Category Archives: Food

Keiser Report: Critical Ukrainian perspective


If you listen to the Obama administration and their allies on both sides of the political aisle, we’re obsessed with the Ukraine because some nasty Russians are imperializing and dreaming of Joe “The Boss” Stalin via his latter-day Putinesque incarnation.

But if the U.S. is really consumed by the need to get all aggressive over massive human rights abuses, then why aren’t we threatening Saudi Arabia, where women can’t drive and are subjected to arbitrary whims of a religious paramilitary police — the same zealots who forced a dozen girls to burn to death simply because they tried to flee their burning quarters quarters before they had a chance to don the clerically required garb?

And why not send warships off Brunei, where it’s going to be legal this coming Tuesday to order the stoning deaths of practicing gays? Or Uganda, where men are facing life in prison simply for the way they chose to ejaculate.

In the second half of this latest episode of the Keiser Report, an Oakland, California, journalist reveals some of their deeper motivations for American concern about control of the Ukraine.

And don’t be surprised if one of the players is a major multinational with a huge and controversial presence in the San Francisco Bay Area.

From the Keiser Report:

Keiser Report: Ukraine’s Big Oil & Big Angst (E590)

Program notes:

In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert discuss American injustice in the age of the wealth gap and Weev’s hedge fund trolling. In the second half, Max interviews JP Sottile of Newsvandal.com about Big Oil and Big Ag in Ukraine. Sottile names the people and corporations hoping to exploit the Ukrainian agricultural sector.

Newsvandal’s an interesting alternative news site, and Oaklander JP Sottile raises the right questions, ones that aren’t raised prominently or at all in the dying lamestream media.

Headlines of the day II: EconoPoliEcoFukunews


We begin today’s collection of news political, economic, environmental, and nuclear — including the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now! — with a take on the merger de jour from Kevin Siers of the Charlotte Observer:

BLOG Siers

From the Washington Post, consequences of enserfing students:

Student debt may hurt housing recovery by hampering first-time buyers

The growing student loan burden carried by millions of Americans threatens to undermine the housing recovery’s momentum by discouraging, or even blocking, a generation of potential buyers from purchasing their first homes.

Recent improvements in the housing market have been fueled largely by investors who snapped up homes in the past few years. But that demand is waning as prices climb and mortgage rates rise. An analysis by the Mortgage Bankers Association found that loan applications for home purchases have slipped nearly 20 percent in the past four months compared with the same period a year earlier.

First-time buyers, the bedrock of the housing market, are not stepping up to fill the void. They have accounted for nearly a third of home purchases over the past year, well below the historical norm, industry figures show. The trend has alarmed some housing experts, who suspect that student loan debt is partly to blame. That debt has tripled from a decade earlier, to more than $1 trillion, while wages for young college graduates have dropped.

A decline from the Los Angeles Times:

Builder confidence down sharply in February

Builder confidence in the new home market plunged in February, a combination of debilitating weather and few lots available for construction, a trade group said.

The National Assn. of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index tumbled 10 points from January to a seasonally adjusted level of 46, the largest drop since the index launched in 1985. A level higher than 50 means more builders see the market for new, single-family homes as good rather than poor.

From the Los Angeles Times again, another decline:

Coca-Cola announces $1 billion in cuts as demand, profit slide

Coca-Cola Co., faced with tepid demand and a drop in fourth-quarter earnings, said Tuesday it was initiating a $1-billion cost-cutting campaign to improve profitability.

The world’s largest beverage company said Tuesday that profit fell 8.4% in the fourth quarter of 2013 compared with the same period a year earlier.

Investors were selling on the news. Shares of the Atlanta company were down $1.46, or nearly 4%, to $37.47 at 9 a.m. PST.

Another sort of decline from the Associated Press:

After UAW defeat, can GOP fulfill promise of jobs?

Republicans fighting a yearslong unionization effort at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee painted a grim picture in the days leading up to last week’s vote. They said if Chattanooga employees joined the United Auto Workers, jobs would go elsewhere and incentives for the company would disappear.

Now that workers have rejected the UAW in a close vote, attention turns to whether the GOP can fulfill its promises that keeping the union out means more jobs will come rolling in, the next great chapter in the flourishing of foreign auto makers in the South.

Regardless of what political consequences, if any, Republicans would face if that fails to happen, the Volkswagen vote established a playbook for denying the UAW its goal of expanding into foreign-owned plants in the region, which the union itself has called the key to its long-term future.

CNBC posits the negative:

$10.10 minimum wage could hit total employment: CBO

Raising the U.S. federal minimum wage to $10.10, as President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress are proposing, could result in about 500,000 jobs being lost by late 2016, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated on Tuesday.

The non-partisan CBO also said that increasing the hourly wage could reduce U.S. budget deficits by a small amount for several years, but then increase them slightly in later years.

The current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

Democrats who control the U.S. Senate could try to advance minimum wage legislation as early as next month.

Xinhua invests:

Foreign holdings of U.S. Treasury debt hits record in December

Foreign buyers continued to increase their holdings of U.S. Treasury securities for a fifth straight month in December, even though the two largest holders of U.S. public debt trimmed their shares, U.S. Treasury Department said Tuesday.

The total foreign holdings rose to 5.79 trillion U.S. dollars in December, up 1.4 percent from that in November, showed the Treasury International Capital report. The figure surpassed the all-time high hit in March of 5.73 trillion dollars.

China, the largest foreign buyer of the Treasury debt, trimmed its holdings by 47.8 billion dollars to 1.27 trillion dollars in December, its first reduction in the past four months, the report showed.

Japan, the second largest holder, sold 3.9 billion dollars to 1. 18 trillion dollars in December, according to the figures.

Salon disgraces:

Virginia county sheriff hosting anti-Muslim training by disgraced conspiracy theorist

  • John Guandolo says Muslims “do not have a First Amendment right to do anything.” Now he’s instructing law officers

The Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia is planning to host a three-day training by John Guandolo, a notorious Muslim-basher and conspiracy theorist who resigned from the FBI before he could be investigated for misconduct, according to promotional materials.

It’s hard to believe that the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office would knowingly associate itself with such a disreputable character, who regularly attacks the U.S. government, claims that the director of the Central Intelligence Agency is a secret Muslim agent for the Saudi government and says that American Muslims “do not have a First Amendment right to do anything.”

Guandolo joined the bureau’s Counterterrorism Division in the wake of 9/11, but by 2005 he was posing as a driver for a “star witness” in the corruption case of former Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA). He made “inappropriate sexual advances” to that witness and soon was having an “intimate relationship…that he thought could damage an investigation.” He also unsuccessfully solicited the witness for a $75,000 donation to an organization he supported and carried on extramarital affairs with female FBI agents.

And the Los Angeles Times talks a deal:

U.S.-Mexico-Canada talks will focus on strengthening economic ties

Mexico is expected to avoid discussions about its drug-related violence and focus on its oil and gas industry, along with border and immigration issues.

Twenty years after their countries signed a landmark regional trade agreement, the presidents of the United States, Mexico and Canada will meet this week to attempt to strengthen the economic ties envisioned in that pact, correct the omissions and find ways to expand.

Trade and commerce are expected to dominate the agenda when President Obama meets with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts — President Enrique Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Stephen Harper — in the Mexican city of Toluca, just west of Mexico City, on Wednesday.

Large squads of soldiers and police were patrolling Toluca, the capital of Mexico state, and blocking off major roadways Monday. Schools in the central city were suspending classes. Leftist political parties were planning demonstrations, with several hundred people marching from Mexico City to Toluca.

EUbusiness covers another deal in the making:

EU, US reps meet ahead of free-trade talks

US Trade Ambassador Michael Froman received his European counterpart Karel De Gucht in Washington Monday, preparing for next month’s fourth round of talks on creating the world’s largest free-trade area.

The two sides have been in discussion since last year over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which aims to expand trade, investment and regulatory cooperation between the two huge economies.

Froman and De Gucht spoke briefly to reporters in Washington before two days of closed-door meetings with the EU trade commissioner, meant to take stock of progress made during three past rounds of negotiations, which wrapped up in December.

On to Europe and a call from The Guardian:

Eurozone countries should form United States of Europe, says EC vice-president

  • Viviane Reding calls for full fiscal and political union for 18 eurozone countries but says UK should remain apart

A celebrated call by Winston Churchill for the creation of a “United States of Europe” was revived on Monday by a leading member of the European commission who said the 18 eurozone countries should form a full fiscal and political union.

Viviane Reding, a vice-president of the commission, told Cambridge University’s law faculty that “bold reforms” were needed to avoid tensions across Europe as new governance arrangements were introduced to stabilise the single currency.

A lop-sided take from New Europe:

EU industry: Towards an unbalanced recovery

  • The output of the EU industry remains below the pre-crisis levels

The EU industry lacks of a cohesive growth as according to a report by the European Commission most sectors have still not regained their pre-crisis level of output and significant differences exist between sectors and Member States.

The data for the EU industry shows a mixed picture. The economic output of the manufacturing sector has declined significantly, but important differences between sectors remain. According to the “EU Industrial structure report 2013: Competing in Global Value Chains,” the pharmaceuticals sector has experienced sustained growth since the start of the financial crisis, while high-technology manufacturing industries have, in general, not been impacted to the same extent as other industries.

Moreover, EU manufacturing output indicates significant differences between Member States. Strong recoveries can only be seen in Romania, Poland, Slovakia and the Baltic States, which all regained and exceeded their pre-recession peaks. On the other hand, the EU manufacturing recovery remains below the pre-recession levels in 20 Member States.

Spiegel diagnoses:

The Swiss Virus: Europe Gripped by Immigration Worries

  • The Swiss aren’t the only ones in Europe deeply concerned about immigration. Many across the Continent would also like to see limits placed on newcomers from elsewhere in the EU. Europe must remain firm, but right-wing populists stand to benefit.

Greeks, Italians and French blame economic policy from Brussels for their difficulties. At the same time, Germans and other Northern Europeans are afraid they will ultimately be forced to cough up for EU countries to the south. What some call “reform” and others call “austerity” is driving a wedge between Europeans. And now, the issue of free movement across the EU is being thrown into the discussion because many are concerned they could lose out on the employment market. But questioning the EU principle allowing people to choose where they wish to live and work is akin to questioning the entire European project.

On to Britain and the austerian price of a flooding disaster, via The Guardian:

Thames flood defences among schemes hit by coalition funding cuts

  • Avoidable damage estimated to cost £3bn as projects at Heathrow, Dawlish and Somerset Levels delayed or downsized

Planned defences along the length of the flood-hit Thames Valley were delayed and downsized after government funding cuts following the last election, the Guardian can reveal.

The schemes, totalling millions of pounds, include projects near Heathrow, near David Cameron’s country home in Oxfordshire and in the constituency of the minister who oversaw annual flood budget cuts of almost £100m.

West Drayton, near Heathrow, the scene of significant flooding in west London, was in line for £2.8m of funding to build up concrete and earth bank defences by 2014-15. But following budget cuts, the Arklyn Kennels scheme was downgraded to a £1m scheme and delayed until at least 2018-19.

At Penton Hook, on the Thames near flood-affected Staines in Surrey, a £5.6m dredging scheme was due to be completed by the end of March 2014, but has received just £2m to date. The scheme was also intended to clean up a site where contaminated silt dredged from the river was dumped.

From New Europe, a warning:

Reding: UK would lose influence outside EU

European Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding warned that the EU would lose influence outside the EU and that all the talk of opt-out by the British government distracts from the real issue which is to find solutions for the EU economy.

“The truth is, outside the EU, the UK would lose influence. If the UK were to leave the EU, it would no longer be able to influence EU regulation. It would have to live with the rules decided on by the other EU countries,” Reding told an audience in Cambridge on February 17.

“To get access to the Single Market, you have to apply its rules. Just ask the Norwegians. It’s difficult to see why the other Member States would grant the UK unfettered access to their markets without requiring it to apply the EU’s rules,” she added.

The federalist Commissioner also added that the rhetoric of David Cameron’s Conservatives – who want to renegotiate Britain’s EU membership and have promised a referendum on the issue in 2017 should they win the next election – distracts from the real issues facing the bloc.

And from CNNMoney, the latest instance of Banksters Behaving Badly:

Ex-Barclays bankers charged with Libor rigging

Prosecutors have charged three former Barclays bankers in connection with the rigging of global interest rates.

The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office, which prosecutes complex cases of fraud, said Monday that it’s started criminal proceedings against Peter Charles Johnson, Jonathan James Mathew and Stylianos Contogoulas in connection with manipulating the London interbank offered rate, or Libor.

All three have been charged with conspiring to defraud between June 2005 and August 2007.

Pondering a change of course with the London Telegraph:

Interest rate rise ‘a last resort’ to cool housing market

  • David Miles, a member of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), describes rate rises as a “blunt tool” that will only be used if other policies fail

The Bank of England will only use interest rate rises to cool the housing market if its financial stability toolkit is “not up to the job”, one of its policymakers has said.

David Miles, an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), said rate rises were a “big stick” that would only be used as a last resort.

“We do have, as the last line of defence, the blunt instrument, the big stick of interest rates,” he told Bloomberg TV. “If you did get into a situation where the tools that the Financial Policy Committee (FPC) have seem not up to the job of stopping overheating in the housing market, we would then turn to the blunter instrument of using bank rate.

“We’re a long way from that.”

The Guardian delivers a jeremiad:

New Catholic cardinal renews attack on ‘disgraceful’ UK austerity cuts

  • Roman Catholic archbishop Vincent Nichols, who is to be made a cardinal by Pope Francis, inundated with messages of support

The leader of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales says he has been inundated with messages of support after branding the government’s austerity programme a disgrace for leaving so many people in destitution.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4′s Today programme to mark his imminent appointment as a cardinal by Pope Francis, Archbishop Vincent Nichols expanded upon his comments to the Telegraph when he criticised the government’s welfare reforms as “punitive”.

“The voices that I hear express anger and despair … Something is going seriously wrong when, in a country as affluent as ours, people are left in that destitute situation and depend solely on the handouts of the charity of food banks,” Nichols said.

In his Telegraph interview, published on Saturday, Nichols accused ministers of tearing apart the safety net that protects people from hunger and destitution. He said since he made those comments he had been “inundated with accounts from people … saying there are indeed many cases where people are left without benefits, without any support, for sometimes weeks on end”.

On to Sweden and a case of that Swiss fever from TheLocal.se:

Roma migrants evicted from Stockholm site

Officials evicted all remaining Romanian migrants from a campsite in southern Stockholm on Monday morning, just days after over 100 campers were given a free bus ride home.

The Swedish Enforcement Agency (Kronofogden) carried out the eviction in Högdalen, a suburb in the southern reaches of Stockholm, at 9am on Monday, just days after a bus load of the campers went home.

“All I know is that it’s more or less empty,” Henrik Brånstad, spokesman at the agency, told the TT news agency. “Many have apparently moved to other places while others have jumped at the chance of a bus ride home to Romania.”

Over 100 EU-migrants accepted the bus tickets home, many of whom had earned money begging in the Swedish capital. One of the buses crashed in southern Sweden on Sunday morning on the way to Bucharest. Only the driver was injured.

Rumbles from the right head to court with TheLocal.se:

First charges filed for Stockholm Nazi attack

Seven people were charged on Monday in the wake of a neo-Nazi attack on anti-racist demonstrators in Stockholm last year. But prosecutors say more indictments are on the way.

Charges were filed on Monday against people who took part in a violent riot in Stockholm’s Kärrtorp suburb in December last year. Four of the suspects were charged with violent rioting (våldsamt upplopp) and hate speech (hets mot folkgrupp) and another three were charged with instigating violent rioting. According to the indictment, several of those charged threw bottles, rocks, and firecrackers.

“There will be more charges filed than just these, altogether there were around 30 people detained after the demonstration,” Ulf Sundström of the Söderort police told the TT news agency.

And TheLocal.se, and a word for the teacher:

Teacher salaries too low in Sweden: OECD

Teacher salaries in Sweden are lower than in countries with higher–performing schools, according to an extra OECD evaluation requested by the government on the heels of Sweden’s dismal performance in the latest Pisa rankings.

“The quality of an education system can never exceed the quality of its teachers,” Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s Deputy Director of Education and Skills, told reporters at a press briefing in Stockholm on Tuesday.

“In higher-performing countries, teachers have higher salaries but also clear career possibilities.”

The analysis, which marks the first time ever that Sweden has asked the OECD for extra help in evaluating its school system, also found that Sweden has relatively high costs per student, with only nine other OECD countries spending more money per pupil.

The Associated Press covers a Norwegian whiner:

Breivik hunger strike threat: wants bigger gym

Convicted Norwegian mass-killer Anders Behring Breivik has threatened to go on hunger strike unless he gets access to better video games, a sofa and a larger gym.

In a letter received by The Associated Press Tuesday, Breivik writes the hunger strike will continue until his demands are met or he dies. Breivik’s lawyer Tord Jordet confirmed the letter was authentic and said his client is waiting for a response from prison authorities before starting the hunger strike.

Breivik is serving a 21-year prison sentence, which can be extended when it expires, for killing 77 people in bomb and gun massacres in 2011.

Among his demands, Breivik wants the lifting of restrictions on communications and improved air conditions. He wants the available PlayStation 2 console replaced by a modern version.

Germany next and a call for a New Deal from Deutsche Welle:

IW think tank urges change in German investment policy

A leading German economic think tank has announced that massive investments in infrastructure are needed so as not to lose out to competitors. The institute found many companies were worried about possible disadvantages.

In its study released Monday, the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW) said despite a relatively good infrastructure many companies polled were increasingly worried about a deterioration of the country’s road network.

They also voiced concerns about the future state of the energy grid, with the shift to renewables currently posing enormous problems and a necessary expansion of the network facing community-level resistance.

Companies also worried about broadband Internet connections not being created fast enough in all regions. About two-thirds of the 2,800 firms polled reported that they were already experiencing disadvantages as a result of infrastructure problems.

The research institute calculated that all in all some 120 billion euros ($164.6 billion) would have to be invested into infrastructure over the next 10 years, to be spent evenly on road maintenance and extension, the broadband communications network and the national energy grid, with a major new north-south line.

From TheLocal.de, a cartel cabal busted:

Sugar giants fined €280m for price fixing

German consumers have been paying over the odds for sugar for years, it emerged on Tuesday, when authorities fined Germany’s three biggest sugar firms €280 million for illegally fixing prices.

Pfeiler & Langen, Südzucker and Nordzucker, along with seven unnamed individuals were found to have been fixing prices, sales territories and quotas between them for many years, the Federal Cartel Office in Bonn said.

The three German sugar producers agreed on various strategies between them aimed at pushing up sugar prices across the board, whether they sold to households or the food industry.

The manufacturers agreed “to keep to their traditional sales territories and not get in the way of the other cartel members,” said Cartel Office president Andreas Mundt in a statement.

And Europe Online notes a decline:

German investor confidence posts surprise fall in February

German investor confidence posted a surprise decline in February over concerns of a slowdown in the United States and uncertainties in emerging economies, a key survey showed Tuesday.

The closely watched indicator gauging the mood among analysts and institutional investors slipped to 55.7 from 61.7 in January, the Mannheim-based ZEW institute said.

While Spiegel covers blowback:

Child Porn Investigation: Merkel Cabinet Rife with Suspicion and Mistrust

It is a disastrous start for Angela Merkel’s new government: After details of a child pornography investigation were leaked, a cabinet member was forced to resign. Now, the chancellor’s new cabinet is consumed by backbiting and mistrust.

Deutsche Welle notes another downside to the German miracle:

Study: Eastern Europeans underpaid in Germany

  • Massive poverty-driven migration from Eastern Europe? Recent studies suggest a different situation: More than half of all immigrants from these countries have good credentials, but work for low wages in Germany.

The Employment Agency’s statistics show that a far larger percentage of Eastern Europeans receive low wages than their German counterparts do. In December 2012, around 52 percent were paid low-wage salaries, meaning they earned less than two-thirds of the country’s average income. The share of such workers among Germans makes up just under 20 percent.

At the same time, the educational level of immigrants keeps rising, says Nina Neubecker from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW): “We found that those who moved to Germany after 2004 are considerably more qualified than immigrants from years in the past.”

Neubecker says her research revealed that two thirds of Eastern European immigrants hold a university degree or have completed a vocational training course. She also found that a significant part of Romanians and Bulgarians who moved to Germany after 2007 carry out jobs not requiring their level of education. Depending on the method used, estimates of the proportion of these overqualified immigrant workers range from 40 to 58 percent.

And a call to chill from Deutsche Welle:

Merkel calls on EU to remain calm after controversial Swiss referendum curbing immigration

German Chancellor Merkel has called on EU states to remain calm after a controversial Swiss referendum which limits the number of immigrants within its borders. The comments followed a meeting with the Swiss president.

Chancellor Merkel warned fellow EU members against “rashly breaking” relations with Bern. “It can’t be that because one side did something in one specific area that the other side says nothing works in other areas,” she said, referring to Brussels’ retaliatory moves.

“The challenge will now be that we deal with the results in a way that relations between the European Union and Switzerland remain as intense as possible with respect for the referendum,” Merkel added.

Merkel and Burkhalter also reaffirmed their commitment toward maintaining German-Swiss ties. The current bilateral trade volume is worth roughly 75 billion euros ($103 billion) and some 350,000 Germans are employed in Switzerland.

On to France and a fear from TheLocal.fr:

French TV execs want protection from Netflix

French TV executives have asked to meet with top leaders to plead for “urgent measures” that would guard them against the pending arrival of video service Netflix and tech giants like Google.

The heads of France’s three largest private television networks have asked the government to protect them from US competitors like Google, Apple and Netflix who are set to enter the market.

The bosses of TF1, Canal+ and M6, alarmed by the impending arrival of the American tech giants, have sought a meeting with Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti to discuss “urgent measures” to reform the sector.

“It is not an economic crisis that is being faced by TF1, Canal+ and M6 but a rapid sectoral change,” Nonce Paolini, Bertrand Meheut and Nicolas de Tavernost said in the letter written last week and seen by AFP on Monday.

And another Roma tragedy from TheLocal.fr:

Blaze ravages another Roma camp in France

Fire raged through a Roma camp in Marseille on Sunday, just days after a blaze in a Paris area Roma camp killed an eight-year-old girl. Following that deadly fire the local mayor said it was time France dismantled its slums.

No one was hurt in the latest fire on Sunday morning, but all 15 makeshift homes near the Marseille port were completely destroyed, said the local fire brigade in a statement.

“Preliminary investigations suggest the fire was started accidentally,” a judicial source told AFP.

Around 45 people who were in the camp will now be housed by authorities in a hotel for the next week, but their future is in doubt since the local government was on the verge of evicting them.

Switzerland next and blowback from TheLocal.ch:

EU freezes research and student exchange funds

In a tit-for-tat retaliation, the European Union has frozen research grants for Swiss universities worth hundreds of millions of euros and suspended the involvement of Switzerland in the Erasmus student exchange programme.

A spokesman for the EU announced the freeze on Sunday, a day after after Bern announced it had refused to sign a deal opening labour market access to Croatia, the ATS news agency reported.

The Swiss government said it was unable to ink the deal because of the February 9th referendum decision to scrap the freedom of movement of labour agreement with the EU and impose immigration quotas.

But Brussels considers that Horizon 2020, an €80-billion research and innovation programme spread over seven years (2014-2020), and Erasmus, are tied to the free movement of people accord, ATS said.

More blowback from TheLocal.ch:

Moody’s: Swiss migrant vote ‘credit negative’

Curbs on immigration from the European Union will hurt Switzerland’s economy and its banking sector, ratings agency Moody’s said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

Swiss voters on February 9th supported an initiative to reintroduce quotas on immigrants from the EU in a move that has already led to retaliation from the 28-country bloc.

“Limiting immigration is likely to affect the country’s growth potential, wealth and overall economic strength,” Moody’s said, noting that the effect of the vote was “credit negative”.

The agency noted that Switzerland has benefited over the past decade from the “strong inflow of highly qualified workers”.

And from RT, tucked in for the night:

Swiss jets not scrambled over hijacked plane because ‘airbases closed at night’

An incident with a highjacked Ethiopian passenger jet has exposed the Swiss Air Force’s inability to deal with threats in ‘off-duty’ hours. An emergency escort to the aircraft in distress was carried out by vigilant colleagues from Italy and France.

Early on Monday morning, an Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot told ground control he had highjacked flight ET-702 from Addis Ababa to Rome and was going to land in Geneva. The Swiss Air Force was caught off guard and missed a rare opportunity to go on a real mission. It turned out that they were unable to scramble any jets because they only work during office hours!

“Switzerland cannot intervene because its airbases are closed at night and on the weekend,” Swiss Air Force spokesman, Laurent Savary, commented to AFP later on, adding that it is “a question of budget and staffing.”

According to Laurent Savary, the Swiss Air Force operates during office hours only, specifically from 8am until a lunch break at noon. A return to cockpits happens at 1:30 pm and they watch over Switzerland’s skies until 5pm.

Spain next, and blowback from anti-immigrant violence of another kind from El País:

Immigration law change in works: interior minister

  • Rajoy defends civil guards’ reaction to tragic Ceuta stampede
  • Brussels denies receiving Spain’s request for border help

Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz on Tuesday announced that the Popular Party (PP) government is preparing a change in the immigration law to help civil guards facing mass attempts by migrants to cross the border into the Spanish North African exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

“The law is not designed for events such as the stampedes in Ceuta and Melilla,” Fernández Díaz said in the halls of the Senate after a tense session. “It is not the same as controlling the border at Barajas or Melilla [airports]. We are working on a reform to control the borders, so that the Civil Guard has adequate regulations to confront these situations.”

Earlier in the upper house he and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy vigorously defended the actions of civil guards at the Ceuta security fence on February 6, when 15 sub-Saharan migrants died as a result of a mass attempt to cross the border during which rubber bullets were fired.

TheLocal.es has a deal for you:

Spain rolls out plans to flog off failed bank

Spain will sell its stake in bailed-out bank Bankia in stages over two or three years, its president said in an interview published on Sunday.

Bankia became the symbol of Spain’s financial crisis when it lost more than €19 billion ($26 billion) in 2012 and pushed the government to ask its eurozone partners for €41 billion in rescue loans to shore up the entire banking system.

Under the terms of the European Union’s 2012 bailout, the Spanish government has until 2017 to sell its 68 percent stake in Bankia.

“It would be reasonable for the privatization process to be similar to what is being carried out with Lloyds. That is, that it be carried out in phases and take two or three years,” Bankia president Jose Ignacio Goirigolzarri said in an interview published in daily newspaper ABC.

Europe Online covers another record:

Spain’s public debt at record high

Spain’s public debt has risen to its highest level since records began, data released on Monday showed, with the country posting an unprecedented deficit of 961.6 billion euros (1.3 trillion dollars) at the end of 2013.

The debt level marks an 8.7-per-cent increase on the previous year’s figure, the Bank of Spain revealed on Monday.

It represents around 94 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), which is slightly higher than the Spanish government’s 2013 target of 94.2 per cent.

El País covers departures:

Chinese burned

  • Some Spanish firms are abandoning China because of the problems of doing business there

“The wave of news stories about the rise in the Chinese market is creating a very distorted image of what it means to do business in this country and the risks involved.” This is the opinion of the director of a big Spanish industrial company with a presence in China. The director spoke on the condition that he was not named. “Currently, although the opposite image is given, very few Spanish companies are making a profit in China, and many are having great problems finding room for themselves in a particularly difficult market,” the director says.

Cases such as those of Revlon and Garnier, which this year decided to pull out of China, have shown that such problems are common to all foreign companies, although the idea persists that Spanish firms are finding it particularly difficult because they “lack the right background and financial resources.”

“Many companies are reaching desperation point. Traditional markets are not working and they’re convinced that anyone can make money in China. But they limit themselves to putting an intern in a business center and hoping for results that obviously will never come,” says the director, who is a leading member of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. “The problem of human resources is a major one: they don’t invest enough in personnel, there is a lack of talent and the turnaround in staff is one of the highest in the world.”

On to Lisbon and a caution from the Portugal News:

‘Crisis not over’ – finance minister

Portugal’s finance minister, Maria Luís Albuquerque, said on Monday in Brussels, that one of the country’s biggest challenges was not to be tempted to give up on budget discipline because it felt the worst part of the crisis was over.

Maria Luís Albuquerque, who was speaking at an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) meeting before a Eurogroup meeting, said that “ among the reforms being implemented across Europe, the banking union was clearly the priority for Portugal”, since the current “credit conditions are a very negative factor for the competitiveness of Portuguese companies and the economy as a whole”.

Noting that the structural reforms, one of the topics of the seminar, are also high on the agenda, and there were reasons to be satisfied with the results, but added that there was “still a lot more work ahead”.

Italy next and a change at the top from ANSA:

Renzi handed govt mandate, sets ambitious reform goals

  • Premier-designate eying one major reform every month till May

Democratic Party (PD) leader Matteo Renzi set ambitious reform targets on Monday after being given a mandate to try to form a government from Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

Renzi, 39, is set to become Italy’s youngest-ever premier after torpedoing the coalition administration of his PD colleague Enrico Letta last week over his lack of progress with much-needed institutional reforms and measures to revive the troubled economy.

Italy is slowly emerging from its longest postwar recession, but it is still ravaged by unemployment of over 12% with over four in 10 under-25s out of work. Constitutional changes are also needed to streamline government and reduce the cost of the country’s expensive, slow-moving political system.

Les than enthused with TheLocal.it:

Italians think Renzi takeover is ‘pointless’

Matteo Renzi was nominated as Italy’s new prime minister on Monday after a “palace coup” which saw Enrico Letta resign from the leadership. But a new poll has found that few Italians believe it is a positive political move.

Just 31 percent of Italians think replacing Letta with Renzi, who aged just 39 is set to be Italy’s youngest-ever prime minister, is positive, an Ipsos poll on Sunday found.

While 23 percent found the move outright wrong, 26 percent said it was “pointless” while 15 percent found the current situation “absurd”.

Still more enthusiasm absent from ANSA:

Fitch keeps outlook negative, ‘Renzi faces same problems’

  • Letta’s resignation highlights ‘volatility of Italian politics’

Ratings agency Fitch said Monday it was keeping a negative outlook for Italy with a BBB+ rating, saying premier-designate Matteo Renzi “will probably have the same problems as his predecessor” in pushing through reforms if he manages to form a new government.

Fitch said the resignation of outgoing Premier Enrico Letta on Friday highlighted the “volatility of Italian politics” pointing out that Renzi was set to be the country’s fourth premier since November 2011.

A plutocratic spat from the London Telegraph:

Tycoons quarrel over Italy’s young jobless

  • Two of Italy’s business heavyweights have gone to war over the country’s soaring levels of youth unemployment
  • Italy’s youth unemployment reached a record 41.6pc in January

Diego Della Valle, head of the Tod’s luxury leather goods empire, launched a blistering attack on John Elkann, the president of the Fiat auto giant, after Mr Elkann said Italy’s young unemployed had no desire to look for work.

Mr Della Valle, the colourful entrepreneur known for his exuberant ties and gold-tinted spectacles, labelled Mr Elkann an “imbecile” after a week of bitter exchanges between the two.

Unhappy other from TheLocal.it:

Desperate business owners march on Rome

An estimated 60,000 Italians protested in central Rome on Tuesday, calling for greater action to save the millions of small- and medium-sized businesses which employ almost half the country’s workforce.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo on Tuesday; a collective army of business owners demanding the government do more to stem the worrying rise in bankruptcies.

“Without business there is no Italy,” was the slogan of the day, organized by the Italian Enterprise Network (Rete Imprese Italia) along with a number of business associations.

Among a series of demands was an overhaul of the tax system, often described as a barrier to growth with such high rates many Italians simply evade their tax duties.

After the jump, the latest on the endless Greek crises, violence in the Ukraine, Turkish joblessness rising, Turkish economic alarms, Venezuelan turmoil, troubles in Brazil, Argentinian woes, Latin legalization moves, Australian economic woes and a Murdochian bonanza, Indian populism and woes, Thai turmoil, a mixed report from China, Abenonics in extremsis in Japan, nuclear woes, and Fukushimapocalypse Now! . . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: MegaloEconoPoliFuku


A verrryyyy long collection, with the latest global economic, political, and environmental news for your perusal.

First up, playing monopoly with Sky News:

Comcast To Buy Time Warner Cable For $45bn

The deal would create an entertainment superpower with 32 million TV subscribers, but there are calls for regulators to step in.

The two biggest US cable companies are joining forces in a $45bn (£27bn) deal, creating an entertainment giant with some 32 million TV subscribers.

Comcast’s merger with Time Warner Cable was confirmed at the start of trading on Thursday.

Its offer, which is subject to regulatory approval, is about 17% higher than the company’s closing share price on Wednesday.

The takeover bid trumps an earlier $38bn (£23bn) offer from Charter Communications, which appeared to concede defeat by announcing: “We’ve always maintained our greatest opportunity to create value for shareholders is by executing our current business plan.”

More from Business Insider:

What’s in it for Comcast Cable shareholders?

“This combination creates a company that delivers maximum value for our shareholders,” said Comcast CEO Brian Roberts.

How are they going to do that?

The company explains in one sentence that probably has every Comcast and Time Warner Cable employee nervous.

“The transaction will generate approximately $1.5 billion in operating efficiencies and will be accretive to Comcast’s free cash flow per share while preserving balance sheet strength.”

“Operating efficiencies” usually means the closing and combining offices, which also often comes with job cuts.

Still more from The Guardian:

Comcast takeover of Time Warner Cable ‘will throttle choice on the web’

  • Angry consumer groups say proposed $45.2bn mega-deal will drive up costs for millions – and call on FCC to block takeover

Consumer groups reacted angrily to the merger of cable giant Comcast and Time Warner Cable on Thursday, claiming the combination could “throttle” choice on the internet.

Comcast’s proposed $45.2bn takeover of TWC will create a media behemoth that will dominate broadband internet access across the US. Comcast, which owns NBC Universal, will also cement its position as the pre-eminent force in cable TV.

Jodie Griffin, senior staff attorney at consumer rights group Public Knowledge said: “This is a deal that needs to be blocked.” She said Comcast was likely to use the extra leverage to “drive up costs and reduce choices for consumers.”, and claimed the new company would be too powerful, becoming a “gatekeeper” capable of “throttling competition.”

And from In These Times, a symbolic action taken years too late:

It’s Official: Obama Signs Minimum Wage Hike for Some Federal Contract Workers

Today, President Barack Obama honored his promise from last month’s State of the Union address to raise the minimum wage for some workers indirectly employed by the federal government. In a new executive order, he raised the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, effective Jan. 1, 2015. The White House estimates the order will affect hundreds of thousands of workers employed by private companies with government contracts.

“Nobody who works full time should have to live in poverty,” Obama said during a signing ceremony at the White House. He used the ceremony to repeat his calls for Congress to raise the federal minimum wage for all workers and for state and local governments and private businesses to also act to boost the income of low-wage workers.

Labor groups and union supporters reported they were pleased with the final shape of the executive order.

From The Hill, reversing idiocy:

Senate reverses pension cut

The Senate on Wednesday sent legislation to President Obama’s desk that would repeal the controversial $6 billion cut to military pensions.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure in a 95-3 vote, undoing the spending cut that Congress had approved two months prior in the December budget deal.

The only senators to vote against the bill were Tom Carper (D-Del.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

The legislation passed in the House just a day earlier in a 326-90 vote.

From MintPress News, necessary action:

Justice Department Sued Over Secretive JPMorgan Settlement

The agreement settled both “actual and potential” civil claims against the company brought by five federal agencies and several state attorneys general, thus offering broad immunity for years.

A public interest group is suing the Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder over the agency’s recent record-busting settlement with JPMorgan Chase for the bank’s fraudulent conduct leading up to the 2007-08 bursting of the housing bubble and subsequent meltdown of the financial industry.

Better Markets, a watchdog group based here, alleges that the Justice Department broke both federal law and constitutional mandate when it agreed to and finalized the $13 billion settlement in November. The agreement process, reportedly decided upon personally by Holder and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, included no judicial oversight, despite what critics say are multiple statutory obligations to do so.

“There are certain statutes regarding certain violations of law that expressly state that the Department of Justice must seek court approval, and then there are others where it’s silent,” Dennis Kelleher, the head of Better Markets, told MintPress while announcing the lawsuit on Monday.

CNBC frets:

Wealthy more worried about being seen as wealthy

  • Is success being vilified in America? The successful seem to think so.

A new poll from American Express Publishing and Harrison Group finds that 1 percenters no longer like to be seen as such.

One-third of members of the group said they “like it when others recognize me as wealthy.” Though that number (taken in the fourth quarter of 2013) may sound high, it’s down from 40 percent a year earlier. And it’s far below the 53 percent who agreed with the statement in 2010.

Fully 28 percent say they worry about “being scorned for being in the top part of the economy,” versus 24 percent who were concerned about that in the first quarter of 2013.

From USA TODAY, that old hard times intolerance [the first of several in today’s compendium]:

Immigration debate is reignited in Fremont, Neb.

Voters in Fremont, Neb., are still trying to curb illegal immigration.

Residents voted 60%-40% on Tuesday to re-approve an ordinance that requires property owners not to rent houses or apartments to illegal immigrants and requires renters to declare their legal residency. Landlords who violate the ordinance face fines.

Fremont has a complicated history with the ordinance, which thrust this city of 26,000 people near Omaha into the national spotlight in 2010, when residents first approved the law after the City Council defeated the proposal. The law also requires employers to verify the legal status of employees; that part of the law is in effect.

After voters approved the measure, the City Council put the law on hold when the Nebraska ACLU and other groups sued. Lower courts upheld the law, and the council sent the housing portion back for another vote of the people.

Al Jazeera America protests:

Portland, Ore., residents tell mayor: ‘Stop arresting homeless people’

Residents of Portland, Ore., gathered in front of City Hall on Tuesday to protest the government’s treatment of its homeless population. The group, a self-described “angry mob,” carried pitchforks and torches while demanding that Mayor Charlie Hales end policies that criminalize homelessness.

The city government has come under fire in recent months for enforcing an ordinance that prohibits camping on public property, which critics say unfairly targets the homeless.

A 2013 city count found nearly 1,900 individuals in the Portland metropolitan area to be homeless and unsheltered, a 10 percent increase from 2011.

From PandoDaily, paying the piper:

The Wolf of Sesame Street: Revealing the secret corruption inside PBS’s news division

On December 18th, the Public Broadcasting Service’s flagship station WNET issued a press release announcing the launch of a new two-year news series entitled “Pension Peril.” The series, promoting cuts to public employee pensions, is airing on hundreds of PBS outlets all over the nation. It has been presented as objective news on  major PBS programs including the PBS News Hour.

However, neither the WNET press release nor the broadcasted segments explicitly disclosed who is financing the series. Pando has exclusively confirmed that “Pension Peril” is secretly funded by former Enron trader John Arnold, a billionaire political powerbroker who is actively trying to shape the very pension policy that the series claims to be dispassionately covering.

In recent years, Arnold has been using massive contributions to politicians, Super PACs, ballot initiative efforts, think tanks and local front groups to finance a nationwide political campaign aimed at slashing public employees’ retirement benefits. His foundation which backs his efforts employs top Republican political operatives, including the former chief of staff to GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey (TX). According to its own promotional materials, the Arnold Foundation is pushing lawmakers in states across the country “to stop promising a (retirement) benefit” to public employees.

Despite Arnold’s pension-slashing activism and his foundation’s ties to partisan politics, Leila Walsh, a spokesperson for the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF), told Pando that PBS officials were not hesitant to work with them, even though PBS’s own very clear rules prohibit such blatant conflicts. (note: the term “PBS officials” refers interchangeably to both PBS officials and officials from PBS flagship affiliate WNET who were acting on behalf of the entire PBS system).

United Press International sues:

Magazines sue Colorado over marijuana advertising restrictions

Two publications are challenging Colorado’s recreational marijuana rules about advertising, with a lawsuit filed in federal court, records said.

The national magazine High Times and the local weekly magazine Westword sued the state of Colorado Monday because of rules stating recreational marijuana stores can advertise only in publications aimed at a readership over the age of 21, the Denver Post reported Wednesday.

The lawsuit argues the rules, which also apply to outdoor and broadcast advertising, are restrictions of free speech, and notes there are no similar restrictions on medical marijuana businesses.

It marks the first time the state’s advertising rules have been challenged in court.

From MintPress News, a stunning development:

HIV/AIDS Cure May Be Found In Marijuana: Study

For years, many Americans with HIV/AIDS have used medical marijuana to relieve some common symptoms associated with the illness such as nausea, vomiting and appetite loss.

Now, a new study published last week in the journal AIDS Researcher and Human Retroviruses found that a daily dosage of marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, may actually fight the HIV/AIDS virus itself.

In this most recent study, the team of researchers from Louisiana State University found that when HIV-infected monkeys were given THC daily during a 17-month time period, the monkeys had less damage in the immune tissue of their gut — an important site of HIV infection — than those given a placebo.

Researchers also reported that they found consuming THC had improved the monkeys immune tissue at a gene level as well, and was in a way, preventing the disease from killing healthy immune cells — a discovery other studies have found as well.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, blowing smoke:

Marijuana gets a show of support on Capitol Hill

  • Eighteen House members ask Obama to reclassify the banned drug

In the biggest show of support yet for legalizing marijuana on Capitol Hill, 18 House members today asked President Barack Obama to reclassify the drug, removing it from a list of banned substances deemed to have no medical value.

The letter, distributed by Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer, argued that including marijuana in the Schedule 1 list of banned drugs, along with heroin and LSD, disregards the laws of 20 states that allow pot to be used for medical purposes.

It comes after Obama last month said that he doesn’t believe that marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol.

MintPress News cashes out:

Banking Regulations For Marijuana Industry “Imminent”

“Without access to basic banking services, many legitimate cannabis businesses are forced to manage sales, payroll, and even tax bills entirely in cash.”

On Tuesday U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, Wash., said the federal government’s new guidance for banks and bank regulators will be released “imminently.”

What Heck is referring to is Attorney General Eric Holder’s pledge that the Justice Department and the Treasury Department would issue guidance “very soon” to banks on how they can work with marijuana businesses.

Though the guidance had not been issued by the time of this article’s publication, Heck, a member of House Committee on Financial Services, who along with Congressman Ed Perlmutter of Colorado has pressed for marijuana banking reform, said legal marijuana businesses will be provided with a “full range of banking service, including accepting credit cards, direct depositing payroll checks and more,” under the guidance.

In other words, marijuana-related businesses will no longer be forced to operate on a cash-only basis.

On to latest in the global neoliberal trade agreement games from Jiji Press:

Japan, U.S. to Hold Working-Level TPP Talks Next Week

Working-level officials of Japan and the United States will meet in Japan next week to discuss sticky issues in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks ahead of key four-day TPP ministerial talks in Singapore from Feb. 22, Japanese government sources said Wednesday.

Acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler will arrive in Japan on Monday and hold talks with Hiroshi Oe, Japan’s deputy chief representative in the TPP negotiations, and other officials, according to the sources.

The two sides are expected to discuss the handling of tariffs on farm products and issues related to automobile trade, the sources said.

Another deal, with problems, via Deutsche Welle:

Tripping over TTIP: Obstacles overshadow EU-US trade pact

  • With talks on the EU-US transatlantic free trade deal set to continue next month, this week’s outrage over a European Parliament vote on genetically modified corn will hardly be the last obstacle negotiators face.

This coming Monday (17.02.2014), EU trade chief Karel de Gucht and his US counterpart Michael Froman are scheduled to meet in Washington to discuss the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a transatlantic free trade area. They are expected to make a political assessment of the past three rounds of US-EU trade talks and to discuss the upcoming fourth round of negotiations in March.

The pact would unify standards and licensing procedures across a EU-US trade zone and would waive tariffs on goods traded between the EU and the US. According to the Munich-based IFO institute, the treaty will create up to 400,000 new jobs in Europe – 110,000 of them in Germany alone. A done deal, it would seem.

But the deal is far from done: the EU and the US differ over a wide variety of issues, one of which is genetically modified food. On Tuesday (11.02.2014), a new type of genetically modified corn from the US was approved by the European Parliament amid great controversy. The decision paves the way for compromise over one of the differences in EU-US consumer attitudes that has been a stumbling stone in TTIP negotiations.

But opponents of the trade pact are becoming more vocal, and more debates over standards, consumer protection, cultural protectionism threaten to erupt when EU-US negotiators get down to the deal’s fine print and put the agreement up for domestic scrutiny.

From Canada, riches spurned from South China Morning Post:

Canada scraps millionaire visa scheme, ‘dumps 46,000 Chinese applications’

Tens of thousands of Chinese millionaires in the queue will have their applications scrapped and their application fees returned

Tens of thousands of Chinese millionaires face an uncertain future after Canada’s government moved to scrap its controversial investor visa scheme, which has allowed waves of rich Hongkongers and mainland Chinese to immigrate since 1986.

The surprise announcement was made in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s budget, delivered to parliament in Ottawa on Tuesday. Tens of thousands of Chinese millionaires in the queue for visas will have their applications “eliminated” and their fees returned.

The announcement came less than a week after the South China Morning Post revealed how the scheme was overwhelmed by an influx of applications from mainland millionaires at Canada’s Hong Kong consulate. Applications to the scheme were frozen in 2012 as a result, as immigration staff struggled to clear the backlog.

ANSAmed covers a ploy:

EU and southern Europe in re-industrialization pact

  • Italy, Spain, Portugal heads of State meet at COTEC in Lisbon

An EU Industrial Compact adopted in January has led to a ‘pact’ between the European Commission and southern European countries to speed up the re-industrialization of Europe by exploiting the first signs of economic recovery, European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani made known in a joint statement with ministers from Italy, Spain and Portugal on Wednesday in Lisbon.

The statement was issued on the sidelines of the annual COTEC conference, which was attended by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, Spanish King Juan Carlos, and Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva.

The aim of the Industrial Compact is for the manufacturing sector to make up 20% of EU GDP, and this can be achieved by speeding up innovation and marketing, COTEC experts from Italy, Spain and Portugal said.

And from MintPress News, more of that old hard times intolerance:

The Rebirth Of European Racism

The mass influx of migrants has triggered a wave of nationalistic fervor goaded by public statements of right-wing leaders.

Bulgaria has recently seen a surge in xenophobic attacks since a wave of Syrian refugees escaping the horrors of the war started arriving. But it appears what these refugees have found in Bulgaria isn’t much better than what they left behind.

Last year, roughly 11,600 migrants and asylum seekers crossed into Bulgaria from Turkey, most of them Syrian. Human rights organizations expect tens of thousands to make the journey across the Turkish border in the coming months.

But the mass influx of migrants has triggered a wave of nationalistic fervor goaded by public statements of right-wing leaders. Last November, several neo-Nazi factions, including the local branch of the international Blood and Honor Skinhead network, formed the Nationalist Party of Bulgaria, which says it wants to “cleanse Bulgaria from the foreign and alien immigrant scum that have been flooding the towns of Bulgaria.”

The party has organized so-called “civil patrols,” which stop and check foreigners—and a portion of the general population thinks that this is a good idea.

And an admission from The Guardian:

Migration in the EU ‘has caused strains,’ admits José Manuel Barroso

  • President of the European Commission says free movement is open to abuse but that he will not compromise on citizens’ rights

José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, will on Friday acknowledge that the free movement of people across the EU has put “unintended strains” on public services and is open to abuse.

In a move to show that Brussels understands the concerns raised in Britain, Barroso will say in London that the commission has recently clarified anti-abuse rules to crack down on sham marriages which allow non-EU citizens to claim benefits as a family member.

But the commission president will make clear in a speech to the London School of Economics that he will not compromise on the right of all EU citizens to move across all 28 member states – one of the four founding pillars which guarantees the free movement of labour, capital, goods and services.

Reuters ponders:

ECB still assessing if lower inflation temporary: Coene

The European Central Bank is awaiting further information, particularly signs on whether the current easing of euro zone inflation is temporary, before it acts, Governing Council member Luc Coene said.

Annual inflation in the 18-member euro zone slowed to 0.7 percent in January from 0.8 percent in December, confounding expectations of a rise and matching a four-year low hit last October.

The ECB left interest rates at record low last week, but put markets on alert for a possible move in March, when the Governing Council should have new forecasts from the bank’s staff extending into 2016.

On to Britain and an ongoing disaster from the London Telegraph:

Flood-hit areas are a ‘battlefield’ as thousands of soldiers are deployed

  • Army chief says that commanding officers are applying ‘battle-group’ skills an ‘unparalleled natural crisis’

Britain is in the grip of an “unparalleled natural crisis”, the Army officer in charge of the flood recovery effort declared on Wednesday.

As hurricane-force winds gusting at more than 100mph lashed the country, forecasters warned that the weather will get worse this weekend as a month’s worth of rain falls in just 48 hours.

The chaos now threatens to derail Britain’s economic recovery, Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England warned. His comments came as storms that have battered the South West and Wales for weeks spread to the north of England for the first time this winter, bringing parts of the country to a standstill.

A bankster alert from the London Telegraph:

RBS warned of credit rating ‘downgrade’

  • Royal Bank of Scotland has been told its credit could be downgraded by ratings agency Moody’s

Royal Bank of Scotland has been warned by one of the world’s main ratings agencies that its credit is at risk of being downgraded following the surprise revelation last month of weaker than expected capital levels.

Moody’s said it had put RBS’s debt “on review for downgrade” pointing to the taxpayer-backed lender’s “weaker than previously anticipated regulatory capital position”.

The move comes after RBS’s unscheduled announcement on January 27 of £3.1bn of extra provisions for issues ranging from its sale of toxic mortgage-backed securities to the mis-selling of payment protection insurance and interest rate hedging products.

More immigration tension, this time from Iceland and the Reykjavík Grapevine:

Newspaper Editor Defends Leaked Memo

Davíð Oddsson – the current co-editor of Morgunblaðið – defended the leak of a memo on an asylum seeker that launched a police investigation as “allowing the public to get the whole picture”.

In an editorial for Morgunblaðið, Davíð – who is also, amongst other things, the former chairperson of the Independence Party, from which Ministry of the Interior Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir hails – argued in favour of government offices publishing personal information about refugees as a means to take part in the public discussion about asylum seekers.

“Is it not right that the public get the whole picture?,” Davíð wrote. “That nothing is hidden about what’s at stake?”

As reported, the police are currently investigating the Ministry of the Interior over a leaked memo which impugned the reputations of Nigerian asylum seeker Tony Omos and the mother of his child, Evelyn Glory Joseph. It later came to light that the accusations in the memo were false. Whilst the ministry denies the memo came from their offices, all evidence indicates the ministry as the only source.

On to Norway with EUbusiness and a hard times intolerance rebuke:

Norway rules out referendum on immigration

Norwegian Justice Minister Anders Anundsen on Wednesday ruled out holding a referendum on immigration, rejecting a request by a fellow member of his populist party to follow in the footsteps of Switzerland.

“For many years, the (populist) Progress Party has claimed that more influence should be granted to the citizens. This proposition shouldn’t shock anybody,” Anundsen, a Progress Party minister was quoted by Norwegian news agency NTB during parliamentary question time.

“But within the government coalition, the Progress Party is sticking to our cooperation agreement (with the other right and centre-right parties) and does not plan a referendum on this matter.”

A Finnish proclamation from New Europe:

Finland: OECD wants more structural reforms

Most people would not associate Finland with past high-tech successes like Nokia and Ericksson with structural reforms that have come to be associated with the EU’s troubled south. But the latest report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) urged Helsinki to make more efforts in the structural reform to stimulate the economy, Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE reported on Wednesday.

OECD called for more measures in restructuring municipalities, raising retirement age and stricter mortgage rules, in order to promote the economic growth and deal with the aging population in Finland.

The report pointed out that the rising cost of pensions and healthcare for an aging population is one economic to Finland, suggesting higher retirement age and an end to part-time retirement.

On to the Netherlands and significant decision from DutchNews.nl:

The Netherlands to vote against approving the EU’s 2012 accounts

The Netherlands will join Britain and Sweden in voting against giving approval to the EU’s accounts for 2012 because of an increase in mis-spending, finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Thursday.

Dijsselbloem told MPs there are still too many uncertainties about the accounts and the error rate in the EU’s books has risen from 3.9% in 2011 to 4.8% in 2012. This is equivalent to €6.7bn being wrongly spent.

The problems centre on funds allocated to reducing the prosperity gap between different members states and money earmarked for rural development. In some cases, projects were not put out to tender properly or they were ineligible for grants under Brussels’ rules.

‘We cannot simply let this happen,’ Dijsselbloem, who also chairs the influential Euro Group, is quoted as saying by news agency ANP.

Germany next and higher hopes from Deutsche Welle:

German government revises growth forecast slightly upwards

The German government has confirmed the Economic Ministry’s 2014 growth outlook, saying that GDP will expand slightly more this year than previously predicted. It said the labor market would benefit as well.

German cabinet ministers on Wednesday adopted the 2014 Annual Economic Report, which included slightly higher expectations for growth in the course of this year.

The government said it expected the national economy to expand by 1.8 percent in 2014, marginally up from an earlier prediction of 1.7 percent. The report said the growth rate would increase to 2 percent next year.

Commenting on the report, conservative lawmakers in Berlin said everything should be done to avoid jeopardizing the growing economic momentum amid problems caused by the country’s energy transition and the aftermath of the protracted eurozone debt crisis.

And from Deutsche Welle, another chorus of that old. . .:

DW exclusive: Germans would vote just like the Swiss on curbing immigration

  • A survey commissioned by Deutsche Welle has found the majority of German citizens would vote for limiting immigration. The survey follows a decision in Switzerland to limit its annual immigration from the EU.

If Germans were to vote in a referendum on limiting immigration to Germany nearly half would support the measure (48 percent ) while almost as many (46 percent) would oppose it, according to a DW commissioned survey.

On behalf of DW, opinion research institute infratest dimap surveyed 1,001 Germans over the age of 18 on February 11-12, 2014. Three percent of those surveyed were undecided.

The survey showed that a particularly high number of Eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) party members (84 percent) would support an immigration limit. Members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and its sister party the Christian Social Union voted 51 percent for a limit.

Paris next, and plutocratic woes from France 24:

French billionaire senator Dassault loses immunity over graft claims

The French Senate stripped billionaire industrialist senator Serge Dassault of parliamentary immunity on Wednesday, clearing the way for him to face possible criminal charges for allegedly buying votes.

The decision by a Senate committee means that UMP senator Dassault, 88, can be taken into custody for interrogation by judges investigating allegations dating from his 14 years as mayor of Corbeil-Essonnes, a Paris suburb.

The judges suspect Dassault of operating an extensive system of vote-buying that influenced the outcome of three mayoral elections in Corbeil in 2008, 2009 and 2010, which were won either by Dassault or by his successor and close associate Jean-Pierre Bechter, the current mayor of Corbeil.

Dassault is ranked by Forbes magazine as France’s 4th richest man and the 69th richest in the world, with an estimated fortune of 13 billion euros. He heads Dassault Group, which owns France’s prestigious conservative newspaper “Le Figaro” and holds a majority stake in Dassault Aviation, which makes business and military aircraft including the Rafale fighter jet.

Europe Online rakes it in:

Societe Generale nearly triples profits in 2013

France’s second-biggest bank Societe Generale nearly tripled its profits in 2013, helped by higher earnings in both its retail and corporate and investment banking units, the group said Wednesday.

Net income shot up to 2.2 billion euros (3 billion dollars), from 774 million euros in 2012. Group revenues were up 4.3 per cent to 22.8 billion euros.

Societe Generale ended the year on a high note, with fourth-quarter profits of 322 million euros far exceeding analysts’ expectations.

TheLocal.fr parks it:

French taxi drivers call for ‘indefinite strike’

The announcement will not go down well with Parisians or tourists but angry taxi drivers in France are clearly not willing to lie down without a fight. On Tuesday they called for an “indefinite strike”, saying they will take action “anytime, anywhere”.

Paris taxi drivers continued to vent their anger on Tuesday when they brought traffic to a standstill in the centre of the French capital leading to the arrest of dozens of drivers. The trouble comes as unions called for ongoing industrial action.

On Tuesday evening as cabbies fronted up to police at Place de La Concorde union leaders called for an indefinite strike, which could see wildcat blockades and go slows continue for the foreseeable future.

In a joint statement drivers’ unions said they “reserved the right to take action at any place at any time.”

Switzerland, and that old familiar tune from TheLocal.ch:

Populists urge more immigration controls

The Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which spearheaded the initiative narrowly accepted by Swiss voters to limit immigration from the European Union, is set on Friday to push for for more measures to tighten immigration as tensions mount in Switzerland over the issue.

The initiative against massive immigration, backed by 50.3 percent of the electorate, calls for an end to the freedom of movement agreement between Switzerland and the EU and the imposition of quotas.

But the deal is fuzzy on details. It does not, for example, stipulate how many foreigners would be accepted into the country and through what criteria the level of needed workers would be selected for different sectors of the economy.

The SVP is being prodded to clarify how it expects the quota system to work.

Spain next, and an affirmative declaration from thinkSPAIN:

Economy starts to grow as GDP predictions more optimistic

SPAIN’S Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will increase by 0.9 per cent this year and 1.9 per cent next year – signs that the economy is growing once again, according to figures released by the BBVA bank.

This will be enough for creation of ‘sustainable’ employment to begin, says the entity, but it warns that jobless figures are unlikely to drop below 25.6 per cent this year and 24.8 per cent in 2015.

Consumer spending in Spain is expected to rise in 2014 by 0.9 per cent and by 1.3 per cent next year, with lack of national demand gradually ceasing to pose barriers to micro-economic growth over the next two years and ongoing efforts in increasing exports will set the scene for the economy to begin its recovery, the BBVA reveals.

ANSAmed has a harsher take:

Spain: fewer jobs, lower wages two years after reform

  • Trade unions and ILO slam reform, OECD praises it

Two years to the day from Spain’s last labor reform, there are fewer jobs, more long-term unemployed, and fewer people paying into social security.

A negative balance according to trade unions and a ‘’not very encouraging’‘ picture according to the Savings Banks Foundation (Funcas), but the government says the reform is beginning to have positive effects within the context of a recovering economy.

