Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wednesday Morning Quick Hits - introducing World Wide Wednesday

'Quake lakes' may spill, and that endangers rescue efforts
No, not in China - in Japan. The 7.2 magnitude temblor that hit Kyoto on Saturday dammed rivers in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, and created eleven of the instant bodies of water. Now they are in danger of flooding, and the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry plans to install pumps to drain the lakes and to pile up sandbags to prevent flooding. The Meteorological Agency said the quake-hit areas might have substantial rainfall beginning Thursday and possibly lasting through the weekend, renewing its warning against fresh mudslides.

Korean consumers alarmed over mislabeled U.S. beef imports
Two officials from the National Agricultural Products Quality Management Service raided the meat department of the Guwol branch of the supermarket chain Homever last weekend, acting on a tip that the store was selling U.S. beef, deceptively labeled. The products were marked "Australian" but the clerks admitted it was actually American. The deception has sent shockwaves through the country, coming as it does amid loud public outcry and massive street protests over the safety of U.S. beef. Because it came to light only through a tip provided to inspectors, the public is now suspicious that the practice is more widespread than one branch of one superstore.

Turkish Foreign Minister urges "fairness" from the French in EU accession talks
Turkey wants to join the E.U. and France wants to keep them out, and France will take over the bloc's presidency next month. Foreign Minister Ali Babacan urged France not to raise obstacles to further progress in the maddeningly slow accession process. "We expect that the French presidency will be a fair, impartial and transparent presidency as we have been told on various occasions. We believe our EU accession process will be further advanced during the French presidency," Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told a joint press conference with his Slovenian counterpart. Slovenia currently holds the rotating presidency. Talks originally got underway in 2005, but there has been little progress. Babacan said the EU should honor its commitments to the full membership of Turkey and open talks once Turkey meets technical requirements.

Philippine TV host freed by Abu Sayyef
Nine days after being taken hostage by the Islamic militant group, Cecilia "Ces" Drilon, her cameraman and a university professor who was taken captive with them walked out of the forest shortly before midnight on Tuesday. The regional police commander chief superintendent, said the three "looked fine" and had been picked up from a village on the southern island of Jolo. He declined to say whether or not ransom money changed hands to gain their release.

German voters "furious" over skyrocketing energy prices With the price of natural gas expected to increase by 40% in Germany, populism is surging, with politicians promising to put more money back in the pockets of ordinary Germans. German Chancellor Angela Merkel fears thatthe time is fast approaching when any measure designed to provide financial relief will be perceived as such for no more than a couple of weeks -- and then the citizens will already be clamoring for the next measure. But no government is capable of providing enough tax relief to offset the anticipated rise in energy prices.

Bank of England warns of inflation Inflation in England is at its highest since July 1992, likely to rise above 4 per cent. When the rate rises to a defined point, the Governor of the Bank is obliged to write a letter of explanation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The letter to the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, said that "in the past month, oil prices have risen by about 15 per cent and wholesale gas futures prices for the coming winter have increased by a similar amount. As things stand, inflation is likely to raise sharply in the second half of the year, to above 4 per cent," wrote the Governor, Mervyn King. He went on to add "I must stress that there are considerable uncertainties, in both directions, around this." He explained that almost all of the increase in inflation was driven by price increases in food and virtually all areas of the energy sector.

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