined Yoweri Museveni's rebel movement that seized power in Uganda in 1986 and then began to plan an assault on their homeland. Kagame was among them.

France immediately sent troops and weapons to defend Habyarimana's regime. Politicians and the military top brass cast the conflict as between Francophone Hutus and invading Anglo-Saxon Tutsis - though 15% of Rwanda's population were Tutsis who had not left the country. Some in the French military talked of the RPF as wanting to destroy the Hutus, calling the rebels the "Black Khmers". Despite the growing evidence of a genocide in the making during the early 1990s, and the excesses of Habyarimana's regime in assassinating opponents and organising periodic massacres of Tutsi civilians, France's support did not waver.

Even as the Hutu government was facing collapse in the last phase of the genocide, and no one doubted that there had been a slaughter of Tutsis, France was trying to save the failing regime by sending troops to carve out a "safe zone" in the western parts of Rwanda still under Hutu control. "Operation Turquoise" was billed as an intervention "to stop the massacres and to protect the populations threatened with extermination". But, as the Rwandan commission into French actions has been hearing, the zone proved to be safe for the Hutu Interahamwe to carry on murdering and to protect the extremist government from capture and trial by the RPF. The killers understood this. At the roadblocks, they cheered the first French troops to arrive. Later, General Jean-Claude Lafourcade, commander of Operation Turquoise, admitted that the safe zone was intended to keep alive the Hutu government [....]

Rwanda's foreign minister says that one of the RPF's crimes in Paris's eyes is that it has shown other Francophone African countries that "France can be challenged. At the end of the day there is life away from France." French fears were not misplaced. The present Rwandan administration looks to the US and Britain as its principal allies outside Africa, and the Rwandan conflict helped bring down another French ally, Mobutu Sese Seko of what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. That country, too, is now ruled by an English-speaking president.
Even after the fait accompli of Rwandan independence from French influence, France seeks to hinder its return to normalcy. The warning to other Francophone nations is clear: cross us and we'll make your international life hell.

Rwanda's foreign minister, Murigande, accuses France of spending more than a decade punishing the RPF for its victory: "In all international forums - the World Bank, the IMF - France not only voted against any development programme that these institutions would want to undertake in Rwanda but it even went out of its way to mobilise other countries to vote against them." Before the genocide, France was the largest donor of any country to Rwanda. Today, it is the smallest.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bush's relentless pursuit of terrorists is vindicated in Somalia

Taking the threat of terrorism too lightly isn't among President Bush's failures. Sending a gunship over Somalia to kill high ranking terrorists shows that this president is relentless in his drive to purue them to the ends of the earth.

This piece in The Telegraph notes the exhaustive efforts made by the Bush administration to track terrorists, train and equip friendly forces, and generally seek to keep the pressure on the bad guys:
When it comes to prosecuting the worldwide campaign against al-Qa'eda, whether it is in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan or the inhospitable desert terrain of Somalia, the most important virtue a commander can possess is patience.

Tracking an elusive enemy such as Osama bin Laden's terror organisation is no easy task. While al-Qa'eda's main priority is to carry out spectacular terror attacks such as the September 11 bombings or the 1998 deadly suicide bomb attacks against the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the organisation invests just as much effort in ensuring that its key operatives escape detection.

This would explain why, after five years of unstinting effort by the US-led military coalition across a truly global stage, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the main pillars of the al-Qa'eda leadership, remain at large, as do many of those responsible for many of the other atrocities that have been committed in the name of militant Islam, whether in Africa or London.

But just because the foe remains elusive does not mean that the pursuer should lose hope. In the ever-shifting battleground that is the global war on terror, rare moments of opportunity appear when the foe is suddenly forced to break cover and make a run for it. That is when the canny commander moves in for the kill, using his overwhelming military superiority to ensure the enemy has no means of escape. [...]

At the end of last year, it looked as if Somalia had every chance of going the same way as Afghanistan under the Taliban in the late 1990s, with a group of radical Muslim clerics threatening to overthrow the legitimate government, take over the entire country and subject it to a brutal interpretation of sharia law. [...]

The prospect of a radical, pro-al-Qa'eda, Islamic state being established in east Africa was the nightmare scenario that American commanders had sought to avoid ever since they established their 2,500-strong foothold in the Horn of Africa in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

But how to prevent this from happening was another matter entirely. The American military's consciousness still bears the scars of its last attempt at military intervention in Somalia, in October 1993, when 18 American soldiers were killed after a Black Hawk helicopter was shot down during a gun battle with Somali militiamen (bin Laden himself claimed credit for teaching the Somalis how to shoot down a helicopter).

On this occasion, however, American blushes have been spared by the impressive job that the Ethiopian armed forces – which are trained and equipped by Washington – have achieved in driving the Islamic Courts out of Mogadishu and restoring some semblance of stability to what is arguably the world's most lawless city.

Most Africans, like most Americans, are deeply inimical to the creation of pro-al-Qa'eda, Islamic fundamentalist regimes that pose a threat to their security and liberty.

Consequently, a rare combination of African steadfastness and raw American power has won an important victory on this new battlefront in the war on terror, thereby frustrating attempts by Islamic militants to seize control of a strategically important country, and denying refuge to the instigators and perpetrators of acts of evil.

Sunday's events in Somalia lend credence to the warning the late President Ronald Reagan gave a previous generation of Islamic terrorists: you can run, but you can't hide.
Patience, the skilled tracking of terrorists, and the willingness to kill them when the opportunity presents itself is what is called for in the war. Thankfully, whatever his other failures as president, Bush gets the terror thing.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Amphibians: don't cry for me, Al Gore

Amphibians are valued for their seeming susceptibility to global warming. Many climate scientists point to their fragility and see them as the canary in the coal mine of global warming.

While this may be true of individual species, amphibians as a group do rather well over time. Their ability to bounce back from previous climate *disasters* is better understood thanks to a recent study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences summarized by New Scientist:
Amphibians bounced back spectacularly from a series of mass extinctions during their evolution, according to a new genetic analysis.

In the present day, biologists see amphibians as sentinels of environmental change. The extreme sensitivity of their skin makes them more prone than other organisms to soaking up toxins and suffering from fungal infection, and provides little protection from ultraviolet radiation, which causes genetic mutation. [...]

That said, a look at their latest evolutionary tree reveals that amphibians have a remarkable capacity to bounce back from environmental changes, says Kim Roelants of Vrije University in Brussels, and colleagues.

Their new research suggests that the amphibian class as a whole has recovered spectacularly from a series of mass extinction events that affected all life on earth, with explosive booms of speciation. "For instance, right after dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, at the Cretaceous-Tertiary border, there was a huge explosion of frog species," he says. [....]

RINO sightings up at Digger's Realm

After a several week hiatus, the latest carnival of the RINOs is up. Site host Digger's Realm collected several interesting posts from the various RINOs (Repubs/Independants Not Overdosed on the party kool-aid). He did a nice job; go have a look.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Chinese dragon tottering?

Is China heading for a fall? Will its rampant corruption and weird form of capitalism doom it to a day of reckoning that will end the miracle of its economic rise?

That's what Will Hutton writes in today's Guardian; from his article I would analogize modern China to the Catholic church prior to the Reformation: the rulers are corrupt, and the ideology they spout has little connection to the masses. The upshot of his lengthy article: the Chinese economy will falter if corruption and state control are not lessened, with potential disator to follow. He makes a good case.
[...] The truth is that China is not the socialist market economy the party describes, nor moving towards capitalism as the western consensus believes. Rather it is frozen in a structure that I describe as Leninist corporatism - and which is unstable, monumentally inefficient, dependent upon the expropriation of peasant savings on a grand scale, colossally unequal and ultimately unsustainable. It is Leninist in that the party still follows Lenin's dictum of being the vanguard, monopoly political driver and controller of the economy and society. And it is corporatist because the framework for all economic activity in China is one of central management and coordination from which no economic actor, however humble, can opt out.

In this environment genuine wholesale privatisation is impossible and liberalisation has well-defined limits, as President Hu Jintao himself brutally reminds us. The party, he says, "takes a dominant role and coordinates all sectors. Party members and party organisations in government departments should be brought into full play so as to realise the party's leadership over state affairs". [...]

