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Hoping to save bees, Europe to vote on pesticide ban

PARIS — Will Brussels try to give bees a break?

In a case closely watched on both sides of the Atlantic, European officials plan to vote Friday on a proposal to sharply restrict the use of pesticides that had been implicated in the decline of global bee populations.

The vote in Brussels, by officials from all 27 European Union member states, follows a January report from the European Food Safety Authority recommending that none of the chemicals of a class known as neonicotinoids should be used on crops that are attractive to honeybees, because of the risk that the insects would be poisoned.

Although even some bee scientists say the evidence is inconclusive, the European Commission, the EU’s administrative arm, has embraced the food safety authority’s findings. The proposal calls for a two-year prohibition of neonicotinoid use on the flowering crops that lure bees, as well as the seeds of such crops.

That would mean, for example, that farmers could no longer use the products on the colorful fields of grapeseed

“The Commission has come to the conclusion that a high risk for bees cannot be excluded except by imposing further restrictions,” the draft proposal says.

Companies that produce neonicotinoid-based pesticides, including the German giant Bayer CropScience and Syngenta, the big Swiss biochemical company, have lobbied strenuously against the moratorium. The American company DuPont is also a leading producer of the chemicals, and Monsanto incorporates it into some of the seeds it produces; in the United States, neonicotinoids are heavily used on the country’s huge corn crop.

The European proposal would need the backing of a qualified majority of member states to become law, a system that assigns greater voting weight to larger countries such as Germany, which is said to be reluctant to back the measure.

Uses of the chemicals that would be allowed under the moratorium would be restricted to professional growers, eliminating the danger that home gardeners would unwittingly wreak havoc on bee colonies. At the end of the two years, the results would be reviewed for further action.

EU nations already have the authority to restrict neonicotinoids. Initial approval for chemicals is granted by Brussels, but responsibility for approving the commercial products that contain them rests with member states. As a result various nations, including France and Italy, already restrict their use.

—David Jolly, The New York Times

Younger generations lag parents in building wealth

WASHINGTON — Pearl Brady has a stable job with good benefits and holds two degrees, a bachelor’s and a master’s. But despite her best efforts, she has no savings and worries that it will be years before she manages to start putting away money for a house, children and eventually retirement.

“I’m in that extremely nervous category,” said Brady, 28, a New Yorker who works for a union. “I know how much money I’m going to be making for the near term. I hope in my 30s and 40s to be able to save, but I have no idea how. It’s scary.”

Brady has plenty of company. A new study from the Urban Institute finds that Brady and her peers up to roughly age 40 have accrued less wealth than their parents did at the same age, even as the average wealth of Americans has doubled over the past quarter-century. “In this country, the expectation is that every generation does better than the previous generation,” said Signe-Mary McKernan, an author of the study. “This is no longer the case. This generation might have less.”

The authors said the situation facing young Americans might be unprecedented.

“It’s a little bit of a tipping-point moment,” said McKernan of the Urban Institute, a nonprofit Washington research institution. “If we don’t address it today, they might never catch up.”

For instance, the researchers said, if a person delayed the purchase of a home to age 40 instead of buying at age 30, that might result in a $42,000 loss in home equity by the time she reaches 60, given trends in wealth accumulation over the past few decades.

The Urban Institute study is one of many to show something of a perfect storm of economic trends battering younger workers. One is the collapse of the housing bubble.

A second major trend is the rise of student loan debt, which has continued to grow through the recession, sometimes saddling students with burdens that extend into six figures and might take decades to pay down.

—Annie Lowrey, The New York Times

At least 18 killed in

BAGHDAD — Eighteen people were killed and 67 were wounded Thursday when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside the Ministry of Justice compound, which he and other armed attackers had managed to infiltrate after a series of car bomb blasts nearby, police said.

The attacks, apparently coordinated, started when the three car bombs were detonated outside the Justice, Foreign Affairs and Communications ministries, striking the heart of the Iraqi government by hitting an area deep inside a walled compound heavy with security guards in central Baghdad. Shortly after they went off, a number of gunmen, including one who was also rigged as a suicide bomber, raided the Justice Ministry. Security forces killed all of them but the suicide attacker, who managed to blow himself up inside the complex, a security source said.

The police in a preliminary report did not provide a breakdown of how many casualties came from the car bombs or how many were caused by the suicide attack.

After the violence, security forces sealed off roads leading to the ministry area, which is in the Alawi district of the city. Smoke from the blasts rose into the sky.

—Duraid Adnan, The New York Times