Oil prices plunge after Opec meeting

Opec ministers decided not to cut oil production


The price of oil slumped after the Opec oil producers cartel decided not to cut output at its meeting in Vienna

Opec’s secretary general Abdallah Salem el Badri said they would not try to shore up prices by reducing production

There’s a price decline That does not mean that we should really rush and do something he said

Following the announcement Brent crude fell below $72 a barrel, hitting lows previously seen in August 2010.

The 12 Opec members decided to maintain production at 30 million barrels per day as first agreed in December 2011.

We don’t want to panic. I mean it, said Mr el Badri We want to see the market, how the market behaves, because the decline of the price does not reflect a fundamental change

Crude oil prices have fallen 30% since June on sluggish global demand and rising production from the US.

The fall in the oil price has been causing concern for several members of the oil cartel, as most require a price above $80 a barrel to balance their government budgets and many need prices to be above $100 a barrel.

Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states can resist for a while said Simon Wardell, energy expert at Global Insight

They have significant financial assets that mean they can sustain a lower oil price. They can secure their budgets without a higher oil price

Saudi Arabia is the largest producer within the Opec oil producing cartel

Analysts suggest the strategy of maintaining output may be aimed at retaining dominance of the market in the face of increasing shale oil production in the United States.

The shale boom has been one of the drivers behind the decline in the oil price

But as the oil price dips, shale becomes less economical to produce.

If oil prices are allowed to remain low for some time that could cap shale production over the longer term. So keeping oil prices low may in fact make sense for Opec

The Saudis want Opec to remain relevant, said analyst Phil Flynn, speaking before the end of the meeting in Vienna. The only way in their mind is to subdue the US shale producer

Opec accounts for a third of the world’s oil sales

China’s factory activity stagnates

China’s factory sector plays a major role in the economy’s pace of growth


Activity in some of China’s factories and workshops hit a six month low in November, a fresh survey has shown.

The preliminary data from lending giant HSBC, called the purchasing manager’s index (PMI), measures a number of variables including new export orders.

It showed that factory output contracted in November for the first time in six months.

China’s manufacturing sector is a key driver of its economy, which is key to global growth.

The preliminary PMI reading came in at 50.0 for November, down from October’s reading of 50.4. A reading of below 50 indicates that factory activity is contracting.

November’s reading was the lowest since May and compared with analysts expectations for a reading of 50.3.

The numbers add to speculation that China’s communist government may introduce more stimulus measures, particularly after data released in October showed that the economy grew at its slowest pace since the global financial crisis.

The PMI data from HSBC, which measures smaller factories, together with official PMI data, which measures larger factories, is closely watched by analysts.

Tony Nash, global vice president of Delta Economics, told the BBC he was not surprised by November’s figures.

“We expected this slowdown in China’s PMI this month,” he said, “and we have muted expectations for much of the first quarter of next year, with a likely seasonal pickup in February or March.”

Chief China economist at HSBC, Hongbin Qu, said that disinflationary pressures remained strong on the mainland and that the labour market showed further signs of weakening.

“We still see uncertainties in the months ahead from the property market and on the export front [and] we think more monetary and fiscal easing measures should be deployed,” he said.

In October, official data from China showed the economy had expanded at its slowest pace since March 2009, with gross domestic product rising by 7.3% in the third quarter from a year earlier, compared to 7.5% in the previous quarter.

Ethnic German wins Romania vote

Thousands of anti-government supporters celebrated Mr Iohannis’s victory on Sunday night


Opposition candidate Klaus Iohannis has won a surprise victory in Romania’s presidential election, defeating PM Victor Ponta after a tight race.

With most results declared, Mr Iohannis, mayor of Sibiu, had 54.5% of the vote to Mr Ponta’s 45.5%.

Mr Iohannis, 55 and an ethnic German, vowed to change politics and said “another kind of Romania is beginning”.

Romania is one of the most corrupt EU states, something the centre-right Mr Iohannis has vowed to tackle.

Despite the election result, Mr Ponta told a local TV channel that he had “no reason to resign” as prime minister.

He had hoped to become the country’s youngest president, replacing the incumbent Traian Basescu who cannot stand for re-election after serving two terms.

Klaus Iohannis – Romania’s president-elect

Profile of Klaus Iohannis

Romania’s large diaspora of up to four million people played a key role in the election. Many expat voters were said to be disillusioned with Mr Ponta.

After the first round of voting there were protests at polling stations in Paris, London and other cities. In some places voters had to queue for hours – with some unable to vote – leading to the resignation of the foreign minister last week.

The number of expatriate voters on Sunday more than doubled to 379,000 and large queues thronged polling stations at embassies and consulates across Europe, from Milan and Munich to London and Portsmouth.

Police in Paris fired tear gas on Sunday evening to disperse voters angry that they had been unable to cast their ballots. The new foreign minister had suggested that voters in France should travel instead to the eastern city of Nancy.

Romanian media praise election result

Expatriate voters overshadow presidential poll

Mr Ponta had been leading in the opinion polls and had beaten Mr Iohannis, the mayor of Sibiu in Transylvania, in the first round of the presidential election

We are a democratic country Mr Ponta said outside the headquarters of his Social Democratic Party on Sunday. “The people are always right

Mr Ponta, 42, had promised to reduce the budget deficit, increase pensions and the minimum wage

As prime minister, he oversaw economic growth and political stability in Romania, the EU’s second-poorest state after Bulgaria.

Aside from tackling corruption, Mr Iohannis, 55, promised in his election campaign to strengthen the independence of the judicial system.

AC/DC murder plot charge dropped

(bursa eskort) — AC/DC – pictured here in 2003 – are one of the highest grossing music acts of all time


Jon Donnison says Phil Rudd is understood to be considering legal action against the police

The Australian drummer of hard rock group AC/DC, Phil Rudd, has had a charge of attempting to arrange a murder dropped in New Zealand

In an interview to be broadcast in December, Johnson and Young said AC/DC was planning a tour

On Thursday, the 60-year-old musician appeared in court after a police raid on his waterfront house in Tauranga, on New Zealand’s North Island. He was released on bail and told he must not contact anyone involved in the alleged murder plot.

But on Friday, prosecuting lawyer Greg Hollister Jones said his office had reviewed the case and found there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the charge of attempting to procure murder

The initial charge of attempting to procure murder was made by police, but after Mr Rudd’s court appearance, Crown prosecutors took on the case

Local media reports said at the time that the alleged plot targeted two men. The judge ruled that their names as well as that of the alleged hit man could not be revealed.

The man allegedly named in court papers as the intended hitman told The New Zealand Herald newspaper he believed the matter had been blown out of proportion

Describing himself as a family man, not a hitman, he said the charges against Mr Rudd whom he considered a friend were simply “hot air. However, the man refused to blame police, who he said were just doing their job

The BBC’s Jon Donnison in Sydney says the episode will prove embarrassing for the New Zealand police

Mr Rudd, who has lived in New Zealand for over two decades, is next due in court on 27 November. AC/DC launches its new album on 2 December

The drummer was kicked out of the band in 1983 and rejoined in 1994

But his absence from a recent photo of band members prompted online speculation about whether he was still in the band

East Germany’s trade in human beings

Daniela Walther with her parents after the move to West Germany in 1969


(bursa eskort) — People who tried to escape from East Germany during the Cold War could be shot, jailed and tortured. But the government was so short of money that some ended up being secretly sold – to West Germany, the country most of them had been trying to reach in the first place.

“I found myself at a police station on my own. The counter seemed so high because I was only a little girl and I remember the policeman asking: ‘Why are you not crying?’ I think about his words now and ask myself: ‘Yeah, why wasn’t I crying?’ I suppose I was in shock.”

Daniela Walther recalls the night she was caught trying to flee East Berlin. It was 13 August 1961. She was five years old.

Two days earlier her father, Karl-Heinz Prietz who was a reporter at a teaching magazine, had come home with a tip-off that the authorities in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) were going to close the border between communist East Berlin and capitalist West Berlin.

“He knew they were going to build a wall,” says Walther, referring to the Berlin Wall, which fell 25 years ago, on 9 November 1989.

Knowing it would be all but impossible to move to West Berlin after the barrier was erected, Walther’s father convinced her mother to flee right away.

“She was reluctant to give up her teaching job – teaching was her raison d’etre – but she agreed,” says Walther.

My father told us where to go, where we would try to cross, and we waited for him in this allotment. We stayed there on the night of 11 August, sleeping in somebody’s shed. I remember my mother agonising and telling me to be quiet. I felt afraid

The following evening her father came and led them to what he thought was a weak spot in the border, which was already quite heavily patrolled. He went ahead and called for my mother to follow, but she froze – she didn’t have the courage. I remember standing next to her, listening to my dad calling

And then the guards appeared. They came out of the darkness and arrested my father They took him away I didn’t see him for another eight years she says

Walther and her mother were also arrested and taken to a police station. Her mother was sentenced to nine months in prison for being an accomplice to the escape attempt and Walther was sent to live with her grandparents in the village of Stockhausen.

Being the daughter of someone who tried to cross the border was worse than being the daughter of a murderer she says.

My grandparents said If anyone asks, tell them you’re the daughter of Lilo who was my aunt in West Germany

Walther adjusted quickly to her new life. I was actually very happy. My grandparents had lots of animals, including a dog, and because of collectivisation everything was open – there was no private land or fences – so I used to go off exploring

Walther even taught herself to ski. “I found my father’s skis, which were far too big for me, and I learned to ski in the orchard – which was probably quite dangerous,” she says.

When her mother was released from prison the pair moved to Potsdam, where their relationship became fraught. My mother was really quite unstable recalls Walther. She distracted herself by enrolling in the army’s horse acrobatics team, and performing in the breaks at equestrian events.

Meanwhile, East Germany’s economy was in free fall. Many skilled workers and intellectuals had fled and the Soviet Union was stripping the country of its resources. By 1964 the fiscal situation had become so dire that the authorities developed a scheme to sell political prisoners to West Germany. They called it haeftlingsfreikauf.

Between 1964 and 1989 some 33,755 political prisoners and 250,000 of their relatives were sold to West Germany, for a sum totalling 3.5bn Deutschmarks says historian and author, Andreas Apelt

Both sides had an interest in the business the GDR because it needed Western currency and the West because it wanted to save people from the inhumane prisons of the GDR

Prisoners were also traded for commodities such as coffee, copper and oil.

However, neither side wanted the public to find out – the GDR because it didn’t want to appear weak and West Germany because it didn’t want to be seen supporting the communist regime.

So the operation remained clandestine – people were traded in darkened nooks of the underground railway, the U-Bahn, or sent across the border in buses with revolving license plates. The number plates would switch at the checkpoints, so as not to arouse suspicion on the other side.

In 1968, a price for Walther’s father, Karl-Heinz Prietz, was negotiated. “He’d been in prison for eight years. He was tortured – he didn’t explain the methods, but they destroyed his health. I don’t think he saw daylight for years she says.

While locked away, Prietz had spent hours writing down the bedtime stories he had once recounted to his daughter. “He invented stories about two bears called Bumsi and Plumsi, who had lots of adventures she says. In prison he continued to write these stories in old exercise books – there was a huge pile of them.”

However, prisoners weren’t allowed to leave East Germany with anything except their clothes, so he sent the books to his wife for safe keeping

Once Prietz was settled in West Berlin, a deal was made for Walther and her mother to follow

I really didn’t want to go – I wanted to stay in East Germany with my grandparents – but the deal was for wife and daughter she says. I think they paid 100,000 Deutschmarks for us

When the time came to pack their bags, her mother said there was no space for her father’s story books. She didn’t bring them with us. She said there wasn’t enough room, even though we took all this other junk. I have never forgiven her says Walther.

The two of them were taken across the border via Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse, a railway station on the frontier between East and West Berlin. It was 1969 and Daniela was 13 years old.

My friend Gudrun came with us to say goodbye. I was very sad to leave her. She said she would come and visit when she was 60, because you were allowed to leave East Germany when you were 60

After bidding farewell to Gudrun, Walther and her mother were interrogated by the secret services of the UK, France and the US, which controlled West Berlin. They asked all these questions and I remember thinking Sorry my life is so boring says Walther.

My father was waiting for us on the other side. I didn’t recognise him, which was very painful for him. He was crying Having been so young when they were separated, Walther felt more upset about losing her friend.”

Life in West Berlin didn’t work out for the reunited family. Walther’s parents split up and she had difficulty adapting to the unfamiliar school system.

When you’re a child, school is the centre of your world and I hated it, she says. I went from being top of the class in East Germany to being at the bottom. My language teacher told me I would never get to grips with English

Determined to prove her teacher wrong, Walther persuaded her father to pay for her to attend a language school the UK. I was the apple of his eye – he would have done anything for me she says. So in 1972 Walther arrived in the UK and before long went on to study languages at Goldsmiths College in London. In her second year she met her husband, Bill, with whom she had two children. Framed pictures of Berlin adorn the walls of their south London home

Walther, now 59 and a teacher like her mother, is glad she left East Germany. It was for the best  otherwise I wouldn’t have come to the UK, met Bill or moved to London, which is a city I love she says. “But if I had stayed, then I would have made a good life over there. People were well looked after and I agreed with the principles of the state – I still do  just not all the spying and oppression

Although she disapproves of the idea of selling prisoners, she understands why it happened. It was pretty mercenary of the East Germans, but they were being bled dry by the Russians she says.For West Germany it was a humanitarian effort

Walther’s died in 1996, followed by her mother in 2010. After that night at the border their relationship never recovered. She just couldn’t decide says Walther And that’s what ruined them

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IPCC keen to avoid old ghosts

The roof of the waste-to-energy facility will be turned into a ski slope


(escort 16) — IPCC scientists and government officials meeting here in Copenhagen are likely to work late into the night to deal with some very heavy questions.

And it won’t just be queries about the “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts of climate change.

In those quiet corners they will huddle to answer philosophical challenges such as How long is ever? posed by the US in a response to one part of the Synthesis draft report.

One or two are likely to look over their shoulders this chilly Halloween, and keep an eye out for the spooky presence that no delegate dares to name.

Yes the ghost of Hopenhagen still sends shivers through the timbers of the most seasoned IPCC’er.

Back in 2009, greens and others went blue from the cold as they queued to get into the not-very Bella centre, site of the UN talks that were meant to deliver a new global deal.

Being frozen out was an apt metaphor for what was to come.

Copenhagen, or Hopenhagen as it was cloyingly dubbed, was a meeting that was meant to “save the planet”.

It ended in farce and failure.

Now, the IPCC is separate from the UN’s internal climate process – but the ghosts of 2009 still echo here.

The Danish government is very keen to show the world that things have really changed over the past 5 years.

They have been organising tours of some of the country’s greenest facilities, to emphasise once again, that they are still the “good guys”, despite the failings of 2009.

There’s no clang of cowbells just yet on a giant building site some four kilometres from the heart of Copenhagen.

However, in two years time skiers will be swishing their way around the rooftop of this new facility that’s starting to emerge on the water’s edge near the Danish capital.

The Amager Bakke project will see the construction of a massive waste to energy plant that will tower over most other buildings in the city.

As well as producing 60MW of electricity entirely from old rubbish, the facility has been designed to incorporate an artificial ski slope on the roof

Looking down on the emerging structure, managing director Ulla Rottger is buzzing with enthusiasm for the project, which is costing around 500 million euros

It will replace the current plant that dates from the 1970s.

The neighbours see that as a positive she says, pointing to apartments just 250 metres from the site.

There will be no noise and no smell from the garbage. We are just 4km from the mayor’s office but, yes, it’s possible to treat waste in an environmentally friendly way in the middle of the city

But not everyone is convinced of Denmark’s green sheen.

WWF International produced a report in recent weeks that measured the ecological footprint of countries

Denmark finished fourth on the list of shame, just behind environmental outliers such as Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates

If everyone on the planet lived like a Dane, the report said, then we’d need 4.5 Earth-like planets to sustain us

The problem is they grow a lot of crops here, often to feed the pig industry, and there is little in the way of untouched natural space. So their footprint per capita is high by these measures

Back at Amager Bakke, there are plans to install a chimney that will emit a symbolic, environmentally friendly smoke ring for every tonne of carbon dioxide that’s emitted

Is this just Danish greenwash?

Yes, says writer and journalist Michael Booth, who has covered the country extensively.

We have the highest energy costs in Europe, the majority of those costs are taxes imposed by the government he says.

So I get kind of annoyed by Danish politicians swanning around the world preaching about how green Denmark is. I think it is rank hypocrisy

Questions of taxes and hypocrisy are not for the IPCC – their job is to outline the parameters of the climate problem and how it might be tackled, globally

The process requires complete consensus. Over 190 governments have to agree and so do the scientists

Hence the late nights, and ghostly huddles

The problem is that because of that consensus, everyone goes home believing the report supports their own interpretation of how to tackle climate change

If we are backed up by the science, they think, why should we compromise

That’s partly why Copenhagen 2009 came a cropper

It is no wonder that some accuse the poor old IPCC of finding refuge in discombobulation

How long is ever? How soon is now