Another eventful day, but especially notable is a global alert that is, if anything optimistic, according to another petroleum geologist of our acquaintance. From The Guardian:
Former BP geologist: peak oil is here and it will ‘break economies’
Industry expert warns of grim future of ‘recession’ driven ‘resource wars’ at University College London lecture
A former British Petroleum (BP) geologist has warned that the age of cheap oil is long gone, bringing with it the danger of “continuous recession” and increased risk of conflict and hunger.
At a lecture on ‘Geohazards’ earlier this month as part of the postgraduate Natural Hazards for Insurers course at University College London (UCL), Dr. Richard G. Miller, who worked for BP from 1985 before retiring in 2008, said that official data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), US Energy Information Administration (EIA), International Monetary Fund (IMF), among other sources, showed that conventional oil had most likely peaked around 2008.
Dr. Miller critiqued the official industry line that global reserves will last 53 years at current rates of consumption, pointing out that “peaking is the result of declining production rates, not declining reserves.” Despite new discoveries and increasing reliance on unconventional oil and gas, 37 countries are already post-peak, and global oil production is declining at about 4.1% per year, or 3.5 million barrels a day (b/d) per year:
“We need new production equal to a new Saudi Arabia every 3 to 4 years to maintain and grow supply… New discoveries have not matched consumption since 1986. We are drawing down on our reserves, even though reserves are apparently climbing every year. Reserves are growing due to better technology in old fields, raising the amount we can recover – but production is still falling at 4.1% p.a. [per annum].”
From Reuters, American optimism:
Confident consumers brighten economic outlook
Consumer sentiment hit a five-month high heading into the end of the year and spending notched its strongest month since the summer, the latest signs of sustained vigor in the economy that are fostering hopes of a strong 2014.
Consumer spending rose in November at the fastest pace since June and an upbeat sentiment reading for December suggests consumers will keep shopping despite tepid income growth.
The next Detroit? Atlantic City and Las Vegas facing catastrophic collapse
With the closure of the recent Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, rumors of the bankrupt Revel being sold to Hard Rock, more than half of the mortgages in Las Vegas under water, casinos opening up all around the country and online gambling legislation underway in various states, it seems as if the reasons for the very existence of Atlantic City and Las Vegas are in serious jeopardy.
Los Angeles Times with our Christmas story of the day:
Stockton mall brawl over new Air Jordans caught on video
The release of the new Air Jordans tennis shoes — the 11 Gamma Blues — sparked a violent skirmish over the weekend at a mall in Stockton.
Video footage from the melee has gone viral on social media, showing thrown punches, tackles and mayhem.
The fights broke out at the Finish Line shoe store in Stockton’s Weberstown Mall, where people were lined up to get a pair.
The Guardian advises:
Expiration of unemployment benefits threatens US recovery, adviser warns
- Congress fails to extend programme for long-term jobless
- Economists concerned over persistently high unemployment
The expiration of benefits for 1.3 million jobless Americans this weekend will exacerbate the worst period of chronic unemployment in post-war history, the chairman of the White House council of economic advisers warns.
The expiring programme, which provides emergency help for the long-term unemployed, was introduced after the banking crash in 2008 to cushion the impact of the recession but is due to end on Saturday. Congress had an opportunity to continue it, but failed to agree on an extension before breaking for Christmas.
Although recent improvements in the economy have boosted overall job growth, economists are concerned that long-term unemployment rates remain higher than at any time between 1948 and the recent financial crisis. Republican critics claim that ending the programme will force recipients to find work, but new research suggests it will have the opposite effect, and will encourage them to drop out of the labour market entirely, according to Jason Furman, chairman council of economic advisers.
From Salon, blockaded:
Activists blockading Fresno sheriff station to protest record deportations
Immigration reform activists are currently attempting to physically block a Fresno sheriff station by tying and locking themselves to a ladder, the latest in a series of civil disobedience protests aimed at forcing President Obama to take executive action against deportations.
“As the movement continues, we feel that if he’s not going to take action, that we’re going to take action in our hands and try to stop these deportations,” Alessandro Negrete, a spokesperson for California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, told Salon Monday. Along with Obama, the activists are targeting Fresno Sheriff Margaret Mims, whom they’re urging to suspend collaboration with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “We demand she recognize that our families belong together,” protester Luis Ojeda told Salon in an e-mailed statement Monday morning. “It’s police and ICE that should be separated.”
Computerworld paints a bleaker future:
Your next job, next year, may be self-employment
Tech industry sees a shift to independent workers — and different kinds of opportunities for IT pros
The tech industry is seeing a shift toward a more independent, contingent IT workforce. And while that trend might not be bad for retiring baby boomer IT professionals, it could mean younger and mid-career workers need to prepare to make a living solo.
About 18% of all IT workers today are self-employed, according to an analysis by Emergent Research, a firm focused on small businesses trends. This independent IT workforce is growing at the rate of about 7% per year, which is faster than the overall growth rate for independent workers generally, at 5.5%.
Canada next, with red ink from CBC News:
Canada’s deficit ticks higher to $13.2B
Ottawa maintains the government remains ‘on track’ to balance the budget in 2015
The Canadian government has spent $13.2 billion more than it has taken in so far this year, a slightly larger deficit than the one for the same period in 2012.
The Department of Finance said Monday the federal deficit was $13.2 billion for the fiscal year up to October. That’s ahead of the $11.9 billion during the same period in 2012.
Exiting the European stage in a cloud of smoke, via EUobserver:
Tobacco lawyer steps down from EU ethics panel
A corporate lawyer with Big Tobacco clients stepped down as head of the European Commission’s ad hoc ethics committee last week, but he says it has nothing to do with conflict of interest.
“I had informed the commission [of the resignation] in advance and this has been done in perfect agreement,” Michel Petite, who works for the Clifford Chance law firm, told this website from Paris on Friday (20 December).
The three-member ethical committee monitors departing commissioners who are looking for new jobs. Set up in 2003, the idea is to make sure outgoing commissioners do not end up working on the same topics they legislated on.
Britain next, with hoarders, via the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:
The Housing Crisis
London councils sit on millions meant for building cheaper homes
London councils receive cash payments worth tens of millions of pounds from developers meant specifically for the building of affordable homes. But much of this money remains unspent despite the capital’s worsening housing crisis.
Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals that a total of £161m of so-called commuted sums has not been spent by local authorities. Of this, tens of millions has been lying in London councils’ coffers for over five years.
The £161m affordable housing council cashpile – enough to build over 1,600 affordable homes – has alarmed housing campaigners concerned that local authorities are failing to use the money quickly enough to reduce the capital’s escalating accommodation crisis.
Open Europe delivers appropriate riposte to Prime Minister David Cameron:
Tories’ Polish allies label Cameron’s migration comments as “unacceptable”
Today, even Poland’s largest opposition party Law and Justice (allied with the Conservatives in the European Parliament) stuck the boot in, letting it be known that leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski had personally written to Cameron to complain after the Prime Minister described Labour’s decision not to apply transition controls to the A8 countries in 2004 as a “mistake” and a “shameful dereliction of duty”.
In an interview with Polish Radio today, Law and Justice MP Marcin Mastalerek described Cameron’s comments as “unacceptable”, adding that:
“If Cameron does not revise his view on this subject it will make working together in the European Parliament exceptionally difficult”.
From New Europe, the cost of Tory intolerance:
Study finds that by 2060 taxes will rise and net wages will fall
UK GDP down 11% by reduced immigration
UK GDP will decrease by 11% should David Cameron’s government achieve its goal of reducing immigration from “hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands” an experiment by the country’s National Institute for Economic and Social Research shows.
The findings, published today, come as the Conservatives, the major partner in the British ruling coalition, are engaged in an apparent effort to by-pass the freedom of movement principle and limit both the numbers of EU and non-EU immigrants entering the country.
Ireland next, with kudos from Independent.ie:
Irish state bonds still top of eurozone performance chart
IRISH government bonds are close to marking their second year as the eurozone’s top- performing debt, rewarding investors who trusted this country to successfully exit its bailout deal.
Running close behind, and potentially still with a chance to top the charts in terms of total annual returns at the end of the year, are Spanish bonds. Madrid has lured investors by implementing some painful reforms and getting back to growth.
Irish bonds have returned 11.7pc in the year to date while Spanish bonds have returned 11pc, according to data compiled on Markit’s iBoxx EUR benchmark index, one of the most tracked bond indexes by investors worldwide.
The Irish Times delivers one of the prices, assessed by the government’s Number Two:
Government would have fallen if promissory note deal had not happened, Tanaiste says
Eamon Gilmore says weeks around payment deadline were the lowest of the year for him
The Government would have fallen early this year if it had not secured a deal on the promissory note for the failed Anglo Irish Bank, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has revealed.
In his first public disclosure of how perilous the situation was, the leader of the Labour Party says the two-year Coalition would not have survived if forced to pay some €6 billion to the European Central Bank by the end of March deadline.
In an interview with The Irish Times, Mr Gilmore says the weeks in which there was uncertainty about the payment were the lowest of the year for him and for his Labour ministerial colleagues. The Government was faced with repayments for two years, comprising €3 billion for each year.
Iceland next and thumbs down from the Reykjavík Grapevine:
More Unions Reject New Collective Bargaining Agreement
More labour unions have joined the chorus of those who believe the new collective bargaining agreement does not do enough to raise wages for the lowest paid in Iceland.
Last Saturday, as reported, the Confederation of Icelandic Labour Unions (ASÍ) and the Confederation of Icelandic Employers (SA) signed a new collective bargaining agreement. The new agreement calls for a 5% wage increase for those making the lowest wages, and a 2.8% increase for everyone else. Union proposals for higher wages than this, as well as tax relief for minimum wage earners, was rejected by management.
However, Vísir reports, the new agreement actually does more for higher income earners than for working class people. By the new agreement, a person making 246,000 ISK per month will see 8,000 ISK more per month, before taxes, and no rebates on their taxes. At the same time, another person making 1 million ISK per month will get an extra 28,000 ISK per month, plus 3,500 ISK taken off their monthly taxes.
While The Wire disabuses one of yesterday’s headlines:
Iceland’s ‘Elf Lobby’ Isn’t Real, According to Icelanders
On Sunday the Associated Press published a piece on Iceland’s elf lobby, a group of believers who object to a road being built near Reykjavík. Media outlets on the island nation found fault with the piece.
The Reykjavík Grapevine, another English language paper, said the story had “cobbling together” quotes to paint a picture of elf obsessed pseudo-environmentalists. The Grapevine also collected responses from Iceland’s media. The state-run news channel, RÚV, said the AP story had “numerous misrepresentations,” and implied that one woman quoted by the AP is not a representative source of Icelanders’ view on elves. Then again, the AP introduces her as “a self-proclaimed ‘seer,’ [who] believes she can communicate with the creatures through telepathy.” Alda Sigmundsdóttir of the Iceland Weather Report told The Grapevine that thanks to the AP article a conservation effort “is turned into something trite and superficial.”
Germany next and an episode of class warfare from TheLocal.de:
Hundreds injured in Hamburg riots
Hundreds of police officers and protesters were injured in the worst riots Hamburg has seen for years over the weekend in a mass demonstration over gentrification.
A protest took place on Saturday afternoon over the eviction of squatters from the Rote Flora building in the Schanze district. The building has served as a home for squatters as well as a cultural and political meeting point for left-wing activists for more than 24 years. But the owner of the building, Klausmartin Kretschmer, has demanded that they leave.
This prompted a demonstration which turned violent. Police put the number of protesters at 7,300 and said 4,700 were from the far-left scene, while organizers said more than 10,000 people took part.
According to police, 120 of their officers were injured, 19 of whom badly. They came under attack from stones, bottles and fireworks. Police reacted with water cannon and tear gas. Left-wing groups said 500 protesters were injured.
Hit the road, Jack, with TheLocal.de:
Austria threatens Germany with legal action
Austria is considering legal action against Germany to prevent the Germans introducing a charge on foreign drivers on motorways.
The Austrians claim that making foreigners pay to drive on Germany’s roads is against European Union law.
On Monday the country’s transport minister Doris Bures said: “We will not allow Austrian drivers to be discriminated against.”
Geneva next, with the Swiss baring all from TheLocal.ch:
40 Swiss banks agree to reveal hidden accounts
Swiss banks are scrambling ahead of a December 31st deadline to decide whether to join a US programme aimed at zooming in on lenders that helped Americans dodge taxes.
Around 40 of Switzerland’s some 300 banks have already said publicly they will take part in a US programme set up to allow Swiss financial institutions to avoid US prosecution in exchange for coming clean and possibly paying steep fines.
“What are the others going to do? That is the very big question,” Swiss business lawyer Douglas Hornung told AFP.
French action from Reuters:
French strike keeps a third of oil refining sector shut
A strike at three of Total’s (TOTF.PA) five oil refineries in France held firm for an 11th day on Monday, but the risk of a repeat of fuel shortages seen during a 2010 walkout receded after staff at a fourth plant returned to work on Sunday.
The strikers, led by the CGT union, demand an improved pay offer from Total but the company has refused to reopen talks after other unions approved a deal this month.
The Economic Times wants a piece of the cultural action:
French broadcast watchdog targets YouTube, Dailymotion
France’s CSA broadcasting authority said today it wants to target video-sharing sites like YouTube and Dailymotion to force them to contribute to financing French culture.
In a report, the CSA said the sites fall in the same category as video-on-demand services so would be subject to French cultural protection laws that require distributors to hand over some of their revenues to help subsidise productions.
“These platforms… have for years been developing partnerships with audiovisual publishers and content providers, with which they share revenues from advertising,” the report said.
On to Spain, and culture war with El País:
Abortions fell in 2012 under law PP is set to quash
More permissive legislation did not lead to increase as some sectors forecast
There were some 6,000 fewer abortions in Spain last year under the legislation adopted by the previous Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, which the ruling Popular Party intends to replace with a much stricter law. The figure represents a five-percent decrease in the number of voluntary terminations, contradicting forecasts from conservative sectors that the 2010 law, which allowed a woman to abort freely at any time up to 14 weeks of gestation, would lead to a spike in the number of Spaniards doing just that.
