Category Archives: Elders

Headlines of the day II: EconoEuroAsianFukuDup


A very, very long compilation and perhaps the last of its sort, covering a panoply of notable developments in the economic, political, and environmental domains:.

For our first item, via the Press Gazette, proof there’s more than one way to control information:

Journalists seeking accreditation for Brit Awards asked to agree coverage of sponsor Mastercard

A PR company representing MasterCard, who are a major sponsor for tonight’s Brit Awards for pop music, appear to have asked journalists to guarantee coverage of their client as the price of attending.

Before providing two journalists from the Telegraph with accreditation to attend the event House PR has asked them to agree to a number of requests about the coverage they will give it.

They have even gone as far as to draft Twitter messages which they would like the journalists to send out – and asked that they include a mention of the marketing campaign #PricelessSurprises and @MasterCardUK.

And from the Los Angeles Times, What’s in Your Wallet?™:

Capital One says it can show up at cardholders’ homes, workplaces

  • The credit card company’s recent contract update includes terms that sound menacing and creepy.

Ding-dong, Cap One calling.

Credit card issuer Capital One isn’t shy about getting into customers’ faces. The company recently sent a contract update to cardholders that makes clear it can drop by any time it pleases.

The update specifies that “we may contact you in any manner we choose” and that such contacts can include calls, emails, texts, faxes or a “personal visit.”

As if that weren’t creepy enough, Cap One says these visits can be “at your home and at your place of employment.”

The police need a court order to pull off something like that. But Cap One says it has the right to get up close and personal anytime, anywhere.

We switch to a global headline that overshadows pretty much defining the nature of life in the era of neoliberal austerity. From Reuters:

World risks era of slow growth, high unemployment: OECD

Sweeping reforms are urgently needed to boost productivity and lower barriers to trade if the world is to avoid a new era of slow growth and stubbornly high unemployment, the OECD warned on Friday.

In its 2014 study on “Going for Growth”, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said momentum on reforms had slowed in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, with much of it now piecemeal and incremental.

From CBC News, another consequence of neoliberalism comes back to bites one its leading proponents in the bottom line:

Wal-Mart cuts growth forecast as poor shoppers spend less

  • Food stamp cuts in U.S. eat into same-store sales

Recent U.S. cuts in federal food stamps for the working poor and unemployed has led Wal-Mart Stores Inc to lower the forecast for its full-year profits.

The world’s largest retailer still expects net sales growth of three to five per cent this year.

But less food stamp aid, higher taxes and tighter credit are eroding its grocery sales, as its low-income customers struggle to get by on less.  As many as a fifth of Wal-Mart’s customers rely on food stamps, according to one analyst quoted by Reuters.

From Salon, more of the same, this time from the company founded by the new publisher of the Washington Post:

Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers

  • You might find your Prime membership morally indefensible after reading these stories about worker mistreatment

Amazon equals Walmart in the use of monitoring technologies to track the minute-by-minute movements and performance of employees and in settings that go beyond the assembly line to include their movement between loading and unloading docks, between packing and unpacking stations, and to and from the miles of shelving at what Amazon calls its “fulfillment centers”—gigantic warehouses where goods ordered by Amazon’s online customers are sent by manufacturers and wholesalers, there to be shelved, packaged, and sent out again to the Amazon customer.

Amazon’s shop-floor processes are an extreme variant of Taylorism that Frederick Winslow Taylor himself, a near century after his death, would have no trouble recognizing. With this twenty-first-century Taylorism, management experts, scientific managers, take the basic workplace tasks at Amazon, such as the movement, shelving, and packaging of goods, and break down these tasks into their subtasks, usually measured in seconds; then rely on time and motion studies to find the fastest way to perform each subtask; and then reassemble the subtasks and make this “one best way” the process that employees must follow.

Amazon is also a truly global corporation in a way that Walmart has never been, and this globalism provides insights into how Amazon responds to workplaces beyond the United States that can follow different rules. In the past three years, the harsh side of Amazon has come to light in the United Kingdom and Germany as well as the United States, and Amazon’s contrasting conduct in America and Britain, on one side, and in Germany, on the other, reveals how the political economy of Germany is employee friendly in a way that those of the other two countries no longer are.

ProPublica covers the sadly predictable:

U.S. Lags Behind World in Temp Worker Protections

‘Permatemping’ cases highlight lack of U.S. protections for temp workers. Other countries limit the length of temp jobs, guarantee equal pay and restrict dangerous work.

Since the 2007-09 recession, temp work has been one of the fastest growing segments of the economy. But a ProPublica investigation into this burgeoning industry over the past year has documented an array of problems. Temps have worked for the same company for as long as 11 years, never getting hired on full-time. Companies have assigned temps to the most dangerous jobs. In several states, data showed that temps are three times more likely than regular workers to suffer amputations on the job. And even some of the country’s largest companies have relied on immigrant labor brokers and fly-by-night temp agencies that have cheated workers out of their wages.

In contrast, countries around the globe have responded to similar abuses by adopting laws to protect the growing number of temps in their workforces. These include limiting the length of temp assignments, guaranteeing equal pay for equal work and restricting companies from hiring temps for hazardous tasks.

Badly Behaving Banksters pay their dues, via TheLocal.ch:

Credit Suisse to pay $196m US fine

Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse has admitted it violated US securities laws and will pay $196 million to settle the charges, the Securities and Exchange Commission said Friday.

The SEC action came as the Department of Justice investigates Credit Suisse for allegedly helping US citizens illegally avoid taxes.

The SEC said that Credit Suisse Group violated laws by providing cross-border brokerage and investment advisory services to US clients without first registering with the SEC.

According to the SEC, the Zurich-based global bank began conducting the unregistered services as early as 2002 and had collected about $82 million in fees on the accounts before completely exiting the business in mid-2013.

Belated action from United Press International:

California unveils legislation to help deal with drought

California officials Wednesday unveiled a $687.4 million plan to help the state cope with its severe drought.

Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders said the proposal would provide funds for direct relief for farm workers who will likely be out of a job for an extended period as growers cut back on their planting.

In addition, the legislation provides funding for water-conservation projects and a public-awareness campaign to remind Californians it is shaping up to be a long, dry summer.

The Christian Science Monitor adds context:

California drought: Farmers cut back sharply, affecting jobs and food supply

With drought limiting water deliveries from northern California and the price of irrigation skyrocketing, farmers’ fields lie fallow and the politicized debate over solutions rages.

And from the U.S. Drought Monitor, the latest image of California’s water crisis, with severity increasing with color darkness [the dark brown being the worst, “Exceptional Drought”]:

BLOG Drought

Al Jazeera America campaigns:

Push to boost wages at big LA hotels

  • City council to consider proposal to raise hourly rate to $15.37, which would be among nation’s highest if passed

Three Los Angeles City Council members have launched a bid to nearly double the minimum wage for hotel workers to $15.37 an hour, among the highest proposed minimums nationwide.

The living wage proposal, applicable to about 11,000 workers employed by Los Angeles hotels with more than 100 rooms, would help to lift employees out of poverty and benefit the city economy, proposal supporters said on Tuesday when the proposal was introduced.

California’s minimum wage is $8 an hour with a $1 bump coming in July. It will reach $10 in 2016. Cities and counties can set a higher minimum wage. In San Francisco, for example, the minimum is $10.74 with annual cost of living increases. Nationwide, a number of cities have adopted or are considering minimum wage proposals, including a citywide $15-per-hour rate urged by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.

Meanwhile, there’s another crisis in California, reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Many L.A. Unified school libraries, lacking staff, are forced to shut

Budget cuts leave about half of L.A. Unified’s elementary and middle schools without librarians, and thousands of students without books.

About half of the 600 elementary and middle school libraries are without librarians or aides, denying tens of thousands of students regular access to nearly $100 million worth of books, according to district data.

The crisis has exacerbated educational inequalities across the nation’s second-largest system, as some campuses receive extra money for library staff and others don’t. It has also sparked a prolonged labor conflict with the California School Employees Assn., which represents library aides.

Cashing in the Mile High City’s state with the London Telegraph:

Bumper cannabis sales in Colorado form billion-dollar industry

  • In America’s first cannabis-legal state sales are surging far ahead of predictions, bringing huge additional tax revenue

Cannabis is likely to become an annual billion-dollar legal industry in the sate of Colorado by next year after officials suggested greater volumes of the drug are being sold than anticipated.

Colorado was the first state in the US to licence and tax sales of the drug for recreational use, allowing dozens of shops to open for business on Jan 1, 2014.

In the lead up to legalisation it was estimated that sales would reach $395 million in the 2014/2015 financial year.

But in its first assessment since the New Year Governor John Hickenlooper’s budget office has dramatically increased that to $612 million.

When the $345 million in estimated sales of the drug to people with medical conditions is added that means a total of almost $1 billion.

The Hill concedes the despicably considered:

Obama drops proposal to cut Social Security from his budget

Yielding to pressure from congressional Democrats, President Obama is abandoning a proposed cut to Social Security benefits in his election-year budget.

The president’s budget request for fiscal 2015, which is due out March 4, will not call for a switch to a new formula that would limit cost-of-living increases in the entitlement program, the White House said Thursday.

“This year the administration is returning to a more traditional budget presentation that is focused on achieving the president’s vision for the best path to create growth and opportunity for all Americans, and the investments needed to meet that vision,” a White House official said.

Obama last year proposed the new formula for calculating benefits as an overture to Republicans toward a “grand bargain” on the debt.

Barry O continues his neoliberal trade crusade with BBC News:

Obama champions controversial North America-Asia trade deal

US President Barack Obama has vowed to expand trade agreements between North America and Asia, despite concerns within his own political party.

Ending a day of talks with the leaders of Mexico and Canada, Mr Obama said they must keep up their “competitive advantage”.

The three countries are negotiating a major Pacific trade deal.

But Mr Obama’s Democratic allies oppose the agreement amid concerns that American jobs could be lost.

Republic Report adds significant context:

Obama Admin’s TPP Trade Officials Received Hefty Bonuses From Big Banks

Officials tapped by the Obama administration to lead the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations have received multimillion dollar bonuses from CitiGroup and Bank of America, financial disclosures obtained by Republic Report show.

Stefan Selig, a Bank of America investment banker nominated to become the Under Secretary for International Trade at the Department of Commerce, received more than $9 million in bonus pay as he was nominated to join the administration in November. The bonus pay came in addition to the $5.1 million in incentive pay awarded to Selig last year.

Michael Froman, the current U.S. Trade Representative, received over $4 million as part of multiple exit payments when he left CitiGroup to join the Obama administration. Froman told Senate Finance Committee members last summer that he donated approximately 75 percent of the $2.25 million bonus he received for his work in 2008 to charity. CitiGroup also gave Froman a $2 million payment in connection to his holdings in two investment funds, which was awarded “in recognition of [Froman’s] service to Citi in various capacities since 1999.”

Getting together with Kyodo News:

Crucial TPP ministerial meeting begins in Singapore

Ministers from the 12 countries involved in the envisioned Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade accord began talks in Singapore on Saturday seeking to achieve the challenging goal of reaching a broad agreement after missing an end-of-2013 deadline.

But the momentum for an early conclusion of the ambitious U.S.-led trade initiative has been overshadowed by U.S. frustration over Japan’s reluctance to open up its agricultural market, as well as Malaysian and Vietnamese opposition to reforming state-owned firms.

During a five-day working-level meeting through Friday, each country held bilateral meetings on the sidelines of plenary sessions to bridge gaps over outstanding issues, but officials made little progress on thorny issues.

The Japan Times covers amen choristers:

Don’t fold on TPP tariffs: senators

A bipartisan group of senators has sent a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman urging the Obama administration not to make tariff concessions to Japan during the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks.

The letter, dated Saturday and signed by 15 senators led by Michael Bennett, a Colorado Democrat, and Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, “asked for assurances that the TPP negotiations will not be concluded until Japan agrees to eliminate tariff and non-tariff trade barriers for agricultural products,” the National Pork Producers Council said the same day.

Tokyo and Washington are jousting over Japanese duties on five “sacred” farm product categories — rice, beef and pork, wheat, dairy and sugar — that Tokyo wants to retain under the TPP, which is based on the principle of abolishing all tariffs.

The Obamanations continue via The Guardian:

Obama begins Mexico summit with orders lowering trade barriers

  • Before meeting Mexican and Canadian heads of state, president bypasses Congress by signing trade liberalisation orders

Barack Obama begins a North American summit in Mexico on Wednesday with a gesture of defiance toward allies in Congress who are hampering his ability to negotiate controversial trade liberalisation agreements.

In the latest in a series of so-called executive actions promised in his state of the union address, the US president will sign new measures to speed up imports and exports for businesses by reducing bureaucratic barriers.

And from one Canadian province, a modest resistance to the tenor of the times, via CBC News:

Quebec proposes rules to prevent hostile takeovers

  • Budget sets out economic agenda that includes government taking stakes in mining sector

Quebec’s Parti Québécois government proposed measures to shield businesses headquartered in Quebec from hostile takeovers in a budget tabled Thursday.

It was one in a series of proposals geared at keeping Quebec business in the province that also included plans for the government to buy direct stakes in oil and mining companies with new finds in Quebec.

The proposal comes at a time when the minority government is expected to call a provincial election and may not last long enough to pass through the legislature.

From MercoPress, deserved anxiety:

IMF concerned with risks in emerging markets from pulling back stimulus too quickly

Advanced economies, including the United States, must avoid pulling back stimulus too quickly given the weak global economic recovery and recent market volatility highlights key risks in some emerging markets, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday.

The IMF said there was scope for better coordination of central bank exit plans, something many emerging market policymakers have called for as the Federal Reserve has begun to wind back its US support for the economy.

In a briefing note prepared for upcoming Group of 20 meetings, IMF staff said the outlook for global growth was similar to its last assessment in January, with growth of about 3.75% seen for this year and 4.0% in 2015.

More from China Daily:

Growth in emerging economies to decline: IMF

Anticipated growth in emerging surplus economies, including China’s, is “expected to decline” and output gaps in advanced economies remain negative, the International Monetary Fund said in a report released ahead of this weekend’s G-20 finance meeting in Australia.

Global recovery from the recession has been “disappointingly weak,” and G-20 countries are still producing “far below” the longer-term trend, the report said.

While global economic activity picked up in the second half of 2013 due to strengthening advanced economies, trade volumes remain below trend, decline in unemployment and strong private demand “did not materialize,” the IMF said Wednesday.

Against the backdrop of slower-than-anticipated global growth, emerging economies are experiencing bouts of volatility in the financial sector, influenced in part by weakening sentiment toward emerging economies, the IMF said.

On to Europe with another red flag from BBC News:

Eurozone business growth slowed in February, PMI study suggests

Business growth in the eurozone eased this month but the bloc’s economy continued to expand at a “robust pace”, a closely watched survey suggests.

The latest Markit eurozone composite purchasing managers’ index (PMI) dipped to 52.7 from 52.9 in January. A figure above 50 indicates expansion.

Within the bloc, Germany and France continued to see contrasting fortunes. German companies saw strong growth, but activity among French firms declined for the fourth month in a row.

Another from Deutsche Welle:

Eurozone January inflation too tame to please ECB

In January, price increases in the eurozone remained well below the rate desired by the European Central Bank. The timid inflation rate for the month points to a lackluster recovery in the recession-hit currency area.

Annual inflation in the 18-nation eurozone remained tame in January, recording 0.8 percent higher than in the previous month of December, according to Monday.

In the wider 28-nation European Union, inflation fell to 0.9 percent against 1 percent at the end of last year, Eurostat said.

Compared with January 2013, however, the rates for both areas were significantly lower, coming down from 2 percent and 2.1 percent annual inflation respectively a year ago.

And from Eurostat [PDF], the graphic that tells the deeper story [click to enlarge]:

BLOG Inflate

Another indicator of creepy europoverty from The Guardian [obesity rates rise as poverty increases, with the rates of obesity highest in Europe’s unfortunately named, crisis wracked PIGS]:

Overweight children could become new norm in Europe, says WHO

As many as a third of 11-year-olds in some countries are overweight, as well as two-thirds of UK’s adult population

Being overweight is in danger of becoming the new norm for children as well as adults in Europe, the World Health Organisation warns, issuing figures showing that up to a third of 11-year-olds across the region are too heavy.

According to the EU figures, Greece has the highest proportion of overweight 11-year-olds (33%), followed by Portugal (32%), Ireland and Spain (both 30%).

More anxieties from EurActiv:

Europe tries to reverse drift towards de-industrialisation

After a lost decade, Europe is trying to reverse a decline in manufacturing which has brought industrial output to a standstill. The issue will reach the EU’s top decision-making body in March when European leaders meet for their quarterly summit in Brussels.

Over the past few years, the European Commission has been the most vocal EU institution campaigning for the continent’s industrial revival, positioning itself as a driver of competitiveness and job creation.

Within the EU executive, the commissioner for enterprise, Antonio Tajani, has emerged as the winner of an internal debate opposing supporters of industry to environmentalists, whose policies were blamed for hampering the economy.

Another warning from New Europe:

North-South gap weakens employment and social cohesion

  • The latest European Vacancy Monitor revealed a growing North-South divide

A widening gap in job opportunities between Northern and Southern EU countries is threatening the employment and social cohesion of the EU.

On 24 February, the European Commission announced the latest issue of the European Vacancy Monitor (EVM), which indicated a shortage in labour supply in countries such as Austria, Denmark Sweden, Estonia and Latvia, and an increased competition for jobs in countries such as Greece, Slovakia and Spain.

László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, said that the Northern-Southern employment gap indicates Eurozone’s employment and social asymmetries. “Diverging job prospects in Northern and Southern Europe underline mismatches in the European labour market, linked also to Eurozone asymmetries. Labour mobility might help to reduce those imbalances. Tools supporting workers mobility within the European labour market such as EURES are available to help job seekers find job opportunities,” Commissioner Andor said.

A shift in sentiment from EUobserver:

Poll: Socialists to top EU elections, boost for far-right

Europe’s socialists are set to top the polls in May’s European elections, according to the first pan-EU election forecast.

The projections, released by Pollwatch Europe on Tuesday (19 February), give the parliament’s centre-left group 221 out of 751 seats on 29 percent of the vote, up from the 194 seats it currently holds.

For their part, the centre-right EPP would drop to 202 seats from the 274 it currently holds on 27 percent of the vote across the bloc. If correct, it would be the first victory for the Socialists since 1994.

EurActiv takes a hit:

Financiers snipe at draft EU law against money laundering

Representatives of financial transactions services have criticised harshly the EU’s draft legislation to fight money laundering which will go through its first parliamentary vote today (20 February) and enjoys the support of the anti-corruption champion, Transparency International.

The European Commission proposal, tabled in February last year, is aimed at tightening EU rules on financial transactions in a bid to step up the fight against money laundering and terrorism funding.

One of the main elements of the proposal is the introduction of a mechanism to name the beneficial owners of companies, in order to prevent the illicit activities which are often carried out under anonymity.

The proposal also includes requirements to increase customer due diligence and tightening the rules obliging financial companies to identify their clients and the legitimacy of their activities.

Europe Online pulls back:

Iceland moves to withdraw EU application

Iceland’s centre-right government is to seek parliamentary approval to withdraw its application to join the European Union, opting not to restart accession talks that were put on ice a year ago.

A bill proposing the withdrawal was sent to parliament late Friday and was due to be debated next week, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson told dpa on Saturday.

The move came after the parliamentary caucuses of the ruling parties – the centrist Progressive Party and the conservative Independence Party – voted Friday to withdraw the application.

In comments on the proposal quoted by online news site Visir.is, the government said it “did not have a support base” to complete the accession process.

Off to Britain, with a major policy reversal of the post-equine escape animal enclosure locking sort from Sky News:

Cameron: UK Ready To Fund New Flood Defences

  • David Cameron tells Sky News he is ready to open the Government’s “chequebook” to build new flood defences.

David Cameron has suggested that his “money is no object” pledge on the flood relief effort could be extended to cover the costs of new defences.

In an exclusive interview with Sky News, the Prime Minister said he was ready to take out his “chequebook” following a major review of what went wrong and how it could have been prevented.

“You’ve got to look at where the floods have been this time, compared with 2007, compared with 2003,” he said.

From the London Telegraph, the usual result:

Wages rise but still below inflation

  • Pay increase and a fall in unemployment a boost for the Bank of England

Wages are still failing to keep up with the rising cost of living despite climbing at a faster rate in the final quarter of last year.

Average weekly pay including bonuses edged up 1.1pc to £478 in the three months to the end of December, up from the 0.9pc rate of increase in the three months to the end of November, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

However, the Government’s preferred inflation measure, the consumer prices index (CPI), currently stands at 1.9pc – below the 2pc target – despite a surprise 0.1 point fall on Tuesday.

Another austerian consequence from The Observer:

Cash-strapped older women are forced back to work

  • Older women taking on more jobs, study finds, but pay gap between the sexes is growing wider

More than three-quarters of the rise in female employment, which hit record levels last December, is the result of women aged over 50 taking on jobs, a study has found.

A report by the TUC to be released this week has established that 2,278,000 more women are now working than in 1992, and that 1,645,000 (72%) of these are aged 50 or over.

Last week the government welcomed news that more women were in work, with the proportion – 67.2% – the highest since records began 43 years ago. The TUC study pinpoints how many older women have felt the need to return to work or to continue working until later in life, for a combination of reasons. These include the rising cost of living, the increase in the state pension age and the fall in value of workplace pensions.

While much of the rise in female employment is due to the greater number of over-50s in the population, the rate of employment has risen too. In 1992, 50.7% of women in the 50-64 age group were economically “inactive”, compared with 36.8% today.