Absolute power corrupts, and the Chinese Communist party has become one of the most corrupt organisations the world has ever witnessed. The combination of absolute power and an ideology that palpably no longer describes reality is a virus that is morally and psychologically undermining the regime. And if the regime wobbles, then its capacity to sustain the unsustainable economic structures will wobble and Leninist corporatism will unravel. Beijing's authority could fragment and China's provinces reassert their destructive independence as they did in the 1910s and 20s, or a new and fiercely repressive regime could try to hold the country together abandoning economic openness and market reforms - and even pick some international fights (such as invading Taiwan?) to rally the country to its side. It is because this prospect is so real that the task of peacefully moving to a sustainable capitalism, and building the necessary institutions to do it, is so vital for both China and the world.
China is increasingly selling its economic model to developing countries, especially in Africa. The potential to bring economic improvements without the usual accompanying political demands for representation is quite appealing for corrupt rulers everywhere.

We'll have to see if China can pull it off. I'm guessing sometime in the next 20 years will see a China confronted with monumental social problems--a topic not brought out in the article.

And the biggest sporting news this week...

Forget the NFL playoffs and the national soccer league results. The Swiss men's ski team won a slalom race for the first time in more than 100 races. Unbelievable that they had struggled so much over the past several years.
[...] It was astonishing — almost an insult to nature — that about five years ago the Swiss forgot how to ski race. These glacier-capped peaks above Bern saw the birth of the sport almost a century ago. In the valley below, at the headquarters of the International Ski Federation, Swiss men have been running the sport since 1951. And Switzerland has an abundance of the sport's essential elements: mountains, snow and clocks.

But each year since 2003, the Swiss team has fallen one more position down the rankings of the sport's premier circuit, the Alpine World Cup. Last year, they hit an all-time low of fifth, behind Austria, the United States, Italy and Norway. [....]
Well, things look to be slowly turning, thank goodness.

What 200 calories look like

On a diet? Of course you are. Here are pictures of how much 200 calories of various foods look.

I'm switching to celery.

Saw it first on Medgadget.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Boozing dogs soon to find it easier to hail a cab at Minneapolis airport

Many Muslim cabdrivers working at the Minneapolis airport are in hot water for refusing to take passengers traveling with dogs, or alcohol or, Allah forbid, shoe-throwing dogs carrying alcohol for the family pig.

The controversy has been blogged about before, most famously by Tim Blair (whose commenters made short work of dealing with the flap), and less famously by me. It's back in the news again because the airport authorities are fed up with the recalcitrant cabbies. An earlier plan sought to identify cabbies unwilling to carry all passengers with special lights, but this wasn't pursued, likely because the cabbies realized that those cabs wouldn't be patronized on principle.

The latest plan is the simplest. Refuse legitimate fares and you risk losing your cabbie license. Make it happen, I say.
Some Muslim cab drivers are refusing service to a growing number of passengers with alcohol or dogs, and officials at Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport are trying to fight it."Our expectation is that if you're going to be driving a taxi at the airport, you need to provide service to anybody who wants it," said Patrick Hogan, spokesman for the Metropolitan Airport Commission.

Each month, about 100 people are denied cab service at the airport, and refusals for religious reasons have grown in recent months, airport officials said. About three-quarters of the 900 taxi drivers at the airport are Somali, many of them Muslim.

The belief that carrying alcohol or dogs, including those that help people with disabilities, violates religious beliefs is "unfortunate," Airports Commissioner Bert McKasy said.

Officials on Wednesday asked the commission for permission to hold public hearings on a proposal that would suspend or revoke drivers' airport licenses for refusing service for reasons other than safety concerns. The commission is expected to vote Jan. 16.

A driver who refuses to transport a passenger with a service dog, in violation of the federal American with Disabilities Act, already faces a 30-day suspension of the airport license, Hogan said. A driver who refuses to transport someone carrying wine is told to go to the back of the taxicab line.

Last year, the airports commission received a fatwa, or religious edict, from the Minnesota chapter of the Muslim American Society saying "Islamic jurisprudence" prohibits taxi drivers from carrying passengers with alcohol, "because it involves cooperating in sin according to Islam." [...]