The Health Ministry’s annual report shows that 12 out of every 1,000 women of childbearing age terminated a pregnancy in 2012, a half-percentage point fewer than the previous year. Experts attribute the drop to several factors, including a decrease in the number immigrants in the population and the increased use of contraceptives.
TheLocal.es takes it to the bank:
Bankia rides rollercoaster from ruin to riches
Bankia, after dragging the entire Spanish financial system to the brink of catastrophe, is about to make a remarkable comeback to the top ranks of the Madrid stock market.
On Monday, Bankia will enter the IBEX-35 index of top listed companies, capping a rollercoaster ride for the bank, and the country.
Born in 2010 from the merger of seven troubled savings banks, including Caja Madrid, Bankia listed in July 2011 with great ceremony, touting its “enormous potential” and its likely role in “dynamising” the Spanish economy.
Less than a year later, in May 2012, Spain’s government had to nationalise Bankia and pump in €20 billion ($27 billion) to avert its collapse as the lender drowned in bad loans and revealed ever deeper financial losses.
El País gets disreputably sporty:
Spain’s image gets another kicking
Brussels’ investigation into alleged illegal state aid to top Spanish clubs, and the government’s swift and heated denial, could further damage the nation’s reputation
Last week, the European Commission has launched an investigation into seven Spanish soccer clubs, including Barcelona and Real Madrid, after complaints they accepted illegal state aid. Unsurprisingly, Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo has denied any irregularities, even before an investigation has taken place, while at the same time admitting: “It is obvious that the government will do everything it can to defend our soccer clubs, which are also part of the Spain brand.”
Brussels will look into whether Real Madrid received state aid in property transactions linked to their stadiums, and whether Valencia, Hercules and Elche unlawfully received loans from local authorities.
Iberian departures from the Portugal News:
Up to 120,000 Portuguese nationals left the country during the past 12 months in search of a brighter future, Government authorities admitted this week.
Lisbon said this figure is in line with those recorded in 2012, when just under 120,000 Portuguese emigrated.
José Cesário, State Secretary for Portuguese Communities, said he believed this number did not increase in 2013, not because of improving conditions in Portugal, but because jobs in traditional immigration hot spots are starting to dwindle.
The Portugal News occupies, briefly:
‘Jobless’ invade supermarket
A group of about 30 people, who identified themselves as being unemployed, invaded a Pingo Doce supermarket in downtown Lisbon over the weekend in a demonstration called on Facebook to demand free Christmas hampers and requesting to make entries into the store’s complaints’ book.
The protest lasted for two hours, and despite PSP police being summoned to intervene, the action resulted in the store’s closure for two hours on Saturday evening.
Italy next, with TheLocal.it and a reasonable plea:
Renzi calls for two-year benefits for jobless
Matteo Renzi, the new leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, has called for unemployment benefits to be guaranteed for two years.
“I think of the greater flexibility in output, but the state must guarantee benefits for the first two years of unemployment, so that people can maintain a family and a serious system of professional development,” Renzi said in a TV interview on Sunday.
The Democratic Party (PD) leader said a “labour revolution is possible”, adding that the party’s full employment plan would be announced in January.
AGI moves to soothe:
Letta states criticism of president at unacceptable levels
Speaking at his end of year press conference, Prime Minister Letta said, “I wish to be extremely clear and forceful in saying that attacks and criticism are legitimate and that no institutions are exempt, criticism is normal. I do, however, believe that in recent weeks attacks against the head of the state, Giorgio Napolitano, have gone well beyond the acceptable limit. The words used by Beppe Grillo are totally out of place.”
The prime minister also reiterated that Italy has in Napolitano a fundamental reference point, “firm and respectful of the constitution.”
Italy Approves ‘Google Tax’ on Internet Companies
Italy’s Parliament today passed a new measure on web advertising, the so-called “Google tax,” which will require Italian companies to purchase their Internet ads from locally registered companies, instead of from units based in havens such as Ireland, Luxembourg and Bermuda.
The tax has stirred controversy, with some lawyers saying it probably violates European Union laws regarding non-discrimination over commercial activity and could be subject to legal challenges.
In July, at the request of the Group of 20 nations, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development proposed a blueprint to fight strategies used by companies such as Google Inc. (GOOG), Apple Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) to shift taxable profits into havens. Italy is the first major European government to pass legislation to combat the problem of moving corporate taxable earnings into havens, which costs Europe and the U.S. over $100 billion a year, since the OECD proposal.
And TheLocal.it confesses:
Enrico Letta admits Italy has ‘social fatigue’
Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta admitted on Monday his country was suffering from “social fatigue” but said his government had brought “a stability dividend” worth billions of euros due to lower borrowing costs.
“We have to respond to social fatigue,” he said at an end-of-year press conference, as the country tries to recover from its longest recession since World War II.
“The shock of these years has been very tough. It is hard to recover even after figures improve,” he said.
From AGI, an austerian outcome:
Italian families spend 5,000 euros less than six years ago
Codacons has said that it shares Confindustria’s assessment of the economy. “To speak of the end of the recession just because of a miserable and insignificant rise in GDP predicted for 2014 is, to say the least, offensive to the unemployed and to families who can not make it to the end of the month,” declared the environmental and consumer assocation.
Codacons finds Confindustria’s figures released on Thursday disconcerting. According to these, six years into the economic crisis, families have reduced consumption by seven weeks worth, or 5,037 euros a year, a figure that confirms what Codacons has been saying for a long time. “Until fiscal pressure is reduced on the 50 percent of the poorest, families will not make purchases, businesses will not sell, companies won’t produce and the unemployed will not find work”
After the jump, Grecodecline, Turkish threats, Maltese refinement, Libyan decline, Brazilian woes, Pakistani scofflaws, inflationary worries in India, Malaysia, and China, Fukushimapocalypse Now! and more. . .
Our first Greek headline and enough to make you sick, from Kathimerini English:
Hospital admission fee to go up from January 1, as planned
Plans to charge patients 25 euros each time they are admitted to a public hospital and to ask Greeks with social insurance to pay 1 euro each time they are prescribed medicines will go ahead as planned from January 1, sources confirmed on Monday.
Kathimerini understands that Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis has instructed hospitals to apply the charge from the beginning of the new year and has informed the Computer Center for Social Security Services (IDIKA), which runs the electronic prescription system, to add the 1-euro charge.
From ANSAmed, deflation:
Crisis: Greece; winter homes rates slump by over 50%
The average prices of Greece’s winter resort homes at popular destinations have slumped by up to 52% since the start of the financial crisis, according to a survey conducted by Geoaxis, a certified surveying company, as reported by Kathimerini.
Nearly 10,000 such homes in the countryside have remained unsold as the crisis has affected this market more than that of main residences. Notarial associations have recorded an average annual decline in house transactions of 28.2% from 2007 up to end-2012.
ANA-MPA notes a familiar pattern:
Part-time workers rise to 4.3 pct of labour force, in Q2
The underemployed part-time workers in 2013 (2nd quarter) were 213,900, corresponding to 4.3 pct of the country’s labour force (compared with 130,000 corresponding to 2.6 pct of the labour force in the 2nd quarter of 2010), the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) announced on Monday.
In 2012, they corresponded to 3.8 pct of the labour force coinciding with the EU average.
The figures produced by ELSTAT were based on three new indicators introduced by Eurostat that refer to underemployed part-time workers, the persons who are seeking work but are not immediately available and the persons who are available to work but are not seeking work. The three new indicators cover persons that do not fulfill all the criteria of the unemployment definition of the International Labour Organization but they share some characteristics with the unemployed.
To Vima heats up:
Georgiadis signs “free electricity” decree to tackle air pollution
DEI customers on social tariff will get free electricity whenever smog pollution exceeds safety limits
The Minister of Health Adonis Georgiadis announced has signed a ministerial decree which provides free electricity on days when smog pollution exceeds safety levels.
This decision affects the DEI customers who have already registered with the power company’s social tariff and will provide two days of free electricity for every one day when the smog pollution exceeds health standards.
Kathimerini English confesses:
Former Defense Ministry official provides damning evidence on bribes
Ex-Defense Ministry official Antonis Kantas completed his marathon testimony on Monday, giving investigators a wealth of information about alleged kickbacks paid to secure procurement contracts as well as the names of several more suspects, some of whom could be called to give depositions before the end of the year.
Court sources told Kathimerini that Kantas gave anti-corruption magistrates Gavriil Mallis and Yiannis Stavropoulos specific information relating to the role of two businessmen in the alleged payment of bribes to Greek officials.
Kantas explained how under-the-table payments were made to secure the purchase of German-made Leopard tanks and Type 214 submarines. He also gave background to the deals to buy the German and Swedish-made ASRAD vehicle-mounted short-range air defense system, as well as the Russian-made Kornet missiles and launchers.
Kathimerini English again, with a shakier ruling alliance:
Samaras aides say no snap polls, but PASOK is wobbling
As the dust settled from two tense votes in Parliament on Monday, sources close to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras insisted that the departure of yet another MP, Vyron Polydoras of New Democracy, from the government ranks would not precipitate early elections.
“The elections will happen in 2016,” said the premier’s aides, dismissing speculation that the government would not last much longer without going to the polls. Polydoras’s departure after voting against the unified property tax leaves the coalition with just a three-seat parliamentary majority. But officials close to Samaras said the situation might easily take a turn for the better.
There is, however, concern in the prime minister’s office about PASOK’s future. Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos fended off criticism at a meeting of the party’s central political committee on Sunday but it is clear that there is unrest within the junior coalition partner.
Malta next, and play-for-pay restrictions from New Europe:
Malta tightens money for citizenship rules
Malta’s government will revise its controversial citizenship program and raise the price applicants have to pay to become Maltese – and by extension EU citizens – to €1.15 million from €650,000 euros.
The move comes after tough negotiations between the government and the opposition over the so-called Individual Investor Program.
Malta’s President George Abela signed the amended Citizenship Act on November 15. It allows investors who contribute a minimum of €650,000 to claim the Maltese citizenship, provided they meet due diligence criteria and pass a criminal background check.
Turkey next, and threats from New Europe:
Rival factions of ruling party appear involved in bitter infighting
Turkey’s Erdogan threatens to “break hands”
The situation on the ground as well as public discourse both deteriorated in Turkey today, with police using teargas on protesters and Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan threatening to “break the hands” of plotters.
“Let our friends and foes know this. Whoever dares to harm, stir up or set traps in this country, whoever tries to touch our independence, we will come to break those hands,” Erdogan said today.
On to the Ukraine with a stumble from EUbusiness:
Ukraine opposition struggles after Russia deal
Ukraine’s opposition is in disarray after failing to offer a clear agenda to their supporters in response to the signing by President Viktor Yanukovych of a bailout deal with Russia, analysts say.
While the protests against the authorities’ decision to scrap an integration pact with the EU under Kremlin pressure have continued in the streets of Kiev, opposition leaders appear unable to harness this support in an effective way.
Last week Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to buy $15 billion (11 billion euros) of Ukraine’s debt in eurobonds and slash its gas bill by a third to preserve Kremlin influence in its neighbour.
Russia next, and pseudoscience blues from the Moscow Times:
Reform Will Lead to Death of Russian Science, Academicians Warn
Requesting money for a project that violates the laws of physics is something you would expect from an institution run by government officials, say critics of the reform of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, a government-owned company, is developing a gravitsapa — an engine named after a device in the 1987 Soviet science fiction film “Kin-Dza-Dza.”
The engine violates the law of conservation of energy, but scientists working at the center are reluctant to say this to their superiors, academician Vladimir Zakharov said at a rally against the reform earlier this year.
“There is no one among these clever people who is brave enough to tell their boss: ‘You are a fool, your gravitsapa cannot fly,’” he said.
Libya next, and another decline via ANSAmed:
Oil: Libyan production down to 230,000 barrels a days
From 1.6 million before 2011 revolution
Libyan oil production has dropped to 230,000 barrels a day since workers shut down eastern terminals and sites at the end of July, the oil and gas ministry said Monday.
Worker strikes have caused output to drop from an average of 1.6 million barrels a day before the 2011 revolution to a historic low of 110,000 b/d in 2013.
Workers are demanding pay raises, better working conditions and a bigger cut of export profits in a country whose economy depends primarily on oil, which makes up 95% of its exports.
Latin America next, with woes from BrazzilMag:
Finance Minister Says Brazil Has Been Crippled by Rich Countries and Lack of Credit
Brazil’s Guido MantegaAccording to Brazilian Finance minister Guido Mantega, Brazil’s economy is walking with “two crippled legs.” He puts the blame on the effects of the international slowdown with different rates of recovery, and the lack of credit to prop consumer spending.
“The low growth of the global economy, particularly in developed countries has become an adverse wind for the performance of the (Brazilian) economy, as well as a higher rate of delinquency, which has made banks more cautious about new loans and thus limiting domestic demand,” said Mantega during a meeting with industry barons in São Paulo.
“This means the Brazilian economy is walking on two crippled legs: on the one side contained and scarce consumption credit, and on the other the international crisis which is stealing us of growth chances.”
No tokin’ from Tico Times:
Candidates tell pot smokers not to hold their breath on marijuana legalization
Proponents of the medicinal properties of pot, however, might come away hopeful from some of the Costa Rican presidential candidates’ comments.
It looks like there will be little momentum in Costa Rica from Uruguay’s historic legalization of marijuana last week.
Asia next, and highly placed Pakistani scofflaws from Firstpost:
Half Pakistani lawmakers say they do not pay tax-report
Nearly half Pakistan’s lawmakers reported they paid no taxes, according to a study released on Monday, findings that may endanger billions of dollars in IMF and other loans and aid that shore up a faltering economy.
Cracking down on rampant tax evasion is a main condition of a $6.7 billion International Monetary Fund programme aimed at stabilising the nuclear-armed U.S. ally of 180 million people.
Big donors such as Britain, which has committed more than $1 billion to Pakistani education, are considering slashing aid unless more rich Pakistanis pay tax.
India next with the Financial Express and central bank predictions:
Risks to Indian economy will continue, RBI to hike key policy rates: RICS
Risks to the Indian economy will continue in 2014 due to high retail inflation and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is likely to revise key policy rates upwards by up to 0.50 per cent to contain price rise, said RICS, a global body for setting standards in real estate.
“The risk to overall economy because of the high retail inflation and revision in key policy rates will continue to remain.
“It is likely that the RBI will revise key policy rates. Further revision by 25 to 50 basis points can be expected, as inflation control is the priority at this moment, even if the measure hinders growth in the short-term,” Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said in a release.
Central bankster assurances from Firstpost:
Do not doubt RBI desire to fight inflation, reassures Raghuram Rajan
Brushing aside suggestions that the RBI has shifted focus from inflation management to growth, the central bank today said fighting rising prices will continue to be its priority and a call on raising interest rates will be taken after factoring in more data.
“…Nobody should doubt our desire to fight inflation and our belief that interest rates are our main tool that we have. Nobody should doubt that,” RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said when asked if the central bank is now more keen to boost growth than to tame inflation.
Off to Malaysia with Channel NewsAsia Singapore:
Govt intervention to keep housing bubbles in check is right move: Khaw Boon Wan
National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan has said that while the property cycle cannot be completely eliminated, the government can try to keep housing bubbles “less bubbly” by intervening.
Writing on his Facebook page on Monday, Mr Khaw said that is the right thing to do, even if it may make some developers and home sellers unhappy.
Thailand next, with Channel NewsAsia Singapore:
Thai protesters step up campaign to disrupt elections
Thai opposition protesters on Monday stepped up their campaign to disrupt upcoming elections, trying to block candidate registrations as part of efforts to banish Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her family from politics.
Hundreds of demonstrators on Monday surrounded a stadium in Bangkok where representatives of political parties were trying to register to run in the polls ahead of the December 27 deadline.
Nine parties, including Yingluck’s Puea Thai, managed to enter although officials were unable to fully complete their registration, according to the country’s Election Commission.
On to China, first with inflationary woes from The Guardian:
People’s Bank of China injects capital into economy to ease credit crunch fear
Beijing responds after shortage of cash among commercial banks in China drives interest rates to nearly 10%
The People’s Bank of China is seeking to allay fears of a credit crunch after a shortage of day-to-day cash among commercial banks in the world’s second biggest economy drove market interest rates to almost 10% on Monday.
Beijing said it would top up the $50bn in liquidity provided to the markets last week as it sought to counter concerns that China’s financial sector is gripped by the sort of squeeze that caused havoc among western banks during the crisis of 2007-08.
More ominous numbers from the Global Times:
Debt doubles at local govt level in 2 years
China’s local government debt may have doubled to almost 20 trillion yuan ($3.3 trillion) by the end of 2012 from 2010, a report released by a government think tank showed Monday.
The country’s local government debt rose to 19.94 trillion yuan by the end of 2012, a report released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) showed Monday. An audit into local government debt by the National Audit Office (NAO) showed the figure stood at 10.7 trillion yuan by the end of 2010.
The total debt of China’s central and local governments accumulated to nearly 28 trillion yuan by the end of 2012, accounting for 53 percent of the country’s GDP, according to the main findings of the report sent to the Global Times on Monday.
China Daily pushes another neoliberal line:
IPR courts ‘would be helpful’
Judges with specialized knowledge in growing need as caseloads increase
China is moving in the right direction by pledging to set up dedicated courts for intellectual property rights cases, a senior United Nations official has said.
Proper legislation for IPR protection is already in place, and specialized courts will help judges become more proficient in handling complex cases, Johannes Christian Wichard, deputy director-general of the World Intellectual Property Organization, said in an interview in Singapore.
SINA English makes a pleading:
China to revise law to make it easier to sue government
A draft amendment to the Administrative Procedure Law, submitted to China’s top legislature for a first reading on Monday, should make it easier for citizens to take the government to court.
The Administrative Procedure Law, which went into effect in October 1990, is a major guarantee of citizens’ rights to pursue the government through the courts, and this first revision to the law should alleviate “petition pressure”.
While applauding the law has once played an important role in solving disputes, Xin Chunying, deputy director of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People’ s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee said citizens started to complain of “three difficulties” in making a case against governments: the filing of cases; the hearings of such cases; and enforcement of verdicts which favor citizens.
South China Morning Post goes doctrinal:
Communist Party orders ‘core socialist values’ on the curriculum
Educational institutions – from primary schools to universities – will be a major target of a sweeping Marxist education campaign announced yesterday by the Communist Party.
The unusually detailed action plan released by the ruling party’s General Office was seen as an attempt by party boss and President Xi Jinping to fight against public scepticism and fill a perceived moral vacuum opened by decades of breakneck economic growth.
The document called on almost every sector of society – from schools to the media to social organisations to the business community – to promote the so-called socialist core values.
SINA English picks targets:
Private clubs are targeted by anti-graft campaign
China’s top anti-corruption agency has pledged to crack down on extravagance and excess formality that takes place discreetly at private clubs.
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China issued a regulation on Monday that requires all government officials not to attend banquets and recreational activities at private clubs — the new strongholds of corruption.
In recent years, the facilities of some public parks and historic sites have been transformed into private clubs, where government officials secretly continue their extravagant lifestyles and even conduct power-for-money deals despite anti-graft calls from the Party’s Central Committee, the commission said.
Off to Japan, first with a question: What’s the outlook for the Japanese economy? Depends. From the Japan Daily Press:
Ageing population boost sales of adult diapers in Japan
Adult diaper sales have skyrocketed in Japan in the past years as the birthrate continues to decline and the current population reaches its twilight years. Diaper maker Unicharm Co. recorded higher sales for its adult diapers than their infant counterpart in the last fiscal year and could foresee the same thing happening in the coming years.
Unicharm, maker of Lifree series started selling diapers in the late 1980s and has already sold over 60 billion yen ($576 million) more than what it has sold for infant diapers. Even Tomod’s drugstore in Kawasaki has been shelving infant and adult diapers in the same amount of space with the store manager relaying that they, “used to put (adult diapers) on an inconspicuous shelf in the corner of the store, but with the increasing amount of at-home nursing care, we now treat them as an essential item.” In fact, sales of nursing care products in general have increased in the recent years in as much as 10 percent.
And to to Fukushimapocalypse Now!
The Mainichi gives us our lead anxiety:
Ex-Fukushima worker warns of more leaks from hastily constructed tanks
A former worker at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has warned that another leak of radioactive water could occur from hastily constructed tanks onsite if the plant’s working conditions don’t improve.
In an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun, former plant worker Yoshitatsu Uechi, 48, revealed that construction of the tanks was rushed, and said corrosion-proofing was insufficient.
“The atmosphere onsite was ‘quickly, quickly.’ Protection of the tanks against rust was insufficient, and the surface of the concrete bases was uneven,” he said.
The Asahi Shimbun marches on:
Nuclear power backers picking up steam on reactor restarts
But almost three years later, pro-nuclear officials, business leaders and utilities wielding awesome economic and political clout are regaining strength and maneuvering to tighten the noose around local government leaders who have been demanding that Japan do away with nuclear power
The Mainichi uncovers yet another threat:
Nuclear power plants in Japan threatened by volcanic eruptions: volcanologists
Several nuclear power plants around the country face dangers from potential large-scale volcanic eruptions, it has been learned via a Mainichi Shimbun questionnaire distributed to volcanologists nationwide.
Among the 17 nuclear power plants referenced within the questionnaire, those indicated to be facing the highest possible risk were the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Kagoshima Prefecture and the Tomari Nuclear Power Plant in Hokkaido.
Respondents were asked to specify which of the nuclear power plants were at risk from a pyroclastic flow of rock and other fragments in the event of a large-scale volcanic explosion within the plants’ maximum 60-year operating life, with multiple responses permitted. The Sendai plant received the highest number of responses at 29, followed by the Tomari plant at 25.
Yet another cause for anxiety, via the Mainichi:
No detailed gov’t safety inspections of Japanese nuclear tech for export
The government has failed to conduct detailed checks on the strength of nuclear plant-related devices that Japanese manufacturers export, according to internal documents obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun.
In contrast, the government performs such examinations of nuclear plant equipment for domestic use.
The revelations highlight the sloppiness of the procedure for inspecting nuclear technology headed overseas even as the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is promoting nuclear reactor exports.
France 24 brings us yet another:
Train carrying nuclear waste derails near Paris
French authorities on Monday said a train carrying nuclear waste has derailed in a Paris suburb, but no leaks, injuries or other problems have been reported.
An official with the national fire service said experts carried out radiological tests after the incident in Drancy, and found no leaks.
The official said the train was travelling slowly and went about 50 centimetres off the rails, and an investigation will be carried out.
And Kathimerini English gives us another fuel/another problem:
Smog from fireplaces in Greek cities causes political headache
The smog created when unfavorable weather conditions meet an increased use of fireplaces to warm homes became a political, as well as environmental, issue on Monday, with the government coming under pressure from its own MPs to reduce the tax on heating oil.
Multiple warnings were issued over the past few days with regard to the high levels of air pollution in Athens, Thessaloniki and other major Greek cities as a result of households burning wood to stay warm rather than using expensive heating oil.
In some places, air pollution briefly exceeded 150 mg/m3, which the government last week set as a the trigger level at which it would offer free electricity to poor households.
And for our final item, peak agriculture via Newswise:
Research Raises Concerns About Future Global Crop Yields
About 30 percent of major global cereal crops have reached maximum yields
About 30 percent of the major global cereal crops – rice, wheat and corn – may have reached their maximum possible yields in farmers’ fields, according to University of Nebraska-Lincoln research published this week in Nature Communications. These findings raise concerns about efforts to increase food production to meet growing global populations.
Yields of these crops have recently decreased or plateaued. Future projections that would ensure global food security are typically based on a constant increase in yield, a trend that this research now suggests may not be possible.