The Observer follows hunger in posh places:

‘Most desirable’ district in the country has three food banks

  • In wealthy towns, families hit by falling incomes and benefit cuts are increasingly being forced to rely on charity handouts

Volunteers have sounded the alarm over a growing reliance on food banks in one of the richest areas in Britain.

Weekly earnings in Hart in Hampshire, recently named as the most desirable district in the country for quality of life, are a third higher than the national average. But the district also has three food banks, which have given out more than 1,000 emergency food parcels in the past six months.

Anti-poverty campaigners say that, even in wealthy areas such as Hart, benefit changes and low wages are creating growing pockets of desperate need.

EurActiv readies the trial:

Britain sets out new test to limit EU migrant benefits

Britain laid out new rules on Wednesday (19 February) designed to limit the access that migrants from other European Union states have to the country’s welfare system.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking to curb immigration into Britain in an effort to quell concerns about migrants entering the country to claim benefits, referred to as ‘benefits tourism’. The move may also stop voters defecting to the anti-immigration UK Independence Party.

The new test, due to come into effect on March 1, sets a minimum income threshold to determine whether a migrant working in the UK should have access to the wider suite of benefits that comes with being classed as a worker rather than a jobseeker.

But the Usual Suspects are doing quite well, thankee kindly. Via Reuters, a case of Banksters Behaving Brazenly:

HSBC to announce bonuses totaling $4 billion: report

HSBC will announce staff bonuses totaling just under 2.4 billion pounds ($4 billion) globally for 2013 and is expected to report a significant rise in pretax profit, Sky News reported on its website on Saturday without citing its sources.

Referring to an unnamed source close to the bank, Sky also said Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver will receive a 1.8 million pound bonus as part of an overall pay deal worth more than 7 million pounds, though this would be less than his previous year pay deal of 7.4 million.

Europe’s biggest bank is expected to announce the size of its bonus pool on Monday along with its yearly results. Bonus payments remain a sensitive issue as many Britons still blame banks for the 2008 financial crisis, after which the state was forced to bail out RBS and Lloyds.

On to Scandinavia and some hard times intolerance from TheLocal.no:

Three men charged for racist attack in Norway

Three men in their twenties have been charged for assaulting a black man in northern Norway, allegedly telling him “we do not like immigrants in Verdal” as they hit him on the back with a snow shovel.

Jacob Kuteh, who was born in Liberia, was hospitalized after the  attack, which took place on Saturday night.

Kuteh claimed the men hit him, strangled him and kicked him in the head, before hitting him with a snow shovel, all the while telling him, “we hate you. We’ll take you.”

“I’ve lived here for ten years and have never experienced anything like this,” Kuteh told VG newspaper. “I have kids that go to school here and it’s no fun at all that someone has suddenly come and told me that they do not like the colour of my skin.”

Sweden next, with a demographic note from TheLocal.se:

Immigrants behind boom in Sweden’s population

The population of Sweden saw the biggest yearly increase in 70 years last year, according to new statistics, thanks largely to the almost 120,000 immigrants who arrived throughout the year.

Sweden’s population on the last day of 2013 was 9,644,864 – a 0.93 percent hike from 2012. The total increase was the largest since 1946, and statisticians at Statistics Sweden (Statistiska centralbyrån – SCB) marked it down to a record-high level of immigration.

In total, 115,845 immigrants arrived in Sweden in 2013, many from Syria and Somalia. The figure is the highest Sweden has ever had in a one-year period. The men outnumbered the women by around 5,000.

TheLocal.se again, this time with a contrarian finding:

Romanian beggars cleared in court

A district court in central Sweden has cleared three Romanian nationals of begging following a previous indictment, saying they did not need the permission of the police to beg.

The trio had previously been prosecuted for begging on the streets of Södertälje, Stockholm county, in January. In court it was debated whether the three individuals had broken any local laws regarding the collection of money.

Local newspaper Länstidningen said that the case was unique as the issue has never been tested before by law.

According to local Södertälje regulations police permission is required for the “collection of money in boxes or similar.” In court the example of street musicians, who don’t require police permission, was raised and comparisons were made between the beggars and street performers.

And more academic austerity ahead with TheLocal.se:

Borg to cut student grants and pension perks

With autumn elections on the horizon, Sweden’s Finance Minister Anders Borg said his government would cut student grants and make alcohol and tobacco more expensive, part of a budget plan to fill Sweden’s coffers.

“You shouldn’t stoke the fire in good times,” Borg told reporters in Stockholm on Thursday as he mapped out the centre-right government coalition’s budget prognosis for the near- and medium term. He said he no longer saw the need to use stimulus measures to keep Sweden’s economy buoyant, and argued that it was time to strengthen public finances.

“Sweden needs proper levees in place before the next crisis,” Borg said, adding that Sweden’s reliance on liquidity and its high household indebtedness was “a big element of uncertainty in the Swedish economy”.

Off to the Netherlands with stagnation from DutchNews.nl:

House prices stabilise but building permits reach 60-year low

House prices were down just 0.5 percent in January, compared with January 2013, showing house prices have now stabilised, the national statistics office CBS says on Friday.

Month on month, there was a 0.4% rise in house prices.

House prices are now in line with 11 years ago, after reaching a peak in August 2008, the CBS says. Houses have gone down an average of 20% in price since then.

At the same time, the CBS says the number of permits for new houses reached a record low of 26,000 in 2013. This is 30% down on 2012 and 70% down on 2008. Permits for new housing have not been so low since 1953, the CBS says.

Germany next, and a pain in the wallet from TheLocal.de:

Wages fall for first time since crash

Wages in Germany fell by an average of 0.2 percent last year, the first drop since the 2009 economic crisis, the federal statistics office said on Thursday.

The calculation was in terms of the real buying power of wages, allowing for inflation, and the fall bodes ill for efforts to fire up domestic consumption to boost recovery in Europe’s biggest economy.

Germany has relied mainly on exports to drive growth.

Citing preliminary results, the statistics office said that nominal wages in 2013 were up 1.3 percent from the previous year, but that consumer prices rose faster, at 1.5 percent, over the same period.

“One reason for the decline in real wages in 2013 was a decline in bonuses which are frequently performance-related,” said a statement by the Wiesbaden-based agency which is known as Destatis.

Deutsche Welle tracks a booming business:

Arms manufacturer Rheinmetall logs lower profit but higher orders

Germany’s biggest arms maker, Rheinmetall, has defied weak defense spending in Europe in 2013 to surprise investors with higher-than-expected earnings. A massive order backlog for 2014 boosted company shares further.
Panzer

Last year, Rheinmetall’s performance had been stable, with consolidated sales of 4.6 billion euros ($6.3 billion). Before special items, Rheinmettal also boasted an operating profit of 213 million euros, the German defense and automotive industry conglomerate announced as it released figures for its 2013 fiscal year on Wednesday.

Rheinmetall’s 2013 operating result was about 55 million euros lower than in 2012, but higher than forecast for 2013, the Düsseldorf-based company announced. The decrease was the result of restructuring measures to the tune of 86 million euros, as well as a further 15 million euros in expenses for strategic portfolio measures, Rheinmetall aannounced.

Annual sales also fell in 2013, however, with the 2 percent decline mainly being a result of unfavorable exchange rates for the euro.

And a point we’ve made before, from EUbusiness:

Germany has ‘unfair’ edge with low salaries: minister

Germany’s low salaries have given Europe’s biggest economy an “unfair” competitive advantage over its partners and must be corrected, a junior German minister has said.

Michael Roth, state secretary for European Affairs, was commenting on Germany’s record trade surplus, which surged to nearly 200 billion euros ($270 billion) last year, and has seen Berlin placed under EU scrutiny.

He said in an interview with AFP Thursday that imbalances had appeared among EU members and there “was a duty not only for countries running a deficit but also for Germany to reduce them”.

The comments by the Social Democrat politician differ from the stance of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, who disagree that Berlin has a problem with its trade surplus despite it consistently exceeding EU limits.

France next, and a uniquely Gallic form of action from Europe Online:

New “boss-napping” incident at a French factory

Workers at a French factory were holding three managers captive for a second day Thursday, after its owners announced that it would be shut down.

The managing director, technical director and financial director of Depalor, a company that produces wood panels in the north-eastern Lorraine region, were being held in an office building.

A trade union representative told France Info radio that the three were barred from leaving until the CEO of parent company Swiss Krono Group came to discuss redundancy terms for the 142 workers.

The incident is the second case of “boss-napping” in France within two months.

And the hidden disclosed, via TheLocal.ch:

France says thousands declare Swiss accounts

The French government says that nearly 16,000 people have declared funds hidden abroad after Switzerland curtailed its vaunted banking secrecy.

France’s Budget Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Wednesday that the government was on track to collect 230 million euros ($316 million) from only 2,621 of the cases.

He told the finance committee of the lower house National Assembly that 80 percent of the newly declared accounts were from Switzerland, which has curtailed its banking secrecy traditions under international pressure.

France 24 ponies up:

French government, China’s Dongfeng to invest in Peugeot

Peugeot Citroën, which has been manufacturing automobiles in France for more than 100 years, has agreed to a deal that will see both the French government and Chinese carmaker Dongfeng buy large stakes in the struggling company.

Peugeot announced on Wednesday that its board had approved the agreement, in which the French government and Dongfeng will each invest €800 million ($1.1 billion) in exchange for 14 percent stakes in the company.

The move marks a huge transition for the carmaker, which until now has been controlled by the Peugeot family. Under the agreement, the family’s 25 percent stake and 38 percent of voting rights will now be reduced to equal the French government and Dongfeng’s stakes in the company.

On to Switzerland and a case of resigned to not being resigned from TheLocal.ch:

German professor quits over Swiss ‘xenophobia’

A German professor at the Federal Institute for Technology in Zurich (ETH) has made a splash in the media for quitting his job over the Swiss vote to limit immigration.

Christopher Höcker, who had taught at the university’s Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture since 1999, told his students this week he was stepping down.

The decision by Swiss voters in a February 9th referendum to narrowly support quotas for immigrants from the European Union was the last straw for the 57-year-old German citizen.

“I do not want more exposure to the increasingly xenophobic climate in Switzerland,” Höcker told 20 Minuten newspaper.

TheLocal.ch delays:

EU not compromising but gives Switzerland time

The EU said Thursday it cannot compromise on the principle of freedom of movement but will allow Switzerland time to find a solution after a controversial referendum approved immigration curbs.

“It is a serious . . . not a minor change which we have to assess calmly,” chief operating officer of the EU external affairs service David O’Sullivan said of the referendum outcome.

“Freedom of movement is a fundamental core value” of the European Union and as such is not open for negotiation, O’Sullivan said after talks with Yves Rossier, his counterpart in the Swiss department of foreign affairs.

On to Spain and onto the streets with United Press International:

Spanish marchers protest job cuts, law against protesting

Demonstrators in at least seven Spanish cities have called for an end to a “gagging law” that set large fines for protest marches.

The protesters were joined by factory workers due to be laid off and groups seeking to preserve access to universal healthcare, Think Spain reported. Monday.

The anti-demonstration law, which affects even peaceful protests, calls for fines of $41,000 to $823,000 for anyone staging the marches.

The protests, which drew thousands of supporters in each of the cities, also want the Spanish Parliament to reject a proposed law restricting abortions.

From Spanish Property Insight, the one group of immigrants eagerly sought:

First Chinese property investors get their “Golden Visas”

Chinese nationals investing in property in Spain are starting to get their residency visas, according to Spanish press reports.

A businesswoman from Shanghai who spent €520,000 on flats in Barcelona and Madrid has become one of the first Chinese nationals to get a Spanish residency via the new “Golden Visa” law that offers Spanish residency permits to non-EU nationals in return for real estate investments of €500,000 or more.

She invested in Spanish property via the Emigration Centre at Shanghai International Studies University (SISU), which has a programme to help Chinese nationals invest in residency schemes abroad.

On to Lisbon and yet another austerian misery demanded from the Portugal News:

EU calls for Portugal wages to fall by a further 5%

The European Commission has argued that Portugal needs a further 5% average reduction in wages to ensure a balance between the unemployment rate and wage rates.

Portugal’s government responded by saying that it continued to disagree with that view, arguing that recent increases in exports show that wage adjustment in the private sector has been “sufficient”.

In its report on the 10th regular review of Portugal’s economic and financial assistance programme, released on Thursday, the European Union executive states that “Portugal needs wage moderation sufficient to absorb unemployment” and outlines some estimates.

According to the commission’s calculations, “a reduction of one percentage point in the unemployment rate demands a reduction in real wages of about 2.4%” – which it said means real wages falling 5% if the gap is to be closed between the current jobless rate and that at which wage levels will not lead to new increases in unemployment.

Deutsche Welle takes us to Italy and the latest regime:

Italy swears in its youngest-ever prime minister, Matteo Renzi

  • Italy’s new prime minister, Matteo Renzi, and his cabinet have been sworn into office at a ceremony in Rome. The new government is the youngest in the recent Italian history.

The swearing-in of the prime minister took place at a ceremony in Rome under the auspices of Napolitano.

At 39, Renzi is the youngest-ever person to take the reins in the eurozone’s third largest economy, and his cabinet, with an average age of 47.8 years, is also the most youthful in recent Italian history.

As a result, the government is facing widespread skepticism as to whether it has the political maturity to cope with the challenges currently facing the country.

And the road’s already getting bumpy, via TheLocal.it:

Grillo declares ‘war’ as Berlusconi backs Renzi

Five Star Movement leader Beppe Grillo has lashed out at Matteo Renzi, saying the prime minister designate is “not credible” and declaring a political “war” against the country’s prospective new leader.

Since being nominated for the premiership on Monday, Renzi has been meeting with party leaders to gain the political backing needed to push urgent reforms through parliament.

While some meetings, such as one with Go Italy (Forza Italia) leader Silvio Berlusconi, have gone relatively well, the same cannot be said of Renzi’s meeting with Grillo.

Visible to all by a live internet stream, their meeting appeared to be a dialogue of the deaf, with neither side appearing interested in the other.

ANSA raises an alarm:

Italian recovery slow, growth stalling, say industrialists

  • Urgent need to address competitiveness, demand and bank credit

Italy’s economic recovery is extremely slow and recent data shows that industrial production in the eurozone’s third-largest economy is close to stalling, according to a new report released on Wednesday by Italian employers’ association Confindustria.

“(The recovery is) moving ahead very slowly, almost at a standstill”, Confindustria’s economists said. “These are the harsh facts of the Italian economy”, with employment and industrial production data “confirming that the pick up from the extremely deep hole that has been dug by the recession is extremely slow”.

Fourth-quarter gross domestic product data, which showed the economy expanded 0.1% in the last three months of 2013, was “lower that expected” and “confirms the extreme weakness of the recovery”, according to the report drawn up by Confindustria’s economic research unit which is headed by economist Luca Paolazzi.

And another call for an increasingly mooted move from ANSA:

Re-open cannabis debate, hurt mafia, says ex-health minister

  • Ban on marijuana doesn’t work, says top oncologist Veronesi

It’s time that Italy re-opened the debate on liberalizing marijuana use, to cut out drug traffickers, permit its medical use, while acknowledging the current ban doesn’t work, former health minister Umberto Veronesi said Thursday.

In an opinion article published in La Repubblica newspaper, Veronesi, a prominent oncologist, said that liberalizing the drug would take away power from the mafia and other criminals who now profit greatly from its cultivation and sale.

It would make marijuana more safe for users, including those who need it for pain relief, added Veronesi, whose comments come amid debate about Italy’s illegal-drug laws.

And from New Europe, departures from Bucharest:

Romanian ministers resign

Romania is in the throws of a political crisis after two ministers from the junior party in the ruling coalition resigned.

Finance Minister Daniel Chitoiu and Economy Minister Andrei Gerea, both Liberal Party members, stepped down on Wednesday after Prime Minister Victor Ponta refused to accept the Liberals’ nomination of Klaus Johannis, the popular mayor of Sibiu city, as interior minister. The position, now vacant, was recently held by another Liberal Party official.

Ponta, leader of the Social Democratic Party, will temporarily head the finance portfolio. He named a party colleague as interim economy minister.

After the jump, the latest Greek debacles, unmentionable anxieties in Russia, the latest from Kyiv, an African GMO invasion, the latest turmoil from Latin America, India swings to the right, Thai troubles, worries down under, Chinese alarm bells, Abenomics on the rocks, nucelear woes in the U.S.A., Big Ag hits a roadblock, fracking woes go global, a Spanish snail invasion, and a globl arming cooler. . .plus Fukushimapocalypse Now! Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: EconoGrecoSinoFuku


Our compendium of entries form the political, economic, and environmental realms opens with a spine-chiller from The Independent:

Scientists talk of ‘pandemic potential’ after first confirmed human death from new strain of bird flu

Chinese scientists have said the “pandemic potential” of a new strain of bird flu “should not be underestimated” after the first known human infection resulted in the death of an elderly woman.

The new strain is a variant of a virus known as H10N8, which scientists believe may have originated in wild birds, and later spread to poultry.

The victim, a 73-year-old woman from Nanchang City in south-eastern China, was the first person confirmed to have been infected with the new type, and a second case has since been discovered, raising concerns that the virus has evolved so that it can transfer easily from birds to humans.

Its emergence coincides with a surge in the number of cases of another bird flu strain, H7N9, which is known to have infected 286 people since March last year, causing 60 deaths. The vast majority of cases have occurred in China, but Taiwan has also recorded two infections, and the virus is known to have spread to Hong Kong, which has seen four cases.

Latter-day gladiatorial gaming and another sign of our cultural plight from BuzzFeed:

George Zimmerman Reportedly Set To Fight Rapper DMX

  • The man who was found not guilty of murder in the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin will fight the rapper who promised to “f**k him right up,” according to TMZ. The fight promoter backtracked from announcing the fight on Trayvon’s birthday.

From The Guardian, costly folly:

Fracking is depleting water supplies in America’s driest areas, report shows

  • From Texas to California, drilling for oil and gas is using billions of gallons of water in the country’s most drought-prone areas

America’s oil and gas rush is depleting water supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas of the country, from Texas to California, new research has found.

Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were in areas experiencing drought, the report by the Ceres investor network found.

Fracking those wells used 97bn gallons of water, raising new concerns about unforeseen costs of America’s energy rush.

“Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country’s most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions,” said Mindy Lubber, president of the Ceres green investors’ network.

Just how bad is California’s drought? Consider the following from Bloomberg News:

BLOG Drought

From the Washington Post, stiffing the Praetorians:

CBO: Military pension payments to fall 5 percent by 2023 with cut

A controversial new pension cut for younger military retirees will help reduce the projected payments for those retirement benefits by about 5 percent by 2023, according to congressional number crunchers.

Estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, released Tuesday, show that federal spending on military retirement benefits will rise from $51.5 billion this year to $64.3 billion in 2023.

The change is at least partly due to a provision in the budget bill Congress and President Obama approved in December that reduces cost-of-living allowances for working-age military retirees by 1 percent starting next year. A higher rate will apply once those individuals reach age 62, and the plan does not affect disabled retirees.

The Register delivers the blow:

First Dell, now IBM: 15,000 jobs face the axe at Big Blue, says union

  • ‘Workforce rebalancing’ will take place in the first quarter

IBM is set to spend another $1bn on job cuts this year to eliminate an estimated 15,000 jobs worldwide, according to trade union Alliance@IBM.

The company has already spent the same amount of money last year on ‘workforce rebalancing’, its euphemism for redundancies.

Big Blue’s chief financial officer for finance and enterprise transformation, Martin Schroeter, has admitted there would be more cuts in 2014, during the announcement of IBM’s fourth quarter earnings last month.

And on a cultural front, this from a Carl Hiaasen headline in the Miami Herald:

Dr. Cheech called — your prescription is ready!

Medical marijuana will be on the Florida ballot in November, which is bad news for Gov. Rick Scott and other Republican leaders who oppose any relaxation of the state’s backward cannabis laws.

They say medical use of weed is the first step toward Colorado-style legalization, and they might be right. They say that although the proposed constitutional amendment names only nine diseases, lots of people who aren’t really sick will find a way to get marijuana from certain doctors.

That’s probably true, too. This, after all, is the state that made pill mills a roadside tourist attraction. Who can doubt that future pot prescriptions will bear the signatures of a Dr. Cheech or a Dr. Chong?

A parallel development from the Washington Post:

D.C. Council weakens bill to decriminalize marijuana, keeps smoking in public a crime

The D.C. Council voted Tuesday to eliminate criminal penalties for possession of marijuana but left smoking it in public a crime, keeping alive concerns about racial profiling in pot arrests in the District.

With an 11 to 1 vote, several council members reversed their previous support for a more far-reaching measure, weakening an effort to join the quarter of U.S. states that have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana.

While they stuck with their plans to drop possession to a civil offense — akin to a parking ticket — council members decided not to decriminalize public smoking. They did, however, reduce the maximum jail sentence from six months to 60 days.

North of the border to another bubble expanding from the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Toronto home prices surge, again ‘outpacing family incomes’

Toronto home sales edged down in the bitter chill of January, but prices surged, again throwing up red flags.

Sales fell 2.2 per cent from a year earlier to 4,135 as new listings plunged 16.6 per cent, the Toronto Real Estate Board said Wednesday.

The average selling price, in turn, surged more than 9 per cent to $526,528. The so-called benchmark price climbed 7.1 per cent from a year earlier.

On to a story with a global focus from Al Jazeera America:

UN demands action from Vatican on child sex abuse

  • A scathing report urges the Catholic Church to ‘immediately remove’ clergy suspected of child abuse

The United Nations on Wednesday demanded that the Vatican “immediately remove” all clergy who are known or suspected child abusers and turn them over to civil authorities, in an unprecedented and scathing report that the Holy See’s ambassador to the U.N. promptly denounced.

The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child also urged the Vatican to hand over its archives on sexual abuse of tens of thousands of children so that culprits, as well as “those who concealed their crimes,” could be held accountable.

The watchdog’s blunt paper — the most far-reaching critique of the church hierarchy by the world body — followed its public grilling of Vatican officials last month. The U.N. report blasted the “code of silence” that has long been used to keep victims quiet, saying the Holy See had “systematically placed preservation of the reputation of the church and the alleged offender over the protection of child victims.”

And on to Europe with a warning from the London Telegraph:

Insular ECB is playing dangerous game of chicken with deflationary world forces

  • An aborted recovery at this point might be more than democratic societies can tolerate

The US and China are withdrawing stimulus on purpose. The eurozone is doing so by accident, letting market forces drain liquidity from the financial system for month after month.

The balance sheet of the European Central Bank has fallen by €553bn over the past year as banks repay money that they no longer want, either because ECB funds are too costly in a near-deflationary world or because lenders are being compelled by regulators to shrink their books.

This is “passive tightening” or “endogenous tapering”. The ECB balance sheet has plummeted to 23pc of eurozone GDP from a peak of 32pc in July 2012.

BBC News takes a fall [and the subject of our Chart of the day]:

Eurozone retail sales fall sharply in December

Retail sales in the eurozone fell sharply over the Christmas period, with their biggest monthly fall in two-and-a-half years.

December’s sales fell by 1% compared to the same time a year ago, and by 1.6% compared to November. Both figures were much worse than analysts expected.

The drop in consumer demand followed a surprise fall in eurozone inflation to 0.7% in January.

The figure prompted concerns about deflation in the 17-nation bloc.

On to Britain with qualified optimism from Sky News:

Economic Recovery: ‘End In Sight’ For Austerity

  • The Institute for Fiscal Studies says the pain of cuts will soon start to ease but warns the recovery is “horribly imbalanced”.

Austerity plans put in place by the coalition may already go further than is needed in order to balance the Government’s books, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says.

In its closely watched Green Budget, the Government-spending think tank said that even if the most pessimistic forecasters are proved right on the economy, the coalition’s fiscal plans will repair the damage done to the public finances by the Great Recession.

The verdict is among the most positive yet delivered by the IFS – although it warned that there remains some uncertainty over whether it will be easy to implement the cuts planned for the coming years, since only 40% of them had been carried out.

An alarm from The London Telegraph:

NHS faces ‘unprecedented squeeze’, think tank warns

  • Ageing and growing population means spending per patient will fall by 9 per cent, despite pledge to ring-fence budgets, IFS warns

NHS faces an “unprecedented squeeze” over the next five years under the burden of an ageing population, a leading think tank has warned, while George Osborne’s cuts are not yet half way done.

Spending on each patient is set to fall by over 9 per cent over a decade, despite an “expensive and generous” ring fence around health service budgets, as the British population gets bigger and older.

The protection given to NHS and aid budgets and a series of new pre-election giveaways by David Cameron and Nick Clegg means George Osborne faces an uphill battle to balance the books by 2018, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said in its annual Green Budget.

The Tories have pledged to spare the health service from the cuts of up to 30 per cent that have hit other departments.

Sky News saves face:

Aidan Burley: MP Resigns Over Nazi Stag Party

  • Aidan Burley announces he will quit Parliament at the 2015 general election after he was slammed for organising the party.

The Conservative politician was sacked as a ministerial aide when reports of the episode emerged in 2011, and an internal party inquiry last month found he was “stupid and offensive” to have organised the party.

Groom Mark Fournier was fined €1,500 (£1,250) by a French court for wearing an SS uniform and insignia supplied by the MP. Mr Burley was his best man.

On to Ireland and Banksters Behaving Badly from the Irish Times:

Anglo directors knew about ‘absolutely illegal’ share-buying scheme, trial told

  • Prosecution says FitzPatrick did nothing to stop bank shares move

Three former Anglo Irish Bank directors were aware of a “choreographed” and “absolutely illegal” scheme to fund the buying of shares in the bank, the jury was told on the opening day of the bankers’ trial yesterday.

Seán FitzPatrick (65), William McAteer (63) and Pat Whelan (51) are accused of providing unlawful financial assistance to members of businessman Seán Quinn’s family and the so-called Maple 10, a trusted group of Anglo borrowers, to buy shares in Anglo in July 2008.

The prosecution says the transaction was designed to create the public perception of stability in the bank’s share price.

TheLocal.no laughs at Uncle Sam:

US committee approves blundering Norway envoy

The US Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee has approved George Tsunis as the next ambassador of Norway, despite his catastrophic appointment hearing last month, and despite a warning from John McCain, its most prominent member, that he had already become “a mockery”.

McCain argued against the nomination during the meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, which went on to approve Tsunis by a majority of 12 to six.

“The question is whether . . . [Tsunis] will embarrass the United States of America while serving as our representative,” McCain said.

He reminded the committee’s members that Tsunis had referred to “the president” of Norway in his January 16 hearing and attacked the anti-immigration Progress Party, which has seven ministers in government, as “fringe elements” that “spew their hatred”.

Switzerland next and an embarrassment from TheLocal.ch:

Minister faces questions over Luxembourg links

Swiss Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann came under renewed scrutiny on Wednesday following revelations in the media that his family company used a subsidiary in Luxembourg to evade taxes in Switzerland.

Schneider-Ammann headed Ammann, a construction equipment company, until he was elected to the federal government in 2010 as a member of the centre-right Liberal party.

Der Bund and Tages Anzeiger reported on Wednesday that Ammann used a Luxembourg-based firm, Manilux SA, as a private bank for the company, providing lines of credit for its international operations.

And TheLocal.ch, this time with nominative culture clash:

Bern tells parents: Jessico not a boy’s name

A young couple in the canton of Bern have been ordered to change the name of their newborn son because it is too feminine, according to media reports.

Alain and Miriam Flaig, from the town of Huttwil, named the child Jessico after he was born last Wednesday at the Lagenthal maternity hospital, Blick newspaper reported.

The child was born in 15 minutes and the couple picked out his name. But the following day, problems arose, Blick reported. In a letter, the authorities from Oberaarggau sent a letter objecting to the selection.

“As a first name for your son you have written Jessico on the birth form,” the letter said, according to Blick. “According to the information at our disposal, Jessico is defined as a female first name.”

As a result, the Bern authorities have refused to register the name.

France next, and the politics of history with TheLocal.fr:

SNCF faces ban in US over Holocaust role

France’s state-owned rail company SNCF faces the prospect of being barred from bidding for a €4.4 billion project in the US because of its role in transporting Jews to concentration camps during World War Two.

American lawmakers in the state of Maryland have proposed a bill that could prevent SNCF from bidding for public projects on that side of the Atlantic until it makes restitution payments for its role in taking Jews to concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Two democrat lawmakers want compensation to be paid to Holocaust survivors and their families before rail company Keolis, which is majority-owned by SNCF, can bid for a €4.4 billion, 35-year contract, to build and operate a 16 km light rail project.

“The persistent refusal of SNCF to take responsibility for its role in the Holocaust remains an insult for its victims,” sponsoring Sen. Joan Carter Conway told French daily Le Monde.

Spain next, and a pox on both their houses from El País:

PP and PSOE lose ground in latest CIS survey

  • UPyD gathers support while citizens are most concerned by unemployment and corruption

The results from the latest survey conducted by the Center for Sociological Studies (CIS) make grim reading for the Popular Party (PP) and the Socialists (PSOE), to the extent that the main opposition party has accused the state-funded body of cooking the results, despite a drop in voter support for the government.

The last study, in October 2013, reported 34 percent of Spaniards would vote for the PP in a general election, a figure that fell to 32.1 percent in the latest survey. The PSOE also lost ground and would receive the backing of 26.6 percent of the country, a loss of two percentage points. The United Left (IU) remained steady at 11.3 percent while the UPyD’s support rose from 7.7 percent to 9.2 percent.

The study, conducted between January 3 and 15, shows that unemployment remains the principle concern for 78.5 percent of Spanish citizens, up from 53.4 percent in October. In second place was corruption, up from 37.6 percent to 39.5 percent, with a raft of investigations into the PP, the PSOE, labor unions and the royal family dominating the headlines. However, just 0.6 percent of respondents said the monarchy was a source of concern.

TheLocal.es adds a monkey wrench to the mix:

Police reveal extent of bribes to ruling party

Spanish police investigating one of the country’s biggest ever corruption scandals have released a list of ‘gifts’ including plasma TVs, Cuban cigars and Mont Blanc pens allegedly given to top Popular Party officials to curry favour in return for public contracts.

The Economic and Fiscal Crimes Unit (UDEF) presented the details to the courts on Tuesday as part of the ongoing investigation into the complicated Gürtel affair, in which senior members of the government are alleged to have received presents and cash backhanders in return for public contracts.

The Gürtel leader, Francisco Correa, is said to have given politicians ‘presents’ including Habana cigars (€450); a Mont Blanc Pen; €6,000 of plasma TVs; smartphones; €500 crates of wine; trips to DisneyLand; holidays to Cancún, New York, Kenya and Mauritius; and luxury hotel accommodation worth over €1,000 per night.

With total employment at a record low, one sector gains with El País:

Spanish services sector grows at fastest pace in over six years

  • Companies increase staffing levels for first time in 70 months

Spain’s services sector, which accounts for over half of GDP, saw the fastest growth in activity in the first month of the year since July 2007, cementing expectations of a recovery in the economy this year, according to a survey released Wednesday by consultant Markit.

Companies in the sector also increased their staffing levels slightly in January, ending a run of 70 consecutive months of job cutting.

Markit’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) climbed from 54.2 points in December to 54.9 points in the first month of 2014, marking the third successive month in which the index stood above the 50-point mark that denotes expansion. The increase in the month was also the strongest since before the current crisis took hold around the start of 2008.

Across the peninsula for a Lisbon demand from the Portugal News:

Country must pay off debt, not seek to restructure it – PM

Portugal’s prime minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, said on Wednesday that after the country exits the adjustment programme linked to its current euro-zone bailout, it must start accumulating budget surpluses so as to reduce its debt burden, rather than seeking to restructure it.

“What we want is not to restructure the Portuguese debt, what we want is to pay it, creating conditions for our economy to grow, but also managing our public finances in such as way as to free up surpluses that, essentially, can free up the economy itself, companies, citizen, families from the weight that this debt today imposes on us,” he said. For that reason, he went on, society in general must “project for this post-troika [period] a very great determination and a very great will.”

The prime minister was speaking at an event in Lisbon to launch a ‘Coalition for Green Growth’, an entity created by the Ministry of Environment and which brings together organisations from various sectors.

Passos Coelho dedicated much of his speech to the subject of the ratio of debt to gross domestic product: the higher this is, he said, the greater the upward pressure that financial markets exercise on Portugal’s sovereign bond yields.

Off to Italy and pricing the commons with The Guardian:

Italy threatens to sue Standard & Poor’s for failing to value its history and art

  • Ratings agency would not have issued damaging downgrade if it had taken account of cultural wealth, state auditor claims

Italy is threatening to sue the credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s for failing to value its historical and cultural treasures.

The country that bequeathed the world Dante, da Vinci and an enviable vision of La Dolce Vita, thinks financial analysts would not have issued a damaging credit downgrade against Italy if they had paid more attention to its cultural wealth than its spiralling budget deficit.

According to the Financial Times, Italy’s auditor general, the corte dei conti, believes that S&P may have acted illegally and could be sued for €234bn (£194bn).

TheLocal.it takes Bunga Bunga on the road:

‘Berlusconi for PM’ campervan tours Italy

Supporters of Silvio Berlusconi’s party Go Italy (Forza Italia) have set out on a campervan tour as part of a campaign calling for the former prime minister’s daughter, Marina Berlusconi, to become a candidate for the Italian premiership.

The campervan, branded with photographs of Silvio and his Marina Berlusconi, a 47-year-old business executive, is the brainchild of Gabriele Elia and fellow fans from the town of Cellino San Marco in south-east Italy.

Twenty years after Silvio Berlusconi first founded his political party, Elia has set out on his tour of Italy under the banner “the liberal dream continues”.

He has already toured the heel of Italy’s boot and driven the length of the country to reach Arcora, the home of Silvio Berlusconi’s mansion made infamous for erotic “bunga bunga” parties hosted by the billionaire.

From TheLocal.it, lost tolerance:

Italian MP laments ‘massive’ refugee influx

The number of refugees landing in Italy rose tenfold in January, the country’s deputy interior minister said on Tuesday, complaining of an “incessant and massive influx of migrants”.

January 2014 saw a total of 2,156 migrants in Italy, compared to 217 the previous year, the official added.

“In 2013, Italy was subjected to an incessant and massive influx of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East,” Filippo Bubbico told parliament.

Throughout the whole of 2013, a total of 2,925 vessels of various shapes and sizes landed on Italian shores, carrying about 43,000 people, including nearly 4,000 children.

After the jump, the Greek meltdown flares up, failing family finances in Cyprus, a Russian warning on the Ukraine, a Brazilian financial alarm, Thai troubles, Chinese warning signs, Japanese aging and income woes, a GMO victory, and Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: Japanese dementia rates soar


From the Yomiuri Shimbun:

BLOG Dementia

Chart of the day: Who cares for Grandma?


From an important new study [PDF] from the Pew Research Center focusing on the growing proportion of the elderly in global populations and their future in a growing world:

Microsoft Word - Pew Research Center Global Aging Report FINAL J

Fox News: Call it tantrums for geezers


Now before you young whippersnappers get all het up about our use of the G-word, we’d point out that we are one [well, 67 anyway].

Cenk Uyghur of The Young Turks riffs on the latest bad news for the Roger Ailes propaganda machine, that fact that the average Fox News viewer is older than we are.

From The Young Turks:

Wow, Fox News Is SCREWED

Program notes:

A new piece in New York Magazine lays out some pretty devastating facts about the Fox News Network that show how little influence the network really has, and how its future is bleak based on its aging demo of (really) old white men. The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur breaks it down.

And here’s a key excerpt of the Frank Rich report:

Ailes would like the president and everyone else to keep believing he has that clout. But these days Fox News is the loudest voice in the room only in the sense that a bawling baby is the loudest voice in the room. In being so easily bullied by Fox’s childish provocations, the left gives the network the attention on which it thrives and hands it power that it otherwise has lost. As the post-Obama era approaches, the energy spent combating Ailes might be better devoted to real political battles against more powerful adversaries—not to mention questioning the ideological slant of legitimate news operations like, say, 60 Minutes, which has recently given airtime to a fraudulent account of the murders at Benghazi and to a credulous puff piece on the NSA’s domestic surveillance.

The most interesting news about Fox News is that for some years now it has been damaging the right far more than the left. As a pair of political analysts wrote at Reuters last year, “When the mainstream media reigned supreme, between 1952 and 1988, Republicans won seven out of the ten presidential elections,” but since 1992, when “conservative media began to flourish” (first with Rush Limbaugh’s ascendancy, then with Fox), Democrats have won the popular vote five out of six times. You’d think they’d be well advised to leave Fox News to its own devices so that it can continue to shoot its own party in the foot.

Read the rest.

Years ago, back in the days when broadcast was the name of the game, CBS News attracted the oldest audience, earning it the nickname amongst journalists as Chiefly Broadcasting for Seniors. Now it seems Fox has wrested the title away.

Which should be very bad news for Rupert Murdoch, given that advertisers covet a much younger audience.

Leading to a question and answer joke: Who advertises on Fox? Depends.

Headlines of the day II: EconoEuroEcoFukuFails


In line with the previous post, we begin today’s compendium of things economic, ecologic, and politic with the idiotic — another clueless quote from the very, very rich, this time via The Verge:

Kleiner Perkins founder says Silicon Valley elite are being treated like Jews in Nazi Germany

Tom Perkins, one of the co-founders of the Silicon Valley powerhouse venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, is afraid the next Kristallnacht — a night of violence against Jews before the start of World War II — will happen in the Bay Area.

Perkins, who is 81, perceives a “rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent” that mirrors the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany, he says in a letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal.

Class tensions in the San Francisco Bay Area recently flared up over the area’s skyrocketing rent and “Google buses,” private luxury coaches that shuttle wealthy tech workers to the office. Perkins specifically calls out the Occupy movement and the San Fransciso Chronicle for perpetuating anti-one percent rhetoric. This “progressive radicalism” is just like the fascist backlash against the Jews, Perkins argues.

On to the purely economic with a warning from CNBC:

US ‘out of ammunition’ to tackle economic ‘rut’: Phelps

The U.S. economy is in a “rut” and has been in stagnation since 1972, a Nobel Prize-winning economist told CNBC.

Edmund Phelps, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2006, said the U.S. government has run out of ideas about how to fix the economy.

“Governments have thrown all sorts of ammunition at it including concocting the housing boom. And we are kind of out of that ammunition and we have to dig deeper if we are going to get out of this rut,” Phelps told CNBC in a TV interview.

Reuters gives us another case of Banksters Behaving Badly, or so it’s claimed:

Exclusive: Bank of America’s trading practices have been probed, filing shows

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission have both held investigations into whether Bank of America engaged in improper trading by doing its own futures trades ahead of executing large orders for clients, according to a regulatory filing.

The June 2013 disclosure, which Reuters recently reviewed on a website run by the securities industry regulator FINRA, sheds light on the basis for a warning by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on January 8.

The warning, in the form of an intelligence bulletin to regulators and security officers at financial services firms, said that the FBI suspected swaps traders at an unnamed U.S. bank and an unnamed Canadian bank may have been involved in market manipulation and front running of orders from U.S. government-owned mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Reuters has since learned that Bank of America’s trading practices regarding Fannie and Freddie are the subject of probes, and that the investigations are ongoing.

From USA TODAY, cause for anxiety:

Why emerging markets worry Wall Street

The big bull market in U.S. stocks is confronted with an unexpected headwind: a fresh bout of financial turbulence in emerging markets.

Wall Street is a world away from Turkey and Argentina and the other developing economies dotting the globe. But recent news of financial tumult and plunging currencies in some emerging markets, coupled with bad memories of past crises over the past 20 years that began in Mexico, Asia and Russia, has imported a boatload of financial angst back to the United States.

Indeed, the great bull market on Wall Street has suddenly run into a stumbling block that few investment strategists were even talking about at the start of the year: swooning currencies and capital flight out of vulnerable emerging markets like Turkey and Argentina.

The financial turbulence, which is being greatly exacerbated by a slowdown in growth-engine China, has raised fears of a potential crisis that could inflict damage on these developing countries’ economies and perhaps infect other nations as well. That lethal combination could ultimately crimp earnings of U.S. multinationals. It could also prompt investors to dump risky assets, a response that already seems to be underway.

Bloomberg admonishes:

BlackRock’s Fink Warns of ‘Too Much Optimism’ in Markets

BlackRock Inc. Chief Executive Officer Laurence D. Fink warned there is “way too much optimism” in financial markets as he predicted repeats of the market turmoil that roiled investors this week.

“The experience of the marketplace this past week is going to be indicative of this entire year,” Fink, 61, told a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland today. “We’re going to be in a world of much greater volatility.”

Fink, who runs the world’s largest asset manager, spoke after a selloff in emerging markets that was triggered by concern about China’s economic growth and the Federal Reserve’s tapering of its monetary stimulus later this year. The MSCI World Index slid the most this week in five months.

The London Telegraph chimes in from on high:

Emerging market rout turns serious, punctures exuberance in Davos

  • IMF’s deputy-director says the Fund is watching the violent gyrations around the world “very carefully”

The worst emerging market rout in five years has raised fresh fears of global contagion, puncturing the mood of exuberance at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff sought to reassure investors that this week’s currency collapse in Argentina would not spread to the Brazilian real, insisting that all contracts would be honoured and that foreign funds would be “treated well”.

“Today, the stability of our currency is a central value of our country,” she said. The real has weakened by 20pc against the dollar this year, breaking through the crucial line of 2.40 in trading on Friday.

The IMF’s deputy-director, Min Zhu, said in Davos that the Fund is watching the violent gyrations around the world “very carefully”, saying the effect of bond tapering by the US Federal Reserve is causing global liquidity to dry up.

Another ominous warning, this time from The Guardian:

ILO warns young hit hardest as global unemployment continues to rise

  • International Labour Organisation says firms are increasing payouts to shareholders rather than investing in new workers

The world could face years of jobless economic recovery, with young people set to be hit hardest as global unemployment continues to rise this year, a report from the International Labour Organisation warns.

As the World Economic Forum kicks off in the Swiss town of Davos on Wednesday with a focus on growing inequality, the ILO has highlighted a “potentially dangerous gap between profits and people”.

The UN agency forecasts millions more people will join the ranks of the unemployed as companies choose to increase payouts to shareholders rather than invest their burgeoning profits in new workers.

And from Jiji Press, more job killing pushed for the fast-track:

Japan, U.S. Confirm Cooperation for Early TPP Accord

Japanese Minster of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshimitsu Motegi and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman agreed Saturday that the two countries will continue cooperation in helping conclude Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks as early as possible, Motegi told reporters after the meeting.

At the meeting held in the Swiss resort of Davos, Motegi called on the U.S. side to show flexibility for the early conclusion of the trade talks among 12 countries.

Froman responded by saying that both Washington and Tokyo should flex their muscle, according to Motegi.

On to Europe and bankster wishes from the Irish Times:

Draghi favours quick break in link between sovereign and bank debt

  • Leaders have taken euro out of crisis despite end-of-the-world scenarios, says Schäuble

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi told global leaders in Davos yesterday he favoured an “accelerated time line” in breaking the link between euro area sovereign and bank debt.

Despite a “largely positive” economic outlook for 2014, he warned of a punishing market reaction if euro countries rolled back their reforms.

Discussing a European banking union to oversee and wind up banks, Mr Draghi said struggling institutions could access public money after bailing in creditors.

BBC News misses the number:

Davos 2014: Eurozone inflation ‘way below target’

The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that deflation remains a real risk to economic recovery in the eurozone.

Despite signs of recovery across the world, Christine Lagarde said that potential risks must not be ignored. One of these was the fact that eurozone inflation, at 0.8%, remained “way below” the 2% target set by the European Central Bank (ECB).

She was speaking on the final day of the World Economic Forum, in Davos.

On to Britain and more austerian misery from The Independent:

‘Bedroom tax’ and benefits cuts draining councils’ emergency funds

  • Authorities had been forced to dip into funds allocated to other services to cope with the surge in numbers of households appealing for help

Councils have been hit by a dramatic increase in requests for emergency financial help from people struggling to make ends meet following the introduction of the “bedroom tax” and other cuts to benefits.

More than 200,000 contacted their town halls in the six months after the latest benefits squeeze came into effect, the Local Government Association has estimated.

It also said that many authorities had been forced to dip into funds allocated to other services to cope with the surge in numbers of households appealing for help.

The parliamentary outs long for the good old days, via RT:

UK shadow govt eyes reintroducing 50% tax rate for top earners

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls says Labour will reintroduce the 50 percent tax rate for people earning over £150,000. This comes as part of an election vow, together with promises to balance the government’s books and to clear the budget deficit.

A promise to bring back the tax on bank bonuses and reduce pension tax relief for the highest earners came in a speech to the Fabian Society Balls delivered on Saturday. However, he admitted that these measures would not be enough to balance the books.

“And when the deficit is still high, when tough times are set to last well into next parliament, when for ordinary families their real incomes are falling and taxes have risen, it cannot be right for David Cameron and George Osborne to have chosen to give the richest people in the country a huge tax cut,” he said.

The last Labour government, under Gordon Brown, raised the upper tax band from 40% to 50% in response to the recession in 2010, but the coalition cut it back to 45% in April 2013.

And from the Lancashire Telegraph, expressive downsizing:

Thwaites sign leaves Blackburn brewery bosses redfaced

BREWERY bosses were left red faced when their iconic lighted sign was turned into a profanity.

Some of the Thwaites Brewery letters atop the Blackburn building fell into darkness as people left town centre shops and offices last night.

With just the words H, I and E blacked out, the embarassing message was broadcast to the entire town.

It comes after news this week that the brewery is to axe up to 60 jobs.

The sign in question, via Nothing to do with Abroath [and, yeah, th word’s sexist, but there were just those letters to work with, so we’ll give a pass and a smile]:

BLOG Twat

On to Sweden and a refreshing note from CBC News:

Bastion of tolerance, Sweden opens wide for Syria’s refugees

  • Asylum offer testing Swedes’ patience, but forcing Europe to respond

On the northern fringes of Europe, Sweden has offered its hand to more Syrian refugees than any other Western nation, granting those who make it here permanent residency. And while its generosity has caused some tensions on the home front, including a modest rise in the anti-immigrant right, that has not stopped the Swedish government from lobbying its European counterparts to open their doors as well.

By way of contrast, here’s how Carlos Latuff sees the immigration policies of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras:

Samaras’ anti-immigration policy

Samaras’ anti-immigration policy

From Deutsche Welle, fighting the right:

Demonstrations against Viennese right-wing ball turn violent

  • Several protesters have been arrested during protests against a ball in Vienna that is a traditional venue for right-wing figures. Police reported a number of arrests and cases of vandalism.

Police in the Austrian capital, Vienna, say they arrested about a dozen people on Friday evening after initially peaceful protests, involving some 6,000 demonstrators, against the so-called Academics Ball (Akademikerball) in the city’s Hofburg palace turned violent.

“We have several arrests and also injured police officers,” a police spokeswoman said. Police also reported damage to storefronts and at least one police vehicle.

Police closed off large sections of the inner city ahead of the ball, which forms the focus for left-wing protests every year. Parts of the area were also closed to journalists, a move that drew criticism from Austrian news organizations as limiting media freedom.

On to Paris and holding steady with TheLocal.fr:

Moody’s maintains French debt rating

Moody’s held its French credit rating at Aa1 Friday but maintained a negative outlook, days after President Francois Hollande announced a batch of business-friendly measures to fire up growth.

The US agency affirmed the bond rating one notch below the top AAA rating.

Moody’s voiced scepticism about the reforms Hollande announced earlier this month, a “responsibility pact” which includes lowering labour taxes in exchanges for fresh hiring by companies.

“The implementation and efficacy of these policy initiatives are complicated by the persistence of long-standing rigidities in labour, goods and services markets as well as the social and political tensions the government is facing,” the agency said in a statement.

But the London Telegraph sounds an alarm with a backhanded compliment:

France could destroy the euro, says Christopher Pissarides

  • Nobel laureate believes the ability of France to reform will decide the eurozone’s fate

France could destroy the euro if the government’s gamble on supply side reforms fails to pull the economy out of its chronic malaise, Nobel laureate Sir Christopher Pissarides has warned.

Sir Christopher, who won the the 2010 Nobel Prize for economics, said the ability of Europe’s second largest economy to implement sweeping changes would decide the fate of the single currency.

He warned French president Francois Hollande’s special blend of “supply-side socialism” would leave the fragile economy vulnerable to shocks for several years.

A more upbeat take from Independent.ie:

Schaeuble ‘very optimistic’ on France economy after Hollande plans

GERMAN Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said today that he was optimistic France would emerge stronger once it implements the economic reforms announced last week by President Francois Hollande.

“France is and remains a strong country and France will make the right decisions,” Schaeuble said at the World Economic Forum in Davos in response to a question about whether Germany’s neighbour had done enough to bolster its struggling economy.

“We’ve seen that the French president has made the necessary decisions and I think it is the right path,” Schaeuble added. “I am very optimistic that the role of France will be strengthened through this and that we can bring Europe forward together.”

And from FRANCE 24, wiseguys on the farm:

Organised crime targets French countryside

On January 21, French gendarmes broke up a highly specialised international criminal organization. It wasn’t robbing armoured cars, luxury jewelry stores in Place Vendôme or tourists on the Paris Métro – it was stealing tractors.

The gang had mainly targeted dealerships for John Deere farm machinery, later selling the stolen tractors in Germany, Hungary and Romania.

The robbery that led to the network’s undoing occurred on the night of November 2-3, 2012, when three tractors were stolen from a farm machinery dealership in Haute-Vienne in the centre of France. Despite the apparently unusual nature of the crime, the local police quickly realized that this was not an isolated phenomenon. They suspected the existence of a criminal organization, and passed the case to the gendarmerie’s Central Office for the Fight against Itinerant Crime, which uncovered a network of international scope.

Off to Spain and business as usual from El País:

Tech giants taunt the taxman

  • Major US technology groups paid Spain’s revenue agency just 1.2 million euros in 2012
  • Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, eBay and others use fiscal engineering to avoid payments

All the major US technology groups continue to dodge the Spanish taxman. The fiscal engineering tactics developed by their advisors allow them to pay hardly any tax on their business operations in Spain. Financial data for the main Spanish affiliates of Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Yahoo, eBay and Microsoft show that their joint provisions for tax on profits in 2012 — the last year for which figures are available — was just 1,251,608 euros. That’s to say: 1.2 million in taxes among seven giants of the industry.

This aggregate figure is not taken from their tax filings but from their annual accounts, which must be deposited at the Spanish Business Register, and which reflect the money that the companies provision in a given year for tax on profits.

This aggregate figure conceals the fact that some companies paid taxes while others claimed tax credits or deferred tax payments after incurring losses. The accounting provisions may slightly differ from the actual tax filings because of timing issues.

thinkSPAIN departs:

Exodus of foreign residents from Spain rises 13-fold in one year

FOREIGN residents in Spain who have left the country due to lack of work have multiplied in number by 13 in the last year, according to the National Institute of Statistics (INE).

By the end of 2011, a total of 15,229 non-Spaniards had returned to their countries of origin or moved to other nations altogether due to being unable to find a job – but by the end of 2012, this number had grown to 190,020.

Figures for 2013 will not be known until this time next year.

And El País looks for help from above:

Saint “might help Spain out of crisis,” says interior minister

  • Jorge Fernández Díaz says he is convinced 16th-century nun is “interceding”

Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz on Friday disclosed the existence of a previously unknown factor that might help Spain pull out of its deep economic crisis.

Speaking at the tourism fair FITUR in Madrid, Fernández Díaz said he was convinced that Saint Teresa of Ávila, the 16th-century nun, is “interceding” for Spain “during these harsh times.”

The revelatory statement was part of the presentation of “Huellas de Santa Teresa” (or, Traces of Saint Teresa), a project to celebrate the 500th anniversary of her birth through a tour of 17 cities where the saint established outposts for the Discalced Carmelites, a branch of the Carmelites that she founded.

While thinkSPAIN downsizes:

Coca-Cola staff facing redundancy go on strike

STAFF at the four Coca-Cola factories due to be shut down in Spain have gone on an ‘indefinite’ strike after hearing the firm planned to axe 1,250 jobs.

The plants in Fuenlabrada (Madrid), Alicante, Palma de Mallorca and Colloto (Asturias) are set to go at the end of February and 500 employees will be relocated whilst the rest will join the dole queue.

A series of demonstrations are planned by the Fuenlabrada workers, and it is expected staff from the other three plants will join in.

The company, Coca-Cola Iberian Partners, is financially healthy, but wants to ‘consolidate’ its operations by centralising production more ‘to improve efficiency’.

After the jump, the Greek crisis continues, Ukrainian compromise, Indian economic woes and cola wars, Thai elections, Singapore in a sling, Chinese inflation and austerity, Japanese bankster profits, toxic microbeads in California water, tar sands pushes, purple GMNO tomatoes, and Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: EconoEcoGrecoSinoFuku


Today’s compendium of things economic, political, and environmental begins in the U.S. with a weighty entry from Pacific Standard:

Grand Obese Party?

Researchers have found a statistically significant correlation between support for Mitt Romney and a pudgy populace.

Seems Republicans really are the party of fat cats.

Writing in the journal Preventative Medicine, a pair of University of California-Los Angeles researchers examined county-level obesity rates and voting patterns. After controlling for various factors known to influence weight, such as poverty and educational attainment, they found a small but statistically significant correlation between support for 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney and a pudgy populace. Specifically, a one percent increase in county-level support for Romney corresponds to a 0.02 percent increase in age-adjusted obesity rates.

The researchers argue this reflects poorly on the Republican party’s emphasis on “personal responsibility” for reducing obesity risk. Successful fat-fighting strategies “will necessarily involve government intervention,” they argue, “because they involve workplace, school, marketing and agricultural policies.”

Bigger government or bigger waistlines: The choice is yours.

From the Los Angeles Times blowback cosmetics:

Tech industry in San Francisco addresses backlash

Tech industry leaders launch a goodwill campaign in San Francisco, promising to create more jobs and affordable housing.

Their first stab at reconciliation: addressing complaints about the 18-foot-tall shuttles that clog narrow streets and block city bus stops. The shuttles frequently cause delays for city buses, making some residents fume that they have to cool their heels in old dingy vehicles while those who work for some of the world’s wealthiest companies get plush seats, tinted windows, air conditioning and Wi-Fi.

The standoff came to a head this week when San Franciscans turned out for a noisy public hearing to assail a pilot program to charge the shuttles a small fee for using city bus stops. They demanded that the city address the growing economic inequality.

The hearing came just hours after dozens of protesters blocked a bus bound for Google and another bound for Facebook for about 45 minutes, hanging a sign on one that read “Gentrification & Eviction Technologies.”

More from Salon:

When companies break the law and people pay: The scary lesson of the Google Bus

  • All over America, big corporations flout laws or even make their own, while ordinary people face harsh penalties

Ever since Rebecca Solnit took to the London Review of Books  to ruminate on the meaning of the private chartered buses that transport tech industry workers around the San Francisco Bay Area (she called them, among other things, “the spaceships on which our alien overlords have landed to rule us,”) the Google Bus has become the go-to symbol for discord in Silicon Valley.

From the Los Angeles Times, a new Bay Area bankster for the University of California:

UC’s new investment chief’s compensation could top $1 million

The hiring of Canadian investment fund exec Jagdeep S. Bachher and his pay package trigger little discussion, but two regents oppose paying new Berkeley provost $450,000 a year.

The UC regents on Thursday hired an executive of a Canadian investment fund to be the chief manager of the university system’s $82 billion in endowment and pension investments and will pay him more than $1 million a year if he achieves good returns.

Although that pay package triggered little public discussion, the salary for another new executive hire attracted more opposition at the regents meeting here. Some regents opposed the $450,000-a-year salary for Claude Steele, who is becoming UC Berkeley’s provost and second-in-command. They complained that the pay is higher than that of some chancellors.

For the new investments chief, Jagdeep S. Bachher, the regents approved a $615,000 base salary and set a maximum total payout of $1.01 million if UC investments perform well. That would be slightly less than the $1.2 million that Marie N. Berggren was paid in 2012, her last year before she retired in July. The compensation comes mainly from investment returns, not tuition or tax revenues, officials said.

But the real bucks go elsewhere, says BBC News:

JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon pay rises to $20m in 2013

The chairman and chief executive of JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon, will be paid $20m (£12.1m) for the past year’s work.

Mr Dimon’s pay was cut to $11.5m in 2012 following huge trading losses. This was half the $23m he received in 2011.

JP Morgan’s profits fell 16% last year, after costs resulting from legal issues dented the bank’s figures.

Mr Dimon was paid $1.5m as a basic salary, and an additional $18.5m in shares, the company said.

And more good news for banksters from Al Jazeera America:

Holder: US will adjust banking rules for marijuana

  • News comes as Texas Gov. Rick Perry announces he will support policies that favor marijuana decriminalization

Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday that the Obama administration plans to roll out regulations soon that would allow banks to do business with legal marijuana sellers.

During an appearance at the University of Virginia, Holder said it is important from a law enforcement perspective to give legal marijuana dispensaries access to the banking system so they don’t have large amounts of cash lying around.

Currently, processing money from marijuana sales puts federally-insured banks at risk of drug racketeering charges. Because of the threat of criminal prosecution, financial institutions often refuse to let marijuana-related businesses open accounts.

Mixed news for workers from CNBC:

US manufacturing growth slows in January: Markit

U.S. manufacturing growth slowed in January for the first time in three months, hobbled by new orders, though a recent trend of stronger growth appeared to be intact, an industry report showed on Thursday.

Financial data firm Markit said its preliminary U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index dipped to 53.7 from December’s reading of 55.0. Economists polled by Reuters expected no change.

Slower rates of output and new order growth were the main factors behind the fall, the survey showed. Output slipped to 53.4 from 57.5 while new orders fell to 54.1 from 56.1.

And the company run by America’s richest family runs into rough waters, via Quartz:

Chinese state TV has accused Wal-Mart of skirting inspections to sell even cheaper goods in China

China Central Television claims to know the secret behind Wal-Mart’s low prices at its stores in China. The state-owned TV network, better known as CCTV, said on Jan. 23 that the US retailer has been allowing products from unlicensed suppliers on to its shelves, and thus bypassing quality and safety checks.

Wal-Mart’s response (paywall), the Wall Street Journal reports, is that the company only fast-tracks items from suppliers with which it has already been doing business, and then only in certain limited cases. (Wal-Mart hasn’t responded to questions from Quartz.)

The four-minute CCTV report, titled “Wal-Mart’s ‘special channels’ secret,” features shots of what CCTV says are company documents that show managers signed off on over 600 products that lacked licenses for distribution. The program says the store passes off sub-standard goods as belonging to well-known brands.

Reuters has more bad news for Wal-Mart workers:

Wal-Mart’s cuts 2,300 jobs at Sam’s Club

Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Friday it had cut 2,300 jobs, or roughly 2 percent of the total workforce at its Sam’s Club retail warehouse chain, its biggest round of layoffs since 2010.

The action follows a lackluster U.S. holiday season and layoffs announced earlier this month from U.S. retailers Macy’s Inc, J.C. Penney Co Inc and Target Corp.

Wal-Mart company spokesman Bill Durling said in a telephone interview that the cuts will include hourly workers and assistant manager positions.

Bumpy waters from Bloomberg:

S&P 500 Slides Most Since June on Emerging Market Turmoil

U.S. stocks sank the most since June, capping the worst week for benchmark indexes since 2012, as a selloff in developing-nation currencies spurred concern global markets will become more volatile.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) retreated 2.1 percent to 1,790.31 at 4 p.m. in New York to close at the lowest level since Dec. 17. The benchmark index declined 2.6 percent this week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDU) slid 318.24 points, or 2 percent, to 15,879.11 today. The 30-stock gauge lost 3.5 percent this week. Trading in S&P 500 stocks was 52 percent above the 30-day average at this time of day.

Background from Nikkei Asian Review:

Emerging-nation currencies fall in chain reaction

Behind this development are concerns that investors will pull their money out of emerging markets because the U.S. has started to taper its quantitative monetary easing this month.

Argentina’s peso plunged 12% on Thursday. Earlier that day, a senior Argentine government official told reporters that the nation’s central bank did not buy or sell dollars on Wednesday. A view that the bank is allowing the peso to slide spurred further selling of the currency.

The peso’s drop triggered a rush to exchange funds in emerging-nation currencies to dollars and yen. The Turkish lira weakened to around 2.3 to the dollar on Friday, a record low. The currency has declined about 7% so far this year. Local media reported that the Turkish central bank intervened Thursday but to no avail. Meanwhile, the yen strengthened to the 102 range against the greenback.

The South African rand dropped to the lowest level in five years against the dollar. A strike by workers at a key platinum mine led to concerns that a slowing of resource exports would hamper the country’s ability to acquire foreign exchange reserves, fueling sales of the rand.

From Reuters, a graphic look at the Argentine currency’s collapse:

BLOG Peso

The Financial Express frets:

World Economic Forum: Fear of China ‘hard landing’, Japan row, stalks Davos

The risk of a hard landing for the economy in China as well as the threat of military conflict with Japan stoked fears at the World Economic Forum in Davos today.

Days after the world’s second-largest economy registered its worst rate of growth for more than a decade, top politicians and economists at the annual gathering of the global elite said the near-term outlook was bleak.

Li Daokui, a leading Chinese economist and former central bank official, said: “This year and next year, there will be a struggle, a struggle to maintain a growth rate of 7-7.5 per cent, which is the minimum to create the 7.5 million jobs every year China needs.”

And The Guardian counts seats:

The 85 richest people in the world: men still in the driving seat

  • Women need only seven seats, mostly on the bottom deck, on the £1tn double-decker bus revealed by Oxfam this week

The list of 85 shows that if this group – whose wealth tops £1tn – can squeeze on a double decker bus, then Mexico’s telecoms magnate Carlos Slim swaps driving responsibilities with Microsoft’s Bill Gates and the tiny group of wealthy women need only seven seats, mostly on the bottom deck. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

At its snowy retreat in the Swiss Alps, the World Economic Forum is debating how much inequality is too much. The aid charity Oxfam pointed out that a glance through the richest 100 people in the world shows that the pendulum has already swung heavily in favour of an elite group: the top 85 in the Forbes rich list control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population put together.

A look down the list of 85 shows that if this group – whose wealth tops £1tn – can squeeze on a double decker bus, then Mexico’s telecoms magnate Carlos Slim swaps driving responsibilities with Microsoft’s Bill Gates and the tiny group of wealthy women need only seven seats, mostly on the bottom deck.

Another global story from New Europe:

IEA: Main Oil and Gas Flows To Move To Asian Region

A working visit to Astana, International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven presented the World Energy Outlook 2013, saying that in the nearest future the main trade flows of oil and gas will move to the Asian regions, which will change the geopolitics of oil.

“Northern America’s need for import of crude oil will practically disappear by 2035, and that region will become a key exporter of petroleum products. At the same time, Asia will become a center of the world’s crude oil market: large volumes of crude will be delivered to this region through a few strategically important transport routes” van der Hoeven said.

According to her, crude oil will be supplied to Asia not only from the Middle East, but also from Russia, the Caspian region, Kazakhstan, Africa, Latin America, and Canada.

The Global Times brings the focus to Europe:

Euro zone recovery fragile, fiscal consolidation should continue, says ECB president

The European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi said in Davos on Friday that the recovery of the euro zone economy is fragile and fiscal consolidation should continue.

Addressing the 44th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, Draghi said, “the bottom line of this is that we have seen the beginning of a recovery which is still weak, which is still fragile and it’s still uneven.”

According to Draghi, improvements have been witnessed on the financial markets and the “very accommodative” monetary policy was being passed through to the real economy.

A bankster rules struggle from New Europe:

EU finance ministers, MEPs set for clash over bank resolution rules

European finance ministers will hold talks Tuesday on the resolution mechanism for failing Eurozone banks agreed in late December. Greek presidency sources confirmed that the new ECOFIN president, Ioannis Stournaras, will inform his counterparts on the positions of the European Parliament on the current agreement, as presented in a recent letter addressed to the presidency. In their letter, the MEPs make it clear that they will block SRF’s intergovernmental part.

Back in December the 28 EU finance ministers agreed to a general approach on the rules to close failing banks, which included the creation of an initial 55 billion-euro resolution fund over the next 10 years using bank levies. The formation and the functioning of the fund would be set up in a separate agreement among nations, excluding EU’s lawmakers.

The European Parliament also asks the simplification of the functioning of the single resolution board, so as the decision on the closure of a failing bank to be taken by the European Commission and not by the Member States.

More rule-wrangling from EUobserver:

EU audit reform reduced to ‘paper tiger’

The EU is close to overhauling rules for financial auditors, but critics say the reform will be a paper tiger unable to break up the dominant position of the world’s four biggest audit firms.

The legal affairs committee of the European Parliament on Tuesday (21 January) approved a draft agreement struck late last year with member states and the European Commission on the so-called audit reform package.

A jaundiced eye cast by the London Telegraph:

EU bank bonus rules will be ‘avoided’, says Fitch

  • The European Union bonus cap will prove ineffective in reducing banking industry pay, according to Fitch

Banking industry pay will not fall as a result of the incoming European Union cap on bonuses, according to Fitch.

The ratings agency warned that an “inconsistent” approach in the enforcement of the cap, as well as banks using loopholes in the new law to “avoid” paying lower bonuses, would mean overall compensation levels are unlikely to decrease.

In a report, Fitch pointed to a survey by the German financial regulator of the implementation of the cap among domestic banks that showed many lenders continuing with their old pay practices.

Corporate Europe Observatory looks at the bigger picture:

A union for big banks

Far from being a solution to avoid future public bailouts and austerity, Europe’s new banking union rules look like a victory for the financial sector to continue business as usual.

With the financial crisis, member states took over massive debts originated in the financial sector to save banks. Four and a half trillion euros had been risked for bailouts – and the final bill was 1,7 trillion euro. Not only did this send national economies spiralling downwards and set off a public debt crisis, it also led to a regime of harsh austerity policies, imposed by the EU institutions and the IMF as conditions for loans.

With that in mind, the banking union sounds heaven sent. It is claimed to make the banking sector safe, and should there be problems, a new system would ensure failed banks are wound down in an orderly manner with expenses paid by the banks themselves, with only a minimal cost to the public purse. An end not only to financial instability, but to austerity loan programmes as well.

If all this sounds unreal, it’s because it is. The banking union has been oversold as a fix to the banking sector. It may sound appealing that in the wake of the financial crisis, the potential power of EU institutions should be employed to address the dangers of financial markets. But in practise, the model adopted has deep flaws and carries so many risks, that one might ask if the point is to protect the public or serve the big banks.

On to Britain and hints of a failed divorce from EUbusiness:

Britain’s EU referendum suffers big setback

Britain’s planned 2017 referendum on whether to stay in the European Union was close to collapse Friday after Prime Minister David Cameron’s party suffered a major setback.

A vote in the House of Lords, the upper chamber of parliament, means that a bill proposing the in/out referendum looks likely to run out of time to become law. Members of the Lords voted to change the wording of the question that British voters would be asked on the subject of Britain’s membership of the 28-nation bloc.

The original wording of the question as included in the bill was: “Do you think that the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union?”

Following fierce debate, members of the Lords voted by a majority of 87 to amend it after determining that question was misleading. They did not introduce an alternative, though one peer proposed: “Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU?”

Sky News warns:

Nestlé Chair Warns Over UK Exit From Europe

  • Food giant boss Peter Brabeck-Letmathe tells Sky News that withdrawal from the trading bloc could put UK investment at risk.

The consumer goods giant Nestle would be forced to re-evaluate the extent of its presence in the UK if Britain decided to leave the European Union, its chairman has told Sky News.

In an interview during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe said the company was committed to its business in the UK but that he could not envisage a separation from its biggest trading partner being in the country’s interest.

Nestle, which makes Nespresso coffee capsules and Kit-Kat chocolate bars, employs approximately 8,000 people in the UK and accounts for exports worth roughly £400m. Its other brands include Nescafe, Smarties and Yorkie.

From The Independent, A UC-like salary in the U.K.:

Fury at £105,000 pay rise for Sheffield University boss Sir Keith Burnett after he refused to raise employees’ salaries to the living wage

The decision to award the increase to Sir Keith Burnett, vice-chancellor of Sheffield University – one of the elite Russell Group – has infuriated staff at the institution, who have been told their rises must be limited to just 1 per cent. They have joined national strike action over the award which included a two-hour walkout of lessons and lectures earlier this week.

The package awarded to Sir Keith includes £27,000 in lieu of pension payments after he withdrew from the pension scheme. However, according to accounts, that still leaves him with a 29 per cent rise, or £78,000, the largest in the sector in 2012/13.

The pay rise was awarded at a time when the institution rejected demands for all staff at the university to be paid according to the living wage of £7.65 an hour. Pablo Stern, of the University and College Union at Sheffield, told the Times Higher Education (THE) magazine that Sir Keith’s pay package was “astonishing”. He added: “This university used to pride itself on being a civic institution with a strong community feel. That has disappeared.”

Cooking the books with The Independent:

Treasury accused of resorting to ‘dodgy statistics’ to claim raise in living standards

Treasury ministers came under fire from economists today after they insisted that living standards were finally beginning to rise for the vast majority of workers.

The claim signalled the Conservatives’ determination to combat Labour’s repeated accusations that the country faces a “cost of living” crisis because wages are falling in value in real terms.

However, according to the Treasury analysis, increases in take-home pay were higher than inflation last year for all but the top ten per cent of earners. It coincided with an assertion by David Cameron that Britain was starting to see signs of a “recovery for all”.

The department’s statistics only took income tax cuts into account and excluded reductions to in-work tax credits and other benefit changes, prompting Labour accusations that ministers were resorting to “dodgy statistics” to claim people “have never had it so good”.

On to Ireland and a virtual regulatory plea from TheJournal.ie:

Virtual insanity? Call for Central Bank to regulate BitCoin

  • The Irish Bitcoin Association says that recognising the currency would make it safer for consumers.

Vincent O’Donoghue of the Irish Bitcoin Association today told RTÉ News that the currency should be recognised, so that it would be safer to use.

“We’re calling on the Central Bank to have a close look at it. It’s something for the future.

“IT developing the way it, it would be disingenuous to ignore it.”

Off to Norway with the New York Times:

Amid Debate on Migrants, Norway Party Comes to Fore

In a nation that has long prided itself on its liberal sensibilities, the intensifying debate about immigration and its effects on national identity and the country’s social welfare system has been jarring — and has been focused on the anti-immigration Progress Party, which is part of the new Conservative-led government.

The Progress Party came under intense scrutiny in 2011, when a former member, a Norwegian named Anders Behring Breivik, bombed government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people. He then killed 69 more people, mostly teenagers, in a mass shooting at a Labor Party summer camp on the island of Utoya. Mr. Breivik, who was convicted of mass murder and terrorism, had been a member of the Progress Party, attracted by its anti-Islamic slant, from 1999 until he was removed from the rolls in 2006 for not paying dues, having quit the party because it was not radical enough.

Still, the performance of the Progress Party in the first general elections since the Utoya massacre and its success in winning a place in government have raised some eyebrows; quite unfairly, Ketil Solvik-Olsen, minister of transportation and communication and a deputy leader of the party, said in an interview.

TheLocal.no feels aggrieved:

‘Obama must apologise for envoy gaffe’

Norway’s Progress Party has demanded a personal apology from US President Barack Obama after his nomination for Norway’s new ambassador described its members as “fringe elements” who “spew out their hatred” (PLUS VIDEO).

“I think this is unacceptable and a provocation,” Jan Arild Ellingsen, the party’s justice spokesman, told Norway’s TV2 television channel. “I expect the US president to apologize to both Norway and the Progress Party”.

George Tsunis, a Greek-American property millionaire who was one of Obama’s biggest individual campaign donors, displayed only the scantiest knowledge of Norway at a senate hearing this week ahead of his appointment, describing the Progress Party, which has seven ministers in the government, as if it were a fringe far-right group.

He then referred to the country’s “president”, apparently under the impression that the country is a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy.

USA TODAY voices confidence:

Obama ‘confident’ with ambassador pick despite blunders

President Obama still has confidence in his pick to be the next ambassador to Norway, even after demonstrating that he might need to bone up on Norwegian politics before heading to Oslo.

George Tsunis, managing director of Chartwell Hotels and a major fundraiser for Obama’s 2012 campaign, has been pilloried by Norway’s press after he stumbled over a question about Norway’s Progress Party during his confirmation hearing last week.

Under questioning from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Tsunis seemed to be unaware that Norway’s Progress Party —which has taken a hard line on immigration policy — was part of the government coalition.

The Wire takes the Casablanca route:

Norway Is Shocked That Our Ambassador Nominee Is Clueless About Norway

And an immigrant story with a poignant twist from TheLocal.no:

Locals pay for loved beggar’s Romania burial

A beggar became so popular in the four years he spent on the streets of Tromsø, northern Norway, that when he died locals raised 100,000 kroner ($16,000) to ship his body back home to Romania for burial.

When Ioan Bandac died of lung cancer just before Christmas, he left a note outlining his one final wish – that he be buried in his home city of Bacau, Romania.

And on Thursday, his body was finally laid to rest in one the city’s churchyard,  after a Romanian orthodox service. “It’s fantastic to be here,” Bandac’s Norwegian girlfriend Helena told state broadcaster NRK. “I did not get that long with Ioan — just three and a half years.”

On to France with another hard times intolerance headline, via TheLocal.fr:

French MP avoids prison over Hitler Gypsies rant

A French lawmaker avoided being sent to jail this week over a rant about travellers in which he was caught on camera saying “Hitler did not kill enough”. The MP and town mayor has also managed to keep hold of both of his elected roles.

A French lawmaker was convicted of glorifying crimes against humanity for saying Hitler “did not kill enough” gypsies, but avoided prison at his sentencing on Thursday.

MP Gilles Bourdouleix uttered the remarks in July 2013 as he confronted members of a travelling community who had illegally set up camp in the western town of Cholet, where he is also mayor.

His remarks left anti-racism campaign groups outraged, as well as most of France and its politicians.

An economic booster shot from France 24:

Helmet Hollande wore for Gayet tryst flies off shelves

A French motorcycle helmet manufacturer has publicly thanked President François Hollande for being photographed wearing their helmet on his way to an alleged secret tryst with actress Julie Gayet.

Hollande, 59, was pictured by paparazzi working for Closer magazine arriving at a Paris address to allegedly meet the famous French actress, while riding pillion on a scooter and wearing a “Dexter” helmet made by French company Motoblouz.

Motoblouz CEO Thomas Thumerelle, who employs 45 people at his plant at Carvin in the northern Pas-de-Calais region, was so delighted he took out a quarter page ad in national daily Liberation (see below) on Wednesday, titled “Thank you Mr President – for having used our helmet for your personal protection”.

On to Spain and another downturn from El País:

Economy shed jobs for sixth year in a row in 2013

  • Unemployment as a percentage of the population rises as thousands exit the labor market

The Spanish economy shed jobs for the sixth year in a row in 2013, official statistics show.

While the job destruction was less intense than in previous years, the loss of 198,900 positions, added to other years’ job cuts, yields an accumulated figure of 3.75 million since the crisis began in 2008.

The figures were released on Thursday as the Bank of Spain confirmed government estimates that the economy grew 0.3 percent in the fourth quarte

More from TheLocal.es:

Spain’s unemployment: Seven shocking facts

  • Spain’s unemployment rate hit 26 percent again this week. Here The Local gives you seven stats that will help you understand just how serious the situation is.

New unemployment figures from Spain’s National Statistic Institute (INE) show that recent macroeconomic improvements in Spain are yet to create new jobs.

While Spain has now clocked up two consecutive quarters of fragile growth, the INE data — based on a quarterly survey of 65,000 homes nationwide known as the EPA — shows the country’s unemployment climbed back up to 26.03 percent at the end of 2013, up from 25.98 percent three months earlier.

Here The Local provides seven statistics that highlight the extent of Spain’s unemployment problem.

  1. Spain has now seen six straight years of job destruction. Some 198.900 jobs disappeared in Spain last year, and 3.5 million have vanished since the country’s crisis began in 2008.
  2. There are 1.832.300 households in Spain where nobody has a job. That is 1.36 percent more than a year earlier.
  3. Some 686.600 households in Spain have now income at all — not even social security. That is twice the figure seen in 2007, or before the crisis struck.

thinkSPAIN electrifies:

Spain’s electricity hikes between 2008 and 2012 were second-highest in the EU after Lithuania

ELECTRICITY bills in Spain went up between 2008 and the end of 2012 more than in any other European Union member State except Lithuania, figures show.

During this four-year period, the cost of power to households and businesses rose by 46 per cent in Spain, and 47 per cent in Lithuania says the European Commission.

Brussels puts this down to rising distribution costs, increases in IVA, or VAT, in EU countries, and ‘eco-taxes’ relating to renewable energy.

And a boost for the arts from El País:

Government announces plans to slash sales tax on works of art

  • Cut in VAT rate to 10 percent could be followed by similar measures to promote culture

Bowing to intense pressure, the Spanish government on Friday announced it was going to lower the value-added tax (VAT) rate charged on transactions involving works of art to 10 percent from 21 percent.

Speaking at a press conference following the weekly Cabinet meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría said the move was to bring Spain in line with other countries in Europe, such as Italy and Germany, where the VAT rate on works of art is 10 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

The government controversially increased the VAT rate on all cultural items in 2012, from 8 percent to 21 percent. Asked if the VAT rate on other cultural items would also be cut, Sáenz de Santamaría said the reduction for works of art was a “first step.” “We have to introduce measures to promote Spanish culture and we have brought forward one of them,” she said. Culture Ministry sources said the government was also “studying new measures” for the film industry.

On to Lisbon and an uptick from the Portugal News:

Unemployment levels fall

The number of people registered as being unemployed in Portugal has dropped, while the government has announced plans to encourage business and entrepreneurs within the country in a bid to further boost employment levels.
Unemployment levels fall

The number of unemployed persons registered with the employment office in Portugal dropped by 2.8 percent year on year in December, making the total number of unemployed people 690 535 and marking a fall by 0.2 percent in the month of December.

Monthly data published by the Institute of Employment and Vocational Training ( IEFP ) highlighted that at the end of December there were 20,117 fewer unemployed persons registered with the employment office than a year earlier.

And a presidential boost from the Portugal News:

President upbeat about economic future

Portuguese president Cavaco Silva has said that he is hopeful about the economic future of the country despite a less than positive forecast given by the credit ratings agency Standard and Poor.

Portugal’s president has said that he is convinced that the country will success-fully conclude its bailout this May, adding that he appreciated the heavy sacrifices that continue to be asked of the Portuguese people.

Cavaco Silva said that while Portugal was still a few months away from its Economic and Financial Adjustment Programme object-ives, that he felt there was no reason why the country should not reach these targets successfully. In his speech he also gave a brief summary of 2013, noting that although it had not been “an easy year for Portugal”, the economy had registered some encouraging signs that allowed 2014 to look more “hopeful”.

Italy next with ANSAmed and more privatizations of the commons:

Chunks of Italy’s post office, air agency up for sale

  • Italian cabinet approvals sale of parts of companies

The Italian cabinet has approved decrees to sell large chunks of the post office and its air traffic agency, sources said Friday.

The government has said it wanted to sell off a 40% share of the national postal service, Poste Italiane Spa, for at least four billion euros by the end of the year as part of efforts to raise much-needed capital to offset Italy’s huge debt.

A similar-sized share will be offered in Enav, the Italian air traffic control company.

Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni has said that a larger share of the postal service might be sold later.

Bunga Bunga cutbacks from TheLocal.it:

Berlusconi budget cuts hit models and dancers

Silvio Berlusconi has cut off monthly payments of €2,500 to a host of young women who attended his parties as part of cost-cutting measures by the ageing playboy, Italian media reported on Friday.

The decision could also have something to do with his coming under investigation for witness tampering opened by prosecutors in connection with his conviction for having sex with an underage 17-year-old prostitute.

“He helped us out, me and the other girls,” said Aris Espinosa, 24, one of the models and dancers known as “Olgettine” after the street in Milan, Via Olgettina, where they lived in apartments paid for by Berlusconi.

At one point, a total of 14 young women were living in the apartments and they were heard calling Berlusconi and his accountant in multiple police wiretaps to ask for more cash – referred to as “flowers” or “fuel”.

After the jump, the ongoing debacle in Greece, Ukrainian divisions and hints of compromise, munificence to Mexico, Venezuelan currency woes, Argentine inflation, Indo-Japanese nuke-enomics, Thai and Burmese troubles, Korean elder woes, Japanese promises, environmental woes, and the latest Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

No Job Land: The human cost of austerian crisis


A short, searing documentary on the real costs of the austerian agenda now being imposed across the globe as reflected in the everyday plight of Spaniards.

From Narratively:

No Job Land

From the film’s web page:

From Gabriel Pecot, Olmo Calvo and Eva Filgueira

Five years ago, Spain was flush with cash and the sky was the limit. Today, millions of unemployed citizens are clinging to their homes, despairing for the future—and demanding that their government finally take a stand.

The global financial crisis and a culture of real estate speculation gone bad has had a desperate effect on once-wealthy Spain, where there are now millions of unemployed citizens, many on the verge of social exclusion. Now, they are self-organizing and bringing their grief to the streets, demanding the government take a stance to defend the future of their families.

* * *

Olmo Calvo is a Spanish freelance photojournalist, member and cofounder of the SUB photography cooperative in Buenos Aires. He lives in Madrid and never leaves his cameras at home.

Eva Filgueira is a freelance journalist and multimedia editor based in Madrid. She loves storytelling and has done multimedia projects for Magnum Photos (NYC).

Gabriel Pecot is a freelance photojournalist and multimedia producer living in Madrid, Spain. Since he discovered audio and motion, nothing was the same again.

Chart of the day II: Cut Pentagon, not aid to poor


From a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, clear evidence that Bernie Sanders [see below] speaks for the majority of the American people:

BLOG Choices

Headlines of the day II: EconoCorpoFukuChaos


A phenomenal amount happening as the pact accelerates. Be sure to continue after the jump for Greek woes, confrontation in Kyiv, Thai turmoil on the brink, Russian blues, Chinese surge, Japanese woes, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!

Because of limited time, we’ll just name the publications and let the headlines tell the tale, starting with the end of an era from PRI International’s The World:

Say a final farewell to the VW minibus — the vehicle that defined the 60s

In the US and Europe, the Kombi is synonymous with 1960s hippie culture. But in Brazil, the Kombi has been for decades a modern-day workhorse, serving as ambulance, school bus, hearse and street and hot dog stall. It’s been produced in Brazil — mostly by hand — since 1957, about seven years after it first rolled off the assembly lines in Germany.

From the Asahi Shimbun, our first trade tale:

TPP talks likely to go into 2014 as Japan, U.S. remain at odds over tariffs

Japan’s rejection of U.S. demands to end tariffs on politically sensitive farm produce means a deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade arrangement is unlikely by the end of December.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, senior vice minister at the Cabinet Office, said Japan cannot agree on tariff cuts on Dec. 10, the final day of a four-day TPP ministerial meeting here, unless the United States makes substantial concessions.

More from Jiji Press:

Countries End TPP Ministerial Meeting without Deal

While noting “substantial progress toward completing” the TPP agreement, the 12 countries failed to resolve their differences in outstanding issues, including tariffs.

As a result, they agreed to hold a ministerial meeting again in January 2014, abandoning their goal of reaching a political agreement on important issues by the end of the year.

A video report on what’s at stake from RT:

Corporations may snatch Pacific rim’s $20trn market as US pushes deal

Published on Dec 10, 2013

The US is ramping up pressure to secure a Trans-Pacific Trade Deal with conditions that could undermine the national interests of nations involved. WikiLeaks documents say talks are “paralyzed,” with the US refusing to compromise on disputed issues.

A major economic segment from JapanToday:

New consoles, online games to keep global market soaring until 2017

The global video gaming market is set to grow 11.1% a year until 2017, boosted by a new generation of consoles and the increasing popularity of online games, according to IDATE digital research and consultancy firm.

The market, estimated at 53.9 billion euros ($73.8 billion) this year, is expected to soar to 82.1 billion euros in 2017, the France-based firm said in a report.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore with numbers:

Unemployment rate in rich countries steady: OECD

The unemployment rate across rich countries held steady for the second straight month at 7.9 per cent in October, the OECD said on Tuesday with 47.8 million people officially without work in the 34 countries.

From Spiegel, vampire squids:

Cartel Power: Megabanks Gain Ground Despite Fines

Authorities around the world are taking action against large banks for questionable practices including collusion and rate manipulation, but the power of these financial institutions continues to grow. Germany’s Deutsche Bank in particular finds itself under fire.

CNN posits the imponderable:

What if the economic recovery is doomed?

It’s getting late. And it’s getting dangerous. Since World War II, economic expansions have averaged 58 months between recessions. January 2014 will be month 54. Could another recession arrive before we’ve put back to work everyone who lost a job in the last recession? The answer seems almost certainly: yes.

And on to the U.S. and a sadly done deal,m screwing those who need help most, via Bloomberg:

U.S. Budget Agreement Eases Spending Cuts Over Two Years

U.S. budget negotiators unveiled an agreement to ease automatic spending cuts by about $60 billion over two years and reduce the deficit by $23 billion, breaking a three-year cycle of fiscal standoffs.

The budget proposal, which will be considered by the House later this week, would set U.S. spending at about $1.01 trillion for this year, higher than the $967 billion required in a 2011 budget accord. Spending for defense is $520.5 billion and for non-defense $491.8 billion.

Obama urged lawmakers to pass an extension of unemployment insurance benefits, which expire this month. The deal doesn’t include the jobless aid.

The Guardian notes inequity:

Let’s get this straight: AIG execs got bailout bonuses, but pensioners get cuts

No one has accused city workers in Chicago or Detroit of bringing down the economy, but they could face pension cuts

Salon has the despicable:

New York Post editorial board: NYC “too generous” to city’s homeless

Responding to a landmark New York Times profile of the city’s homeless, the Post says it’s all “hooey”

London Telegraph marks a passage:

Wall Street banks lose battle over Volcker Rule

The new rules will restrict compensation arrangements at banks to discourage employees from making “risky” trades

Wall Street banks are to be banned from gambling their own funds for profit, after US regulators voted in the the controversial Volcker Rule, designed to reduce risk-taking by major financial institutions.

From Oakland Tribune, smoke, no mirrors:

Legal pot supported by California majority for first time, Field Poll shows

For the first time in 44 years, a clear majority of California voters favors legalizing marijuana, a new Field Poll found.

And where there’s smoke, there might soon be fire: A specific legalization ballot initiative now seeking signatures to get on next November’s ballot also has majority support, the poll found.

“Debating about whether to legalize now is pointless, because we’re going to,” said Mark A.R. Kleiman, a UCLA professor and drug policy expert. “The smart debate is about how we’ll do it.”

Details from the Sacramento Bee:

Eight percent of voters backed allowing anyone to purchase cannabis and 47 percent said it should be available with the types of controls, like age verification, that govern alcohol sales.

Those two groups combined account for 55 percent of voters surveyed, marking a breakthrough for marijuana advocates: It is the first time a Field Poll has discovered clear majority support for legalization. A combined 50 percent backed the notion in 2010, when a legalization ballot initiative went down to defeat.

And Reuters goes one better:

Uruguay becomes first country to legalize marijuana trade

Uruguay became the first country to legalize the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana on Tuesday, a pioneering social experiment that will be closely watched by other nations debating drug liberalization.

A government-sponsored bill approved by 16-13 votes in the Senate provides for regulation of the cultivation, distribution and consumption of marijuana and is aimed at wresting the business from criminals in the small South American nation.

A parenthetical note from The Independent:

People who drink alcohol outlive those who abstain, study shows

A contentious new study is suggesting people who drink regularly live longer than those who completely abstain from drinking.

Research published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research found those who did not consume any alcohol appeared to have a higher mortality rate, regardless of whether they were former heavy drinkers or not, than those who drank heavily.

CNBC, an uptick:

Small business optimism edged up in November amid some hiring

U.S. small business optimism edged higher in November—reversing an October drop—as manufacturers and professional services, including architects, doctors and lawyers, led modest gains in newly created Main Street jobs.

The National Federation of Independent Business said Tuesday that its small business optimism Index nudged up 0.9 of a point to 92.5 last month, up from 91.6 for October.

From China Daily, hooking up:

California police department will sign up for Sina Weibo – Chinese ‘twitter’

In an unusual move to reach Chinese immigrants, a California city’s police department will be the first in the country to open an account on Sina Weibo, a China-based microblogging website similar to Twitter.

“We have a large population of Chinese people in Alhambra,” Police Chief Mark Yokoyama said. “We want to be progressive in reaching out to the community, and Weibo is a tool to increase community awareness and outreach to immigrants.”

From BBC News, so give Uncle some cars:

US government lost around $10bn on GM bailout

The US government has sold its remaining shares in General Motors, leaving it with a loss of around $10bn (£6bn) on the bailout of the car maker.

The US Treasury spent $49.5bn bailing out GM in 2008 and 2009, and took a 61% stake in the car maker.

On to Europe with The Guardian:

Youth unemployment could prolong eurozone crisis, Christine Lagarde says

IMF chief warns against prematurely declaring an end to the economic crisis, saying joblessness puts future growth at stake

“Can a crisis really be over when 12% of the labour force is without a job? When unemployment among the youth is in very high double digits, reaching more than 50% in Greece and Spain? And when there is no sign that it is becoming easier for people to pay down their debts?”

The Guardian warns:

Europe’s economic crisis could be mutating again

Deflation could be replacing debt as the main problem – and there’s nothing to suggest the ECB is up to the job

A blast from EUobserver:

Austria and Luxembourg accused of undermining EU credibility

Luxembourg and Austria came under attack on Tuesday (10 December) after the two countries stood firm and blocked plans to increase transparency in tax reporting.

At a meeting of finance ministers in Brussels, the final formal gathering of 2013, ministers from the two countries insisted that they will not agree to a reformed savings tax directive until the EU has reached agreements on banking secrecy with nearby tax havens such as Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

New Europe’s numbers:

OECD: Unemployment stable at 7.9% in October

The OECD unemployment rate stood at 7.9% in October 2013, unchanged from the two previous months. Across the OECD area, 47.8 million persons were unemployed in October 2013, 13.1 million more than in July 2008.

In the euro area, the unemployment rate decreased by 0.1 percentage point to 12.1% in October, the first decline since February 2011.

Deutsche Welle blasts:

EADS job cuts under fire from Germany, France

European aerospace company EADS has been criticized by Berlin and Paris for slashing 5,800 jobs as it downsizes its military business. EADS warns even more jobs are at risk if governments keep cutting defense budgets.

From New Europe, cashing out:

Outflow of workers’ remittances at €38.8 billion in 2012

In 2012 in the EU27, flows of money sent by migrants to their country of origin, known as workers’ remittances, including both extra-EU27 and intra-EU27 flows, amounted to €38.8 billion.

According to Eurostat, almost three quarters of this total went outside the EU, with extra-EU27 flows of €28.4 billion and intra-EU27 flows of €10.3 billion. Over the last four years, workers’ remittances have been stable at around €28 billion for extra-EU27 flows and €10 billion for intra-EU27 flows.

Neos Kosmos has symbolism:

Eurobank officials take salary cuts

Senior Eurobank officials have heeded the CEO’s proposal to reduce salaries, aiming to send a strong message of resolve that they will continue in their cost-cutting efforts

Senior Eurobank officials have heeded Chief Executive Christos Megalou’s proposal to reduce their salaries, aiming to send a strong message of resolve that they are determined to continue in their cost-cutting efforts so as to see the lender return to profit as soon as possible. Officials from the bank will travel to the US today for meetings and presentations ahead of Eurobank’s share capital incease.

According to sources, Megalou’s salary, which constitutes a ceiling for the bank’s pay structure, will drop 17 percent on an annual basis. The salary cuts will affect general directors, members of the bank’s strategic planning and executive committees as well as other officials of the lender and its subsidiaries.

From Spiegel, hypocrisy:

Post-Lampedusa: Hopes Dashed for New EU Asylum Policy

Two months after the deadly shipwreck off Lampedusa, Europe has done nothing to change course on its asylum policy. A new agreement between the EU and Turkey only reinforces the practice of pushing the refugee problem to Europe’s periphery.

And that gives us the perfect bridge to our first British story, via Sky News:

Border Force Criticised By MPs Over Failings

Officials are not checking private boats and planes properly for illicit goods and illegal immigrants, a report by MPs warns.

More hypocrisy from The Independent:

Government delays EU immigration report because it is too positive

A review into the impact of EU migration on Britain has been delayed because the Government feared it was too positive.

The latest part of Whitehall’s Balance of Competences study, which looked specifically at freedom of movement, had been due to be released yesterday. But, according to reports, it has now been shelved until next year because Theresa May, the Home Secretary, takes issues with its findings.

From the London Telegraph, cowed:

Steak to become a luxury item as food prices tipped to soar by as much as 6% in 2014

New report forecasts that food prices will rise above inflation next year and for the rest of the decade as growing global demand and climate change hit the industry

The Guardian hustles:

Payday loan TV commercials rocket to almost 400,000 in three years – Ofcom

Regulator’s report reveals enormous growth in TV ads for companies such as Wonga, up from 11,000 per year in 2009

Ofcom has estimated that every UK adult viewed an average of 152 payday loan commercials in 2012. Children aged 4 to 15 who watched TV saw a total of 596m payday loan TV adverts last year – an average of 70 each – up from just 3m in 2008.

Hopes from the Economic Times:

India-UK trade volume can double by 2015: UK Minister Vince Cable

The bilateral trade between Indian and the United Kingdom can be doubled by 2015 from the business done in 2010, Vince Cable, UK Secretary of State (Cabinet Minister) for Business, Innovation and Skills, said today.

“The bilateral trade between India and UK stood at 12 billion pounds in 2012 and we are looking at 15 to 20 per cent annual growth,” Cable told reporters on the sidelines of an interaction with young entrepreneurs here.

From The Guardian, idiocy averted:

Coalition scraps plans to outsource defence procurement to private firms

Labour says Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, is responsible for ‘another embarrassing and costly U-turn’

The coalition has scrapped plans to hand private companies responsibility for buying £14bn a year of planes, weapons and other military equipment for the Ministry of Defence, in a U-turn condemned by Labour as costly and embarrassing.

What recovery is that? From The Guardian:

Most Britons have felt no benefits from economic recovery, opinion poll finds

Tories creep up on Labour by two points, despite 70% of voters polled by ICM/Guardian saying they have not seen any gains

From the London Telegraph, gone:

Home buying will be out of reach for an ‘entire generation’

Average prices in London will soar by more than 43pc to £650,000, research by the National Housing Federation and Oxford Economics warns

The Guardian has instruction:

Secretary who stole £4m will teach jail survival to white-collar criminals

Joyti Waswani, convicted of defrauding her Goldman Sachs bosses in 2004, will offer advice on serving time safely

The former Goldman Sachs secretary who was jailed in 2004 for stealing more than £4m from her banker bosses has landed a job coaching white-collar criminals in how to cope with a prison term.

Joyti Waswani, who served half of her seven-year sentence in three closed prisons under her then married name of Joyti De-Laurey, is said to be Britain’s biggest female fraudster after stealing vast sums from her bosses, Scott Mead, Jennifer Moses and Moses’s husband, Ron Beller, all of whom were directors of the investment bank.

Hypocrisy unmasked, via The Guardian:

Asylum seekers: former chief justice condemns politicians’ approach

Gerard Brennan prepares damning assessment of the ‘whatever it takes’ attitude to winning votes

The former high court chief justice Gerard Brennan has prepared a damning assessment of a “whatever it takes” approach to politics, questioning the asylum-seeker policies of both parties.

On to Ireland with  Independent.ie:

Ireland ‘unlikely’ to get ESM help to recover cost of bailing out our banks

The head of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), Klaus Regling, appeared to rule out use of the fund just hours after eurogroup chair Jeroen Dijsselbloem said the same bailout pot would not be available to ease the cost to the banks of their stock of loss-making tracker mortgages.

Independent.ie again, interest compounding:

Central Bank wary of capping rates

The Central Bank has said that any moves to cap the cost of loans from Irish moneylenders would need to be taken carefully.

Last month, the British government announced it would cap pay-day loans to stop companies charging huge amounts of interest.

TheLocal.no, looking for a joint:

Norway to Sweden: Can we rent out your prisons?

Norway has asked to lease out prison spaces from its neighbour Sweden in a bid to end a shortage of cells which police complain forces them to release criminals.

Justice Minister Anders Anundsen announced on Monday evening that he had sent a proposal to his Swedish counterpart Beatrice Ask, and hoped that Norwegian inmates would start serving time in Sweden as early as next year.

Xenophobic, insulting messages on far-right websites and a slam aimed at teenage asylum-seekers on a hunger strike come to a conclusion, via TheLocal.se:

‘I hope they starve’ post fells Sweden Democrat

Marie Stensby represented the Sweden Democrats in Jämtland in northern Sweden and was voted in as an alternate member of executive board at the recent party conference; until Tuesday’s revelation in the Expressen daily she had furthermore intended to stand for election to Sweden’s Riksdag in 2014.

The local politician previously leapt to national media attention in November 2012 when she called for the establishment of a “a reservation for Sweden’s indigenous peoples” in her home county of Jämtland.

But wait. That was just the beginning. TheLocal.se follows up reports that at least 10 others let their Social Darwinism loose on the web:

Sweden Democrats: More heads may roll

Several more politicians risk being kicked out of the Sweden Democrat party following revelations that they posted xenophobic and insulting messages on various far-right websites.

“Their actions will not be without consequences,” party secretary Björn Söder told the TT news agency on Tuesday.

Holland next, with a raise from DutchNews.nl:

Dutch wages to rise 2.3% next year, well below European average

Dutch salaries will rise by an average of 2.3% next year, well below the global average, according to research by consultancy Hay Group.

The research showed that on average global salaries will rise 5.2% while in Europe the average increase will be 3.1%, the Hay research showed.

Big Pharma in Dutch from Europe Online:

EU fines Novartis, J&J for delaying generic painkiller

The European Union is fining pharmaceutical giants Novartis and Johnson & Johnson a total of 16 million euros (22 million dollars) for delaying the launch of a generic painkiller in the Netherlands, the bloc’s executive announced Tuesday.

The drug in question is a cheaper version of Fentanyl, a painkiller that is 100 times more potent than morphine and is notably used by cancer patients, according to the European Commission. “The two companies shockingly deprived patients in the Netherlands, including people suffering from cancer, from access to a cheaper version of this medicine,” said EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

Germany next, til debt do us part from TheLocal.de:

German cities pile up mountain of debt

The number of German cities threatened with bankruptcy has increased over recent years, with the gap between rich and poor areas growing, a study revealed on Tuesday.

Despite the economy performing well and tax receipts flooding into national coffers, many town and city treasuries are bare, according to a study released on Tuesday from accountants Ernst & Young.

TheLocal.de delivers the chop:

Airbus maker to cut 2,600 jobs in Germany

European aerospace giant EADS, the maker of Airbus aircraft, announced plans on Monday to cut 2,600 jobs in Germany as part of widespread cuts to its defence sector.

The job cuts, part of a major restructuring in the face of falling orders, will affect the group’s workforce in Germany, France, Spain and Britain over the next three years, the company said in a statement.

TheLocal.de one more time, with a plea for $644 a week:

Frankfurt buses stay parked in strike

Commuters in Frankfurt and nearby towns faced a difficult trip to work on Tuesday as almost every bus in the city stood stationary after drivers went on strike to push for €12 an hour pay and a 39-hour week.

Services union Verdi called the strike after negotiations over pay and conditions with the Hesse state association of bus companies failed to produce results.

Banksters behaving badly from EUobserver:

Fresh corruption scandal engulfs Deutsche Bank

Berlin – US authorities are investigating Deutsche Bank, along with other multi-national banking behemoths like JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Citi, on suspicion of using corrupt practices in China in order to acquire contracts from state-owned companies, the New York Times reports.

They are said to be hiring the offspring of top Chinese officials.

But we leave the most ominous banking story for last. From Reuters:

German shipping banks face $22 billion in losses: Moody’s

Germany’s leading shipping lenders face 16 billion euros ($22 billion) in credit losses in the coming year as a severe sector slump makes it increasingly difficult for shipowners to repay their loans, ratings agency Moody’s said.

Germany’s eight major ship financiers have lent a total of 105 billion euros to the sector, a fifth of which are categorized as non-performing, Moody’s said in a report.

On to France and an ail from TheLocal.fr:

Economists dub France the ‘sick man of Europe’

A new report by The Lisbon Council, a Brussels-based think tank, will not have gone down well in the corridors of power in Paris this week after it labelled France the real “sick man of Europe”.

Whereas the Euro Plus Monitor report was optimistic for the rest of Europe to pull out of the crisis it singled out France for a rollicking, saying its economic policies have changed little.

Spain next with El País and a splitting headache:

Leftists threaten to break CiU pact over referendum

  • Catalan premier’s ally wants simple “yes or no” question on independence
  • “Spain against Catalonia” forum riles regional PP

The Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) has made its clearest threat to date to regional premier Artur Mas of the governing CiU bloc: if the question that is posed to Catalans on any independence referendum does not refer explicitly to independence, ERC will withdraw from the pact between the groups. “ERC will not participate in a deal that results in a bad question,” ERC spokeswoman Anna Simó said Monday.

ANSAmed declines:

Spain drops 20% in Brand Finance rankings

Down 5 notches; Italy slides from 10th to 12th place

El País merges

Marriage of the canning giants

Crown, the leading manufacturer of metal containers in the world, was attracted to Spain’s Mivisa because of its production and marketing techniques

Portugal next with Europe Online:

Portugal’s export growth slows, jeopardizing recovery

Portugal’s economic recovery was dealt a blow in October, figures issued by the statistics body INE showed Tuesday, with year-on-year export growth slowing to 4.2 per cent.

The figure is a sharp drop from September, when exports had grown by 9.9 per cent. In October, Portugal exported less both to the European Union and to countries outside it. Imports meanwhile increased by 3.7 per cent year-on-year, up from 3.5 per cent in September.

El País has feeble numbers:

Bank of Portugal revises projections for local economy upward

The Bank of Portugal on Tuesday revised upward its growth forecasts for the domestic economy for next year, predicting a recovery in private consumption and an ongoing push from the exports sector.

In its winter economic bulletin, the central bank now sees GDP growing 0.8 percent in 2014, up from an estimated 0.3 percent in its fall forecasts. It also now expects output to contract by 1.5 percent this year, compared with a previous estimate for a decline of 1.6 percent. GDP growth is seen accelerating to 1.3 percent in 2015.

The Portugal News compares:

Portugal is more like Ireland, less like Greece – Moody’s

Rating agency Moody’s has said that the Portuguese debt structure was “very different” from the Greek and “much more comparable” to the Irish and also said they expected that Portugal would adopt a cautionary programme backed by the European Stability Mechanism.

Italy next with ANSAmed:

Italians flocking abroad soars 70% in two years

Lombardy leads exodus with more than 20% of total

The number of Italians leaving the country rose 70% in two years, from 40,000 in 2010 to 68,000 in 2012, an Italian foundation for multi-ethnic studies reported on Tuesday.

TheLocal.it searches:

Italy’s recovery remains elusive: economists

The Italian economy has emerged from two years of contraction, data showed on Tuesday, but economists warned that recovery will remain elusive as resistance grows to further tax hikes and reforms.

The third-biggest economy in the eurozone, Italy stagnated in the third quarter, revised data showed, in an update of an earlier estimate of a 0.1 percent contraction.

ANSAmed has austerian costs:

Italy’s kids stunted by recession, says Save the Children

More teenage moms, obese kids, school dropouts

Italy’s children are growing up physically, emotionally, and intellectually stunted by the recession, which has brought poverty, unemployment, and a lack of emotional, psychological, and environmental support in its wake, according to a new Save The Children report issued Tuesday. Titled ‘’Italy Upside Down’‘, the report documents a 7.4% drop in the country’s fertility rate along with a rise in childhood obesity, teenage motherhood, and the rate of high-school dropouts.

ANSAmed has modest hopes:

Italy’s industrial production grew 0.5% in October

Smallest year-on-year drop since start of recession

Italy’s industrial production data for October provided hope Tuesday that the country may be emerging from its longest recession in over two decades.

National statistics agency Istat said production was up 0.5% in October with respect to September.

And a rare Maltese item from The Guardian:

Want to buy citizenship? It helps if you’re one of the super-rich

Malta has announced it is selling passports to foreign investors for £546,000, but that’s cheap compared with other countries, such as Britain and the US

The move has ruffled feathers in the UK. In part, because of worries about unchecked immigration; the passport grants its holders full EU citizenship, including freedom of movement (Maltese citizenship also come with a visa waiver on entry to the US). Labour’s shadow immigration minister, David Hanson, told the Financial Times the move risked being “a backdoor route” to EU residence and was “not a tight or appropriate immigration policy”. The government faces calls from British and European politicians to intervene and put a stop to the plan.

After jump, Greek meltdown, Ukrainian woes, Russian riots, Israeli intolerance, Latin American turmoil, Aussie foibles, Thai turmoil, Chinese neoliberalism and smog, Japanese woes, environmental news, and the latest Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Destroying the lives of seniors for Wall Street


In this segment from Abby Martin’s Breaking the Set, economist Richard D. Wolff offers a devastating assessment of the Detroit bankruptcy and it’s impacts on retired workers who spent their lives working for the city.

Especially ominous are implications for public sector employees across the country, who may find their futures sacrificed to the greed of Wall Street banksters and corrupt politicians.

How Wall Street Bankrupted Detroit | Interview with Richard Wolf

Program notes:

Abby Martin speaks with Richard Wolff, economist and Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts about the recent district court ruling on Detroit’s bankruptcy and how it could affect the pensions of thousands of city workers.

Headlines of the day II: EconoAusterioFukulala


A great deal happening, so straight to it.

We begin with a peculiarly belated recognition from The Hill:

Obama: ‘Profoundly unequal’ economy a ‘fundamental threat’

President Obama on Wednesday declared that addressing income inequality would be the focus of “all” of the White House’s efforts “for the rest of my presidency.”

In a sweeping address that touched on raising the minimum wage, investing in infrastructure and ending tax breaks for the wealthy, Obama warned that the American economy has become “profoundly unequal,” declaring economic mobility the “challenge of our time.”

From the New York Times, more inequality on the way:

Pension Ruling in Detroit Echoes West to California

A judge’s decision in Michigan is resonating all the way to California.

The ruling by Judge Steven W. Rhodes, who is presiding in Detroit’s bankruptcy case, that public pensions are not protected from cuts could alter the course of bankrupt cities like Stockton and San Bernardino, Calif., that had been operating under the assumption that pensions were untouchable.

From Mother Jones, a good idea:

Elizabeth Warren: Big Banks Should Reveal Their Donations to Influential Think Tanks

On Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on the biggest US banks to disclose their donations to think tanks, which influence laws that affect them.

Under current law, banks and other corporations are not required to publicly report their contributions to think tanks. That means that lawmakers who use think tank data and analysis to shape laws and regulations designed to police banks do not know how much bank money influences that research.

From Salon, confirmation:

GOP debunked on food stamps: Everything they say about SNAP is wrong

Forget the nonsense about them breeding dependency. Food stamps increase self-sufficiency, research shows

From CNN, a well-connected not-so-newcomer:

Obama’s uncle wins immigration battle, gets OK to stay in U.S.

Onyango Okech Obama – an uncle of President Barack Obama who has been in the United States illegally for decades – has gotten a federal court’s OK to stay in his adopted country, according to an attorney representing the uncle.

Federal immigration Judge Leonard I. Shapiro in Massachusetts agreed without argument Tuesday to allow the uncle, who has been living and working in U.S. for 50 years, to stay and obtain a green card, said attorney Margaret Wong.

The Guardian covers Kochs:

ALEC calls for penalties on ‘freerider’ homeowners in assault on clean energy

  • Documents reveal conservative group’s anti-green agenda
  • Strategy to charge people who install their own solar panels
  • Environmentalists accuse Alec of protecting utility firms’ profits

From International Business Times, ars gratia, and all that:

Detroit Institute Of Arts Vows To Prevent City From Auctioning Its Collection To Pay Creditors

Declared eligible for the largest-ever municipal bankruptcy Tuesday, Detroit has found itself in the spotlight of the art world with onlookers concerned that a portion of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ precious collection may be headed to the auction block to satisfy creditors of the financially distressed city.

From Reuters, more belated action to come:

Exclusive: U.S. plans new bank fraud cases in early 2014 – attorney general

The U.S. Justice Department plans to bring civil mortgage fraud cases against several financial institutions early in 2014, using as a template the case that ended last month in JPMorgan Chase & Co’s (JPM.N) $13 billion settlement, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Wednesday.

In an interview with Reuters, Holder would not say which companies or how many could face lawsuits but said the Justice Department was in contact with them and it was hard to say whether the talks would lead to settlements.

Bloomberg Businessweek covers another side of the banking world:

A Third of Bank Tellers Rely on Government Assistance, Study Says

Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley calculate that almost a third of all bank tellers receive some form of government assistance, according to the Washington Post. That includes $534 million for health insurance through Medicaid and coverage for low-income children, $250 million in tax credits for low and moderate earners, and more than $100 million in food stamps. They qualify for government aid because, on average, the country’s half a million tellers earn about $25,790 a year, or $12.40 an hour (if they work a 40-hour work week), according to the most recent government data. That’s less than similar administrative jobs, and tellers are also more likely to be part-time employees.

From Reuters, just doin’ business:

Wal-Mart pays lawyer fees for dozens of executives in bribery probe

Wal-Mart Stores Inc is paying for lawyers to represent more than 30 of its executives involved in a foreign corruption investigation, according to people familiar with the matter, an unusually high number that shows the depth of the federal probe.

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether Wal-Mart paid bribes in Mexico to obtain permits to open new stores there, and whether executives covered up an internal inquiry into the payments. The department is also looking into possible misconduct by the world’s largest retailer in Brazil, China and India.

From My Budget 360, reality:

Top 10 percent of US households control nearly 75 percent of all wealth – Average Americans pretend to be temporarily embarrassed millionaires by going further into debt.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore with upbeat numerals:

US trade gap shrinks to US$40.6b in October

The US trade deficit narrowed to $40.6 billion in October on a strong rise in exports, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday.

And from the Los Angeles Times, where you can “drive right up and put a great big hot dog in your face”:

First Wienerschnitzel, symbol of L.A. car culture, now a landmark

North of the border with the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Bank of Canada frets over low inflation, cites retail competition

Disinflation has become the Bank of Canada’s new worry as the central bank again left its key rate unchanged at 1 per cent.

The bank pointed to a persistent and unexpected drop in inflation caused by excess supply in the economy and heightened competition in the retail sector, where an influx of new U.S. chains is shaking up the industry.

CBC News drops a media ax:

Sun Media announces 200 layoffs

‘Cost containment’ continues at parent company Quebecor Media

And National Post has the latest Toronto mayoral folly:

Rob Ford may have offered $5,000 and car for ‘crack video’: new police documents

One of the men suspected of peddling the “crack video” of Mr. Ford said he also had pictures of the mayor “doing the hezza,” usually used as a slang term for heroin;

The New York Times covers Banksters Behaving Badly:

E.U. Imposes $2.3 Billion in Fines Over Rate-Rigging Scandal

Joining a chorus of regulators worldwide, the European Union fined a group of global financial institutions — including for the first time two American banks — a combined 1.7 billion euros to settle charges they colluded to fix benchmark interest rates.

The widely anticipated settlement, worth about $2.3 billion and announced by European Union antitrust officials on Wednesday, is the largest combined penalty ever levied by European competition authorities and marks the culmination of an investigation that dates back more than two years.

From New Europe, feeble numbers:

In the EU28 GDP increased by 0.2 per cent

Second estimate in Eurozone’s GDP

Eurozone’s GDP only grew by 0.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2013 compared with the second, recording a 0.4 per cent fall compared with the same quarter in 2012.

From Salon, a neoliberal desideratum nears completion:

Austerity is Americanizing European labor markets

Workers throughout Europe are losing their rights as their nations race to reduce the costs of labor

On to Britain with an ultimatum from the London Telegraph:

Goldman Sachs would ‘drastically’ cut its London office if the UK quits the EU

The Independent covers a national shame:

Food poverty in UK has reached level of ‘public health emergency’, warn experts

Hunger in Britain has reached the level of a “public health emergency” and the Government may be covering up the extent to which austerity and welfare cuts are adding to the problem, leading experts have said.

In a letter to the British Medical Journal, a group of doctors and senior academics from the Medical Research Council and two leading universities said that the effect of Government policies on vulnerable people’s ability to afford food needed to be “urgently” monitored.

And the BBC News covers another austerian move:

Autumn Statement: Plan to raise state pension age sooner

The date when people must be 68 to draw a state pension – formerly scheduled for 2046 – will be brought forward to the mid-2030s, Chancellor George Osborne will announce later.

Plans to be announced in Mr Osborne’s Autumn Statement mean the age could rise again to 69 by the late 2040s.

On to Sweden with TheLocal.se:

Sweden’s health system ‘worst in the Nordics’

Long queues to see a doctor and get treatment in Sweden have dragged the country far down a European ranking of healthcare providers, with Sweden now the worst among its Nordic neighbours despite efforts to cut waiting times.

TheLocal.se again, with another gain for the far right:

Sweden Democrats gain most in key voter survey

Sweden’s two largest political parties suffered drops in voter support, the country’s most-watched opinion poll revealed on Wednesday, while the far-fight Sweden Democrats solidified their position as Sweden’s third-largest party.

TheLocal.no covers another sign of dark feelings rising:

Foreign criminals who return face two years’ jail

Norway is set next week to vote in a ten-fold increase in the penalty for deported foreign criminals who illegally return to the country, VG newspaper has reported.

According to the proposal the penalty for breaking an expulsion order is to be increased from 35 days in prison to a maximum of two years.

On to Germany, and a Banksters Behaving Badly headline from Spiegel:

Rate Scandal: Deutsche Bank’s First Big Fine Won’t Be Its Last

Subprime mortgages, currency tricks, interest rate fixing: Wherever supervisory authorities have probed crooked deals of the past, Deutsche Bank comes up. Now Germany’s biggest bank has had to pay its first big fine. It won’t be the last.

Al Jazeera America covers terror from a quarter with deep roots:

Neo-Nazis may have been behind hundreds of unsolved German murders

Police launch review into killings first linked to immigrant groups, now thought to have involved the far right

And EUobserver has yet another instance of anti-Roma sentiments stirred up by demagogues:

German conservatives stir up ‘welfare tourism’ row

Several German conservatives are following the footsteps of their British colleagues, stoking fears about “welfare tourism” by Romanian and Bulgarians.

From Spiegel, the Americanization of German politics:

The Deal Makers: Coalition Deal Shows Rising Clout of Lobbyists

As the dust settled in Berlin, one group came out of last week’s coalition deal an unequivocal winner: Germany’s lobbyists. When it comes to shaping policy, corporate interests are wielding ever more influence on national politics.

On to France and a frayed icon from Spiegel:

Disneyland Paris: Europe’s Magic Kingdom Loses Its Magic

Disneyland Paris is currently besieged by unflattering headlines and faltering finances. Now an attempted suicide by a park employee is drawing attention to its labor practices. French unions are furious and an outspoken Belgian visitor is campaigning for big changes.

TheLocal.ch notes Swiss spending:

Swiss ready to spend more this Christmas

Swiss consumers retain a cautious outlook for the economy but are ready to spend a little more this Christmas than in the previous year, according to the 2013 Christmas retail survey by accounting and consulting company Deloitte.

The survey shows that Swiss households are budgeting an average of 807 francs (€656 or $893) for this yuletide season, up three percent from a year ago.

On to Spain, and a mob scene outside of Valencia via the London Telegraph:

IKEA gets 20,000 applications for just 400 jobs amid Spanish unemployment crisis

IKEA store’s computer servers crash after it gets 20,000 online applications for 400 jobs in just three days

TheLocal.es offers a dire assessment from a major player:

‘Spain won’t recover from crisis until 2033′

It will take Spain two decades, or until 2033, to see pre-crisis unemployment and growth levels, consultants PWC argue in a new report.

While Spain’s gross domestic product will grow 42 percent by 2033, or higher than the 26 percent of Germany and France’s 33 percent, the country won’t see pre-crisis growth levels until 2033, the PWC report argues.

A contrary view from BBC News:

Spain’s economic outlook improving, says Moody’s ratings agency

Ratings agency Moody’s has raised its outlook for Spain’s economy from “negative” to “stable”.

Moody’s said there had been a real improvement in the economy and government finances.

El País covers a neoliberal dream legally stricken:

Court rules one-year trial work contract without compensation illegal

Judgment applied to case of a laborer who was dismissed eight days before the 12-month period ended

thinkSPAIN conveys a reprimand:

Spain’s 600,000-euro fines for unauthorised demonstrations ‘problematic’, and austerity ‘a threat to human rights’, says European Commissioner

COUNCIL of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks says Spain’s controversial Public Safety Law is ‘highly problematic’ and that if it ‘goes any further’, he will ‘take it up with authorities’ in the country.

From El País, secession alliance:

Catalan pro-sovereignty parties seek deal for united ballot front

ERC will consider joint candidacy for EU parliamentary elections if independence vote goes ahead

The Portugal News covers the sale of a cherished piece of the commons:

Maximum price for CTT post office privatisation

The price of shares in the privatisation of CTT, the Portuguese postal service operator, has been set at €5.52, according to a statement from the CMVM stock market regulator.

With the first day of trading in the shares due on Thursday, the price turns out to be at the very top end of the price range set for the shares available to the public, which the government had said would be in the range of €4.10 and €5.52 earlier in November.

Italy next, and Bunga Bunga resurgence from New Europe:

Berlusconi considering running as a Bulgarian MEP

The former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is considering running in Bulgaria for the 2014 European elections.

According to the Italian media, Berlusconi is thinking to run as a candidate for the European Parliament by taking advantage of the EU law, which allows every EU citizen to run in any EU country in the European elections. The controversial Italian politician, who is banned from holding public office in Italy is also considering running in Hungary or Estonia.

Europe Online has another Bunga Bunga tale:

Berlusconi’s poodle a hit with Russia’s Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin is smitten with Silvio Berlusconi’s adopted white poodle, pictures published Wednesday show.

Putin paid Berlusconi a two-and-a-half-hour visit on November 26, a day before the Italian conservative leader and former prime minister was expelled from parliament due to a tax fraud conviction.

EUbusiness covers intolerance rising:

Italy minister hit by racist slurs warns over populism

Italy’s first black minister Cecile Kyenge, who has been deluged with racist slurs since her appointment in April, urged Europe’s leaders on Wednesday not to spread populism or use it to win votes.

“There has a been a rise in episodes of racism in many countries, probably linked to the economic crisis but also to a lack of knowledge about what European values really stand for,” Kyenge said at a press conference.

After the jump, the Greek meltdown continues, India fights for food, Chinese neoliberalism deepens, Japanese uncertainty vexes, the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!, and more. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: Econo/Greco/Sino/Ecolalia


Patterns emerge the looting of the commons rebranded as asuterity continues unchecked, and the momentary stability hailed by the financial press begins to look precarious, while nations rush to embrace policies designed to enrich the few while driving the rest to the bottom.

And yes, it really is that simple, with the bludgeon of debt used as the enforcer.

We begin with the last hint that the Obama administration is set to make a deal once unimaginable to Democrats and, as Eisenhower once noted, too all but a few Texas oil men. From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Social Security benefits may be on table in budget talks

With congressional budget negotiations moving behind closed doors, one item apparently on the table is changing the way cost-of-living adjustments are calculated for seniors, veterans and other recipients of government benefits.

From the Los Angeles Times, more tarnish for the Golden State’s luster:

California’s unemployment benefits fund is mired in debt

The fund owes nearly $10 billion to the federal government — so much, the problem won’t fix itself even if disbursements fall to pre-recession levels, the Employment Development Department says.

From The Contributor, Tea Party toll charges:

Gov Perry Refused Medicaid, Now TX Cities Feel the Squeeze

According to a new study, medical expenses hit Texas cities disproportionately hard. If Governor Perry had not refused Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, millions in taxpayer money would have been saved. Millions that could be better spent on jobs or infrastructure projects.

From Bloomberg, damned if you do, damned if you don’t:

Obamacare Deductibles 26% Higher Make Cheap Rates a Risk

Americans seeking cheap insurance on the Obamacare health exchanges may be in for sticker shock if they get sick next year, as consumers trade lower premiums for out-of-pocket costs that can top $6,000 a person.

And a question answered from CNBC:

Who’s smiling through Obamacare blunder? Insurers, of course.

Believe it or not, the “fumble” of the new health-care law has winners—and they’re all publicly traded health-care companies.

Meanwhile BBC News plays ketchup when job axes fall:

Heinz says three North American plants to close

Food maker Heinz has announced the closure of two plants in the United States and one in Canada. The firm says 1,350 jobs will be lost, which adds to the 600 job cuts announced in August.

And another job ax falls, via the Associated Press:

Merck to cease production at Puerto Rico plant

Merck will cease active ingredient production at one of its plants in Puerto Rico in a blow to a city once considered a pharmaceutical hub. The company said Friday that production in Barceloneta will end by late 2014 as part of a global restructuring.

FromThe Contributor, an upbeat story for a change:

Auto Workers Negotiate with VW, Southern GOPers Fear the End of Cheap Labor

Volkswagen says the outcome of negotiations with the Chattanooga, Tennessee, United Auto Workers union will have no bearing on whether or not they will build a new SUV in the United States. Southern politicians are in a tizzy, though, calling any negotiations at all the beginning of the end of cheap labor in the South.

Here in California, another labor action has been announced, reports the Oakland Tribune:

UC graduate students, service workers plan to strike

The University of California service workers union and graduate student union are calling for a system-wide one-day strike on Wednesday.

From The Independent, 21st Century salt mines:

Writing is on the wall for the new slaves: Contributors who work for free for website magazines

Welcome to the post-recession world, where social discourse is subordinated absolutely to advertising and paid work is replaced with “experience”. This is the business model that was pioneered by the Huffington Post and described by Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times as “a galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates”.

And a parallel tale from Quartz:

Twenty-somethings have incredibly unrealistic expectations for retirement

High youth unemployment, the proliferation of unpaid internships and soaring costs of higher education make it hard for young people to save for retirement, even if they want to. And as fiscal shortfalls and longer lifespans push countries to cut state benefits for retirees, younger generations won’t be able to rely as much on governments to support them as their parents did.

And what about the banksters, you may ask? Well, via Just An Earth-Bound Misfit, I, here’s a delightful CNBC video about what happened after one notorious outfit went to Twitter in hopes of puffery and received something quite different in return.

From ThePuppetsCan HearYou:

#AskJPM tweets performed by voice of American Greed & @PuppetsOH

Program notes:

Someone at JP Morgan said, “Let’s ask the American public what they’d like to say to one of our top bankers on Twitter.” Turns out that wasn’t such a great idea. The tweets generated from #AskJPM range from funny to down-right nasty. So someone at CNBC said, “Let’s have award-winning actor, Stacy Keach…the voice from American Greed read them verbatim.” Almost a brilliant idea. Then they had the good sense to add me… the blue puppet. And BOOM now it’s brilliant.

Tweet @PuppetsOH
Like us: www.facebook.com/ThePuppetsCanHearYou

From the San Francisco Chronicle, another war on drugs, Berkeley style:

Berkeley’s next smoking ban may hit home

Berkeley, where residents take pride in exercising their personal freedoms and resisting government intrusion, is the site these days of a much different kind of movement – one to ban cigarette smoking from single-family homes.

For our last domestic item, we turn to Gawker:

Rich Man Buys House Next to Ex-Wife, Erects Giant Middle Finger Outside

A Michigan man has reportedly gone to Internet-ready lengths in order to troll his ex-wife with a daily reminder of his feelings towards her.

Next, to Canada and an inflating bubble with CBC News:

Average house price in Canada rises 8% to $391,820

CREA says number of homes sold also increased

From CBC News again, vanishing choices:

Retirement not by choice for 41% of Canadians, survey says

Although most affluent Canadians approaching retirement believe they will get to pick the day they step away from their careers, in reality 41 per cent of retirees report they didn’t leave their jobs by choice, according to a new report from Royal Bank.

Off to Europe, first with the London Telegraph:

Eurozone inflation at four year low, data confirm

Talk of deflation continues, despite European Central Bank rate cut last week

From EUobserver, doubts raised:

Eurozone economy still in troubled waters

The eurozone economy grew by a meagre 0.1 percent in the last three months, showing that optimism about recovery from the crisis may be premature, according to data from the bloc’s statistical office Eurostat published on Thursday.

Troubled? Maybe more than that, if one considers this from the World Economic Forum via the London Telegraph:

Youth unemployment could tear Europe apart, warns WEF

Crime rates will soar, economies will stagnate and Europe’s social fabric will deteriorate if policymakers do not act to address youth unemployment, World Economic Forum report warns

But Spiegel sees through rose-colored specs:

Euro Crisis Reprieve: End to Bailout Programs Signals Recovery

Some four years after the euro crisis began, Ireland and Spain are set to graduate from their bailout programs, with Dublin planning to begin financing itself again early next year. It’s a positive sign, but economists warn against premature optimism.

Reuters covers a backstop:

EU ministers agree euro zone bailout fund can be used as ultimate backstop for banks

European Union finance ministers agreed on Friday that, as a last resort, the euro zone ESM bailout fund will be able to buy stakes in banks that need rescuing if neither investors nor the government are able to provide funds.

More from New Europe:

Barnier warns all member-states will now have to make compromises

ECOFIN: ESM can be used as backstop for failing banks

And the eruobanksters both give and take. Via Reuters:

Banks to repay 3.6 billion euros of crisis loans: ECB

Banks will next week return 3.59 billion euros ($4.8 billion) of crisis loans early to the European Central Bank, the ECB said on Friday, a lower than expected total as a recent rate cut makes it more attractive to hold on to the funds for now.

The ECB cut its main refinancing rate to a record low of 0.25 percent, automatically reducing the interest rate banks have to pay on the three-year loans.

From BBC News, a dressing down:

EU warns Spain and Italy over their budget plans

It also said French and Dutch plans only just passed muster.

More, including a telling detail, from the London Telegraph:

EU uses new budget powers to demand more austerity in Italy and Spain

Spain and Italy have been warned that their budgets for 2014 are in breach of European Union rules as Brussels uses new powers to force governments to revise spending plans before national parliaments vote on them.

France was also cautioned that plans for painful economic reforms represent only “limited progress” as the European Commission exercised new eurozone powers in a historic shift of sovereignty away from elected governments.

And Deutsche Welle covers a failure to launch:

EU still wrangling over banking union

Ireland is about to leave Europe’s bailout program – that’s the good news from the latest meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels. The bad news: No progress was made on a banking union.

From the Corporate Europe Observatory [CEO], round and round they go:

Mythbusting: the Commission and the revolving door

CEO responds to the Commission’s positive picture of its handling of revolving doors cases and conflicts of interest. Can the Commission afford to be quite so complacent?

Here’s a graphic depiction of CEO’s take on the reality, more evidence for which may be found at their Revolving Door Watch:

BLOG eurocrats

And if you need something more to ponder, there’s this from EUobserver:

Gazprom warns EU of winter ‘catastrophe’

Gazprom has warned that Ukraine might not have enough gas to feed EU transit customers in the coming winter.

Britain next, with The Independent covering democracy in peril:

Apathy? Alienation? How ‘disengaged’ four in ten voters reject ALL parties

Young adults are even more “disengaged”  from the party system, with 46 per cent of under-30s saying “none of the above” when presented with a list of the parties. Although the polling does not mean people are apathetic about politics,  the anti-sleaze watchdog which commissioned it believes the findings pose worrying questions about the future of democracy in Britain.

Sky News brings us the fatuous endorsing the cynical:

Simon Cowell Slammed Over ‘Get Lucky’ Remark

The Education Secretary blasts the X Factor boss for joking that children do not need to work hard, they should just get “lucky”.

From The Independent, austerian accounting:

Nearly a million under-25s still unemployed despite growth

Young people in Britain are experiencing a “jobless recovery” as unemployment among them rises while older people find work, according to a study published today.

And those slightly more fortunate from the London Telegraph:

White-collar workers to become ‘new poor’ as computers take over

Employees such as legal clerks and local government administrators will see their wages collapse as new technology makes their skills less valuable, just like manual workers have, Alan Milburn says

Ireland have officially bailed out of the bailout regime, but there’s a catch. From the Irish Times:

Ireland faces two annual post-bailout inspections

Coalition pledges to press on with reform agenda

Germany next, with anxiety from Deutsche Welle:

German DAX heavyweights increasingly worried about strong euro

More than half of all firms listed in Germany’s blue-chip DAX 30 index have reported shrinking third-quarter turnover and many also declining operating profits. A study says the current strength of the euro is to blame.

From DutchNews.nl, a Hans Brinker on thin ice:

Brussels accepts Dutch 2014 budget despite lack of margin for error

The European Commission has accepted the Dutch government’s spending plans for 2014 even though there is no margin for error in cutting the budget deficit to 3%.

DutchNews.nl again, cultivating interest:

Two in three large councils back organised marijuana cultivation

In total, 26 of the Netherlands’ 38 largest local authority areas support some form of government legalised or organised marijuana production, Nos television says.

Spain next, with a new austerian mandate from El País:

Brussels asks Spain for more fiscal adjustment to meet deficit obligations

Commission believes additional measures worth €35bn will be required over next three years

The Brussels announcement dims Thursday’s announcement, reported by thinkSPAIN:

Spain’s bank bail-out and supervision to end in January, says Eurogroup

SPAIN’S banks will come out of their ‘bail-out period’ in January without the need for any further European Union funding.

Consider another report from Friday’s El País:

Bank of Spain may revise incompatibility criteria

Decision follows row over nomination of former central bank director general to a private financial sector institution

And then there’s this, also from El País:

Outstanding Spanish public debt hits new record high in September

Obligations were equivalent to 93.4 percent of GDP, just under government target for full year

Italy next, with BBC News covering an anti-austerian outburst:

Italy: protesting students clash with police in Bologna and Rome

Thousands of students protesting against government austerity measures clashed with police in cities throughout Italy on Friday. In Bologna and Rome they marched in the streets of the city centre holding banners. Refering to their uncertain future, they chanted: “you’ll pay for it, for job insecurity, for misery and grief.”

Corriere della Sera covers the latest lament of Silvio, Baron of Bunga Bunga:

Berlusconi and the Tribulations of the PDL

“If I had my passport, I’d be off to Antigua”. Former PM forced to mediate with rivals at lunches, dinners and all-nighters]

And Italy delivers its own warning, via EUbusiness:

EU spurs eurosceptics with debt warning: Italy PM

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta accused Brussels of playing into the hands of eurosceptics on Friday in a sharp rebuke to a European Commission warning on Italy’s high debt levels.

Greek meltdown, Venezuelan action, Indian woes, Chinese neoliberalism running rampant, Japanese economic woes, more environmental alarms, and the latest Fukushimapocalypse Now! after the jump. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day II: Changes in online use


From Gallup, click on the image to enlarge:

BLOG Internet

Headlines of the day II: EconoEnviroFukuFubar


The game grinds on, the looting accelerates, those at the bottom suffer, and the agenda endures, with Greece the epitome of what’s in store for the rest of us — with the political murder count on the rise — unless. . .

CNBC invokes a specter:

For signs of bubble, look no further than LBOs

Leveraged buyouts for both big and midsize companies are approaching debt levels last experienced in 2007.

USA TODAY delivers the chop:

Financial firms cutting thousands of jobs

Financial firms are cutting tens of thousands of jobs because of a slowdown in the mortgage business, the sluggish economy, the growth of online banking and new regulations.

CNBC tests the water:

Fed sets tough tests in annual bank health war games

Banks in the United States will have to test whether they can survive a halving of the stock market during a severe U.S. recession, the Federal Reserve said on Friday, as it set the rules for next year’s model runs to gauge the health of the financial system.

And another kind of bank faces another kind of stress test, congressionally induced. Via USA TODAY:

Food stamp cuts create high demand for food bank supplies

  • The holiday season is approaching in November and December, the time of year when most food banks receive more than half of their donations for the year.

  • The flip side: More people turn to food banks for help during that time, too.

  • Food banks across the country, stretched thin in the aftermath of the recession, are bracing for more people coming through their doors in the wake of cuts to the federal food stamp program.

From Salon, unindicted co-conspirators:

How Democrats enable California’s pension slashing

New “bipartisan” initiative allows state and local governments to reduce retirement benefits for current employees

And AlterNet notes the bottom line:

America’s Greatest Shame: Child Poverty Rises and Food Stamps Cut While Billionaires Boom

Why do we put up with such injustices?

North of the border with CBC News and an unpleasant senior moment:

Job hunt posing big challenges for people over 50

Federal program aims to get older unemployed people through the dark days

Britain next, with a question from The Independent:

Is social deprivation to blame for 450 avoidable deaths from breast cancer each year?

Study reveals women from lower income groups are much more likely to be diagnosed later

More from BBC News:

Benefit delays ‘hit hundreds of terminally ill patients’

Hundreds of terminally ill cancer patients face waiting weeks and months for their income support because of a new payments system, a leading charity has warned.

If where the heart is is home, it’s in a metal box. From RT:

My home rocks, but it’s only a box: Soaring rents force Londoners to live in shipping containers

A London charity has imported steel containers from China and converted them into bargain basement homes, as part of a novel solution to try and solve homelessness amid soaring rents in the British capital.

And The Guardian has the ultimate in neoliberal desiderata: Paying lawyers to sell out their clients, [ideally, no doubt, to send them off to corporate owned-and-staffed prisons, preferably turning out products and services for profit]:

Lawyers to earn higher legal aid fees for early guilty pleas

Legal critics brand government moves to shave £220m off legal aid bill as perverse, unethical and counter-productive

The first of three items from the Irish Independent, first with a hint of things to come:

IMF: Lenders should set aside post-bailout funds for Ireland

Ireland’s lenders should set some money aside for when the country exits its bailout, which it should do step by step, a senior International Monetary Fund official said today.

The Irish Independent again, this time with a promise:

James Reilly pledges free GP care for every citizen by 2016

MINISTER for Health James Reilly has said that the government is ‘committed’ to providing free universal primary care for the entire nation within the next three years.

And the Irish Independent covers the Prime Minister’s underboss getting blown back by angry public protests after stuffing coal in Christmas stockings:

Now Tanaiste calls for Revenue U-turn on home ‘tax grab’

TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore has piled the pressure on the Revenue Commissioners to abandon their pre-Christmas tax grab on homeowners.

And from the Irish Times, legalizing Hollywood and the Top 40:

Blasphemy offence a ‘dead letter’, constitutional convention told

Law’s requirement on causing outrage makes it ‘very difficult’ to prosecute

Germany next, feeling the heat from New Europe:

IMF backs US criticism of German surplus

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday echoed US criticism of Germany’s trade surpluses which the US Treasury said have been having an adverse impact on European economies during the crisis.

To Spain with an upbeat from the Global Times:

Fitch revises Spain’s outlook to stable

Fitch Ratings, a London-based credit rating company, Friday revised Spain’s sovereign credit rating outlook to stable from negative and affirmed long-term rating at BBB.

From thinkSPAIN, going for the gold in the ivory tower [just like UC]:

Spanish universities have 6,000 Chinese students on their books and aim to double the number

SPAIN’S education ministry is hoping to encourage more undergraduates from China to study in the Mediterranean country – but they are mostly put off by the fact that it takes so long for Spanish colleges to process qualifications.

The Toronto Globe and Mail takes us to Italy with a somber declaration:

Italy’s economic woes pose existential threat to euro zone

Xinhua casts a similarly sinister pall:

News Analysis: Italian youth mired in unemployment, analysts warn of lost generations

In times of economic recession, with the number of unemployed people increasing sharply, young Italians not only are the first targets of job cuts but are faced with the choice of building an uncertain future in their home country or seeking their fulfillment abroad.

After the jump, Greek meltdown continues, mixed Latin and Asian numbers, a Chinese neoliberal acceleration and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Made in China: Worst Photoshop fail ever


From the official SINA English:

BLOG Photoshop fail

From the website, which headlined its story “Government posts fake photo on its official website”:

A photo of city leaders visiting centenarian in Ningguo City, east China’s Anhui Province circulated on the internet after it being posted on its official website.

Netizens pointed that the photo was modified because one official stands in the air and the centenarian looks too small.

Headlines of the day II Econo/Fuku/Grecomania


We begin with warnings, catch the latest rumblings form home an Europe — including arrests and informants in Greece, Latin American developments warnings from Moscow and Beijing, and the latest developments in Fukushimapocalypse Now! After the jump.

From, a somber note from RIA Novosti:

No Quick Recovery for Global Economy Warns Putin

There is little hope for a rapid recovery of the global economy although the most acute phase of the crisis is now over, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Monday.

Echoed in Beijing, via the South China Morning Post:

Xi Jinping sees ‘long and tortuous’ world economic recovery

President Xi Jinping said on Monday he expected a “long and tortuous process” of world economic recovery, while China’s economic growth rate of about 7 per cent was “within a reasonable and expected range”.

China Daily covers another Beinjing warning:

China urges US to prevent debt default

China on Monday urged the US to take concrete measures before Oct 17 to avoid defaulting on its government bonds and ensure the safety of Chinese investments in the US.

While Bloomberg sets sirens screaming:

A U.S. Default Seen as Catastrophe Dwarfing Lehman’s Fall

A U.S. government default, just weeks away if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling as it now threatens to do, will be an economic calamity like none the world has ever seen.

From Financial Times, an eyebrow-raiser:

US banks fearing default stock up on cash

While In These Times captures a fear we share here at Casa esnl:

Progressive Democrats Fear Showdown Will End in Social Security Cuts

In a rally on Thursday, Congress’s left flank linked arms against using safety-net programs as bargaining chips.

Bayou Buzz notes a significant trend::

More families pulling out of stock market and hoarding cash, analysis shows

Five years after U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed, triggering a global financial crisis and shattering confidence worldwide, families in countries as varied as the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany remain hunkered down, too spooked and distrustful to take chances with their money.

And from International Business Times, arousing our skepticism:

Big Banks Are Safer And Don’t Rely On Taxpayers’ Money For A Bailout, Says International Monetary Fund Study

According to a report by the International Monetary Fund released on Monday, the way banks are being funded has changed for the better more than five years after the financial crisis hit, but many smaller banks continue to experience problems.

Another skepticism-arouser, from the Los Angeles Times:

Government shutdown should not affect U.S. credit rating, Moody’s says

From PRI’s The World, the sadly predictable:

US government shutdown has out-sized impact on African American workers

Although the shutdown of the federal government that began Tuesday is affecting all Americans, a disproportionate portion of the 800,000 furloughed federal workers are African Americans, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Preaching one thing at home, doing another abroad — all in the name of building industry. From the CIP Americas Program:

Obama Loosening of Arms Export Controls Could Be a Boon to Smugglers

In the near future, smugglers will likely have an easier time of it due to the Obama administration’s plans to dramatically loosen U.S. arms export controls.

CNBC offers a conundrum:

Banks brace for the day when deposits shrink

US banks, with nudging from regulators, are planning for the day when the economy recovers and depositors yank money from low-paying accounts.

And Channel NewsAsia Singapore notes some opportunity from absence:

China grabs limelight as US hobbled at APEC summit

China took centre-stage on Monday as Asia-Pacific leaders opened an annual economic summit in the shadow of global growth clouds that are darkening by the day with the US government paralysed by infighting.

But the neoliberal agenda moves forward, as Kyodo News notes:

TPP leaders to say members on track to conclude talks: draft

Leaders gathering for a summit of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks are likely to announce the countries are “on track” to complete their work, noting “significant progress” in various fields including the contentious tariff negotiations, their draft statement showed Monday.

While EurActiv raises blowback questions:

TTIP: Health sector braced for ‘damage control’

While EU-US trade talks are expected to generate great economic benefits on both sides of the Atlantic, the impact of a trade agreement on the EU’s healthcare systems will surely be negative, experts warn.

From CBC, empowering the green economy?:

Canadian pot growers eyeing medical marijuana free market

171 individuals and corporations have applied to become medical marijuana producers

On to Europe, starting with Ernst & Young’s avowal of ignorant bliss via the London Telegraph:

Bank loan book review ‘risks eurozone recovery’

Economic recovery in the eurozone is being threatened by the planned review of the loan books of 130 of the biggest banks, a report says today.

From EUobserver, continental contrasts:

Risk of poverty greatest in Bulgaria

Bulgaria has the highest percentage of citizens at risk of poverty in the EU, while the UK is home to the greatest wealth disparity between regions.

EUbusiness covers withdrawal issues:

British PM faces demand for 2014 EU referendum

British Prime Minister David Cameron faced a challenge from one of his party’s lawmakers to hold a referendum on EU membership in October 2014, three years earlier than currently planned.

While TheJournal.ie notes a deprendence of Irish small businesses:

Irish SMEs are among the most reliant on banks in Europe

The Central Bank said the Irish private sector is disproportionately exposed to potential weaknesses in the banking sector.

From The Guardian, another direction:

Iceland rises from the ashes of banking collapse

Populist programme of new government includes a squeeze on foreign creditors as country emerges from years of instability

And Deutsche Welle notes an oft-repeated trend:

Germany’s richest get richer as number of billionaires rises

The combined wealth of Germany’s 100 richest individuals has grown significantly over the past year, breaking the previous record set in 2008. A further 20 people became billionaires in 2013.

And from Reuters, another admonition aimed at Berlin:

Germany must invest to secure growth prospects: ECB’s Asmussen

Xinhua reports a Dutch declaration:

Dutch central bank president predicts recession over in Netherlands

Dutch banks are doing relatively well and the Dutch economy is getting out of its recession period, Dutch central bank President Klaas Knot said during a press conference in Amsterdam on Monday.

The Independent covers the start of a possible political resurrection:

Nicolas Sarkozy’s hopes of return to political power boosted as he is cleared of ‘fleecing’ chief L’Oréal shareholder Liliane Bettencourt

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s hopes of a political comeback today received a substantial boost when he was cleared of abusing the feeble mental condition of France’s wealthiest woman.

And in Spain, a blast from the past, via Europe Online:

Bomb explodes at Francoist town hall in Spain

From thinkSPAIN, another austerian imposition:

Minimum wage will be frozen at 645 euros a month next year

THE MINIMUM wage is likely to be frozen in 2014, although the government claims it will not make a decision until the end of this year.

While El País has qualified good news for the reigning neoliberals:

PP hits new low in polls, but would still win elections

Socialists’ bump flattens as revelations of governing party’s corruption allegations die down

While the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula experiences a rosy resurgence, via El País:

Red revival: why communism is alive and well in crisis-hit Portugal

As it flags elsewhere in Europe, Communist Party gains ground in local elections

On to Italy, with the latest chapter in the Bunga Bunga Chronicles via The Guardian:

Silvio Berlusconi to request community service for tax fraud sentence

Former PM could opt to spend year under house arrest, but community service would allow him to remain in public eye

After the jump, Greek revelations, India warnings, Chinese Slowdown, and the latest edition of Fukushimapocalypse Now! Continue reading

Chart of the day: Managing by generation


The Economist’s YouTube channel offers us a fascinating animated look at data harvested by Ernst & Young examining the workplace qualities of different generations.

Go Boomers!

Live chart: Managing millennials

The only program note:

The very different work traits of hoodies, old fogies, and everyone in between.

Chart of the day: Patterns of U.S. poverty


From the new Census Bureau report [PDF] “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012”:

Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United Sta

Headlines of the day: Econ tremors, Fukushima


Even with Greece pulled out for an earlier set of headlines, there’s still lots to note, and after the jump, the ongoing debacle in Southern Europe, growing concerns in India and China, and lots more bad news from Fukushima [some of it really bad], where today Hitler adds his own inimitable voice.

We open with a rationale, from the London Telegraph:

Fed recoils from 1937 tightening error as jobs evaporate

The American economy has shed 347,000 jobs over the past two months, roughly comparable with the rate of loss seen during the Great Recession. It is remarkable that the US Federal Reserve should even have been thinking of phasing out life-support in such circumstances.

Not-so-Great Expectations, from On the Economy:

The Fed Marks Down Their Growth Forecast…Again

The Los Angeles Times reports a major shift:

Advantage of buying a home slipping away

The financial edge Southern California home owners have over renters has rapidly shrunk in recent months as home prices and mortgage rates have risen, according to a new report.

One piece of California residential real estate attracts the attentions of the London Daily Mail:

UC to spend up to $6m on crumbling  mansion for new president Janet Napolitano despite tuition fees doubling and teacher layoffs due to budget cuts

  • Despite recent cutbacks University of California has asked for millions from private endowment board to renovate historic Blake House

  • It will cost $3.5- $6m to completely renovate the run-down abode, that for decades housed university presidents

  • Napolitano, former Homeland Security Secretary and the first female UC president will live in rented house costing  $10,000 a month while mansion repaired

  • Napolitano’s base salary will be $570,000, and she’ll receive $142,500 in moving expenses

  • Plans also call for adding a laundry, kitchen and upgraded bathrooms to the 4,300-square-foot private living quarters

Banksters burned [well, at least singed a little] for behaving badly, from the New York Times:

JPMorgan Is Fined $920 Million Over Huge Trading Loss

More than a year after a multibillion-dollar loss at JPMorgan Chase, government authorities on Thursday extracted fines and a rare admission of wrongdoing.

And that wasn’t their only hit. From Reuters, the source of a $320 million hit:

JPMorgan told to fix credit card practices, pay refunds

From Reuters again, more bad news for banksters:

Wells Fargo cutting 1,800 jobs in mortgage business

A headline that makes us ask “What about those funny balloon voices?” From The Guardian:

Global helium shortage in prospect as US reservoir in line to close next month

Makers of medical equipment and electronics face rising prices and supply disruptions if Federal Helium Reserve in Texas shuts

From EurActiv, we hope they find the right connection:

EU policymakers push for action on obesity

Obesity-related illnesses have become such a problem in Europe that they have reached the top political level, with even the EU council’s Lithuanian presidency vowing to raise the issue at upcoming ministerials.

From The Independent, the unspeakable consequences of imposing a tax on spare bedrooms [including bedrooms in family homes still occupied by parents after the children have gone]:

Exclusive: Bedroom tax – now 50,000 people are facing eviction

One council tenant in three has been pushed into rent arrears since April, while tens of thousands in housing association properties are also affected

There’s a parallel housing problem as well, exposed by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

The Housing Crisis

Thousands of affordable homes axed

  • Housebuilders and councils in Britain’s biggest cities are failing to comply with affordable housing targets, and even ripping up legal commitments to build cheaper homes.

  • A three-month study by the Bureau has established that 60% of the biggest housing developments currently in the planning system are falling short of local affordable housing targets, preventing thousands of cheaper homes being built.

And from the London Telegraph, class fissures:

NHS bosses pocket big rises amid cutbacks, figures show

More than 10,000 NHS managers have seen their pay rise by 13 per cent in four years, with increases last year at three times the rate for nurses, official figures disclose.

The Independent reports a worrying number:

Economic recovery in doubt as figures show UK workforce produces 20% less than other major economies

‘Bad news’ for British productivity leads to questions over George Osborne’s claims we are in ‘early stages of recovery’

On to the emerald Isle, a qualified endorsement from The Guardian:

Ireland officially exits recession

GDP, which includes the multinational sector, grew 0.4% in the second quarter – although the domestic economy shrank 0.4%

From the London Telegraph, green, but German, and faring poorly:

Germany industry in revolt as green dream causes cost spiral

Germany’s top economic adviser has called for a radical rethink of the country’s energy policies, warning that the green dream is going badly wrong as costs spiral out of control.

New Europe, reporting the Iron Chancellor says Germany will take more profit — and less loss. Via New Europe:

The German Chancellor promised to continue the same bailout loan policy

Merkel promises to reject joint Euro debt

Some Merkelian motivation from Europe Online:

German opinion poll shows eurosceptic surge ahead of election

The Fiscal Times highlights one of Angela Merkel’s most notable failures:

Germany’s Drone Program Crashes and Burns

From SINA English, another class division:

Amazon workers go on strike in Germany

The consequences of those low German wages draw attention from a neighbor, via the BBC:

French minister attacks German wage policy

Days before Germany goes to the polls, a French economy minister has called for German wages to be raised in order to ensure fairer competition.

Indeed, Germany has no minimum wage, while France does. This headline from RFI is a response to a problem caused, in part, by those low German wages:

France to fine bosses over factory closures

France’s government wants companies planning to close factories employing more than 1,000 in France to look for a buyer or face a fine.

Dutch neoliberalism, Tea Party style, spotted by Policy Network:

The Dutch social laboratory: From progressivism to populism?

The Netherlands reputation as a ‘progressive guide land’ is being turned on its head as the pillars of the post-war order – party democracy, the welfare state and European integration – shake from their foundations

On to the Iberian Peninsula, starting with this headline from El País:

Senior holds up bank to get prison bed in crisis-hit Lisbon

More Portuguese inmates remaining in jail due to harsh economic conditions on the outside

Lots more from SOuthern EUrope, Asia, Latin America, and the latest edition of Fukshimapoclypse Now! [with added Hitler] after the jump. . . Continue reading