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New Signs in Europe of U.S. Mortgage Fallout

Europe, which once hoped to avoid major fallout from the summer’s credit crisis, is now feeling an autumn chill of slackening economies and warnings of further market upheaval.

The ill tidings came in several European capitals Thursday, including a reduced growth forecast in Germany and a Bank of England report that said financial markets were still vulnerable to shocks from the crisis that originated in the American home mortgage market.

“The financial turmoil of the last months is not yet behind us,” the European commissioner of economic and monetary affairs, Joaquin Almunia, said at a conference of bond dealers in Brussels.

“Downside risks to the growth outlook have now obviously increased due to the events in the financial markets,” he added. “It is apparent that the economic outlook will be somewhat less favorable than we expected.”

The German government cut its forecast for growth next year to 2 percent, from 2.4 percent, citing a more sluggish global economy, as well as high oil prices and the relentlessly rising euro.

U.N. Warns of Rapid Decay of Environment

The human population is living far beyond its means and inflicting damage to the environment that could pass points of no return, according to a major report issued Thursday by the United Nations.

Climate change, the rate of extinction of species and the challenge of feeding a growing population are putting humanity at risk, the United Nations Environment Program said in its fourth Global Environmental Outlook since 1997.

“The human population is now so large that the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is available at current consumption patterns,” Achim Steiner, the executive director of the Environment Program, said in a telephone interview.

Many biologists and climate scientists have concluded that human activities have become a dominant influence on the Earth’s climate and ecosystems. But there is still a range of views on whether the changes could have catastrophic impacts, as the human population heads toward 9 billion by midcentury, or toward manageable results.

Pioneer of DNA Research Retires As Lab Chief After Racial Remarks

James D. Watson, the eminent biologist who ignited an uproar last week with remarks about the intelligence of people of African descent, retired Thursday as chancellor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island and from its board.

In a statement, he noted that, at 79, he is “overdue” to surrender leadership positions at the lab, which he joined as director in 1968 and served as president until 2003. But he said the circumstances of his resignation “are not those which I could ever have anticipated or desired.”

Watson, who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for describing the double-helix structure of DNA, and later headed the American government’s part in the international Human Genome Project, was quoted in The Times of London last week as suggesting that, overall, people of African descent are not as intelligent as people of European descent. In the ensuing uproar, he issued a statement apologizing “unreservedly” for the comments, adding “there is no scientific basis for such a belief.”