Given the religious concerns, Hassan Mohamud, an imam and director of the Islamic Law Institute at the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, said he would ask airport officials to reconsider.

Eva Buzek, a flight attendant, said she was recently refused service by five taxi drivers when she was carrying wine as she returned from a trip to France.
"In my book, when you choose to come to a different country, you make some choices," said Buzek, a native of Poland. "I never expected everything to be the same way as in my homeland, and I adjusted. I never dreamed of imposing my beliefs on somebody else." [....]
This discussion shouldn't be happening. Without question those who feel a religuous obligation to deny carrying all passengers are either in the wrong job or the wrong religion.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Peak oil? Not yet

The theory of peak oil has been bandied about for more than 100 years. It was brought up to date by King Hubbard back in the 1950s, when he correctly predicted that peak oil production in the lower 48 states was less than a couple of decades off. Since then others have used his methods to predict--sometimes to the day--when global production would peak, leaving less than 50% in the ground.

The theory periodically comes into fashion. The respected journal Nature has a fine article on the history of peak oil predictions, as well as the pros and cons of the theory:
[...] Matthew Simmons, an energy investment banker in Houston, Texas, and self-described "petro-pessimist", argues that the world's great oilfields are moving quickly towards the end of their production, or have already passed into rapid decline. The North Sea, for instance, is the only place that a significant new discovery has been made outside of nations in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Russia and Alaska in the past four decades. It is now in eclipse — production in the region peaked in 1999, which is earlier, Simmons says, than expected. The United Kingdom no longer exports oil, he notes, and production in Norway — the North Sea's long-term stalwart — is also declining. And no new giant oilfields are taking the place of those that have already passed their peaks, says Simmons.

Some people think that the declines we are seeing are indicators that the world is on the verge of, or has already passed, the maximum amount of oil that can physically be produced. In their view, oil production follows a bell-shaped trajectory, with the peak occurring when half of the total reserves have been consumed. Therefore, it should, in theory, be easy to determine whether the peak has already occurred or whether it is yet to come. Total up the world's oil reserves, estimate the rate at which countries have produced oil, and you'll know where you are in the trajectory. If the reserves are more or less equal to the amount already pumped, then production is at its peak.

[...] But some don't accept these premises. To them, these arguments are simplistic geological determinism that does not take into account the role of oil prices. To the dissenters, reserves are not a geological given but a function of the current price and the extraction technology that price can buy. New reserves will be developed as the market demands.

Meanwhile, a study from energy analysts Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) in Massachusetts sees no sign of any peak in production occurring before 2030. And, crucially, CERA doesn't see a peak with a steep downside — rather a crest followed by an undulating plateau [...]
The article notes that predictions of peak oil have come and gone many times. To be sure, the time when more than 50% of the world's petroleum has been produced is coming. However, given continued improvements in extraction technologies, the lifetimes of many producing fields can be greatly extended. New search techniques will also lead to many new discoveries.
As the great oilfields of the world age — most of them are now undergoing secondary, if not tertiary, extraction — other discoveries could help to plug the supply gap, argues Jackson [a petroleum analyst]. In 2000, an analysis by the US Geological Survey of petroleum reserves estimated that there were 1 trillion more barrels of oil worldwide than previously thought. The survey estimated that any worldwide peak in oil production wouldn't happen until 2030 at the earliest. In part as a result of the high prices of the past few years, roughly 500 oil-development projects are slated to start producing oil in the next five years, says Jackson, and these will range in size from an estimated million barrels per day down to 10,000 barrels per day. [....]
The article goes into much greater depth on the various arguments. But one thing it doesn't mention is how many of peak oil supporters are currently buying oil futures, in other words, putting their money where their mouths are.

Peak oil is assuredly coming but likely not for some decades. Prices are currently high because demand is outstripping available supplies. Our available supplies are unable to keep pace because production is too low, not due to the lower overall level of petroleum in the ground.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

France and Germany: different directions

It's praise Germany day here at Pigilito central. Germany has been doing plenty of things right over the past 18 months, beginning with the choice to dump Gerd Schroeder and elect Angela Merkel. The coalition she leads has gotten down to business and as a result German businesses are doing quite well.

France on the other hand, is spinning its wheels and remains pre-occupied with countering all things American.

Two articles illustrate.

Germany doing far better than France:
Europe's manufacturing sector steamed into 2007 with strong growth amid buoyant global demand, according to a closely watched survey of purchasing managers released Tuesday that also highlighted growing divergences between Germany and France, the two largest economies in the 13-nation euro zone. [...]

German manufacturers have been profiting for years now from a strong global expansion, but in recent months they have also seen the awakening of long-dormant consumers. [...]

"We see a strong consumer sector emerging in Germany, and that creates a broad base for the expansion that we do not see in the other major countries of the euro zone," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at the London- based NTC Economics, which publishes the survey.

But the data showed widening differences between France and Germany, a factor bound to complicate deliberations at the European Central Bank over how high to raise interest rates in 2007 as it strives to keep inflation firmly under control, economists said.

Kevin Gaynor, an economist with Royal Bank of Scotland, which sponsors the survey, said that the overall results for the euro zone contained "some worrying, divergent national trends." "France has become the weakest link in terms of manufacturing growth," Gaynor said. [...]

That is likely to make French companies more sensitive than German ones to the appreciating euro, which hit $1.33 against the U.S. dollar late last year and now stands at a slightly lower level. A stronger currency makes exports less price-competitive.

Since higher interest rates in the euro zone heighten the appeal of euro-denominated assets, the ECB's move toward tighter credit may also create a bit of a dilemma for the bank, economists said. German manufacturers have proved they can withstand the strong euro — and with fat profit margins, they could probably handle even more — but the same cannot be said for other major euro-zone countries, including France.

Still, the bank has signaled that it plans to raise rates again this year, a step that could very well propel the euro to new heights and add to the woes of French manufacturers. [....]
Which means that this manufacturing slowdown (relative to Germany) will be an election issue. France's choice: More of mommy soothing the troubled brows of her children (Royal and the Socialists) or needed economic reforms (Sarkozy).

Germany, in addition to pulling away from France economically, is alo pulling away ideologically. France's grandiose plan to counter Google takes a hit:
The German government confirmed Tuesday that it had decided to opt out of a multimillion-euro research effort to build a European search engine that would compete with Google, in what one participant described as a disagreement with France over the basic design of the project.

French participants in the secretive project, called Quaero, which means "I seek" in Latin, vowed to continue their efforts to develop the search engine, possibly with funding from the European Union.

The project was first revealed in April 2005 by President Jacques Chirac of France and the former German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, as a European response to the U.S. search giant Google, but now it will have to proceed without support from the largest EU country. [....]
The history of Google and of France's attempt to duplicate it is instructive. Two private sector people started Google in the US; it went on to enormous success. France's version is state planned and funded, and will likely be infrequently used once available. Free market forces usually prevail over central planning. The private sector will come up with Google's replacement, not a government project.

I imagine that France had visions of an Airbus type project dancing in its head. Airbus could only have gotten off the ground (bad pun, sorry) with governmental backing. It's A380 problems aside, it has been a wonderful success. Doubtless it would do even better were it not lumbered by France's political meddling, but it remains a success nonetheless.

The difference is that the Airbus required huge start up costs to be underwritten and guaranteed. That is far less the case with software. France remains wedded to the grand project. Let's see how this one turns out sans Germany.

German unemployment lower than expected

What a difference an election makes (from the FT):
Unemployment in Germany recorded another steep monthly drop in December, underscoring the robustness of the year-old rebound under way in Europe’s largest economy.

Seasonally adjusted figures released by the Federal Labour Agency on Wednesday put the number of jobseekers in Germany at 4.1m, down 108,000 on the month, a far bigger drop than economists had anticipated after a 86,000 fall in November.

The “extraordinary fall in unemployment”, as described by the Agency, put the unemployment rate in the country at 9.8 per cent. The latest internationally comparable figures from the International Labour Organisation showed a 7 per cent jobless rate in November.

“These figures are considerably better than expected and underpin the view that the recovery in Germany has become self-sustainable,” Elga Bartsch, economist at Morgan Stanley, said.
How can the Socialist Party either claim credit for this or tamp down the good news? Time will tell.