France’s Wine Stocks Reach 12-year Low After 2012 Harvest Slide

1 from 25.8 million hectoliters a year earlier. The biggest slide in wine inventories was noted in the combined regions of Burgundy , Beaujolais, Savoy and Jura, where stocks slumped 30 percent to 1.72 million hectoliters, according to the crop office. The volume of wine held by producers in Bordeaux dropped 9 percent to 8.96 million hectoliters, while Champagnes inventories fell 6 percent to 4.22 million hectoliters, according to FranceAgriMer. In the region of Languedoc-Roussillon, Frances biggest wine region by production, stocks at the start of August fell 16 percent to 7.34 million hectoliters. The wine year in France runs from Aug. 1 to July 31. Still Wine The volume of still wine held by merchants dropped about 3 percent to 13.2 million hectoliters, while inventories of sparkling varieties rose 13 percent to 7.9 million hectoliters, crop office data showed. Frances sales of bulk wine with a regional indication rose 7 percent in 2012-13 to 606 million euros ($828 million), with higher prices for all varieties making up for smaller volumes of red and rose, FranceAgriMer said. Sales of wine with no regional indication rose 11 percent to 236.7 million euros. The price of whites without a regional indication jumped 32 percent to an average 70.07 euros per hectoliter, while for bulk white wines with that indication average prices advanced 6 percent to 85.89 euros a hectoliter, according to FranceAgriMer. Bulk reds rose 11 percent to an average 62.97 euros a hectoliter for those without a regional indication, while 2012-13 prices climbed 7 percent to 74.69 euros a hectoliter for red wine with the region indicated.

France Scientology: Fraud leveled against Church of Scientology by high court France Scientology: Labeled a “fraud” by France’s high court. Protestors express the same outside the Church of Scientology in France. Though recognized as a formal religion in the United States and elsewhere, the practice of Scientology has just been branded as a scam and a racket in France, despite cries of religious discrimination, reports the AFP via Yahoo! News on Oct. 16. There are approximately 45,000 Scientologists in France. The obtuse religion, founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, came under fire in the European country when five former members charged the organization with coercing them into spending thousands of dollars on required reading material, questionable services and Church merchandise. The Church was initially found guilty of commercial harassment, and on appeal the charge has stood. Church officials are not happy that their easily misunderstood religion has been declared fraudulent. Scientology is a worldwide religious movement practiced in 184 nations. Its bona fide rights of its members to practice their faith unimpeded by government interference have been acknowledged by the high courts of many nations, including unanimous decisions by the European Court of Human Rights, a statement from the French Church of Scientology after the verdict reads. The conviction carried a fine of 600,000 Euros ($820,000 dollars), in addition to the Church losing any foothold as it attempts to become a recognized religion in France.

France’s Retirement Reform: Too Little, Too Late?

An Air France-KLM spokesman declined to comment. Alitalia has not turned a profit since 2002 and came close to being grounded at the weekend after its major creditor Eni (ENI.MI) threatened to cut fuel supplies. Rome patched together an emergency 500 million-euro fund, persuading the state-owned post office to commit to providing 75 million euros via a capital increase and banks Intesa Sanpaolo (MIL:ISP) and Unicredit (MIL:UCG) to guarantee up to 100 million euros, while a broader consortium of banks stump up 200 million in existing and new loans. But the plan still leaves Alitalia dependent on finding at least 125 million euros from its shareholders, who have 30 days to decide whether to sign up. That gives Air France considerable leverage. The Franco-Dutch carrier was barred from a full takeover of Alitalia in late 2008 by then prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Alitalia has lost 700,000 euros a day in the intervening period and Italy’s current government and Alitalia’s shareholders are now hoping to persuade Air France to up its stake – though there is still considerable political discomfort about any merger. So far all parties have failed to agree financial commitments and business strategy. Alitalia wants to reposition itself in the higher-margin long-haul market after losing out in regional and domestic routes to competition from low-cost carriers and high-speed trains. That plan appears to clash with Air France’s demands for a much tougher restructuring and debt-cutting measures. Analysts have said the logical way to save the Italian carrier would be for Air France-KLM to take over the operating core of the airline and get rid of the entire Alitalia back-office structure, but that would mean severe cost cuts and job losses, which Rome and unions are likely to oppose bitterly. If Air France-KLM does not participate in the share issue, it could be overtaken by the Italian post office as Alitalia’s top shareholder and its own stake could drop to below 15 percent.

Air France ’50-50′ over Alitalia cash, wants more cuts – source

“We have a big problem, we don’t know how to fix it, so we cut it into pieces, like a nice sausage.” Hollande’s reform would lengthen the number of years people must work to receive a full pension, from 41 years today to 43 years by 2035; the first increases begin in 2020. Economists say there are three problems with the proposal: It takes effect after most baby boomers will have retired, meaning it doesn’t address the cost of paying for their pensions; it still isn’t asking people to work long enough, especially since life expectancy is rising; and it ignores the special deals that allow some workers to retire early and account for two-thirds of the retirement system’s 20 billion-euro ($27 billion) deficit. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, and others have raised concerns about how the pensions system will be paid for without further burdening French employers, which already pay the highest payroll taxes in the EU. The problem with the “salami strategy” is that the reforms are always behind the curve. Jacob Kirkegaard, an economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, says the reform might have worked if it had been done 20 years ago. Now France needs much more. Among the world’s most developed countries, only Luxembourg has a lower effective retirement age, according to the OECD, an economic policy group. The issue of pensions is so sensitive that no one political party wants to make the painful changes that are needed. In other European countries with unsustainable retirement systems, such as Spain and Italy, the financial crisis has threatened to bankrupt the government, pushing politicians to act. France has been spared such turmoil and lacked the same incentives. “There is only one party in France and that is the status quo party,” said Kirkegaard. So in another few years, France will likely apply another Band-Aid to its pensiosn system. And so it will go, Kirkegaard said, until the crisis in France gets deep enough that it is forced to make the kinds of changes Madrid and Rome have made. Earlier on HuffPost: Loading Slideshow French egg producers throw crates of eggs from the back of a truck onto the sidewalk in front of the taxes and internal revenue service office in Carhaix-Plouguer, Brittany, western France, during a protest action, on August 7, 2013.