Jobless benefit claims totaled 4,599,829 people as of January 2012, one month before the labor reform was enacted. Two years later, that number is at 4,814,435, up by 241,606 people or +4.6% as of January 2014. In the same period, the number of workers paying into the social security fund dropped by 769,627 people, or -4.5%, to a total of 16,176,610 people. A quarterly report by national statistics bureau INE showed 5,273,600 were unemployed when the reform was enacted in the fourth quarter of 2011, a number that rose to 5,896,300 in the same period of 2013, equal to 622,700 more unemployed people (+11.8%) in two years.

ANSAmed again, and a comedown for high-flyers:

Spain: Iberia; agreement with pilots, salaries down 14%

  • The deal provides for a salary freeze till 2015

Spanish carrier Iberia and pilots’ union Sepla have reached an agreement in principle ending years of conflict which provides for salary cuts by at least 14%.

The agreement also introduces ‘’permanent structural changes’‘ at the company to cut costs and allow the development of the airline and its low-cost company Iberia Express, Iberia’s Iag group said in a statement to the market authority committee on Thursday.

The deal provides for a salary freeze till 2015, previously rejected by pilots, and from that date onwards salary increases depending on the company’s results.

From El País, the bankster blues:

Failed lender CAM wants prison for two of its former executives

  • Bank’s lawyer seeks six to 10 years for ex-director general and oversight committee chief
  • Attorney accuses them of inflating expense accounts and favoring own interests

The lawyer of failed lender Caja de Ahorros del Mediterráneo (CAM), appointed by the government’s bank bailout fund, the FROB, wants prison terms for two of the bank’s former top executives.

Former director general Roberto López Abad and former chairman of the Valencian savings bank’s oversight committee, Juan Ramón Avilés, face the prospect of between six and 10 years in prison for misappropriation of funds and deliberate mismanagement.

The state prosecutor is seeking shorter jail terms for the two men.

And the social counterrevolution prevails, via TheLocal.es:

‘New abortion law to stay’: Spanish lawmakers

A controversial plan to ban women in Spain from freely opting for abortions overcame a key hurdle on Tuesday when lawmakers voted in secret against a motion to scrap the reform.

The plan has outraged pro-choice groups and brought thousands of people out onto the streets to protest, but has sparked division even within the conservative ruling party.

Lawmakers rejected a proposal submitted by the opposition Socialists to “immediately withdraw” the bill by 183 votes to 151. Six lawmakers abstained.

The ruling Popular Party (PP) holds a strong majority in parliament, but the abortion reform, supported by the Roman Catholic Church, has been delayed amid dissent by senior party figures.

And another sign of the times from El País:

House sales fall for third year in a row

  • Property purchases hit record low in December

The Spanish housing market remained locked in a trough in 2013, six years after a massive property bubble burst.

According to figures released by the National Statistics Institute (INE), the number of homes sold last year, excluding public housing schemes, fell 1.2 percent from a year earlier to 276,600 after falling 11.3 percent in 2012 and 18.2 percent in 2011. During the height of the boom over 800,000 houses were exchanged in a year. In December alone sales fell 11.0 from a year earlier to a new monthly record low of 18,619.

The only respite the market has had since boom turned to bust was in 2010 when sales increased 4.8 percent, driven by the purchase of new homes before the introduction of a hike in value-added tax.

And from TheLocal.es, an unconscionable demand:

Cancer drug maker wants 4000% Spanish price hike

Drug manufacturer Aspen Pharmacare has reportedly threatened to stop selling its leukaemia and ovarian cancer treatments in Spain if Health Minister Ana Mato refuses to raise fixed purchase prices by up to 4,000 percent.

According to online daily El Confidencial Digital, the habitual bargaining between Aspen and the Ministry of Health has taken a turn for the worse.

The South African manufacturer of generic medicines is currently undergoing a rapid expansion in international markets.

The company is allegedly insisting on massive price increases for a number of drugs but the Ministry has flatly refused.

On to Lisbon with EUbusiness:

Portugal passes new IMF rescue program review

The International Monetary Fund approved Wednesday the disbursement of 910 million euros ($1.24 billion) to Portugal after the country passed the 10th review of its bailout program.

The disbursement took the country a step closer to the May 2014 end of the European Union-IMF rescue program, with the country’s finances stabilizing.

But the IMF urged the Portuguese government not to give in to pressure to increase public spending and to keep pushing ahead on structural reforms to its finances.

“The Portuguese authorities’ implementation of their Fund-supported program has been commendable,” said IMF Deputy Managing Director Nemat Shafik in a statement.

And on to Italy with the New York Times:

Italy’s Prime Minister Announces Resignation Amid Party Revolt

Prime Minister Enrico Letta of Italy, whose weak coalition government has come under increasing criticism, announced his resignation on Thursday night after his own Democratic Party staged a dramatic insurrection and voted to replace him with the party’s new leader, Matteo Renzi.

The Democratic Party is the largest member of Italy’s coalition government, and the party’s decision to dump Mr. Letta will likely have to be put to a confidence vote in Parliament. Mr. Letta will meet with his cabinet on Friday morning and then present his resignation letter to Italy’s president, making way for Mr. Renzi, 38, to become Italy’s youngest prime minister.

Mr. Renzi, the mayor of Florence who recently won a nationwide primary to become leader of the Democratic Party, has a reputation for boldness and has long been considered Italy’s most promising young politician. He has spoken repeatedly about the need for sweeping political and economic changes. But few analysts foresaw that he would lead a revolt against his party’s sitting prime minister.

AGI has a skeptical take from the populist right:

M5S co-founder doubtful government will last until 2018

M5S co-founder, Gianroberto Casaleggio says he is doubtful the government can last until 2018: “I see a high instability situation. A 2018 forecast is very risky”.

The statement was made at the Termini train station, while Casaleggio was waiting for a train to Milan. Asked by journalists about the likelihood of a government lead by Matteo Renzi to survive until 2018, Casaleggio added: “One can never tell, but the beginning of this year seems to be marked by a great political instability”.

From TheLocal.it, austerian rigor:

Italians drop holiday plans as crisis bites

The number of trips taken by Italians since the economic crisis began in 2008 has plummeted by 48.6 percent, new statistics show.

Last year Italy’s resident population took just over 63 million trips with overnight stays, whether for work or holiday, the country’s statistics agency Istat said this week.

With a population of nearly 60 million one trip per person may seem like a fair ratio, but a broader look shows that Italians have nearly halved travel in recent years.

They took 48.6 percent fewer holidays or work trips last year than five years’ previously, continuing a year-on-year decline.

EUbusiness divides:

Catalonia, Scotland, Venice? Italian party eyes autonomy

The head of Italy’s Northern League on Wednesday said he supported the autonomy bids of Catalonia from Spain and Scotland from Britain, and hoped that the Venice region “will be next on the list”.

Matteo Salvini said two other regions of northern Italy — Lombardy and Piedmont — could also follow suit, adding that it was time to reduce the powers of the European Union and return to “national and regional sovereignty”.

Salvini also said that plans for a coalition of far-right parties including his own at the European Parliament after elections in May were “well advanced”.

The coalition “will not be Eurosceptic but will be in favour of a different Europe,” he said, adding however that he continues to support an abandonment of the euro. “The euro has massacred our economy,” he said.

TheLocal.it inhales:

Italy relaxes cannabis penalties

Italy’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday struck down an anti-drug law from 2006 that imposed tough sentencing for the sale and possession of cannabis, putting it on the same level as heroin and cocaine.

The court declared “illegitimate” the law, which imposed sentences of six to 20 years for trafficking in cannabis, whereas the previous law which is now back in force included sentences of between two and six years.

Leftist lawmakers and civil society representatives immediately hailed the court ruling, saying it would help ease overcrowding in Italian prisons.

The scrapping of the law could affect 10,000 detainees who are in pre-trial detention or serving time and could see a revision of their sentences and their release.

After the jump, deeper misery in Greece, Blackwater creator’s African dreams, Venezuelan violence, Argentine inflation, Indian populist payoffs, parliamentary riots, and bankster woes, Thai turmoil prolonged, Aussie bubble alarms, Chinese marketeering and GMOs, Japanese desperate measures, environmental woes, and a jam-packed Fukushimapocalypse Now! Continue reading

Headline of the day II: EconoAggroGrecoCrises


Our collection of headlines from the economic, political, and environmental realms opens on a progressive profession from BBC News:

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio targets income gap ‘threat’

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to raise the minimum wage and issue ID papers to undocumented immigrants.

Setting out the policies of his new administration in a State of the City address, Mr de Blasio took aim at the city’s yawning inequality gap.

The 52-year-old also wants to raise taxes on the wealthy to fund universal pre-kindergarten programmes.

Elected in November, he is New York’s first Democratic mayor in two decades.

From The Guardian, eyes on Oakland from across the pond:

The city that told Google to get lost

Highly paid employees are pushing up rents near the tech giant’s California headquarters, forcing locals out and destroying communities, say activists. Now Oakland’s residents are fighting back – hard. But are they too late?

If pushing your enemy into the sea signifies success, then Google’s decision to start ferrying workers to its campus by boat suggests the revolt against big technology companies is going well. Standing on the docks of Oakland, on the east side of San Francisco Bay, last week, you could watch the Googlers board the ferry, one by one, and swoosh through the chill, grey waters of the bay towards the company’s Mountain View headquarters, 30 or so miles to the south.

Not exactly Dunkirk, but from afar you might have detected a whiff of evacuation, if not retreat. The ferry from Oakland – a week-long pilot programme – joined a similar catamaran service for Google workers in San Francisco launched last month. The search engine giant is not doing it for the bracing sea air. It is a response to blockades and assaults against buses that shuttle employees to work.

From The Independent, that old time religion:

Utah’s Mormons celebrate as polygamy restrictions are struck down

  • Part of law was ruled in violation of First Amendment

A US federal judge has struck down a key part of Utah’s law banning polygamy – providing welcome relief to one practising Mormon family. Joe Darger, who described himself as an “independent Mormon fundamentalist”, has 25 children with three wives.

US District Judge Clark Waddoups threw out part of a bill which allows the state to use cohabitation as a basis for prosecution, although Utah does still prohibit bigamy.

Reuters records a visit:

Obama, France’s Hollande make pilgrimage to Jefferson’s Monticello

President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande toured Thomas Jefferson’s plantation estate on Monday in a show of solidarity for Franco-American ties that have endured for more than two centuries despite the occasional tempest.

The visit to Monticello, home to America’s third president, served to showcase a relationship that stretches back to the founding of the United States in the late 18th century, an alliance still strong despite spats over U.S. eavesdropping and trade talks with the European Union.

Hollande, 59, who split from his partner, Valerie Trierweiler, last month after an affair with an actress, arrived solo for the first state visit hosted by Obama since he won a second term in 2012.

Heading north of the border with an offer Rob Ford can’t refuse from The Independent:

Canada installs first ever crack-pipe vending machines

  • Controversial vending machines dispense them for $0.25 in attempt to curb spread of HIV and hepatitis

A Canadian NGO has installed crack pipe vending machines in the city of Vancouver in a bid to curb the spread of HIV and hepatitis among users.

The polka-dot vending machines are operated by the Portland Hotel Society, a drug treatment centre, and dispense newly packaged crack pipes like snacks for $0.25 (13p).

The group says the pipes are less likely to chip and cut users’ mouths as a resulting of overheating and overuse, preventing the spread of disease among crack addicts.

“They don’t run the risk of then sharing pipes, or pipes that are chipped or broken,” Kailin See told CTV Vancouver.

On to Europe with bankster news from Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

Eurozone banks will be allowed to fail, says regulator

The incoming head of Europe’s new single banking supervisory authority has warned that weak eurozone banks will be allowed to fail following upcoming stress tests, in an interview in Monday’s Financial Times.

Frenchwoman Daniele Nouy was giving her first interview since being appointed chief of the Single Supervisory Mechanism, set up as part of attempts to stabilise the EU’s banking system and shift the financial costs of failed banks away from sovereign governments

“We have to accept that some banks have no future,” she told the FT. “We have to let some disappear in an orderly fashion, and not necessarily try to merge them with other institutions”.

EurActiv regulates with dubious efficacy:

EU rules to light up derivatives markets set for shaky start

New rules coming into force in Europe this week to shine more light on the $700 trillion (€513 trillion) derivatives markets will take years to produce a clearer picture of these complex products which were at the heart of the financial crisis.

When Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008 markets were in the dark over a tangle of derivatives on the US investment bank’s books. Financial markets froze because of uncertainty about who was exposed to Lehman’s derivatives, such as credit default swaps or interest rate swaps. US insurer AIG also ran up big losses linked to derivatives.

In response, politicians and regulators around the world called for action to make risks easier to spot in this opaque part of global financial markets.

The new EU rules, coming in on Wednesday, aim to increase transparency by requiring reporting of transactions.

On to Britain and a warning from the London Telegraph:

Lord Turner: UK economy is like 90s Japan

  • City regulator during the 2007/8 crisis says that the UK has not rebalanced its economy, and risks further shocks as a result

Lord Turner has warned that the UK has failed to rebalance its economy and is simply repeating the errors made in the run-up to the 2007/8 financial crisis.

The self-styled technocrat, who was chairman of the City regulator until last April, likened the domestic economy over the last five years to Japan in the 1990s.

The former Financial Services Authority chief – who made it on to the shortlist to replace Lord King as Governor of the Bank of England – said that although the economy was now showing obvious signs of growth, there was the potential that it will not be sustained due to the continued build up of credit in the system.

“The concerning thing about the UK economy is that from 2009 until early last year, a lot of the debate was around the need to rebalance, from being over focused on financial services and the housing market,” Lord Turner told The Telegraph.

The Independent doesn’t feel the love:

Where is the love? Majority of international students in the UK do not feel welcome

The majority of international students studying in the UK feel unwelcome in the country with a significant number saying they would not recommend to their friends that they come here to attend university, says a survey published on Monday.

A study of the attitudes of 3,100 international students by the National Union of Students revealed that more than 50 per cent believed the UK Government was either “not welcoming” or “not welcoming at all towards overseas students”.

Figures show PhD students are most likely to feel unwelcome (65.8 per cent) with those from Japan (64.5 per cent), Nigeria (62.8 per cent) and India (62 per cent) the next most likely to say they have received hostile treatment. Students from India, Pakistan and Nigeria are most likely to advise their friends not to study here.

The Guardian, with banksters doing what bankster do:

City bonus row reignites with Barclays to admit £2bn in payments

  • Bonus payout contrasts with bank boss Antony Jenkins’ pledge for restraint and helps push total since 2008 crisis towards £80bn

Controversy over City bonuses will be reignited this week when Barclays admits it paid its staff more than last year, fuelling predictions that the amount of bonuses paid out across the Square Mile since the 2008 crisis could soon hit £80bn.

Barclays is expected to reveal on Tuesday that its bonus pot topped £2bn last year – more than it paid out in the previous 12 months – despite a pledge by its boss Antony Jenkins to show restraint on pay.

Starting the reporting season for the high-street banks, Barclays will be followed in the coming fortnight by bailed-out banks Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland, as well as HSBC, in disclosing how much each has paid in bonuses for 2013.

The Irish Times gives us the latest instance of Banksters Behaving Badly, this time involving the €12.3 million collapse of Anglo Irish Bank, the biggest bustout in Irish history:

Seán Quinn suspected Anglo was doing ‘a sweetheart deal’

  • Businessman tells court the bank knew it was in serious trouble from November 2007

Former businessman Sean Quinn has told the Anglo Irish Bank trial that he suspected Anglo was “doing a sweetheart deal” when it forced him to sell his stake in the bank.

Mr Quinn, who admitted he used to be Ireland’s richest man, said he could not understand why the share price of Anglo fell so much in July 2008 as the deal was going through. He said that he approached a solicitor in London about the matter.

Mr Quinn told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that the bank knew from November 2007 that it was in serious trouble but that Sean FitzPatrick and David Drumm maintained it was “in rude health” as late as September 2008, shortly after the bank guarantee.

On to France and presidential woes from The Guardian:

Sluggish French growth figures pile more pressure on François Hollande

  • Bank of France forecasts economy will grow 0.2% in January-March compared with the final quarter of 2013

France will eke out meagre economic growth in the first three months of 2014, a spokesman for the central bank said on Monday, as the eurozone’s second-biggest economy struggles to avoid falling further behind the pack.

Data on Monday indicated that French industrial production dropped 0.3% in December by comparison with November, falling short of expectations, although the figure for the fourth quarter as a whole was positive.

The weakness of France’s recovery is adding to pressure on President François Hollande to deliver faster growth. The deeply unpopular Socialist leader has embarked on a shift to more business-friendly policies to bring down near-record unemployment.

France 24 hits the picket lines:

Mass taxi strike strands Paris commuters, tourists

Hundreds of taxis gathered at Paris airports before dawn on Monday as part of a nationwide protest against what cab drivers say is unfair competition posed by a recent surge in popularity of chauffeured cars offered by private companies, or VTCs.

The striking taxis gathered at 6am local time at Charles de Gaulle airport amid a cacophony of blaring horns and under a banner reading “55,000 angry taxis”, with one airport source saying no taxis were servicing the airport, a major international hub.

At regional hub Orly, a hundred vehicles blocked taxi queues to prevent cars from picking up passengers.

Would-be taxi drivers face exorbitant fees ahead of receiving an operating license, often running into the hundreds of thousands.

Switzerland next, and post-electoral anxiety from TheLocal.ch:

Government in damage control mode after vote

Reeling from a vote to cap EU immigration, Switzerland’s government and business community moved on Monday to limit the damage to trade ties with the big European bloc.

Swiss President and Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Burkhalter played down talk of a “Black Sunday” in ties with Brussels, after 50.3 percent of voters backed a referendum proposal to end a seven-year-old pact that gave equal footing to most EU citizens in the Swiss labour market.

“We need to avoid that kind of language,” he told reporters.

“Switzerland is not going to rip up its deal with the EU on freedom of movement,” he insisted.

EUbusiness covers another set of winners:

Swiss vote is boon for far-right ahead of EU parliament vote

Anti-EU parties already expected to do well in European Parliament elections in May claim the Swiss vote to curb immigration vindicates their stand.

“What the Swiss can do, we can do too,” said Geert Wilders, leader of Holland’s extreme-right PVV.

France’s extreme right National Front party too hailed “the Swiss people’s lucidity,” calling for Paris to stop “mass immigration” while Austria’s far-right FPO party said the country would vote the same way given the chance.

“With the (Swiss) referendum, it becomes more likely that the anti-Europeans will represent the biggest group in the European parliament, with a quarter of the MEPs,” German daily Tagesspiegel said.

Another potential blowback from New Europe:

After the Swiss referendum: the possible return of bank secrecy

The result of the Sunday referendum in Switzerland has stunned the EU. Many politicians reacted with dismay, sometimes even bordering on anger. Thus, Luxembourg’s prime minister Jean Asselborn said: “I respect the decision of the Swiss people… but the Swiss people must also respect the values of the EU.”

The same tone was heard from the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who said on Monday that Europe would review its relations with Switzerland after the “worrying” Swiss vote to reintroduce immigration quotas with the European Union. “In my opinion it’s bad news both for Europe and for the Swiss because Switzerland will be penalised if it withdraws,” Fabius said. “We’re going to review our relations with Switzerland,” he said.

The withdrawal in question would be Switzerland’s retreat from the Schengen agreement, of which Switzerland is one of the signatories, but which cannot be applied selectively.

The Commission was less vociferous, with the spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen stating on Monday only that “ The Commission regrets the initiative, since it infringes the principle of the free movement”. “Will examine politically and juridically our relations with Switzerland, but restrictions are unacceptable”, she said.”

Counting costs with EUobserver:

Swiss vote jeopardises involvement in multi-billion EU programmes

The EU’s multi-billion research programme Horizon 2020 and its Erasmus student exchange with Switzerland hang in the balance following a Swiss vote over the weekend in favour imposing quotas on EU migrants.

The two would automatically be suspended should Switzerland move to include limits on EU’s newest member state, Croatia. Both agreements are conditioned on free movement.

Croatia is scheduled to sign off on a reciprocal free movement agreement with Switzerland on 1 July. All other member states have a similar agreement.

Still more blowback from Deutsche Welle:

Swiss vote to stem immigration could cause ‘a lot of problems’

Switzerland’s neighbors and the EU say they regret the country’s narrow vote to limit annual migration inflows. Veteran German politician Wolfgang Schäuble warns of “a lot of problems” for the Swiss government in Bern.

On Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said that Germany respected the result of Switzerland’s vote. However, he added, it “raises considerable problems,” and said that Merkel had repeatedly stated free movement was a “prized asset” for Germany.

The European Commission said in a statement released after the referendum that it regretted the decision, and would “analyze the consequences of this initiative to our relations in general.”

Despite voicing regret about the result, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble warned against ignoring the sentiment expressed.

“Of course this does show a little that people are increasingly uneasy about unlimited freedom of movement in this world of globalization. I believe we must take this seriously,” Schäuble said on ARD public television. “We regret this decision. It will cause a lot of problems for Switzerland.”

And a parallel story from TheLocal.ch:

Foreigner jobless rate rises again in January

The unemployment rate in Switzerland remained at 3.5 percent in January, unchanged from the previous month, but the percentage of expats out of work rose again, figures released by the government showed on Monday.

The number of people registered for jobless benefits edged higher to 153,260 people, up 3,823 from December 2013, the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) said.

But the level of unemployed foreigners in the country jumped significantly to 7.1 percent in January from 6.9 percent the previous month, while the rate for Swiss nationals stayed unchanged at 2.4 percent.

The rate of expat jobless in Switzerland, accounting for almost half the unemployed in the country, has grown every month for the past several months.

On to Spain, and a change underway from TheLocal.es:

3.5 million ‘Spanish’ Jews to apply for citizenship

Jewish associations expect 3.5 million Sephardic Jews to apply for Spanish citizenship after Spain’s Justice Ministry approved a draft law which will allow them to return to the country their ancestors were kicked out of more than 500 years ago.

The descendants of Sephardic Jews banished from Spain in 1492 will now be able to regain Spanish nationality under a new law approved by Madrid’s Cabinet of Ministers on Friday.

Those who can prove their Spanish origins will be able to apply for dual nationality at the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, El Mundo newspaper reported on Sunday.

According to Israel’s Latin American, Spanish and Portuguese Association (OLEI), the newly-approved legislation has already resulted in a flurry of applications from Sephardic Jews around the world.

TheLocal.es trods the boards:

Abortion takes centre stage at Spain’s Oscars

A controversial plan in Spain to scrap easy access to abortions took centre stage at the Goya Awards, the country’s equivalent of the Oscars, with several actresses slamming the reform as they accepted their prizes.

The ceremony was broadcast live on public television network TVE to an estimated audience of 3.6 million people.

The issue has prompted deep debate and big protests in Spain, with many opposed to the conservative government’s draft law unveiled in December that would allow abortion only in cases of rape or health risk to the mother.

Critics say the measure scrapping more liberal access to abortion would throw the Catholic country back decades, when Spanish women had to go abroad to seek pregnancy terminations.

If the law is adopted, Spain would be the first country in the 28-member European Union to reverse legalizing abortion.

On to Portugal and a pronouncement from El País:

“Portugal is not going to need a second bailout”

  • Economy Minister António Pires de Lima says the program will be exited with a growing economy

May 17 is a key date for Portugal. It’s the day on which the 78-billion-euro bailout program it sought in April 2011 is due to end and Portugal will supposedly fully return to the sovereign debt market to fund itself. However, it remains to be seen how Spain’s Iberian neighbor will emerge from this financial assistance program; whether it will be a clean break without any further support, or the current bailout will be replaced by a softer rescue package that still involves some form of external help.

In an interview with EL PAÍS, Portuguese Economy Minister António Pires de Lima explains that the center-right coalition government of Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho will unveil its plans when it believes the moment is right to do so. He is encouraged by the fact the Portuguese economy is already on the road to recovery, although this has yet to become a reality for the population at large.

Among other draconian measures, a brutal increase in taxes, the elimination of extra payments for civil servants and pensioners, wage cuts, and the increase in the standard value-added tax rate to 23 percent have all hit the middle classes hard. The 2014 state budget maintains the fiscal adjustment drive of the previous two years. On top of the withdrawal of extra payments and cuts in salaries introduced in 2012 and the rise in taxes in 2013, this year’s budget also includes a further cut in wages for civil servants earning more than 675 euros a month.

The Portugal News excludes:

Dictator can’t buy Portuguese bank- MEP

Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes told Lusa on Friday that the Bank of Portugal and the Portuguese Stock Market Regulator (CMVM) had to fulfill “their role” and stop Equatorial Guinea buying into troubled bank Banif and that she was going to ask the European Commission (EC) to step in.

“This is yet another case where I have to intervene and ask the EC to ensure that a bank that is being rescued with funds that are part of Portugal’s bailout loan, and which are going to have to be paid back by Portuguese taxpayers, is not bought up in part by a corrupt and criminal regime as part of a money laundering scheme”, the Socialist MEP told Lusa News Agency.

“I think it is unbelievable that something like this can happen and hope that the Bank of Portugal and the CMVM do their job properly and do not allow this to happen because it is extremely dangerous for BANIF and I would like to alert all account holders about how incredibly dangerous it is going to be to have financing from somewhere like Equatorial Guinea, a sinister regime that is flagged on all indexes of dictatorial, miserable regimes where the population gets poorer and poorer while the presidential family lines their pockets on a daily basis”, she said.

On to Italy and more bad news from TheLocal.it:

Recovery hopes dwindle as Italian industry lags

A 0.9-percent slump in Italy’s industrial production in December, following three months of consecutive increases, disappointed investors on Monday and cast a shadow over hopes for a recovery this year.

The official data from the Istat agency showed industrial production was also down 0.7 percent from December 2012 and down 3.0 percent over all of 2013.

Analysts had expected the monthly figure to remain unchanged, after the economy in the third quarter formally ended two painful years of recession with zero growth in Italy’s gross domestic product (GDP).

“The result does not question the forecast of a return to growth in the fourth quarter of 2013 but it does confirm that the recovery will be very gradual,” said Paolo Mameli, an economist from Intesa Sanpaolo bank. The fourth quarter figure will be announced on Friday.

After the jump, the latest crises news from Greece, Bosnian outrage, Ukrainian regime change dreaming, Mexican vigilantes, Indian worries and wages, Thai troubles, neoliberalism moves in Myanmar, development bank devastation in Cambodia, Aussie auto woes, the latest Chinese angst, more down numbers in Japan, energy environmental woes, and the latest Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Humans and landscapes, a complex interaction


On his UC Berkeley faculty website, archaeologist Patrick V. Kirch lists his specialties as “Prehistory and ethnography of Oceania, ethnoarchaeology and settlement archaeology, prehistoric agricultural systems, cultural ecology and paleoenvironmentalism, ethnobotany and ethnoscience, development of complex societies in Oceania.”

In this presentation Dr. Kirch applies the ideas of the cultural landscape developed by an earlier Berkeley geographer, Carl O. Sauer, to human interaction with the landscapes of three Polynesian cultures, those of Mangareva, Mo’orea, and Hawaii.

What kept the Polynesian Islands so green? In part, the phosphorus blown in the winds in dust from China and Mongolia.

But some islands, like those of the Mangareva archipelago and Easter Island, lay in regions missed by the winds from Asia, leaving one other source of phosphorus and other key soil nutrients, populations of fish-eating, guano-pooping sea birds.

Todat the once-forested islets of Mangareva, the smallest, most barren, and most ancient of the three, today resemble a nearly barren desert islands, landscapes created in large part by the relatively late arrival of Polynesians who eliminated or decimated the once varied native bird populations.

Mo’orea is a much younger island, with the human population living in intimate relationship with an evolving and eroding landscape, shifting settlement as new soils are exposed and older soils become depleted.

And then there’s Hawaii, a still-growing landscape but nonetheless precarious landscapes populated by an emerging state society that had neared the carrying capacity of the delicate landscape when Europeans arrived, along with the diseases that laid waste to the Polynesians.

From University of California Television, an important reminder of just how delicate our world really is:

Island Landscapes or Sauer Among the Polynesians

Program notes:

Geographer Carl Ortwin Sauer demonstrated through his work and writings that landscapes are the long-term contingent product of interactions between natural processes and cultural forces. In this lecture, Patrick Kirch, Professor of Anthropology and Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, applies the concept of landscape to the islands of Polynesia. Drawing upon recent multi-disciplinary research, Kirch shows how certain natural properties of islands shaped the course of cultural and social evolution of island peoples, at the same time that cumulative effect of human actions irreversibly altered island environments. Series: “UC Berkeley Graduate Council Lectures” [2/2014]

Chart of the day II: Food stamp need rises


And at the very time funds have been cut by House Republicans. From the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis:

BLOG Food stamps

Stark images of California’s epochal drought


UPDATE: At the end.

First, from the National Drought Mitigation Center, California in context of the American West, shoowing the Central Valley in the grip of the most severe category, “Exceptional Drought,” and surrounded by the only relatively more moderate “Extreme Drought”:

BLOG Drought West

Second, from Climate Central, a look at conditions in California’s North. Central Region, and South:

BLOG Drought

From Climate Central:

The stakes are high for California, the country’s most populous state with 38 million residents. It has a $44.7 billion agricultural industry that generates more than $100 billion in related economic activity. California produces nearly half of all U.S.-grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables and it is the leading dairy state. The state’s farm cash receipts in 2012 were $13 billion more than that of Iowa, the No. 2 agricultural state. Because California farms depend heavily on irrigation to sustain production during the dry season, drought constitutes a dire threat to the state’s economy.

