Heavy pressure continues to push for the full implementation of a corporateer-and-bankster-enabling free trade agreements, siege engines constructed from legalese to ensure the capture of all that exists, served by enfeebled consumerserfs.
The latest from BBC News:
WTO agrees global trade deal worth $1tn
Ministers from 159 countries have reached a deal intended to boost global trade at a meeting in Bali, Indonesia.
The World Trade Organization’s first comprehensive agreement involves an effort to simplify the procedures for doing business across borders.
There will also be improved duty-free access for goods sold by the world’s poorest countries. The deal, which could add about $1tn to world trade, gives developing nations more scope to increase farm subsidies.
A less enthusiastic view via The Guardian:
WTO agreement condemned as deal for corporations, not world’s poor
First global trade deal in 20 years to boost world commerce ‘favours big business at the expense of developing countries’
The agreement, which was criticised by anti-poverty charities, came after intense lobbying by India over measures to protect its poorest farmers. A last-minute compromise between the US and Cuba was also needed over references in the final draft to the continuing trade embargo of the Caribbean island.
Kyodo News covers another trade deal in the works:
Ministers aim to clinch TPP deal at key session in Singapore
Ministers from the countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks began a crucial session of negotiations Saturday in Singapore in a last-minute effort to strike a basic agreement by the year’s end.
The 12 Pacific Rim countries are seeking political solutions for contentious issues including tariffs, intellectual property rights and reform of state-owned companies at the gathering.
But Jiji Press finds a problem:
Japan, U.S. Still Apart over Farm, Auto Trade
Japan and the United States remained apart over farm and automobile trade Sunday as they seek to help conclude broader Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks by the end of this year.
Yasutoshi Nishimura, senior vice minister at Japan’s Cabinet Office, and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who met on the sidelines of a TPP ministerial meeting in Singapore, agreed to continue bilateral talks.
And another questionable deal in the works from The Guardian:
The lies behind this transatlantic trade deal
Plans to create an EU-US single market will allow corporations to sue governments using secretive panels, bypassing courts and parliaments
Back to the U.S., with the unbelievable from International Business Times:
Rick Santorum Compares Nelson Mandela’s Fight Against Apartheid To His Fight Against Obamacare
Appearing on a segment of conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly’s show “The O’Reilly Factor,” Santorum argued that South Africa’s apartheid regime, which denied the country’s majority black population citizenship and basic human rights in favor of a ruling white minority, was directly comparable to President Barack Obama’s effort to extend health care coverage to more Americans.
The Guardian covers a song and dance move, given that the White House press secretary said Friday that no benefits extension wasn’t a deal-breaker:
Barack Obama urges Congress to extend benefits for long-term jobless
President says unemployment insurance, due to expire at end of year, is among most effective ways to boost economy
Meanwhile, his own party plays the heavy, via Reuters:
Democrats wouldn’t reject U.S. budget deal over jobless aid: senator
A senior Democrat said on Sunday he hoped an emerging deal on the U.S. budget would include an extension of unemployment benefits but added that his party would not necessarily walk away from an agreement that left it out.
From New Europe, another spectacular administration failure:
American majority now wants Obamacare scaled down or abolished
A majority of Americans would prefer the healthcare overhaul implemented by the Obama administration to be scaled back or even entirely repealed following two months of glitches, according to a Gallup poll released on Friday. Known as Obamacare, the overhaul was fiercely resisted by the Republican and was largely responsible for this autumn’s US government shutdown.
The latest Gallup poll found that 32 percent of Americans say they want the Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, while 20 percent of Americans favor a scale-back of the law. Twenty percent and 17 percent of Americans respectively want the healthcare overhaul to be expanded or remain the same.
From Project On Government Oversight, seeking truth:
Court to Consider Secret Regulation of Wall Street
The public has a right to know how the government polices an industry-funded self-regulatory group, according to an amicus brief filed this week by the Project On Government Oversight and its allies.
The brief calls for the reversal of a district court decision that would “shield almost all information shared between regulated financial institutions and their regulators” and undermine Congress’s intent for the government to operate with a “presumption in favor of disclosure.”
The case in question involves the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a self-regulatory organization (SRO) for the U.S. securities industry.
Canada next, with some folks doing quite well from the National Post:
Canadian banks deliver record $29-billion profit this year — but are the good times coming to an end?
Once again Canada’s big five banks have delivered a record performance, with total profit in the last fiscal year of $29.4-billion, up a healthy 5% from last year despite the weak economy, slower consumer lending and other headwinds.
As in the past, the main driver was the banks’ domestic retail operations which continue to benefit from Canadians’ love affair with real estate, cranking out more mortgages than ever before even as international observers raise red flags over a potential housing bubble.
On to Europe, first with the headline for an essay from Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz in The Guardian:
Only an inveterate optimist would say the worst must be over for the eurozone
Try telling people in countries that are still in depression, with per capita GDP below pre-2008 levels and youth unemployment at 50% that the austerity medicine has worked
From the London Telegraph, another sign of enduring crisis:
And TheLocal.fr sounds a european alarm:
EU chief sounds alarm over rise of extremism
EU Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso has made an impassioned plea for Europeans to resist mounting populism and extremism ahead of bloc-wide elections in May, as far-right political parties gain traction in several countries, including France.
The Mainichi discovers another anxiety:
Renewable energy sparking fears of price surges in Germany, Britain
Surging electricity prices are emerging as a worry for consumers in Germany and Britain as both countries put their weight behind renewable energy.
Concerns have emerged that the jump in prices could adversely affect the countries’ bullish economies, and government officials are scratching their heads to find a solution. Japan, which launched its own feed-in tariff system for renewable energy in July 2012, cannot distance itself from the issue.
And off to London with the Toronto Globe and Mail:
In London’s bubbling markets, something has to give
Bubble talk is bubbling away. Housing prices in some markets, such as London, are suspected of floating dangerously close to bubble territory, yet buyers keep buying and prices go ever higher. Ditto the stock markets, whether they are the tech-heavy Nasdaq, replete with companies with no profits – think Twitter – or Germany’s MDAX, which is laden with businesses that make real profits. Up, up, up they go.
But there is ample reason to be worried. While there are a thousand ways to measure the value of an asset – from the price-to-earnings ratio for stocks to rental yields for housing – one thing is fairly certain: When prices get seriously out of whack from their long-term trend, they tend to correct themselves. This is called reversion to the mean.
Tory twerking from The Independent:
‘Never a good time to increase MPs’ pay’: Jack Straw defends politicians’ 11% pay rise in face of public outrage
‘Inappropriate’ £7,600 salary increase should be reconsidered in light of economic climate, Treasury minister Danny Alexander says
MPs are set to receive an 11 per cent pay rise, taking their salaries to £74,000 from 2015, despite objections from all three major party leaders. Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury, said the increase would be “wholly inappropriate” coming at a time when many public sector workers have had their pay frozen.
From New Europe, a government warned for helping citizens:
IMF warns Iceland about debt another writedown
Determined to keep his pre-election promise, Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson announced plans to write-off hundreds of billions of krona in mortgage debt for households that have fallen behind on their monthly payment.
On to Holland and an announcement from mil/ind giant European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company N.V. via TheLocal.de:
EADS to downsize defence business
EADS, the maker of Airbus, is set to announce a draconian restructuring plan to unions on Monday that may include thousands of job cuts and strain relations with shareholders Germany and France.
In the line of fire is not EADS’ successful Airbus business, but the company’s defence and space operations, both suffering a drop in orders that the company says requires urgent attention.
Germany next with BBC News:
Germany raises growth forecasts
Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, has raised its forecasts for economic growth in the country.
It announced it had raised its forecast for growth this year from 0.3% to 0.5% and for 2014 from 1.5% to 1.7%.
On on to France, with an ironic invasion, given that the government frequently deports Romanians — but only if they’re Roma. Via TheLocal.fr:
Romanian police help tackle crime in Paris
Twenty Romanian police officers are working in Paris to help their French colleagues tackle crime in the capital during the holiday season, Paris police said Saturday.
The officers arrived on Monday and will stay on until the end of the new year celebrations to help identify Romanian criminal networks in the French
Spain next, with a rosy glasses view from The Guardian:
Spain’s PM says his country has turned a corner
Mariano Rajoy believes his austerity efforts have made sense and that the country can hope for better things in 2014
thinkSPAIN covers a hope:
Mortgage-holders’ case against six banks strengthened in light of record fine for Euribor manipulation
SIX banks which have been ordered to pay a record fine for ‘manipulating’ the Euribor, or Eurozone interest rate, are based in Spain and where their mortgage customers were facing repossession for non-payment, these may now have legal grounds to challenge this decision.
JP Morgan, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, RP Martin and Société Générale have been hit with a total 1.7-billion-euro fine for flouting EU competition regulations – the highest in banking history.
A directorial oration from El País:
Almodóvar seizes stage to berate Rajoy and Merkel for austerity policies
Pedro Almodóvar was one of the undisputed stars of the night at the 26th European Film Academy awards gala in Berlin Saturday. Spain’s most internationally acclaimed filmmaker, who won the Achievement in World Cinema Award, used his speech to harshly criticize the Mariano Rajoy government for its handling of the crisis. Before that, he had already upbraided German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her austerity policies.
From thinkSPAIN, one of those austerian policies:
Patients with cancer, HIV and diabetes complain about enforced payment for prescriptions
SOME of the most prominent support groups for chronically-ill patients in Spain have made formal complaints against the cost of prescription medication and moves to ensure all drugs from the hospital dispensary are purchased with a contribution from the person in treatment.
The Spanish Group for Cancer Patients (GEPAC) says that when the government ‘sold’ them and other associations the co-payment for medication, they were told it was a way to prevent too many drugs being prescribed and sold, as opposed to the exact quantities each person needs.
Italy and party time from Europe Online:
Italy’s New Centre Right party has big plans after Berlusconi split
The New Centre Right, which broke away from former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s party, was presented Saturday for the first time to the public with its leader saying it decided to turn away from the media mogul so Italy would not be cast “into darkness.”
“We are already a political movement that millions of Italians are ready to elect,” Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said at a convention to officially establish the party.
After the jump, Greek tragedies, Ukrainian dissent, Latin American numbers, Indian upset, Thai troubles, Chinese growth, Japanese downturn, and Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading