A report from The Real News Network featuring John Weeks, professor emeritus at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies, and Jennifer Taub, associate professor of law at Vermont Law School.
A full transcript is posted here.
A report from The Real News Network featuring John Weeks, professor emeritus at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies, and Jennifer Taub, associate professor of law at Vermont Law School.
A full transcript is posted here.
First, consider this excerpt from his final speech, delivered at Mason Temple in Memphis 3 April 1968, the night before his assassination. Then consider the deplorable record of the Obama administration:
Next, consider this speech, delivered almost exactly a year earlier [4 April 1967] to the gathering of meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in Manhattan, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence.” Then consider the case of a chief executive who arrogates to himself the powers of judge, jury, and executioner of those he declares enemies of the state:
From The Real News Network, a report from Berkeley on the neolibertarian-planned destruction of the U.S. postal service, including the sell-off of buildings, many architectural jewels, to the immense profit of the spouse of California Senator Diane Feinstein.
An excerpt from the webcast produced by TRNN’s David Zlutnick, including a quote from UC Berkeley geographer Gray Brechin:
[S]ome private contractors will do quite well off of the ongoing USPS fiscal crisis. CBRE, for example, is the world’s largest commercial real estate broker, chaired by San Francisco billionaire Richard Blum, husband of Sen. Diane Feinstein. Last year CBRE won a contract from the USPS to be the sole manager of its property sales, as well as an advisor on which properties should be sold.
Brechin: CBRE also arranges the leases, so it’s involved in all aspects of the sale. They’re making a ton of money off this.
CBRE has played this role before. In October 2009, the firm was contracted by the State of California to sell over $2 billion in office buildings the state wanted to privatize because of its own financial problems. But USPS dismisses any possible conflict of interest CBRE may have in performing its services.
One of the post offices on the block is the downtown Berkeley building, listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places and the home of some very notable New Deal-created artwork featured in a previous post.
Though he retired in 1988, Tony Lepore returns to duty for 10 days every holiday season for a command performance as the Dancing Cop of Providence, Rhode Island, drawing crowds and smiles as he directs traffic.
In an age when police are becoming militarized and increasing distant from the communities they’re supposed to serve, it’s refreshing to see an officer accomplish his very serious purpose with elan and delight.
For more on Lepore, see this Associated Press story from Rodrique Ngowi.
And here’s Lepore at his dancing best in a Boston Globe video:
H/T to Just An Earth-Bound Misfit, I.
From ROAR Magazine and the Syntagma Multimedia Team, signs of hope emerging from the misery being inflicted on the people of Greece by the global banking systems and their minions in government:
The program notes:
ROARMAG.org presents: ‘Utopia on the Horizon’, a documentary for those who chose to struggle.
In May 2011, hundreds of thousands of Greeks swarmed into Syntagma Square in Athens to protest against the firesale of their country, their labor rights and their livelihoods to corrupt domestic elites and foreign financial interests.
In a matter of days, a protest camp was set up — organized on the principles of direct democracy, leaderless self-management and mutual aid — providing a glimpse of utopia in the midst of a devastating financial, political and social crisis. On June 28-29, during a Parliamentary vote on further austerity measures, the state finally responded with brutal force, eventually evicting the protesters from the square and crushing the radical potential of their social experiment.
A year later, Leonidas Oikonomakis and Jérôme Roos — PhD researchers at the European University Institute and co-authors of the activist blog ROARMAG.org — returned to Athens to speak to activists involved in the movement and the occupation of Syntagma Square, as well as WWII resistance hero Manolis Glezos. What follows is this dramatic portrait of a country veering on the brink of collapse; and the people who chose to struggle in order to build a new world on the ruins of the old.
Manolis Glezos, articulate and insightful at age 90, is Greece’s most famous hero from the World War II resistance to Nazi occupation, immortalized in the Greek heart by his daring 30 May 1941 capture of the Nazi flag installed over the Parthenon a month earlier.
Hosted by Larry King and sponsored by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation, whose founder, Christina Tobin, joins in the questioning, the debate — held last night — features four candidates appearing on presidential ballots but excluded from the staged debates appearing on the mainstream media.
All questions were submitted via social media.
They candidates are:
In response to widespread blackout from both the mainstream media and political establishment alike, RT is honored to be presenting a platform for the major third-party candidates also vying for the White House this election year to debate. We offered the event live in cooperation with the debate’s organizers, the Free and Equal Elections Foundation.
The event was moderated by multi-award winning broadcast journalist Larry King and was broadcasted live from Chicago, Illinois. Thom Hartmann, the star of RT’s The Big Picture and noted radio host, was one of a few select journalists hand-picked to hit the candidates with questions about their campaign.
The Washington Post actually covered the event.
Leading off tomorrow night’s event will be Bob Meister, president of the Council of UC Faculty Associations [CUCFA] and Professor of Political and Social Thought at UC Santa Cruz. Click on the image to enlarge:
From Reclaim UC:
Debt is a permanent feature of most of our lives. Yet the socialization of risk debt represents isolates individuals, locking us in the private misery of our dealings with banks and creditors. Medical debt, student debt, consumer debt, foreclosures — these social forms mark so many personal failings and moral obligations, we are told. Debt, in other words, not only insures our continued servitude to the corporate pursuit of dwindling private profits. It also serves to alienate us from one another, and foreclose the possibility of collective resistance. Debtors’ Assemblies, then, are a first step in fighting back to reclaim our stolen futures. Please join us Wednesday, October 24th from 5-6 in front of California Hall for the first in a series of weekly Debtors’ Assemblies to learn more about the many forms of debt and discuss ways to resist debt’s claim upon our lives. Robert Meister will speak briefly at the beginning of the first assembly.
The Geek government doesn’t want you to see this, created by the Greek Archaeologists Association against the IMF/E.U. cuts in culture funding.
From Areti Kotseli of Greek Reporter:
The Association of Greek Archaeologists (SEA) launched a campaign in March this year, an international appeal for the protection of Greece’s cultural heritage and historical memory, titled Monuments Have no Voice, They Must Have Yours.
Now, one of the campaign’s videos has been banned by the Central Archaeological Council. It had circulated for several months via the Internet and social media, but it failed to receive an official approval on Aug. 28 after they pointed out security lapses in guarding monuments, embarrassing authorities.
The Council rejected the video because it was inspired by the grand thefts which took place at the Olympia Museum of the History of the Olympic Games in Antiquity earlier this year, when dozens of ancient artifacts were stolen, after another art theft at the Athens National Gallery, when two oil paintings by 20th-Century masters Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian were stolen.
The Association of Greek Archaeologists put together the campaign to draw attention to funding cuts that are threatening the Greek cultural heritage and, as it said, the “austerity packages and authoritarian measures, that are currently tearing apart Greece and its monuments”.
The organization has a petition on Facebook. Sadly, you have to belong to Facebook to sign, and since we refuse to succumb to the Facebook agenda, we can’t add our name.
In childhood, we had intended to become a member of the archaeologist’s trade, and the very first word we insisted or third grade teacher to show us how to write in cursive was archaeology [we still have the exemplar].
Since the American imperial adventure has already destroyed much of Iraq’s archaeological heritage, we find it unconscionable that the U.S.-based International Monetary Fund and it’s Troika allies are demanding that Greece cut funding for its own heritage — a form of “war by other means.”
The latest sad example of the demise of a once-great American newspaper.
First, a video report from RT:
New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti allegedly forwarded an advance copy of a column penned by colleague Maureen Dowd to a CIA spokesperson. The piece was about the film “Zero Dark Thirty” which is about the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Dowd’s column criticized the White House for giving Hollywood inside information while leaving the public in the dark about the operation – this all coming to light thanks to documents disclosed by the transparency group Judicial Watch. Jeff Cohen, media critic and journalism professor at Ithaca College, joins RT’s Liz Wahl to talk more about subjective journalism.
But there’s no “allegedly” involved, as Glenn Greenwald notes in The Guardian, where he reproduces the actual emails:
The CIA had evidently heard that Maureen Dowd was planning to write a column on the CIA’s role in pumping the film-makers with information about the Bin Laden raid in order to boost Obama’s re-election chances, and was apparently worried about how Dowd’s column would reflect on them. On 5 August 2011 (a Friday night), Harf wrote an email to Mazzetti with the subject line: “Any word??”, suggesting, obviously, that she and Mazzetti had already discussed Dowd’s impending column and she was expecting an update from the NYT reporter.
A mere two minutes after the CIA spokeswoman sent this Friday night inquiry, Mazzetti responded. He promised her that he was “going to see a version before it gets filed”, and assured her that there was likely nothing to worry about:
“My sense is there a very brief mention at bottom of column about CIA ceremony, but that [screenwriter Mark] Boal also got high level access at Pentagon.”
She then replied with this instruction to Mazzetti: “keep me posted”, adding that she “really appreciate[d] it”.
Moments later, Mazzetti forwarded the draft of Dowd’s unpublished column to the CIA spokeswoman (it was published the following night online by the Times, and two days later in the print edition). At the top of that email, Mazzetti wrote: “this didn’t come from me … and please delete after you read.” He then proudly told her that his assurances turned out to be true:
“See, nothing to worry about.”
As Greenwald notes:
Here we have a New York Times reporter who covers the CIA colluding with its spokesperson to plan for the fallout from the reporting by his own newspaper (“nothing to worry about”). Beyond this, that a New York Times journalist – ostensibly devoted to bringing transparency to government institutions – is pleading with the CIA spokesperson, of all people, to conceal his actions and to delete the evidence of collusion is so richly symbolic.
We shouldn’t be surprised. The Times sunk into into present slough of despond starting with Judith Miller, the reporter who did so much to boost the Bush administration’s case for invading Iran with all those stories about nonp-existent stocks of uranium.
The Times, as with all American newspapers, has been devastated by the Internet economy, downsizing its newsroom a reducing overseas bureaus — nad in the process becoming all too reliant on the goodwill of governments.
This latest scandal is merely symptomatic of the decline of American journalism.
Here in California, we’ve seen wave after wave of municipal government corruption, greatly facilitated by the devastation of the state’s newspapers, which once played a vigilant watchdog role in policing the actions of governments and elected officials.
Three of the five newspapers we worked for in the Golden State are gone, the cities they covered no longer regularly covered by full-time experienced journalists and the financial resources needed to support their work. That, in turn, creates an environment where corruption can thrive.
That the New York Times has fallen so low is a tragedy; one we mourn. But we save our tears for the thousands of communities left with either no newspapers or with decaying husks of once thriving institutions.
We’d say we expect more scandals, but who’s left to expose them?
But here in the U.S., parents are sending their kids back to school with supplies laced with the chemicals.
The chemical industry has a great deal at stake in phthalates, as do pharmaceutical manufacturers [which use them to coat pills to delay digestion of medicines], cosmetics [hand lotions, nail polish, shampoos, and hair sprays], food packaging, our cars [they’re sprayed on car interiors to provide that “new car smell”], and a vast number of other consumer goods.
Now Denmark is moving ahead with a bad on four of the most widely used phthalates.
Danish Environment Minister Ida Auken has decided to ban four industrial chemicals linked to disrupting the human endocrine system, pushing Denmark ahead of the European Union which has already started a process of phasing phthalates.
Auken said she would introduce a ban this autumn on DEHP, DBP, DIBP and BBP phthalates.
Phthalates are chemical substances which are used to make plastic soft and more flexible. They can be found in everyday products such as rubber boots, oilcloths and vinyl flooring and have already been banned in Europe for use in children’s toys.
In deciding the ban, Auken is defying EU regulation in the area. In Spring 2013, the European Commission is due to look into further action in the area of endocrine disrupters that could lead to tougher regulation of phthalates.
Phthalates are among other things suspected of making men sterile and of pushing young girls into puberty too early.
“The Danish Environment Ministry has enough documentation so we feel now is time for action,” Auken told EurActiv.
Sending kids back to school with phthalates
The Danish announcement comes simultaneously with a new report from the Center for Health, Environment & Justice revealing their findings of high levels of phthalates in back-to-school supplies sold in U.S. stores.
From their press release:
A brand new report reveals that toxic chemicals linked to asthma and birth defects that are banned in toys were found to be widespread in children’s vinyl back-to-school supplies.
Seventy-five percent of children’s school supplies tested in a laboratory had elevated levels of toxic phthalates, including popular Disney, Spiderman, and Dora branded school supplies such as vinyl lunchboxes, backpacks, 3-ring binders, raincoats, and rainboots. Hidden Hazards: Toxic Chemicals Inside Children’s Vinyl Back-to-School Supplies was released in New York City today outside of Kmart, where some of the school supplies were purchased.
“Our investigation found elevated levels of toxic phthalates widespread in children’s school supplies, including Disney and Spider-Man lunchboxes and backpacks. These dangerous chemicals manufactured by Exxon Mobil have no place in our children’s school supplies. Unfortunately, while phthalates have been banned in children’s toys, similar safeguards don’t yet exist to keep them out of lunchboxes, backpacks and other children’s school supplies. It’s time for Congress to move forward and pass the Safe Chemicals Act to protect our children from toxic exposure,” says Mike Schade from the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), author of the new report, Hidden Hazards: Toxic Chemicals Inside Children’s Vinyl Back-to-School Supplies. CHEJ collaborated on the report with the Empire State Consumer Project.
“It is disturbing that millions of young children are being exposed to these toxic chemicals with no enforcement to protect them,” said Judy Braiman of the Empire State Consumer Project, co-publisher of the report.
The full report is posted online here.
There’s an important meeting featuring international experts [including two from UC Berkeley] on the subject of biosafety and the genretically modified crops.
Here’s the flyer [click on the image to enlarge]:
A new video from Berkeley’s own Annie Leonard and the Story of Stuff Project:
Here’s an excerpt from Leonard’s essay about the video:
For a long time I couldn’t understand why. Now I’ve realized that it isn’t because we don’t have enough data, white papers or experts to tell us we’re in trouble. The problem is we’ve forgotten what it takes to make change.
My new movie, The Story of Change, argues that’s partly because we’ve gotten stuck in consumer mode.
I’ve come to see that we have two parts to ourselves; it’s almost like two muscles – a consumer muscle and a citizen muscle. Our consumer muscle, which is fed and exercised constantly, has grown strong. So strong that “consumer” has become our primary identity, our reason for being. We’re told so often that we’re a nation of consumers that we don’t blink when the media use “consumer” and “person” interchangeably.
Meanwhile, our citizen muscle has gotten flabby. There’s no marketing campaign reminding us to engage as citizens. On the contrary, we’re bombarded with lists of simple things we can buy or do to save the planet, without going out of our way or breaking a sweat.
No wonder that faced with daunting problems and discouraged by the intransigence of the status quo, we instinctively flex our power in the only way we know how – as consumers. Plastic garbage choking the oceans? Carry your own shopping bag. Formaldehyde in baby shampoo? Buy the brand with the green seal. Global warming threatening life as we know it? Change your lightbulb. (As Michael Maniates, a professor of political and environmental science at Allegheny College, says: “Never has so little been asked of so many.”)
More videos from Leonard here.
With the Greek election coming Sunday, political and money players across the globe are sweating bullets, and there’s even some gay baiting as the vote draws nigh.
While polls show the likely outcome will be a near-drawn between the leftists of Syriza and the neocons of New Democracy, the uncertainty is approaching panic levels.
Adding to the anxiety are the latest numbers plus a flood of downgrades, many hitting banks in Northern Europe, plus threats to downgrade all the eurozone countries in the even of a Syriza-dominated coalition.
Meanwhile, interest rates on Spanish and Italian bonds are continuing to soar, while Greece itself sinks deep into the slough of despond.
Oh, and there is another election Sunday, one in France that polls show is likely to give the Obamaesque President François Hollande complete control over the National Assembly.
We’ll begin with the latest numbers.
On the brink of Eurorecession
We have a deep dislike of the way economists define a recession. When applied to individual nations and even groups of nation, the term is restricted to broad economic data and omits the human detail.
For instance, employment numbers fail to take into account the changing conditions of work, as in the case of people who remain in jobs but are forced to get by on smaller pay and benefits, while paying out more for goods and services.
We would argue that both Europe and the U.S. are in a state of depression, characterized by fewer jobs that pay less for more work and reduced benefits. But the data used in calculated recessions and depression doesn’t include such finely tuned parameters.
That said, the latest data, reported by New Europe:
More statistical data are indicating that Eurozone is heading soon towards a recession period. Eurostat, the statistical service of the European Union, released some days ago data clearly showing that the euro area month to month inflation rate in May was negative, an infallible sign of reduced economic activities.
Earlier on Eurostat had released Gross Domestic Product statistics proving that Eurozone was only 0.1% away from the negative part of the growth chart. Today, Friday 15 June Eurostat published its estimates on employment developments in Eurozone, indicating that there are fewer people with productive occupation.
In detail Eurostat informs that during the first quarter of 2012 in relation to the last three months of last year, “The number of persons employed decreased by 0.2% in the euro area(EA17) and remained stable in the EU27… In the fourth quarter of 2011, employment fell by 0.3% in the euro area and by 0.1% in the EU27.”
Alexis Tsipras, the man who scares the Troika
First, a new campaign ad from Syriza:
And here’s an election report from Agence France-Presse:
Charles Hawley of Spiegel deftly summarizes the ways Tsipras and his movement are perceived:
One way to look at Alexis Tsipras, the 37-year-old wunderkind of the Greek left, is as the leader of a small yet rapidly growing political party on the edge of Europe – a party that stands to attract some 3 million votes in Sunday’s election. Three million votes out of a European Union population of a half billion. Just over half of 1 percent.
There is another way to look at Tsipras, however – as the European politician who, perhaps more than any other, holds the fate of the European common currency in his hands. It is this second interpretation that has the entire world gazing with fear as Greeks head to the polls this weekend. Tsipras, after all, has promised Greece that he will abandon the deep austerity measures imposed by the EU in exchange for bailout aid – with Brussels threatening to suspend those payments, and send Athens into bankruptcy, should he do so. It is a game of political chicken that could bring down Europe.
Central banks around the world are preparing for the potential financial earthquake that could accompany a victory of Tsipras’ Syriza party. Reuters reports on Friday that central banks in Britain, Canada, Japan, China and India are all working on contingency plans or have said they are prepared to take measures to counter any financial market turbulence that could result from the vote.
And this lead paragraph from a EurActiv story deftly sums up the freight seen as riding on the election’s outcome:
Greeks go to the polls on Sunday (17 June) in what is considered the most decisive election in the country’s post-authoritarian history. An inconclusive result, or a victory for the anti-bailout political forces, may spur Greece’s exit from the eurozone and could most likely spark a “perfect storm” for the rest of the EU.
Crass electioneering outrages Greeks
Imagine that the world’s leading financial publication, produced in the heart of a country that had a deep vested interest in furthering an agenda harmful to your country, came out and endorsed candidates in a domestic election.
The outrage would probably be enough to force even the editorials beneficiary to cry foul, as in the the old Cold War days Pravda had endorsed Lyndon Johnson over Richard Nixon.
Well, it happened to Greece, with just such results.
Greek parties reacted with outrage on Friday after the German edition of the Financial Times made a front-page call on Greeks to vote for the New Democracy conservatives in the upcoming election.
“Dear Greeks, create clear political conditions. Vote courageously for reforms instead of angrily against the necessary, painful structural changes,” read the Financial Times Deutschland’s editorial, published in Greek and German.
“Your country will only be able to keep the euro with parties that accept the conditions of the international creditors,” the daily said, adding: “Resist the demagoguery of Alexis Tsipras and his (radical-left party) SYRIZA.” It endorsed the New Democracy party led by 61-year-old Antonis Samaras.
SYRIZA condemned the editorial as “a crude and unprecedented intervention, which offends national dignity and tries to undermine democracy.” The only thing left now is for German Chancellor Angela Merkel to “come and hand out ballots for the right,” said top SYRIZA official Dimitris Papadimoulis.
New Democracy too was careful to dismiss the endorsement from a newspaper in a country that is widely reviled in Greece as it is seen as the main force behind a raft of painful austerity measures imposed in recent years.
Meanwhile, banksters brace for the vote
A whole slew of stories are out today about the panicky preparations for the election in the corridors of political and financial power [is there any difference?]
First up, from Stella Dawson and Lesley Wroughton of Reuters:
Central banks from major economies stand ready to take steps to stabilize financial markets by providing liquidity and preventing a credit squeeze if the outcome of Greek elections on Sunday causes tumultuous trading, G20 officials told Reuters.
A senior U.S. official cautioned that the Greek election will not provide “the definitive signal on what happens next” in the euro zone debt crisis.
But if severe market strains emerge after an unusual confluence of three elections this weekend – there are important polls in Egypt and France as well – central bankers are on standby to ensure enough cash is flowing through the financial system.
“The central banks are preparing for coordinated action to provide liquidity,” said a senior G20 aide familiar with discussions among international financial diplomats. His statement was confirmed by several other G20 officials.
More from David Jolly of the New York Times:
The head of the European Central Bank said Friday that central banks were ready to step in to address any financial market turmoil that might result from elections in Greece this weekend that could help to decide the future of the euro.
“The Eurosystem will continue to supply liquidity to solvent banks where needed,” Mario Draghi told a group of economists in Frankfurt.
In Tokyo, the Bank of Japan governor, Masaaki Shirakawa, said the central bank was “prepared to take all possible measures to ensure the financial system does not come under threat,” calling the European debt crisis “the biggest risk factor we are paying attention to.”
In Bern, the Swiss central bank said it was prepared to spend unlimited amounts of money to hold down the value of the Swiss franc if the euro came under further pressure.
Brits launch another stimulus
The United Kingdom sits in a unique position as a major economy in the European Union that’s not a member of the common currency zone.
And Old Blighty’s response to the economic uncertainty posed by the election is the launched of yet another round of economic stimulus.
From the BBC:
Bank shares have jumped in the wake of plans from the Bank of England to launch two new stimulus packages.
The Bank of England’s announcement of its plan, on Thursday, came in response to the worsening economic outlook, governor Sir Mervyn King said.
Together with the government, it will provide billions of pounds of cheap credit to banks to lend to companies.
Royal Bank of Scotland was the biggest riser, up 6.4%. It was followed by Barclays, which had risen 4.2%.
Banks will also have access to short-term money to deal with “exceptional market stresses”. The chancellor said the measures would “inject confidence”.
In his annual Mansion House speech, Chancellor George Osborne said the stimulus packages would “support the flow of credit to where it is needed in the real economy”.
“We are not powerless in the face of the eurozone debt storm. Together we can deploy new firepower to defend our economy from the crisis on our doorstep,” he said.
The Independent’s Ben Chu summed it up this way:
The Governor of the Bank of England and the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night announced measures designed to prevent a new credit crunch that would push Britain’s economy deeper into recession. The move was a clear sign that the Governor and the Treasury are alarmed by the prospects for the economy in the face of potential financial shocks from the eurozone.
Meanwhile, Germany continues electioneering
This time, the head of the all-powerful Bundesbank.
The euro zone can’t allow any country to blackmail it with the threat of financial contagion, the chief of Germany’s Bundesbank Jens Weidmann said on Friday, two days before a Greek election that will decide if the debt-laden country will stick to the strict terms of its EU/IMF bailout deal.
“In any case, we must not allow any country to blackmail us with the Continue reading
Fast and furious meetings and teleconferencing today among G7 money ministers and central banksters, justly panicked [though they’d never admit it] that the whole game of debt and privatization is under threat.
They can’t be so stupid that they didn’t see it coming. Hell, long-time readers will have seen it coming, since we’ve warned of it ever since we launched this blog.
We’re leaving at or near the apexes of multiple exponential curves, among them debt, resource consumption, environmental pollution, and species extinctions.
The “solution” mandated — growth, the only way to pay the interest on all that debt — is suicidal, if growth is meant to imply the perpetuation of an a system on rape of our common terrestrial home, our finite, delicately balanced Spaceship Earth, hurtling through space and equipped with limited supplies.
We’ve got to find a better way of doing things at a time when systems of immense power, control, and wealth are armed with tools of surveillance beyond the dreams of despots of the past.
And so on with the show, today consisting of a spirited response, a panicked meeting of the powerful, more bad numbers, calls for more consolidation of powers in the European unions [this time, an EU prosecutor], a presidential history lesson, calls by and on Germany, more Grexit mobilization, a rating agency lays Grexit odds, a Greek Army officer stealing food to live, and much, much more.
Hitting the highlights
Today’s Guardian liveblog sums up some of the day’s news:
- G7 finance ministers and central bankers have discussed the eurocrisis by phone today as fears grow that Europe could trigger a new panic in the global economy. On the call, leaders discussed plans for closer fiscal union across Europe, which increasingly looks like the only way to stem the crisis.
- Spain’s prime minister warned that the country is now in a situation of “extreme difficulty”. Mariano Rajoy said it was imperative that Europe proves that the euro is irreversable, by agreeing a banking union and embracing eurobonds. Germany, though, remained opposed to allowing Spain’s banks to be bailed out without a formal request from the Spanish government.
- A grim set of economic data showed that the eurozone economy is shrinking. Private sector output across the single currency region fell by its fastest rate in almost three years, while retail sales fell 1% and Germany factory orders also dropped. Economists predicted that the eurozone could shrink by 0.5% in the current quarter, putting more pressure on the ECB (which meets to set eurozone interest rates tomorrow).
More numbers from the BBC:
The Markit purchasing managers’ index fell to 46 in May from 46.7 in April, its lowest level in almost three years. A figure below 50 indicates contraction.
German output fell for the first time in six months, while declines in Spain and France accelerated.
The eurozone’s private sector has now contracted for four months in a row.
The May figures indicate that “the economy is contracting at the fastest pace for around three years”, said Markit’s chief economist Chris Williamson.
“Companies report business activity to have been hit by heightened political and economic uncertainty, which has exacerbated already weak demand, both in the euro area and further afield.”
More details from Agence France-Presse:
Any score below 50 indicates economic contraction, with the latest reading of the closely-watched survey of buying activity showing recession in the debt-laden eurozone periphery clearly now eating into the core.
The final score was a shade better than the first estimate of 45.9 points but the results showed that German output fell for the first time since November and that downturns in France and Spain accelerated, with Italy firmly mired in a steep downturn.
France posted a 37-month low of 44.6 points, with Spain languishing on 41.2 points. Italy’s score rose, but only to 43.5 points.
Obama gets a Fabius schooling
Barack Obama’s running for reelection, and he’s got to paint things as rosy as he can, since Mitt Romney’s running neck-and-neck in recent polls.
And now that the crash has reverberated back across the Atlantic, sending those all important growth numbers into the red, Obama painted the U.S. malaise as a consequence of the European crisis, not something domestic.
But that didn’t set well with the French, and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius decided to give the president a little lesson in recent history, a bit beyond the range of Obama’s rhetorical focus.
From Agence France-Presse:
“The crisis did not start in Europe… Lehman Brothers was not a European bank,” Fabius said after talks with his counterpart Giulio Terzi in Rome.
“We should not shift responsibility. We’re all in the same boat,” he said.
Obama said Saturday that Europe’s economic woes were causing trouble for the United States’ own economy, after the US unemployment rate rose for the first time in almost a year, spelling trouble for his reelection bid.
“The crisis in Europe’s economy has cast a shadow on our own. And all of this makes it even more challenging to fully recover and lay the foundation for an economy that’s built to last,” he said in his weekly radio and Internet address.
Europols talk up the euro in Russia
Russia has good reason to be leery of Europe, what with NATO in a belligerent mode and with that new anti-missile system along the western border. Given the last few centuries of war-filled history, Russia has, uh, concerns.
But with the euro under threat, the EU officials tried to put on a good show for their troubled currency.
From New Europe:
The troubled euro was praised by European Commission President Barroso and by Council President Van Rompuy at the EU – Russia summit.
Speaking at the end of the summit, Barroso said the EU leaders had “full confidence in the future of the Euro area and of the European Union.” He added that “the debate now in the European Union is not how we are going to undo the integration. The debate is about how we are going to further deepen the integration to complement our monetary union with a full economic union, including in some areas like the banking sector supervision and also in some fiscal aspects.”
In case that wasn’t clear enough, he emphasised, “no one should be in any doubt – there is absolute commitment in the European Union and in the Euro area to the euro and to the solidity and further integration of all our efforts.”
Van Rompuy was equally forthright, “Let me be clear, there is no way back for the Euro. There is only the way ahead towards more integration.”
All power to the
One very important use of the crisis has to consolidate power in the institutions of Brussels, accomplished by the surrender of sovereign powers by member states.
Now comes a call for a Brussels criminal prosecutor.
From Nikolaj Nielsen of EUobserver:
MEPs on the recently established anti-mafia committee and the European Commission have revived talk of creating an EU public prosecutor’s office.
French centre-right deputy Veronique Mathieu – among others – proposed the initiative at a meeting of the anti-crime body in the European Parliament in Brussels on Monday (4 June).
EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said it would be a “good idea,” but added that it needs wider political backing.
A parliament spokesman said that several member states are against it as things stand.
The commission’s website says it “would be responsible for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to justice those who damage assets managed by or on behalf of the EU.”
Creation of the eurozone a mistake
That’s the conclusion of economist Robert J. Samuelson, writing in the Washington Post:
Europe is at the abyss — again. Its turmoil is rattling global stock markets and stoking fear and bewilderment. The obvious question is, what’s the solution? The answer is, there is no solution. Europe faces choices, some bad and others worse. Unfortunately, it’s unclear which are which. The best that can be imagined is that Europe lurches from crisis to crisis and that its slumping economy weakens the already fragile global recovery. The worst is a massive flight from the euro and an economic free fall that resurrects the dark days of 2008 and 2009.
Can anyone doubt that the euro’s creation in 1999 was a huge blunder? It aimed to promote European prosperity and unity, but it’s Continue reading
When two scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute [WHOI] learned of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the promptly volunteered their expertise to assess the extent of the massive underwater oil spill.
Little did they know that two years later they’d find themselves in court, on the losing end of a motion filed by oil giant BP that would force them to reveal both the raw and spirited contention that goes into scientific research but the secrets of their own inventions as well.
And the net result could prove chilling to both the scientific deliberative process and to the willingness of scientists to give themselves freely when their help is needed.
The events that have shocked the scientific community should also serve as a reminder to UC Berkeley scientists that their emails could well be targets of the company that effectively bought the university with the largest corporate research grant in the history of American academia.
Dampening the volunteer spirit
We being with a summary of the what happened, from Suzanne Goldenberg of The Guardian:
A pair of scientists have accused BP of an attack on academic freedom after the oil company successfully subpoenaed thousands of confidential emails related to research on the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.
The accusation from oceanographers Richard Camilli and Christopher Reddy offered a rare glimpse into the behind-the-scenes legal manoeuvring by BP in the billion-dollar legal proceedings arising from the April 2010 blow-out of its well.
It also heightened fears among scientists of an assault on academic freedoms, following the legal campaign against a number of prominent climate scientists.
The two researchers turned over some 50,000 pages of research notes and data to BP. But BP demanded more, and obtained a court subpoena for the handover of more than 3,000 confidential emails.
Now for some background
Christopher M. Reddy and Richard Camilli are scientists at Woods Hole. A marine chemist, Reddy directs the Director of the Institution’s Coastal Ocean Institute, while Camilli is an associate scientist with a specialty in oceanic physics and engineering.
After the Deepwater Horizon explosion on 20 April 2010, the two volunteered their time, expertise, and equipment to survey the extent of the oil spill, but found themselves block by BP.
Here’s Camilli’s testimony to the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling on 27 September 2010:
And here’s what they discovered when they were finally allowed in, via a 19 August, 2010 report from WHOI:
Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have detected a plume of hydrocarbons that is at least 22 miles long and more than 3,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, a residue of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In the study, which appears in the Aug. 19 issue of the journal Science, the researchers measured distinguishing petroleum hydrocarbons in the plume and, using them as an investigative tool, determined that the source of the plume could not have been natural oil seeps but had to have come from the blown out well.
Moreover, they reported that deep-sea microbes were degrading the plume relatively slowly, and that it was possible that the 1.2-mile-wide, 650-foot-high plume had and will persist for some time.
The WHOI team based its findings on some 57,000 discrete chemical analyses measured in real time during a June 19-28 scientific cruise aboard the R/V Endeavor, which is owned by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and operated by the University of Rhode Island. They accomplished their feat using two highly advanced technologies: the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) Sentry and a type of underwater mass spectrometer known as TETHYS (Tethered Yearlong Spectrometer).
And the lawyers play games
Having spent nearly five years covering litigation in Southern California’s most elite court venue, we can pretty much parse the reasons why BP wanted the emails.
The answers to be found in a two-word phrase: Exculpatory evidence.
Science can be a rather messy affair before it gets to the stage of the well-crafted journal article or heavily footnoted report as scientists “blue sky” a whole range of hypothesis, not a few of which are simply off the wall. There’s good reasons for doing it that way, throwing out all manner of ideas and concepts while honing down the focus to the set that best fits the data.
But to a lawyer defending one of the world’s biggest corporations against massive civil suits, getting hold of those spontaneous communications can prove a wonderful thing in court, allowing a crafty litigator to create alternative scenarios aimed solely at discrediting an adverse witness.
And the reality of modern communications technology is that its residues last forever, providing a potential gold mine for advocates consumed by the notion of dazzling or bamboozling a jury.
And so, being the zealous advocates they are, BP’s lawyers struck for the jugular, and when the dust had settled, they got everything — including sensitive proprietary information about costly hardware they scientists had invented.
Before the age of emails, scientists would debate their evidence through old media, from phone calls to letters, and much of those exchanges would simply vanish, either forgotten or relegated to the wastebacket.
The scientists were alarmed, writing to the Boston Globe:
Ultimately this is not about BP. Our experience highlights that virtually all of scientists’ deliberative communications, including e-mails and attached documents, can be subject to legal proceedings without limitation. Incomplete thoughts and half-finished documents attached to e-mails can be taken out of context and impugned by people who have a motive for discrediting the findings In addition to obscuring true scientific findings, this situation casts a chill over the Continue reading
That’s the picture emerging of the slayer of 77 Norwegians, most of them children, as his trial continues today in Oslo.
Survivors of last July’s massacre at the Utoeya Island youth camp have wrapped up their testimony and the focus is now on the police officers first to arrive at the island.
Their testimony describes a man we can only describe as a malignant narcissist, vain and self-obsessed of striking body-builder poses when it came time for his police photos.
From the BBC:
As they detained Breivik, the police superintendent said the killer’s main concern seemed to be blood loss from his cut index finger.
“I said: ‘You’ll get no band aid from me.’ Look around — dead and wounded people are lying everywhere,” [police superintendent Haavard] Gaasbakk said.
He also recalled that the gunman said: “You are not the ones I am targeting. I consider you as brothers. It’s a coup: I must save Norway from Islamisation.”
Another police officer, Oerjan Tombre, told the court that Breivik, stripped of his fake police uniform, posed like “a bodybuilder” as they prepared to take pictures of him.
He also spoke of Breivik’s concern for his finger-wound and his fear of dehydration. The self-confessed mass killer was eventually given a sticking plaster and a drink.
Surrounded by the bodies of dead and dying children, the preening, self-absorbed Brevik displayed the classic symptoms of malignant narcissism: “an extreme form of antisocial personality disorder that is manifest in a person who is pathologically grandiose, lacking in conscience and behavioral regulation, and with characteristic demonstrations of joyful cruelty and sadism.”
This is the man hailed by many, including some folks who’ve commented on our previous posts, as a hero, committed to “saving” Europe.
A very important work in progress, Community Organising depicts the most creative response we’ve seen yet to the Greek economic crisis, the emergence of self-organizing community support systems to provide for the needs of those most stricken by the unfolding disaster.
Though sparked by a crisis, the networks emerging in Greece offer hope for the present and models for the future, a more truly democratic, self-organized way of providing for community needs.
The Greek networks are community and neighborhood based, working from the bottom up to provide what a corrupt top-down system can no longer provide.
What passes for democracy these days is an alienating system, devoid of the direct, energetic engagement of the public, the inevitable product of an economic system in which the media of communication exist not to educate and illuminate but to extract wealth through the sophisticated selling of goods created to meet manufactured needs.
Greece is the canary in the coal mine, and we can learn both from the systemic failures that brought it about and from the creative responses of an aroused and energized populace.
We humans seem to change only in response to crisis, so let’s make the best of it, and these Greeks are showing us a way to do it.
The documentary, to be released soon in final form, is from Reel News, an independent, non-aligned video collective “set up to publicise and share information on inspirational campaigns and struggles.” Based in Britain, the collective’s members document movement across the globe.
For more of their videos, see their You Tube vlog here.
H/T to From the Greek Streets.