The federal government has designated nearly 9 percent of the state as being in “exceptional drought,” the worst category. It’s the first time in the 15-year history of the Drought Monitor that any California territory had reached that status. Longer-running records indicate the 13-month drought, which is part of a 3-year dry period, is equal to or worse than any other short-term drought and is among the top 10 worst droughts to hit California in the past 500 years, based on tree-ring records and instrument data. The drought is part of a broader Western drought that has lasted for roughly 13 years, raising the specter of a modern-day “megadrought” akin to events that doomed some ancient civilizations.

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a continued likelihood of drier-than-average conditions across much of California through the months of February and March, which are typically the last two months the state sees widespread heavy precipitation before the dry season sets in.

UPDATE: And as is wont to happen when hard times hit farmers, some are taking their case to a higher venue.

From The Guardian:

Nevada farmers turn to prayer as drought grips western US states

  • Religious leaders and farmers held multi-faith prayer service in Reno to ask the divine for help easing drought conditions

Religious leaders of multiple faiths and farmers in Nevada and Utah turned to prayer this weekend for help easing severe drought conditions gripping the west.

The plea to above comes weeks after the federal government declared parts of 11 parched western and central states natural disaster areas.

Faith leaders asked for divine intervention during a special multi-faith service Saturday at a Mormon church in the Reno, Nevada suburb of Sparks. And on Sunday, the Utah Farm Bureau Federation asked the public to join in prayer and fasting for snow and rain for livestock and crops as part of its Harvesting Faith event.

Headlines of the day II: EconoPoliEcoFuku’d


We’ll begin today’s compendium of things political, economic, and ecologic right here in esnl’s own Golden State with this from the Pew Research Center:

In 2014, Latinos will surpass whites as largest racial/ethnic group in California

According to California Governor Jerry Brown’s new state budget, Latinos are projected to become the largest single racial/ethnic group in the state by March of this year, making up 39% of the state’s population. That will make California only the second state, behind New Mexico, where whites are not the majority and Latinos are the plurality, meaning they are not more than half but they comprise the largest percentage of any group.

California’s demographers also project that in mid-2014, the state’s residents will be 38.8% white non-Hispanic, 13% Asian American or Pacific Islander, 5.8% black non-Hispanic, and less than 1% Native American. But the state’s demographics in 2014 are very different from what they had been. In 2000, California’s 33.9 million residents were 46.6% white non-Hispanic, 32.3% Latino, 11.1% Asian American or Pacific Islander, 6.4% black non-Hispanic and about 1% Native American. In 1990, white non-Hispanics made up more than half (57.4%) of the state’s then 29.7 million residents, while 25.4% of Californians were Latino, 9.2% were Asian American or Pacific Islander, 7.1% were black non-Hispanic and about 1% were Native American.

More Californiosity from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Income inequity a hot topic on California ballots

When state voters cast their ballots in November, they could be making decisions on several measures intended to bring the income levels of rich and poor closer together. They include a cap on hospital executives’ pay, more taxes on oil companies and a higher minimum wage.

There’s real money behind each effort. The hospital CEOs are being targeted by a deep-pockets union. The oil-tax measure would be financed by a rich former hedge-fund manager, and a Silicon Valley millionaire is behind the minimum-wage hike.

The money lining up against them is just as formidable. Business groups, the health care industry and oil giants are expected to do whatever it takes to try to defeat what some conservatives denounce as the products of class-warfare ideology.

And some reallly bad news for a very dry state from the San Jose Mercury News:

California drought: Past dry periods have lasted more than 200 years, scientists say

California’s current drought is being billed as the driest period in the state’s recorded rainfall history. But scientists who study the West’s long-term climate patterns say the state has been parched for much longer stretches before that 163-year historical period began.

And they worry that the “megadroughts” typical of California’s earlier history could come again.

Through studies of tree rings, sediment and other natural evidence, researchers have documented multiple droughts in California that lasted 10 or 20 years in a row during the past 1,000 years — compared to the mere three-year duration of the current dry spell. The two most severe megadroughts make the Dust Bowl of the 1930s look tame: a 240-year-long drought that started in 850 and, 50 years after the conclusion of that one, another that stretched at least 180 years.

Just how bad is it? From the USDA’s National Drought Monitor:

BLOG Drought

Hopeful signs, via The Guardian:

Occupy the minimum wage: will young people restore the strength of unions?

  • The ‘Fight for 15′ movement, driven by millennials, picks up where Occupy left off and shows a new interest in labour unions

Alicia White, 25, defied the odds of a poor background by attending college on a partial scholarship and going to graduate school. While she spends her days applying for jobs, the only work she has found so far is face-painting at children’s birthday parties.

“By going to college and graduate school, I thought I was insulating myself from being broke and sleeping on friends’ couches and being hungry again. The big, scary part is that I am going to end up where I was, but now I am going to be in that awful situation with $50,000 of debt,” White says.

White’s story is no exception. One in two college graduates are now either unemployed or underemployed. Millennials – even those from the middle class – are experiencing income inequality and America’s failed dream of upward mobility first-hand. The mismatch of college-educated young workers with low-wage, unskilled, precarious jobs is creating a new face of the once-dwindling American labor movement: young, diverse, led by millennials in their twenties and thirties, and fighting what they see as an unfair labor market. Their modest cause? Pushing for a higher minimum wage.

Linking up with Nikkei Asian Review:

Silicon Valley venture capital enhancing US-China economic ties

Tsinghua University, one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in China, is rapidly expanding its influence in Silicon Valley through a tech-oriented seed accelerator it supports.

Tsinghua, the alma mater of a legion of political and business leaders in China, including President Xi Jinping, is capitalizing on its powerful alumni network to make deep inroads into the heart of technological innovation in the U.S.

The seed accelerator set up by the university in April 2012, InnoSpring, has established a solid presence in America’s vibrant venture capital scene in less than two years.

Obama dives deeper into Reaganomics, resurrecting the Gipper’s “Enterpise Zones” with a new moniker. Via Bloomberg News:

Old Idea to Fix Inner Cities Gets New Name: ‘Promise Zones’

In 1994, Bill Clinton tried to revitalize the mean streets of West Philadelphia. At the time, unemployment and crime were high, graduation rates were low, and businesses were exiting. Clinton’s Philadelphia-Camden Empowerment Zone, one of several in troubled urban areas around the country, received $100 million over 10 years in federal grants and tax credits for companies that hired neighborhood residents and invested in the community. Two decades later, not a lot has visibly changed in West Philly. Shop owners work behind bulletproof glass, jobless men sit on stoops drinking beer, and another president is looking to local leaders and businesses to turn things around.

At a White House ceremony on Jan. 9, President Obama announced the first 5 of 20 “promise zones” in parts of San Antonio, Los Angeles, southeastern Kentucky, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and West Philadelphia, including a half-dozen blocks that also were part of Clinton’s zone. Obama’s plan calls on federal agencies to help business owners cut through bureaucracy to win federal grants and bring together schools, companies, and nonprofits to support literacy programs and job training. “We will help them succeed,” the president said. “Not with a handout, but as partners with them, every step of the way. And we’re going to make sure it works.”

From Reuters, relevant to our latest Charts of the Day:

Why are US corporate profits so high? Because wages are so low

U.S. businesses have never had it so good.

Corporate cash piles have never been bigger, either in dollar terms or as a share of the economy. The labor market, meanwhile, is still millions of jobs short of where it was before the global financial crisis first erupted over six years ago.

Coincidence?

Not in the slightest, according to Jan Hatzius, chief U.S. economist at Goldman Sachs:

“The strength (in profits) is directly related to the weakness in hourly wages, which are still growing at just a 2% nominal pace. The weakness of wages and the resulting strength of profits are telling signs that the US labor market is still far from full employment.

Another another American institution offshores its money and most of its ownership, via TheLocal.it:

Fiat-Chrysler to seek US stock listing, British base

The newly combined Fiat-Chrysler automaker will seek a fiscal domicile in Britain and a stock listing on a New York exchange, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne, who has overseen the company’s gradual purchase of Chrysler since 2009, is set to make the proposal to the board next week, people familiar with the plans told the Journal.

The Italian automaker completed its acquisition of Chrysler this week in a $4.35-billion transaction after a five-year merger that creates a new global car giant.

The deal involved buying the remaining 41.46 percent stake in Chrysler not held by Fiat from Veba, a fund controlled by the US autoworkers’ union UAW.

From USA TODAY, Alpine redoubt surrenders:

Swiss banks closer to deals in tax-evasion probe

  • More than 100 financial institutions willing to ID tax evaders in exchange for non-prosecution deals.

More than 100 Swiss banks and other institutions have signaled they will seek non-prosecution agreements and provide information to U.S. authorities investigating suspected off-shore tax evasion by Americans, a top Department of Justice official said Saturday.

The announcement by Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Keneally provided the first government confirmation on the number of Swiss banks that are expected to disclose how they helped U.S. clients evade taxes, provide financial data about the clients and pay fines to settle criminal investigations.

In all, 106 Swiss financial institutions filed formal letters of intent by the Dec. 31, 2013, deadline set by federal investigators, said Keneally, who made the announcement at the winter meeting of the American Bar Association’s tax section in Phoenix.

And Sky News has good news for Wall Street banksters:

Non-EU Banks Slip Through Bonus Cap Loophole

  • Wall Street banks can raise bonuses without a vote from their parent’s shareholders under new EU rules, Sky News learns.

Major global banks such as Morgan Stanley and Nomura are benefiting from a loophole in new European pay rules that could leave British rivals at a big disadvantage.

Sky News understands that banks based outside the European Union (EU) are able to approve bigger bonuses for employees of their subsidiaries in the trading bloc without recourse to external shareholders.

That means Wall Street and Asian banks can instantly consent to variable pay for senior staff worth double the level of their salaries, the maximum permissible under the new EU cap.

A quick trip to Canada and a mind-boggling headline from the uber-conservative National Post:

‘Economically worthless but emotionally priceless’: Children don’t make you happy, but can still be rewarding, expert says

A global story from The Guardian:

IMF fears global markets threat as US cuts back on cash stimulus

  • Sudden slump in Argentina leads to fears that other emerging countries could face troubles

The International Monetary Fund is closely monitoring recent events in the world’s emerging markets amid concerns that the withdrawal of monetary stimulus by the US will add to the turmoil caused by the sudden slump in Argentina.

The IMF believes that the next phase of the gradual removal of stimulus to the US economy by the Federal Reserve, due later this week, could be the trigger for fresh turbulence in countries seen as vulnerable to capital flight, such as Turkey and Indonesia.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, told participants at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the so-called tapering by the US central bank was a potential problem.

And from Reuters, look forward for more of those too-big-to-fail banks:

Top bankers expect EU stress tests to reignite banking M&A

Bankers expect a thorough European Central Bank (ECB) health check of the euro zone’s largest banks to reignite domestic and cross-border merger activity by rebuilding confidence among lenders.

The sovereign debt crises that nearly caused a break-up of the single currency in 2011/12 has generated mistrust among banks and caused an effective breakdown of cross-border bank investment flows as they hoarded capital at home.

But the ECB’s asset quality review, an assessment of the balance sheets of more than 120 banks that is due to be completed next autumn, should bring transparency on the quality of banks’ loans and other assets, bankers and regulators at the World Economic Forum in Davos said.

Off to England and another sign of the times from The Independent:

Exclusive: Eating disorders soar among teens – and social media is to blame

  • Social media blamed for the doubling in the number of youngsters seeking help for anorexia and bulimia in the last three years

The number of children and teenagers seeking help for an eating disorder has risen by 110 per cent in the past three years, according to figures given exclusively to The Independent on Sunday.

ChildLine says it received more than 10,500 calls and online inquiries from young people struggling with food and weight-related anxiety in the last financial year. The charity believes this dramatic increase could be attributed to several factors, including the increased pressure caused by social media, the growth of celebrity culture, and the rise of anorexia websites.

The problem is most prevalent among girls of secondary school age. During 2012-13, counselling with girls about concerns of eating problems outnumbered counselling with boys by 32:1.

The Guardian covers an exodus:

The great migration south: 80% of new private sector jobs are in London

  • Talented young people are leaving provincial cities to make a success of their lives in London and never go back, report shows

Talented young people are leaving provincial cities in their 20s, making a success of their lives in London and never go back. London is where the work is: the capital was responsible for four out of every five jobs created in the private sector between 2010 and 2012.

The brain drain meant that every major city outside the south-east is losing young people to London. One in three 22-30 year olds leaving their hometowns end up with Oyster cards and Boris as their mayor.

On to Ireland for a very familiar headline from Independent.ie:

Priests’ organisation accuse Education Minster of “underminding religion”

THE Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) has hit out at Education Minister Ruairi Quinn after he claimed that primary schools should divert time spent teaching religion to core subject areas.

The Labour Minister has sparked fury after suggesting that schools should use time allocated for religion to focus on improving pupils’ reading and maths.

The group described Mr Quinn’s remarks as “unacceptable” and accused the Labour TD of attempting to devise educational policy “on the hoof”.

Germany next and a gain for eurofoes from Deutsche Welle:

Germany’s euroskeptic party revamps its image

The upstart Alternative for Germany party attracted voters in the last election with its tough anti-euro currency stance. Now, in a quest to enter the European Parliament, the party is embracing populist sentiments.

At their most recent political convention, members of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) were hoping to come up with a list of candidates for the upcoming European Parliament elections, but their plan didn’t quite work out. Around 100 candidates had applied for the 10 available positions. Following a 12-hour session, only six candidates had been decided on – and the session has been extended to next weekend.

Nevertheless, AfD leader Bernd Lucke used the meeting as an opportunity to present the party’s new slogan, “Mut zu Deutschland” (loosely translated: “Courage to be German”) – which replaces the former slogan “Mut zur Wahrheit” (“Courage to Uphold Truth”) that helped the AfD gain 4.7 percent of the votes in Germany’s last federal election. The party members present welcomed the move.

More from EUbusiness:

German eurosceptics poll 7% ahead of European vote

The eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) party scored seven percent in a poll published Sunday ahead of May’s European Parliament elections where populist groups are hoping to boost their numbers.

The Emnid institute poll was published by newspaper Bild am Sonntag a day after the political newcomer party elected its top European candidates and railed against Germany’s mainstream political groups.

Party chief Bernd Lucke, 51, branded Chancellor Angela Merkel a “chameleon” and, under a campaign dubbed “Courage for Germany”, promised an alternative to “adaptable, streamlined, slick politicians who stand for nothing”.

The AfD, which has said it favours a return from the euro to the deutschmark currency, was formed last year but missed out on seats in September national elections, scoring just below a five percent threshold.

The rise in anti-euro sentiment met with harsh words from Angela Merkel’s junior coalition partner. From Reuters:

German SPD leader raps ‘stupid’ eurosceptic campaign in Europe vote

The head of Germany’s Social Democrats in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition on Sunday denounced eurosceptic parties on the far left and right as “stupid” and pledged a tough fight against them in the European parliamentary election campaign.

Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, also Merkel’s economy minister and head of the Social Democrats, blasted the “uniting enemies of Europe on the left and right” over their anti-European campaigning for the May election.

“Let’s stand up against these stupid slogans about Germany being ‘the paymaster of Europe’,” Gabriel said, referring in particular to the campaign of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party that has attracted voters opposed to spending taxpayer money on bailing out struggling euro zone countries.

TheLocal.de charts a familiar trend:

‘Land grab’ ups prices in eastern Germany

  • Land prices in eastern Germany are rising at dizzying rates and local farmers feel they are being squeezed out by foreign investors in a phenomenon known as “land grabbing”.

The price of a hectare of land has risen by 54 percent between 2009 and 2012 in Brandenburg state and by 79 percent in neighbouring Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, even if prices remain below those in the west of the country — at least for now.

The rural east of Germany has vast swathes of arable land inherited from communist times, when farming was in the hands of huge collectives, known as LPGs.

But today the land is increasingly being snapped up by foreign investors, often with no background or interest in farming, pushing prices up and forcing out locals.

Denmark next, and more of that hard times intolerance from New Europe:

Right-wing MEP wants to punish beggars in Denmark

Police in Denmark should be allowed to arrest beggars on the spot and the courts should be less lenient, according to one Member of the European Parliamentary who is aligned with the Dansk Folkeparti (a right-wing populist party).

Morten Messerschmidt pointed to official justice ministry figures showing a drop in the number of people convicted of begging over the past five years. For instance, only seven of the 185 people charged with begging were ever convicted.

According to Messerschmidt, this number is “surprisingly low”. He said the reason is probably because police are required to issue a warning to beggars before arresting them. He also said that a growing number of beggars in Denmark are Eastern European.

From DutchNews.nl, booming business:

One of Tilburg’s biggest industries is marijuana: NRC

Between €728m and €884m is earned from marijuana production in Tilburg region on an annual basis, the NRC said at the weekend, quoting confidential research.

The illegal industry is so large that it poses a ‘serious threat to the safety and integrity of society,’ said the report, which was put together by researchers from Tilburg University and crime prevention experts.

Marijuana production in the area involves 2,500 people and between 600 and 900 plantations, the city’s mayor Peter Noordanus told the NRC. The drugs trade has grown into a criminal industry which ‘increasingly corrupts the legal and economic infrastructure,’ report said.

On to France and wild in the streets with France 24:

Thousands take part in Paris ‘Day of Anger’ targeting President Hollande

Several thousand people marched through central Paris on Sunday in a “Day of Anger” directly targeting France’s embattled President François Hollande and his policies, ending in both clashes and arrests.

Security forces used tear gas to disperse several hundred youths who lobbed police with bottles, fireworks, iron bars and dustbins.

Police said at least 150 people had been arrested after the clashes, during which 19 officers were injured, one of these “potentially seriously”, according to one police source.

Italy next and a forced quit from EUbusiness:

Italy minister resigns amid abuse of power, corruption probes

Italy’s Agriculture Minister resigned Sunday amid allegations of abuse of power over the appointment of staff in the public healthcare system and in the wake of an investigation into the management of European Union funds for agriculture.

“I am resigning as minister. I cannot remain part of a government which has not defended my honour,” Nunzia De Girolamo said on Twitter.

De Girolamo was accused this month of exerting improper influence over the choice of healthcare managers in the city of Benevento in the Campania region, following revelations in the media of phone-tapped conversations in 2012.

She is the second minister to step down from Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s shaky coalition government.

More corruption from Corriere della Sera:

Tax-dodging Magnate owned 1,243 Properties

  • Angiola Armellini, daughter of construction entrepreneur, under investigation for hiding more than €2.1 billion from tax authorities

From Rome’s glitzy jet-set and a two-storey penthouse a stone’s throw from the Vatican to an investigation by the prosecution service complete with financial police searches. Angiola Armellini, daughter of a surveyor who made a fortune covering the capital with 90,000 cubic metres of concrete, is alleged to have hidden 1,243 properties from the tax authorities. The buildings, of which 1,239 including three hotels are located in the municipality of Rome, are claimed to be worth €2.1 billion, including cash assets.

Public prosecutor Paolo Ielo entered Ms Armellini in the register of persons under investigation along with eleven nominees and accountants alleged to be complicit. Ms Armellini faces charges of criminal association, failure to submit tax returns and submitting fraudulent returns. Criminal association charges have also been brought against the accountants. Investigators calculate that the taxable base for the avoidance amounts to €190 million. City authorities also want to recover ICI property tax that was almost never paid. The bill could be €3.5 million for two years, a figure which multiplied by five – before that a time bar comes into play – becomes €17 million.

After the jump, the latest from Greece, Ukrainian crisis spreads, Latin American woes and protests, Aussie neooliberalism, Indian uncertainty, Bangla woes, Thai turmoil, Cambodian protests, Chinese financial uncertainty, Japanese wiseguy hopes, tarsands costs, fracking havoc, drought victims, and Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

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: EconoPoliFukuRealism


Much happening, and the troubles continue at Fukushima.

We begin our econocentric coverage close to home [literally], with the Oakland Tribune:

Alta Bates Summit Medical Center to slash 358 jobs in Oakland, Berkeley

Alta Bates Summit Medical Center is cutting 358 positions and shutting down its skilled nursing facility.

Alta Bates Summit, which has several East Bay campuses, will eliminate 195 jobs at Summit in Oakland, 133 jobs at Alta Bates in Berkeley and 30 at Herrick in Berkeley, according to the state Employment Development Department.

The company also is closing its skilled nursing facility and infusion program at Summit in Oakland, a hospital spokeswoman said.

SINA English injects:

Chinese investment in US doubled in 2013: study

China’s investment in the United States doubled to $14 billion last year despite sometimes rocky political ties, with private firms leading the way, said a study out Tuesday.

About half of the value consisted of Shuanghui International’s takeover of prominent pork producer Smithfield Foods, a $7.1 billion deal that marked the largest ever Chinese acquisition of a US company.

But the report by the Rhodium Group, a New York-based firm that looks closely at Chinese investment, found that the total number of deals had also risen from 2012 to 82. It said that Chinese companies accounted for 70,000 full-time jobs in the United States.

The total value of investment hit a record high of $14 billion, with high-profile deals in real estate as well as Chinese investors took stakes in the General Motors Building and Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York.

Bloomberg View’s The Ticker finds bubbles in your bong:

Dude, This Pot Stock Is Totally in a Bong Bubble

Shares of Medbox Inc. soared 85 percent yesterday to $73.90, and have been on a wild ride today, trading as high as $93.50 and as low as $46.90. It seems investors got all stoked about the company’s prospects selling vending machines with fingerprint readers to dispense marijuana, now that recreational pot is legal in two states, Colorado and Washington. Yesterday the company, which trades on the Pink Sheets, issued a news release saying “it has improved on its products for use in recreational and medical marijuana facilities.” The day before that, it issued a news release to tout the appearance of its chief executive officer, Bruce Bedrick, on CNBC.

There hasn’t been much else to explain why Medbox’s stock market value suddenly topped $1 billion this week. As recently as Dec. 26, before Colorado’s new law took effect, the stock was trading for about $10. Nor does there seem to be much basis for believing the company should be worth so much now. Medbox had net income of about $23,000 on sales of $2.9 million during the six months ended June 30, according to a prospectus it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which it has since withdrawn.

Bloomberg covers other agricultural prophets:

Monsanto Profit Tops Estimates on Soybeans and Roundup

Monsanto Co., the world’s largest seed company, reported fiscal first-quarter earnings that topped analysts’ estimates on rising sales of engineered soybean seeds and Roundup herbicide.

Net income in the three months through November increased to $368 million, or 69 cents a share, from $339 million, or 63 cents, a year earlier, Monsanto said today in a statement. Profit excluding a discontinued business was 67 cents, beating the 64-cent average of 17 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue rose 6.9 percent to $3.14 billion, topping the $3.07 billion average of 15 estimates.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant is focused on selling more genetically modified seeds in Latin America to drive earnings growth outside the core U.S. market. Sales of soybean seeds and genetic licenses climbed 16 percent, and revenue in the unit that makes glyphosate weed killer, sold as Roundup, rose 24 percent.

MintPress News sounds a Santayana alert:

Absence Of History, Social Studies Requirements In US Education System Causes Concern

Many have expressed concern that there is no federal requirement that students learn about history.

Creating universal education standards may have been President Barack Obama’s intent when he and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan created the Common Core K-12 educational curriculum in 2009. But as education officials have begun to slowly integrate the program into private, public and home-schooled children in about 46 states so far, many education professionals are wondering why there is no social studies or history requirement.

Though some blame social studies teachers for a lack of history requirements — calling a bulk of social studies teachers underqualified — others say the reason the U.S. doesn’t have any history requirements is because Americans don’t always agree on what actually happened in American history.

Sociological Images is stunned:

Teachers Offered Personal Loans to Buy School Supplies

If you’re looking for just one image that says a thousand words about what’s wrong with America, here’s a contender.  It is a screenshot of an email sent to members of the Silver State Schools Credit Union:

BLOG Teacher loans

Yep, it’s an invitation to K-12 teachers to go into debt to do their job.

The London Daily Mail floats it:

The latest perk of working for Google – free private ferry service to work

  • Private passenger catamaran service launched across San Fransisco Bay
  • It carries up to 150 workers to and from the Google HQ near Redwood city
  • Firm’s shuttle bus service had been targetted by angry protesters
  • Employees already enjoy massages, free gourmet food and ‘20 per cent time’

Al Jazeera America blows back:

San Francisco to tax tech companies for employee shuttles

  • City will charge Google, Facebook and others that use public bus stops in an effort to combat traffic, public resentment

San Francisco plans to start regulating employee shuttles for companies like Google, Facebook and Apple, charging a fee for those that use public bus stops and controlling where they load and unload.

The influx of private shuttle buses, which transport thousands of San Francisco workers to their jobs, has created traffic problems on the city’s narrow streets, blocking public bus stops during peak commuting hours.

For some locals, these buses have become a tangible symbol of economic inequality and the aggressive wave of gentrification sweeping through large swaths of San Francisco and Oakland as a result of the burgeoning technology industry.

CNN Political Unit numbers a sea change:

CNN Poll: Americans say marijuana is less dangerous than booze or tobacco

According to a new national poll, marijuana is not as wicked as other illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine, and much less dangerous than legal substances like alcohol and tobacco.

That’s one reason why a CNN/ORC International survey indicates that support for legalizing marijuana is soaring, and why that same support does not extend to hard drugs.

A CNN/ORC poll released Monday showed that 55% of all Americans think that the use of marijuana should be legal – a solid majority and more than triple the 16% who said the same thing a quarter century ago. But according to numbers released Tuesday, the percentage is nowhere near as high as the 81% who say alcohol should remain legal or the 71% who believe that tobacco use is OK.

Austerian NAFTA reality from the Americas Program of the Center for International Policy:

No Golden Pond for NAFTA Generation Retirees

Twenty years after the promoters of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) heralded a new age of prosperity, tens of millions of people in the member nations of the trinational trade and investment pact look forward to an impoverished retirement.  While in the United States and Mexico, huge segments of the working-age population could wind up with a retirement income-if any at all- befitting paupers, even in relatively better-off Canada the status of retirees is showing signs of slippage.

As all three NAFTA countries undergo workforce aging trends, the implications of a multinational retirement crisis in the coming years will be profound for the economic and social health of the region. Recent reports, including the one issued last month by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), carry somber warnings for the futures of millions as they approach their golden years.

For U.S Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), the emerging retirement crunch is a “crisis that is as real and as frightening as any policy problem facing the United States today.”

Across the Atlantic with a plateau from Europe Online:

Eurozone unemployment rate stuck at record 12.1 per cent

Unemployment in the eurozone remained stuck at a record high of 12.1 per cent in November, new data released on Wednesday showed, as the currency bloc struggles to recover from a debilitating economic crisis.

The jobless rate was initially believed to have dropped in October for the first time in almost three years, but Wednesday’s data – issued by the European Union’s statistics agency Eurostat – showed that in fact it has remained unchanged since April 2013.

The eurozone managed to pull out of recession earlier this year, but unemployment has remains stubbornly high. The bloc experienced its last decline in the jobless rate in February 2011.

MarketWatch frets:

Draghi faces deflation threat as ECB, BOE meet

  • Euro risks selloff if Draghi mentions recent strength, hints at further action

The Bank of England and the European Central Bank are both expected to keep monetary policy on hold Thursday. What ECB President Mario Draghi says about low inflation could signal whether the bank expands stimulus at future meetings and move the euro.

The BOE will release its decision at 7 a.m. Eastern. The central bank doesn’t normally release a statement when there is no change in policy, but central-bank watchers say that the BOE could be compelled to do so in light of the rapidly falling unemployment rate and what it means for U.K. interest rates.

New Europe admonishes:

US tells EU, Germany to act on banks and surplus respectively

The US wants Germany to boost its domestic demand and Europe as a whole to strengthen its banks. This much has so far become clear during Jacon Lew’s, the US Treasure Secretary’s visit to the continent. Lew was in Berlin today and visited France on January 7.

“We continue to believe that policies that would promote more domestic investment and demand would be good for the German economy and the global economy,” Lew told a news conference after meeting German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

Even though the newly installed grand coalition between Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the SDP has is planning to introduce a national minimum wage and invest in infrastructure, the fundamentals of its economic and European approached will remain unchanged.

Britain next, with a bubbly BBC News:

UK house prices rose by 7.5% in 2013, Halifax says

House prices across the UK rose by 7.5% last year, according to the Halifax, the country’s largest mortgage lender.

However, Halifax said prices actually fell by 0.6% in December, taking the average price of a property to £173,467.

Last week, the Nationwide building society said house prices had risen by 8.4% in 2013.

Sky News prepares for peasants massing:

Boris Wants Water Cannon For London’s Streets

Boris Johnson says the weapons will only be used in “extreme circumstances” but the 2011 riots show why police need them.

Boris Johnson has requested the Metropolitan Police to be able to use water cannon on the capital’s streets by this summer.

The London Mayor said the weapons would be used only in “the most extreme circumstances”, but there are fears the cannon could be deployed to break up small-scale legitimate protests. He said the water cannon were necessary in case there was a repeat of the summer riots of 2011.

The Guardian is buzzing:

UK faces food security catastrophe as honeybee numbers fall, scientists warn

Crop pollination via honeybees sinks to second lowest in Europe as study calls for greater protection of wild pollinators

Europe has 13 million less honeybee colonies than would be needed to properly pollinate all its crops, research shows. Photograph: Judi Bottoni/AP

The UK faces a food security catastrophe because of its very low numbers of honeybee colonies, which provide an essential service in pollinating many crops, scientists warned on Wednesday.

