Category Archives: Schools

Chart of the day II: A real American drug problem


And it ain’t crack, smack or weed. . .

From an important Esquire article, which notes:

By the time they reach high school, nearly 20 percent of all American boys will be diagnosed with ADHD. Millions of those boys will be prescribed a powerful stimulant to “normalize” them. A great many of those boys will suffer serious side effects from those drugs. The shocking truth is that many of those diagnoses are wrong, and that most of those boys are being drugged for no good reason—simply for being boys. It’s time we recognize this as a crisis.

BLOG Meds

Video report: Rallying for compassionate politics


Here’s an important and ongoing story given far too little coverage in mainstream media.

First up, the Contributor Network poses a question:

This Past Saturday, 80K Plus Marched on Raleigh, NC. Why Didn’t We Hear About It?

A crowd declared by organizers to exceed 80,000 showed up to march to protest Republican policies in Raleigh, N.C. Saturday. But you wouldn’t know it if you live outside the area.

Saturday’s big march, organized by the North Carolina NAACP and more than 160 partner organizations, was called “the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People’s Coalition.” Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the NC NAACP and convener of HKonJ, said at the march:

“We are black, white, Latino, Native American. We are Democrat, Republican, independent. We are people of all faiths, and people not of faith but who believe in a moral universe. We are natives and immigrants, business leaders and workers and unemployed, doctors and the uninsured, gay and straight, students and parents and retirees. We stand here – a quilt of many colors, faiths, and creeds.”

There were few reports in any national news outlets (though USA Today did carry a report, saying there was “a crowd of between 80,000 and 100,000 people”), but some local media picked up the story.

And for more depth, here’s a report on the rally and its origins from The Real News Network:

80,000+ Moral Monday Protesters Fight For Justice Regardless of Which Party Is In Power

From the transcript:

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

So, do you remember the Moral Monday protests? Well, they’re back, and last Saturday, tens of thousands marched in Raleigh, North Carolina, protesting policies enacted by the GOP-controlled legislature and Republican governor Pat McCrory. Participants came from all over the country to join the Forward Together / Moral movement and the HKonJ, which is the Historic Thousands on Jones St. People’s Assembly, to reignite the Moral Monday protests.

Here’s just a quick look at the GOP’s record in North Carolina and what these protesters are fighting against. Since 2010, they’ve ended the earned income tax credit. They’ve also refused to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. And they cut pre-K programs and passed voter ID laws requiring voter IDs, and eliminated same-day voter registration.

Now joining us to discuss all this is one of the leaders of the movement, Reverend Curtis Gatewood. Reverend Gatewood is the HKonJ Coalition coordinator for the North Carolina NAACP. From 2005 to 2011, Gatewood served as the second vice president of the state’s NAACP.

Thanks for joining us, Rev. Gatewood.

REV. CURTIS E. GATEWOOD, COMMUNITY ORGANIZER, NORTH CAROLINA NAACP: Hello, Jessica. It’s a pleasure to be here.

DESVARIEUX: So, Rev. Gatewood, let’s get right into this. Can you just discuss why your group decided to participate in this march?

GATEWOOD: Well, first, I do feel that there’s a certain level of honor due as I bring greetings on behalf of the North Carolina NAACP State Conference, where we have the conspicuous and prophetic leadership of Rev. William J. Barber[incompr.]II, who in 2005 was elected to become the state NAACP president at the same time, as you mention, I was elected second vice president.

After that, Rev. Barber worked with leaders around the state to form what is now known as HKonJ, the HKonJ Coalition, which is the acronym for Historic Thousands on Jones St. As a part of the coalition, we were able to put together an agenda which was also related to the mission of the NAACP. And by putting together the agenda, we were able to identify experts within the community, for example education equality. Of course, then we would look for experts who speak to those issues–women’s rights, health care for all.

Or so–as we put together this, about a 14-point agenda, which basically now can be broken down to about five categories, we were able to identify issues at the state level. And since that formation of HKonJ and its coalition, we have gone across the state in building and focusing on legislative issues that were served the worst interests of our agenda.

So we first of all want to make clear that we did not just start challenging policies because we have now a majority Republican House. In fact, when we started, we had a majority Democratic House.

Headlines of the day II: EconoGrecoSinoFuku


Our compendium of headlines from the world of human economic and political actions and their impacts on our environment opens with a health alert from The Guardian:

Worldwide cancer cases expected to soar by 70% over next 20 years

  • New cancer cases expected to grow from 14m a year in 2012 to 25m, with biggest burden in low- and middle-income countries

Cancer cases worldwide are predicted to increase by 70% over the next two decades, from 14m in 2012 to 25m new cases a year, according to the World Health Organisation.

The latest World Cancer Report says it is implausible to think we can treat our way out of the disease and that the focus must now be on preventing new cases. Even the richest countries will struggle to cope with the spiralling costs of treatment and care for patients, and the lower income countries, where numbers are expected to be highest, are ill-equipped for the burden to come.

The incidence of cancer globally has increased in just four years from 12.7m in 2008 to 14.1m new cases in 2012, when there were 8.2m deaths. Over the next 20 years, it is expected to hit 25m a year – a 70% increase.

Closer to Casa esnl, the latest coverage of class war in Babylon by the Bay from USA TODAY:

SF residents caught in middle of tech hostilities

For the past month, protesters have confronted buses that transport employees from Google, Apple and Facebook to Silicon Valley. The flare-ups highlight the yawning gap between those benefiting from the enormous wealth generated by the tech boom and those left behind. Multimillion-dollar tax breaks for SF-based companies like Twitter have stoked rebellious tensions.

“We have a group which is mostly young and has not learned social norms or responsibility gaining wealth and power,” says Vivek Wadhwa, a Fellow at Stanford Law School. “This group has its own value system and lives in its own bubble. It is displacing the larger population of San Francisco.”

The city has had its neighborhood battles – hippies in the Haight in the 1960s, gays in the Castro in the ‘70s. But the latest gentrification clash is moving faster, making the current situation dicey.

The Verge Googles eyesore:

California orders Google to move floating barge from current construction site

The state of California has ordered Google to move its massive floating barge away from its current construction site in the San Francisco Bay. San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission executive director Larry Goldzband said the four-story structure has drawn numerous complaints. “It needs to move,” Goldzband said. He also claims that Google never had the proper permits to start work on the project at Treasure Island. But today’s development may not spell any real trouble for Google — the company simply needs to relocate the barge to another Bay facility where construction is fully permitted. The news was first reported by the Associated Press.

Sightings of the barge led to rampant speculation about its purpose last year. Google eventually admitted ownership of the San Francisco barge, teasing that it hopes to explore using it as a space where “people can learn about new technology.” We reached out to the company for more details on how it plans to respond to this latest challenge. In a statement, a Google spokesperson told The Verge, “We just received the letter from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission and we are reviewing it.”

From Bloomberg, the usual suspects operating in the usual way:

IBM Uses Dutch Tax Haven to Boost Profits as Sales Slide

International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) has reduced its tax rate to a two-decade low with help from a tax strategy that sends profits through a Dutch subsidiary.

The approach, which involves routing almost all sales in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and some of the Americas through the Netherlands unit, helped IBM as it gradually reduced its tax rate over 20 years at the same time pretax income quadrupled. Then last year, the rate slid to the lowest level since at least 1994, lifting earnings above analysts’ estimates.

IBM is aiming for $20 a share in adjusted earnings by 2015, up from $11.67 in 2010 — a goal made more difficult as the company posted seven straight quarters of declining revenue. To stay on target, IBM has bought back shares, sold assets, and fired and furloughed workers. A less prominent though vital role is played by its subsidiary in the Netherlands, one of the most important havens for multinational companies looking for ways to legally reduce their tax rates.

MarketWatch tanks anxiously:

U.S. stocks see worst selloff in several months

  • Manufacturers expand in January at slowest rate in eight months

The U.S. stock market closed with sharp losses on Monday, after a much weaker-than-expected reading on manufacturing data as well as concerns over a slowdown in China, triggered the worst selloff in several months.

The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the day with the steepest decline since June 20.

U.S. manufacturers expanded in January at the slowest rate in eight months as the pace of new orders sharply decelerated, according to the closely followed ISM index. The Institute for Supply Management index sank to 51.3% from 56.5% in December. That’s the lowest level since last May. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected the index to drop to 56%

From the New York Times, a belated recognition:

The Middle Class Is Steadily Eroding. Just Ask the Business World.

As politicians and pundits in Washington continue to spar over whether economic inequality is in fact deepening, in corporate America there really is no debate at all. The post-recession reality is that the customer base for businesses that appeal to the middle class is shrinking as the top tier pulls even further away.

If there is any doubt, the speed at which companies are adapting to the new consumer landscape serves as very convincing evidence. Within top consulting firms and among Wall Street analysts, the shift is being described with a frankness more often associated with left-wing academics than business experts.

The Washington Post notes a sea change:

Report: Majority of U.S. kids under age 2 are now children of color

For the first time, a majority of American children under age 2 are now children of color  — and 1 in 3 of them is poor, according to a disturbing new report. “The State of America’s Children 2014.” that cites the neglect of  children as the top national security threat.

The report, published by the Children’s Defense Fund, calls on President Obama and America’s political leaders “in every party at every level to mount a long overdue, unwavering, and persistent war to prevent and eliminate child poverty.”

From the Project On Government Oversight, why the hell not?:

Could Post Offices Become Public Banks?

The U.S. Postal Service is floundering—2013 was the seventh year in a row to report a net loss, at a whopping $5 billion—and  nobody is quite sure how to fix it. Go Private? Close branches? Deliver Mail only four days a week? Ideas are being thrown around but little progress has been made in improving the troubled agency.

But last week, the office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service released a report with an out-of-the-box suggestion that would produce $8.9 billion in new annual profits: Turning the Post Office into a bank, with savings accounts, loans and debit cards. Furthermore, it would greatly benefit the poor, who lack banking options and are often gouged by predatory financial services.

The idea has been floated before but with official backing from the Inspector General it has a higher degree of credibility and plausibility. Add in the fact that it wouldn’t require Congressional approval, only an executive order from the President, and maybe the out-there proposal could actually become a reality.

Still think the idea sounds crazy? Consider this: The Post Office already was a bank. From 1911-1967, savings accounts were offered with 2 percent interest, ending because of competition from private banks with higher interest rates. The post office still provides money orders.

From Medical Daily, a notable side effect:

Medical Marijuana Cuts Suicide Rates By 10% In Years Following Legalization

Legalization of medical marijuana has been found to correlate to a significant drop in suicide rates, providing additional evidence that the federally outlawed substance may have a positive effect on U.S. public health.

The new study, which is published in the American Journal of Public Health, shows that the suicide rate among men ages 20 to 29 and 30 to 39 fell by 10.8 percent and 9.8 percent respectively following a given state’s decision to legalize medical marijuana. Although the relationship was weaker and less precise among women, the authors believe that the findings provide strong evidence in favor of medical cannabis. “The negative relationship between legalization and suicides among young men is consistent with the hypothesis that marijuana can be used to cope with stressful life events,” they wrote.

On to Europe with an anxious twist from CNNMoney:

Pressure building for ECB rate cut

Another interest rate cut in Europe could be just around the corner as the risk of deflation rears its ugly head again.

The first official estimate of eurozone inflation in January was a weaker-than-expected 0.7% — the same level that prompted the European Central Bank to cut rates in November. Consumer prices rose by 0.8% in December.

The weaker January number “puts significant pressure on the ECB to take further stimulative action at its February policy meeting next Thursday,” said IHS Insight’s chief European economist Howard Archer.

Cheaper energy was largely to blame, but the stronger euro has also been pulling import prices down, economists said.

Quartz covers mordida:

Lithuanians and Romanians are more than six times as likely to be asked for bribes than the EU average

A fifth of Danes think corruption is prevalent, for example (the lowest level in the EU), but only 3% say they are personally affected by it in their daily lives. Some 12% claim they know someone who has taken a bribe, but only 1% say they have paid, or been expected to pay, a bribe themselves.

In much of western Europe, then, it seems that corruption is a somewhat abstract concept for the common person—confined to criminal cliques or a select few who abuse their positions of power (Danes reckon politicians are the most corrupt group in their country). But as you travel to the south and east, corruption appears to creep into one’s daily life, a depressingly routine feature of doing business or accessing public services. In the past 12 months, around one in three Lithuanians and one in four Romanians say they were asked or expected to pay a bribe; the EU average is less than one in 20.

Al Jazeera America sets the cost:

Report: EU corruption costs $162B annually

  • All 28 member states suffer from some level of corruption, the report found

Corruption affects all member countries of the European Union and costs the bloc’s economies about 120 billion euros ($162.19 billion) a year, an official EU report published Monday said.

European Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, who presided over the first-ever official EU-wide study on corruption, said the estimated amount lost annually due to padded government contracts, covert political financing, bribes to secure health care and other corrupt practices would be enough to fund the European Union’s yearly operating budget.

All 28 EU member states suffer from some level of corruption — defined broadly by the report as the “abuse of power for private gain” — the report found.

One more headline [only], from BBC News:

Corruption across EU ‘breathtaking’ – EU Commission

On to Britain and a call for caution from Deutsche Welle:

Steinmeier urges UK to stay in EU, voices doubt on treaty change

  • Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has appealed to the UK to remain in the European Union, regardless of progress on the EU treaty change sought by Britain’s Conservative-led government.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier made his first visit to London since returning to the foreign minister’s post on Monday, asking his British counterpart William Hague not to lose sight of the benefits of EU membership.

“In this 21st century world, we want to protect our political, economic and cultural influences,” Steinmeier said, adding that, on the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, such European ties “really must not be underestimated.”

The German foreign minister said it would be “an exaggeration” to assert that Germany and the UK were on precisely the same page when it came to treaty reform for the EU.

Xinhua sounds the alarm:

London housing market under price bubbles risk, warns Ernst and Young

Housing market in London is beginning to show signs of bubble-like conditions, said a research report issued by Ernst and Young Item Club (EY ITEM Club) on Monday, while asking the government to monitor the trend closely and be prepared to intervene.

The EY ITEM Club forecast showed the average house price in London is expected to reach nearly 600,000 pounds (980,000 U.S. dollars) by 2018, some 3.5 times the average price in Northern Ireland and more than 3.3 times the average in the North East.

It said the average house prices in Britain growing by 8.4 percent this year and 7.3 percent in 2015, before cooling to around 5.5 percent in 2016.

And simultaneously booms:

British manufacturing off to strong start in 2014

Britain’s manufacturing sector maintained its strong growth into 2014, posing an improved domestic demand and solid output growth supported by rising export orders in January, said a survey report on Monday.

The report, jointly issued by Markit and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS), showed the Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) for the British manufacturing sector was at 56.7 in January of this year.

The figure is at its lowest level in three months, but still showed a robust improvement in overall operating conditions for the manufacturing sector.

A reading of 50 points or greater indicates expansion, while below 50 indicates contraction.

A qualified UK separatism endorsement from El País:

Spain will not oppose Scottish EU entry: foreign minister

  • But García-Margallo warns that re-entry to the Union will take considerable time

Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo has stated that should Scotland elect to break away from the United Kingdom, Spain will not oppose the move because it does not have any bearing on the internal affairs of the country. “If the Constitution of the United Kingdom permits – and it seems that it does – that Scotland call a referendum on their possible independence, we will say nothing on the matter,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times.

However, the minister adhered to the Popular Party (PP) administration’s line over Catalonia’s own designs on a referendum for independence; one of staunch resistance.

On to Sweden and a call from TheLocal.se:

EU: Sweden should ban secret party donations

While the EU’s executive body acknowledged that Sweden was among the least corrupt countries in the EU, it pointed to several areas of potential improvement.

Specifically, Sweden could improve its transparency if it considered a general ban on anonymous political party donations. Sweden remains one of few EU countries without total party-funding transparency, and the government came under fire last month when it decided to keep the lid on private donations.

The report also hinted that Sweden could do more to combat the risk of corruption at the municipality and county level, which the commission said could be fixed by making authorities obliged to secure transparency in public contracts with private entrepreneurs.

TheLocal.se again, with hard times intolerance:

Afrophobic hate crimes on the rise in Sweden

Hate crimes directed against Sweden’s black population have increased in recent years, according to a report published on Monday, prompting grave concern from Sweden’s integration minister.

Afrophobia, defined as hostility towards people with a background from sub-Saharan Africa, is soaring in Sweden, according to the researchers who compiled the government-commissioned report. They wrote on Monday in the opinion pages of the Dagens Nyheter newspaper (DN) that it was time society took these statistics seriously.

Between 2008 and 2012, the number of reported hate crimes against Afro-Swedes, defined as anyone with African heritage living in Sweden, rose by 24 percent, while hate crimes in general during the same period decreased by six percent. Between 2011 and 2012 alone, the number of Afrophobic hate crimes rose by 17 percent, the researchers explained.

On to Brussels and a critique via DutchNews.nl:

Brussels criticises ‘revolving door’ between Dutch politics and industry

While the Dutch integrated approach to preventing corruption and bribery could serve as a model to other EU countries, the Netherlands should still do more to improve transparency in politics, the European Commission said on Monday.

While welcoming the fact that much has been done in the Netherlands to improve transparency, the Commission went on to recommend improvements in the way the business interests of ministers are examined.

Officials’ private, financial and business interests are considered a private matter and information about their assets and interests is not available to the public, the report points out.

Nor are there any rules forcing MPs to declare potential conflicts of interest or barring them from holding financial interests or engaging in external activities.

Germany next and a peculiar call from TheLocal.de:

Industry boss: ‘Too many students harm economy’

One of Germany’s top commerce experts warned on Monday that there were so many young people at university, and so few in traineeships, that the country’s economy would suffer.

“The consequences to Germany’s economy will be damaging, if the trend to study at any cost is not stopped,” said Eric Schweitzer, president of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK).

Schweitzer was referring to the amount of young people who undertake lengthy study in Germany, while companies struggled to fill traineeships.

“The truth is that many years of increasing student numbers in Germany have resulted in our classrooms now bursting at the seams, while companies are desperately seeking apprentices,” he said in a statement.

France next and a concession to the “family values” set from TheLocal.fr:

Hollande puts off family law to avoid new fight

A day after massive protests over President François Hollande’s “family phobia”, his government on Monday abruptly postponed plans to pass a controversial new family bill, that would likely have picked another fight with France’s traditional conservatives.

France’s Socialist government on Monday put off plans for a new family law after demonstrations by thousands of angry conservatives.

Hollande’s administration announced on Monday it was postponing its plans to move ahead with legislation that would have legalized medically assisted procreation for same sex couples, and tackled issues like surrogacy.

A source in Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault’s office said the government would no longer present a bill this year that officials had said was aimed at modernising the law to reflect the new “diversity” of families.

Nature’s newsblog takes the pledge:

Hollande pledges to avoid cuts to France’s science funding

French President François Hollande promised to spare the research and higher education budget from savings of €50 billion (US$67 billion) that his government has pledged to find over the next three years to reign in its massive public deficit.

The government will find other ways to cut the deficit, avoid tax increases and ensure business can increase investment and create jobs, he said during a visit to the University of Strasbourg.

In a speech devoted entirely to research and higher education, Hollande also said he would maintain the controversial research tax credit (CIR) because companies appreciate it and it helps attracts foreign investment.

And from TheLocal.fr, a demand:

EU: France must root out corruption at local level

France remains a country where the worlds of international business and public procurement are blighted by shady dealings and corruption, according to a new EU report. But just how bad is corruption in France and how does it compare to other countries in Europe?

France needs to do more to fight corruption a new report from the European Commission argues, especially in the areas of international business transactions and public procurement, which are still ripe with misdeeds.

“Corruption-related risks in the public procurement sector and in international business transactions have not been addressed,” the report concludes.

On to Switzerland and the first of a schizy set of headlines from TheLocal.ch:

Swiss ban proposed on sex education for kids

Swiss voters will decide whether to ban compulsory sex education for children under nine after conservative groups mustered enough signatures to force a plebiscite, the authorities said on Monday.

The federal administration said campaigners had gathered more than the 100,000 signatures of voters required to put their measure to the public for approval.

The campaign coalition — whose goal is the “protection against sexualisation in kindergartens and primary schools” — handed in its petition in December and the government is now obliged to set a date for a vote.

And out of left field, also from TheLocal.ch:

Swiss want to reopen pot legalization debate

A Swiss parliamentary committee looking into drug issues wants to reopen the debate on the legalization of marijuana in the wake of developments in the US, Uruguay and New Zealand.

“Many models that exist around the world should be studied and analyzed, that is the basis of our reflection,” Toni Berthel, committee president and a member of the Swiss association for addiction, is quoted as saying by the ATS news agency.

Berthel confirmed information reported on Sunday by the Schweiz am Sonntag weekly newspaper about the new look at Swiss cannabis laws.

Spain next and a matter of perception from El País:

95 percent of Spaniards see corruption as institutionalized

  • “Political will is absent” in battle against graft, notes Brussels report

Ninety-five percent of Spaniards believe corruption is generalized, according to the first continent-wide study on the issue by the European Commission. Only respondents in Greece (99 percent) and Italy (97 percent) outdid Spain. The report, which was presented on Monday in Brussels, underscores the magnitude of the issue in Europe: three out of four EU citizens believe corruption is an institutional problem.

In two areas of the survey Spain topped the charts. Asked if the level of corruption has risen in the past three years, 77 percent said yes, more than in the other 27 member states. Two out of every three respondents said that corruption affected their daily lives, more than in any other nation. The survey was conducted in February and March 2013, when a series of corruption scandals involving the government, labor unions, political parties and the monarchy occupied the front pages in Spain.

From TheLocal.es, Coke Zero:

Zero tolerance to Coke plant closures

Thousands of workers from Coca-Cola bottling factories in Spain marched on Sunday in protest at plant closures they say will cost 750 jobs.

In red caps and vests bearing the logo of the giant US drinks company, crowds marched in Madrid and the eastern city of Alicante, where two of the threatened plants are located.

Coca-Cola’s plan to close four of its bottling factories in Spain is expected to lead to 750 workers being laid off and 500 others being offered relocation to other plants.

Another protest from thinkSPAIN:

Nationwide protest over ‘abusive’ electricity costs

THOUSANDS of people across Spain joined in a countrywide protest over rocketing electricity prices on Saturday.

Demonstrations were held in 23 cities, mostly provincial capitals, including Madrid, Valencia, Alicante, Barcelona, Murcia, Málaga, Almería, Granada, Córdoba, Huelva, Sevilla, Cádiz, Jaén, and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

Carrying banners calling for Luz a precio justo (‘electricity at a fair price’), the demonstrators clamoured against the government’s forcing the consumer to bear the cost of its own debt with energy suppliers, leaving already hard-pressed householders suffering prohibitive prices.

And an austerian measure from TheLocal.es:

King freezes wages of Queen and Princess

King Don Juan Carlos has gone against the trend of royal secrecy in Spain and publicized the new fixed salaries of his wife Queen Sofía and daughter-in-law Princess Letizia.

It’s the first time the 76-year-old monarch has willingly made information on royal earnings available to Spain’s general public.

In a press release published by Spain’s Zarzuela Palace, the newly-fixed wages of royal family members have been disclosed in detail.

Queen Sofía of Spain will earn €131,739 in 2014, a sum roughly resembling her wages last year but which is no longer determined by so-called representation costs.

As for Letizia Ortiz, wife of Prince Felipe and future queen of Spain, she will receive a grand total of €102,464.

El País schmoozes:

Rajoy looks to 2015 race with soothing pledges for tax reform and stimulus measures

  • PM bashes Rubalcaba for being negative and blames Socialist leader for current “agony”

The Popular Party (PP) on Sunday officially kicked off the beginning of the second half of its current term in government with pledges from Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to carry out his long-awaited ambitious tax reform and other economic measures to help Spain get back on its feet.

As PP officials begin to look toward the next general elections scheduled for the end of next year, the ruling party has tried to use its three-day political conference in Valladolid to showcase proposed strategies in an effort to win voters’ confidence in its recovery plan. But at the close of national meeting, Rajoy avoided offering any specifics on his plans, but was able to muster rallying cheers from stalwart party members with an unusually aggressive attack on opposition Socialist Party leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba.

The verbal blitzkrieg was seen as an attempt to breathe new life into an increasingly embattled Popular Party, which finds itself bitterly divided on a range of issues, including the government’s proposal for abortion reform; the route that should be taken that would lead to ETA’s eventual demise; and the ongoing public corruption inquiries that have engulfed many of its members.

Italy next, starting with a Bunga Bunga bounceback from New Europe:

Italy: Poll finds Berlusconi-led government would win election

Judges may be convicting him and prosecutors opening yet new probes, but it seems that Italians would yet again elect a Berlusconi-led government it they had to vote now. According to a new poll published in February 3, a center-right alliance led by embattled former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi would be the most likely winner if Italians were to vote now under a reform proposal currently before parliament.

The poll, commissioned by newspaper Corriere della Sera and conducted by the Ipsos agency found that potential center-right coalition would get 37.9 percent of the vote, above the 37 percent threshold needed under the new rules being examined to obtain a large winner’s bonus of parliamentary seats without having repeat elections.

The centre left according to the same poll would get 36 percent while Bepe Grillo’s 5-Star protest movement 20.7 percent.

TheLocal.it hyperbolizes:

Five Star bloggers ‘potential rapists’: MP

Italy’s lower house speaker has accused the anti-establishment Five Star Movement of instigating violence and slammed bloggers on the party website as “potential rapists” following a flurry of sexist abuse online.

Laura Boldrini was commenting on a post on the Facebook page belonging to the Five Star Movement’s leader Beppe Grillo, which asked on Saturday “what would you do if you found Boldrini in your car?”

The question, which accompanied a satirical video and was taken up on the movement’s official website, sparked a series of abusive comments, including calls for Boldrini to be raped.

The post was an “instigation to violence, just look at the comments it prompted, nearly all of which were made in a sexist context,” Boldrini said in an interview late Sunday on Italian television.

And from TheLocal.it, ubiquity:

Almost all Italians think corruption is rife

Almost all Italians believe that corruption is widespread in their country, according to the European Commission’s anti-corruption report released on Monday. While some progress has been made, the EU’s executive body highlighted a number of areas in need of urgent action.

Ninety-seven percent of Italians think that corruption is rife, second only to Greece with 99 percent and well above the European average of 76 percent, the European Commission report found.

Bribery and connections are the easiest ways to get certain public services, 88 percent of Italians believe, compared to 73 percent of Europeans.

People in Italy, however, are more optimistic than those in Greece, where 93 percent of the population believe bribery is the easiest way to get what you want, compared to 92 percent in Cyprus and 89 percent in Slovakia and Croatia.

TheLocal.it again, with oldies and not-so-goodies:

Crisis-hit Italians survive on out of date food

Italians may be well-known for their healthy diet, but more are eating food well past its use-by date as the effects of the financial crisis continue to bite, according to new figures from Coldiretti, the Italian farmers association.

Fifty-nine percent of Italians, or six out of ten, eat out of date food, with fifteen percent eating food that is a month or more old, the association revealed.

Eight percent are eating food that is way beyond a month after its use-by date, while 34 percent are consuming products up to a week old and two percent never check expiry dates.

Coldiretti said the “worrying trend” poses a “significant risk to health”

After the jump, the latest on the Greek crisis, Ukrainian uncertainty, Russia currency freefall, Indian action, Thai troubles continue, Vietnamese expectations, more Chinese warning signs and neoliberal moves, Abenomics fails, pesticide alerts and other environmental woes, and the latest edition of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . .and more:  Continue reading

Headlines of the day I: Spies, zones, drones, pols


We begin today’s compendium of tales form the world of spooks and security with a video from RT America:

California to require warrants for drone surveillance

Program notes:

California lawmakers are considering legislation that would keep police agencies and other government entities from using drones to conduct warrantless surveillance in the Golden State. The bill would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant to use drone surveillance, except in some emergency cases, and that those agencies notify the public when they intend to use drones. The data those drones collect would have to be destroyed within six months. RT’s Ameera David takes a look at the bill that would create some of the nation’s strictest standards on the use of drones in law enforcement.

And now, on with the latest blowback from those Edward Snowden NSA revelations, via The Guardian:

Obama admits intelligence chief fault over false Senate testimony

  • President continues to defend James Clapper in the face of calls for his resignation after ‘untruthful’ statement about bulk collection

President Barack Obama has said his director of national intelligence, James Clapper, ought to have been “more careful” in Senate testimony about surveillance that Clapper later acknowledged was untruthful following disclosures by Edward Snowden.

But Obama signaled continued confidence in Clapper in the face of calls for the director to resign from members of Congress who warn of the dangerous precedent set by allowing an intelligence chief to lie to legislative bodies tasked with overseeing the powerful spy agencies.

“Jim Clapper himself would acknowledge, and has acknowledged, that he should have been more careful about how he responded,” Obama told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview that aired on Friday.

From the Secretary of State via TheLocal.de, a plea to “trust us”:

Kerry in Berlin: ‘US is committed to privacy’

US Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged on Friday that relations with Germany had gone through a “rough period” of late over NSA snooping but he said the US was “committed to privacy”.

After talks in Berlin with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Kerry told reporters that the United States took Germany’s anger seriously, which was sparked by revelations that US intelligence monitored Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.

“I want to say to the German people that it’s no secret that we’ve been through a rough period,” Kerry said.

Asked whether the US administration would sign a no-spying agreement that Germany has demanded in the wake of the scandal, Kerry said only that Merkel and US President Barack Obama were in “consultations” on the issue.

Similar words and a response from China Daily:

Obama speech on NSA welcome, but effects remain to be seen: EU official

European Union Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstroem on Friday welcomed a speech made by US President Barack Obama on curbing the activities of the National Security Agency (NSA), saying what that meant in practice was yet to be seen.

Malmstroem told participants at the 50th Munich Security Conference that there was a need to see the limits of the NSA and safeguards put in place.

Obama announced in a recent speech a reform of the NSA and its surveillance operations, mentioning the possibility of abuse while insisting operatives should consistently follow protocols.

Malmstroem made the remarks in a panel discussion about cyber security, which was joined by the German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizieere, the US chairman of the house permanent select committee on intelligence Michael Rogers and others.

The ol’ “They’re just jealous ploy” from Deutsche Welle:

Hayden: Every agency wants to do what the NSA does

Michael Hayden, a former director of the NSA, CIA and US national intelligence, tells DW he sees German anger at US spying as genuine and says the NSA shouldn’t have got caught tapping Chancellor Merkel’s phone.

“Have you been surprised how many Germans take this as a very personal issue? Do they take it very personally because they like the United States but they’ve been really taken aback by the surveillance?

“They have – and as I said before, that’s genuine. Also genuine is my belief that all nations conduct espionage and occasionally espionage gets conducted with people you truly do consider friends. So it’s a bit difficult having that discussion.

“Chairman Mike Rogers from our Intelligence Committee was here yesterday and I think he put a good program on the table. He said, “Let’s stick with the facts. Let’s actually have an adult conversation about what it is our security services do and don’t do.” And, frankly, in order for that to be a good conversation, I think German citizens are going to have to have a better idea about what their security organizations do and don’t do. I would be willing to bet that now, based on all these press accounts, most Germans know more about the NSA than about the BND [Germany’s federal intelligence service].”

Techdirt covers another ploy:

Canadian Gov’t Responds To Spying Revelations By Saying It’s All A Lie And Calling Glenn Greenwald A ‘Porn Spy’

  • from the wtf? dept

We’ve seen various government officials act in all sorts of bizarre ways after revelations of illegal spying on their own people (and foreigners), but none may be quite as bizarre as the response from the Canadian government, following the release late last night from the CBC (with help from Glenn Greenwald) that they’re spying on public WiFi connections. That report had plenty of detail, including an internal presentation from the Canadian electronic spying agency, CSEC. In the Canadian Parliament today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra, decided to respond to all of this by by insisting it’s all a lie and then flat out insulting both the CBC and Glenn Greenwald.

Here’s the video via Maclean’s Magazine. Techdirt has the transcript. . .and more:

Paul Calandra calls Glenn Greenwald a porn spy

Program notes:

The Prime Minister’s parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra, rose in the House before Question Period to bemoan the CBC’s journalistic integrity. Last night, the public broadcaster revealed top-secret documents that alleged a Canadian spy agency used airport WiFi to track Canadian travellers’ wireless activity. Communications Security Establishment Canada isn’t supposed to monitor innocent Canadians.

Glenn Greenwald, an American journalist who lives in Brazil, collaborated with the CBC on its report. Greenwald retains copies of a trove of U.S. intelligence docs leaked by infamous whistleblower Edward Snowden, and the journalist is working with the CBC—as a freelancer—to report stories relevant to a Canadian audience.

None of this impresses Calandra, who condemned the news report, questioned the CBC’s judgment, and mocked Greenwald’s past association with a porn company. He reacted in much the same way the first time the CBC published Greenwald’s work.

Calandra’s money line: “Why is furthering porn spy Glenn Greenwald’s agenda and lining his Brazilian bank account more important than maintaining the public broadcaster’s journalistic integrity?”

Hey, look at the bright side, CBC. He could have called you the state broadcaster.

SecurityWeek has saner umbrage:

Canada’s Eavesdropping Agency Blasts Tradecraft Leak

Canada’s ultra-secret eavesdropping agency on Friday blasted the disclosure of its tradecraft, after it was reported the agency had tracked airline passengers connected to Wi-Fi services at airports.

Communications Security Establishment Canada said: “The unauthorized disclosure of tradecraft puts our techniques at risk of being less effective when addressing threats to Canada and Canadians.”

On Thursday, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation said documents leaked by fugitive NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed that the CSEC could follow the movements of people who passed through airports and connected to Wi-Fi systems with mobile phones, tablets and laptops.

The documents showed the agency could track the travellers for a week or more as they and their wireless devices showed up in other Wi-Fi “hot spots” in cities across Canada and beyond.

While Deutsche Welle spurns:

Brazil continues to ignore Snowden asylum appeal

  • Over a million people have signed an online petition to grant asylum to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in Brazil. However, experts doubt that the country will give in to this demand.

An online petition started in November on the websites of the civic activism Avaaz has attracted over 1 million signatures. The petition was initiated by David Miranda, partner of American journalist Glenn Greenwald, who conducted the first media interviews with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Miranda plans to present the petition to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff once it has attracted 1,250,000 supporters.

But it is not only the campaign’s signatories who believe Snowden would be in good hands if he received asylum in Brazil: Snowden himself has appealed for it. The request, however, has so far remained unanswered, according to Snowden’s official support website. In July 2013, Brazil’s foreign minister stated that Snowden would not be grated asylum in the country. Meanwhile, the Brazilian president has claimed that no official application has been submitted on Snowden’s behalf.

Rubbing the Belgians the wrong way, via De Standaard:

Belgian professor in cryptography hacked

A new Belgian episode in the NSA scandal: Belgian professor Jean-Jacques Quisquater, internationally renowned expert in data security was the victim of hacking. And, as was the case in the Belgacom hacking affair, there are indications the American secret service NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ might be involved.

There isn’t a card with an electronic chip available, or it has some sort of security technology that UCL professor Jean-Jacques Quisquater (67) was involved in developing. If you are able to withdraw money from a cashpoint safely, for example, that is to some extent due to Quisquater’s work on complicated mathematical algorithms. He was also involved in the development of the Proton payment system in Belgium. That very same Jean-Jacques Quisquater has now been the victim of a hacking attack, that has all the signs – as was the case in the Belgacom affair – of ‘state-sponsored espionage, De Standaard has discovered.

The authorities investigating the Belgacom hacking case confirm they have opened a case. Quisquater himself has lodged a formal complaint.

Earlier this week, whistle blower Edward Snowden gave an interview to German television channel ARD in which he claimed the NSA’s espionage activities are not only aimed at protecting US national security – in the so-called ‘war on terror’ – but also at companies and private individuals. The Quisquater case seems to indicate the Belgian justice department might be able to demonstrate Snowden’s claims are more than a mere figment of his imagination. As far as we are able to tell, this is the first instance in which a private person is seen as a victim in the NSA case.

And dis-Dane from Dagbladet Information:

For the NSA, espionage was a means to strengthen the US position in climate negotiations

At the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, the world’s nations were supposed to reach an agreement that would protect future generations against catastrophic climate change. But not everyone was playing by the rules. A leaked document now reveals that the US employed the NSA, its signals intelligence agency, to intercept information about other countries’ views on the climate negotiations before and during the summit. According to observers, the spying may have contributed to the Americans getting their way in the negotiations.

From BBC News, a story about a proposal with a peculiar motivation [see last line]:

David Cameron wants fresh push on communications data

David Cameron wants a fresh push after the next election to “modernise” laws to allow monitoring of people’s online activity, after admitting there was little chance of progress before then.

The prime minister told a parliamentary committee that gathering communications data was “politically contentious” but vital to keep citizens safe.

He said TV crime dramas illustrated the value of monitoring mobile data.

After the jump, the latest Asian zone, drone, historical revisionism. Militarism, and secrecy crises. Plus Gitmo secrecy and a Canadian IP lawsuit, Fourth Estate under siege in UK and Russia, an Athenian terror scare, nuclear cheaters, drone warnings, email hacks, and more. . . Continue reading

Quote of the day: DiFi spouse, domestic enemy


And it’s not just anyone who’s effectively calling Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband an enemy of the people. It’s Jerome Kohlberg, billionaire and founder of Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts and chair of the Initiative to Protect Student Veterans.

While he doesn’t name plutocratic newly reappointed-by-Jerry-Brown University of California Regent Richard Blum himself as a domestic enemy, he does name a key holding of the regent’s Blum Capital Partners, ITT Educational Services, Inc [previously].

Kohlberg’s targets are those for profit-colleges which fasten, vampire-like, on veterans to extract the last drop of blood.

His statement is so important we’re violating our usually policy of not linking to its venue, Puffington Host [sic]:

These for-profits businesses — I will not call them colleges — target veterans, because they are eligible for GI Bill and other federal education benefits. Approximately 85-95 percent of their revenue comes from taxpayer-supported benefits. Former recruiters told U.S. Senate investigators they were trained to tap “the military gravy train” and “probe for weaknesses” to emotionally manipulate vulnerable prospects into enrolling. Even while still in uniform, these young men and women are hounded via phone calls and emails, approached on military bases by cynical recruiters posing as “military advisors,” and ultimately duped into signing over their GI Bill benefits and taking out student loans. This is unconscionable.

These for-profit predators must be seen for what they are — domestic enemies.

Increasingly, federal and state investigators are looking at whether these companies are violating consumer protection laws. State Attorneys General have filed lawsuits against some of the worst offenders, and the Obama Administration and Congress have moved to strengthen oversight and transparency.

The growing spotlight on these companies is affecting their bottom line. Several of the biggest players have reported steady losses in enrollment and revenue over the past few quarters, and their stocks have fallen. DeVry University and ITT Educational have seen their stock prices cut in half. The University of Phoenix reported an 18% drop in enrollment from a year ago; DeVry’s enrollment fell by more than 16%.

Read the rest.

That Gov. Jerry Brown can appoint such a creature as a regent of the increasingly hard-pressed University of California is a sign of just how depraved governance has become in the not-so-Golden State.

Oh, and it’s also Blum’s real estate company that’s making a fortune selling off America’s historic post offices.

To learn more about this odious creature, read the brilliant series of investigative pieces by Peter Byrne, posted online here.

Headlines of the day II: EconoGrecoFukuwoes


Today’s edition is shorter than usual, but there’s still lots happening,

We begin with the American interface of the economic and the environmental via The Guardian:

Conservative groups spend up to $1bn a year to fight action on climate change

  • Author: ‘I call it the climate-change counter movement’
  • Study focuses on groups opposing US political action

Conservative groups may have spent up to $1bn a year on the effort to deny science and oppose action on climate change, according to the first extensive study into the anatomy of the anti-climate effort.

The anti-climate effort has been largely underwritten by conservative billionaires, often working through secretive funding networks. They have displaced corporations as the prime supporters of 91 think tanks, advocacy groups and industry associations which have worked to block action on climate change. Such financial support has hardened conservative opposition to climate policy, ultimately dooming any chances of action from Congress to cut greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet, the study found.

From TheLocal.de, a German infusion:

Aldi plans multi-billion US expansion

German discount supermarket chain Aldi has said it will invest $3 billion (€2.2 billion) in expanding its presence in the United States over the next five years.

“Aldi today announced a five-year strategic plan to open 650 new stores across” the US, the group said in a statement on Friday.

Aldi already operates nearly 1,300 stores in 32 states in the US and describes itself as the “leading low-price grocer.”

And from the Philadelphia Daily News, a wiseguy with friends in high places:

How did reputed mob figure land major city contract in Philly?

RONALD GALATI, a South Philly fraudster and reputed mob associate at the center of a triple murder-for-hire investigation, has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars from a lucrative contract to repair and maintain Philadelphia Police Department vehicles, the Daily News has learned.

Galati, 63, identified by authorities as a onetime associate of mobsters Joey Merlino and George Borgesi, was able to land the contract despite a 1994 racketeering conviction for turning one of his auto-body garages into what federal prosecutors described as a “shop of fraud.”

Yesterday, a marked police car was parked inside Galati’s shop, American Collision & Automotive Center, on 20th Street near McKean. Records show that the city paid his company more than $400,000 in fiscal year 2012 alone. The contract began in 2011 and runs through June, a city official said.

Galati, whose name has surfaced in the ongoing racketeering retrial of Borgesi and reputed mob boss Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi, was arrested Friday on allegations that he hired hit men to kill his daughter’s boyfriend and a body-shop operator and his son.

Off the Britain and High [Street] anxiety from The Independent:

Retailers panic and slash prices amid low sales

Vast swathes of stores hit the panic button after one of the slowest Christmases on record

Retailers have slashed their prices this weekend in the hope that shoppers will finally flood Britain’s high streets today after one of the slowest Christmases on record.

With Christmas Day falling on a Wednesday this year, the traditional cat-and-mouse fight between shoppers and retailers has been pushed right to the wire with an extra weekend seeing customers waiting to see if stores will start discounting early.

And it seems like the shoppers have won, with vast swathes of stores hitting the panic button and slashing prices in a desperate attempt to shift their wares.

The Guardian disses:

Bulgaria issues fierce rebuke to David Cameron over migrants

UK faces isolation, president warns, as prime minister is accused of ‘pandering to nationalists’

The president of Bulgaria has made a stinging intervention in the UK’s immigration debate, attacking what he calls David Cameron’s attempts to pander to nationalists – and warning the PM to consider how history will judge him.

From Sky News, cruel Yule:

Christmas Debts ‘Won’t Be Cleared Until June’

The average family is going to take on debts this Christmas that will take until June to pay off, it has been claimed.

The Trades Union Congress has carried out research that shows that the typical family will add £685 to its borrowing by the time the festive season is over. That will take a family on an average income 24 weeks to pay off, the labour organisation claims.

Ireland next, with corporate reed run amok from Independent.ie:

Airtricity hikes prices after tripling profits

BUMPER profits by Ireland’s energy companies were in the spotlight once again yesterday after it emerged that Airtricity hiked costs for consumers just months after tripling its annual profits.

Accounts just filed by the energy company show it more than tripled its 2013 pre-tax profits to €45.8m. The British-owned firm attributed the profit surge to lower energy costs and an increase in customers as well as fewer acquisition costs. But just months after the financial year ended, Airtricity hiked up the cost of energy for those same customers. Electricity prices were increased by 3.5pc from November 1 and gas prices jumped by 2pc from October 1. It also hiked prices in 2012, adding 4.7pc on its electricity prices and an 8pc increase on gas prices in October 2012.

DutchNews.nl disillusions:

One in four PvdA supporters ‘will never vote for the party again’

Many supporters of the two coalition parties – the right-wing VVD and Labour party PvdA – are unhappy with the current political situation and say they may well not vote again for the party, the NRC reported at the weekend.

Research by Ipsos shows just 40% of the people who voted Labour in September 2012 are almost certain to vote for the party at another election, the NRC said. The same applies to 60% of free-market Liberals supporters.

On top of that one in four 2012 Labour voters say they will never vote for the party again, Ipsos says. Some 17% of VVD voters will also boycott the party in future.

On to Germany and a story with heart from Deutsche Welle:

Man denied heart due to lack of German gets compensation

When one hospital denied a man a heart transplant based on his lack of language skills, he took them to court. Three years later, they’ve agreed to pay damages, and new rules regarding transplants are set to be drawn.

France next, and another case infusion from South China Morning Post:

More Chinese cash flowing into French vineyards

The number of mainland investors pouring millions of dollars into French vineyards has risen sharply in recent years, but the trend has divided locals.

Critics are calling for wineries to remain under French control, while supporters have welcomed the injection of funds to rebuild infrastructure.

Between 2009 and 2012, the number of estates in the famous wine-producing region of Bordeaux owned by Chinese investors jumped from two to 25. The figure is now about 50.

From TheLocal.fr, corporadoes draw lines:

Multinationals put France ‘under serveillance’

Top executives from 50 foreign multinational corporations in France rung the alarm bells this week claiming the country’s business environment is pushing foreign investors away. They appealed for the Socialist government to take action.

The heads of the French wings of such giants as HP, Accenture, Microsoft and Volkswagen, say they have had increasing difficulty convincing their parent companies based abroad to invest in France.

In a commentary, published by business journal Les Echos and signed jointly by the execs, the multinational bigwigs urge changes to improve the business climate, while warning that France is “under observation”, suggesting that current activities could be curtailed if not shut down unless the situation improves.

On to Spain and historic retreat from El País:

Government approves most restrictive abortion laws since return of democracy

  • Justice minister announces that terminations in cases of deformity of fetus will no longer be allowed
  • Legislation means an end to access to the procedure on demand up to 14 weeks into term

As was expected, the Cabinet on Friday approved a series of controversial modifications to Spain’s current abortion law, which was passed by the Socialists in 2010 and was the subject of harsh criticism from the conservative Popular Party (PP) when it was in the opposition.

Speaking at a press conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting, Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón announced the changes to the current statute, which return to the requirements outlined in a 1985 law, and will only allow abortions under two conditions: if the baby presents a risk to the health of the mother, or if the pregnancy was the result of rape.

thinkSPAIN covers the response:

Mass protests against ‘restrictive’ abortion law reform

THOUSANDS of women have been protesting in the streets throughout the country for the last two days over the abortion law reform passed on Friday.

They say it is ‘an attack’ on their rights to ‘freely decide’ whether or not they wish to become mothers.

Members of the socialist opposition – including secretary-general Elena Valenciano – say women are going to be ‘forced to give birth’ whether they want to or not.

And the government’s refusal to allow pregnancy terminations on the grounds of disabilities or deformities of the foetus ‘condemns’ women to a life as a 24-hour carer, often when their children are adults and until the end of their natural lives.

El País juices up:

Rajoy promises consumers won’t see “unjustified” electricity rate rises

  • Government to review bills after invalidating wholesale tender due to suspicion of collusion
  • Government opens inquiry into proposed electricity hikes

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Friday that the government would soon be reviewing electricity rates after Spain’s anti-trust authority, the CNMC, invalidated the result of a wholesale auction that took place on Thursday and would have meant a huge hike in consumers’ bills.

“The government is working on a procedure to fix an alternative price to that of the auction,” Rajoy told a news conference. “The matter will be resolved before the end of the year.”

Lisbon next with action from the Portugal News:

Riot police called in at schools after teacher protests

Portuguese riot police were called to a school in Almada on the south bank of the Tagus on Wednesday following an attempted invasion of the institution on a day of the teachers’ assessment tests.

The police troops were called by the local officers who had been alerted by the school.

The school said the protestors were “very aggressive” as they had broken all the windows in the school frontage. Nevertheless, the teachers’ assessment was going ahead, the school said.

After the jump, Greek debaclery, Turkish troubles, Belarus and Azerbaijan privatize, Abu Dhabi misery, Latin American privatizations, Cuban gestures, Chinese speculators, Japanese urban woes and gangsters, environmental agonies, and the latest edition of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Ralph Nader on wealth, power, and politics


This is the first of three segments from The Real News Network featuring an extended Paul Jay interview of Ralph Nader:

McCarthyism Made Us Veer Away From a Systemic Doctrine for Change – Ralph Nader

From the transcript:

JAY: But now, you know, as we see capitalism in its–the ’08 financial crisis and the sort of recovery of Asia, you start to see–and let me add another big thing is there’s no longer this–even if it’s hypothetical–or was it theoretical?–but there wasn’t this supposed socialist Soviet Union that was going to guarantee jobs and insurance, health insurance, and this and that. I mean, the message of European capitalism and America to Europe, not so much to Americans: well, you don’t need socialism to get all this; capitalism can do it for you.

NADER: Yeah, social democratic politics they called it.

JAY: But now Europe is now turning on itself, and they’re doing everything they can to get rid of all this stuff. And now they want to be like the American model, to be more competitive.

But I guess where I’m going with this is: have we entered a kind of new stage of history of capitalist development?

NADER: Well, basically it was globalization that did it to Western Europe. Once they took in the model of the World Trade Organization, once they in effect financialized more of their economy–derivatives, speculation, stock market, all that–that’s when they started going down. I warned them: do not accept the U.S. multinational model, ’cause it’s going to happen to you. And the effect of the multinational model was exacerbated by the European common market. So if they got in one country, they’d get in a lot of the other countries.

However, they still have a safety net. And it’s frayed badly in England. For example, they’re charging students now as high as $12,000 a year for tuition. But by comparison with us, nobody dies in Western Europe–nobody dies in Western Europe because they don’t have health insurance. They’re insured from the cradle to the grave. In this country, 800 Americans die every week, every week, ’cause they can’t afford health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time.

And that’s–figure comes from a Harvard Medical School peer-reviewed study in the December 2009 Journal of American Public Health. This is not some wild figure. Eight hundred a week, and not a single major politician is talking about it in the election year last year.

The Juche Era: Inside a totalitarian North Korea


A 2003 documentary narrated by Yelena Yoncheva for Bulgaria’s BNT and subtitled and distributed by Journeymasn pictures, The Juche Era offers a fascinating look inside the totalitarian state of North Korea, a nation now in the throes of a major purge.

From Journeyman Pictures:

Cold Warzone: North Korea’s Militarized Society

Program notes:

The Juche Era: An uncharted journey through the heart of isolationist North Korea.

Just what does make North Korea tick? In every sense the country and its people still see themselves at war. Isolated and ostracised for decades, everything in this quirky place is choreographed to display maximum unity and strength. Produced by Bulgarian TV this unseen film manages to travel throughout the country. It provides an enthralling and unique behind the scenes view of a country which rarely allows outsiders to see inside.
Two million troops still face each other along the border between North and South Korea. ‘We have enough troops and military hardware to withstand a strike from the South and to win’. Huge billboards and loudspeakers shout invective at the other side. The cruel ferocity of the Korean war left the North scarred and in a permanent state of defensive hostility.

Under thousands of umbrellas in the Pyongyang rain, North Koreans endlessly practise their parades. They are showing faith in the idea of Juche, created by Kim Il- Sung. Juche means to rely on your own strength. Kim’s son Kim Jong-Il succeeded him and has continued with his father’s bizarre philosophies. All Koreans must take part in the colourful ceremonies which have come to define this country in foreign eyes.

Every walk of life is invaded by Songun, or military orientated doctrine. At a nursery school a special syllabus imparts the spirit of survival, with constant reference to their leader. Some may progress to Man Gjun De Military School, the most elite in Pyongyang. The school turns out some of the most committed officers in the world, ready to ‘strike back at anyone who attacks our country’. Half of North Korea’s budget goes on military spending. It turns a handsome profit (reputedly half a billion dollars annually) exporting missiles to the Middle East.

Life in Pyongyang struggles to emerge from the shadows of the great granite monoliths. Only with hidden cameras is it possible to see inside supermarkets for ordinary Koreans; ‘why would you want to go in there’; the guide insistently demands to every request. Worker brigades march to work, spade in hand, glorifying their leader in song. In local stores, each person is allotted goods in a strictly controlled system: shoes, a suit, a lamp.

Though the poster on the wall reads; ‘We support our dear leader in producing soy milk!’, the bags on the floor read UNICEF. North Korea is fed mainly by foreign humanitarian aid, a million tonnes of it each year. Citizens supplement their daily food intake by fishing in the Taedong River. In the 1990′s North Koreans were starving. Today, even in the countryside, they have food. They can grow crops in their small gardens to sell at market, unofficially (it does not reflect the ideals of Juche but has quietly been allowed to develop to avoid the starvation prevalent in the 90’s). But there is no escaping the ever present State: even in the fields loudspeakers call for the populace to be ready to fight and every family is called on to prepare their children for the army.

During a very unusual – for a foreigner – visit to ordinary Korean homes, we find a basic but secure existence — home grown vegetables and fish from the river stock the fridge. They might appear to have the basic essentials but the family clearly remains in the same state of denial as everyone else in this odd country. ‘My greatest dream is for the Juche ideals to succeed in every part of the world’, states the 27 year old daughter of the household.

Headlines of the day II: EconoAusterioFukulala


A great deal happening, so straight to it.

We begin with a peculiarly belated recognition from The Hill:

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

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

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

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

Pension Ruling in Detroit Echoes West to California

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

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

From Mother Jones, a good idea:

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

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

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

From Salon, confirmation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian covers Kochs:

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

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

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

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

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

From Reuters, more belated action to come:

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

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

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

Bloomberg Businessweek covers another side of the banking world:

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

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

From Reuters, just doin’ business:

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

Wal-Mart Stores Inc is paying for lawyers to represent more than 30 of its executives involved in a foreign corruption investigation, according to people familiar with the matter, an unusually high number that shows the depth of the federal probe.

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether Wal-Mart paid bribes in Mexico to obtain permits to open new stores there, and whether executives covered up an internal inquiry into the payments. The department is also looking into possible misconduct by the world’s largest retailer in Brazil, China and India.

From My Budget 360, reality:

Top 10 percent of US households control nearly 75 percent of all wealth – Average Americans pretend to be temporarily embarrassed millionaires by going further into debt.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore with upbeat numerals:

US trade gap shrinks to US$40.6b in October

The US trade deficit narrowed to $40.6 billion in October on a strong rise in exports, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday.

And from the Los Angeles Times, where you can “drive right up and put a great big hot dog in your face”:

First Wienerschnitzel, symbol of L.A. car culture, now a landmark

North of the border with the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Bank of Canada frets over low inflation, cites retail competition

Disinflation has become the Bank of Canada’s new worry as the central bank again left its key rate unchanged at 1 per cent.

The bank pointed to a persistent and unexpected drop in inflation caused by excess supply in the economy and heightened competition in the retail sector, where an influx of new U.S. chains is shaking up the industry.

CBC News drops a media ax:

Sun Media announces 200 layoffs

‘Cost containment’ continues at parent company Quebecor Media

And National Post has the latest Toronto mayoral folly:

Rob Ford may have offered $5,000 and car for ‘crack video’: new police documents

One of the men suspected of peddling the “crack video” of Mr. Ford said he also had pictures of the mayor “doing the hezza,” usually used as a slang term for heroin;

The New York Times covers Banksters Behaving Badly:

E.U. Imposes $2.3 Billion in Fines Over Rate-Rigging Scandal

Joining a chorus of regulators worldwide, the European Union fined a group of global financial institutions — including for the first time two American banks — a combined 1.7 billion euros to settle charges they colluded to fix benchmark interest rates.

The widely anticipated settlement, worth about $2.3 billion and announced by European Union antitrust officials on Wednesday, is the largest combined penalty ever levied by European competition authorities and marks the culmination of an investigation that dates back more than two years.

From New Europe, feeble numbers:

In the EU28 GDP increased by 0.2 per cent

Second estimate in Eurozone’s GDP

Eurozone’s GDP only grew by 0.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2013 compared with the second, recording a 0.4 per cent fall compared with the same quarter in 2012.

From Salon, a neoliberal desideratum nears completion:

Austerity is Americanizing European labor markets

Workers throughout Europe are losing their rights as their nations race to reduce the costs of labor

On to Britain with an ultimatum from the London Telegraph:

Goldman Sachs would ‘drastically’ cut its London office if the UK quits the EU

The Independent covers a national shame:

Food poverty in UK has reached level of ‘public health emergency’, warn experts

Hunger in Britain has reached the level of a “public health emergency” and the Government may be covering up the extent to which austerity and welfare cuts are adding to the problem, leading experts have said.

In a letter to the British Medical Journal, a group of doctors and senior academics from the Medical Research Council and two leading universities said that the effect of Government policies on vulnerable people’s ability to afford food needed to be “urgently” monitored.

And the BBC News covers another austerian move:

Autumn Statement: Plan to raise state pension age sooner

The date when people must be 68 to draw a state pension – formerly scheduled for 2046 – will be brought forward to the mid-2030s, Chancellor George Osborne will announce later.

Plans to be announced in Mr Osborne’s Autumn Statement mean the age could rise again to 69 by the late 2040s.

On to Sweden with TheLocal.se:

Sweden’s health system ‘worst in the Nordics’

Long queues to see a doctor and get treatment in Sweden have dragged the country far down a European ranking of healthcare providers, with Sweden now the worst among its Nordic neighbours despite efforts to cut waiting times.

TheLocal.se again, with another gain for the far right:

Sweden Democrats gain most in key voter survey

Sweden’s two largest political parties suffered drops in voter support, the country’s most-watched opinion poll revealed on Wednesday, while the far-fight Sweden Democrats solidified their position as Sweden’s third-largest party.

TheLocal.no covers another sign of dark feelings rising:

Foreign criminals who return face two years’ jail

Norway is set next week to vote in a ten-fold increase in the penalty for deported foreign criminals who illegally return to the country, VG newspaper has reported.

According to the proposal the penalty for breaking an expulsion order is to be increased from 35 days in prison to a maximum of two years.

On to Germany, and a Banksters Behaving Badly headline from Spiegel:

Rate Scandal: Deutsche Bank’s First Big Fine Won’t Be Its Last

Subprime mortgages, currency tricks, interest rate fixing: Wherever supervisory authorities have probed crooked deals of the past, Deutsche Bank comes up. Now Germany’s biggest bank has had to pay its first big fine. It won’t be the last.

Al Jazeera America covers terror from a quarter with deep roots:

Neo-Nazis may have been behind hundreds of unsolved German murders

Police launch review into killings first linked to immigrant groups, now thought to have involved the far right

And EUobserver has yet another instance of anti-Roma sentiments stirred up by demagogues:

German conservatives stir up ‘welfare tourism’ row

Several German conservatives are following the footsteps of their British colleagues, stoking fears about “welfare tourism” by Romanian and Bulgarians.

From Spiegel, the Americanization of German politics:

The Deal Makers: Coalition Deal Shows Rising Clout of Lobbyists

As the dust settled in Berlin, one group came out of last week’s coalition deal an unequivocal winner: Germany’s lobbyists. When it comes to shaping policy, corporate interests are wielding ever more influence on national politics.

On to France and a frayed icon from Spiegel:

Disneyland Paris: Europe’s Magic Kingdom Loses Its Magic

Disneyland Paris is currently besieged by unflattering headlines and faltering finances. Now an attempted suicide by a park employee is drawing attention to its labor practices. French unions are furious and an outspoken Belgian visitor is campaigning for big changes.

TheLocal.ch notes Swiss spending:

Swiss ready to spend more this Christmas

Swiss consumers retain a cautious outlook for the economy but are ready to spend a little more this Christmas than in the previous year, according to the 2013 Christmas retail survey by accounting and consulting company Deloitte.

The survey shows that Swiss households are budgeting an average of 807 francs (€656 or $893) for this yuletide season, up three percent from a year ago.

On to Spain, and a mob scene outside of Valencia via the London Telegraph:

IKEA gets 20,000 applications for just 400 jobs amid Spanish unemployment crisis

IKEA store’s computer servers crash after it gets 20,000 online applications for 400 jobs in just three days

TheLocal.es offers a dire assessment from a major player:

‘Spain won’t recover from crisis until 2033′

It will take Spain two decades, or until 2033, to see pre-crisis unemployment and growth levels, consultants PWC argue in a new report.

While Spain’s gross domestic product will grow 42 percent by 2033, or higher than the 26 percent of Germany and France’s 33 percent, the country won’t see pre-crisis growth levels until 2033, the PWC report argues.

A contrary view from BBC News:

Spain’s economic outlook improving, says Moody’s ratings agency

Ratings agency Moody’s has raised its outlook for Spain’s economy from “negative” to “stable”.

Moody’s said there had been a real improvement in the economy and government finances.

El País covers a neoliberal dream legally stricken:

Court rules one-year trial work contract without compensation illegal

Judgment applied to case of a laborer who was dismissed eight days before the 12-month period ended

thinkSPAIN conveys a reprimand:

Spain’s 600,000-euro fines for unauthorised demonstrations ‘problematic’, and austerity ‘a threat to human rights’, says European Commissioner

COUNCIL of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks says Spain’s controversial Public Safety Law is ‘highly problematic’ and that if it ‘goes any further’, he will ‘take it up with authorities’ in the country.

From El País, secession alliance:

Catalan pro-sovereignty parties seek deal for united ballot front

ERC will consider joint candidacy for EU parliamentary elections if independence vote goes ahead

The Portugal News covers the sale of a cherished piece of the commons:

Maximum price for CTT post office privatisation

The price of shares in the privatisation of CTT, the Portuguese postal service operator, has been set at €5.52, according to a statement from the CMVM stock market regulator.

With the first day of trading in the shares due on Thursday, the price turns out to be at the very top end of the price range set for the shares available to the public, which the government had said would be in the range of €4.10 and €5.52 earlier in November.

Italy next, and Bunga Bunga resurgence from New Europe:

Berlusconi considering running as a Bulgarian MEP

The former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is considering running in Bulgaria for the 2014 European elections.

According to the Italian media, Berlusconi is thinking to run as a candidate for the European Parliament by taking advantage of the EU law, which allows every EU citizen to run in any EU country in the European elections. The controversial Italian politician, who is banned from holding public office in Italy is also considering running in Hungary or Estonia.

Europe Online has another Bunga Bunga tale:

Berlusconi’s poodle a hit with Russia’s Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin is smitten with Silvio Berlusconi’s adopted white poodle, pictures published Wednesday show.

Putin paid Berlusconi a two-and-a-half-hour visit on November 26, a day before the Italian conservative leader and former prime minister was expelled from parliament due to a tax fraud conviction.

EUbusiness covers intolerance rising:

Italy minister hit by racist slurs warns over populism

Italy’s first black minister Cecile Kyenge, who has been deluged with racist slurs since her appointment in April, urged Europe’s leaders on Wednesday not to spread populism or use it to win votes.

“There has a been a rise in episodes of racism in many countries, probably linked to the economic crisis but also to a lack of knowledge about what European values really stand for,” Kyenge said at a press conference.

After the jump, the Greek meltdown continues, India fights for food, Chinese neoliberalism deepens, Japanese uncertainty vexes, the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!, and more. . . Continue reading

Student homelessness, a growing reality


Under a neoliberal political regime, America’s public schools are suffering, with a majority of students in many schools coming from families living in poverty.

In this segment from The Real News Network, producer Jessica Desvarieux talks to two people who know a lot about poverty in schools, focusing on the growing numbers of children who have no homes at all.

From the transcript:

There are now 1.2 million homeless students in the United States. That’s an increase of 10 percent from last year, according to the National Center for Homeless Education, and that’s up 72 percent from the start of the recession in 2008. Some states, like North Carolina, have been particularly hit hard.

Joining us to discuss child homelessness in North Carolina are Annabelle Suddreth and Tazra Mitchell. Annabelle is the executive director of A Child’s Place, a nonprofit organization based in Charlotte, North Carolina, that works to erase the impact of homelessness on children and their education. And Tazra Mitchell is joining us from North Carolina as well. She joined the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center in August 2011 serving as a public policy analyst whose policy interests include fiscal policy.

From The Real News Network:

U.S. Student Homelessness Up 10% Since Last Year

Highest increases of homeless children seen in states like North Carolina where austerity policies predominate

From the transcript:

MITCHELL: Our legislative session began in January. And within the first two weeks they passed a radical restructuring of our unemployment insurance system that really helps folks make make ends meet as they struggle to find work, find a job, and gain a foothold on the economic ladder. So any child [incompr.] any child who lives in a household with an unemployed parent, they’ll suffer as a result of this restructuring, because it drastically reduced benefits. And as a result [incompr.] more than $700 million from the federal government in benefits that could go to the long-term unemployed in North Carolina.

They also, like you said, passed a series of tax cuts that on average will shift taxes away from higher-income people towards low-income people. Part of that tax plan was not destroying the state’s earned income tax credit, which is really one of the state’s most powerful antipoverty tools in the state. It goes to families who work but who earn low wages. And it really helps parents avoid raising their children in poverty.

They also eliminated the child care independent tax credit.

Really, the tax plan that they passed gives a huge windfall to the wealthy and profitable businesses at the expense of lower-income and moderate-income people. It also drains available revenues that the state can use to invest in programs that help children. As such, they passed a budget right after this tax plan that really puts North Carolina on a path to mediocrity. We just don’t think that it will move the state in the right direction.

Headlines of the day II: EconoFukuGrecomanic


Sorry for the slow posts today, but a bit under the weather.

With that, on with the show, starting at home with Reuters:

Home sales fall as prices rise

U.S. home resales fell in October to their lowest since June due to an inventory shortage and high property prices that have dampened buying power.

The National Association of Realtors said on Wednesday that sales of previously owned homes fell 3.2 percent last month to an annual rate of 5.12 million units.

From the China Post, an uptick:

US retail sales up 0.4 percent in October as consumers step up spending

U.S. consumers shrugged off the 16-day partial government shutdown and spent more on autos, clothing and furniture in October, boosting retail sales by the most in four months.

But for how long? From Reuters:

Analysis: U.S. retailers brace for margin hit from holiday discounts

According to a new Reuters-Ipsos poll, most Americans plan to spend less than they did during the 2012 holiday shopping season. And by all indications, most are demanding rock-bottom prices.

Retailers from Macy’s Inc to Wal-Mart Stores Inc to Best Buy Co Inc are responding with massive discounts even at the risk of profit margin declines.

ThinkProgress covers the latest in corporate compassion:

McDonald’s Advice To Underpaid Employees: Sell Your Christmas Presents For Cash

McDonald’s McResource Line, a dedicated website run by the world’s largest fast-food chain to provide its 1.8 million employees with financial and health-related tips, offers a full page of advice for “Digging Out From Holiday Debt.” Among their helpful holiday tips: “Selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist could bring in some quick cash.”

From the Economic Times, curious indeed:

Slowing buybacks could spell trouble for US stocks

In the last few years, major US companies, including IBM , Apple and Exxon Mobil have dramatically boosted share repurchases. Overall, Federal Reserve data shows corporations are the primary buyer of equities – while pension funds, mutual funds and households have increasingly been sellers in recent years.

From South China Morning Post, Bloomberg cuts [including that inconvenient China reporter]:

Bloomberg fires arts and culture staff, confirms Mike Forsythe departure

Agency says move will lead to future growth and denies claims over HK reporter’s sacking

And the Los Angeles Times covers more media cutbacks, its own:

Tribune Co. announces restructuring, will cut nearly 700 jobs

The 6% staff reduction will come primarily from the company’s beleaguered newspaper unit, but will largely involve operations personnel rather than reporters and editors at its eight daily papers, Peter Liguori, Tribune’s chief executive, said in an interview.

From CBC, more Canadian corruption — and close to the top:

Wright, Duffy accused of bribery, fraud in new RCMP documents

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, is being investigated for bribery, fraud and breach of trust along with Senator Mike Duffy, in an RCMP probe that has expanded to include the Prime Minister’s Office, court documents released today show.

Deutsche Welle covers the bitters fruits of austerity:

Study links job loss to cognitive decline

People who are laid off work or forced to work part-time can suffer mental skill losses later, according to a new European study. The OECD meanwhile says most rich nations have cut health spending.

More from the Irish Times:

Unemployed men age faster than those in work, research finds

Previous studies show that unemployed people are at increased risk of early death

MercoPress covers the urge to enshrine the corporateer agenda:

U.S. and Europe talks advance towards liberalizing bilateral trade

A week of trade talks in Brussels have taken the European Union and the United States a little closer to a deal to liberalize bilateral trade. EU officials say the trade relationship with the US is already the biggest in the world, worth more than 2bn Euros a day, but barriers remain, and removing them could make it even bigger. If it happens, the agreement would be huge, capable of changing the shape of global trade.

And the London Telegraph covers a fall:

Euro plummets as ECB mulls negative deposit rate

European Central Bank policymakers reportedly discuss reducing the rate for lenders who deposit excess cash at the bank to -0.1pc, from zero, sending the euro down against the dollar and sterling

From EUbusiness, call it Euro Glass-Steagall

Barnier draws up law separating banking activities

European banks may have to separate their speculative and risky businesses from their regular banking operations, according to draft legislation being drawn up by Commissioner Michel Barnier.

On to Britain, with a shrieking alarm from Sky News:

Debt Crisis: Poorest Enduring ‘Perfect Storm’

A study measures the growing pressure on families to get deeper into debt as economic recovery fails to boost incomes.

A report is warning of the impact of a debt trap on the poorest in society, with unsecured debts nearing £160bn in the UK.

The Independent proves that corrupt corporations reign:

£24m G4S fraud claims won’t stop government from outsourcing lucrative new public sector work to company

Allegations of fraud against G4S and Serco will not stop the Government from outsourcing lucrative new public sector work to the companies, the minister in charge of contracts says today.

From MercoPress, Dr. Pangloss is in the building:

Bank of England enthusiastic about UK recovery, according to November minutes

The UK is in a sustained recovery and does not face major inflation risks, Bank of England policymakers have said. Minutes from the Monetary Policy Committee’s November meeting showed the nine members all voted to leave interest rates at 0.5%.

Off to Ireland and an unhealthy condition via Independent.ie:

Ireland refered to European Court of Justice over doctors’ hours

It follows a complaint that hospitals here are not complying with the EU Directive which limits their working week to 48 hours.

TheLocal.se covers business as usual:

Sweden ‘violates the rights’ of guest workers

A European human rights body slammed Sweden on Wednesday for failing to guarantee equal rights for foreign guest workers, in a rebuke of reforms stemming from a case involving Latvian construction workers.

Germany next, with a dark side to the Teutonic miracle via TheLocal.de:

Half of German hospitals in the red

The financial security of Germany’s hospitals has fallen sharply in the last year with one in every two hospitals making a loss. A study released on Wednesday blamed rising insurance premiums for the precarious situation.

On to France with TheLocal.fr and an anti-tax-and-regulation rebellion:

Angry French farmers set to blockade Paris

French farmers are set to bring traffic in the capital to a standstill on Thursday, as their frustration at rising taxes reaches breaking point. Their announcement comes amid widespread protests and an “explosive” social atmosphere in France.

From SINA English, the utterly idiotic:

French magazine compares black minister to monkey

A probe has begun into a far-right magazine after it used its front cover to compare France’s black justice minister to a monkey. Minute, a weekly satirical magazine, ran a picture of Christiane Taubira next to a caption that read: ‘Clever as a monkey, Taubira gets her banana back’.

While Bloomberg Businessweek covers national socialism:

The Far-Left Economics of France’s Far Right

The right-wing National Front (FN) has become France’s most popular political party, as its leader Marine Le Pen capitalizes on voter anger over the country’s sagging economic fortunes.

What’s more surprising is that FN has a plan to fix the economy that in many ways resembles a leftist manifesto. Nationalizing banks, raising protectionist trade barriers, handing out cash to low-paid workers—they’re all part of the platform developed by Le Pen, 45, who took over leadership of the party two years ago from her father, FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.

On to Spain and upticks from El País:

Spanish exports gather pace in September and hit record levels

Imports also pick up indicating a possible revival in domestic demand after recession

While Europe Online covers blowback from courtroom action:

China rejects Spain arrest warrants for ex-president and officials

China on Wednesday rejected Spanish arrest warrants for former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and four former officials, saying the warrants did serious damage to bilateral relations.

Spain’s National Court has issued an international arrest warrant for the 87-year-old former president in a case brought by two associations accusing China of committing genocide in Tibet in the 1980s and 90s.

Another courtroom, and a victory for victims of a 52-year-old tragedy, via  El País:

Thalidomide pharmaceutical firm ordered to pay compensation to victims

A Madrid court has ordered German pharmaceutical company Grünenthal to pay compensation to a collective of Spanish plaintiffs who suffered deformation due to its “negligent behavior” in approving Thalidomide, which was available in Spain until 1961.

RT covers a major pro-austerity legal move:

‘Illegal’ Spanish protests to face huge €600,000 fines

Unauthorized demonstrations near the Spanish Parliament could see participants being fined 600,000 euro ($810,000) under a new Citizen Security bill being introduced by Spain’s ruling rightist Popular Party, local media reported.

Italy next, with unsurprising news from Europe Online:

Italians increasingly dissatisfied with economic situation

The Italian statistics office Istat reported that 58 per cent of respondents in a survey conducted in March said they were “not very” or “not at all” satisfied with their financial situation, up from 55.7 per cent in 2012 and 49.5 per cent in 2011.

After the jump, Greek crisis deepens, states of emergency in Latin America, Indian woes, China’s neoliberal push continues, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: Econo/Enviro/Fukuquake


The pace accelerates, especially in Greece and Asia, which the Fukushima reactor complex undergoes a tremendously dangerous spent fuel removal. . .after the jump.

We begin at home, via China Daily USA:

China increases US debt holdings

Figures released on Monday showed that after shedding US debt in August and hitting a six-month low at $1.28 trillion of holdings, China picked up $25.7 billion in September, remaining the largest foreign holder of US debt at $1.29 trillion.

From Bloomberg, Bankster Behaving Badly pays the piper:

JPMorgan Reaches Record $13 Billion Mortgage Pact With U.S.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. reached a $13 billion deal with the U.S. Justice Department that ends probes into the bank’s sale of mortgage bonds, the largest amount paid by a financial firm in a settlement with the government.

From Bloomberg, plutocratic kitchen porn:

Espresso Machines at $20,000 Bring High Design Into Homes

“A Kees van der Westen is pretty much the holy grail,” says Dave Ringwood, head of equipment customization, restoration and design at Olympia, Washington–based Espresso Parts LLC.

They’re also among the most expensive on the market. Van der Westen’s smallest, least-costly model, the Speedster, retails for about $8,800, while his largest, the Spirit, goes for $20,000.

Bloomberg also covers reality for the 99%:

Wal-Mart Touts $98 TV in Weakest Holiday Season Since ‘09

U.S. retailers are discounting earlier than ever as they brace for the weakest holiday shopping season since 2009.

From Quartz, a much-needed reminder:

Beware the looming corporate debt cliff

US corporations are issuing more bonds than ever (paywall), rushing to take advantage of rock bottom interest rates before the Federal Reserve winds back its loose monetary policy. But with every binge comes a hangover, and 2018 could be the year when the real impact of this year’s borrowing bonanza begins to hit home.

From the Lodi News-Sentinel, another harsh reality:

Ties to military take a toll on teens, study shows

Teenagers with family members in the military were more likely to contemplate suicide if their relatives were deployed overseas multiple times, according to researchers from the University of Southern California.

After analyzing survey data from 14,299 secondary school students in California — including more than 1,900 with parents or siblings in the military — the researchers found a link between a family member’s deployment history and a variety of mental health problems, including “suicidal ideation,” or thoughts about suicide.

Salon notes another ongoing tragedy:

Privatization is undoing Brown v. Board of Education

Our school system is increasingly “separate and unequal” — and we have Michelle Rhee’s political allies to thank

And from Quartz, great expectations unfulfilled:

US cars won’t be running on low-carbon biofuels next year as planned—because there aren’t any

The US government is bowing to the reality that the biofuel-powered future is not going to arrive as soon as it had hoped. In 2007, Congress passed a law setting quotas for the production of low-carbon biofuels to fight climate change. This year, for instance, the country should be producing 1.75 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuels – go-go juice made from the inedible parts of plants. It has not quite worked out that way.

The Contributor covers big box thuggishness:

Labor Board: Walmart Threatened, Disciplined or Terminated Employees for Participating in Strikes and Protests

Federal officials said Monday they are prepared to file formal complaints against Walmart for allegedly violating the legal rights of protesting workers last year.

To Canada next, with a  National Post update:

Locked out: Rob Ford loses key staff and office access in mayoral shakeup at Toronto City Hall

‘The locks have been changed, security has been changed,’ Deputy Mayor Kelly said as the mayor’s office was physically split up

And the take from David Horsey, editorial cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times:

BLOG Ford

BBC News has the latest:

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he has given up alcohol

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he has given up alcohol after a “come to Jesus moment”, as city councillors all but stripped him of power.

A summation from The Guardian:

The political brilliance of Rob Ford

The Toronto mayor took hard drugs and admitted it – and still the voters are fond of him. His ‘typical guy’ act has revealed Canada’s renegade side

The Financial Post covers an interesting development:

OECD calls for Bank of Canada rate to more than double to 2.25% by end of 2015

Just last month, the Bank of Canada dropped a mini-bombshell by adopting a neutral position on interest rates, after long insisting that any eventual move would be up.

A global story from Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

OECD lowers growth outlook on risks for emerging markets

Growth in advanced economies will pick up speed this year and next, but mostly at a slower pace than forecast as new risks loom, especially from emerging economies, the OECD said on Tuesday.

Another from Kyodo News, covering a sorry story continuing:

TPP chief trade negotiators begin talks to sign deal by year-end

From New Europe, the bankster solution:

Organisation predicts modest growth for eurozone but stubbornly high unemployment

OECD: fixing Europe’s banks key for global growth

The Independent carries a similar opinion:

Satyajit Das: Zombie banks are just one of the problems the eurozone still faces

Das Capital: European governments are resorting to tricks to resolve their banking problems

EurActiv covers a seemingly hopeful European sign:

Furore over tax evasion opens door to new EU proposal on corporate tax

EU leaders responding to the public outcry over tax evasion by multinational companies have triggered a quest for pan-European solutions to tax fraud, but the debate has also enabled the European Commission to return to a controversial proposal for a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB).

Reuters offers another mixed message:

Eurozone recovery fragile but no deflation risk: ECB’s Praet

There is no risk of deflation visible in the euro zone economy but its recovery is fragile with inflation low and credit subdued, ECB Executive Board member Peter Praet said on Tuesday.

And New Europe points to another weakness:

However, VW is the world’s largest R&D investor

EU firms stay behind in R&D

From EurActiv a rebuff to intolerance:

Commission: Refugee push-backs are illegal

The European Commission indirectly warned Greece and Bulgaria today (19 November) to stop turning down Syrian refugees at their borders with Turkey, after the UN issued a similar call just a few days before.

The London Telegraph takes us to Old Blighty and private security contractors behaving badly:

Government refuses G4S’s £24.1m for ‘wrong’ tagging bills

NAO report finds G4S and rival Serco continued to charge for tagging criminals many years after removing the electronic equipment from their homes

Chris Grayling, the Justice Minister, launched an investigation in July after discovering evidence that the taxpayer had been overcharged, in some cases for tagging prisoners who were dead or back in prison.

And The Independent points to a massive threat:

£1,430,000,000,000: Britain’s personal debt timebomb

Britain faces a timebomb as the cost of living crisis forces more people into crippling debt they will not be able to repay, according to a major study published today.

Another real estate bubble threat-in-the making via the London Telegraph:

Help to Buy must be ‘carefully monitored’, warns OECD

OECD revises up growth UK forecasts by more than any other G7 country over the next two years but warns Government mortgage subsidies could undermine affordability

Ireland next, with hard tiimes ahead for seniors, via the Irish Times:

Pensioners in troubled schemes to face cuts under new law

Insolvent and restructured schemes to balance brunt of cuts between workers and retired members

On to Iceland, with a political dispute from the Reykjavík Grapevine:

Central Bank And Prime Minister At Odds Over Debt Relief

The Central Bank of Iceland believes Iceland’s economy could be greatly damaged if the bank is required to fund government debt relief plans. Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson dismissed the objections as politically related.

Vísir reports that Már Guðmundsson, the chairperson of the Central Bank of Iceland, told reporters that if the government intends to legislate funding to pay down household debts across the country through the use of a Central Bank-funded “debt correction fund”, this would be equivalent to simply printing more money. “And I don’t need to explain to you what effect that would have,” he said.

Norway Next, with Reuters:

Norway needs to wean economy off oil: finance minister

Weak productivity growth is the Norwegian economy’s biggest challenge and reducing reliance on its massive offshore oil sector is the new government’s main priority, finance minister Siv Jensen said on Tuesday.

To Holland next, with bad news from DutchNews.nl:

OECD sees Dutch economy contracting next year

The Dutch economy remains weak and will contract by 0.1% next year, according to new forecasts from the OECD.

On to Germany with a warning from Deutsche Welle:

Denmark’s populists on the rise

The latest surveys indicate that Denmark’s far-right Danish People’s Party is poised to do well in local elections. This could be a boost for similar parties across Europe, which aim to join forces.

An upbeat story from Bloomberg:

German Investor Confidence Rises for a Fourth Month

German investor confidence rose to the highest level in more than four years, signaling that the economic recovery in Europe’s largest economy remains on track even after a third-quarter slowdown.

Spiegel covers another political development:

SPD-Left Rapprochement: A Time Bomb in Merkel’s Government

The Social Democrats sowed mistrust among Angela Merkel’s conservatives last week by declaring themselves open to a future alliance with the left-wing Left Party. Her new government could be more fragile than thought, with the SPD already positioning itself for the post-Merkel era.

And Deutsche Welle points to another obstacle:

German employers’ chief criticizes thrust of coalition talks

The newly elected leader of Germany’s employers’ federation says current talks in Berlin to form a coalition government do not have the right focus. Ingo Kramer fears industry’s interests are being given short shrift.

France next with TheLocal.fr and high anxieties:

France set to reform its ‘unreadable’ tax system

With much recent talk of France being at risk of a “social explosion” over the country’s high taxes, its under pressure Prime Minister made a promise on Tuesday to overhaul the fiscal system, admitting that it was almost “unreadable” and “very complex”.

Xinhua covers a fast shuffle:

France’s Hollande defends policies as popularity hits record low

With record low approval ratings as most of his economic promises in tatters, French President Francois Hollande justified his decisions to fix economic troubles and improve the country’s social welfare in a fresh attempt to convince discontent public.

From TheLocal.fr, yet another anxiety for Paris:

Angry French farmers set to blockade Paris

French farmers are set to bring traffic in the capital to a standstill on Thursday, as their frustration at rising taxes reaches breaking point. Their announcement comes amid widespread protests and an “explosive” social atmosphere in France

RFI English covers a labor action:

French midwives on strike for pay and status

France’s midwives deliver the vast majority of the country’s babies. But since 26 October over 70 per cent of the sector has been on strike. Minister of Social Affairs and Health  Marisol Touraine has set up a working group to address midwives’ concerns, including lack of recognition and low pay.

Spain next, with ANSAmed offering a kinder, gentler assessment:

Spain: OECD revises 2013-2015 estimates for the better

Madrid will reportedly make its EU commitments

TheLocal.es covers an admission:

We got it wrong on Spain: Goldman Sachs

Global investment bank Goldman Sachs admitted recently its 2012/13 predictions for Spain had been wrong and that the country had outperformed expectations.

El País has another boost in a bankster endorsement:

One-year bill yield falls to record low at Treasury auction

Demand comfortably exceeds the 4.55 billion euros sold

From TheLocal.es, provocative diversion:

Spain orders arrest of China’s former president

Spain’s National Court authorized on Tuesday the arrest of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin and four of his officials as part of an investigation into the alleged genocide of Tibetans in the 1980s and 1990s

Portugal next, with an austerian landmark from EUbusiness:

Eurozone releases EUR 3.7 bn as Portugal bailout nears end

The eurozone approved Tuesday the disbursement of 3.7 billion euros in rescue loans to Portugal, taking Lisbon’s bailout to its final stage, the EFSF said in a statement.

ANSAmed brings action:

Portuguese subway employees announce more strikes

In wave of anti-austerity public sector protests

Italy next, with an austerian reality from TheLocal.it:

Italians slash spending on food

Italians are spending €2 billion a year less on food, a figure that is expected to remain stable in 2014, according to a study by Unioncamere, Italy’s chamber of commerce.

ANSAmed delivers a message:

OECD joins EU in telling Italy to cut debt

But chief economist says Rome ‘on right track’

And TheLocal.it captures despair:

Almost half of young Italians want to flee

Italy’s stagnant economy is driving its best talent overseas, with almost 50 percent of young Italians wanting to work abroad, according to a new report on Monday.

And a rare Czch headline from EUbusiness:

Czechs award first licence to import medical marijuana

The Czech health ministry said Tuesday it had awarded its first licence to import marijuana, months after the European Union member legalised the drug for medical purposes.

After the jump, Greek disaster deepens, warnings for Africa, Latin American political moves, Indian inflation and industrial weakness, the Chinese neoliberal rush, Japanese economic woes, the latest Fukushimapocalypse Now!, and more. . . Continue reading

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

Headlines of the day II: eCons, wealth, meltdowns


Plus the latest edition of Fukushimapocalypse Now!

We get straight to it, starting in the U.S. with this grim reality from Al Jazeera America:

Median wage falls to lowest level since 1998

While incomes and jobs stagnate, top earners and corporate profits continue to gain

Meanwhile, Banksters Behaving Badly, as always. From the Washington Post:

SAC pleads guilty to insider trading, agrees to pay $1.2 billion penalty

The beleaguered hedge fund owned by billionaire Steven A. Cohen agreed to pay $1.2 billion to settle charges accusing it of encouraging rampant insider trading for more than a decade, a record deal that could sink one of Wall Street’s most successful hedge funds.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore brings us a bit of good news:

US factory orders rise 1.7% in September

US factory orders rose 1.7 percent in September led by aircraft orders, ending two months of declines, the Commerce Department said on Monday.

As does Jiji Press:

U.S. New Auto Sales Up 10.6 Pct in Oct.

New auto sales in the United States in October increased 10.6 pct from a year before to 1,208,036 units, up for the first time in two months, U.S. research firm Autodata Corp. said Friday.

More corporate misdeeds, from USA TODAY:

J&J to pay $2.2B in drug marketing penalties

The federal government alleges J&J illegally paid doctors and pharmacies kickbacks to promote three drugs for unapproved uses.

Ditto, via the Los Angeles Times:

California probe of campaign donations sheds light on ‘dark money’

Probe of millions raised by a Republican consultant in 2012 and routed through nonprofits tracks a twisting trail.

From CNBC, inflating away:

‘Definitely a bubble brewing’ in stocks: Pro

The market might be heading into bubble territory, but it’s not time to get out of stocks yet, Simon Baker of Baker Avenue Asset Management said Monday.

Salon covers another grim reality:

Child care is more expensive than college in a majority of states

A new report reveals that child care is the single largest expense for families in 22 states

And new research reported at the American Public Health Association’s Boston conclave reveals another economic drag, via Newswise:

Firearm Injuries Cost More Than $16 Billion in Hospital Care Over 9 Years

According to the research, 275,939 victims of gunfire in the U.S. resulted in 1.7 million days of hospital service — an average of 6.7 days per incident. The average cost of medical treatment for each hospitalization was $59,620. Additionally, roughly one in three patients was uninsured.

Off to Europe with a mixed report from EUbusiness:

Eurozone manufacturing rallies, despite French PMI drop

Eurozone manufacturing activity held firm in October despite unexpectedly weak signals from France, a closely-watched survey indicated on Monday.

From EUbusiness, consolidation on the cheap:

Fewer banks with fewer assets in euro area: ECB

The number of banks in the 17-country eurozone has declined over the past five years and they significantly reduced their balance sheets, the European Central Bank said on Monday.

EUbusiness again, with the neoliberal agenda strong as ever despite all those NSA stories and ornamental raginking:

US, EU to hold second round of trade talks Nov 11-15

The United States and the European Union will hold a second round of trade talks this month to create a massive transatlantic free-trade zone, the two governments announced Monday.

Britain next, starting with a headline from BBC News, covering a largely symbolic gain — though more than 400 employers have signed on. The new living wage is non-binding, and equates to $12.20 an hour, while the legal minimum wage is the equivalent of $10.06:

Living Wage rise provides a boost for low paid workers money

  • The living wage is calculated according to the basic cost of living.

  • More than 30,000 low paid workers will receive a pay rise worth up to £400 a year after a rise in the voluntary “living wage” rate.

Old Blighty next, with separation anxiety from the London Telegraph:

Public-support for EU membership is ‘wafer-thin’, says David Cameron

The Prime Minister says he wants to spend time ahead of a possible in/out referendum in 2017 on getting Britons’ “consent” for EU membership

Off to the Emerald Isle, with backs turned. From the Irish Independent:

Unions refuse to meet troika on its final mission

THE Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has rejected an invitation to meet the troika during its latest review mission after walking out of a meeting in the summer.

EurActiv takes us to Germany, with social democrats declaring the price for partnership with the Iron Chancellor:

SPD wants wage floor, dual citizenship included in German coalition deal

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) will not agree to a “grand coalition” with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives without agreement on core issues including labour market reforms and expanding dual citizenship, its leader said.

El País brings us to Spain and a really Big Box:

Wholesale expansion

  • Costco is preparing to enter the Spanish market

  • The giant American discount chain will be opening outlets in Seville and Madrid next year

From thinkSPAIN, activism in the face of bakruptcy at a failing major appliance manufacturer:

Fagor appliance manufacturer workers stage lock-in over factory closure

EMPLOYEES facing the chop at a leading electrical appliance firm staged a lock-in yesterday (Monday) at one of the factories and plan to stay there ‘for as long as is necessary’ to make bosses reconsider.

El País counts a cost of crisis followed by the austerian bludgeon:

Crisis wipes 80,000 Spanish households off the map

Immigrants leaving the country and young people moving back home considered prime reasons

The Independent covers more victims:

The great Spain robbery: Pensioners protest as the watch their life savings vanish into the banks’ black hole

Pensioners are set to be the biggest losers in the Spanish banking crisis as they see their life savings vanish

And BBC News covers royal scandal:

Spanish royal’s property impounded in corruption case

A judge in Spain has ordered properties belonging to the king’s son-in-law to be impounded amid a corruption scandal that has embarrassed the royal family.

El País notes that others not engaged in corruption face housing woes of their own:

S&P sees Spanish house prices continuing to fall into 2016

Agency believes Sareb bad bank will find it difficult to meet home sales target

The Portugal News take us to Lisbon and news of a strike:

Partial Lisbon ferry strike all week

A partial strike by ferries on the Tagus at Lisbon means only minimum services are running on Monday morning. The workers began seven days of strikes on Sunday, affecting peak-time services between Lisbon and Barreiro on the south bank.

The Portugal News covers the costs of the austerity imposed to appease the Troika on behalf of lenders and vulture funds:

National health service debt halved by year end

The Portuguese Ministry of Health expects to close the year with total outstanding debt of €1.5 billion, a total deemed “historically low” by State Secretary Manuel Teixeira in a parliamentary debate Monday.

Italy next, with a threat via the London Telegraph:

Italy’s Mr Euro urges Latin Front, warns Germany won’t sell another Mercedes in Europe

The plot is thickening fast in Italy. Romano Prodi – Mr Euro himself – is calling for a Latin Front to rise up against Germany and force through a reflation policy before the whole experiment of monetary union spins out of control.

After the jump, Greek meltdown continues, Russian xenophobia, Chinese neoliberalism on steroids, Fukushimapocalypse Now! And much, much more. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: EconoEnviroFukuFubar


The game grinds on, the looting accelerates, those at the bottom suffer, and the agenda endures, with Greece the epitome of what’s in store for the rest of us — with the political murder count on the rise — unless. . .

CNBC invokes a specter:

For signs of bubble, look no further than LBOs

Leveraged buyouts for both big and midsize companies are approaching debt levels last experienced in 2007.

USA TODAY delivers the chop:

Financial firms cutting thousands of jobs

Financial firms are cutting tens of thousands of jobs because of a slowdown in the mortgage business, the sluggish economy, the growth of online banking and new regulations.

CNBC tests the water:

Fed sets tough tests in annual bank health war games

Banks in the United States will have to test whether they can survive a halving of the stock market during a severe U.S. recession, the Federal Reserve said on Friday, as it set the rules for next year’s model runs to gauge the health of the financial system.

And another kind of bank faces another kind of stress test, congressionally induced. Via USA TODAY:

Food stamp cuts create high demand for food bank supplies

  • The holiday season is approaching in November and December, the time of year when most food banks receive more than half of their donations for the year.

  • The flip side: More people turn to food banks for help during that time, too.

  • Food banks across the country, stretched thin in the aftermath of the recession, are bracing for more people coming through their doors in the wake of cuts to the federal food stamp program.

From Salon, unindicted co-conspirators:

How Democrats enable California’s pension slashing

New “bipartisan” initiative allows state and local governments to reduce retirement benefits for current employees

And AlterNet notes the bottom line:

America’s Greatest Shame: Child Poverty Rises and Food Stamps Cut While Billionaires Boom

Why do we put up with such injustices?

North of the border with CBC News and an unpleasant senior moment:

Job hunt posing big challenges for people over 50

Federal program aims to get older unemployed people through the dark days

Britain next, with a question from The Independent:

Is social deprivation to blame for 450 avoidable deaths from breast cancer each year?

Study reveals women from lower income groups are much more likely to be diagnosed later

More from BBC News:

Benefit delays ‘hit hundreds of terminally ill patients’

Hundreds of terminally ill cancer patients face waiting weeks and months for their income support because of a new payments system, a leading charity has warned.

If where the heart is is home, it’s in a metal box. From RT:

My home rocks, but it’s only a box: Soaring rents force Londoners to live in shipping containers

A London charity has imported steel containers from China and converted them into bargain basement homes, as part of a novel solution to try and solve homelessness amid soaring rents in the British capital.

And The Guardian has the ultimate in neoliberal desiderata: Paying lawyers to sell out their clients, [ideally, no doubt, to send them off to corporate owned-and-staffed prisons, preferably turning out products and services for profit]:

Lawyers to earn higher legal aid fees for early guilty pleas

Legal critics brand government moves to shave £220m off legal aid bill as perverse, unethical and counter-productive

The first of three items from the Irish Independent, first with a hint of things to come:

IMF: Lenders should set aside post-bailout funds for Ireland

Ireland’s lenders should set some money aside for when the country exits its bailout, which it should do step by step, a senior International Monetary Fund official said today.

The Irish Independent again, this time with a promise:

James Reilly pledges free GP care for every citizen by 2016

MINISTER for Health James Reilly has said that the government is ‘committed’ to providing free universal primary care for the entire nation within the next three years.

And the Irish Independent covers the Prime Minister’s underboss getting blown back by angry public protests after stuffing coal in Christmas stockings:

Now Tanaiste calls for Revenue U-turn on home ‘tax grab’

TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore has piled the pressure on the Revenue Commissioners to abandon their pre-Christmas tax grab on homeowners.

And from the Irish Times, legalizing Hollywood and the Top 40:

Blasphemy offence a ‘dead letter’, constitutional convention told

Law’s requirement on causing outrage makes it ‘very difficult’ to prosecute

Germany next, feeling the heat from New Europe:

IMF backs US criticism of German surplus

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday echoed US criticism of Germany’s trade surpluses which the US Treasury said have been having an adverse impact on European economies during the crisis.

To Spain with an upbeat from the Global Times:

Fitch revises Spain’s outlook to stable

Fitch Ratings, a London-based credit rating company, Friday revised Spain’s sovereign credit rating outlook to stable from negative and affirmed long-term rating at BBB.

From thinkSPAIN, going for the gold in the ivory tower [just like UC]:

Spanish universities have 6,000 Chinese students on their books and aim to double the number

SPAIN’S education ministry is hoping to encourage more undergraduates from China to study in the Mediterranean country – but they are mostly put off by the fact that it takes so long for Spanish colleges to process qualifications.

The Toronto Globe and Mail takes us to Italy with a somber declaration:

Italy’s economic woes pose existential threat to euro zone

Xinhua casts a similarly sinister pall:

News Analysis: Italian youth mired in unemployment, analysts warn of lost generations

In times of economic recession, with the number of unemployed people increasing sharply, young Italians not only are the first targets of job cuts but are faced with the choice of building an uncertain future in their home country or seeking their fulfillment abroad.

After the jump, Greek meltdown continues, mixed Latin and Asian numbers, a Chinese neoliberal acceleration and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: Econ/long con/environs


Just another day on Planet Earth, with the austerian agenda firmly in place.

We begin in the U.S., first with this from Reuters:

U.S. consumer confidence falls sharply in October

U.S. consumer confidence fell sharply in October as consumers turned gloomier in their outlook for the future, according to a private sector report released on Tuesday.

From CNBC, good news of sorts, coming as it does at a time when existing home sales are falling:

US home prices rise in Aug, yearly gain best since 2006: S&P/Case-Shiller

U.S. single-family home prices rose in August and also posted their strongest annual gain in more than seven years, a closely watched survey showed on Tuesday.

From World Socialist Web Site, tellin’ it like it is:

Cutting food stamps: The ruthlessness of the American ruling class

Food assistance benefits for over 45 million Americans will be slashed starting this Friday, in the first-ever nationwide reduction in benefits under the US government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), popularly known as food stamps.

MarketWatch covers a spending spree:

What will China buy? Beijing goes shopping in the U.S.

China is forecast to spend roughly $1 trillion over the next decade buying up foreign assets, including about $15 billion to $20 billion a year on U.S. investments, according to the Kiplinger Letter.

And Quartz breaks esnl’s heart:

A global wine shortage could soon be upon us

It isn’t only France that’s suffering from a growing dearth of wine—it’s the entire world, says a report released on Monday (Oct. 28) by Morgan Stanley Research.

This Morgan Stanley chart [via Quartz] says it all:

BLOG Wine

To Europe, starting with a case of the eurobanksters busting their budget, with a $700 million project headed for$1.8 billion. Via Spiegel:

ECB Headquarters: Skyrocketing Costs for Skyscraper Project

Estimated costs for the European Central Bank’s new headquarters in Frankfurt have more than doubled. As has been happening with so many major projects in Germany, its construction has been plagued by poor planning, oversight and execution — and endless delays.

From Keep Talking Greece, a matter of priorities:

EU spends more in cows than in young jobless

Old Blighty next, with a striking story from BBC News:

University strike expected to go ahead on Thursday

A planned one-day strike over pay by university staff is expected to go ahead on Thursday after employers refused talks, say unions.

And from BBC News again, John Bull goes soliciting:

Cameron to unveil Islamic bond plan

Prime Minister David Cameron is set to announce that the UK will become the first non-Muslim country to issue an Islamic bond.

More from The Independent:

Islamic investment: David Cameron moves to make London a Mecca for Middle East wealth

Moves to turn London into a leading centre of Islamic finance will be announced by David Cameron today amid soaring Middle East investment in Britain and around the world.

From Sky News, a Court of Appeals setback for Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who lacked the power to cut emergency and maternity care costs at Lewisham Hospital in London, the the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Hunt ‘Had No Power To Make Hospital Cuts’

Health campaigners celebrate after the Court of Appeal tells the health secretary he did not have the power to announce cuts.

On to Ireland, with a one-city bubble reported by Independent.ie:

Demand for family homes in Dublin outstripping supply and pushing prices up

The gap between the capital and the rest of the country continues to grow as fears of a bubble increase

More from the Irish Times:

Dublin house prices up 12.3% in year to September

Two-tier property market emerging as prices continue to slide outside the capital

To Iceland, and bad news for barristers from the Reykjavík Grapevine:

More Lawyers, Less Work

Around 60 lawyers are unemployed in Iceland and the number of lawyers per capita is higher than in most other countries.

Germany next, with a bankster bummer from Deutsche Welle:

Deutsche Bank Q3 profits pummeled by legal costs

Deutsche Bank has suffered a massive drop in profits as the fallout from the financial crisis continues to plague Germany’s biggest lender. Embroiled in major scandals, the bank expects challenging times ahead.

Followed by a Dutch downer from BBC News:

Rabobank fined $1bn over Libor

Dutch bank Rabobank says it has agreed to pay fines of 774m euros ($1bn; £662m) imposed by US, UK and Dutch regulators over the Libor interest rate-fixing scandal.

From France 24, another setback for the government:

France caves in to Brittany ‘ecotax’ protesters

The French government has decided to suspend an unpopular environmental tax on heavy goods vehicles following a weekend of protests in Brittany. The move is expected to cost the France hundreds of millions of euros in lost revenue.

Spain gets a slapdown, via El País:

Spain slips down World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’ ranking

Country rated 142nd out of 189 for setting up a company, behind Uzbekistan, Zambia and South Sudan

But good news for Lisbon, or so reports the Portugal News:

Recession may be over in weeks – Deputy PM

Portugal’s deputy prime minister, Paulo Portas, has said that the country could be “a few weeks from knowing that it is out of a technical recession”.

After the jump, Greece’s downward spiral continues, Latin American protests, Indian anxieties, Chinese neoliberalsm, and the latestfrom Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: EconoEthnoGrecoEnviro


Long again today, but we’re going to have to break for a day or two to get our taxes done, so bear with us.

We begin with the global stories, starting with a shocker from MarketWatch:

World likely to have 11 trillionaires within two generations: Credit Suisse

And from CNN, the first of our shutdown woes headlines:

World Bank boss: U.S. debt crisis will hit globe’s ‘poorest’

A U.S. default on its debt would be “devastating” for the global economy and would hit the poor particularly hard, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim told CNN’s Richard Quest Wednesday.

While the London Telegraph covers a dressing down:

China warns US to ‘stop manufacturing crises’ and raise debt ceiling

China criticises “mind-boggling political infighting” over issue of raising America’s $16.7 trillion debt ceiling

From the Telegraph again, another dressing down:

Failure to raise US debt ceiling will do ‘serious damage’ to global economy, says IMF chief Christine Lagarde

Failure to raise the US debt ceiling will do “serious damage” to both the US and global economies, the head of the International Monetary Fund has warned.

While Deutsche Welle covers a would-be comeback:

World Bank to restore its international clout

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim wants to raise his institution’s international profile by increasing its efficiency and supporting states involved in the Arab uprising. He also aims to eliminate poverty by 2030.

From Bloomberg, a warning:

IMF Sees Possible Oil-Price Shock From Middle East Unrest

And from CNNMoney, some blowback:

U.S. debt loses some appeal in Hong Kong

Early Thursday, the operator of Hong Kong’s futures and options markets cut the value of short-term Treasury bills held as collateral.

While CNBC sees a bubble bursting:

Plunge in US shares coming in early 2014: Societe Generale

U.S. shares are headed for a big drop in the first quarter of 2014, followed by a year-long period of stagnation, Societe Generale predicts.

And from Reuters grim numbers:

California, government shutdown lift U.S. jobless claims to 6-month high

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits hit a six-month high last week amid a computer glitch in California, but the underlying trend pointed to a steadily improving labor market.

CNBC notes a phenomenon:

US is minting almost all of the world’s millionaires

A new report from Credit Suisse shows that 1.7 million of the 1.8 million millionaires added to the ranks in the past year were created in the U.S., which now boasts 13.2 million millionaires. Rising stock markets, the housing rebound and a broader increase in asset values have fueled the surge.

While Bloomberg notes a bit of the dark side of the wealth machinery:

Mother Dies Amid Abuses in $110 Billion U.S. Stent Assembly Line

And the New York Times covers a privileged story:

Bank Examiner Was Told to Back Off Goldman, Suit Says

Carmen Segarra says that she was fired from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York after refusing to change her findings that Goldman’s controls on conflicts of interest were inadequate.

On to Europe, starting with regional stories, first from the London Telegraph:

Mario Draghi: Europe not moving towards federal ‘super state’

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi bids to dispel fears Europe is moving “inexorably” towards a federal “super state”

New Europe covers a hedging move:

Move set to reduce Bejing’s reliance on dollar ahead of possible default

EU signs China currency agreement

While Quartz covers the well-wheeled elites:

high rollers

European governments may be begging for cash, but their consumers are splurging on luxury cars

And New Europe notes yet another symptom of crisis:

The prices also fell by 1.3 per cent in the EU during the second quarter of 2013

House prices in Eurozone down by 2.2 per cent

Deutsche Welle covers the latest chapter in the rise of hard times xenophobia:

European Parliament approves Eurosur border surveillance

EU lawmakers have approved the Eurosur border surveillance program, aimed at monitoring the bloc’s external border. The vote comes just one week after at least 289 asylum seekers drowned off the coast of Lampedusa.

As does Spiegel:

Fortress Europe: How the EU Turns Its Back on Refugees

They come seeking refuge, but when asylum seekers cross into the European Union, they often find little compassion. In Greece, they are held in squalid detention camps, while in Italy they often end up on the street. Here is what they face at entry points across the EU.

And a Deutsche Welle video report looks at the latest symptom of a perennial form of European bigotry:

Sweden: A register for Roma | European Journal

Program notes:

The Swedish police drew up illegal lists of Roma. The lists’ purely ethnic criteria suggest racist motives.

The police in the southern Swedish province of Schonen titled the controversial register “Travelers”. With more than 4,000 names, it details the exact genealogy of many Roma families in Sweden. Individuals were put on the register without even being under suspicion of breaking the law. After a Swedish newspaper publicized the list’s existence, the police force has filed charges against its own members.

From the European Union Times, a British manifestation:

UK watchdog bans government ‘Go home’ ads targeting immigrants

A UK advertising watchdog has banned a controversial Home Office advert suggesting that illegal immigrants in the UK to ‘Go home or face arrest,’ saying that it was misleading. However, the ad was not ruled to be ‘offensive’ or ‘distressing.’

From The Independent, another austerian lash for the poor:

Tories ‘to cut aid given to poorest customers by energy companies’

Ministers may reduce levies on firms as SSE blames latest price rise on cost of subsidies

While BBC News covers yet another fruit of Tory neoliberalism:

Big jump in hospital waiting lists in Wales

Figures show another significant rise in the number of patients waiting more than nine months for hospital care.

From Independent.ie, the German chancellor’s support of Ireland’s reluctance to tax corporations threatens her coalition-building efforts:

Ireland’s low corporation tax under threat from Germany

IRELAND’S low corporation tax is again under threat after this country’s problems have became the sticking point in coalition talks between Germany’s two largest parties, according to one of Germany’s leading newspapers.

And from Portside, some aren’t happy with that Troika-endorsed Irish austerity:

Irish Doctors Strike to Protest Work Hours Amid Austerity

Next to France, starting with this from EurActiv:

France to push common ‘digital tax’ at EU level

French plans for a ‘Google tax’ on all digital companies would take the form of a minimum levy calculated on a common base across all EU countries. EurActiv.fr reports.

From Deutsche Welle, another day, another strike:

French air controllers strike over EU aviation initiative

France has been hit by another strike by air traffic controllers protesting a European Union plan to centralize the continent’s airspace. Airlines have been advised to cancel a tenth of the day’s flights.

And from ANSAmed, yet another ugly manifestation of crisis:

Crisis: French farmers committing suicide every two days

Driven by isolation, financial distress, administrative burdens

While the World Socialist Web Site picks up on hypocrisy:

French austerity budget raises taxes on workers

The French budget prepared by the Socialist Party (PS)-Green Party government of President François Hollande is a massive attack against the working class. It plans to cut the budget deficit from 4.1 percent to 3.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by cutting state spending by €15 billion and significantly boosting taxes on working households.

On to Germany for one quick item on a familiar subject via Deutsche Welle:

Does Germany need an Integration Ministry?

Immigration carries a negative connotation in Germany. But it is about time for that to change, migration researchers say. They have proposed corralling immigration issues into a federal Ministry for Integration.

Next up Spain, first with a regional warning via El País:

IMF warns of corporate loan default problems in Spain, Portugal and Italy

Spanish lenders could face losses of 104 billion euros from bad debt, but have coverage lined up

From ANSAmed, a grim diagnosis:

Spain: three mln people in ‘extreme poverty’, Caritas report

Caritas documents ‘neglect, injustice, disenfranchisement’

Confirmation, via thinkSPAIN:

Children ‘suffer malnutrition, poor education and social exclusion’ due to austerity measures and three in 10 live in poverty, says Council of Europe

AUSTERITY measures in Spain are having ‘devastating’ effects on the mental and physical health of children and the disabled, according to human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe.

But some are doing better than ever, as El País reports:

Stock market recovery helps boost number of millionaires in Spain by 13%

  • Spaniards with wealth measured in seven digits stands at over 400,000

  • Meanwhile, there are close to six million people in the country without a job

And thinkSPAIN gives us another Banksters Behaving B0adly tale:

Caja Madrid ‘ordered staff to hide’ preferential share details from customers ‘duped’ into signing their savings away

ONE of the main banks involved in the preferential share scam which has seen thousands of account-holders across Spain lose their life’s savings sent an internal memo round to staff ordering the to hide the terms and conditions from customers.

Next Lisbon, where some immigrants [the rich] are welcomed, via the Portugal News:

China citizens dominate list of Portugal ‘gold visas’

China tops the list of countries whose citizens have secured “gold visas” assuring the right to reside in Portugal in exchange for a minimum investment, with 168 of the total of the 226 issued so far, Portugal’s consul-general in Macao, Vítor Sereno, said on Wednesday.

After the jump, the latest from Greece [both economic and political/criminal], Latin America, Russia, , China — plus Fukushimapocalypse Now! and a fracking roundup. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: Shutdown/Greco/Fuku/crisis


Before we get to the headlines, another choice cartoon about the Greek crisis, this one featuring two of the key players, International Monetary Fund boss Christine Lagarde and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. From Kathimerini English:

BLOG Greece

Now on with the latest of the shutdown/default crisis in Washington, first with a headline from MSNBC. And yes, there really is a poll [PDF]:

Congress less popular than dog poop, more so than Miley Cyrus, twerking

Next, from Al Jazeera America:

World fears potentially catastrophic effects of US debt default

Economic leaders warn that failing to come to a debt-ceiling agreement could hurt dozens of economies globally

From north of the border, the GlobalPost weighs in:

The US is sneezing like crazy. Will the world catch a cold?

Analysis: Odd as it may seem, investors in Rio or Zurich or Hong Kong may have their financial decisions influenced by backwoods voters in Alabama or Texas, who, through the magic of redistricting, have been able to push an increasingly hard-line agenda on America and the world.

While the Buenos Aires Herald offers a dash of optimism:

Moody’s says US default extremely unlikely

Moody’s Investors Service sees very little chance of a US debt default later this month, the rating agency’s president and chief operating officer said today.

And with a new pick for head of the Federal Reserve, UC Berkeley emeritus economist Janet Yellen Sky News reports would-be marching orders:

IMF Issues $2.3trn Warning Over QE’s End

The International Monetary Fund puts a number on the potential cost of a messy end to emergency central bank support worldwide.

Tea Party tells Santa “Bah, humbug,” via BuzzFeed:

U.S. Retail Industry Group Says Shutdown Threatening $600 Billion Holiday Season

The government shutdown is crushing consumer confidence and making it harder for retailers to plan their businesses. The National Retail Federation says more than 10% of Americans work in retail and related fields.

From BuzzFeed again, spare change?:

Furloughed Government Employees Are Selling Their Possessions On Craigslist For Cash

“I am only selling this guitar because my wife was affected with the government shutdown and I am trying to help with some bills,” wrote one user.

And Slashdot offers us real reassurance [snicker]:

90% of Nuclear Regulators Sent Home Due To Shutdown

from the homer-simpson-asked-to-come-in-for-overtime dept.

From Bloomberg, from those with the least to give, the most is asked:

States Eliminating Aid for Poor as U.S. Shutdown Forces Layoffs

Michigan is preparing to put as many 20,000 state workers on unpaid leave and eliminate cash and food aid to poor residents. North Carolina furloughed 366 employees and closed its nutrition aid program to tens of thousands of women and children. Illinois this week may furlough hundreds of federally-funded employees, including workplace safety inspectors.

And a reminder, via The Allegiant:

Over 26,000 Americans Died in 2010 from a Lack of Health Insurance

Should a Lack of Health Insurance Excuse 26,000 Deaths of Americans Who Need Care?

Baby Boom goes bust, via Bloomberg Businessweek:

U.S. Drops to No. 11 in Global Retirement Rankings

The 2013 edition of the Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index (PDF), a ranking of national retirement systems around the world, has the U.S. ranked 11th, down two slots from last year. The bottom line: Americans don’t save enough, our policies are inadequate to help poor and middle-income earners, there are too many loopholes that reduce savings further, and we’re unprepared for how long we’re going to live in retirement.

While CNBC takes a penthouse view:

In New York, the billionaires have all the fun

And Ars Technica offers the inevitable:

AT&T: The Internet is awesome, so let’s get rid of phone regulations

Astroturf group pushes AT&T agenda to deregulate telecom.

On to Europe, first with a regional story from Reuters:

EU must speed up banking union to gain trust, IMF says

The International Monetary Fund urged the European Union to quickly set up an agency that would close or salvage troubled banks across the continent as part of an effort to shed a mountain of bad debt impeding economic recovery.

But will trust be all that easy to earn, given that things in Brussels work much as they do in Washington? Spiegel illustrates:

Conflicts of Interest: Brussels’ Revolving Door for Top EU Officials

Senior European Commission officials have a penchant for changing sides when they join the private sector. They take up positions with Chinese companies, cigarette manufacturers or PR firms — and potential conflicts of interest are often ignored.

EUbusiness covers transcontinental trolling:

EU seeks China investment boost

Investment flows between the EU and China, major trade partners, are far below what they should be and must be improved, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said Tuesday.

And the companion headline from EUbusiness:

MEPs urge tough conditions on China investment accord talks

European lawmakers insisted Wednesday they should have oversight of talks on an EU-China investment protection agreement and set conditions which could prove unwelcome in Beijing.

Meanwhile, as New Europe reports, he regulated seek to shed their regulators:

We need less regulation, not more, says ETNO

New telecoms plans will stifle investment says industry group

But there’s one place European governments want more regulation,. And that’s at the borders. From Spiegel:

Fortress Europe: How the EU Turns Its Back on Refugees

They come seeking refuge, but when asylum seekers cross into the European Union, they often find little compassion. In Greece, they are held in squalid detention camps, while in Italy they often end up on the street. Here is what they face at entry points across the EU.

New Europe reports on the latest moves from EU’s Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki

Commissioner says Lampedusa illustrates European problem

Damanaki urges for more sea surveillance funds

And from New Europe as well, concern from the European Commission’s Number Two, Viviane Reding, who singled out attempts to impose border controls to block the free movement of the Roma and Europe’s other wandering peoples:

Commission Vice-President says she’s ashamed of some MEPs’ comments

Reding: ‘no invasion expected after 2014′

Meanwhile, Northern Europe wants to kick the fallen. From Keep Talking Greece:

EU wants hikes in V.A.T & other taxes in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy…

We begin our country coverage with a London Telegraph head:

IMF: Britain’s deficit to shrink at fastest rate in developed world in 2013

Global fund performs second about-turn in as many days on the health of Britain’s economy

From the Telegraph again, more misery to accompany the sale of an iconic commons:

Royal Mail warns of job losses after privatisation

Royal Mail has warned MPs that job losses are likely after its historic privatisation as the industry continues to modernise.

And another falloff for another British icon, from New Europe:

Industrial production fell by the most in almost a year

Record fall for the British industrial output

At the very same time, those at the top get a handout, via the London Telegraph:

UK top rate tax cut was world’s largest in 2013

Britain’s top rate of tax has fallen from fifth to 11th highest in the EU – but it remains higher than in Greece or Italy.

The Telegraph again, reporting the failure to make a logical connection:

OBR: UK hurt more by lack of investment than austerity

Government’s official forecaster says private investment, particularly from business, has been “almost completely absent” over the past few years

On to Germany, and a sentiment that flourished in Germany 80 years ago rises anew, via EurActiv:

Germany refuses to take in more refugees

As the human tragedy near the Italian island of Lampedusa prompted calls to rethink the EU’s immigration policy, the German Interior Minister rejected any suggestion that his country should accept more refugees. EurActiv.de reports.

While EUbusiness covers the rise of similar sentiments in France:

French far-right in pole position for EU election

France’s far-right anti-immigration and anti-EU Front National party is tipped to get 24 percent of the domestic vote in next May’s election for the European Parliament, a survey said Wednesday.

On to the Alps, and a headline from MarketWatch:

Swiss to vote on plan to give everybody $34,000 a year: reports

Next up, Spain, with numbers epitomizing the growing class divides. From El País:

Stock market recovery helps boost number of millionaires in Spain by 13%

Spaniards with wealth measured in seven digits stands at over 400,000

Meanwhile, there are close to six million people in the country without a job

BBC News sounds an austerian warning:

Watchdog warns Spain of impact of cuts on children

The Council of Europe, the continent’s main human rights watchdog, has warned Spain its austerity programme could have a devastating impact on children.

El País again, with more numbers:

IMF improves growth forecasts for Spain but raises its estimate for unemployment

Agency sees GDP contracting 1.3 percent this year, but predicts growth of only 0.2 percent in 2014, 0.5 points less than the government

More on the IMF’s latest pronouncement from thinkSpain:

FMI says 40% of Spain’s debt is ‘in the hands of businesses’ and warns lack of cashflow is stifling growth

THE International Monetary Fund (FMI) says the ‘huge’ level of debt sinking companies in Spain, Portugal and Italy and the ‘weak’ state of the three countries’ banks are the main obstacles to their economies ever recovering or credit flowing freely.

El País parses austerian semantics:

Finance Minister defies official figures and claims Spaniards’ wages aren’t falling

Montoro insists there has merely been moderation in pay increases

And Europe Online watches the ax fall:

Spain’s Catalunya Banc to sack one-third of its staff

Bailed-out Spanish lender Catalunya Banc plans to shed between 2,400 and 4,800 people from its workforce, the bank announced Wednesday.

The Portugal News takes us to the eastern side of the Iberian Peninsula, where certain immigrants are welcomed with open arms:

Golden Visas bringing in millions

Investment in excess of €150 million had been attracted to Portugal under its “gold” fast track visa system, Deputy Prime Minister Paulo Portas told the second Business Forum gala dinner taking place in Vilamoura, the Algarve.

From the Portugal News again, optimism:

Government betters its economic outlook

The Portuguese government took a slightly less pessimistic view on the macroeconomic conjuncture for this year and improved that for the next in documentation sent out to social partners.

Italy next, with an entry from ANSAmed:

Italian households’ spending power crumbles

Down 1.7% in first half of 2013

And that rare economic news item from the Vatican, via Spiegel:

Like an Offshore Paradise: Vatican Moves to Close Dirty Accounts

More than 1,000 customers who have no business holding accounts at the Vatican Bank have parked more than 300 million euros there, money the institution’s officials suspect is illicit. They are now calling for the funds to be removed.

After the jump, the latest criminal and austerian developments from Greece, Latin American news, more woes from India, neoliberalism from the People’s Republic, and the latest shocker in Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: Econo/Fuku/Greco/chaos


The shutdown resonates, the Italian government doesn’t collapse, Fukushima sprouts another leak, stasis warnings fly, and Greece spirals deeper into chaos.

You’ll find the latest Greek developments, including the peculiar progress of the criminal cases against the leaders of neo-Nazi Golden Dawn after the jump, but in the meantime, here’s another graphic cartoon from the Greek press, this time from Panos Maragos of To Ethnos in Athens. The two Greeks, stabbed in the back by daggers bearing the Golden Dawn logo, dance to the tune set by the Troika’s Lords of Money. Via Presseurop:

Now we’ve finished with Golden Dawn. . .Let’s enjoy the Wild Dusk

Now we’ve finished with Golden Dawn. . .Let’s enjoy the Wild Dusk

We begin with item of global interest, starting with a sober declaration via the London Telegraph:

Real economy has not improved, despite surge in markets, says IMF

Threats to the global economy from the financial crisis have been defused but not eradicated, while the real economy continues to suffer despite a broad improvement in markets, the head of the International Monetary Fund has said.

Given the tension over the Federal Reserve that’s been dominating world press coverage, consider the following from MarketWatch:

Easing policy could be extended: Fed’s Rosengren

The Federal Reserve ‘s easy policy stance, including its bond-buying program, could last for “several years” to make sure that the economy is on track for solid growth and moderate inflation, a Fed official said on Wednesday.

And from Al Jazeera America, another factor in the global economy:

War on drugs leads to more potent narcotics, study shows

Price of illegal drugs has declined while potency has increased, researchers warn

And on a parenthetical note, and arrest made in a San Francisco public library makes headlines, via Reuters:

FBI shuts alleged online drug marketplace, Silk Road

U.S. law enforcement authorities have shut down “Silk Road,” an anonymous Internet marketplace for illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine and criminal activities such as murder for hire, and arrested its alleged owner.

More from Business Insider:

FBI Says Illegal Drugs Marketplace Silk Road Generated $1.2 Billion In Sales Revenue

And from TechCrunch, major economic impact:

Bitcoin Falls 15% Following FBI’s Silk Road Seizure

From the Japan Times, one more consequence of the Tea Party congressional shutdown:

U.S. paralysis leaves travel agencies scrambling

The U.S. government shutdown that started at midnight Monday has impacted the global travel industry, with tourist agencies in Japan scrambling to avoid severe losses.

And in the U.S., a hint of things to come via CNBC:

Shutdown may idle non-federal workers next week

The federal government shutdown is already affecting contractors and threatens to dampen private-sector employment, at least in the near-term, industry officials say.

And one potential shutdown that’s got to worry the wizards of Wall Street, an announcement via the Economic Times that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has stopped publishing traders commitments and other market reports:

Commodity markets will go dark if shutdown continues

From Al Jazeera America, another shutdown victim, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children [WIC]:

Vulnerable mothers fear shutdown threat to WIC food aid

‘Non-essential’ WIC program provides low-income mothers with food vouchers, health care referrals, faces funding gap

From CNBC, the lighter side of the shutdown:

‘TSA feel-ups’: What you miss during the shutdown

Moving on from the shutdown to a potential shutout, via Al Jazeera America:

Microsoft investors reportedly push for Bill Gates ouster

As company searches for new CEO, three Microsoft investors want Gates to step down as chairman, says Reuters

And from Rolling Stone, avarice reigns:

Looting the Pension Funds

All across America, Wall Street is grabbing money meant for public workers

But pension funds mean something only to those with full-time jobs with benefits, a steadily diminishing part of the labor market, as My Budget 360 notes:

The Rise of a Semi-employed America: Amazon to hire 70,000 part-time workers while Merck will fire 8,500 full-time employees. Before recession 4 million part-time workers today over 8 million.

From Salon, yet another major score for Big Agra:

Monsanto’s big data taxpayer ripoff

The GMO giant buys a Silicon Valley startup that uses government-gathered information to sell insurance to farmers

Bloomberg Businessweek plays it this way:

Monsanto’s Billion-Dollar Bet Brings Big Data to the Farm

As if we needed any more proof that the Big Data phenomenon is well and truly upon us, Monsanto (MON) has agreed to acquire the Climate Corp. for $930 million. The real stunner of a deal marks one of the largest buys of a new-era data analytics company.

From The Contributor, a reminder of those left out:

Hungry and Fat: America’s Lowest Wage States Have the Most Food Insecurity

And from the Washington Post, the latest token wrist-slappery:

Freddie Mac says three banks to pay a total of $1.3 billion to settle mortgage claims

Mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac said Tuesday that three of the country’s largest banks — Wells Fargo, Citigroup and SunTrust Banks — had agreed to pay a total of $1.3 billion to resolve claims on millions of home loans that have soured or may go bad.

The San Francisco Chronicle reminds of of those who’re always left out:

Government shutdown’s hit magnified for tribes

American Indian tribes have more than access to national parks on the line with the government shutdown, as federal funding has been cut off for crucial services including foster care payments, nutrition programs and financial assistance for the needy.

And on to Europe, first with another qualified pronouncement from the eurobankster via the Buenos Aires Herald:

ECB’s Draghi, reiterating pledge on low rates, says euro zone slowly recovering

The euro zone economy remains on track for a slow recovery, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said today, reiterating the ECB’s pledge to keep interest rates low for now.

EUbusiness adds another qualification:

US shutdown risk to global economy if protracted: ECB

The US government shut-down could threaten not only the United States but also the global economy if it lasts, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi said Wednesday.

And the European Union itself may not last, as George Soros sees eurozone tsuris, via MarketWatch:

Soros: German elections mean euro crisis over, but EU might not survive

Next up, the U.K., starting with a Tory austerian declamation via the London Telegraph:

Under-25s would not be able to claim benefits under all-Conservative government, David Cameron says

David Cameron has appealed to voters to give the Conservatives a mandate to govern alone, allowing them to withdraw welfare from young people and cut taxes for families.

Another piece of the European commons goes on the block, and a very hot one at that. Via Sky News:

Uranium Processor Edges Closer To £10bn Sale

  • Executives at the UK-based uranium processor take another step towards a potential £10bn privatisation, Sky News learns.

  • The uranium processing group jointly owned by the British, Dutch and German governments is inching towards a £10bn sale after directors picked advisers to steer them through one of Europe’s biggest-ever privatisations.

From the London Telegraph, a major corporation takes a hit:

Tesco profits fall as sales slide around the world

Tesco, Britain’s biggest retailer, has reported a fall in like-for-like sales across all its ten international businesses in the first half of the year, prompting a sharp decline in profits.

So they head abroad for new customers. From Xinhua:

Britain’s Tesco, China’s CRE sign supermarket joint venture agreement

British retail giant Tesco PLC announced on Wednesday that it has signed an agreement with China Resources Enterprise Ltd (CRE) to create a retail joint venture in China.

And from the Telegraph, Britain Googles for taxes:

Google under fire over tax arrangements

Google has defended its tax arrangements in the face of growing criticism that it is structuring its European arm to avoid paying UK corporation tax.

From the Irish Times, austerity reigns supreme on the Emerald Isle:

Central Bank: push ahead with austerity budget

Bank warns against any scaling back of planned fiscal adjustment of €3.1bn

And the Irish Health Service Executive covers a pending walkout, via TheJournal.ie:

HSE ‘disappointed over completely avoidable doctors’ strike’

The IMO has refused an invitation to the Labour Relations Commission.

And from the Copenhagen Post, more banksters behaving badly:

Former bank CEOs charged with stock manipulation

A network of bankers conspired to profit from inflated stock prices and used their wives as cover

From France, more U.S. shutdown anxieties, via RFI:

US shutdown could hurt France, rest of world, minister warns

The US government shutdown is a threat to the economies of France and other US trade partners, Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici told the weekly French cabinet on Wednesday.

FRANCE 24 covers yet another shutdown impact:

US shutdown closes iconic D-Day cemeteries in France

While New Europe reports a Parisian schism over intolerance:

He opposed French Interior Minister’s views that Roma could not be assimilated into French society

French Prime Minister endorses Roma integration into society

Next up, Spain, via Europe Online:

Spain unemployment rises in September

And the head of the US Chamber of Commerce in Spain talks image, via El País:

“Spain’s negative image is too visible,” says US commerce chief

Jaime Malet is worried about perceptions of the country abroad

From thinkSPAIN, the out-of-office Socialists campaign:

Budget for 2014 ‘will create poverty and inequality’, says PSOE

SOCIALIST members in opposition all over Spain are due to hold 40 press conferences today (Tuesday) over what they call a ‘poverty budget’ which will ‘increase inequality’, ‘destroy quality of life’ and leave residents with ‘the highest tax burden in 30 years’ from the start of 2014.

And from El País, charity comes home:

Spain becomes net recipient of remittances for first time in a decade

  • Spanish people living overseas send record amounts back home

  • Naturalized Spaniards may be source of funds

And thinkSPAIN covers resistance:

Hospital dispensary drugs law now in force – but regional governments refuse to make patients pay

A CONTROVERSIAL new law forcing chronically-ill patients to pay for medication dispensed in hospital came into force yesterday – Tuesday, October 1 – but the majority of Spain’s regional governments have refused to comply.

Next up, Italy, and a Bunga Bunga backdown from Deutsche Welle:

Italian government survives confidence vote after Berlusconi backtracks

The Italian government has comfortably survived a confidence vote. Silvio Berlusconi reversed plans to topple Prime Minister Enrico Letta on Wednesday afternoon.

Sky News gave it the right twist:

Italian PM Wins Vote After Berlusconi U-Turn

Silvio Berlusconi abandons his bid to topple the government after key allies rebel against his leadership.

And the top Europol gives his blessing via EUbusiness:

Barroso hails Italy vote as ‘decisive’ for eurozone

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday hailed the Italian Senate’s vote in favour of the government as “decisive” not just for Italy, but for the eurozone and European Union as a whole.

ANSAmed covers another economic development certain to please the Lega Norde:

Italy: immigrants suffering from crisis, says CGIL union

Half looking to migrate elsewhere

And from Spiegel, hard times intolerance:

‘They Want Scapegoats’: Hungary Cracks Down on Homelessness

The conservative Hungarian government has repeatedly targeted the homeless with its recent policies. Now a new ban on sleeping outdoors is drawing outrage and accusations of scapegoating.

After the jump, the Greek crisis heats up, policy shifts in Russia, China continues its neoliberal way, and Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . ., Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: Econ, Greekrisis, Asia, Fuku


On today’s agenda: Economics, politics, more neo-Nazis busted in Greece, warning bells in Russia and India, changes in China, and the ongoing Fukushima debacle, and more.

Just because it’s so damn powerful, this depiction of the Golden Dawn debacle in Greece from Eleftherotypia’s Sketchophrenia via EnetEnglish.gr:

BLOG Golden Dawn

Loots more Greece after the jump. . .

For our first headline, we start here in the U.S. with this most intriguing offering from the Christian Science Monitor:

Amid surge of the cut-rate ‘sharing economy,’ a backlash grows

They call it the ‘sharing economy’: people going online to rent out rooms in their homes, set up informal ride-shares, or repair car brakes in your driveway. Even as the trend booms, it is meeting resistance from established businesses, city officials, and even neighbors. Can they stop it?

The Los Angeles Times goes minimalist:

‘Sharing economy’ is here to stay, so get used to it

Sounding a companion note, from the Federal Reserve Board’s FEDS Notes:

Why Have Americans’ Income Expectations Declined So Sharply?

Data from the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers (Michigan survey) suggests that Americans’ income expectations declined sharply in the 2008-09 recession and remain depressed. The reasons for this marked increase in pessimism are important because theory suggests that income expectations are a fundamental determinant of consumer spending and may help us understand the slow economic recovery.

But fear not, Gentle Reader! Some folks are consuming. Conspicuously. From CNBC:

Private jet gets $2 million gold-plated makeover

When the super rich want to give their private jets an extreme makeover, one of the designers they turn to is Eric Roth at International Jet Interiors in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. A private jet is one of a billionaire’s ultimate luxuries and Roth’s clients take “super rich” to a whole new level.

And our schools are being turned into indoctrination centers for the corporateer’s desideratum. From The Guardian:

The copyright cartel’s plot to indoctrinate California kindergartens

Sharing is the essence of digital creativity, but its enemies want to brainwash grade-schoolers with their commercial interests

And from The Guardian, the press pass as a target:

San Francisco Bay Area TV news crews hit by spate of brazen robberies

In latest incident, KRON 4 reporter, filming in high crime neighborhood, set upon by armed men demanding equipment

And whilst we’re in the Golden State, a blast from the past from Salon about a secular saint:

Ronald Reagan’s shameful legacy: Violence, the homeless, mental illness

As president and governor of California, the GOP icon led the worst policies on mental illness in generations

North of the border for a CBC report on a growth industry:

$1.3B medical marijuana free market coming to Canada

New system will use large indoor marijuana farms certified by RCMP

And off across the pond, for bubbly British news from The Independent:

Fears of debt and a housing bubble after David Cameron hurries out second phase of Help to Buy three months early

Vince Cable and Sir Mervyn King among those concerned that the Government could be exposed to billions of pounds of future housing debt whilst inflating the property market

An Irish question equally applicable on this side of the pond from TheJournal.ie:

Five years older and deeper in debt… So why don’t the Irish protest more?

In the last few years, there’s been a noticeable decrease in the numbers taking to the streets to voice their anger. We asked the experts — why are the Irish so reluctant to protest?

Next to Germany, with news of what we’re told are job changes rather than layoffs, via Bloomberg:

Siemens CEO Kaeser Cuts 15,000 Jobs to Catch Up With GE

And from Bloomberg again, Austria’s Social Democrats retain a very thin edge on power as voters shift rightward:

Austrian Ruling Parties Eke Out Win With Record-Low Support

And one name familiar in the San Francisco Bay Area won a seat in the Austrian parliament, Frank Stronach, the 81-year-old owner [via his Magna Entertainment] of Golden Gate Fields horse racing track. Yahoo! News reported on his anti-euro conservative candidacy:

Canadian throws money, ego into Austrian election

On a cool day in Eisenstadt, far from the prairies of Canada where he made his fortune, billionaire Frank Stronach rails against corrupt politicians, posing as the prodigal son who has returned to save Austria.

On to Spain with politic economics from El País:

Cabinet approves “recovery” state budget for next year

Austerity drive to continue but with no new tax hikes and the expectation of job creation for the first time since the start of the crisis

El País again, with some austerian detail:

Wage freeze for 2.8 million public workers extended into next year

Administrations will be allowed to replace one in 10 state workers who retire in education and health

Labor unions say that workers have lost 20 percent of purchasing power

And some cultural news via thinkSPAIN:

‘Morning after’ pill users are ‘predominantly Catholic’, says survey

The Independent covers lost regal luster:

The rise and fall of King Juan Carlos, ‘saviour of Spain’

A series of PR gaffes and the whiff of financial scandal in the midst of recession have left the monarchy’s popularity at an all-time low

El País covers a consequence:

Demonstrators brave heavy rain to demand an end to the monarchy

Police prevent around 1,500 protestors from setting up camp at Oriente Palace

Next up, Bunga Bunga revenge via the London Telegraph:

Italy in chaos as Silvio Berlusconi removes ministers from government

Italy has been plunged into chaos after former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi pulled his centre-right ministers out of the cabinet on Saturday, effectively bringing down the government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta.

More form the Buenos Aires Herald:

Italian president hopes to solve political crisis without new vote

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta will meet the president today to try to chart a way out of a deep political crisis after Silvio Berlusconi pulled his ministers out of the government and called for new elections.

Reuters covers maneuvers:

Italy to face international pressure if crisis drags on

Italy could face pressure from international partners if the current political crisis persists and reverberates through the euro zone, Labour Minister Enrico Giovannini said on Sunday.

The Independent covers the response from the toppling top:

Italy political crisis: Crisis talks aim to save Enrico Letta’s coalition from Berlusconi exit

Premier Enrico Letta accuses People of Liberty party of ‘a big lie and attempt to distort reality’

And it’s not just the government that’s on the verge of collapse. From New Europe:

Alitalia seeks more funding to avoid collapse

After the jump, arrests and uproar in Greece, warnings in India and Russia, China, Japanese economic rumbles, and Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading