Category Archives: Human behavior

Quote of the day: The Internet is broken


From “The Internet is Broken—Act Accordingly,” a ThreatPost essay by Dennis Fisher:

As researcher Claudio Guarnieri recently detailed, the Internet itself is compromised. Not this bit or that bit. The entire network. We now know that intelligence agencies have spent the last decade systematically penetrating virtually every portion of the Internet and are conducting surveillance and exploitation on a scale that a year ago would have seemed inconceivable to all but the most paranoid among us.

Email? Broken. Mobile communications? Broken. Web traffic? Really broken. Crypto? So, so broken.

It would be understandable, even natural, for most casual observers to have grown so completely overwhelmed by the inundation of stories about government surveillance and exploitation techniques that they tuned it out months ago. Why get worked up about something you can’t change? It’s like getting mad at cake for being delicious.

And that’s exactly the attitude that attackers want. Indeed, they depend on it. Complacency and indifference to clear threats are their lifeblood. Attackers can’t operate effectively without them.

Read the rest.

Graphics: Things you can’t do in Sochi toilets


From The Independent, things athletes can’t do in their bathrooms:

BLOG Banned

Fishing? Really? And that guy doing the squat atop to loo? That’s how it’s done in large parts of the world, and one sure way to prevent hemorrhoids.

But fishing?

‘David Simon on America as a Horror Show’


From Moyers and Company:

David Simon on America as a Horror Show

From the transcript:

BILL MOYERS: Watching the president’s speech the other night– he was hopeful, he was upbeat, he was encouraging and inclusive and what he said. But I kept listening and thinking about that speech you had made last fall in Australia where you said what’s happening here in America is “a horror show.” And I wonder, how do you reconcile those two visions of our country?

DAVID SIMON: I don’t think that you can call the American government anything other than broken at this point. And I think the break has come at the legislative level. I mean, that’s the part of the government that has been purchased.

You can buy these guys on the cheap. And the capital’s been at it a long time and the rules have been relaxed. The Supreme Court has walked away from any sort of responsibility to maintain democracy at that level. That’s the aspect of government that’s broken.

And it doesn’t matter whether it’s Obama or Clinton or Bush or anybody at this point. If this is the way we’re going to do business, we’re not going to do business. You know, they’ve paid for it to be inert. And it is inert. And ultimately that aspect of capitalism hasn’t been dealt with in any way.

Research from Cal: The sociopathology of wealth


From RT America, the latest research from right here in ensl’s own backyard:

Study proves: rich people are jerks

Program notes:

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley recently conducted many studies to test their hypothesis that the more money a person has, the more likely they are to be a jerk. Over and over again, the studies led to the same conclusion: that as a person’s level of wealth increases, their feelings of compassion and empathy go down, and their feelings of entitlement, deservingness, and their ideology of self-interest increases. The Resident (aka Lori Harfenist) discusses.

Chart of the day: Escalating taste for fire


From Quartz, the graphics of changing tastes:

BLOG Sauce

Chart of the day: Your boss is a Republican


At least that’s what the odds favor, according to a new report {PDF] from the Pew Research Center:

BLOG Parties

A melodious voice, provocative insights


John Henry Faulk was a remarkable character, an academic fokloristic who became a humorist, and who waged and won a seminal battle against the Hollywood blacklist, a secret database used by the entertainment and electronic media industries to bar people whose beliefs were deemed threats to national security to be barred from public screens and airwaves.

He’d have turned 100 last August if cancer had finally stilled his rich, melodious voice, conveying sophisticated thoughts cloaked in idiom and Texas dialect.

Here’s Faulk in a wonderful 1985 conversation with Frank Morrow for the legendary public access series Alternative Views:

FAULK AT HIS FINEST: Meet Uncensored Humorist John Henry Faulk

Proogram notes from AlternativeViewTV:

Austin’s beloved folk humorist tells tales from his new book The Uncensored John Henry Faulk. The stories, which range from childhood recollections of life on a South Austin farm to commentary on political figures, embody a populist, egalitarian spirit. Some of these stories are from Faulk’s well-known one-man show Pear Orchard USA. Through the use of these folk characters, Faulk is able to make political commentary which is palatable even to people who might disagree with the message, such as the anti-Nixon stories which he has used before audiences of businessmen. The last section of the program is a Faulk mini-retrospective, featuring clips of the humorist’s past appearances on Alternative Views.

One of esnl’s favorite folksingers, Phil Ochs, paid him tribute in this 1962 song:

Phil Ochs: The Ballad of John Henry Faulk [1962]

From the lyrics:

And you men who point your fingers and spread your lies around,
You men who left your souls behind and drag us to the ground,
You can put my name right down there, I will not try to hide —
For if there’s one man on the blacklist, I’ll be right there by his side.

For I’d rather go hungry to beg upon the streets
Than earn my bread on dead men’s souls and crawl beneath your feet.
And I will not play your hater’s game and hate you in return,
For it’s only through the love of man the blacklist can be burned.

Chart of the day: Cellular collisions


From the Pew Research Center, confirmation that our media have become our masters:

BLOG Cell

Chart of the day: Documenting a social divide


From a new report [PDF] from the Pew Research Center:

BLOG Religilution

Headlines of the day I: Spooks, drones, bellicosity


Plus some corporate shenanigans and much, much more.

We begin with the story de jour via The Guardian:

NSA mass collection of phone data is legal, federal judge rules

  • Dragnet program deemed ‘controversial but lawful’
  • Lawsuit brought by ACLU dismissed

A legal battle over the scope of US government surveillance took a turn in favour of the National Security Agency on Friday with a court opinion declaring that bulk collection of telephone data does not violate the constitution.

The judgement, in a case brought before a district court in New York by the American Civil Liberties Union, directly contradicts the result of a similar challenge in a Washington court last week which ruled the NSA’s bulk collection program was likely to prove unconstitutional and was “almost Orwellian” in scale.

The Wire sounds the theme:

A Federal Judge Uses Every Known NSA Defense in Defense of the NSA

In the first bit of good news for the National Security Agency in some time, Judge William Pauley of the Federal District Court of Southern New York determined that the bulk collection of phone metadata is lawful. And in so doing, reiterated every conceivable argument put forward by NSA defenders.

The Register finds a wish list item:

Snowden leak journo leaks next leak: NSA, GCHQ dying to snoop on your gadgets mid-flight

Greenwald blasts US, UK during hacker confab speech

Deutsche Welle notes a phenomenon:

NSA surveillance eroded transatlantic trust

One year ago, most people on either side of Atlantic had scant or no knowledge of the NSA and its activities. Edward Snowden’s revelations changed all that and rocked one of the pillars of transatlantic relations.

The surveillance of Merkel’s phone was a game changer in Europe as well as the US. It forced both the White House and Congress to acknowledge that the practices of US intelligence needed closer inspection. It also drove Chancellor Merkel, Europe’s most important leader, to publicly take a tougher stance vis-à-vis Washington. Most importantly, it undermined one of the central pillars of the transatlantic relations: trust.

India joins the Orwell club, via the Economic Times:

Prepare yourself to be snooped in the interest of national security

You might as well settle down to the grim thought of every call on your cellphone or landline being tapped in the near future in the interest of national security. The same would also hold true for all forms of personal communication on the internet.

The telecom department (DoT) plans to introduce a new clause, Section 419B, in the Indian Telegraph Rules of 1951, to enable early implementation of the much discussed Centralised Monitoring System (CMS) – a new automated surveillance system that will be geared to track all kinds of private communication over landline, mobile, satellite, internet and even voice over internet protocol ( VoIP) calls.

The proposed Section 419B will pave the way for “designated officers of the Telegraph Authority to collect, store and analyse any message-related information for the purpose of enforcing licence conditions, investigation or pro-active action with regard to security of the network or the state”, says an internal DoT note seen by ET.

Francophone taps from PCWorld:

French authorities requested 6,145 phone and data taps in 2012

French government and police officials requested 6,145 phone and data taps in 2012, fewer than in 2011, according to figures released by the French National Commission for the Control of Security Interceptions (CNCIS) earlier this week.

The CNCIS acts as a check on wiretap authorizations by the Prime Minister’s office, which receives requests for connection data and for targeted interception of voice and data communications from law enforcement or security services.

It rejected 50 of the 6,145 interceptions requested in 2012, having rejected 55 of the 6,396 requests the previous year. It also ordered the termination of 52 ongoing interceptions.

The Guardian displays common sense:

Internet privacy as important as human rights, says UN’s Navi Pillay

Navi Pillay compares uproar over mass surveillance to response that helped defeat apartheid during Today programme

The UN human rights chief, Navi Pillay, has compared the uproar in the international community caused by revelations of mass surveillance with the collective response that helped bring down the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Pillay, the first non-white woman to serve as a high-court judge in South Africa, made the comments in an interview with Sir Tim Berners-Lee on a special edition of BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, which the inventor of the world wide web was guest editing.

DutchNews.nl keep track on the latest from the Netherlands:

Police, justice officials use public transport smart card info

TLS, the company which operates the public transport smart card ov-chipkaart, has confirmed it releases confidential information about users ‘several times a week’ to the police, the Telegraaf said on Friday.

The information is released in connection with missing persons and criminal investigations, the paper said. TLS keeps the information about people’s movements for a year.

The Independent threatens press freedom [such as it is]:

Press regulation: David Cameron warns newspapers to sign up to Royal Charter passed by Parliament

Having remained silent last month when Culture Secretary Maria Miller said that politicians had done all they could to induce the press into joining a charter-based form of regulation, David Cameron has now warned Britain’s newspapers that they should sign up urgently to the Royal Charter passed by Parliament earlier this year.

Playing a “good cop” PM, Mr Cameron said “a less liberal, enlightened government in the future” might play hard ball and enforce legislation. Translation? Do a deal with the Tories or Labour will bring out the big stick.

Curiously, however, Mr Cameron’s veiled threat only emerged today, despite being issued in an interview he gave before Christmas.

The Guardian omits:

Bletchley Park accused of airbrushing Edward Snowden from history

NSA whistleblower omitted from new exhibition on cyber security as museum says it does not want to be seen to back his actions

MPs have accused Bletchley Park, the wartime predecessor of GCHQ, of trying to airbrush history after it said it would ignore the whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about mass surveillance by the security services in its museum’s new gallery on cyber security.

The MPs are urging the museum to explore the implications of mass surveillance, but it says it is reluctant to do so, despite planning a huge new installation devoted to the subject of cyber security, for fear that it “might imply it approves of Snowden’s actions”.

And on to our coverage of headlines from Asia, where security is in scarce supply, first with this from the Asahi Shimbun:

Freedom of navigation pits Japan, U.S. against China

With Japan and the United States in one corner, and China in the other, the issue of freedom of navigation is taking center stage as China’s growing maritime presence continues to set off alarm bells.

While Japan and the United States differ slightly in their interpretation of the issue, they are adamant that China must tow the line in what essentially boils down to international law.

The Japan Times returns:

South Korea to return ammunition provided by Japan

The South Korean Defense Ministry said Friday that ammunition provided by Japan via the United Nations to South Korean troops taking part in a U.N. peacekeeping mission in strife-torn South Sudan will soon be sent back.

The announcement followed criticism of the South Korean government domestically for its decision earlier this week to borrow 10,000 rounds of ammunition from Japan for the peacekeepers in the event its troops come under fire in the African nation.

And Kyodo News sets off the latest crisis:

Abe visits Yasukuni Shrine, 1st PM to do so in 7 years

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Thursday, the first premier to do so in seven years, triggering criticism not only from China and South Korea, which suffered Japan’s past militarism, but also its main ally, the United States.

“I expressed my sincere condolences, paid my respects and prayed for the souls of all those who made ultimate sacrifices,” Abe told reporters after visiting the Shinto shrine, which honors Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals along with millions of war dead.

Abe became the first Japanese prime minister to visit the shrine since Junichiro Koizumi in 2006. The latest visit came as Abe marked the first anniversary of his government’s launch.

After the jump, global denunciation of the Abe visit, snooping software, military-style assault in California, drones, pirates, the endangered press, boiok bannings, and corporate madness. . . 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

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


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

BLOG Choices

Chart of the day: Clergy are losing public favor


From Gallup, which reports that Americans see nurses as America’s most ethical vocation, while the clergy has fallen to an all-time low:

BLOG Clergy

An oddly affecting take on Mayor Rob Ford


From those usually sharply sarcastic folks at Taiwanese Animations:

The Death of a Mayor: The Tragic End of Rob Ford

Program notes:

The Death of a Mayor is a drama following how a popular mayor’s personal troubles led to his spectacular fall from grace. Supporters of Rob Ford who have continued to stand by their mayor highlight his compassion and humanity, but that very human fallibility may well be his ultimate undoing. Will he be able to control his demons ahead of next year’s mayoral elections or will he succumb to them?

Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s crack scandal has routinely commanded headlines since the beginning of 2013. Through his repeated denials and eventual admission of a variety of transgressions, centering around his purchase and consumption of illegal drugs, Ford has made himself a laughing stock internationally and an embarrassment to Torontonians locally. But even with his administration falling apart and his former staffers turning on him, Ford’s real friends, even those doing jail time, have yet to abandon him.

Rob Ford is more than just a witless politician with substance abuse problems. What his critics see as obvious evidence of his ineptitude, his supporters proudly hold up as proof of his humanity. Throughout this scandal, his reaction to criticism has been direct, largely free of spin and wildly entertaining.

Ford has delivered numerous surprisingly frank admissions of guilt, like his terse response, “Yes, I have” to the question of whether or not he’d bought illegal drugs in the last two years, have rarely crossed the lips of any other politicians. It’s that personal quality to his speeches, his lack of any thought about how his words will be received, that supporters say make him an everyman, rather than a smooth talking, disingenuous politician.

NMA’s numerous satirical animations on Rob Ford, the first of which was published in mid-May, have been good for a lot of laughs. Today we take a more sober and somber look at the one outcome Rob Ford is desperately trying to avoid, but which his vices seem to be inexorably pulling him toward.

Chart of the day II: Senate as a diseased brain


From The Economist‘s YouTube channel, a brilliant depiction of the emergence of extreme polarization in American politics:

Live chart: Voting in the Senate

Program note:

United States of Amoeba

How American politics is pulled apart. For more video content from The Economist visit our website: http://econ.st/1cY048b - private

Panoptigraphic: Corporate drone age note


From Just An Earth-Bound Misfit, I:

BLOG Drone Age

A sober BBC documentary: Surviving Progress


This 2011 documentary from a Canadian team and scripted and directed by Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks, Surviving Progress examines the factors threatening humanity with societal collapse.

Inspired by historian and essayist Ronald Wright’s A Short History of Progress,  by Ronald Wright, the documentary offers a sober assessment of our current fix and the elements of our nature that have brought us to the brink.

It’s a powerful piece of work and features interviews with an array of interesting people, among them Margaret Atwood, Michael Hudson, Jane Goodall, Simon Johnson , Craig Venter, and Stephen Hawking.

Surviving Progress, 2011

From the production company’s website:

“Every time history repeats itself the price goes up.”

Surviving Progress presents the story of human advancement as awe-inspiring and double-edged. It reveals the grave risk of running the 21st century’s software — our know-how — on the ancient hardware of our primate brain which hasn’t been upgraded in 50,000 years. With rich imagery and immersive soundtrack, filmmakers Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks launch us on journey to contemplate our evolution from cave-dwellers to space explorers.

Ronald Wright, whose best-seller, “A Short History Of Progress” inspired this film, reveals how civilizations are repeatedly destroyed by “progress traps” — alluring technologies serve immediate needs, but ransom the future. With intersecting stories from a Chinese car-driving club, a Wall Street insider who exposes an out-of-control, environmentally rapacious financial elite, and eco-cops defending a scorched Amazon, the film lays stark evidence before us. In the past, we could use up a region’s resources and move on. But if today’s global civilization collapses from over-consumption, that’s it. We have no back-up planet.

A video delight: A History of English


Way back in the eighth grade, in 1958 or thereabouts, we discovered the delights of Richard Armour, a Harvard-educated poet who also wrote delightfully funny subversive little books about history, science, and, among other things, Shakespeare. One snappy little line burned into memory came from Twisted Takes from Shakespeare‘s chapter on McBeth and his description of the scene in which the murdered Banquo cries out to son as he expires,  “Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly fly.” To which Armour added, “but Fleance gained altitude only by leaps and bounds.” It may not seem like a show-stopper, but to a seventh grader, struggling with the Bard’s prose, it was the funniest thing ever.

In this delightful video, the same dry wit and love wordplay applies. We smiled throughout its elev all-too-brief minutes:

The The Open University via 3 Quarks Daily:

The History of English

Chart of the day: Presidents who love themselves


From the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project, 42 U.S. presidents rated by a team of psychologists according to their degree of grandiose narcissism:

BLOG prez

Headlines of the day II: Econo/Greco/Fukufails


Whole lot of economic news goin’ on, especially in Greece, and notable environmental stories after the jump, along with the latest episode of Fukushimapocalypse Now!

We begin in the U.S. with three cheers to the activists who purged fellow citizens of $14,734,569.87 in personal, mainly medical, debt. Via The Guardian:

Occupy Wall Street activists buy $15m of Americans’ personal debt

  • Rolling Jubilee spent $400,000 to purchase debt cheaply from banks before ‘abolishing’ it, freeing individuals from their bills

  • Rolling Jubilee, set up by Occupy’s Strike Debt group following the street protests that swept the world in 2011, launched on 15 November 2012. The group purchases personal debt cheaply from banks before “abolishing” it, freeing individuals from their bills.

Salon casts a pall:

Scalia’s chance to smash unions: The huge under-the-radar case

A Supreme Court case being argued Wednesday could take away a tactic that’s kept unions alive

The case, Unite Here Local 355 v. Mulhall, involves the constitutionality of “card check neutrality agreements” between unions and companies they’re trying to organize.

And Wonkette takes a well-deserved shot at California’s contemptible plutocratic senator:

Dianne Feinstein Joins Colleagues In Undermining Affordable Care Act, Thanks Obama!

The Guardian poses what shouldn’t be a choice at all:

Detroit’s decision to fend off bankruptcy: pay pensions or banks?

Fears grow that fight to stave off city bankruptcy may hit the poorest hardest

From the Washington Post, a simple conclusion:

The Great Recession may have crushed America’s economic potential

And a parallel headline from GlobalPost:

America is losing its allure

Analysis: A disturbing new trend suggests foreign investors may be falling out of love with the US economy.

But there’s one aspect of the U.S. other countries still cherish, reports the Los Angeles Times:

Foreign students continue to flock to U.S. colleges

A record number of international students were in the U.S. in 2012, a new study reports, with USC attracting the largest number of them.

From the Oakland Tribune, a call for the former Homeland Security boss who now runs the University of California:

Napolitano: Freeze UC tuition, seek low-fee policy

New UC President Janet Napolitano marked her first regents meeting Wednesday with a vow to make the university more affordable and calling for an undergraduate tuition freeze in 2014-15.

Yahoo! Finance makes a point we’re always proclaiming:

United States of Underemployment: Dead-End Jobs Prop Up Employment Growth

And from Women Rock Science, a sordid tale about our brasve new media:

Female Science writer gets called a Whore for saying NO to working for free

This is Biologist Dr Danielle N. Lee also known as the Urban Scientist at Scientific American, she “draws from hip hop culture to share science with general audiences, particularly under-served groups.” Biology-Online liked her work so much they wanted her to write for them……for free. Danielle Lee politely declined so Biology-Online did what everyone does when women say no – they called her a “Whore”.

But the Contributor notes that some are winning big:

For First Time Since 1995, US Produced More Oil Domestically Than It Imported

For the first month in nearly two decades, the U.S. in October extracted more oil from the ground than it imported from abroad, marking an important milestone for a nation seeking to wean itself off foreign oil.

From Reuters, a prime market:

EU duty-free jet fuel sets new battle for world refiners

U.S. refiners are expected to ship large volumes of jet fuel across the Atlantic starting in 2014 after the European Union scrapped an import duty on the product, opening a new battleground for the world’s largest refineries, traders said.

The Guardian takes us to the dark side:

Over 3,000 US prisoners serving life without parole for non-violent crimes

ACLU report chronicles thousands of lives ruined by life sentences for crimes such as shoplifting or possession of a crack pipe

From the Verge, Obama’s latest sellout:

US patent moves are ‘profoundly bad’ in leaked TPP treaty

In new agreement, Obama sides with locked phones and Big Pharma

But the Contributor raises limited hope:

Not-So-Fast-Track: House Opposition to Secret International Trade Deal ‘Could Be the End of TPP’

From RT, a major investor:

Mormon Church purchases 2% of the state of Florida for half a billion dollars

A sect of the Mormon Church is poised to become the largest private landowner in the state of Florida after spending more than half a billion dollars to purchase hundreds of thousands of acres across three counties.

From the New Republic, a warning about the status of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission:

Congress Is Starving the Agency That’s Supposed to Prevent Another Meltdown

The chief regulator for over $300 trillion worth of derivatives trades has seen its operations squeezed by drastic underfunding, right at the time the Dodd-Frank financial reform law dropped a whole new set of responsibilities in its lap.

North of the border for the latest mayoral misbehavin’ from BBC News:

Toronto’s Rob Ford says he bought drugs in last two years

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has admitted buying illegal drugs in the past two years, at a raucous meeting at which city councillors asked him to take a leave of absence.

More from USA TODAY:

Santa parade officials ask Toronto mayor not to march

The mayor initially agreed to watch from the sidelines, but now wants to lead the march.

Our final Fordian frolic from National Post:

New Ford files: documents reveal staff suspicions over prostitutes, cocaine and OxyContin

Rob Ford court documents reveal staffers thought prostitute was in his office, mayor was driving drunk

Next, a global story from Bloomberg:

Emerging-Market Banks Threatened by End of Credit Boom

The world’s largest emerging markets recovered quickly from the 2008 financial crisis because consumers and companies went on a borrowing binge. Now that credit spree is coming back to haunt banks in those countries.

Another one, from the Mainichi:

World economy being sustained by extraordinary aid

  • Five years after a global financial crisis erupted, the world’s biggest economies still need to be propped up.

  • They’re growing and hiring a little faster and creating more jobs, but only with extraordinary aid from central banks or government spending. And economists say major countries may need help for years more.

Across the Atlantic, first with Europe Online:

Eurozone industrial production down 0.5 per cent in September

Industrial production in the eurozone fell by 0.5 per cent in September, performing worse than expected after spiking in the previous month, data released Wednesday showed.

From Reuters, cause for anxiety:

Analysis: Deflation threat in Europe may prompt investment rethink

The threat of deflation in the euro zone could reverse a major investment trend of 2013, drawing funds out of stocks and into government bonds and cash.

From Bloomberg, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi hosts a come-to-Jesus meeting:

Draghi Goes Face-to-Face With Bank Chiefs on Asset Health

Chief executive officers from banks from five countries — Germany, Belgium, Cyprus, Malta and Luxembourg — met today with Draghi and other board members at ECB headquarters, a spokeswoman for the central bank said by telephone. The list included Europe’s largest investment bank by revenue, Deutsche Bank AG, and lenders such as Malta’s Bank of Valletta Plc.

And BBC News covers an exodus:

Escape to Oz: Young Europeans head to Australia in search of work

Migration from countries such as Ireland is at levels not seen since the 1980s as Australia’s seemingly bulletproof economy, insulated from the global slowdown by a roaring mining industry, offers the chance of a fresh beginning.

While Spiegel covers eurofoes:

Euroskeptic Union: Right-Wing Populists Forge EU Alliance

Right-wing populists are trying to create a powerful faction in the European Parliament. Leading the efforts are Geert Wilders from the Netherlands and Marine le Pen of France — and their initiative has big implications for Europe.

More from DutchNews.nl:

Wilders commissions report into cost of Holland leaving the EU

PVV leader Geert Wilders has commissioned a British bureau to carry out new research into how much it would cost the Netherlands to leave the EU, the NRC reports on Tuesday.

To Britain with Channel NewsAsia Singapore and an uptick:

British official unemployment rate hits four-year low

Britain’s unemployment rate has fallen to a four-year low point, official data showed on Wednesday, putting pressure on the Bank of England to raise its record-low interest rate sooner than expected.

But RT takes another angle:

Cheese thieves: UK middle classes turn to stealing food they can’t afford

Gourmet cheese and beef joints are among the top stolen items in the UK, a new report has shown. Middle class shoppers have turned to stealing out of need for food, due to the weak economy, with the total cost of retail theft hitting £3.4bn last year.

But BBC News offers the declaration of victory:

Bank of England says the UK recovery has taken hold

Bank of England governor Mark Carney says the UK recovery has “taken hold” and unemployment will fall sooner than it had forecast.

Germany next, with a sharper focus from the Associated Press:

EU launches review of Germany’s export strength

  • The European Union is launching a review of Germany’s hard-charging export economy and whether its burgeoning trade surplus hampers the recovery of weaker countries.

  • The question is whether Germany should encourage wage growth and more spending at home to help growth in its European trade partners and the 17-country euro currency union as a whole.

But Europe Online spots shaky ground:

Germany Social Democrats: Coalition talks with Merkel could fail

Negotiations between German conservatives headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and the left-leaning Social Democrats (SPD) on forming a coalition government could fail, a senior SPD member warned Wednesday.

While Spiegel proclaims a gerontocracy:

Punishing the Young: German Pension Reforms a Gift for the Elderly

Berlin’s incoming government is expected to institute a wave of pension reform that could exacerbate inequality, burden workers and create huge budget headaches. So why are the parties so intent on pushing it through?

Deutsche Welle invokes the technocrats:

Germany’s economic ‘wise men’ slam Merkel for costly coalition plans

Germany’s ‘wise men’ panel of economic advisers has warned Chancellor Merkel against striking costly deals in current coalition talks with the Social Democrats. They fear Germany’s nascent recovery might be slowed.

From DutchNews.nl, as on Wall Street, so in Amsterdam:

The Dutch rich are getting richer says Quote magazine

The 500 richest Dutch people have together become €7bn richer over the past year, according to the latest edition of the Quote 500 rich list.

And another DutchNews.nl headline sets the context:

Rabobank economists see no growth in 2014

The Dutch economy will not grow in 2014 and unemployment will continue to rise, according to economists from Rabobank in their latest forecast.

To France with RFI and the latest outburst of hard times intolerance:

Far-right paper causes storm with racist insult to French justice minister Taubira

A far-right paper in France has caused uproar with a headline comparing Guyanese-born Justice Minister Christiane Taubira to a monkey. The Minute front page is the latest of several racist insults that Taubira has faced since she guided the government’s gay marriage law through parliament.

RFI has more grief for the government:

Schools strike, mayors threaten non-compliance over French school reform

Schools in Paris were disrupted by strikes Wednesday morning on the second day of strikes against change to school hours. Mayors of 55 towns have declared that they will not implement the change when it comes into force across the whole of France in 2014.

And from RFI again, the pressure mounts:

Hollande under pressure to make changes amid mounting social discontent

The sight of protestors jeering at President François Hollande during the solemn Armistice Day Commemorations has stirred talk in France that the activities of various groups with different grievances are coalescing to form a more generalised revolt against the current government.

And the pressure intensifies again. From CNBC:

The euro could disappear in 10 years: BlackRock CEO

The euro could be in danger of disappearing within the next decade if France does not continue pushing economic reforms, BlackRock Capital boss Larry Fink said Tuesday.

Spain next, and a deflation alert from Europe Online:

Spain posts negative inflation for first time since 2009

  • Spain’s consumer price index dropped by 0.1 per cent in October, its first year-on-year fall since 2009, statistics body INE said Wednesday.

  • In September, inflation had registered an increase of 0.3 per cent.

While ANSAmed chronicles another deflationary alert:

Spanish real estate market down for 5th month

From El País, a mixed report card:

Spain fails Brussels’ economic imbalances probe in five areas

  • Germany cited for excess current account surplus.

  • Eurogroup to give thumbs up to Madrid on bank bailout conditions.

thinkSPAIN covers another austerian consequence:

Crisis causes fewer plane passengers and local travellers take the bus rather than the train

AIR passenger numbers are continuing to fall with a decrease of 14.5 per cent in the past year, reports the National Institute of Statistics (INE).

And El País reports a notable failure, a leading electrical appliance maker that is part of the world’s heretofore most successful co-op, Mondragon:

Fagor files for receivership

Other units of loss-making Basque electrical appliance manufacturer to follow suit in next few days

Portugal and a country where 100,o000 have already fled in search of work, via ANSAmed:

Portuguese unemployment falls from 17.7% to 16.4%

A total of 838,600 people out of a job

The Portugal News notices a debt shift:

Mortgage defaults up while personal credit defaults drop

The number of Portuguese families who are not managing to pay their loans fell in September to a total of 658,900, but the number who are finding it tough to pay their mortgages is increasing, according to data compiled by Lusa News Agency from Bank of Portugal data.

Italy next, and a declaration from Corriere della Sera:

Berlusconi to Withdraw from Government if Expelled from Senate

Former PM reflects bitterly: “For twenty years, I’ve been doing all I can to keep moderates united. Someone always turns up to split them”

And Reuters foresees a bite at the Apple:

Italy investigates Apple for alleged tax fraud: sources

U.S. tech giant Apple is under investigation in Italy for allegedly hiding 1 billion euros ($1.34 billion) from the local tax authority, two judicial sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Bulgaria next, with GlobalPost:

It’s getting ugly in Sofia: Bulgarian students barricade university

After months of street demonstrations, the young take the vanguard of a popular protest movement.

Another take from EUobserver:

Bulgaria leaders condemn attacks on immigrants

Bulgaria’s president and prime minister on Tuesday jointly condemned the rise in racist attacks against immigrants and asylum seekers from Syria, reporters Reuters.

After the jump, Greek meltdown continues, mixed Latin American signals, Worries in India, China’s neoliberal surge, environmental alerts, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now! . . . Continue reading