New research reveals that honeybees provide just a quarter of the pollination needed in the UK, the second lowest level among 41 European countries. Furthermore, the controversial rise of biofuels in Europe is driving up the need for pollination five times faster than the rise in honeybee numbers. The research suggests an increasing reliance on wild pollinators, such as bumblebees and hoverflies, whose diversity is in decline.

Iceland next, and a piteous lament from the Reykjavík Grapevine:

Former Landsbanki Manager “Psychologically Tortured” By Government

The lawyer for former Landsbanki manager Sigurjón Þ. Árnason says that his client is being “psychologically tortured” by the state.

In a column he wrote for Fréttablaðið, Sigurður G. Guðjónsson, Sigurjón’s lawyer, contends the government is needlessly prolonging the legal process in his case, whilst at the same time “continuously blabbing about his guilt to the media.”

For the unfamiliar, Sigurjón was charged with market manipulation during his time as Landsbanki’s manager, leading to the eventual collapse of the bank. The resolution committee of the new Landsbanki is seeking compensation from Sigurjón for the damage the bank incurred under his watch.

Germany next with Europe Online:

German economy picks up speed as industrial sector gains ground

The German economy appears to have ended last year on a strong footing with a solid rise in both exports and factory orders helping to fire its key manufacturing base.

While figures released Wednesday by the Ministry of Economics showed monthly factory orders rebounded by 2.1 per cent in November, the statistics office said exports rose for the fourth consecutive month in November, climbing by 0.3 per cent.

The data provides “further evidence that the economy’s industrial backbone is strengthening again,” said ING Bank economist Carsten Brzeski.

Nationalist umbrage from EUbusiness:

Germany to probe welfare fraud by immigrants

The German government said Wednesday it will look into toughening measures against abuse of its welfare system by immigrants in light of fears of an influx from poor EU member states Romania and Bulgaria.

Chancellor Angela Merkel led a cabinet meeting of her new “grand coalition” where the government agreed to task a commission with making recommendations by mid-June.

“It will address the possible consequences of immigration and open borders — both things the government welcomes and wants,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters.

Deutsche Welle labors:

Amazon staff defend company against unions

For months, unions have been trying to pressure Amazon Germany to pay better wages. But now thousands of employees have come out defending Amazon. Are the unions fighting a lost cause?

The remarkable solidarity of the workers with their employer is in stark contrast to the picture painted by the media. That has focussed on the poor working conditions at Amazon Germany. For months, the company has been under fire for its poor wages, permanent stress and the lousy mood among the staff.

Yet when Verdi called strikes in recent weeks, only very few employees took part. The union wants to get a pay deal for them with a pay level similar to other companies in the mail order business. Currently, Amazon pays the lower rates applicable to the logistics sector.

France next, and schismatics from EurActiv:

French leftist coalition blows up ahead of EU, local elections

The French Left Party’s decision to suspend its membership of the European Left has highlighted tensions with their traditional communist allies, which could seriously damage both party’s results at the forthcoming EU elections in May.

As the EU elections approach, European political parties from all sides are gearing up to nominate their candidates for the European Commission’s top job.

The Associated Press convicts:

Frenchwoman fined after Muslim veil prompted riots

A French court has convicted a woman for insulting police who ticketed her for wearing a face-covering Muslim veil, banned by French law.

The confrontation between Cassandra Belin, her husband and police triggered riots in the Paris suburb of Trappes last year. Her lawyer, Philippe Bataille, says Belin was fined 150 euros and given a one-month suspended sentence Wednesday.

The lawyer also argued that the veil law is unconstitutional, and asked for it to be sent to the Constitutional Court. The lower Paris court Wednesday threw out that request.

Spain next, and another decline from El País:

Household savings rate falls further as income drops

  • Families cut back on spending in third quarter of last year

The household savings rate in Spain in the third quarter of last year declined further despite lower consumer spending as high unemployment and downward pressure on wages reduced income.

The National Statistics Institute (INE) said Wednesday that the savings rate in the period July-September of last year declined to 9.2 percent from 10.0 percent in the fourth quarter. That was the lowest rate for the third quarter since 2007. On a four-quarter moving basis, the rate dropped to 10.5 percent from 10.7 percent in the four quarters to June.

Gross disposable household income in the period declined 1.6 percent from a year earlier to 162.521 billion euros as a result of a fall of 1.9 percent in wages. Consumption declined an annual 0.4 percent to 147.037 billion euros.

El País again, this time in opposition:

PP deputy congressional speaker calls for free vote within ruling party on abortion

  • Celia Villalobos says she “represents many people who are against” the proposed restriction on terminations

The rift within the ruling conservative Popular Party (PP) over its controversial proposed reform of the abortion law that greatly restricts the right to terminate pregnancy grew on Wednesday after a key figure in the group called for a free vote on the issue in parliament.

Deputy Congressional Speaker Celia Villalobos signaled her opposition to the proposed new law, which does not automatically give women the right to abort in cases of severe fetal malformation, during a meeting of the PP’s executive committee on Wednesday, according to sources.

“I represent many people who are not in agreement with the reform that has been presented,” Villalobos said. “I ask for a free vote.” Villalobos abstained during a congressional vote in 2009 on the abortion law put forward by the former Socialist government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and was sanctioned by the party for doing so.

Lisbon next, and a departure date from Xinhua:

Portugal could exit bailout program on May. 17: official

Portugal has received yet another thumbs up that the country’s 78-billion-euro bailout program is coming to an end.

Vice President of the European Parliament Othmar Karas, who is ending a visit to Portugal on Tuesday, said that the bailout program could terminate as soon as May. 17, one week before the European elections.

“I’m sure that Portugal can end the program on the 17th of May of 2014, one week before the European elections,” said Karas, quoted by Portugal’s Lusa News Agency Lusa.

Italy next, and a new record from the London Telegraph:

Italian joblessness hits record as it seeks higher foreign investment

Italian joblessness has hit a fresh high, underlining the challenge for the country’s fragile coalition in convincing the international markets it is on the path to recovery.

Unemployment hit 12.7pc in November, up from October’s 12.5pc and the highest on record. Youth unemployment, at 41.6pc, is also at an all-time high.

The figures show that tentative signs of recovery in Italy’s recession-battered economy have failed to benefit the labour market.

Corriere della Sera knows where the bodies are buried:

Parliamentarians, Priests and Gangsters in Tax Consultant’s Secret Files

  • List found on computers belonging to Paolo Oliverio, arrested on charges of laundering underworld funds

The files detail confidential relations with senior clerics, secret service and financial police officers, business figures and politicians. Paolo Oliverio, arrested in early November on charges of manipulating the internal appointments and business dealings of the Camillian religious order, was actually the go-to accountant for many institutional and business figures.

But, add investigators, he was also the man who laundered cash for ‘Ndrangheta gangsters and some of Rome’s home-grown criminals. Mr Oliverio was privy to a great many secrets, as has emerged from the thousands of files found on the computers and pen drives seized when he was arrested. Many now fear what those files could reveal.

After the jump, Greek posturing, Turkish purging, Israeli divestment, Brazilian numbers, African refocusing, India axes and politics, Thai and Cambodian troubles, Chinese neoliberalism, Japanese economic questions and massive food contamination, and the latest Fukushimapocalyp;se Now!. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: EconoPoliFukuFail


Another eventful day, but especially notable is a global alert that is, if anything optimistic, according to another petroleum geologist of our acquaintance. From The Guardian:

Former BP geologist: peak oil is here and it will ‘break economies’

Industry expert warns of grim future of ‘recession’ driven ‘resource wars’ at University College London lecture

A former British Petroleum (BP) geologist has warned that the age of cheap oil is long gone, bringing with it the danger of “continuous recession” and increased risk of conflict and hunger.

At a lecture on ‘Geohazards’ earlier this month as part of the postgraduate Natural Hazards for Insurers course at University College London (UCL), Dr. Richard G. Miller, who worked for BP from 1985 before retiring in 2008, said that official data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), US Energy Information Administration (EIA), International Monetary Fund (IMF), among other sources, showed that conventional oil had most likely peaked around 2008.

Dr. Miller critiqued the official industry line that global reserves will last 53 years at current rates of consumption, pointing out that “peaking is the result of declining production rates, not declining reserves.” Despite new discoveries and increasing reliance on unconventional oil and gas, 37 countries are already post-peak, and global oil production is declining at about 4.1% per year, or 3.5 million barrels a day (b/d) per year:

“We need new production equal to a new Saudi Arabia every 3 to 4 years to maintain and grow supply… New discoveries have not matched consumption since 1986. We are drawing down on our reserves, even though reserves are apparently climbing every year. Reserves are growing due to better technology in old fields, raising the amount we can recover – but production is still falling at 4.1% p.a. [per annum].”

From Reuters, American optimism:

Confident consumers brighten economic outlook

Consumer sentiment hit a five-month high heading into the end of the year and spending notched its strongest month since the summer, the latest signs of sustained vigor in the economy that are fostering hopes of a strong 2014.

Consumer spending rose in November at the fastest pace since June and an upbeat sentiment reading for December suggests consumers will keep shopping despite tepid income growth.

From Fox5NY [H/T to Undernews], green felt ghost towns?:

The next Detroit? Atlantic City and Las Vegas facing catastrophic collapse

With the closure of the recent Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, rumors of the bankrupt Revel being sold to Hard Rock, more than half of the mortgages in Las Vegas under water, casinos opening up all around the country and online gambling legislation underway in various states, it seems as if the reasons for the very existence of Atlantic City and Las Vegas are in serious jeopardy.

Los Angeles Times with our Christmas story of the day:

Stockton mall brawl over new Air Jordans caught on video

The release of the new Air Jordans tennis shoes — the 11 Gamma Blues — sparked a violent skirmish over the weekend at a mall in Stockton.

Video footage from the melee has gone viral on social media, showing thrown punches, tackles and mayhem.

The fights broke out at the Finish Line shoe store in Stockton’s Weberstown Mall, where people were lined up to get a pair.

The Guardian advises:

Expiration of unemployment benefits threatens US recovery, adviser warns

  • Congress fails to extend programme for long-term jobless
  • Economists concerned over persistently high unemployment

The expiration of benefits for 1.3 million jobless Americans this weekend will exacerbate the worst period of chronic unemployment in post-war history, the chairman of the White House council of economic advisers warns.

The expiring programme, which provides emergency help for the long-term unemployed, was introduced after the banking crash in 2008 to cushion the impact of the recession but is due to end on Saturday. Congress had an opportunity to continue it, but failed to agree on an extension before breaking for Christmas.

Although recent improvements in the economy have boosted overall job growth, economists are concerned that long-term unemployment rates remain higher than at any time between 1948 and the recent financial crisis. Republican critics claim that ending the programme will force recipients to find work, but new research suggests it will have the opposite effect, and will encourage them to drop out of the labour market entirely, according to Jason Furman, chairman council of economic advisers.

From Salon, blockaded:

Activists blockading Fresno sheriff station to protest record deportations

Immigration reform activists are currently attempting to physically block a Fresno sheriff station by tying and locking themselves to a ladder, the latest in a series of civil disobedience protests aimed at forcing President Obama to take executive action against deportations.

“As the movement continues, we feel that if he’s not going to take action, that we’re going to take action in our hands and try to stop these deportations,” Alessandro Negrete, a spokesperson for California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, told Salon Monday. Along with Obama, the activists are targeting Fresno Sheriff Margaret Mims, whom they’re urging to suspend collaboration with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “We demand she recognize that our families belong together,” protester Luis Ojeda told Salon in an e-mailed statement Monday morning. “It’s police and ICE that should be separated.”

Computerworld paints a bleaker future:

Your next job, next year, may be self-employment

Tech industry sees a shift to independent workers — and different kinds of opportunities for IT pros

The tech industry is seeing a shift toward a more independent, contingent IT workforce. And while that trend might not be bad for retiring baby boomer IT professionals, it could mean younger and mid-career workers need to prepare to make a living solo.

About 18% of all IT workers today are self-employed, according to an analysis by Emergent Research, a firm focused on small businesses trends. This independent IT workforce is growing at the rate of about 7% per year, which is faster than the overall growth rate for independent workers generally, at 5.5%.

Canada next, with red ink from CBC News:

Canada’s deficit ticks higher to $13.2B

Ottawa maintains the government remains ‘on track’ to balance the budget in 2015

The Canadian government has spent $13.2 billion more than it has taken in so far this year, a slightly larger deficit than the one for the same period in 2012.

The Department of Finance said Monday the federal deficit was $13.2 billion for the fiscal year up to October. That’s ahead of the $11.9 billion during the same period in 2012.

Exiting the European stage in a cloud of smoke, via EUobserver:

Tobacco lawyer steps down from EU ethics panel

A corporate lawyer with Big Tobacco clients stepped down as head of the European Commission’s ad hoc ethics committee last week, but he says it has nothing to do with conflict of interest.

“I had informed the commission [of the resignation] in advance and this has been done in perfect agreement,” Michel Petite, who works for the Clifford Chance law firm, told this website from Paris on Friday (20 December).

The three-member ethical committee monitors departing commissioners who are looking for new jobs. Set up in 2003, the idea is to make sure outgoing commissioners do not end up working on the same topics they legislated on.

Britain next, with hoarders, via the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

The Housing Crisis

London councils sit on millions meant for building cheaper homes

London councils receive cash payments worth tens of millions of pounds from developers meant specifically for the building of affordable homes. But much of this money remains unspent despite the capital’s worsening housing crisis.

Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals that a total of £161m of so-called commuted sums has not been spent by local authorities. Of this, tens of millions has been lying in London councils’ coffers for over five years.

The £161m affordable housing council cashpile – enough to build over 1,600 affordable homes – has alarmed housing campaigners concerned that local authorities are failing to use the money quickly enough to reduce the capital’s escalating accommodation crisis.

Open Europe delivers appropriate riposte to Prime Minister David Cameron:

Tories’ Polish allies label Cameron’s migration comments as “unacceptable”

Today, even Poland’s largest opposition party Law and Justice (allied with the Conservatives in the European Parliament) stuck the boot in, letting it be known that leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski had personally written to Cameron to complain after the Prime Minister described Labour’s decision not to apply transition controls to the A8 countries in 2004 as a “mistake” and a “shameful dereliction of duty”.

In an interview with Polish Radio today, Law and Justice MP Marcin Mastalerek described Cameron’s comments as “unacceptable”, adding that:

“If Cameron does not revise his view on this subject it will make working together in the European Parliament exceptionally difficult”.

From New Europe, the cost of Tory intolerance:

Study finds that by 2060 taxes will rise and net wages will fall

UK GDP down 11% by reduced immigration

UK GDP will decrease by 11% should David Cameron’s government achieve its goal of reducing immigration from “hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands” an experiment by the country’s National Institute for Economic and Social Research shows.

The findings, published today, come as the Conservatives, the major partner in the British ruling coalition, are engaged in an apparent effort to by-pass the freedom of movement principle and limit both the numbers of EU and non-EU immigrants entering the country.

Ireland next, with kudos from Independent.ie:

Irish state bonds still top of eurozone performance chart

IRISH government bonds are close to marking their second year as the eurozone’s top- performing debt, rewarding investors who trusted this country to successfully exit its bailout deal.

Running close behind, and potentially still with a chance to top the charts in terms of total annual returns at the end of the year, are Spanish bonds. Madrid has lured investors by implementing some painful reforms and getting back to growth.

Irish bonds have returned 11.7pc in the year to date while Spanish bonds have returned 11pc, according to data compiled on Markit’s iBoxx EUR benchmark index, one of the most tracked bond indexes by investors worldwide.

The Irish Times delivers one of the prices, assessed by the government’s Number Two:

Government would have fallen if promissory note deal had not happened, Tanaiste says

Eamon Gilmore says weeks around payment deadline were the lowest of the year for him

The Government would have fallen early this year if it had not secured a deal on the promissory note for the failed Anglo Irish Bank, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has revealed.

In his first public disclosure of how perilous the situation was, the leader of the Labour Party says the two-year Coalition would not have survived if forced to pay some €6 billion to the European Central Bank by the end of March deadline.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Mr Gilmore says the weeks in which there was uncertainty about the payment were the lowest of the year for him and for his Labour ministerial colleagues. The Government was faced with repayments for two years, comprising €3 billion for each year.

Iceland next and thumbs down from the Reykjavík Grapevine:

More Unions Reject New Collective Bargaining Agreement

More labour unions have joined the chorus of those who believe the new collective bargaining agreement does not do enough to raise wages for the lowest paid in Iceland.

Last Saturday, as reported, the Confederation of Icelandic Labour Unions (ASÍ) and the Confederation of Icelandic Employers (SA) signed a new collective bargaining agreement. The new agreement calls for a 5% wage increase for those making the lowest wages, and a 2.8% increase for everyone else. Union proposals for higher wages than this, as well as tax relief for minimum wage earners, was rejected by management.

However, Vísir reports, the new agreement actually does more for higher income earners than for working class people. By the new agreement, a person making 246,000 ISK per month will see 8,000 ISK more per month, before taxes, and no rebates on their taxes. At the same time, another person making 1 million ISK per month will get an extra 28,000 ISK per month, plus 3,500 ISK taken off their monthly taxes.

While The Wire disabuses one of yesterday’s headlines:

Iceland’s ‘Elf Lobby’ Isn’t Real, According to Icelanders

On Sunday the Associated Press published a piece on Iceland’s elf lobby, a group of believers who object to a road being built near Reykjavík. Media outlets on the island nation found fault with the piece.

The Reykjavík Grapevine, another English language paper, said the story had “cobbling together” quotes to paint a picture of elf obsessed pseudo-environmentalists. The Grapevine also collected responses from Iceland’s media. The state-run news channel, RÚV, said the AP story had “numerous misrepresentations,” and implied that one woman quoted by the AP is not a representative source of Icelanders’ view on elves. Then again, the AP introduces her as “a self-proclaimed ‘seer,’ [who] believes she can communicate with the creatures through telepathy.” Alda Sigmundsdóttir of the Iceland Weather Report told The Grapevine that thanks to the AP article a conservation effort “is turned into something trite and superficial.”

Germany next and an episode of class warfare from TheLocal.de:

Hundreds injured in Hamburg riots

Hundreds of police officers and protesters were injured in the worst riots Hamburg has seen for years over the weekend in a mass demonstration over gentrification.

A protest took place on Saturday afternoon over the eviction of squatters from the Rote Flora building in the Schanze district. The building has served as a home for squatters as well as a cultural and political meeting point for left-wing activists for more than 24 years. But the owner of the building, Klausmartin Kretschmer, has demanded that they leave.

This prompted a demonstration which turned violent. Police put the number of protesters at 7,300 and said 4,700 were from the far-left scene, while organizers said more than 10,000 people took part.

According to police, 120 of their officers were injured, 19 of whom badly. They came under attack from stones, bottles and fireworks. Police reacted with water cannon and tear gas. Left-wing groups said 500 protesters were injured.

Hit the road, Jack, with TheLocal.de:

Austria threatens Germany with legal action

Austria is considering legal action against Germany to prevent the Germans introducing a charge on foreign drivers on motorways.

The Austrians claim that making foreigners pay to drive on Germany’s roads is against European Union law.

On Monday the country’s transport minister Doris Bures said: “We will not allow Austrian drivers to be discriminated against.”

Geneva next, with the Swiss baring all from TheLocal.ch:

40 Swiss banks agree to reveal hidden accounts

Swiss banks are scrambling ahead of a December 31st deadline to decide whether to join a US programme aimed at zooming in on lenders that helped Americans dodge taxes.

Around 40 of Switzerland’s some 300 banks have already said publicly they will take part in a US programme set up to allow Swiss financial institutions to avoid US prosecution in exchange for coming clean and possibly paying steep fines.

“What are the others going to do? That is the very big question,” Swiss business lawyer Douglas Hornung told AFP.

French action from Reuters:

French strike keeps a third of oil refining sector shut

A strike at three of Total’s (TOTF.PA) five oil refineries in France held firm for an 11th day on Monday, but the risk of a repeat of fuel shortages seen during a 2010 walkout receded after staff at a fourth plant returned to work on Sunday.

The strikers, led by the CGT union, demand an improved pay offer from Total but the company has refused to reopen talks after other unions approved a deal this month.

The Economic Times wants a piece of the cultural action:

French broadcast watchdog targets YouTube, Dailymotion

France’s CSA broadcasting authority said today it wants to target video-sharing sites like YouTube and Dailymotion to force them to contribute to financing French culture.

In a report, the CSA said the sites fall in the same category as video-on-demand services so would be subject to French cultural protection laws that require distributors to hand over some of their revenues to help subsidise productions.

“These platforms… have for years been developing partnerships with audiovisual publishers and content providers, with which they share revenues from advertising,” the report said.

On to Spain, and culture war with El País:

Abortions fell in 2012 under law PP is set to quash

More permissive legislation did not lead to increase as some sectors forecast

There were some 6,000 fewer abortions in Spain last year under the legislation adopted by the previous Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, which the ruling Popular Party intends to replace with a much stricter law. The figure represents a five-percent decrease in the number of voluntary terminations, contradicting forecasts from conservative sectors that the 2010 law, which allowed a woman to abort freely at any time up to 14 weeks of gestation, would lead to a spike in the number of Spaniards doing just that.

The Health Ministry’s annual report shows that 12 out of every 1,000 women of childbearing age terminated a pregnancy in 2012, a half-percentage point fewer than the previous year. Experts attribute the drop to several factors, including a decrease in the number immigrants in the population and the increased use of contraceptives.

TheLocal.es takes it to the bank:

Bankia rides rollercoaster from ruin to riches

Bankia, after dragging the entire Spanish financial system to the brink of catastrophe, is about to make a remarkable comeback to the top ranks of the Madrid stock market.

On Monday, Bankia will enter the IBEX-35 index of top listed companies, capping a rollercoaster ride for the bank, and the country.

Born in 2010 from the merger of seven troubled savings banks, including Caja Madrid, Bankia listed in July 2011 with great ceremony, touting its “enormous potential” and its likely role in “dynamising” the Spanish economy.

Less than a year later, in May 2012, Spain’s government had to nationalise Bankia and pump in €20 billion ($27 billion) to avert its collapse as the lender drowned in bad loans and revealed ever deeper financial losses.

El País gets disreputably sporty:

Spain’s image gets another kicking

Brussels’ investigation into alleged illegal state aid to top Spanish clubs, and the government’s swift and heated denial, could further damage the nation’s reputation

Last week, the European Commission has launched an investigation into seven Spanish soccer clubs, including Barcelona and Real Madrid, after complaints they accepted illegal state aid. Unsurprisingly, Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo has denied any irregularities, even before an investigation has taken place, while at the same time admitting: “It is obvious that the government will do everything it can to defend our soccer clubs, which are also part of the Spain brand.”

Brussels will look into whether Real Madrid received state aid in property transactions linked to their stadiums, and whether Valencia, Hercules and Elche unlawfully received loans from local authorities.

Iberian departures from the Portugal News:

Emigration settles

Up to 120,000 Portuguese nationals left the country during the past 12 months in search of a brighter future, Government authorities admitted this week.
Emigration settles

Lisbon said this figure is in line with those recorded in 2012, when just under 120,000 Portuguese emigrated.

José Cesário, State Secretary for Portuguese Communities, said he believed this number did not increase in 2013, not because of improving conditions in Portugal, but because jobs in traditional immigration hot spots are starting to dwindle.

The Portugal News occupies, briefly:

‘Jobless’ invade supermarket

A group of about 30 people, who identified themselves as being unemployed, invaded a Pingo Doce supermarket in downtown Lisbon over the weekend in a demonstration called on Facebook to demand free Christmas hampers and requesting to make entries into the store’s complaints’ book.

The protest lasted for two hours, and despite PSP police being summoned to intervene, the action resulted in the store’s closure for two hours on Saturday evening.

Italy next, with TheLocal.it and a reasonable plea:

Renzi calls for two-year benefits for jobless

Matteo Renzi, the new leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, has called for unemployment benefits to be guaranteed for two years.

“I think of the greater flexibility in output, but the state must guarantee benefits for the first two years of unemployment, so that people can maintain a family and a serious system of professional development,” Renzi said in a TV interview on Sunday.

The Democratic Party (PD) leader said a “labour revolution is possible”, adding that the party’s full employment plan would be announced in January.

AGI moves to soothe:

Letta states criticism of president at unacceptable levels

Speaking at his end of year press conference, Prime Minister Letta said, “I wish to be extremely clear and forceful in saying that attacks and criticism are legitimate and that no institutions are exempt, criticism is normal. I do, however, believe that in recent weeks attacks against the head of the state, Giorgio Napolitano, have gone well beyond the acceptable limit. The words used by Beppe Grillo are totally out of place.”

The prime minister also reiterated that Italy has in Napolitano a fundamental reference point, “firm and respectful of the constitution.”

Bloomberg assesses:

Italy Approves ‘Google Tax’ on Internet Companies

Italy’s Parliament today passed a new measure on web advertising, the so-called “Google tax,” which will require Italian companies to purchase their Internet ads from locally registered companies, instead of from units based in havens such as Ireland, Luxembourg and Bermuda.

The tax has stirred controversy, with some lawyers saying it probably violates European Union laws regarding non-discrimination over commercial activity and could be subject to legal challenges.

In July, at the request of the Group of 20 nations, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development proposed a blueprint to fight strategies used by companies such as Google Inc. (GOOG), Apple Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) to shift taxable profits into havens. Italy is the first major European government to pass legislation to combat the problem of moving corporate taxable earnings into havens, which costs Europe and the U.S. over $100 billion a year, since the OECD proposal.

And TheLocal.it confesses:

Enrico Letta admits Italy has ‘social fatigue’

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta admitted on Monday his country was suffering from “social fatigue” but said his government had brought “a stability dividend” worth billions of euros due to lower borrowing costs.

“We have to respond to social fatigue,” he said at an end-of-year press conference, as the country tries to recover from its longest recession since World War II.

“The shock of these years has been very tough. It is hard to recover even after figures improve,” he said.

From AGI, an austerian outcome:

Italian families spend 5,000 euros less than six years ago

Codacons has said that it shares Confindustria’s assessment of the economy. “To speak of the end of the recession just because of a miserable and insignificant rise in GDP predicted for 2014 is, to say the least, offensive to the unemployed and to families who can not make it to the end of the month,” declared the environmental and consumer assocation.

Codacons finds Confindustria’s figures released on Thursday disconcerting. According to these, six years into the economic crisis, families have reduced consumption by seven weeks worth, or 5,037 euros a year, a figure that confirms what Codacons has been saying for a long time. “Until fiscal pressure is reduced on the 50 percent of the poorest, families will not make purchases, businesses will not sell, companies won’t produce and the unemployed will not find work”

After the jump, Grecodecline, Turkish threats, Maltese refinement, Libyan decline, Brazilian woes, Pakistani scofflaws, inflationary worries in India, Malaysia, and China, Fukushimapocalypse Now! and more. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: EconoGrecoEcoFukuFoils


Another imposing compendium with momentous headlines after the jump from Greece, the Ukraine, Latin America, India, China, Japan, environmental woes, and the latest Fukushimapocalypse Now!

We begin at home with a notable intellectual property crime from South China Morning Post:

Prosecutors in US Midwest charge six Chinese with plot to steal seed corn

Court hears some suspects were found on their knees in farmers’ fields stealing ears of corn patented by one of world’s leading crop developers

From Daily Ticker, a windfall:

Denver Post Marijuana Editor: Pot to Generate $40 Million in Tax Revenue

Beginning January 1, residents of Colorado should be able to legally purchase recreational marijuana. Colorado joins Washington as one of the first states to give the drug a greenlight purely for pleasure. Washington is set to begin sales later in 2014.

So what will this mean for Colorado’s businesses and economy? We consulted the Denver Post’s marijuana editor Ricardo Baca (yes, that’s his real job and title).

Quartz covers a significant move:

Upstate New York could get its very own multi-billion dollar, 600-acre Chinese city

The Catskills, in upstate New York, are known for their natural beauty and quaint lifestyle. But they could become a lot flashier, thanks to one businesswoman’s proposal for the area: a multibillion-dollar “China City of America,” complete with an amusement park, mansions, a casino, retail centers, a college, and more.

Creator Sherry Li says the plan would attract domestic and foreign tourists, residents, and investors. Back in May, she introduced her concept to Thompson, a town of 15,000 people 90 miles north of New York City. At that initial council meeting, she spoke of the 3,000 jobs that would be created and emphasized the development’s family attractions—Chinese Zodiac themed areas, buildings and rides that correspond with 16 different Chinese dynasties.

From the Los Angeles Times, infrastructural momentum shifts:

Foes of bullet train are gaining momentum

In recent weeks, the $68.4-billion project has been dealt major blows by a state court judge and federal regulators.

The state’s strategy of tapping $3.2 billion in federal money to begin construction of an ambitious bullet train project may be legally flawed and could put the state in financial jeopardy, key lawmakers say.

After recent legal rulings that bar the use of state money for the project, legislators from both political parties say that even the use of federal funds is questionable and the entire project needs to be reassessed.

From the San Francisco Chronicle, a gesture:

Boy, 8, opens lemonade stand to feed homeless

Lately, 8-year-old Conall Lane of Burlingame has been asking a lot of questions.

A few months ago he saw transients living on the streets of San Francisco with their tattered sleeping bags and shopping carts and wanted to know why they couldn’t go home.

“Because they have no home,” his mother, Olga Lane, told him.

From USA TODAY, others have homes:

Sky’s the limit: New towers for the rich soar in New York

The 432 Park penthouse has sold for $95 million; two duplex apartments at One57, now nearing completion, also are under contract, each for more than $90 million. Even a studio apartment on a lower floor at 432 Park (designed for staff — a maid or butler) costs $1.59 million.

Such prices seem incongruous in a nation that has yet to recover from the 2008 financial crisis; that lost its lead in skyscraper construction decades ago; and that suffered a terrorist attack in 2001 that seemed to dampen enthusiasm for high-rise living.

And these mansion-size apartments with 30-mile views will go unoccupied much or most of the time. Not since the Gilded Age, when Vanderbilts and Astors spent only a few months each summer at their marble Newport “cottages,” will so much expensive space be so little inhabited.

From Newsfeed, a criminal excuse for the one percenter:

The Affluenza Defense: Judge Rules Rich Kid’s Rich Kid-ness Makes Him Not Liable for Deadly Drunk Driving Accident

He got 10 years probation for causing a wreck that devastated three families

For most people, conviction for vehicular manslaughter due to drunk driving warrants a lengthy sentence, but not in the case of Ethan Couch, a wealthy young man from the state of Texas.

The Keller, Tex., 16-year-old has a rare condition that a judge believes is best remedied with anything but dealing with the consequences for causing a DWI wreck that killed four people, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Couch suffers from “affluenza,” according to his lawyers, a term which means that his wealthy parents pretty much let him get away with everything. The defense saved him from a 20-year sentence; State District Judge Jean Boyd bought it at his sentencing on Tuesday and gave Couch probation instead.

Another perspective from the London Daily Mail:

Teenager who was paralyzed when his drunk driving friend killed four pedestrians is suing the driver’s ‘affluent’ family for $20m as doctors never expect him to recover

  • Ethan Couch, 16, faced 20 years behind bars for klling four people in a car crash but walked away with 10 years probation Tuesday
  • Youth pastor Brian Jennings; mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles; and 24-year-old Breanna Mitchell all died in the June 15 accident
  • Sergio Molina, now 16, was in the back of Couch’s pickup truck and survived the accident but is now paralyzed and was in a coma
  • A psychologist called by the defense blamed Couch’s behavior on ‘affluenza’ claiming his parents gave him too many freedoms
  • Molina’s family are now suing Couch and his father’s business- as the car was owned by the company- for $20 million

On to Canada and red ink from CBC News:

Personal debt ratio hits record high of 163.7%

Statistics Canada reported Friday that the level of household credit market debt to disposable income increased to 163.7 per cent in the third quarter from 163.1 per cent in the second quarter.

That means Canadians owe nearly $1.64 for every $1 in disposable income they earn in a year.

Policymakers are fixated on the debt ratio in part because it was at above 160 per cent that households in the United States and Britain ran into trouble about five years ago, contributing to defaults and the financial crisis that triggered the 2008-09 recession.

Aviation Week takes a flyer:

IATA Predicts Highest-Ever Industry Profit

Next year will be the most profitable ever for the airline industry in absolute terms, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts.

IATA upped its profit forecast for 2013 and 2014 based on several factors that are benefitting the industry. The group believes that the industry will post a combined net profit of $19.7 billion in 2014, $3.3 billion higher than the last forecast in September. This year is also going to be better than expected as profits will rise to $12.9 billion, up from the previous prediction of $11.7 billion.

Deutsche Welle shows remorse:

Amnesty International deplores ‘pitiful’ EU response to Syrian refugees

Human rights group Amnesty International has slammed the EU for what it calls a ‘pitiful’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis. It called on the bloc to greatly increase its intake of people fleeing the civil war.

New Europe decides:

Landmark ruling for countries that do not yet allow gay marriage

Gay civil partnerships couples must be granted same benefits as hetero ones Court says

Employees who enter into a civil partnership with a partner of the same sex must be granted the same benefits as those granted to their colleagues upon their marriage, where marriage is not possible for homosexual couples, the European Court of Justice has ruled it was announced on December 13.

Quartz hovers:

Holding pattern

The euro zone isn’t creating jobs, but at least it’s no longer losing them

It could be better, but it could also be worse. That’s the story of the latest data  on employment in the euro zone. In the third quarter, as in the second, there was no change in the number of people with jobs in the region. As a percentage of the population, employment is still lower than it was a year ago, but not by as much as before.

More from Reuters:

Euro zone employment shows no change in third quarter

he number of people with jobs in the euro zone was unchanged for the second consecutive quarter in the three months to September, showing the bloc’s economic recovery has not yet filtered through to the labor market.

But euro zone employment was shrinking more slowly than a year ago on a year-on-year basis — it contracted 0.8 percent in the third quarter against -1.1 in the previous three months, data from the EU’s Eurostat showed on Friday.

Xinhua declines:

EU real agricultural income per worker down by 1.3 pct

The real agricultural income per worker in the 28 member states of EU has decreased by 1.3 percent in 2013, after an increase of 0.3 percent in 2012, according to first estimate issued Friday by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

The decrease is mainly the result of higher increase in real terms in input cost (+0.8 percent) than in the value of the output of the agricultural sector at producer prices (+0.1 percent).

EUbusiness questions:

Europe’s ‘crisis after the crisis’ poses uncertainty in 2014

Is Europe on the verge of a popular uprising? The question was asked by one of Greece’s most respected newspapers as another year of painful austerity drew to a close.

If public anger does explode on the streets, wrote Kathimerini, it will not be provoked by politicians or labour unions, but come from ordinary people who “never imagined themselves doing such a thing”.

Desperation is weighing not just on Greece, but on countries across Europe facing the same paradox: despite the end of the Great Recession, people continue to struggle with the daily reality of unemployment and poverty.

ANA-MPA campaigns:

Tsipras: European Left the only alternative to ‘barbaric neoliberalism’, rise of far right

The European Left is the only alternative to “barbaric neoliberalism” and the rise of the far right, Greek main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, head of the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) party, stressed in his address to the European Left’s 4th Congress in Madrid on Saturday. He predicted that 2014 will be a year of change.

Tsipras, who is to be formally nominated as the EL’s candidate for European Commission president at the end of the two-day congress on Sunday, stressed that the alternatives were clear:

“Either we stay motionless or we move forward. Either we consent to the neoliberal status quo and pretend that the crisis can be resolved by policies that have recycled it, or we proceed to the future with the European Left,” he stressed.

Reuters divides:

Austria’s Freedom aims to enlarge Eurosceptic bloc

A core of six Eurosceptic parties is aiming to win over another four right-wing parties to create a new political group in the EU parliament, the leader of Austria’s Freedom Party said.

In the run up to May’s EU-wide elections to the parliament, momentum is building to create a grouping of nationalist parties which would entitle members to more office space and support staff as well as EU funds for meetings and publicity.

On to England with woe from The Guardian:

Number of homeless in England has risen for 3 years in a row, report says

185,000 a year affected, say Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, because of benefits cuts and a shortage of housing

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Crisis found almost one in 10 people experience homelessness at some point in their life, with one in 50 experiencing it in the last five years.

The London Telegraph inflates:

Tenant plight: rents rise twice as fast as mortgage costs

The average monthly spend on rent will soon overtake the average mortgage cost, official figures suggest, making it even harder to buy

The data, from the Office for National Statistics, looks at the average sums paid for housing in the form of both mortgage and rent. It covers the years 2010 to 2012 and shows that during that period the average rent paid – £121.50 per week rising to £136 per week – rose 12pc.

Mortgage costs rose from £130.80 to £138.60, or a 6pc increase.

The Irish Times has more:

UK property market could go “scalding hot”

Bank of England economist says recovery in housing market is down to improved availability of credit

MercoPress worries:

Bank of England concerned about potential for a UK housing market bubble

Bank of England governor Mark Carney has said he is concerned about the “potential” for a UK housing market bubble, but will tighten lending requirements if necessary. Meanwhile, a survey suggested house prices will continue “surging ahead”.

Deutsche Welle doubts:

UK economy: Is all that glitters really gold?

As people in Britain throng the high streets hunting for Christmas presents, critics of the government’s claims of a solid recovery warn the economic upswing is not as solid as the Chancellor claims.

The London Telegraph bemoans:

Why Britain is in the wrong type of recovery

An accompanying graphic explains why:

BLOG Capu econ

Sky News demands:

Migrants Told ‘Speak English Or No Benefits’

A tougher test is to be introduced for migrants looking to claim benefits amid fears of an influx of Romanians and Bulgarians.

Migrants who cannot speak English well enough to get a job face being denied benefits under a new tougher test, the Work and Pensions Secretary has said.

The Guardian takes us to Ireland and a qualification:

Bailout exit does not mark end of Ireland’s financial crisis, says Noonan

As Ireland prepares to become the first country to exit eurozone bailout, there are still several reasons why its finance minister Michael Noonan thinks the crisis is not over just yet

More from BBC News:

Ireland’s tough economic policies to continue, says finance minister

The Irish Republic’s exit from its bailout rescue is a “milestone” but not the end of the road, the country’s finance minister has said.

Michael Noonan told a press conference marking the exit that Ireland’s deficit and debt was still far too high.

Numerical concern from the Irish Times:

Trade data is weaker than expected

Decline in pharmaceutical exports pushes trade surplus down

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) this morning released weaker than expected trade data, with the trade surplus for the first ten months of the year down by 12.2 per cent, driven by a 6.4 per cent fall in exports.

While Independent.ie builds up:

Builders get biggest boost since 2006

THE construction industry is on course to record a first full calendar year of growth since 2006. New figures show that in the first nine months of the year activity in the sector is up 15.5pc.

However, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) says 2013 is likely to be the worst performing year on record for home building. Home building currently stands at around 7.5pc of what it was at the peak of the boom. Building projects are mainly being undertaken for business purposes.

On to Iceland and a demurral from the Reykjavík Grapevine:

PM Criticises IMF’s Criticism Of Debt Relief Package

Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson has dismissed concerns from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that his debt relief package could stress the economy, saying that the IMF does not have a good track record “in many, if not most, countries”.

“This isn’t really new,” the Prime Minister said. “The IMF has expressed opposition to public debt relief in recent years. For my part, I have many times said I am completely opposed to the politics of the IMF, which has unfortunately not done especially well by homes in many, if not most, countries where the IMF has gotten involved.”

Norway next, and a refusal via TheLocal.no:

Former bishops resign after gay marriage call

Two former bishops have resigned from the body that represents priests in Norway in protest at its decision to call for gay church marriages.

Per Lønning and Fredrik Grønningsæter, the former bishops of Fredrikstad and Bodø respectively, said they had no choice but to resign their membership of the Norwegian Association of Clergy, which represents 95 percent of the country’s priests.

TheLocal.no airs an eccentric view:

‘Legalize polygamy’: Progress youth wing

Youth activists from Norway’s governing Progress Party have voted to push for men and women to be allowed to marry as many partners as they desire, in a move described as “a pretty bad idea” by the party’s national leadership.

“We want a neutral law that says that everyone should be able to marry whoever they want, and how many they want,” Katrine Jakobsen Solberg, head of the Progress Party youth wing in the country of Hedmark, said shortly after voting through the proposal at the group’s annual meeting.

Sweden next, and a puzzler from TheLocal.se:

Foreign-born Swedes join anti-immigration party

Men with roots outside of Sweden are increasingly attracted to the tough migration stance of the minority Sweden Democrat party, with one new Persian-Swedish member telling The Local why he decided to join.

TheLocal.se again, with a note of regret:

Sweden ‘open’ to slave trade reparations

Sweden’s top diplomat in the Caribbean said an effort by a group of countries in the region to seek reparations from former colonial powers for the effects of the Atlantic slave trade should be “taken seriously”.

Earlier this week, a commission by regional governments to look into seeking reparations for “native genocide, the transatlantic slave trade and a racialized system of chattel slavery”, identified Sweden as one of eight European countries that should “address the living legacies of these crimes.”

Germany next with a decision from Reuters:

German SPD members vote to join Merkel despite misgivings

Germany’s Social Democrats voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining a “grand coalition” with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives on Saturday, clearing the way for a new right-left government that will take office on Tuesday.

The SPD said 76 percent of its grassroots members who took part in the unprecedented postal ballot voted to join forces with the conservatives despite initial misgivings. The SPD said 256,643 voted “yes” while 80,921 voted “no”. Some 32,000 ballots were invalid.

Another decision from EUobserver:

Schaeuble to stay on as German finance minister

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s new cabinet will keep Wolfgang Schaeuble as finance minister and see the return of Frank-Walter Steinmeier as foreign minister, according to Bild newspaper. The formal announcement will be made Sunday after the Social Democrats present the results of a party vote on the Grand Coalition.

BBC News trolls:

Porn users targeted by German law firm over copyright

Thousands of Germans are reported to have been sent letters asking them to pay a fee for porn they are alleged to have streamed illegally online.

Law firm Urmann (U+C) is acting on behalf of Swiss copyright protection firm the Archive, and is asking for one-off payments of 250 euros (£210).

On to Spain with El País declining:

Spaniards’ wealth compared to EU partners falls to levels of 1998

New figures reveal that Spain’s GDP per capita figures for 2012 are at 96 percent of the EU average

Spain hit its peak in terms of GDP per capita compared to other EU countries in 2007, when it exceeded the average by six percentage points. The economic crisis, however, from which Spain is yet to emerge, put paid to that prosperity.

El País again, with an excuse:

Economy Ministry official defends merits of wage moderation

Spain’s secretary of state for trade, Jaime García-Legaz, on Thursday said it was a “mistake” to believe that a rise in salaries would guarantee more consumer spending, which would, he argued, come once the labor market recovered.

The Guardian reports with a withdrawal:

Spain’s EuroVegas plan: US casino operator pulls plug

Proposed $30bn mega-resort outside Madrid abandoned after Spanish government rejects some of Las Vegas Sands demands

A US casino operator has abandoned plans to build a $30bn (£18bn) mega-resort, dubbed EuroVegas by the Spanish press, bringing an end to one of Spain’s largest investment projects in recent years.

Las Vegas Sands, led by 80-year-old American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, had proposed a project outside Madrid that was to include 12 hotels, six casinos, a conference centre, golf courses, cinemas, shopping malls, bars and restaurants.

More from El País:

Eurovegas not coming to Madrid after company demands rejected

Casino tycoon Adelson wanted guarantees of financial compensation in the event of future legislative changes

Sources familiar with the situation said that some of the conditions imposed by representatives of the business tycoon Sheldon G. Adelson were laid out at the last minute, and have no precedent in any other of the countries where Adelson owns similar mega-resorts. Providing compensation for future legislative changes, thereby ensuring that the company’s profits do not fall, would have violated European competition laws. But company officials said the conditions were not negotiable.

El País doubly declines:

Home sales continue to decline despite price drops

Buyers finding it hard to secure loans, say experts

From RT, separation anxiety:

Spain ‘won’t have enough tanks’: Catalonia to vote on independence, defy Madrid

The Catalan regional parliament has set November next year for a referendum on the Spanish province’s independence. The government in Madrid blandly said the vote won’t happen, but activists wonder how it might be stopped.

Catalonia’s four pro-independence parties, which hold a majority in the regional parliament, announced Thursday that the rich industrial Spanish province will hold a referendum on whether to gain greater autonomy or even total independence from the country’s central government.

New Europe takes us to Portugal and the upbeat:

Portuguese PM optimistic about bailout exit

Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho on Thursday expressed cautious optimism about the country’s bailout exit, saying that the country was in right conditions to exit the bailout program.

“The effort we’ve taken all this time didn’t indicate that the country will have to find help abroad,” the prime minister told national broadcasters TVi and TSF in a live interview.

Xinhua seeks egress:

Troika say Portugal to exit bailout program next year

Portugal’s international lenders believe that the bailedout country will exit from the bailout program mid next year when it expires, according to Portuguese lawmakers on Friday.

Miguel Frasquilho, spokesperson of Portugal’s ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), said the troika has left Portugal a very “positive message”that the country will exit the program in a “favorable” way and “on the date scheduled” for June 2014.

The Portugal News predicts:

More jobs and more pay?

Projections issued this week by the Bank of Portugal have confirmed an outlook of a gradual recovery of the Portuguese economy for the period 2013 to 2015. The institution caught many observers by surprise when it forecast both increased jobs and a rise in wages paid to workers in the private sector. However, the news has received a mixed reaction. While the Government said the forecast “is good news”, the largest opposition party, the PS, said the outlook “lacked credibility”.

On to Italy and a a dose of the dour from Europe Online:

Standard & Poor’s pours cold water on Italy government growth hopes

Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) on Friday poured cold water on the Italian government’s hopes to lift the country out of recession, saying that the eurozone’s third-largest economy was set to grow at less than half the rate expected by authorities.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta has been touting the news this week that gross domestic product (GDP) stopped shrinking in the third quarter of 2013 as the end of a record-length recession. His grand coalition government expects GDP growth of at least 1 per cent next year.

TheLocal.it declines to pay:

Italy’s government to scrap party funding

Italian prime minister Enrico Letta said on Friday that the coalition government had agreed to scrap public funding for political parties.

The announcement came via his Twitter account ahead of a cabinet meeting on Friday morning.

And from the London Telegraph, another March on Rome?:

‘Pitchforks’ plan Rome march as Italian government survives confidence vote

Italian government wins confidence vote but the real threat comes from the Pitchfork movement, a loose coalition of disaffected Italians calling for the coalition to be toppled

The emergence of the movement only deepened the sense of crisis in Italy, as it faces zero economic growth, 40 per cent youth unemployment, growing poverty, questions over the long-term viability of Mr Letta and surging anger over taxes, austerity and the perks enjoyed by a cosseted political class.

More from The Guardian:

Italy hit by wave of Pitchfork protests as austerity unites disparate groups

Demonstrations point to frustration with traditional politics, with minister warning parliament of a country in ‘spiral of rebellion’

They blocked roads and stopped trains,occupied piazzas, clashed with police and closed shops. From Turin and Milan in the north to Puglia and Sicily in the south, Italy was hit this week by a wave of protests that brought together disparate groups and traditional foes in an angry show of opposition to austerity policies and the government.

TheLocal.it shocks:

Italy is a ‘slave of Jewish bankers’

Andrea Zunino, a spokesman for Pitchfork, the movement behind a wave of anti-austerity protests across Italy this week, said the country is a “now a slave of the bankers, like Rothschild” and that “five of the world’s six richest people are Jews”.

The farmer, from Biella in northern Italy, made the comments during an interview with the daily newspaper, La Repubblica.

Linkiesta sees a parallel:

Fascism at the end of a pitchfork

The “Forconi movement” – meaning pitchfork waving protesters – that has been paralysing Italian cities for days has taken almost everyone by surprise. But their non-partisan protests against austerity and elites hide echoes of the start of Mussolini’s authoritarianism.

Here’s the accompanying editorial cartoon by Mauro Biani:

‘March on Rome’

‘March on Rome’

After the jump, the Greek meltdown, Ukrainian crisis, Moscow anxieties, Indian economic woes, Bangladeshi turmoil, Chinese neoliberalism, Japanese economic anxiety, environmental woes, and the latest Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: EconoEuroGrecoSinoFuku


Whole heckuva lot happenin’, including the deepening of the Greek implosion, the Chinese neoliberal revolution, Ukrainian furor, That troubles, and lots more.

We begin with global stories, starting with this headline from La Via Campesina:

The WTO pushes through bad deal in the final hours; Developed countries and TNCs are the big winners

Hailed as a victory by the WTO for unlocking the deadlocked negotiations, the Bali Package delivers a legally binding agreement on Trade Facilitation that is costly to developing countries and ensures easier access and profits for Transnational Corporations (TNCs). Trade Facilitation, or the easing of customs procedures and borders, clearly benefits only the big TNCs that already control exports and imports. As the 2013 World Trade Report data shows, “80% of US exports are handled by 1% of large exporters, 85% of European exports are in the hands of 10% of big exporters and 81% of exports are concentrated in the top 5 largest exporting firms in developing countries.”

From Kyodo News, a deadline in doubt:

TPP countries to miss year-end deadline, continue talks

Countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks will miss the pledged deadline of reaching a full agreement by year-end, failing to find political solutions on contentious issues, a source familiar with the negotiations said Monday.

Ministers from the 12 TPP countries, who are holding a four-day meeting through Tuesday in Singapore, shared a view Monday that it is impossible to solve all remaining issues during the latest session including tariffs and intellectual property rights, adding the countries will have to continue negotiations next year, the source said.

PCWorld covers the latest bombshell from WikiLeaks:

Wikileaks exposes secret, controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations

Anyone not closely connected to the talks is being kept in the dark about the exact proposals being discussed. The Australian government, for instance, refused to give the Senate access to the secret text of the draft treaty being negotiated in a final round of talks in Singapore, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Monday. The results of the negotiations will only be made public after the treaty has been signed, the Australian government said, according to the paper.

But texts of purported drafts of the treaty have been leaked to the public, most recently on Monday by Wikileaks, which published two documents said to show the state of negotiations after talks held in Salt Lake City from Nov. 19 to 24.

More from The Daily Dot:

WikiLeaks reveals every country’s negotiating positions on the TPP

They certainly show that the U.S. disagrees with other TPP countries on a number of issues. It’s the sole country to refuse to eliminate subsidies for economic exports, for example. It also stands alone in its opinion on a few issues that aren’t fully clear from the document, on subjects are varied as agreeing on a “central reserve bank” in the investment chapter, technical consultations on the “sanitary and phytosanitary” chapter, and how to settle disputes when a country violates the environmental chapter.

Techdirt has the bottom line:

Latest TPP Leaks Reveal That US Is Isolated In Its Desire To Push Through Corporate Exceptionalism

from the good-to-see dept

Wikileaks has posted its latest bombshell here.

MintPress News covers another sorry aspect of the global neoliberal agenda:

Justice Increasingly Distant for Victims of Corporate Abuse

Some countries’ legislatures have proposed laws to shield companies of liability for foreign abuses, or create obstacles to victims seeking redress.

Two years after the international community unanimously agreed to a landmark safeguards framework known as the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, scholars and rights defenders are warning that governments have either failed to implement or gone backward on a key provision of this agreement.

And heading to the U.S., Gawker outFoxes:

Fox News Paid Fired Executive $8 Million to Keep Quiet

Roger Ailes’ secrets command a heavy price. Last week, the New York Times reported that Fox News had reached an out-of-court settlement with Brian Lewis, the former Roger Ailes aide who was abruptly fired in late July. A Fox News executive with knowledge of the negotiations told Gawker that Lewis was paid approximately $8 million in hush money.

While The Hill throws the jobless under the Obama bus:

Durbin: No ultimatum on jobless benefits

The No. 2 Democrat in the Senate and a Republican member of the budget conference committee on Sunday strongly signaled that an emerging budget deal would not include new spending on unemployment benefits.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said that he hopes extended jobless benefits will be part of the budget deal, but Democrats are not, at this point, insisting on it.

From Reuters, them that has got even more:

Household net worth hits record high in third quarter

U.S. household net worth hit a record high in the third quarter as home prices marched higher and the value of stocks and mutual funds surged, boosting the economic outlook.

The Federal Reserve said on Monday net worth increased $1.9 trillion to $77.3 trillion in the third quarter, the highest level since records started in 1945.

Bloomberg covers a bubble diagnostic:

Jumbos Surge 34% With Record ARMs Belying ‘08 Anxiety: Mortgages

Jumbo loans, both adjustable and fixed-rate, increased by 34 percent to $216 billion in the first nine months of this year, with ARMs comprising the majority of the gain, said Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance, a trade publication in Bethesda, Maryland. Cash-rich banks, including Wells Fargo & Co. and Bank of America Corp., are using ARMs as a hedge: the loans’ longer-term payments will move in tandem with the lenders’ expected increases in borrowing costs as interest rates rise, said Greg McBride, a senior analyst at mortgage-data firm Bankrate Inc.

From the London Telegraph, a warning:

World’s biggest investor BlackRock says US rally nearing exhaustion

BlackRock has advised clients to be ready to pull out of global stock markets at any sign of serious trouble

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers a downturn:

McClatchy-Marist Poll: Obama gets worst ratings of his presidency

The American public is unusually pessimistic about the direction of the country and increasingly fed up with Washington gridlock, a sour mood reflected in the worst disapproval ratings for President Barack Obama since he took office nearly five years ago.

People give elected officials unusually low grades – 31 percent rated them “D” and 38 percent gave them an “F,” according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.

CBC News merges:

American Airlines comes out of bankruptcy as No. 1 airline

$11B merger goes ahead despite challenges with consumer groups worried about higher fares

American Airlines emerged from bankruptcy protection Monday as the world’s largest airline after completing its long-awaited $11-billion US merger with US Airways.

From the London Daily Mail, more than liking:

Is ‘sympathize’ the new ‘like’? Facebook boffins come up with new emotion button for sad occasions

Users would select a negative feeling like ‘depressed’ from a set list of emotions when commenting on something. Instead of ‘like’, your status would then be changed to ‘sympathise’ instead.

Bloomberg Businessweek discovers the obvious:

Harvard Study Finds: The Rent Is Way Too High

If you can’t afford to own, you can rent. But what if you can’t afford to rent, either? Millions of Americans are in precisely that situation, according to a study released today by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. The availability of apartments, especially cheaper ones, hasn’t nearly kept up with demand, and the problem has worsened since the 2007-09 recession, the study says.

“In 1960, about one in four renters paid more than 30 percent of income for housing. Today, one in two are cost burdened,” according to the study, America’s Rental Housing.

And MintPress News counts Tea Party casualties to come:

Budget Cuts Could Lead To Surge In Homeless Vets

Officials warn that the number of homeless may soon skyrocket as budget cuts negatively impact federal agencies’ ability to work to end homelessness.

While Oakland Local notes a California austerian toll:

Majority of Oakland Public School libraries are closed, FOPSL hosts community dialogue series to restore them

The nonprofit Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries, or FOPSL, works to fill the funding void for in-school libraries that often is supplemented in more affluent neighborhoods by the PTA.

From Talk to Action, a blast from the past:

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Worked at Group Vilifying Mandela & Supporting Apartheid

On to Canada with CBC News and notable omissions:

TSB says CN Rail failed to report hundreds of derailments, collisions

Authorities first noticed discrepancies in 2005

A continuing CBC News investigation into rail safety has found that Canada’s largest freight carrier CN Rail did not report to authorities more than 1,800 derailments and accidents, including 44 on key rail arteries.

New Europe takes us across the pond:

Extreme poverty: a contemporary plague for the EU

But is homelessness a problem only in the Southern European countries, which have been criticised with contempt by politicians in the rich northern countries?

No. Even the rich northern European countries are struggling to cope with a growing army of poor and homeless.

Reuters notes the obvious:

Analysis: ‘Brussels consensus’ widens gulf with EU electorates

Call it the Brussels Consensus. A system of beliefs rooted in European Union treaties helps explain the growing gulf between policy elites and ordinary citizens that may cause a political earthquake in European Parliament elections next May.

These articles of faith are widely regarded as self-evident truths in the European Commission and the European Central Bank but are often regarded by voters as the cause of their misfortunes rather than the solution to them.

And EurActiv captures corporations acting the way corporations act:

EU losing power struggle with national telecoms bodies

The European Commission will this week issue a rebuttal against the Italian telecoms regulator for its proposed reduction of broadband fees. The move comes after several similar actions aimed at asserting EU powers against national authorities, but it risks proving ineffective.

From Reuters, bankrolling bad bank shutdowns:

Exclusive: Euro zone bailout fund should be allowed to help close failing banks – document

The euro zone’s bailout fund should be allowed to lend to help finance the closure of banks in the bloc, a proposal prepared for euro zone finance ministers showed on Monday.

European countries are seeking to reach a deal before the end of the year on how to close failing lenders, as part of an ambitious plan to create a banking framework and fix broken banks, whose problems have festered since the financial crisis.

And New Europe notes the enshrinement of yet another corporate desideratum:

Council backs unitary patent protection directive

The Justice Ministers of the EU Member States endorsed the unitary patent Directive which will establish the first European patent court (the Unified Patent Court.)

The European Commission announced that the Unified Patent Court will be specialised in solving patent protection issues, avoiding multiple litigation cases in up to 28 different national courts. This will cut costs and lead to swift decisions on the validity or infringement of patents, aiming to ensure unitary patent protection in the Single Market.

On to Britain and grim news from The Independent:

The poorest pay the price for austerity: Workers face biggest fall in living standards since Victorian era

The biggest drop in living standards since the Victorian age is seeing low and middle earners suffering an unprecedented squeeze on their incomes as austerity measures continue to bite, with women and part-time workers disproportionately affected, research reveals today.

The London Telegraph has more banksters behaving badly:

Pensioners are being ‘burgled’ by insurers on annuities

A scathing report calls for regulators to launch an unprecedented investigation into the “excessive” profits insurers are making from consumers dazed and confused by the retirement market

From the ‘Oh, poor baby’ department, via The Independent:

‘I’m experiencing austerity as well’, says Princess Michael of Kent

Princess Michael of Kent has explained how she and her husband have been hit by austerity; meaning they can no longer dine out as it’s “too extravagant”.

The Princess, who is an interior designer and author, told The Times in an interview to promote her debut novel: “I am in very austere economic times too, thank you very much!”

From Want China Times, mammon on a mission:

UK top European destination for Chinese investment

The United Kingdom has become China’s top destination for investments in Europe due to its comparatively looser labor regulations and market liberalisation.

British Prime Minister David Cameron concluded a three-day trip to China on Dec. 4, leading a group of representatives from over 130 UK businesses, with deals signed that reached ?6 billion (US$9.8 billion).

Sky News takes us to Scotland and a warning:

Independent Scots ‘Will Pay More For Food’

Supermarket bosses say the cost of doing business is higher in Scotland and they fear that burden will rise if it leaves the UK.

And the Irish Times brings us the most outrageous austerian measure yet:

Batteries not included: patients asked to bring AAs for monitors

Blood pressure machines require two batteries

It was confirmed last week that Ennis General Hospital in Co Clare had been telling patients who required to be fitted with mobile blood pressure monitors, to bring two AA batteries. The hospital has since stopped the practice under instruction from the HSE.

On to Sweden and a schooling call from TheLocal.se:

Swedes’ support for nationalization high as school choice debate rages

Over 60 percent of Swedes think schools should once again be controlled by the state amid a debate about school choice following Sweden’s poor showing in the OECD’s Pisa rankings.

Sweden’s schools are currently run at the munipality level, meaning that each of the country’s 290 municipalities  take responsibility for everything from pre-school to adult education. Each municipality funds the schooling through local tax revenues, with the help of a general government grant.

DutchNews.nl notes a modest shift:

Central bank sees 0.5% growth in 2014, spending power to rise in 2015

The Dutch economy will return to modest growth of 0.5% next year after contracting 1% in 2013, the Dutch central bank said on Monday.

Growth will reach 1% by 2015, when employment will also rise for the first time since 2011, the bank said in its latest half-yearly statement.

DutchNews.nl again, this time with deception:

Graduates often keep student loan quiet in mortgage applications

Four out of 10 graduates do not tell their bank they have an unpaid student loan when applying for a mortgage, according to research by debt registration agency BKR.

Switzerland next, with a handover demand via TheLocal.ch:

Swiss banks urged to hand records to US

Three hundred or so Swiss banks had until the end of Monday to decide whether to hand over records to Washington, in a bid to skirt US legal action for assisting American tax dodgers.

“I can confirm that the deadline is this evening, at the end of the business day,” a spokesman for Swiss financial market regulator FINMA, told AFP, refusing to say how many banks had already signed up to take part in the programme.

Numbers tell the tale, via TheLocal.ch:

Expats continue hardest hit as jobless rate grows

The overall jobless rate increased in November for the second consecutive month, rising to 3.2 percent from 3.1 percent in October and the same period a year earlier, the state secretariat for economic affairs (Seco) said.

The unemployment level among foreigners jumped to 6.2 percent, up from 5.8 percent in October and 5.6 percent in September, Seco said. The rate among Swiss citizens inched up to 2.3 percent from 2.2 percent.

From TheLocal.de, a German uptick:

Record German exports exceed €99 billion

Germany exported more than €99 billion worth of goods in October, a record high – but its trade surplus shrank as imports rose faster than exports.

Federal statistics office Destatis said in a statement on Monday that exports grew by 0.6 percent compared to October 2012 to reach €99.1 billion. This pushed the figure above the previous record set in March 2012.

Although imports were down by 1.6 percent over the figure from last October, they have accelerated hugely since then, and reached a value of €81.2 billion this October – an increase of 2.9 percent since a month previously.

Contrarian indications from Europe Online:

German industrial output slows at onset of fourth quarter

German industrial output was down at the start of the fourth quarter of 2013, with a 1.2-per-cent drop recorded for the month of October, data released Monday showed.

The industrial output data comes alongside a 1.9-per-cent drop in energy production, as well as a 1.7-per-cent decrease in the construction sector. Investment goods production dropped by 3 per cent in October, while consumer goods production contracted by 0.8 per cent.

On to France and some optimism from BBC News:

Bank of France ups quarterly growth forecast

President Francois Hollande French President Francois Hollande’s government predicted economic growth of at least 0.1% during 2013

The French economy will grow by 0.5% in the final three months of the year, said the country’s central bank.

Rising industrial production prompted the Bank of France to raise its quarterly growth forecast from 0.4%.

TheLocal.fr delivers the ax:

Airbus-maker EADS set to cut 1,000 French jobs

Some 1,000 jobs are set to to be lost in France, after European aerospace giant and the maker of Airbus aircraft, EADS announced on Monday that it would be cutting some 5,800 European posts from its defence and space division.

TheLocal.fr again, this time with a grim depiction:

‘Paris is becoming like the Bronx’: ex-top cop

Just months before mayoral elections in Paris, focus has turned to the city’s crime rate, after a former French police chief-turned-election candidate caused a stir by comparing the French capital to the notorious New York borough of the Bronx.

Frédéric Péchenard, the former chief of France’s national police, and candidate for mayor of the 17th arrondissement of Paris, has caused controversy with comments comparing crime in the French capital with that of the New York borough of the Bronx, with its reputation – outdated according to some – of being a hotbed of violent crime.

On to Spain and an austerian mantra via TheLocal.es:

‘Falling wages are saving Spanish jobs’

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Sunday that falling wages had allowed Spain, which is grappling with an unemployment rate of nearly 26 percent, to save jobs.

Lower wages were “one of the keys” to overcome the economic crisis, he said in an interview with several European newspapers including Spain’s left-leaning El Pais daily.

The New York Times covers a sale:

Spanish ‘Ghost Airport’ Goes on the Block

A barely used Spanish airport that cost some 1.1 billion euros ($1.5 billion) to build and became a symbol of the country’s wasteful spending ahead of an economic downturn has gone on sale for a minimum price of 100 million euros.

Ciudad Real’s Central airport, about 235 kilometers (150 miles) south of Madrid, opened in 2008. The airport’s operator went bankrupt last year after it failed to draw enough traffic, becoming known as one of the country’s “ghost airports.”

While El País finds banksters bemoaning:

International offensive launched against Madrid over renewable energy cutbacks

Two major investment funds take Spanish government’s decision to cut subsidies to World Bank’s arbitration agency

Investors may sue Spain over green energy subsidy cuts

From thinkSPAIN, a closure of the commons contested:

Socialists’ appeal over Canal Nou shutdown accepted by Constitutional Court

SPAIN’S Constitutional Court has accepted an appeal from the socialist party over the closure of Radio Televisión Valenciana (RTVV) which led to the region’s Channel 9 (Canal Nou) being taken off air.

The shutdown means several thousand reporters and support workers will be on the dole from February, although they will be paid up to then ‘for doing nothing’, say staff.

TheLocal.es blows smoke:

Deadly pollution ‘a threat’ to Spanish cities

The health risks of long-term exposure to air pollution are more serious than previously thought, a high-profile new study shows. The Local spoke to one of the researchers to find out what this means for Spain.

On to Portugal with another Chinese play from the Portugal News:

Renewables firm sells 49% stake to China Three Gorges

EDP Renováveis announced Friday that it had agreed the terms of sale of a 49% stake in the ENEOP – Elétricas de Portugal consortium with China Three Gorges, a key shareholder in Portugal’s EDP electricity generating company.
Renewables firm sells 49% stake to China Three Gorges

In a statement sent to the CMVM stock market authorities, EDP Renováveis said that the sale for an undisclosed amount fell under the auspices of the deal that saw China Three Gorges acquire its stake in EDP as the government sold off its remaining stake in the once state owned firm.

From the Portugal News again, this time with less drive:

Tolls down a quarter since 2008

Portugal’s largest motorway operator, Brisa, has said it had lost about a quarter of its traffic over the past five years, but there were signs that business was slowly picking up again in 2013.

On to Italy with The Independent and a search for an analogue:

Is this Italy’s Tony Blair? Meet Matteo Renzi, the rising star of Italian politics

Italy’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD) is celebrating after rising star Matteo Renzi was crowned as its secretary at the party primaries on Sunday night with a crushing 68 per cent of the vote.

The big question now is whether the charismatic, 38-year-old “post ideologue” can live up to his reputation as the new Tony Blair and finally give Italy’s centre-left – and its political system – the credibility it’s been missing for decades.

More from TheLocal.it:

Renzi leads youthful overhaul of centre-left

The new head of Italy’s Democratic Party on Monday signalled his determination to push for change as he unveiled his leadership team for the centre-left party, a key force in the coalition government.

euronews covers one protest:

Italy: ‘Pitchfork protesters’ disrupt road and rail travel in protest at state of economy

Thousands of farmers, lorry drivers, pensioners and unemployed people have taken to the streets in Italy as part of a series of protests against the government and the European Union.

Demonstrators stopped train services by walking on the tracks while striking lorry drivers disrupted traffic by driving slowly and blocking roads.

And TheLocal.it covers another:

Police clash with anti-tax protesters in Turin

Stone-throwing protesters clashed with police in the northern Italian city of Turin on Monday, in one of dozens of rallies called to demand tax cuts for small businesses, media reported.

After the jump, Greek crisis intensifies, Ukrainian turmoil, Russian media crackdown, a Venezuelan victory, Indian upsets, Thai elections, Chinese neoliberalism deepens, Jpanaese anxieties, and the latest edition of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: EconoEuroGrecoFuku


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:

BLOG Euro mfctr

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
capital.

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

Chart of the day: Costa Rican bans on GMOs


From Tico Times, which reports that with the just-passed ban on genetically modified crops in the township of Siquirres, GMOs have been banned by municipalities comprising 81 percent of Costa Rican land:

BLOG CR GMOs

Headlines of the day II: EconoGrecoSinoFuku


Radiation leaks hit a new deadly high at Fukushima, with the latest site outside the building housing stricken Reactor Four hot enough to kill after a 20-minute exposure.

Lots to cover, so straight ahead we roll. . .

We open with a statement of the obvious via Al Jazeera America:

World Bank president: Universal health coverage key for economic growth

Jim Yong Kim calls open-access health care ‘one of the best things’ to spur immediate, long-term economic growth

From the Japan Times, pressing hard for another one of those accords decried by Pope Francis:

TPP crunchtime talks may find deal elusive

As the proposed deadline for sealing a deal by year’s end looms, ministers from 12 countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks are tasked with making tough political decisions as they meet in Singapore from Saturday, with hard negotiations on outstanding issues lying ahead.

The four-day meeting is expected to be the last opportunity for Japan, the United States and 10 other countries bordering the Pacific Ocean to try to realize the ambitious economic initiative — encompassing roughly one-third of all world trade — on schedule.

Techdirt notes an anomaly:

European Commission Desperately Tries To Justify Inclusion Of Corporate Sovereignty In TAFTA/TTIP; Fails Dismally

from the is-that-really-the-best-you’ve-got? dept

And from the Economic Times, a done deal:

WTO reaches its first ever trade deal at Bali meeting

The World Trade Organization reached its first ever trade reform deal on Saturday to the roar of approval from nearly 160 ministers who had gathered on the Indonesian island of Bali to decide on the make-or-break agreement that could add $1 trillion to the global economy.

The approval came after Cuba dropped a last-gasp threat to veto the package of measures.

On to the U.S., and widely hailed numbers from the Los Angeles Times:

Economy adds 203,000 jobs in November; unemployment rate drops to 7%

The U.S. economy added a surprisingly strong 203,000 net new jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 7%, the lowest level in five years, the Labor Department said Friday.

The November figure, which beat analyst expectations of about 180,000 new jobs, along with slight revisions to the previous two months’ figures mean the economy has added an average of 204,000 jobs over the past four months.

CNBC catches one skeleton in the numeric closet:

Yes, more jobs, but wage growth holds up recovery

The job market may be gradually improving, but the gains aren’t showing up in worker’s paychecks.

And the resulting belt-tightening continues to weigh on an economy heavily dependent on consumer spending.

From The Guardian, the looters prepare:

State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax

  • State Policy Network co-ordinating plans across 34 US states
  • Strategy to ‘release residents from government dependency’
  • Revelations come amid growing scrutiny of tax-exempt charities

The strategy for the state-level organisations, which describe themselves as “free-market thinktanks”, includes proposals from six different states for cuts in public sector pensions, campaigns to reduce the wages of government workers and eliminate income taxes, school voucher schemes to counter public education, opposition to Medicaid, and a campaign against regional efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

China Daily USA covers a rising demographic [and see the Chart of the day]:

Asian Americans’ buying power is still on the rise

Asian American households outspend median US households by an average of 19 percent, and earn 28 percent more on average than the US median income, according to a consumer report released by Nielsen this week. As early adopters of new technologies, they also lead in high-speed Internet access, mobile connectivity, use of social media and in the number of internet pages viewed each month.

From Al Jazeera America, business as usual along the political divide:

Democrats press to extend emergency unemployment program

Congressional Republicans have indicated that they are willing to let the benefits expire on Dec. 28, which would immediately cut off aid to 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans, according to the White House.

And from The Hill, what happened to that guy preaching about growing inequality in the U.S.?:

White House: Obama won’t insist on jobless aid in budget deal

The White House will not insist that an emerging budget deal include an extension of the unemployment benefits program set to expire at the end of the year, press secretary Jay Carney said on Friday.

Carney said that it would be “terrible to tell more than a million families across the country just a few days after Christmas that they’re out of benefits,” but that the White House was agnostic on how the extension happened.

But by all means, pay the folks in the military/industrial complex. From Bloomberg:

U.S. Bomber Planes at $81 Billion Seen 47% More Than Plan

The U.S. Air Force’s new long-range bomber may cost as much as $81 billion for the 100 planes planned, 47 percent more than the $55 billion sticker price the service has listed.

The Air Force based its estimate of $550 million per plane on the value of the dollar in 2010, and it represents only the production costs for an aircraft that won’t be deployed for at least 10 years. Including research and development, the bomber would cost as much as $810 million apiece in this year’s dollars, according to calculations by three defense analysts.

From Reuters, cui bono?:

Special Report: How Fed policy enriches private equity, if not workers

The Fed’s “real intention was capital investment would be stimulated, jobs would be created, incomes of the 99 percent would rise,” says Martin Fridson, a high-yield expert and chief executive of FridsonVision LLC, a financial research firm in New York. But, he adds, it’s “not clear how effective that has really been. It’s certainly clear that those who are wealthy enough to own a substantial amount of assets have been made even wealthier by the Fed policy.”

Across the Atlantic with New Europe and debt collectors unleashed:

Council agrees on cross-border recovery of debts

The European Commission welcomed the agreement by the EU Justice Ministers to adopt the proposal to help businesses and individuals on the cross-border recovery of debts.

On 6 December, the Commission said that the proposal on the cross-border recovery of debts will give creditors more certainty about recovering their debt, thereby increasing confidence in trading within the EU’s single market. The proposal is part of the Commission’s “justice for growth” agenda, which seeks to harness the potential of the EU’s common area of justice for trade and growth.

Britain next, with bad news for the working class from The Independent:

Britain’s poor ‘will die before they retire’ if pension reforms aren’t matched by health improvements

Stark disparity in healthy life expectancy ‘must be tackled’ for pension age  to be raised fairly

Thousands of Britain’s poorest people “will be dead before they can retire” if sweeping pension reforms are not matched by urgent action on health inequalities between rich and poor, experts have said.

Plans to raise the basic state pension age to 70 for people currently in their twenties were laid out in the George Osborne’s Autumn Statement this week. But with male life expectancy at birth as low as 66 in some of the most deprived parts of the country, public health experts have warned that a “one size fits all” pension age risks condemning many to a life without retirement.

From the London Telegraph, a bubblin’ away:

House prices across the UK are rising at nearly ten times average earnings

Halifax reveals house price inflation running at 7.7pc as low interest rates and Government schemes trigger a £37-a-day jump over past year

Ireland next, with a warning from the Independent.ie:

Central Bank warns of recovery challenges despite positive developments

THE pace and effectiveness of dealing with the bad loans in the banks could hit domestic demand and stymie the ability of the economy to recover, the Central Bank has warned.

And it said the level of distress among small and medium borrowers is “particularly acute” endangering not only the profitability of the banking sector but has far reaching consequences for the viability of the businesses and jobs they generate.

On to Holland with grim news from DutchNews.nl:

Half of the unemployed over-55s don’t find another job

Many of the over-55s who lose their jobs are still without paid work once their unemployment benefits dry up, according to research by the state job centre organisation UWV.

The UWV looked at how many people had managed to find a job after the jobless benefits – which run for a maximum three years – had stopped, the Volkskrant said.

Almost 75% of the total jobless pool had found new employment, but youngsters are far more likely to succeed than older workers, the research showed.

Germany next, with the usual from Independent.ie:

Bundesbank raises growth outlook for Germany

GERMANY’S Bundesbank has hiked its growth projections for the country for this year and next year, highlighting the diverging fortunes of the Eurozone’s economies.

The bank said it expects the Eurozone’s biggest economy to grow 0.5pc this year and 1.7pc next year compared with June-forecasts of 0.3 pc and 1.5pc  respectively.

France next, and a confused picture from ANSAmed:

Unemployment booms in France but 1 in 3 works off the books

10.5% jobless, highest rate in 15 years

The latest data released by statistics’ institute Insee showed unemployment registered a slight increase in the third quarter of this year to 10.5% – the highest level in 15 years though below record rates registered in 1994 and 1997 (10.8%). A first, positive sign was also recorded as far as youth unemployment is concerned as it remained stable at 24.5% in the same period. But the survey also found that illegal work has boomed from 13% to 33% in five years.

On to Spain, with banking news from El País:

Broader powers for central bank in the works

Draft law hikes fines against bankers who break the rules

In an effort to prevent another national financial catastrophe, the government is to pass legislation giving the Bank of Spain and the National Securities Commission (CNMV) broader powers to prevent bank failures and fight illegal market speculation, sources said Thursday.

A denial from EUobserver:

Merkel denies pressuring Spain on bailout

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has “no memory” of allegedly pressuring Spain on taking a bailout in 2011, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Friday (6 December).

Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Rodriguez Zapatero last week published a book called “The Dilemma” about his last years in office, recalling how Merkel, as well as the heads of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approached him during 2010-2011 to ask his country to take a bailout.

And from TheLocal.es, failed hopes:

Bankruptcy epidemic slays Spain’s businesses

Washing machines, fish fingers and football teams: not even household names are safe from a Spanish bankruptcy epidemic ravaging big and small businesses alike.

The number of companies filing for bankruptcy in Spain rose from 1,147 in 2007, the year before Spain’s real estate bubble disastrously burst, to nearly 6,200 in 2009, according to the National Statistics Institute.

It topped 9,000 in 2012 and “I think that in 2013 we are going to get close to 10,000,” said Carlos Sancho, a lawyer and expert in financial management at IESE Business School.

New Europe takes us to Portugal and a protest:

Portugese teachers protest

Hundreds of teachers protested outside Portugal’s parliament building on Thursday against a new controversial exam for teachers imposed by the Portuguese government.

The protestors, all dressed in black, called for Education Minister Nuno Crato to step down while holding banners that read “You’ve failed.”

Italy next, and an exodus from TheLocal.it:

Over 100,000 people fled Italy in 2012

106,000 people left Italy in 2012 in search of work elsewhere, according to the latest figures from the Censis Institute.

In a report on Friday, Censis said the number of people leaving had jumped 115 percent since 2002, when 50,000 left the country.

ANSAmed covers another dressing down:

EC berates Italy on debt again after Letta clash

Rehn’s office says supplementary budget adjustment needed

The office of European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said Thursday that Italy must do more to reduce its massive public debt, returning to an issue that has caused considerable tension between the European Commission and Rome in recent weeks.

TheLocal.it covers putt-putts:

Italians reduce scooter rides in bid to save cash

Italy’s economic crisis has cut the spending power of 69 percent of households and forced a growing number of young people to leave the country, a study by the Censis institute released on Friday found.

“Around 69 percent of families indicated a reduction or aggravation of their spending power,” said the report, which surveyed 1,200 families across Italy.

The study said 53 percent of respondents said they had reduced car or scooter travel to save on fuel, 68 percent had cut down on cinema and entertainment and 45 percent now spend less on restaurants.

While ANSAmed has more grim numbers:

One in 4 Italian households ‘struggling to pay bills’

Country ‘profoundly weakened’ by economic crisis

The study said “much of the country” was in a situation of “fragility”, with economic uncertainty causing “worry and unease” in many families, as Italy struggles to emerge from its longest recession in over two decades. It added that falling consumer spending was a symptom of a country that was “under stress”, “lost” and “profoundly weakened” by the economic crisis that started five years ago.

After the jump, Greek meltdown intensifies, Ukrainian conflict, an Indian WTO win, more Chinese neoliberal moves, Japanese Reaganomics, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

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/Eco/Fukububble


The impetus behind these headline collections is our personal drive to understand currents at work in this world we share, and to share our understandings with whoever cares to pay heed.

That’s about as neat a way of defining the journalist-by-avocation, a deeply endangered species in this austerity-dominated environment.

We were driven to try to understand by the circumstances of our childhood, and we are possessed of both a certain set of skills and a persistence driven by an imperative that has, too often, run afoul of forces that prevail in a once significantly more secure and economically rewarding.

One of the great joys of the newsroom in those analog days where folks got modestly but comfortably paid to spend their das turning over rocks was the access to an ongoing flow of uo-to-the-minute news — provided first by noisy impact printers fueled by ink ribbons impressing letters on rolls of paper.

We spent good portions of our days in “wirerooms,” reading the news as keys hammered out the letters on constantly fed newsprint.

Computers came next, with newswires feeding into newsroom mainframes and out to terminals. Between stories, green character danced on blackbackgrounds on cathode ray tubes as you searched the queues for the latest works of wire service reporters and member media.

With a wide range of input, our own experience from years of digging, and a relentless curiosity, we have been working a long list of global news sources, seeking threads to weave together in a sort of linear gestalt in which we discern patterns for your consideration.

On with today’s compendium of things economic, political, and environmental, starting with a telling headline from Spiegel:

Feeding the Bubble: Is the Next Crash Brewing?

Twitter executives and founders at the New York Stock Exchange on Nov. 7 clap as their company launches its initial public offering.

Central banks around the world are pumping trillions into the economy. The goal is to stimulate growth, but their actions are also driving up prices in the real estate and equities markets. The question is no longer whether there will be a crash, but when.

Another telling sign of bubbledom from Business Insider:

Institutions Have Been Dumping Billions Of Dollars Of Stocks All Year, But Now The Selling Is Really Accelerating

Ditto, from SINA English:

Global housing market returns to bubble territory

It is widely agreed that a series of collapsing housing market bubbles triggered the global financial crisis, along with the severe recession that followed. While the US is the best-known case, a combination of lax regulation and supervision of banks and low policy interest rates fueled similar bubbles in the UK, Spain, Ireland, Iceland, and Dubai.

Now, five years later, signs of frothiness, if not outright bubbles, are reappearing in housing markets in Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and, back for an encore, the UK (well, London). In emerging markets, bubbles are appearing in Singapore, China, and Israel, and in major urban centers in Turkey, India, Indonesia, and Brazil.

From the New York Times, reconsidering another form of austerity:

Seeing the Toll, Schools Revise Zero Tolerance

Faced with mounting evidence that get-tough policies in schools are leading to arrest records, low academic achievement and high dropout rates that especially affect minority students, cities and school districts around the country are rethinking their approach to minor offenses.

From the New York Times, unhealthy inflation:

As Hospital Prices Soar, a Single Stitch Tops $500

A day spent as an inpatient at an American hospital costs on average more than $4,000, five times the charge in many other developed countries, according to the International Federation of Health Plans, a global network of health insurance industries. The most expensive hospitals charge more than $12,500 a day. And at many of them, including California Pacific Medical Center, emergency rooms are profit centers. That is why one of the simplest and oldest medical procedures — closing a wound with a needle and thread — typically leads to bills of at least $1,500 and often much more.

From NBC News, have we got a deal for you:

Wal-Mart’s hottest Black Friday seller was a 29-cent towel

The must-have item at Wal-Mart on “Black Friday” wasn’t a mega TV, sleek tablet or the latest giggling Elmo. It was towels.

It’s a sign of the times that consumers battered by a recovery that has boosted corporate profits but has done little to raise their own bottom lines are reduced to scrapping over basic bathroom supplies.

From the Contributor Network, corporate parasitism:

Fast Food Giants Starve Workers’ Wages, Gorge on Taxpayers

As the nation’s largest fast food giants continue to push back against the ongoing fight for better wages by fast food workers across the country, a report released Monday reveals a world in which those companies are “pocketing massive taxpayer subsidies” as they feed their CEOs’ growing paychecks.

According to the report, Fast Food CEOs Rake in Taxpayer-Subsidized Pay, published by the Institute for Policy Studies, current tax code allows corporations such as Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, and McDonald’s “to deduct unlimited amounts from their income taxes for the cost of stock options, certain stock grants, and other forms of so-called ‘performance pay’ for top executives,” meaning that the more corporations pay their top earners, the less they pay in federal taxes.

From Al Jazeera America, stirrings in the new underclass:

Workers of the (finance) world unite – and unionize

New effort to organize low-wage bank workers in US targets entire industry

Gettin’ by with Bloomberg:

Americans Due to Replace Oldest Goods Since JFK; Jewelry? FDR

Americans have been holding on to their wobbly washing machines and sagging sofas even longer than their grandparents did 50 years ago, setting the stage for a rebound in consumer spending as old household goods wear out.

The average age of consumer durable goods — long-lasting items such as furniture, appliances and computers — is the highest since 1962, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis dating to 1925. Among things Americans are keeping for the longest time: jewelry and wristwatches and home and garden tools like lawnmowers.

From The Guardian, what we suspect is more a temporary setback than signs of defeat [think rebranding]:

ALEC facing funding crisis from donor exodus in wake of Trayvon Martin row

  • Rightwing lobby group appealing to major donors to return
  • Internal documents reveal so-called ‘Prodigal Son Project’
  • Network lost almost 400 state legislators over past two years

CNBC covers a candidate:

Detroit eligible for bankruptcy protection: Judge

A federal judge presiding over Detroit’s bankruptcy hearing said on Tuesday the city is eligible for bankruptcy protection.

The long-awaited decision will pit the city’s finance officials against its unions, creditors and retirees, ahead of what are expected to be steep cuts in pensions, as well as fire sales of treasured assets. The ruling is expected to be appealed.

From Reuters, another diagnosis:

Companies, academics say budget cuts threaten U.S. competitiveness

Mandatory U.S. budget cuts known as sequestration are resulting in job losses across the country and threaten to undermine U.S. competitiveness in the global economy, industry executives and academics said on Monday, urging Congress to reverse the cuts.

The Guardian covers a related cause for concern:

‘A picture of educational stagnation’: study finds US teen students lagging

US students scored at international average in science and reading and far below in math, while Asian nations dominated

Al Jazeera America covers another austerian cost:

Arizona’s privatized prison health care under fire after deaths

A year and a half ago, the state handed over prison healthcare to a private, for-profit company. Legislators who supported the privatization promised that it would save taxpayers money, while maintaining adequate levels of care for inmates. At least 27 other states have also privatized prison health care, rewarding private companies for keeping costs down.

But there are studies showing prisoners could be suffering as a result. An October report from the American Friends Services Committee in Arizona found that since the state privatized its prison health care, medical spending in prisons dropped by $30 million and staffing levels plummeted. It also found a sharp spike in the number of inmate deaths. In the first eight months of 2013, 50 people died in Arizona Department of Corrections custody, compared with 37 deaths in the previous two years combined.

Heading north of the border with Boing Boing and another corporate power-and-wealth grab:

ACTA about to be quietly written into Canadian law

Widespread, global protests killed ACTA, the secretive, over-reaching “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement,” which imposed brutal copyright rules on its signatories. But now, the Canadian Conservatives have introduced Bill C-8, which turns ACTA’s provisions into Canadian law, and they’re fast-tracking it through with little debate or public input.

From BBC News, UC Berkeley’s corporate sponsor recruits a powerful ally:

BP gets UK government support over US contracts ban

The UK government has intervened in support of BP over a US ban on the oil major seeking federal contracts. In a court filing lodged as part of BP’s appeal against the ban, the document says the move could be “excessive” and “destabilising”.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) barred BP from new contracts last year, after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster in which 11 workers died.

Quartz covers a parallel regional development:

How US trade negotiators are secretly changing intellectual-property law

If someone buys a book in Thailand, should she be able to sell it to a used bookstore—or anyone else—in the US? The US Supreme Court says yes. But US trade negotiators say no, and they’re working to make sure the same prohibition would apply around the world.

From EurActiv fears of another corporate power-and-wealth grab in progress:

NGOs fear TTIP clauses will affect EU chemicals regulation

Last week, Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could include Investor-State Dispute Settlement procedures which will not allow foreign investors to go to court in the US. Green Party observers have called the statement ‘astonishing’.

Speaking at a committee meeting in the European Parliament, de Gucht reportedly promised to check whether such settlements would allow lawsuits over health sector privatisations.

On to Europe, starting with an alert from ANSAmed:

Austerity poses a risk to citizen rights, Council of Europe

The austerity measures brought in by European governments are threatening the economic, social, political and civil rights of its citizens, said Council of Europe human rights commissioner Nils Muiznieks

From EUbusiness, another alert:

Commissioner warns of far-right surge at May polls

European Union Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem voiced concern Tuesday that the EU Parliament will shift toward the far right in elections set for May.

While Reuters covers a fine time for Banksters Behaving Badly:

EU readies multi-million euro benchmark rigging fines: sources

EU antitrust regulators will impose record multi-million euro fines on six banks including Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland on Wednesday for rigging key interest rate benchmarks, sources said.

British news begins with a headline from Global Times:

Cameron backs free trade

British Prime Minister David Cameron commenced a three-day visit to China on Monday with a 100-strong business delegation, the largest of its kind, and pledged to lay the groundwork for a free trade deal between Beijing and the European Union.

Cameron said the scale of the business delegation “mirrors the scale of the ambition that we have for the British-China partnership.”

While South China Morning Post covers the reception give Tory grandiosity:

Tiny old Britain? It’s only good for study and travel, says China’s state media

As British Prime Minister David Cameron launched a charm offensive at Shanghai Jiao Tong University yesterday, a state-owned newspaper derided the United Kingdom as merely a destination for Chinese students and tourists.

From The Guardian, British bubbling:

Bank of England committee flags up housing market concerns

Financial policy committee ‘concerned about potential risks to financial stability’ from possible housing bubble

From BBC News, selling off the commons to fix the commons:

UK government’s infrastructure spending plan unveiled

A plan to boost infrastructure spending in the UK over the next two decades is being unveiled by the government. The National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) includes the government selling off its 40% stake in the Eurostar rail service.

In all, about £375bn of investment in energy, transport, communications, and water projects is planned.

An Irish item from Independent.ie:

Squeeze on household finances hits consumer confidence

Consumer sentiment fell to 71 in November from 76.2 in October, according to the KBC Bank/ESRI index.

Austin Hughes of KBC Bank said the fall indicated that the recovery in the economy was still fragile.

On to the Netherlands, with anti-Roma xenophobia from EUobserver:

Dutch against opening up to Romanians and Bulgarians

Eighty percent of Dutch people are against lifting restrictions on 1 January to allow Romanians and Bulgarians to come and work in the Netherlands. The poll of 1,800 people, carried out by Maurice de Hond, found that among supporters of the PVV – an anti-EU party – it is 100%.

From DutchNews.nl, poverty numeration:

1.2 million Dutch households below poverty line, 11% of children are poor

At least 1.2 million people were living in poverty in the Netherlands last year, a rise of over 150,000 people on 2011, according to a new report.

Research by the national statistics office CBS and the government’s socio-cultural think-tank SCP, shows 7.6% of the population is now living below the poverty line. Last year’s rise is the sharpest since the economic crisis began in 2008.

Germany next, with more bankster news from Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

Germany’s Commerzbank raided in client tax probe

German authorities on Tuesday raided some 40 branches of Commerzbank, the country’s second biggest bank, over suspected tax fraud by hundreds of clients, the bank and prosecutors said.

From TheLocal.de, inflationary:

Crop failures push up German food prices

Food in Germany was more expensive this year, with some crops such as potatoes costing nearly half as much again as in 2012.

The cold winter, floods in June and a particularly hot summer are being blamed for crop failures leading to an above-inflation jump in German food prices over the past 12 months.

From Süddeutsche Zeitung, another sign of the times:

Refugee Protests Leave Berlin Divided

A refugee slams a briefcase down on the table, snaps it open and takes out a series of plastic cards. “Here,” he says, “health card from Italy, residence permit, identity card. We have everything. Our asylum cases are complete. We’re allowed to move around in Europe, but we’re not allowed to work, not at all.”

It is Thursday morning in the Berlin district of Wedding. We are in a former retirement home that is now run by charity organization Caritas, and houses 80 refugees. Almost all are men from African countries. Many made the perilous journey from Libya to Lampedusa, and from there were sent on an odyssey through Europe. They were most recently living in tents on Oranienplatz square in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, protesting against deportations and unfair asylum laws.

France next, with austerian receptivity from TheLocal.fr:

Most French ‘ready to sacrifice public services’

Traditionally the French place a high value on their public services but as the economic crisis takes hold it appears the mood might be changing, according to the results of new poll published this week that were described “taboo-breaking”.

A majority of French people believe that it is now necessary to close some public services and lay off civil servants in order to help reduce public deficit, according to a new poll.

TheLocal.fr again, with another sign of the times:

Inequality on the increase in French education

The three-yearly Pisa report by the Paris-based Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OCED) published on Tuesday revealed that France has dropped three places in the global rankings compared to 2009, the last time the study was carried out.

The overall rankings for 2012, based on the performances of 15-year-olds in maths, science and reading, were dominated by Asian countries with France coming in 25th place out of 65.

On to Spain with El País and banksters behaving frugally:

Lending to households suffers record fall as banks remain parsimonious after bailout

Company credit also slumps to lowest level since 2007

ThinkSpain has Bankster Behaving Badly:

Novagalicia Bank fined for selling shares to baby

A BANK has been ordered to pay compensation after knowingly selling shares to a four-month-old baby.

The court of Ponferrada (León province) has declared the sale contract between the infant and Novagalicia Banco (NGB) null and void, and instructed the entity to refund the 4,800 euros it invested in subordinate shares, plus interest and legal costs.

From TheLocal.es, divisions:

Spain’s top parties won’t govern alone: Poll

Spain is facing an increasingly splintered political future with neither of the country’s two major parties likely to be able to form government alone in a future election, a new poll published on Sunday shows.

El País has mixed signals:

Unemployment falls in November for the first time in decades

Opposition points to falling Social Security affiliation as sign of declining active population due to emigration

And from ThinkSpain, going down?:

Spain falls 10 places on world corruption index, reveals Transparency

SPAIN is 40th out of a list of 177 countries on the world ‘corruption scale’, with number 177 – the most corrupt – being Somalia, according to figures released by a German charity.

On to Italy with TheLocal.it, and company for Spain:

Italy among most corrupt countries in Europe

Italy has been ranked one of the most corrupt countries in Europe, although it is slightly less corrupt than a year ago, according to Transparency International’s annual index released on Tuesday.

Italy came 69th in the list of 177 countries and territories in this year’s Corruption Perceptions Index. The country’s public sector is perceived to be more corrupt than dozens of other nations including Saudi Arabia and Cuba, which came in joint 63rd place.

TheLocal.it with one reason why:

‘Anti-mafia’ mayor arrested for mafia ties

A mayor described as an “anti-mafia icon” has been put under house arrest for allegedly buying votes of the mafia she campaigned against, Italian media reported on Tuesday.

Carolina Girasole was arrested on Tuesday morning in Isola Capo Rizzuto, where she served as mayor from 2008 to 2013, La Repubblica reported.

A troikarch delivers a slam, via TheLocal.it:

Italy ‘failing to cut debt quickly enough’

Italy is failing to cut debt quickly enough but is past the worst of its crisis, the EU’s Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said in an interview in La Repubblica newspaper on Tuesday.

“Italy should respect a certain speed of debt reduction, and it is not doing so. The structural adjustment should have been equal to half a percentage point of gross domestic product, and it is only 0.1 percent,” he said.

The New York Times has the response:

PM Letta Raps EU’s Rehn for Sceptical Comments on Italy

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta on Tuesday criticised European Commissioner Olli Rehn for expressing scepticism about Italy’s ability to respect pledges to cut its public debt.

The economic and monetary affairs commissioner warned in a newspaper interview that Italy was not cutting its debt fast enough and he “had to be sceptical” over its plans to cut spending and sell state assets.

After the jump, Greek crisis, Ukrainian upheaval, Russian violence, change in Cuba, Brazilian slowdowns and setbacks, Indian concerns, Thai troubles, the Chinese neoliberal push, mixed Japanese signals, environmental notes, and the latest edition of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: Econo/Greco/Fukumania


The great neoliberal revolution continues, with ruthless privatizations and looting the order of the day.

We start in the U.S. with Al Jazeera America:

Homeless in Detroit allege they are being driven out of downtown

Some homeless make accusations that police pick them up and drive them out of town, away from new development

From the New York Times, another blow to the poor:

Lack of Doctors May Worsen as Millions Join Medicaid Rolls

In California, with the nation’s largest Medicaid population, many doctors say they are already overwhelmed and unable to take on more low-income patients. Dr. Hector Flores, a primary care doctor in East Los Angeles whose practice has 26,000 patients, more than a third of whom are on Medicaid, said he could accommodate an additional 1,000 Medicaid patients at most.

“There could easily be 10,000 patients looking for us and we’re just not going to be able to serve them,” said Dr. Flores, who is also chairman of the family medicine department at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles.

From USA TODAY, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh, suing JPMorgan for damages in bad mortgage securities, wants to see Uncle Sam’s hole card:

JPMorgan foe seeks Justice’s unfiled complaint

Legal fight focuses on court complaint federal prosecutors prepared before finalizing a record $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan.

JPMorgan Chase is being pressed to disclose a secret legal document that could provide new details of how the nation’s largest bank handled and sold billions of dollars in now-toxic mortgage securities.

. . .in other words, they want to see the stick the administration used to sell the settlement, including all potential criminal charges. That’s a document every America deserves a chance to peruse.

From CNBC, unsunny disposition:

US recession is nigh…and the Fed can’t stop it: SocGen’s Edwards

The United States might be posting some promising growth data amid government shutdowns and debt ceiling debates, but Albert Edwards, Societe Generale’s uber-bearish strategist, has predicted a recession is coming for the world’s biggest economy.

From the World Socialist Web Site, a compromising position in the sell-off of the commons:

Detroit union joins legal action to force sell-off of DIA art

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has joined a legal action to demand that Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr sell the cultural treasures of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) to pay off the city’s creditors.

AFSCME Council 25 filed the motion jointly with several bond insurance companies and banks, including Financial Guarantee Insurance Company, Syncora Capital Assurance, Ambac Assurance, Hypothekenbank Frankfurt AG, and Wilmington Trust Company.

Boing Boing offers a Fordian allusion:

Florida sheriff arrests mayor on drug charges: “This isn’t Toronto”

Barry Layne Moore, erstwhile mayor of Hampton, Florida, has been arrested for possessing and selling Oxycodone.

Off to Europe, starting with financial news from EUbusiness:

European banks face EUR 280 bn capital shortfall: PwC

European banks will require 280 billion euros ($380 billion) of extra capital in 2014 to meet reforms aimed at avoiding a repeat of the global financial crisis, according to a report published Thursday.

The report by auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers said that banks would be forced to turn to the market to raise 180 billion euros of the required capital, as other methods of securing the funds — including the sale of assets — would fall short of closing the gap.

From Reuters, more Eurobankster anxiety:

Euro zone loans contraction increases pressure on ECB

A contraction in loans to households and companies in the euro zone quickened in October, piling pressure on the European Central Bank to do more to buoy the euro zone’s weak recovery.

The ECB cut its main refinancing rate earlier this month to 0.25 percent, but the euro zone central bank’s record low interest rates are not feeding through evenly to the real economy in all corners of the currency bloc.

Still more from the London Telegraph:

Eurozone M3 money plunge flashes deflation alert for 2014

Eurozone in danger of Japanese-style deflation, crippling Club Med nations, as money supply drops to record low levels, ECB monetary data shows

Europe Online covers a contrary trend:

Eurozone economic confidence rises to more than two-year high

The economic mood in the eurozone brightened in November with a key sentiment survey released Thursday rising to its highest level in more than two years.

Economic sentiment in the 17-member currency bloc rose for the eighth-consecutive month to 98.5 from 97.7 in October, the European Commission’s closely watched Economic Sentiment Indicator showed.

More euroanxiety from EUbusiness:

Ukraine under pressure at EU-Russia tug-of-war summit

Ukraine was pressed to choose sides Thursday as an EU summit designed to draw six ex-Soviet states into the Western fold opened Thursday amid a tough East-West tussle over influence.

Diplomats told AFP that pre-summit talks in the frosty Lithuanian capital between Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and EU leaders Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso — respectively presidents of the EU Council and European Commission — had not produced significant results.

And from ANA-MPA, concerns over European scapegoats:

EU Roma Summit on April 4, local agency official says

An EU Roma Summit will take place on April 4, 2014, the president of the National Centre for Social Solidarity (NCSS) Panagiota Iakovidou told ANA-MPA on Thursday.

Referring to the situation in Greece, she said that the Roma belong to the most vulnerable groups of the population and should be supported.

Britain’s Channel 4 News takes us to the U.K. and a look at the hysteria surrounding the Roma:

Roma in the UK

Program note:

Former home secretary, David Blunkett, has added to concerns over Roma in the UK by warning that some cities could face “race riots”.

From The Independent, another British anxiety:

Homebuilders under pressure after Bank of England announces plans to cool down house market

The Bank of England’s stunning move to clamp down on rising house prices sent shockwaves through the City’s listed housebuilders today, wiping more than one billion pounds off the sector as panicking investors dumped the shares.

British finance ministry and BOE jointly launched the FLS scheme to provide up to 80 billion pounds (130 billion U.S. dollars) to banks and building societies to help increase lending to home-buyers and businesses in a bid to stimulate economic growth.

The Guardian covers still another anxiety:

Norfolk police warn of alarming clown epidemic

Public told not to approach anyone wearing ‘Halloween-type’ clown masks after spate of reports of terrifying sightings

While the Economic Times notices a shift:

China overtakes India in UK migration figures

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) here today showed that 40,000 people came to Britain last year from China, compared to 37,000 from India – which had previously ranked No 1 for three consecutive years since 2009.

From Business Insider, Bloviatin’ Boris Johnson does it again:

Mayor Of London Says Economic Inequality Can Be Good, And Some People Are Just Too Dumb To Succeed

Iceland next, and a familiar pattern — massive layoffs at a public broadcaster, done in the name of austerity. From the Reykjavík Grapevine:

Four Hundred Strong Protest Layoffs At RÚV

Over four hundred people showed up at noon today in protest of the 39 immediate layoffs of lower- and middle-tier RÚV staff members. Protesters chanted “Our RÚV, Let’s Save RÚV,” surrounding the building with locked hands, symbolically forming a shield wall around it.

“We were outraged by the layoffs and decided to do something,” said Valgerður Þóroddsdóttir, who organised the event with Arngunnur Árnadóttir. “We felt we had a personal stake in the affair as RÚV belongs to everyone, and it has reliably provided excellent in-depth journalism as well as upheld important cultural values.”

Holland next, and medical malpractice from DutchNews.nl:

Doctors, hospitals don’t warn patients their treatment may cost money

Doctors and hospitals do not warn patients they may have to pay for part of their treatment at some hospitals because they have a budget health insurance policy, according to RTL news.

Nor do doctors check if treatment at the hospital they send patients to is covered by the patient’s health insurance. This could leave patients facing bills of thousands of euros, the broadcaster said.

France next, first with a rollback from TheLocal.fr:

French CEO gives up €21m pension amid fury

The CEO of French car giant PSA Peugeot Citroen announced he was giving up his €21 million pension plan, just hours after news of the eye-watering golden parachute had caused uproar among unions on Wednesday. The French president said it was a “wise” decision.

Xinhua covers ongoing failure:

Hollande says curbing job claims to take “necessary time”

Struggling to reverse rampant unemployment rate by year-end, French President Francois Hollande on Thursday said bringing down job claims will take the “necessary time.”

More from RFI:

Hollande hints at failure to hit unemployment goal by year end

French president François Hollande hinted on Thursday that he would fail to achieve his goal of reversing the rise in French unemployment by the end of the year, a target he has frequently touted as a key priority.

From BBC News, blue mood on the Seine:

France ‘more pessimistic’ on economy as confidence dips

France is “more pessimistic” about the state of its economy than fellow eurozone countries, a European Commission survey has found.

French consumer confidence declined sharply in November, reflecting “worsening expectations about the future general economic situation, unemployment expectations and savings over the next 12 months”, it said.

FRANCE 24 covers resurrection dreams:

Ex-president Sarkozy ‘could launch comeback in 2014′

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy could take advantage of next year’s local and European elections to launch a comeback, a former government minister and close aide told the popular Europe 1 radio station Thursday.

Germany next with Deutsche Welle and a marriage of convenience:

Economists criticize tame coalition deal

Two months after the elections, the Christian Democrats, its sister party and the Social Democrats have reached a coalition agreement. The minimum wage was one of the most discussed issues during the coalition talks.

Bloomberg entertains notions of tapering:

German Inflation Gauge Rises After CPI Data; Spanish Notes Fall

Germany’s inflation expectations rose from an 18-month low as a report showed consumer prices increased more in November than economists forecast, damping the case for further European Central Bank stimulus.

From Deutsche Welle, maintaining:

German jobs market treads water, unemployment edging up in November

Unemployment in Germany rose slightly in November but stays below the symbolic 3-million mark. The Labor Agency says job creation is in line with economic growth and will accelerate on bigger expansion due next year.

Deutsche Welle covers historic resolution in Baden-Württemberg:

German state signs historic treaty with Sinti and Roma

They are Germans and have been living in Germany for centuries. But Sinti and Roma have been persecuted since the Nazi era and are still discriminated against. A new treaty aims to strengthen the minorities’ rights.

On to Spain and a declaration from TheLocal.es:

Spain declares two-year recession officially over

Spain said on Thursday it has technically escaped a two-year recession by posting feeble growth in the third quarter, but with an unemployment rate still towering at 26 percent.

ANSAmed notes numbers rising:

Spanish exports hit record 34% of GDP

  • Highest in Europe after Germany
  • Spanish exports of goods and services will total EUR 350 billion at the end of the year.

Across the peninsula with the Portugal News:

Tax workers strike on last days of fiscal pardon

The Portuguese tax workers’ union (STI) has called a strike for 19,20 and 23 December, dates that coincide with the end of a government tax pardon for individuals and companies with overdue taxes.

The government approved the pardon on 3 October for tax payers who owe money to the tax office or social security which should have been paid up until 31 August, exempting them from paying any interest and administrative costs and charging lower fines if they resolve the situation.

And on to Italy with the latest in Bunga Bunga from euronews:

Berlusconi ready to bounce back after political expulsion

The Italian Senate may have killed Silvio Berlusconi’s political career by expelling him on Wednesday, but the political animal is very much alive, and retains a nasty bite.

The disgraced former prime minister promises this is not the end, and he remains at liberty to lead an opposition movement. He has promised revenge by the ballot box for what he calls a “coup”.

More from Bloomberg Businessweek:

Even Political Expulsion Can’t Take Berlusconi out of Politics

In spite of his political setback, most polls put his Forza Italia party and its likely allies ahead of Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s center-left coalition, with over 30 percent of the vote. And while he will not be able to stand for election or take public office, there’s nothing stopping him from leading his party from the outside.

After the jump, Grecocrisis, Latin American conflict, Southeast Asian crisis, Chinese policy, Japanese economic woes, and the latest edition of Fukushuimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: Econo/Fuku/Fuelishness


Today’s headlines being at home, starting with hints of a bubble brewing from CNBC:

A new wave of US mortgage trouble threatens

U.S. borrowers are increasingly missing payments on home equity lines of credit they took out during the housing bubble, a trend that could deal another blow to the country’s biggest banks.

And from Al Jazeera America, stuffing turkeys:

Hundreds of protests planned to mark Black Friday

Labor groups hope to capitalize on a year of controversy surrounding Wal-Mart and other big retailers

Bloomberg Businessweek covers harsh realities:

McDonald’s Worker Says She Can’t Afford to Eat at McDonald’s

For a piece on the potential economic and social consequences of raising the federal minimum wage in the latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, I interviewed several low-wage workers about how they manage. As we’ve learned from recent studies, they often rely on public assistance; sometimes they turn to their extended family and friends or charity. One told me she donates plasma when she needs a little cash; a second sleeps in her car. One, Shawndraka Mack, works full-time at McDonald’s, but noted she can’t afford to eat there.

From ThinkProgress, uncharitable politics:

Los Angeles Considering Proposal To Ban Feeding Homeless People In Public

The proposal will need to pick up more support among the 15-member Council in order to become law. If passed, though, Los Angeles would join a growing number of other cities that have banned or passed significant restrictions on charities attempting to feed the homeless, including Raleigh and Orlando.

From South China Morning Post, more allegations of banksters behaving badly — in this case, hiring the progeny of Chinese leaders as a wedge to opening doors for deals:

US expands China hiring probe to Morgan Stanley and Citigroup

US authorities are expanding their probe into the hiring practices of American financial institutions, with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) now looking into whether Morgan Stanley and Citigroup hired children of well-connected mainland officials with an intent to win business.

Meanwhile, mouth farts from blowviator via Salon:

Rush Limbaugh: The pope sounds like a Marxist

“This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope”

Meanwhile, Rush might ponder this from the New York Times:

Breadlines Return

The Great Recession was the worst downturn since the Great Depression.  And yet, throughout the recent decline and today’s sluggish recovery, conditions have never seemed as bad as they were in the 1930s. Breadlines, for example, have not been commonplace.

That may be about to change.

An encouraging sign, via Salon:

Breaking: Whole Foods strike wins Thanksgiving day off, workers say

“I think it will be disruptive, but that’s kind of the point,” says one of Chicago workers striking today

Canada next, with the Toronto Globe and Mail, and cross-border ties:

Canadian growth to accelerate but U.S. well-being still key: IMF

The IMF pegs Canadian growth at 2.25 per cent next year following modest growth of 1.6 per cent this year as exports and business investment “disappointed.”

Next, feet enter oral orifices, via Techdirt:

TPP Defenders Take To The Internet To Deliver Official Talking Points; Inadvertently Confirm Opponents’ Worst Fears

from the TPP-doesn’t-do-anything-opponents-claim-it-does,-except-for-all-this dept

Seeking friends in need, via EUbusiness:

France, Spain seek European push for jobs, growth

France and Spain’s leaders, both suffering in the polls as they grapple with feeble economies, united Wednesday in pressuring the European Union to do more to help boost activity and create desperately needed jobs.

BBC News takes us to Britain and austerian arrogance:

David Cameron defiant over tougher EU benefit plans

David Cameron has defended plans to toughen welfare rules for EU migrants, saying he was sending a “clear message” to people that the UK was not a “soft touch” for claiming benefits.

He said he shared public concerns about the end of work restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians next month.

More Cameron Tory neoliberalism from The Independent:

David Cameron to lobby for support on migration restrictions at EU summit in Lithuania

From the London Telegraph, Mariano Rajoy scotches hopes:

Spanish PM: Independent Scotland would be kicked out of the EU

Scotland would be kicked out of the European Union if it voted for independence, the Spanish Prime Minister has said in a devastating blow to Alex Salmond’s claims membership would be seamless.

Sweden next, with a burgeoning bubble from TheLocal.se:

Swedes’ mortgage debt continues to swell

Swedes are borrowing money more than ever, data from Statistics Sweden revealed on Wednesday, as household indebtedness reached new heights.

The annual growth rate of household indebtedness was calculated to be 4.9 percent in October this year, a 0.1 percentage-point increase in one month. Statisticians at the state agency predicted that the increase will continue, and cited the upswing from 4.5 percent in January 2013.

TheLocal.se, planning ahead and raising hopes for Sweden’s braceros:

Swedish opposition to scrap migrant-worker law

The left-wing opposition stands ready to tear up the controversial Laval Law, which differentiates between domestic and foreign workers, if the Social Democrat party wrests power from the government in next year’s elections.

“Swedish collective bargaining agreements should apply in Sweden,” said party leader Stefan Lövfen on Wednesday at a press conference. “It does not matter from which country the employee comes from nor where the employer is registered.”

TheLocal.no covers a seminal embargo:

China blocks semen of hardy Norwegian Red

China has cancelled a project to import semen from the hardy Norwegian Red diary cow, in a move put down to continuing poor diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Holland next, and troubling news from DutchNews.nl:

Healthcare freedom of choice under threat, entire hospitals excluded

Health insurance companies are limiting patient access to some hospitals, and some policyholders will have to pay a contribution to be treated in hospitals with a better reputation, according to research by the AD and insurance comparison website Independer.

On to Germany and high hopes from Europe Online:

German consumer confidence hits six-year high

Consumer confidence in Germany hit a six-year high in December, a survey released Wednesday showed as retailers in Europe’s biggest economy are gearing up for the key Christmas shopping period.

The mood among German households rose to a bigger-than-forecast 7.4 in December from 7.1 in November, the Nuremberg-based market research group GfK said.

BBC News covers a done deal:

Deal reached on new government for Germany under Merkel

Angela Merkel will return as German chancellor for a third term under a coalition deal hammered out with her old Social Democrat (SPD) opponents.

Her conservative Christian Union (CDU/CSU) signed a 185-page agreement with the SPD entitled “Shaping Germany’s Future”

From Spiegel, making virtue of necessity in the peculiar German miracle:

Living Large on a Little: Campgrounds Go Residential in Germany

An increasing number of people are moving to German campgrounds permanently to save money. The little communities of motorhomes and trailers offer a comfortable yet affordable lifestyle that residents say they couldn’t find elsewhere.

TheLocal.de notes banksters behaving badly:

Watchdog probes gold and silver price-fixing

The German financial watchdog, BaFin, said on Wednesday it was looking into allegations of possible manipulation by banks in gold and silver price-fixing.

“In addition to the Libor and Euribor interest rates, BaFin is looking at other bench-marking processes such as gold and silver price fixing at individual banks,” the watchdog said in a statement.

From TheLocal.fr, righteous anger:

Outrage over €21million pension for French CEO

Plans to award the CEO of struggling French car giant Peugeot Citroen with a €21 million pension ($28.5million) has provoked uproar among trade unions, who have spent the last year battling in vain against factory closures and mass job cuts at the firm.

A culinary invasion with TheLocal.fr:

Burger King set to open 400 outlets in France

US fast food giant Burger King looks set to take a big bite out of the French market, after they announced this week they would be opening up to 400 new restaurants throughout the country.

And on to the Alps with Channel NewsAsia Singapore and more BBB:

UBS Paris office raided in Swiss tax fraud probe

French investigators on Wednesday raided the Paris headquarters of the local arm of Swiss bank UBS, which has been placed under investigation for allegedly helping rich clients hide money in undeclared accounts.

Spain next, with El País and a central bankster’s assurance:

Recovery continued at start of fourth quarter, Bank of Spain says

Spanish export sector remains buoyant with some signs of an improvement in domestic demand while salaries flatline

The London Telegraph reports a con:

Spanish government accused of pushing illegal homes to Britons

A register with details of Spain’s three million empty homes fails to flag all of those earmarked for demolition

From El País a singular act of resistance to the reigning neoliberal Popular Party:

Madrid Socialist leader resigns Senate seat over PP-linked judge

Gómez stages “act of rebellion” against privatization of public healthcare and carve-up of legal watchdog’s membership

The leader of the Socialist Party in Madrid (PSM), Tomás Gómez, on Wednesday announced he is resigning his seat in the Senate to “be consistent with” his principles. Gómez’s decision came in response to the national party’s pact with the Popular Party (PP) over the reshuffling of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), by which Judge Francisco Gerardo Martínez Tristán will be elevated to the legal watchdog’s panel. Martínez sits on the 50-magistrate panel of the Madrid regional High Court that has been charged with deciding the fate of six of the region’s public hospitals, which the PP wants to privatize.

El País again, with neoliberalism in action:

More than 1.1 million students lose textbook grants

Families were receiving between 70-180 euros, depending on the schooling period and the region

Public subsidies for school book purchases have nosedived during the economic crisis. But according to a report from the Ombudsman’s Office, which notes a 45-percent drop in financing in the last four years, the crisis “explains but does not justify this reduction.”

The Portugal News takes across the border to yet another postal privatization, that essential plank in the neoliberal destruction of the commons:

CTT postal privatisation sees demand outstrip supply six times over

The demand for shares in the Portuguese post office CTT – Correios de Portugal outstripped supply 6.5 times according to information supplied by CMVM, the stock market authorities, to state holding company Parpública.

Italy next, with a Bunga Bunga booting from the New York Times:

Berlusconi Expelled from Senate in Italy

Having spent months manufacturing procedural delays or conjuring political melodrama in hopes of saving himself, Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday could no longer stave off the inevitable: Italy’s Senate resoundingly stripped him of his parliamentary seat, a dramatic and humiliating expulsion, even as other potential troubles await him.

And TheLocal.it pledges allegiance:

‘Berlusconi will always be our leader’

Supporters of Silvio Berlusconi mourned his expulsion from parliament on Wednesday, with one declaring: “This is not finished!”

Thousands of Berlusconi’s fans travelled to Rome from all over Italy in a show of support, with waving Forza Italia flags and holding candle-lit vigils behind held outside his Rome residence.

From TheLocal.it again, more austerian reality:

Italy’s crisis leaves middle class struggling

With unemployment at record levels and some of the highest poverty levels anywhere in the EU, Italy’s economic crisis has left many formerly well-off Italians barely able to put food on the table.

Italy’s unemployment rate hit an all-time high of 12.5 percent in October, while thousands of those who are clinging onto jobs are on short-term contracts and often go unpaid for months.

An EU report in September said that Italy is the only large country in core Europe that suffers from “material hardships”, with one in ten Italians cutting back on basics such as heating and eating meat.

After the jump, ongoing Grecomeltdown, Russian baggage, Indian anxieties and opportunities, Southeast Asian land grabs and protests, environmental mayhem, and the latest Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading