|To: George Papadopoulos who wrote (17449)||3/21/2001 9:07:30 PM|
|March 21, 2001|
Europe is freaking out
Mad cow disease is a real threat and has helped stoke the fear gripping the continent. But Europeans are now so timorous, they cannot contemplate any risk without panicking
Remy De La Mauviniere, The Associated Press
European leaders have adopted health hazards -- real and imagined -- as the continent's new bogeyman.
LONDON - Spend a little time in Europe, and you start to feel nothing is safe. Over here, cellphones cause brain damage and T-bone steaks are lethal. Flying economy class gives you blood clots. Even that plastic toy bobbing in the bathtub is toxic.
At least that is what Europeans are told. These days, hardly a week goes by without another health scare sweeping the continent. Never mind that many of the warnings are absurd, or based on flimsy science. Europeans are now so jittery, so convinced that modern life is a minefield, that the merest whiff of risk sends them scurrying for cover.
Even as incomes rise and lifespans lengthen, the continent is gripped by a wave of Euro-fear, a shared continental cringe.
"Europe has lost its nerve," says Frank Furedi, a sociologist at Britain's University of Kent and an expert on the new malaise. "Every problem today, however small, is represented as a major disaster."
One health scare is no longer enough for this cowering continent. With the panic over mad cow disease just starting to ease, Europe has found another reason to freak out: the outbreak in Britain and France of foot-and-mouth disease, which does not even affect humans. And that's just for starters.
Every week brings another study suggesting some cherished food, textile, gadget or hobby may be harmful. The phthalates used to soften plastic toys are poisonous; a standard measles vaccine causes autism; electrical power lines trigger leukemia; genetically modified foods are hazardous. Last week, European mothers were warned that babies breast-fed beyond four months are prone to heart disease in later life.
The health scares are often sparked by a single study. Some dominate the headlines for weeks, others disappear after a day. But the net effect is always the same: more confusion, more boycotts, more fear.
The hysteria is a little puzzling. After all, Europe is the birthplace of Rationalism and its population is well-educated. The continent has also weathered some of the most apocalyptic events in human history, from the bubonic plague to the Holocaust and two World Wars. So why have Europeans suddenly turned timorous?
The very real threat posed by the human variant of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), has certainly played a part. Yet commentators blame environmentalists, the media and especially politicians for fostering a culture of paranoia and panic.
To fill the void left by Soviet communism, European leaders have adopted health hazards -- real or imagined -- as the new bogeyman. "Without the old battle between right and left, politicians need a new mission," says Thomas Deichmann, a German writer who specializes in health scares. "Today, the easiest way for them to connect with the people is to pander to their fears about health."
Which makes the European Union panderer-in-chief. Driven by the so-called precautionary principle, which holds that anything that may pose a danger should be banned or heavily regulated, the EU churns out reams of safety measures that all add up to a single message: that not even reasonable precautions and common sense can save us from the health hazards that lurk round every corner.
Under EU rules, for instance, sports stadiums cannot sell off old plastic seats as souvenirs if they contain cadmium -- even though a fan would have to eat a whole seat to be poisoned by the substance. Another EU directive states that every pair of rubber boots must come with a user's manual in 12 languages. A stringent law on gas emissions threatens to bankrupt scores of European crematoria.
Nothing escapes the crusade to make life 100% predictable and safe. A few years ago, the EU famously outlawed bananas with an "abnormal curvature."
The Brussels-based regulators are even trying to reinvent the ladder. Last September, they passed a directive prescribing a wider gap between rungs. The aim is to stop people from indulging in the "high-risk practice" of resting their knees on the next rung up.
The latest rumour from Brussels is that all 50-year-olds will have to retake their driving tests.
"The European Commission is obsessed with eliminating every last risk from human life," says Andreas Hansen, a Copenhagen-based pollster and sociologist. "By treating the public like small children, by nannying them all the time, they are making Europeans into people who cannot contemplate risk, however trivial, however theoretical, without panicking."
The culture of fear stems partly from earlier failures by European officialdom to defend public health. In the 1980s, hundreds died across the continent after eating French soft cheeses and Belgian pâté tainted with listeriosis. Around the same time, the French government allowed HIV-tainted blood to contaminate hundreds of people. More recently, EU governments shattered public confidence by first playing down the risk from BSE, then exaggerating it.
"Europeans have lost faith in the institutions designed to protect their health," says Pascal Linardi, a Paris-based political analyst. "Now, people always suspect the worst, and are reluctant to listen when experts claim something is safe."
A few weeks ago, Europe worked itself into a frenzy over unsubstantiated reports that depleted-uranium munitions had damaged the health of NATO troops in Yugoslavia. Even as scientists called for calm, governments scrambled to contain Balkan War Syndrome.
Sometimes a single death is enough to put Europe on red alert. When a young woman died recently after flying to London from Sydney, experts blamed her death on "Economy-Class Syndrome," where a blood clot forms after sitting long hours in a cramped airplane seat. The British press predicted thousands of deaths, prompting terrified travellers to cancel flights.
To its own surprise, Europe, which launched the Industrial Revolution and still leads the world in fields ranging from genetics to cellphones, is now a continent of technophobes. Every scientific breakthrough leaves the public feeling slightly queasy.
Some see the technophobia as part of the backlash against globalization. Others tie it to Europe's lingering anti-Americanism, since the United States is more inclined to accept advances.
"In North America you find a robust acceptance of progress," says Dr. Furedi. "In Europe people have come to regard progress with tremendous suspicion."
Even modern European philosophers affect a sulky Luddism. Gunter Grass, the German novelist, believes melancholy is the natural European response to the "lusty appeals of progress." Unlike the happy-go-lucky American, he argues, a European is more at home with "knowledge that engenders disgust."
Nowhere is that ethos more apparent than in the debate over genetically modified crops. Many studies show new corn, soyabean and other hybrids to be safe. Canadians and Americans eat them without blinking. But to Europeans they are "Frankenstein foods." Last spring, when trace quantities of modified seeds were found in bags of Canadian seed sold to EU farmers, European consumers went berserk, returning thousands of boxes of cornflakes to supermarkets. Since then, the EU has made it extremely difficult to plant new genetic hybrids here.
Technophobia also sours Europe's love affair with cellphones. Even as they chatter into their handsets, Europeans are haunted by research suggesting the transmission signals can fry the human brain.
The key word here is "suggesting." Every EU health scare feeds on the lack of conclusive scientific evidence. Having long ago transferred their faith from priests to scientists as the ultimate guardians of the truth, Europeans now find the men and women in white coats don't have all the answers.
Researchers disagree, for instance, on whether earphones reduce or increase the risk of radiation from cellphones. By the same token, no one really knows how BSE jumps from cows to humans, or how long the incubation period is.
Grey areas allow the media to speculate wildly. In Germany, even the stodgy Frankfurter Allgemeine likened BSE to the 14th-century Black Death: "Once it broke out, bubonic plague spread like wildfire. BSE is capable of doing the same." Since 1995, BSE has killed 84 people, far fewer than die on Europe's roads every day.
Yet the culture of fear may not last forever. Some think Europeans will eventually regain their nerve.
"Over the long term, people are not satisfied with irrational arguments all the time," says Mr. Deichmann. "One day, Europeans will grow tired of all these health scares."
What, one wonders, will they worry about then?
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (5)|
|To: goldsnow who wrote (17450)||3/22/2001 3:39:40 AM|
|From: GUSTAVE JAEGER|
This whole foot-and-mouth disease is a hoax... It's BS.
First we had the ESB and now the fièvre aphteuse (in French). So the outcome is that all the meatstuff that currently makes up the bulk of Western Europe's agricultural output gets hit. But the REAL reason these farm plagues have been spun out of control by the media is purely POLITICAL: Germany is tired of footing the bill for Southern Europe (read France)'s mom-and-pop farms... The so-called CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) is a costly boondoggle that won't be sustainable once Poland and other Eastern European countries join the EU --in 2004. Problem is, farmers are a troublesome constituency and, even though they merely account for no more than 3% of the EU's workforce, political leaders --both leftist and rightist-- don't have the b.... to tell them the truth, that is "It's OVER guys, you'd better close your farm biz and go to the cities.... plenty of good jobs await you --burger flippers, shoeshining, cabbies, you name it!"
Part of the reason for the politicos' pussyfooting is Europe's gerrymandering that dates back to the XIXth century when the countryside was granted much more deputies and senators than the (proletarian) big cities...
Hence the current plagues that swirl over Europe's agribusiness are a GODSEND: it'll streamline the whole sector. Here're a few key data:
(1 Hectare = 2.4710 Acres)
The U.S. has about 2 million farms over more than 420 millions of "hectares" whereas Europe has more than 7 million farms over less than 135 millions of "hectares"... Get the picture?
Add to that the cost of modernizing the Polish agribusiness (to make it compliant with the EU's health criteria --whatever that means!) and the cost of building up the European army (Eurocopter, Euro-heavy-carrier [a super C-130],...) and you get enough clues to see why it's time for the EU to pull the plug on Subsidized Cowtown.
Of course, the Germans could have done it the blunt way and tell public opinion that "enough is enough" but such an open move would have had a disastrous PR impact as the French would have accused the Germans of wrecking the very basis of the European Union.... But what can we do about an "Act of God", eh?
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|To: goldsnow who wrote (17450)||3/22/2001 4:28:14 AM|
|From: GUSTAVE JAEGER|
Let me give you one more clue....
How come the ESB, the foot-and-mouth BS, and whatnot have not been --AND WILL NEVER BE-- reported in POLAND and other livestock producers in Eastern Europe so far??? Face it, Goldsnow: according to the media, this F&M disease has already spread over the whole planet! Cases have been reported as far as Mongolia, Saudi Arabia... even Argentina's most famous cattle are not spared! Yet, nothing, not a single tiny weeny case has been spotted in Eastern Europe so far... Did Pope John Paul bless all the Polish cows?? You tell me.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|To: goldsnow who wrote (17450)||3/22/2001 5:26:50 AM|
|From: GUSTAVE JAEGER|
|Footnote to my previous post:|
Playing Agricultural Poker: Poland and the EU
09 November 2000
Poland's European Union negotiator Jan Kulakowski announced that his country may delay its accession if the EU doesn't provide direct subsidies for Polish agriculture. Poland's economy depends on agriculture more than do most EU nations. The EU is unlikely to concede to Poland's demands, however, and Poland will probably join the EU anyway.
The EU's Common Agricultural Policy, which subsidizes Europe's agricultural sector, is already overextended. Forty-six percent of the EU budget supports the program, although agriculture only accounts for 2 percent of the EU's overall GDP.
Nearly 22 percent of Poland's work force is in agriculture, compared with Germany's 3 percent or France's 5 percent. Poland's agricultural sector, however, accounts for only 6 percent of the country's GDP. Polish agriculture's economic contribution to the EU would not be enough to warrant subsidizing its work force.
The EU, which may reduce the scope of the CAP program in the near future, is likely to ignore Poland's threat of delayed accession. Poland needs the EU far more than the EU needs Poland. Plans for expansion, through the Czech Republic and Hungary, are likely to proceed, thereby isolating and pressuring Poland. In the meantime, Poland would miss out on membership benefits. Faced with this reality, Poland will probably withdraw its threat and proceed along its scheduled course with the EU.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|To: George Papadopoulos who wrote (17452)||3/22/2001 5:33:45 AM|
|From: GUSTAVE JAEGER|
|Behind the livestock's smoke screen.... the Polish heavyweight:|
June 18, 2000 No. 25 (608) - News
EU: No Subsidies for Polish Farmers
Franz Fischler, the European Union Commissioner on Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, had some tough words for Poland during his official visit June 7-9.
Fischler warned that protectionism in agricultural trade was not a remedy for persistent structural problems. He also voiced doubts about whether full direct payments for the Polish farmers were the most appropriate instrument in a period of rapid structural change. This was tough talk on one of the most divisive issues to separate Poland and its future EU partners.
Poland declared that it will introduce EU agricultural law to the Polish legal code and implement it quickly, so that all should be in place by the end of 2002. Poland hopes for the full incorporation of the farming sector into the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which of course would mean Polish farmers would participate fully in its benefits [Aaargh!!]. Poland believes its future production quotas should correspond to this country's potential for agricultural production. The Polish government hopes that farmers will benefit from all direct payments in the framework of CAP just after accession. According to Polish Agriculture Minister Artur Balazs, that would mean about 2.5 billion euros of direct support annually for about 60 percent of Polish farmers. [and Bob's your uncle!]
But Fischler said the request that Polish farmers receive full direct payments from the date of accession was a matter for the enlargement negotiations. "I am not convinced that direct payments as we know them under the CAP are appropriate to a period of rapid structural change," he said. "We must ask ourselves whether CAP payments will help to unlock the potential of Polish agriculture or hinder its adaptation to the conditions of the single market and create social dislocation. It might be better to help the Polish rural economy overcome existing structural handicaps through well-targeted rural development policies and transitional support for the worst-off." However, he said he would not accept different versions of the CAP for old and new members in the long term, thus accepting Poland's argument that there should be no such inequities.
Accepting the EU legislation would not be enough, however. Poland will need to incorporate the acquis communautaire into its legal system and ensure its effective implementation on becoming an EU member. "This includes the need to develop the capacity to handle policies such as CAP and the detailed legislation of food quality, food safety, and veterinary and plant health standards," Fischler said, underlining also that only products compatible with EU standards will benefit from the single market.
Probably the EU will insist on the need for full implementation by Poland, from the day of accession, of EU quality standards for products such as fruit and vegetables or the butterfat content of milk and registration of slaughter animals. How to organize agricultural trade will be a topic for future discussion. The EU definitely opposes a transitional period for the Polish milk and meat sectors to achieve EU standards. Instead, EU negotiators want Poland to guarantee the standards for all Polish exports to EU countries.
The EU commissioner underlined that the enlargement negotiations should not be a fight to win points, but rather a process of seeking mutually acceptable solutions. "We don't have a final position on direct payments for the time being," he said.
One important issue is pre-accession aid for Polish farmers. The EU has allocated 168 million euros to Poland annually, as of this year, under the SAPARD program for agriculture and rural development. The Polish SAPARD plan is the subject of negotiations between the Ministry of Agriculture and the European Commission.
Liberalization of agricultural trade is still one of the most contentious issues between Poland and the EU. Brussels wants Poland to reduce higher 1999 tariffs for grain, meat, sugar and yogurt. For products considered "non-sensitive," an immediate and full liberalization of trade was proposed. The so-called "double zero approach" provides for abandoning export subsidies and liberalizing trade within tariff quotas at zero duty. According to Fischler, tariff increases might provide only short-term relief for Polish farmers, but they do not improve their competitiveness. In the long term, he said, they would be harmful for Polish agriculture. In 1999 Poland decided to increase the import tariff on pork from 60 percent to 83.3 percent because the export refunds granted by the EU were high. Then Brussels reduced the refunds to a lower level, but the higher Polish tariffs remain in place.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|To: George Papadopoulos who wrote (17452)||3/23/2001 1:54:48 PM|
|<<<-- DJ Yugoslav President Criticizes NATO's Air Strikes --|
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP)--Yugoslavia's pro-democratic president criticized
Friday NATO allies for the 78-day airstrikes against Yugoslavia but pledged
cooperation with the alliance.
"We must remember all victims and horrors of NATO's bombing," said Yugoslav
President Vojislav Kostunica in a statement marking March 24 - Remembrance Day -
on which NATO launched its air attacks in 1999 to force former president
Slobodan Milosevic to end violence against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
Kostunica and his 18-party reformist coalition replaced Milosevic last October
and relations between NATO and the Balkan country have improved since then.
Kostunica said that 1,500 civilians, including 81 children and hundreds of
policemen and soldiers, were killed during the airstrikes, and much of
Yugoslavia's infrastructure was destroyed.
But the president, a moderate nationalist, called also for closer ties with
the alliance: "Our future lies in the cooperation with the international
community and NATO."
He also said that the "cooperation will be much easier if all accept the truth
that NATO bombs mainly killed Serbs, but also Albanian women and children."
Kostunica referred to the accidental air attacks on two convoys of Albanian
civilians in Kosovo in 1999 when dozens of people were killed and wounded.
He added that "Yugoslavia's young democracy" will try to preserve the
multi-ethnic state and prevent "new suffering and wars."
"But wrong moves and evading the truth can only contribute to new
catastrophes. We need help, not stumbling blocks." >>>
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (1)|