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Spanish lorry drivers blocked the border with France to all goods traffic yesterday as fuel-price protests in Spain, France and Portugal raised fears of food and petrol shortages. Spanish and Portuguese hauliers began indefinite strikes, and queues of lorries up to five miles long formed on the French side of the border after Spanish picketers smashed the windscreens of foreign goods drivers who tried to enter Spain. French and Spanish hauliers also staged go-slow protests, causing 20-mile tailbacks in Bordeaux, France, and 15 miles or more around Madrid and Barcelona. The hauliers were all demanding action to offset the effect of oil prices, now at record highs of over $139 per barrel.
Spaniards fearing fuel shortages queued to fill their tanks and 40 per cent of petrol stations ran out of supplies in Spain's hardest-hit region, Catalonia. Long queues formed at Spanish and Portuguese supermarkets after hauliers said they could run out of fresh food in days. "No-one is earning enough money to eat any more: not the truckers, not the fishermen, nobody, and someone has to find a solution," said Jaime Diaz, the president of Spain's national road transport confederation. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, postponed a major speech on the economy to grapple with the first big strike to hit Spain during its worst economic slowdown in 15 years. But his Socialist government said there would be no electricity or petrol shortages as drivers picketed distribution centres and called for a minimum haulage tariff to counter a 35 per cent rise in fuel costs over the past 12 months.
In Portugal, one group of drivers threatened to block the main roads running south to the Algarve tourist region to prevent goods reaching the area. Yesterday, a French military official said the soaring fuel prices had forced the French navy to cancel three of its scheduled summer missions. Pascal Subtil, a spokesman for the navy, said missions "that were the least crucial" were cut.
Exacerbating French problems, striking workers at the country's largest oil terminal of Fos-Lavera yesterday entered their third day of action, stepping up pressure on the government over its plan to privatise state-run ports. The strike at the Fos-Lavera in the southern port of Marseille blocked 29 oil tankers from leaving or entering the hub.
However, few places in Europe are suffering more than Spain, the eurozone's fourth largest economy, where fuel costs have soared as recession looms. Spanish consumer demand is shrivelling as the end of a decade-long housing boom coincides with the global credit crunch and soaring inflation. Mr Zapatero on Saturday blamed the European Central Bank for a recent jump in oil prices and market interest rates, saying its president, Jean- Claude Trichet, had to show more prudence. Mr Zapatero has offered hauliers emergency credit and early retirement incentives. But he refuses to set minimum tariffs, saying hauliers have to adapt to fierce competition in Spain and Europe.
Small Spanish hauliers are worst hit. Strike leaders have dismissed government proposals and want price guarantees to stop large firms undercutting them. Spain's development ministry said it would present measures today to take the sting out of fuel price rises, and saw a chance of reaching a deal with the hauliers by midweek.
Images courtesy of AFP/Raymond Roig, EPA/Javier Etxezarreta, and EPA/Javier Lizon
Original Source: Scotsman
In Photos: Spain Fuel Transport Strike
Police in Indian-administered Kashmir have used water canons and batons to disperse hundreds of government employees upset over fuel price rises. Dozens of people were detained after protesters gathered outside the office of the state's chief minister in the centre of the summer capital, Srinagar. "Roll back price of petrol, diesel and cooking gas," the protesters shouted before they were dispersed. Similar protests have also taken place in the north-eastern state of Assam.
The state was brought to a standstill on Monday by opposition parties unhappy about the fuel price rises. They have accused the central government of "inept handling" of oil prices. Offices, banks, shops and schools were closed and traffic stayed off the road. "The government has no concern for the common people," the coalition of tribal groups from Assam's hill areas said in a statement. "This will force tribals into starvation."
The BBC's Altaf Hussain in Srinagar says that the protests in Indian-administered Kashmir were twofold - between ordinary people unhappy over the fuel price rises and transport operators who were demanding a rise in fares to offset the high cost of diesel and petrol. The transport operators are demanding a financial package for operators affected by a high court order which orders them to discard 25-year-old vehicles. Our correspondent say that the lack of transport resulted in schools and colleges being closed and only skeletal staff at work in government offices. The strike also affected the functioning of banks as well. Although shops are open, trade has been hit heavily, our correspondent says. Last week strikes were held in the states of West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala by demonstrators who said that a 10% rise in fuel prices would fuel inflation. The government says it had no choice because of surging global oil prices.
Photos courtesy of Gulf Times and BBC News
Original Source: BBC News
Oil prices surged to a record level of more than $139 a barrel last Friday, following analysts’ predictions that the price will soon hit $150 and could go as high as $200.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said he expected several European airlines to go out of business thanks to high oil prices.The industry would restructure into a handful of strong players, he said. O’Leary predicts that just three European “network” airlines - British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France/KLM - will survive, and one low-cost airline, Ryanair. Budget rival Easyjet would be bought by one of the big three, he said.
United Airlines, a unit of UAL symbol, said Wednesday it will close Ted, a low-fare airline within an airline, in 2009 and reconfigure its 56 A320 aircraft with first-class seats. Ted serves leisure destinations from Denver and other United hubs.
Continental Airlines said Thursday that it would cut 3,000 jobs and retire 67 Boeing aircraft, becoming the latest airline to announce capacity reductions in the face of high prices for jet fuel. This announcement came a day after United Airlines said it was discontinuing Ted, its low-fare airline, cutting 1,100 more jobs on top of previously announced cuts and retiring a total of 100 aircraft. Delta Air Lines and American Airlines have announced similar steps. “The airline industry is in a crisis,” Continental’s chief executive Lawrence W. Kellner and president Jeffery A. Smisek said in a message to employees.
Photos courtesy of Times Online, Mark Lennihan/Associated Press, and Justin Sullivan/Getty
US military suicides: 2,200 soldiers died within 2yrs of leaving service. 1 veteran dies by suicide per 80 minutes, 18 each day
*Update Sep. 11, 2012*
Curbing Suicide Now a National Priority - Hoping to curb the escalating suicide rate in the United States, especially among military personnel and young Americans, health officials are spearheading a program that encompasses Facebook and other private companies.
"America loses approximately 100 Americans every 24 hours from suicide," said Pamela Hyde, administrator of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, at a press conference Monday morning. Among people 18 to 24, suicide is now the third leading cause of death, officials said.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin said, "It's time to turn our attention to prevention." The new strategy brings together government, the private sector, schools and communities to raise suicide awareness, increase prevention efforts and develop new treatments for those at risk, she said, speaking at the news conference.
In 2009, more than 37,000 Americans took their own lives, and "more than 500,000 Americans were depressed enough to have actually tried it," Hyde said. This is as critical a public health issue as good drinking water, safe food and infectious-disease prevention, Hyde said.
The military has been hit particularly hard. "Right now we are losing more of our soldiers to suicide than we are to combat," said Army Secretary John McHugh. Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said that in July alone "the Army lost 38 soldiers to suicide - an all-time and month high."
*Update Feb. 25, 2012* read more »
Original Source: Bloomberg
May 26 (Bloomberg) -- Currencies in Europe will benefit from record oil prices because of the region's energy efficiency, exports to oil-producing nations and vigilance against inflation, according to Barclays Capital. The euro, the British pound, the Swiss franc, the Swedish krona and the Norwegian krone should perform "relatively well" as oil prices rise, wrote David Woo, global head of foreign exchange strategy in London at the bank, the third-biggest currency trader. The U.S. dollar ranks bottom in terms of potential performance as energy prices climb, it said. "Europe is well positioned in the new paradigm, the U.S. is not," Woo wrote in a research note dated May 23.
The dollar slid as much as 8.9 percent to a record low against the euro this year as losses from the subprime mortgage collapse threatened to send the U.S. economy into a recession. At the same time, oil futures have soared to a record as a crude producers sought higher dollar prices to compensate for lower import revenues, according to Barclays Capital. This has created a "vicious circle'' where high energy prices increase the U.S. trade deficit and make other central banks reluctant to lower interest rates, leading to further dollar declines, Barclays Capital said. The euro bought $1.5757 at 5:23 p.m. in Tokyo, little changed from late in New York on May 23. It rose to $1.6019 on April 22, the highest since the common European currency's introduction in January 1999.
The U.S., Canadian, New Zealand and Australian score poorly in terms of their intensity of energy use because of their dispersed populations and focus on manufacturing or commodity industries, Barclays said. European economies are more densely populated, service-orientated and energy efficient, it said. Oil consumption accounts for less than 2 percent of nominal gross domestic product in Norway, Switzerland, the U.K. and Sweden in 2006, compared with more than 3.5 percent in the U.S. and Canada, the report showed. "The U.S. is the world's third-largest oil producer but because of the high energy intensity of its economy, its petroleum trade deficit is not much smaller than the eurozone, which produces no oil," Woo wrote. Japan and Switzerland may also suffer deteriorating trade balances as oil prices rise, the report said. Crude oil for July delivery rose by 96 cents to $133.15 a barrel in after-hours electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It reached $135.09 on May 22, the highest since trading began in 1983.
Next month marks the tenth anniversary of the European Central Bank, guardian of the euro, which itself will turn ten thereafter.
Images courtesy of AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari and AFP