Romney is tough sell for many US Christians

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DALLAS, Nov 22 (Reuters) When a pair of Mormon missionaries knocked at the door of Jerry Pierce's home in a north Dallas suburb last month, he marshalled his arguments and stood his ground.

''I look forward to encounters like that. I like to talk to them about the nature of Christ and who Jesus is,'' said Pierce, a staunch Southern Baptist, the biggest Protestant denomination in the United States.

Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is running into similar resistance as he tries to win over Southern Baptists and other evangelical Protestants in the race for the Republican Party's nomination for the 2008 US presidential electio.

Romney will need the support of this traditional Republican base if he is to take on former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is running strongly in opinion polls despite his three marriages and a pro-abortion position that is anathema to many Republicans.

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After World War Two, a backlash against the Nazi ethic of natural selection and survival of the fittest, universities have focused on equality rather than individual excellence.

''The egalitarian approach, born of a fear of elitism after the war, worked well in many ways but people forgot you can't train everyone to get a Nobel prize,'' said Stefan Treue, Director of the German Primate Centre, an institute in Goettingen which works closely with the university.

These factors coupled with funding shortages -- the United States spends almost twice as much of its gross domestic product on higher education as Germany -- has contributed to a brain drain.

Business is worried.

By 2010, small- and medium-sized firms will be short of 30,000 researchers, say Germany's DIHK Chambers of Industry and Commerce.

This puts Germany at the risk of missing a European Union target of spending 3 per cent of GDP on research and development by 2010, up from 2.49 per cent in 2005 -- above the EU average but below US and Japanese levels.

''Today we need to invest in research to be able to develop and produce the goods for tomorrow. If we don't have the scientists to do the work, we won't have competitive products,'' said Stephan Wimmers, who specialises in technology at the DIHK.

TIES TO INDUSTRY One advantage Germany has is the relatively close ties many scientists have to industry, says Wimmers, especially in the automotive sector which accounts for about 20 percent of German jobs. The trend is less strong in the life sciences.

Industry accounts for about two-thirds of spending on research and development with the rest from the public sector, a higher ratio than many EU rivals which indicates a good deal of basic science gets transformed into economic activity.

However, there are worrying developments in patent filings where Germany, traditionally one of the world's leaders, has lost out in the past few years to competitors such as China and South Korea, says the Patent Office.

The number of German patents peaked in 2000 with about 53,000 filings, but has slipped to about 48,500. China and South file more than double that, with the United States and Japan dwarfing everyone else them with about 400,000.

Experts say the quality of German patents is deteriorating as most are in ageing industries such as engineering, whereas countries such as China, Japan and the United States are stronger in advanced technology which has stronger growth prospects.

''The world is moving on and, while Germany is still world leader in automotive and engineering, we are not keeping up in newer branches which will be vital in future,'' said Ludger Woessmann, of Germany's Ifo economic institute.

German scientists say the so-called ''excellence initiative'' to promote top-level research and improve the quality of German universities is crucial because of the element of competition it has introduced, which has already changed the climate.

''This is more than hot air from politicians -- we must work hard to make it work and the goals won't be reached in the first five or 10 years but we are on the right track,'' said Treue.

Reuters ARB RS0903

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