Category Archives: Academia

Headlines of the day: Classes, deep politics, more


First, a stunning landmark is reached. From the New York Times:

The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest

The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction.

While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades.

After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.

On of the key mechanisms of the collapse of the middle class from Mother Jones:

How Taxpayers Subsidize the Multi-Million Dollar Salaries of Restaurant CEOs

  • Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz raked in $236 million in taxpayer-subsidized compensation over the past two years.

As the fight to raise the minimum wage has gained momentum, the restaurant industry has emerged as the biggest opponent. This is no surprise, since the industry claims the highest percentage of low-wage workers—60 percent—of any other business sector. Front-line fast-food workers earn so little money that about half of them rely on some form of public assistance, to the tune of about $7 billion a year. That hidden subsidy has helped boost restaurant industry profits to record highs. In 2013, the industry reaped $660 billion in profits, and it in turn channeled millions into backing efforts to block local governments from raising pay for low-wage workers and to keep the minimum wage for tipped workers at $2.13 an hour (exactly where it’s been for the past 22 years). But public assistance programs aren’t the only way taxpayers subsidize the restaurant industry.

A new report from the Institute for Policy Studies finds that the public has been contributing to excessive CEO compensation as well, helping to widen the gap between the lowest-paid workers and their bosses. Thanks to a loophole in the tax code, corporations are allowed to deduct unlimited amounts of money from their tax bills for executive compensation, so long as it comes in the form of stock options or “performance pay.” The loophole was the inadvertent result of an attempt by Congress to rein in CEO compensation by limiting the tax deduction for executive pay to $1 million a year. That law exempted pay that came in the form of stock options or performance pay. This loophole has proven lucrative for CEOs of all stripes, but it is particularly egregious in an industry that pays its workers so little that it is already heavily subsidized by taxpayers.

More from UC Berkeley’s Robert Reich:

Raising Taxes on Corporations that Pay Their CEOs Royally and Treat Their Workers Like Serfs

Until the 1980s, corporate CEOs were paid, on average, 30 times what their typical worker was paid. Since then, CEO pay has skyrocketed to 280 times the pay of a typical worker; in big companies, to 354 times.

Meanwhile, over the same thirty-year time span the median American worker has seen no pay increase at all, adjusted for inflation. Even though the pay of male workers continues to outpace that of females, the typical male worker between the ages of 25 and 44 peaked in 1973 and has been dropping ever since. Since 2000, wages of the median male worker across all age brackets has dropped 10 percent, after inflation.

This growing divergence between CEO pay and that of the typical American worker isn’t just wildly unfair. It’s also bad for the economy. It means most workers these days lack the purchasing power to buy what the economy is capable of producing — contributing to the slowest recovery on record. Meanwhile, CEOs and other top executives use their fortunes to fuel speculative booms followed by busts.

Renting wombs to fertilized eggs from abroad via Quartz:

Wealthy Chinese are turning to American surrogates to birth their children

The familiar image of international surrogacy until now has mainly involved Americans and Europeans crossing the world to find women to birth their children. Now, wealthy Chinese couples are seeking surrogates in the US. The practice—a new version of Chinese “birth tourism”—offers a solution to rising infertility in China, a way around Chinese population controls, and even the added bonus of US citizenship for babies born in the States.

For years, pregnant Chinese women have come to the US, mainly to the West Coast, to give birth to baby US citizens who can, at the age of 21, sponsor their parents for green cards. In a new wrinkle, some are instead paying American women to carry their children—a way of getting citizenship as well as dealing with the fact that more Chinese couples are facing trouble having children. (Other surrogacy destinations for wealthy Chinese include Thailand, India, and Ukraine, but the US is still the favorite.)

Salon finds brown noses:

Welcome to Plutocrat-geddon! Obama and Thomas Friedman flatter our new billionaire overlords

  • Forget inequality! Judging by the White House and the media, the real answer is sucking up to the wealthiest

Inequality is a burning topic among economists, especially since the release of Thomas Piketty’s recent book on the subject. Many are questioning whether this is a temporary period of runaway inequality, or whether we are on the verge of an irreversible collapse into extremes of wealth and poverty. (What would we call it? The Oligopolypse? Plutogeddon?)

But numbers alone don’t tell the full story. Culture, too, is adapting to this unequal world. We idealize the wealthy today in ways that would have been unthinkable decades ago.

With the children of today’s baby boomers scheduled to inherit $30 trillion in the next several decades, politicians and the press are hard at work flattering plutocrats of all ages by portraying them as paragons of wisdom.

Another assault on the potential middle class from the New York Times:

Student Loans Can Suddenly Come Due When Co-Signers Die, a Report Finds

For students who borrow on the private market to pay for school, the death of a parent can come with an unexpected, added blow, a federal watchdog warns. Even borrowers who have good payment records can face sudden demands for full, early repayment of those loans, and can be forced into default.

Most people who take out loans to pay for school have minimal income or credit history, so if they borrow from banks or other private lenders, they need co-signers — usually parents or other relatives. Borrowing from the federal government, the largest source of student loans, rarely requires a co-signer.

The problem, described in a report released Tuesday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, arises from a little-noticed provision in private loan contracts: If the co-signer dies or files for bankruptcy, the loan holder can demand complete repayment, even if the borrower’s record is spotless. If the loan is not repaid, it is declared to be in default, doing damage to a borrower’s credit record that can take years to repair.

And a warning to labor from the London Daily Mail:

The future of factories? Swarm of super-fast robotic ‘ANTS’ powered by magnets can independently climb walls and even build

  • The army of robo-ants can move at around 13.7 inches (35cm) a second
  • This is equivalent to a human running at just under the speed of sound
  • Each ant can be individually controlled using magnets on a circuit board
  • Swarm has already built a tower 30cm (11.8 inches) high from carbon rods

Business Insider sounds the alarm:

DAVID EINHORN: ‘We Are Witnessing Our Second Tech Bubble In 15 Years’

Hedge-fund manager David Einhorn, who runs Greenlight Capital, says we’re seeing another tech bubble, CNBC reported, citing his fund’s quarterly investor letter.

“Now there is a clear consensus that we are witnessing our second tech bubble in 15 years. What is uncertain is how much further the bubble can expand, and what might pop it,” Einhorn wrote in the letter (PDF) posted online by @Levered_Hawkeye.

Clicking away your rights from the Christian Science Monitor:

General Mills drops arbitration clause, but such contracts are ‘pervasive’

Consumer advocates warn that clicking ‘I agree’ to online contracts can crimp buyers’ legal rights, if a contract requires arbitration and nixes class-action lawsuits. The practice is spreading, though General Mills encountered a backlash.

When consumers click “I agree” to online contracts, two things can happen: They may give up their right to pursue a class action lawsuit if something goes wrong, and they can seek damages only through arbitration, an out-of-court legal process that many experts say weighs against the harmed consumer.

From the Los Angeles Times. Another landmark:

Supreme Court upholds Michigan ban on affirmative action

The Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s ban on the use of racial affirmative action in its state universities Tuesday, ruling that voters are entitled to decide the issue.

The 6-2 decision clears away constitutional challenges to the state bans on affirmative action, which began in California in 1996.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, speaking for the majority, said the democratic process can decide such issues. “This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved,” he said. “It is about who may resolve it. There is no authority in the Constitution of the United States or in this court’s precedents for the judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this policy determination to the voters.”

Kochs go Latino, via Reuters:

Conservative Koch-backed group uses soft touch in recruiting U.S. Hispanics

The conservative advocacy groups backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are known mostly for spending millions of dollars to pelt Democratic candidates with negative television ads.

But this year, one Koch-backed group is using a softer touch to try to win over part of the nation’s booming Hispanic population, which has overwhelmingly backed Democrats in recent elections. The group, known as The Libre Initiative, is sponsoring English classes, driver’s license workshops and other social programs to try to build relationships with Hispanic voters in cities from Arizona to Florida – even as the group targets Democratic lawmakers with hard-edged TV ads.

Taking a cue from liberal groups that have been active in Hispanic neighborhoods for decades, Libre says it aims to use these events to build support for small-government ideas in communities that typically support big-government ideals.

From NPR, a reminder from Mother Nature:

California’s Drought Ripples Through Businesses, Then To Schools

Nearly half of the country’s fruits, nuts and vegetables come from California, a state that is drying up. , the entire state is considered “abnormally dry,” and two-thirds of California is in “extreme” to “exceptional” drought conditions.

Earlier this year, many farmers in California found out that they would get no irrigation water from state or federal water projects. Recent rains have helped a little. On Friday, government officials said there was enough water to give a little more to some of the region’s farmers — 5 percent of the annual allocation, instead of the nothing they were getting.

>snip<

Economists say it’s too early to accurately predict the drought’s effect on jobs, but it’s likely as many as 20,000 will be lost.

That might not sound like a lot, but many of those workers are already living paycheck to paycheck in communities that depend on that work.

Via the National Drought Monitor, the current state of affairs in California, ranging from lightest [abnormally dry] to darkest [exceptional drought]:

BLOG Drought

After the jump, the latest from Europe [including spiking austerian suicides], Asia’s Game of Zones, an American Nazi whose work inspired a French film, spy games, and muich more. . . Continue reading

More of those not-so-random headlines to mull


First up, how the New York Times covers the elite from Gawker:

Insanely Rich Reporter Covers White House Meeting of the Insanely Rich

There’s a lot to pore over in the New York Times Style section’s coverage of a conference for über-wealthy “next-generation” philanthropists that was recently held at the White House.

There’s the list of attendees, which includes the young progeny of such hallowed, moneyed families as Hilton, Rockefeller, and Pritzker. There’s the breathless, classically Style section-y way in which participants and organizers are described: eloquent, nimble, and commanding gravitas, wearing pinstripe suits and “scraggy Brooklyn-style facial hair.” There’s the reference to one 19-year-old attendee’s “swooping” Bieberesque bangs, despite the fact that Bieber hasn’t had that haircut in years.

Most of all, however, there’s this disclosure notice from the reporter, about halfway through the article:

Disclosure: Although the event was closed to the media, I was invited by the founders of Nexus, Jonah Wittkamper and Rachel Cohen Gerrol, to report on the conference as a member of the family that started the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company.

At a conference for such refined people as these, not just any reporter will do. No, it must be a writer who intimately knows the struggles of the young and wealthy, and who can accurately transmit the ways in which they’re saving the planet to the unwashed Times-reading masses. It must be Jamie Johnson (net worth about $610 million, according to Business Insider in 2011), heir to the Johnson & Johnson company fortune.

And from the London Telegraph, that bastion of Toryism, gilding a turd:

Has the West fallen prey to crony capitalism?

  • There are certainly signs of a wealth gap – like the explosion of buy-to-let landlords in London – but that will inspire the strivers and innovators

From the Oakland Tribune, yet another gift from Proposition 13 [and here]:

Oakland auditor sounds pension alarm

Pension costs have more than doubled over the past decade, leaving Oakland with fewer police officers, more potholes and a growing threat of insolvency, City Auditor Courtney Ruby warned in a report released Sunday.

Oakland’s payments to the state pension system jumped from $37 million in 2003 to $89 million in 2012, the report found.

That $52 million gap is enough to pay the salaries of 300 police officers, according to city budget figures.

From the Los Angeles Times, the grift that keeps on giving:

Student debt holds back many would-be home buyers

Of the many factors holding back young home buyers — rising prices, tougher lending standards, a still-shaky job market — none looms larger than the recent explosion of college debt.

Of the many factors holding back young home buyers — rising prices, tougher lending standards, a still-shaky job market — none looms larger than the recent explosion of college debt.

The amount owed on student loans has tripled in a decade, to nearly $1.1 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. People in their 20s and 30s — often the best-educated and highest-earning among them — owe most of that tab. That is keeping a crucial segment of home buyers on the sidelines, deferring one of the traditional markers of adult success.

The National Assn. of Realtors recently identified student debt as a key factor in soft demand for home-buying this spring. A recent study by the trade group identified student loans as the top reason many home buyers delayed their purchase. Many more didn’t buy at all.

Surveys show today’s adults value homeownership just as much as their parents did. But the shaky job market, higher debt loads, and the roller-coaster market of recent years is keeping many from pulling the trigger, said Selma Hepp, senior economist with the California Assn. of Realtors.

And the darker side of the picture from The Young Turks:

Students Loans Are HUGE Profit-Centers For The Government

Program notes:

“The U.S. Department of Education is forecast to generate $127 billion in profit over the next decade from lending to college students and their families, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Beginning in the 2015-16 academic year, students and their families are forecast to pay more to borrow from the department than they did prior to last summer’s new student loan law, which set student loan interest rates based on the U.S. government’s costs to borrow. The higher costs for borrowers would arrive at least a year sooner than previously predicted.”* The Young Turks hosts Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian break it down.

And it’s not just in the U.S. From TheLocal.se:

Students to keep paying off debt beyond 67

The Swedish government has proposed scrapping the 25-year span for repaying student loans, by suggesting those who attend higher education should keep paying the money back well into retirement.

At present some 200,000 students have their student loan written off every year when they reach the age of 67. However, proposals in the government’s spring government bill are set to increase the financial burden on students.

Along with the idea of extending the debt into old age, the government are going to more than double the fee when students get a late payment reminder.

Next up, grief from Old Blighty as Tory Dubyafication of British education rouses ire, via The Independent:

Furious teacher brands Michael Gove a ‘demented Dalek on speed’ as NUT threaten more strikes

A furious teacher has branded Michael Gove a “demented Dalek on speed” during a series of scathing attacks against the Education Secretary at the teachers’ union conference.

Mr Gove was likened to the Doctor Who monster, known as the most hated adversary in all of time and space, as teachers threatened a major escalation of strike action at the National Union of Teachers (NUT) conference in Brighton on Saturday.

A member of the teachers’ union insisted that the Education Secretary was determined to “exterminate anything good in education that’s come along since the 1950s”.

And from Reuters, even Germany is finally realizing that financial crisis ain’t over:

ECB hardliner Weidmann comes in from the cold as deflation threatens

As recently as last November, Jens Weidmann steadfastly opposed any move by the European Central Bank to print money to buy assets and buoy the euro zone economy. No longer.

The Bundesbank chief, known for his hardline stances at the ECB and as head of the German central bank, is now ready to support such quantitative easing (QE) if he and his ECB colleagues deem it necessary. What has changed is that “the situation has changed”, according to one person familiar with the German’s thinking, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Euro zone inflation has slowed to 0.5 percent from 0.9 percent in November, falling far below the ECB’s target of just under 2 percent and stoking fears the bloc could become stuck in a prolonged period of so-called “low-flation”, or even sink into outright deflation.

After the jump, environmental nightmares, the Koch brothers declare war on solar, Japan and U.S. unions contract frack-o-mania, the Sino-Japanese cold war amps up, snoops on your shelves and in your thermostat, docs call for legal pot, drugged soldiers, and more. . . Continue reading

Random headlines again, for your consideration


We begin with one from United Press International, offering proof of what we all know:

The US is not a democracy but an oligarchy, study concludes

  • “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

Oligarchy is a form of government in which power is vested in a dominant class and a small group exercises control over the general population.

A new study from Princeton and Northwestern Universities concluded that the U.S. government represents not the interests of the majority of citizens but those of the rich and powerful.

“Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” analyzed extensive data, comparing nearly 1,800 U.S. policies enacted between 1981 and 2002 with the expressed preferences of average and affluent Americans as well as special interest groups.

UPDATE: Link fixed. Read it all here [PDF].

From The Guardian, Bubba’s bankster buddies:

Wall Street deregulation pushed by Clinton advisers, documents reveal

  • Previously restricted papers reveal attempts to rush president to support act, later blamed for deepening banking crisis

Wall Street deregulation, blamed for deepening the banking crisis, was aggressively pushed by advisers to Bill Clinton who have also been at the heart of current White House policy-making, according to newly disclosed documents from his presidential library.

The previously restricted papers reveal two separate attempts, in 1995 and 1997, to hurry Clinton into supporting a repeal of the Depression-era Glass Steagall Act and allow investment banks, insurers and retail banks to merge.

And from USA Today, high anxiety:

Nerves fray as anniversaries of April attacks arrive

As most Americans this week enjoy mid-April’s well-deserved warm weather, educators, law enforcement and civil rights groups are perhaps understandably a bit on edge with the approach of several dates that bring bad memories.

Saturday marks the anniversary of the 1995 terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City, as well as the 1993 FBI attack of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, which killed cult leader David Koresh and 75 followers.

Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh called his attack payback for the deaths at Waco at the hands of the FBI, calling the siege “first blood.” The Oklahoma City bombing killed killed 168 people.

Six years later, Colorado teenager Eric Harris would boast in his journal that he planned to outdo McVeigh’s body count in an attack on Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. The 15th anniversary of that attack falls on Sunday. Harris, along with Dylan Klebold, killed 13 in a siege that was actually a failed bombing, police say. The Columbine attacks took place on the 110th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birth.

From the London Daily Mail, justice American style:

Judge rules that Texas inmate still behind bars 34 years after his conviction was overturned is at fault because he NEVER asked for a new trial

  • Jerry Hartfield was sentenced to death row in 1976 but his conviction was overturned four years later
  • He has an IQ of 51 and maintains police used a false confession in his case
  • Judge ruled that his right to a speedy trial had not been violated, even though the state was negligent in failing to retry him

Another potential unemployment casualty in France from RFI:

President Hollande won’t run for re-election if unemployment remains high

French President François Hollande made a shock announcement on Friday during a lunch with employees of the Michelin company: if unemployment continues to plummet between now and 2017, he will have “no reason to be a candidate” for a second mandate.

Hollande said that employment, particularly for young people, was a priority for him. “We’re going to put all our energy into this issue because there’s no other challenge [this important],” said the president.

From El País, the Iron Chancellor reneges on a promise:

Germany cancels scheme designed to attract young jobless from abroad

  • Spaniards made up half of all applicants for The Job of My Life
  • The program offered funding for language studies and help finding work
  • “I thought the Germans were serious”

The German government has announced that it is closing its The Job of My Life program, set up at the beginning of last year to attract young people from some of Europe’s hardest-hit economies – such as Greece and Spain – to work in Germany.

The €400-million program, which was aimed at 18- to 35-year-olds, was initially scheduled to run until 2018. This year’s budget, €48 million, has already been spent. The aim was to provide financial aid to young people in their own countries while they learned German, help them with interviews and then assist with the move to Germany to look for work.

From United Press International, giving the boot on The Boot:

Venice secession vote underscores autonomist movements

“We are now experiencing a strong return of little nations, small and prosperous countries, able to interact with each other in the global world,” Paolo Bernardini, European history professor at Italy’s University of Insubria, commented.

A vote in Italy’s Veneto region, which includes the city of Venice, indicating widespread support for secession from Italy, underscores the rise of nationalism in the world.

Considering the recent referendum in Crimea, the legitimacy of which was questioned, and prior to a September referendum in Scotland, whose approval could mean independence from England as early as 2016, the Venice vote in March was more like a survey. Online and without official status, it nonetheless indicated 89 percent of two million voters approved of formally separating themselves from Italy.

A blow to partisan plutocrats from the New York Times:

China Signals a Change as it Investigates a Family’s Riches

A corruption inquiry targeting the retired Communist Party leader Zhou Yongkang and his family could challenge a tacit rule that has allowed elite clans to accumulate vast wealth.

DVICE eyeballs a spooky development:

Forget Glass, Google wants to put a camera on your eyeball

Google Glass has been getting a lot of time in the spotlight lately, but if the boffins from Mountain View have their way, that fancy Google Glass rig may soon look about as cutting edge as having a Motorola Razr phone attached to your hip.

A recently published patent shows that Google has been looking at ways to build a camera directly into a contact lens on the surface of your eye. That would certainly make it more discreet than the clunky looking Glass, perfect for when you don’t want people to know that you’re using it. But it also means that the camera will be able to follow the direction of your vision, opening new possibilities for how it could be used.

From the Miami Herald, a rare chance to look inside the black box:

Guantánamo judge to CIA: Disclose ‘black site’ details to USS Cole defense lawyers

The military judge in the USS Cole bombing case has ordered the CIA to give defense lawyers details — names, dates and places — of its secret overseas detention and interrogation of the man accused of planning the bombing, two people who have read the still-secret order said Thursday.

Army Col. James L. Pohl issued the five-page order Monday. It was sealed as document 120C on the war court website Thursday morning and, according to those who have read it, orders the agency to provide a chronology of the overseas odyssey of Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, 49, from his capture in Dubai in 2002 to his arrival at Guantánamo four years later.

The Usual Suspects, cashin’ in — via Wired:

High Tech

How Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are rushing to cash in on cannabis.

For the science and technology set, it’s a classic opportunity to disrupt an industry historically run by hippies and gangsters. And the entire tech-industrial complex is getting in on the action: investors, entrepreneurs, biotechnologists, scientists, industrial designers, electrical engineers, data analysts, software developers. Industry types with experience at Apple and Juniper and Silicon Valley Bank and Zynga and all manner of other companies are flocking to cannabis with the hopes of creating a breakout product for a burgeoning legitimate industry. Maybe it’s the Firefly. Maybe it’s something still being developed in someone’s living room. There’s a truism about the gold rush days of San Francisco: It wasn’t the miners who got rich; it was the people selling picks and shovels. As the legalization trend picks up steam, Silicon Valley thinks it can make a better shovel.

From the Los Angeles Times, stiffing Californians to collect on high out-of-state tuitions:

California students feel UC admission squeeze

  • Most campuses take a lesser number of state students even as more get in from elsewhere.

California high school seniors faced a tougher time winning a freshman spot at most of the UC campuses for the fall, with their chances at UCLA and UC Berkeley now fewer than one in five, according to a report released Friday.

Six of UC’s nine undergraduate campuses accepted a smaller number of California students than last year even though the number of applicants rose. Competition was fiercest at UCLA, where only 16.3% of state students were admitted, down from 17.4% last year, and at UC Berkeley, where 18.8% were accepted, compared with 21.4% last year.

Increased competition is part of a national trend this year at the most elite level of higher education. Even though the population of American high school graduates dropped a bit, students are applying to more colleges, and schools are recruiting more overseas, especially in Asia. In the most extreme example, Stanford University accepted only 5% of applicants; many other highly selective campuses reported record low rates.

From Al Jazeera America, nostalgic for blasts from the past:

Boom town: Atomic tourism blooms in a western desert

  • As nuclear age approaches eighth decade, visitors flock to historic bomb craters at New Mexico test sites

Standing a few yards from the spot where the world’s first atomic bomb detonated with a blast so powerful that it turned the desert sand to glass and shattered windows more than 100 miles away, tourist Chris Cashel explained what drew him here.

“You don’t get to go to very many places that changed the entire world in a single moment,” said Cashel as he glanced around the windswept, desolate Trinity Site in the New Mexico desert packed with tourists. “The world was never going to be the same after that.”

The military veteran was among thousands of visitors who piled into cars and buses to drive out to the secluded site about 35 miles southeast of Socorro, where Manhattan Project scientists split the atom shortly before dawn on July 16, 1945, ushering in the atomic age. The successful test of the nuclear “gadget” unleashed a blast equivalent to 19 kilotons of high explosive, and led to the devastation of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki weeks later.

And for our final item, worrisome corona virus censorship from Avian Flu Diary:

Saudi Govt. Prohibits ‘Unauthorized’ Media Coverage Of MERS

As you might expect, this announcement is making quite a stir on the twitter feed from Saudi Arabia, with many people clearly not pleased with this edict.

Just some random headlines. . .or are they?


First, from the London Telegraph:

Infants ‘unable to use toy building blocks’ due to iPad addiction

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers warn that rising numbers of children are unable to perform simple tasks such as using building blocks because of overexposure to iPads

Next, from the London Daily Mail:

Pregnant women who take SSRI antidepressants are three times more likely to have a child with autism

  • The effect of  the drugs is particularity pronounced during third trimester
  • Researchers suggest rising rates of autism and SSRI use may be linked

Next up, from the Los Angeles Times:

Household rat poison linked to death and disease in wildlife

Evidence of rat poison is found in a sickly puma whose territory includes Griffith Park. Researchers suspect a link between poisons and mange.

During nearly two decades of research in and around the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, park service scientists have documented widespread exposure in carnivores to common household poisons. Of 140 bobcats, coyotes and mountain lions evaluated, 88% tested positive for one or more anticoagulant compounds. Scores of animals are known to have died from internal bleeding, researchers said.

The poisons also affect protected or endangered species including golden eagles, northern spotted owls and San Joaquin kit foxes.

And the Los Angeles Times again:

EPA drastically underestimates methane released at drilling sites

Drilling operations at several natural gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania released methane into the atmosphere at rates that were 100 to 1,000 times greater than federal regulators had estimated, new research shows.

Using a plane that was specially equipped to measure greenhouse gas emissions in the air, scientists found that drilling activities at seven well pads in the booming Marcellus shale formation emitted 34 grams of methane per second, on average. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that such drilling releases between 0.04 grams and 0.30 grams of methane per second.

The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, adds to a growing body of research that suggests the EPA is gravely underestimating methane emissions from oil and gas operations. The agency is expected to issue its own analysis of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector as early as Tuesday, which will give outside experts a chance to assess how well regulators understand the problem.

Next, from the East Bay Express:

Environmental Activist Forcibly Removed from Chevron-Sponsored Event in Oakland for Mocking the Company’s ‘News’ Website

Security guards forcibly removed Paul Paz y Miño, an employee of the environmental group Amazon Watch, from a Chevron-sponsored event today in Oakland because he was carrying flyers that he said he had planned to distribute outside the building after the program. When Miño, who had paid $75 for a ticket to the public event, refused to leave, guards forcibly removed him.

Called the “Illuminating Ideas: ENERGY & Sustainability Summit,” the economic development event was held at the Oakland Marriott. It was organized by the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and primarily sponsored by Chevron. PG&E, Bank of America, and Merrill Lynch were also sponsors. The event offered several panel discussions on green infrastructure, energy smart cities, and private and public partnerships. The keynote speaker was Jon Wellinghoff, the immediate past president of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was also a speaker at the event.

And them this, from VentureBeat:

The future of Silicon Valley may lie in the mountains of Afghanistan

The future of Silicon Valley’s technological prowess may well lie in the war-scarred mountains and salt flats of Western Afghanistan.

United States Geological Survey teams discovered one of the world’s largest untapped reserves of lithium there six years ago. The USGS was scouting the volatile country at the behest of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations. Lithium is a soft metal used to make the lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries essential for powering desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. And increasingly, electric cars like Tesla’s.

The vast discovery could very well propel Afghanistan — a war-ravaged land with a population of 31 million largely uneducated Pashtuns and Tajiks, and whose primary exports today are opium, hashish, and marijuana — into becoming the world’s next “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” according to an internal Pentagon memo cited by the New York Times.

Finally, from the New York Times:

The Environmentalist Who Decided It Was Too Late

After decades of fervent environmental activism, Paul Kingsnorth concluded that collapse is inevitable. So now what?

Okay, so maybe they’re not such random headlines after all.

Rather, they are examples that should stir a form of thinking that the late UC Santa Barbara ecologist Garrett Hardin called ecolacy, the much-needed complement to the more commonly cultivated skills of literacy and numeracy.

Hardin, who was tragically wrong about what he called “the tragedy of the commons” [mistaking what economists term a free-for-all for the community-engendered commons], was spot on in his formulation of his First Law of Human Ecology, which states with deceptive simplicity: “You cannot do only one thing.”

Many of the headlines we have cited are examples of Hardin’s law, proof that actions hailed as desirable in one context can be devastating in the second. . .as in children skilled at screens and inept at manipulating real world objects. . . and as mothers relieved of depression and rewarded with the depressing burden of autistic offspring. . .and as when posons designed to kills household vermnin spread to destroy the wildlife around us.

Another grouping reminds us of the distortion of information to suit the interests of the few at the peril of the many. . .as when producing a fuel touted as a way to cut greenhouse gases actually produces vastly more atmosphere-imperiling emissions that the corporateers would have us believe. . .and when a corporation that touts itself as a bastion of community responsibility censors those who proclaim otherwise. . .and when a glimpse is revealed of deeper causes behind devastating flag-draped bloodshed.

The last headline speaks for itself.

UC Berkeley climbs in bed with the devil


UC Berkeley, mistakenly seen across the world as a hotbed of radicalism, has a strange new bedfellow, and we’re curious just how the school will react to the latest move of their new partner.

First up, the announcement of the partnership, reported by the Brunei Times last 1 May:

UBD and USA varsity to collaborate in new Master’s programme

THE Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) and the Goldman School of Public Policy (GSPP) of the University of California, Berkeley in the USA will be collaborating in the new Master of Public Policy and Management (MPPM) programme to be introduced by UBD later this year.

The MoU was signed by UBD Vice-Chancellor for Global Affairs Dr Hjh Anita Binurul Zahrina POKLWDSS Hj Abdul Aziz and Director of Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) at UBD, Dr Joyce Teo Siew Yean with Professor George Breslauer, Executive Vice-Chancellor and Provost and Professor Henry Brady, Dean of GSPP of the University of California, Berkeley.

With the latest signing, IPS has now formalised its partnership with four of the world’s leading schools of public policy, namely Georgetown Public Policy Institute at Georgetown University, School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, a statement from UBD said yesterday.

Read the rest.

And just what sort of enlightened public policies have emerged since the announcement of the partnership.

Well, consider this, posted today by RT, a state organ of Russia, a country not known for tolerance of the victim’s of Brunei’s latest move:

Brunei’s plan to stone gays riles UN

The Sultan of Brunei has announced that those committing same sex relations could be stoned to death. The draconian law has brought condemnation from the UN, with the tiny Asian oil rich nation having a virtual moratorium on the death penalty since 1957.

Homosexuality has long been a criminal offence in Brunei, which is situated on the island of Borneo, with a penalty of 10 years in prison previously handed out for the offence. However, stoning is now set to be allowed for a range of sexual offences, such as rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations. The law is planned to come into force on April 22.

The United Nations has been very critical of the move, with Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights saying, “the application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offenses contravenes international law.” The death sentence could also be imposed for insulting any verses of the Quran and Hadith, blasphemy, declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim, and murder. The new law will only apply to Muslims, who make up about two thirds of a total population of just over 400,000.

Read the rest.

At the minimum, the Berkeley administration should immediately call a halt to the new partnership, but we’ve seen no coverage of the university’s response to Brunei’s move.

Given that the chancellor himself was involved in sealing the pact with the sultanate, action is clearly called for at the highest level, but so far the silence is deafening.

Bruneian Breslaur

Brunei George Breslauer

And Breslauer, the university”s provost and Bruneian visitor, is retiring next spring. We wonder what he thinks now of his much-ballyhooed but thoroughly dubious accomplishment?

Maybe he feels like going out and getting stoned?

Chart of the day: Education and income


While soaring costs of both public and private colleges have soared in the last decade, so too has the price of not gaining a degree. From “The Rising Cost of Not Going to College,” a new report from the Pew Research Center:

BLOG ed wages

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


We begin today’s collection of headlines from the worlds of espionage and security with on ominous note with this entry from Threat Level:

Judges Poised to Hand U.S. Spies the Keys to the Internet

How does the NSA get the private crypto keys that allow it to bulk eavesdrop on some email providers and social networking sites? It’s one of the mysteries yet unanswered by the Edward Snowden leaks. But we know that so-called SSL keys are prized by the NSA – understandably, since one tiny 256 byte key can expose millions of people to intelligence collection. And we know that the agency has a specialized group that collects such keys by hook or by crook. That’s about it.

Which is why the appellate court challenge pitting encrypted email provider Lavabit against the Justice Department is so important: It’s the only publicly documented case where a district judge has ordered an internet company to hand over its SSL key to the U.S. government — in this case, the FBI.

If the practice — which may well have happened in secret before — is given the imprimatur of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, it opens a new avenue for U.S. spies to expand their surveillance against users of U.S. internet services like Gmail and Dropbox. Since the FBI is known to work hand in hand with intelligence agencies, it potentially turns the judiciary into an arm of the NSA’s Key Recovery Service. Call it COURTINT.

The Guardian partially discloses:

Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Yahoo release US surveillance requests

  • Tech giants turn over data from tens of thousands of accounts
  • Limited disclosure part of transparency deal made last month

Tens of thousands of accounts associated with customers of Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Yahoo have their data turned over to US government authorities every six months as the result of secret court orders, the tech giants disclosed for the first time on Monday.

As part of a transparency deal reached last week with the Justice Department, four of the tech firms that participate in the National Security Agency’s Prism effort, which collects largely overseas internet communications, released more information about the volume of data the US demands they provide than they have ever previously been permitted to disclose.

But the terms of the deal prevent the companies from itemising the collection, beyond bands of thousands of data requests served on them by a secret surveillance court. The companies must also delay by six months disclosing information on the most recent requests – terms the Justice Department negotiated to end a transparency lawsuit before the so-called Fisa court that was brought by the companies.

MintPress News cozies up:

Google’s New Partnership With Law Enforcement Disquiets Privacy Advocates

What’s concerning most about the system for privacy advocates is that the information, which includes the photos and videos, is shared directly by Google with law enforcement.

Google may be in bed with U.S. government and law enforcement agencies more than the American public may have realized.

While the tech giant maintains it was unaware of the extent that the National Security Agency was using its cookie technology to gather information about the public, it was recently discovered that the company filed for two patents last year that actually benefit law enforcement.

Known as “Mob Source Phone Video Collaboration” and “Inferring Events Based On Mob Sourced Video,” the patents are for a system that would identify when and where a “mob” event takes place and would send multimedia alerts to those with a vested interest in the event, namely law enforcement and news agencies.

According to the patents, a “mob” event is anything that attracts an “abnormal” amount of attention in the form of photos and videos, which is determined by the system’s monitoring photos and videos for similar time and location stamps.

PCWorld ponders prosecution:

German federal prosecutor considers formal NSA investigation

Germany’s federal prosecutor is considering if there is enough evidence to warrant a formal, criminal investigation into the German government’s alleged involvement in the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) data collection program, a spokeswoman said Monday.

Privacy and human rights campaigners including the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), the International League for Human Rights (ILMR) and Digitalcourage on Monday filed a criminal complaint against the German federal government and the presidents of the German secret services for their alleged involvement in illegal and prohibited covert intelligence activities, they said in a news release.

The complaint also targeted German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the German Minister of the Interior as well as U.S., British and German secret agents who are all accused of violating the right to privacy and obstruction of justice by cooperating with the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ to electronically spy on German citizens, they said.

The Guardian mulls disclosure:

Intelligence agencies should be subject to FoI, says information commissioner

  • John McMillan says FoI Act ‘can suitably apply to any agencies, parliamentary departments and the intelligence agencies’

Australia’s information commissioner has called for intelligence agencies to be subject to freedom of information laws and has expressed concern about “mixed messages” on open government and transparency.

In a wide-ranging interview with Guardian Australia on the state of privacy and freedom of information in Australia, the information commissioner, Professor John McMillan, said intelligence agencies should be subject to freedom of information (FoI) legislation.

“My preference would be at least for the FoI Act to apply to the intelligence agencies,” he said.

PCWorld hacks away:

Prominent cryptographers targeted by malware attacks

Belgian cryptographer Jean-Jacques Quisquater had his personal computer infected with malware as the result of a targeted attack that’s believed to be related to a security breach discovered last year at Belgian telecommunications group Belgacom. According to him, other cryptographers have also been targeted by the same attackers.

Belgacom, whose customers include the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council, announced in September that it had discovered sophisticated malware on some of its internal systems.

German news magazine Der Spiegel reported at the time, based on documents leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, that British intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) was responsible for the attack on Belgacom as part of a project code-named Operation Socialist.

The magazine later reported that GCHQ used packet injection technology called Quantum Insert developed by the NSA to target network engineers from Belgacom and other companies when they visited the LinkedIn and Slashdot websites. This technology can impersonate websites and can force the target’s computer to visit an attack server that uses exploits to install malware.

National Post denies:

Stephen Harper’s top security advisor denies reports of illegal spying on Canadians using airport Wi-Fi

The head of Communications Security Establishment Canada defended the collection of “metadata” on Monday, saying it helped identify foreign adversaries without snooping on the private communications of Canadians.

Testifying before the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, John Forster shot back against allegations of overzealous government electronic surveillance that have arisen as a result of leaks by Edward Snowden.

In a rare public appearance that follows unprecedented scrutiny of the ultra-secretive spy agency, Mr. Forster denied CSEC had been monitoring the private communications of Canadians as it vacuumed up metadata, or “data about data.

While CBC News equivocates:

Spy agencies, prime minister’s adviser defend Wi-Fi data collection

  • ‘It’s data about data,’ Stephen Harper’s national security adviser says of metadata collection

The head of Canada’s communications surveillance agency defended its use of metadata Monday and argued a test using Canadian passengers’ data — revealed by CBC News last week — didn’t run in real-time and wasn’t an actual operation.

John Forster, chief of the Communications Security Establishment Canada, defended the cybersecurity agency over revelations contained in a document released by U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Forster appeared before the Senate national defence committee amid the report that CSEC used airport Wi-Fi to track the movements of Canadian passengers, including where they’d been before the airport.

Pushing for a conclusion with TheLocal.se:

Prosecutor pressed to speed up Assange case

The Swedish prosecutor handling the Julian Assange case lashed out on Monday to calls urging him to push on with efforts to interrogate the whistle blower over sex crimes allegations stemming from a 2010 visit to Sweden.

Assange, who is suspected of rape and sexual assault involving two Swedish women in connection with a visit to Stockholm in 2010, remains holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been for the last 18 months.

But Swedish MP Johan Pehrson, legal policy spokesperson for the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), said on Sunday there was no point letting such a case fester.

“This is an exceptional case,” he said on the Agenda programme on Sveriges Television (SVT). “Which gets you thinking whether the prosecutor shouldn’t take one more look at it and take care of it once and for all.”

Military/industrial profiteering from Spiegel:

Arms Exports: Berlin Backs Large Defense Deal with Saudi Arabia

Berlin has often been criticized in recent years for selling weapons to questionable regimes. Now, the German government is backing a billion-euro deal for 100 patrol boats.

The German government has often drawn serious criticism for supporting defense deals with countries known to have democratic deficiencies. In the latest controversial move, SPIEGEL has learned that the new government in Berlin wants to secure a major defense deal with Saudi Arabia by offering Hermes export credit guarantees.

The information comes from a classified letter from a senior official in the Finance Ministry to the German parliament’s budget committee. The letter states that the German government intends to provide guarantees for the planned export of more than 100 patrol and border control boats to the Gulf state with a total value of around €1.4 billion ($1.9 billion). In the letter, official Steffen Kampeter writes of the “high importance in terms of economic and employment” of the deal, which includes contracts for the Bremen-based Lürssen Shipyard. Kampeter, a politician with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, asked for the “confidential handling of the business data” because negotiations are still in progress and competition is expected from other countries.

Wasting it profligately, via Aero-News Network:

New C-27J Cargo Planes Stored In Arizona Boneyard

  • Military ‘Has No Use’ For For The Spartans

New C-27J Spartan cargo planes ordered by the U.S. Air Force are being delivered … directly to a storage “boneyard” in the Arizona desert. There are reportedly nearly a dozen new Spartans sitting on the ramp at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ.

The Dayton Daily News reports that the Air Force has spent some $567 million to acquire 21 new Spartans since 2007, but has found that the Air Force does not have missions for many of the aircraft.

The planes had originally been acquired because of their ability to operate from unimproved runways. But sequestration forced the Air Force to re-think the airplane’s mission, and it determined that they were not a necessity, according to an analyst with the Project for Government Oversight.

World Socialist Web Site gets right to it:

Germany, US push aggressive policies at Munich Security Conference

This weekend, some 400 leading international political and military figures and representatives of defense contractors, banks and corporations gathered at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) to discuss the global military and security situation. Both John Kerry and Chuck Hagel participated, marking the first time the US secretaries of state and defense both attended the conference.

The MSC featured a series of speeches by top German officials announcing an aggressive military policy, effectively repudiating the traditional restraints on German militarism that have existed since the collapse of the Nazi regime at the end of World War II. The belligerent tone of the conference was laid down by the former East German pastor and current president of Germany, Joachim Gauck.

Declaring that Germany must stop using its past—i.e., its role in starting two world wars in the 20th century—as a “shield,” Gauck called for the country’s armed forces to be used more frequently and decisively. “Germany can’t carry on as before,” Gauck argued. It was necessary to overcome German indifference and European navel-gazing, he said, in the face of “rapid” and “dramatic” new threats to the “open world order.”

And that complex again, via the London Telegraph:

China and Russia help global defence spending rise for first time in five years

  • New forecasts show China’s defence spending will outstrip Britain, Germany and France combined by 2015

Soaring defence budgets in China and Russia mean global military spending is growing for the first time in five years, according to new forecasts.

Spending across Asia and the Middle East is surging even as the military powers of Europe and the US are forced to scale back dramatically in the face of austerity cuts – contributing to a steady change in the balance of military power.

The figures were disclosed as the secretary general of Nato issued a stark warning that the West will cede influence on the world stage because of its falling spending.

After the jump, Asian zone and militarism crises, censorship run amok, an assault on academic freedom, censorship in Egypt, a Spanish muckraker fired, military corruption, the German government hacked, and more. . . Continue reading

Research from Cal: The sociopathology of wealth


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

Study proves: rich people are jerks

Program notes:

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

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

Headlines of the day II: EconoGrecoFukuMania


We begin today’s headlines close to home with Al Jazeera America:

North California drought threatens farmers, ag workers, cities – and you

  • Driest conditions in 100 years could hit the nation’s food basket hard, affecting half of US fruits and vegetables

Water shortages are affecting urban areas too. Voluntary and mandatory water restrictions are in effect in Northern California cities and counties. Mendocino declared a state of emergency. The city of Folsom’s 72,000 residents are under mandatory water restrictions: Limit lawn watering to twice a week, use a shutoff valve on hoses when washing cars.

Meanwhile, in Santa Cruz, residents can’t wash paved surfaces and may be cited if they water their yards between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Local restaurants may serve water only on request, and swimming pools may not be drained and refilled. If the drought continues, restrictions will get tighter, said Eileen Cross, the city’s community-relations manager.

The Globe and Mail delivers a blow:

Internet neutrality rules struck down by U.S. appeals court

A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday struck down the government’s latest effort to require internet providers to treat all traffic the same and give consumers equal access to lawful content, a policy that supporters call net neutrality.

The Federal Communications Commission did not have the legal authority to enact the 2011 regulations, which were challenged in a lawsuit brought by Verizon Communications Inc., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in its ruling.

“Even though the commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates,” Judge David Tatel said.

MIT Technology Review parses consequences:

Net Neutrality Quashed: New Pricing Schemes, Throttling, and Business Models to Follow

Depending on who you ask, a court loss for “net neutrality” will mean either a new era of innovation or preferential treatment and higher costs.

The Internet was built on the principle that all packets of data should be treated equally, which shaped the products and companies built on top of it.

A decision issued today by a U.S. federal appeals court struck down parts of the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet, or “net neutrality,” rules issued in 2010. Accepting much of a challenge by Verizon, the court killed the FCC’s policies that aimed to prevent data-discrimination or data blocking. But the ruling does require carriers to disclose when they block, slow, or expedite various kinds of traffic in the future.

The results could be far-reaching. Consumers may see new offerings such as free content from companies willing to pay carriers extra for delivery; app companies could find themselves charged a fee to ensure that their videos get glitch-free performance; and e-commerce companies could be asked to pay to make sure their bits go through quickly enough to close a sale.

Quartz stays:

Jamie Dimon says he has no plans to step down as CEO after $22 billion in fines

A feisty Jamie Dimon said that he’s not planning on resigning in the wake of a raft of fines that has plagued JP Morgan over the past year. Asked if he would consider resigning on a conference call this morning to discuss the bank’s fourth-quarter results with reporters, the chairman and CEO fired off: “No, no and no.” He qualified his comments in the same breath, “And it’s all up to the board.”

JP Morgan has faced a litany of legal fines related to its business practices—resulting, last quarter, in its first-ever loss under Dimon’s tenure. Most recently, the firm was fined $2.6 billion for charges that it had turned a blind eye to signs of fraud in the massive Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. That fine, the firm reported today, drove down quarterly profits for the latest quarter by 7.3%. Overall, the sprawling firm has been hit with $22 billion in fines and penalties in the past year.

Sources have also told Quartz that Dimon has no intention of stepping down. So far both of directors of the firm and investors have expressed support of the 57-year old exec, who took the helm of the bank in 2005, the sources say.

From Salon, academia vanquished:

GOP’s Enron-esque higher ed plan: Fire tenured faculty to fund student dorms

  • In Gov. Tom Corbett’s Pennsylvania, if it’s public and it’s education, burn it down!

The tenure system in American higher education is a limitless source of debate: Critics say it leaves younger scholars to publish or perish, or decaying professors to cash in on mediocrity; advocates note its importance in protecting academic freedom, risk-taking and, insofar as professors are workers, job security.

In Pennsylvania, it’s all moot. Now, under the stewardship of Jeb Bush’s former sidekick, tenured faculty are being laid off in droves. The response has been student sit-ins, faculty mobilization and investigations of Enron-style accounting. It’s a real-time, rolling image of higher education shock therapy — and a threatening signal to public universities nationwide.

TheLocal.no invests:

Oil fund in $480m San Francisco office deal

Norway’s Oil Fund has struck a $480m deal to buy stakes in office blocks in San Francisco and Washington DC, as it continues its push to increase the proportion of property investments in its portfolio.

Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), which manages Norway’s Government Pension Fund or Oil Fund, teamed up for the deal with the US insurer MetLife, with whom it did a deal to buy stakes in a financial centre in Boston in December.

“With these two investments, we are expanding our joint venture with MetLife in line with our strategy and original intent,” Karsten Kallevig, chief investment officer for real estate at Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), said.

“Our growing partnership with NBIM speaks to our strong capabilities in the asset-management business,” said Robert Merck, global head of real estate investments at New York-based MetLife.

On to Canada with the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Canadian home prices return to record high

Canadian home prices ticked back up to a record high in December, thanks entirely to Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto, according to the Teranet-National Bank house price index.

The 0.1-per-cent rise in home prices in December reversed a 0.1-per-cent decline in November, and returned the index to its all-time high.

But the majority of the 11 cities that the index tracks have seen prices edge down in recent months. Winnipeg, Calgary, Ottawa-Gatineau, Quebec City, Montreal, Hamilton, Halifax and Vancouver each saw prices decrease from November to December.

On to Europe, first with a tussle from EUbusiness:

Euro-MPs take ‘Troika’ to task

EU lawmakers took the ‘Troika’ to task Tuesday, seeking answers about how the controversial trio of international creditors ran painful eurozone debt bailouts which encouraged austerity instead of growth.

European Parliament deputies asked who among the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund should be held to account for the policies followed since 2010.

They were also keen to hear how economic forecasts, key to the bailout programmes and aid payments, fell short, especially in the case of Greece which required a second massive rescue marked by even more tough austerity provisions.

And a Troikarch spins it, from EUobserver:

Former ECB chief blames governments for euro-crisis

The former head of the European Central Bank (ECB), Jean-Claude Trichet, has blamed EU governments for what he called the “worst economic crisis since World War II” and said the eurozone is still at risk.

Trichet, who led the ECB between 2003 and 2011, spoke out on Tuesday (14 January) at a European Parliament hearing on the “troika” of international lenders which managed bailouts in Cyprus, Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Echoing EU economics commissioner Olli Rehn’s remarks to MEPs ealier this week, Trichet underlined the “extraordinary” and unpredictable nature of the euro-crisis.

A threat assessed with TheLocal.se:

Extreme right ‘biggest threat to EU’: Malmström

An EU push to counter extremism will give member states cash to help defectors, with Sweden’s European Commissioner identifying right-wing extremists as the biggest threat in the union today.

“The biggest threat right now comes from violent right-wing extremism,” Commissioner Cecilia Malmström told Sveriges Radio (SR) on Tuesday. “For example in Greece and in Bulgaria, but also in Hungary.”

Malmström said both right-wing and left-wing extremists were radicalizing in Europe.

On to Britain with an ultimatum from The Independent:

George Osborne to tell EU to ‘reform or decline’ in speech to Tory party’s Eurosceptics

  • The latest outbreak of infighting over Europe has placed fresh strain on Coalition unity, with one senior Lib Dem figure likening David Cameron to Neville Chamberlain in his willingness to appease

The European Union will be challenged by George Osborne today to “reform or decline”, as backbench pressure intensifies on the Tory leadership to demand the return of widespread powers from Brussels.

The latest outbreak of infighting over Europe has placed fresh strain on Coalition unity, with one senior Liberal Democrat figure provocatively likening David Cameron to Neville Chamberlain in his willingness to appease Eurosceptic critics.

The source claimed that continuing concessions by the Prime Minister echoed his predecessor’s behaviour in negotiating with Hitler ahead of the Second World War.

The Guardian stiffs the poor:

Warning that fund for poorer students faces £200m cutback

  • Treasury targets cash for disadvantaged students as Labour says coalition is punishing the poorest again

Funds to help disadvantaged students attend university could be slashed by as much as 60% as the Treasury seeks to close the budget deficit of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), according to a group that represents universities.

The student opportunity fund – a £327m programme for disadvantaged students paid to universities through the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) – could be slashed by about £200m, it fears, after wrangling between the Treasury and BIS over the latter department’s shortfall, caused in part by an explosion in course fees paid to private further education providers.

The million+ policy group, which represents many new universities, claimed that the Treasury and the Cabinet Office were pressing for the reductions as part of the cost savings being imposed on BIS.

Ireland next and another no from the Irish Times:

New party seeks euro exit and end to immigration

  • National Independent Party to run European election candidates in new South constituency

Ireland’s newest political party, the National Independent Party, has said it favours exiting the euro and opposes economic migration.

Formally launched in Dublin today, it has an estimated 120 members and lodged its registration papers as a political party to run a limited campaign in Dublin and Limerick for the local elections.

It then aims to reach a 300-member threshold and run in the 2016 general election.

Austerity to come from the Health Service Executive via the Irish Times:

HSE chief raises prospect of further cutbacks in health service

  • O’Brien tells Oireachtas committee it will not be possible to meet fully all demands

HSE chief executive Tony O’Brien held out the prospect of further health cutbacks this year given the financial challenge facing the service.

Mr O’Brien said this evening it will not be possible to meet fully all of the growing demands being placed on the health service this year.

Addressing the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health, he said that “some service priorities and demographic pressures may not be met”.

On to Germany, with a bonus from EurActiv:

German banks too slow to cap bonuses, says watchdog

Germany’s banks have made little progress on efforts to curb bonuses of top managers ahead of new European rules designed to control the type of risky behaviour that fuelled the financial crisis, the country’s financial watchdog said on Monday (13 January).

Only four of the 15 banks that Bafin examined last year capped bankers’ bonuses at the level of their base salaries, in line with the European Union-wide rule that came into force this year.

“We are not entirely happy with any bank,” Bafin chief Raimund Röseler told journalists.

France next, and another presidential promise evaporates, from TheLocal.fr:

France doubles number of Roma evictions

France’s controversial expulsions of Roma, which has drawn condemnation from the European Commission, hit a record high in 2013. A new report says nearly 20,000 were deported – double the number that were expelled in 2012.

France expelled nearly 20,000 Roma people in 2013, which is not only a record, but more than double the number kicked out of the country the previous year.

Despite President François Hollande’s criticisms of his predecessor’s policy towards the Roma, the number of expulsions has been climbing since he took office in 2012, French newspaper L’Express reported. About 9,400 were expelled in 2012 and 8,400 were forced out in 2011.

“The expulsions are part of a policy of refusal,” of the Roma, “that has got worse since the left-leaning government took power,” the report says. “The authorities want only one thing: send the Roma back to their country of origin.”

Spain next, and class war from El País:

Wage gap in Spain widens hastening the decline of the middle classes

  • Remunerations of directors rose seven percent last year as middle management salaries fell, according to a study

The salary gap in Spain is getting bigger. While directors saw their remuneration rise by 6.9 percent last year, middle management suffered a fall of 3.8 percent and workers a drop of 0.4 percent.

The figures released Tuesday, in an annual report carried out by Barcelona business school Eada and the consultant ICSA, are further proof of the unraveling of the middle classes, according to the director of the study, Ernest Poveda. “What we’re seeing is a clear polarization trend: with a rise in what directors receive and a fall in the rest — two segments where wages are moving downward to the same level, that is where the trend is one of homogenization, while those who earn the most earn even more.”

The study, which is based on 80,000 interviews, shows that the average salary of directors has been on the rise in spite of the crisis, with the exception of 2009. The average annual gross salary of this group rose from 68,705 euros to 80,330 last year. Workers and middle management saw an increase in what they earn in 2008 and 2009 before experiencing falls thereafter. The average gross salary of middle managers last year was 36,522 euros, and for other employees it was 21,307 euros.

Along the same line, from TheLocal.es:

Credit squeeze ‘killing’ 90 Spanish firms a day

Spanish banks, alarmed by multiple bankruptcies and mass unemployment, are keeping a tight rein on loans and potentially choking off the lifeblood of a longed-for economic recovery, analysts say.

Insufficient credit threatens to throttle Spain’s fragile recovery, they warn, after a double-dip recession triggered by a 2008 property crash, which left banks awash with bad loans.

Last year, Spain shored up its tottering banks’ balance sheets with a €41.3-billion ($56 billion) programme financed by its eurozone partners.

But the banks have shown reluctance to lend, economists and industry say, as the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy struggles with a 26-percent unemployment rate and, according to official data compiled by auditors PwC, a 20-percent rise in bankruptcy filings in 2013.

Bloomberg totals the tab:

Spain Says CAM Savings Bank Rescue Cost May Reach $21 Billion

Spain’s 2011 bailout of savings bank Caja de Ahorros del Mediterraneo (CAM) may cost as much as 15 billion euros ($21 billion) because its assets performed worse than expected, Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said.

Banco Sabadell SA (SAB) bought the failed savings bank known as CAM for 1 euro after Spain’s deposit-guarantee fund, financed by the nation’s banks, injected 5.25 billion euros into the lender and offered guarantees against certain assets souring, shielding the national budget from losses.

De Guindos said yesterday the assets included in the so-called asset-protection plan had performed worse than predicted, and the total cost of the cleanup may amount to as much as 15 billion euros. By comparison, Bankia SA, the lender whose nationalization in 2012 pushed Spain to seek a European banking bailout, took 18 billion euros of European rescue funds and transferred about 22 billion euros of real estate-linked assets to the nation’s so-called bad bank.

El País notes a decline:

House sales in November plunge close to lowest levels since the crisis broke

  • Transactions declined an annual 15.7 percent in the month to 21,847, the second lowest figure since the real estate boom bust

Just a day after Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said that the housing market was beginning to touch bottom in a recovery that is gathering pace, the National Statistics Institute (INE) on Tuesday announced that home sales plunged in November of last year to their second-lowest level since the crisis began around the start of 2008.

The INE said housing transactions in the month shrank by 15.7 percent to 21,847, a figure only above that of April 2012, which coincided with that year’s Easter holidays and therefore had fewer working days.

Despite an accumulated fall in prices since the highs set in 2007 of around 40 percent after a decade-long boom that suddenly burst, house sales have fallen for the last seven straight months. In the first 11 months of last year, home sales dropped 2.1 percent.

On to Lisbon and another decline from the Portugal News:

Bad year for national vehicle production

Last year saw a 5.8 percent slide in overall vehicle production, 3.1 percent below the average for the last five years, with a total of 154,016 vehicles coming out of multinational owned factories in Portugal according to figures from ACAP – the National Car Association published this week.

Adding to glimmers of life flickering back into the economy, December did see a sharp improvement with a total of 9,440 vehicles produced, up 92.3 percent year-on-year as last year automobile firms were mothballing in the run up to the Christmas period having already built up reserve stock levels.

Annual passenger car production was down 5.2 percent year-on-year while the vans, heavy-goods and commercial vehicles shed 6.6 percent, 14.9 percent and 7.3 percent of their output respectively.

ACAP added that 2013 saw car production at “15.4 percent of the average for the last ten years and 3.1 percent below the five-year average.”

Italy next, and a ray fo sunshine from AGI:

Finance Minister reports modest signs of growth

Finance Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni, speaking in Milan at a conference on the euro, reported weak and modest signs of growth in the economy. Saccomanni does not underestimate anti-European feeling in various countries just a few months before the elections for the European parliament.

“These feelings are not a surprise considering the unprecedented economic crisis and we must now concentrate on revival and unemployment,” he added.

TheLocal.it blows smoke:

Turin votes in favour of legalizing cannabis

Turin’s city council has approved a motion in favour of making the drug legal for therapeutic purposes, making it the first of Italy’s large cities to do so.

The proposal is an appeal to the Italian Parliament that they “move from a prohibitionist structure to one where soft drugs, particularly cannabis, are legally produced and distributed”. This means that while the vote doesn’t make it legal to consume, buy or sell cannabis for individual use yet, it paves the way for a more tolerant view of the drug in the eyes of the law.

There are two parts to the proposal; the first called for the right to use cannabis for ‘therapeutic’ purposes, something already permitted in Tuscany, Liguria and Veneto, where as well as authorizing pharmacies to sell cannabis-based products, experimental distribution of free medications containing cannabis has been approved in hospitals, as well as direct production of marijuana.

The second part is more drastic: it overrules the Fini-Giovanardi law, by which offences involving cannabis are treated in the same way as those involving cocaine or heroin. This would pave the way for legalization of recreational cannabis use.

After the jump, the latest from Greece, a Turkish proposal, Latin American trade and travails, Indian finance, Thai troubles, Chinese neoliberalism, Japanese deficits, environmental woes, and Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: EconoGrecoSinoFukuish


We begin in the U.S., first with a corporate fail quickly amended from the Los Angeles Times:

McDonald’s kills employee-resource website critical of fast food

McDonald’s has taken down its resource website for its employees — the one that advised that fast food was unhealthy — after realizing, the company says, that the site linked to “irrelevant or outdated” information.

The fast-food giant was a subject of ridicule and other unwanted attention this week after photos surfaced of infographics on the website, McResource Line. Under a section of the site titled “fast food tips,” a picture of a meal of fries, a burger and a soft drink were labeled “unhealthy choice,” while a picture of a submarine sandwich, salad and water was labeled “healthier choice.”

The infographics and posts were created by a third-party provider for the McDonald’s site.

Reuters boosts:

U.S. jobless claims fall, holiday retail sales rise

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in nearly a month, a hopeful sign for the labor market, while holiday retail sales rose in November and December.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits decreased 42,000 to a seasonally adjusted 338,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

Los Angeles Times covers a corporate giveaway:

Hollywood’s new financiers make deals with state tax credits

Brokers take the credits given to studios for location filming and sell them to wealthy people and companies looking to shave their state tax bills.

About $1.5 billion in film-related tax breaks, rebates and grants were paid out or approved by nearly 40 states last year, according to Times research. That’s up from $2 million a decade ago, when just five states offered incentives, according to the nonprofit Tax Foundation.

Film tax credits have become so integral to the filmmaking process that they often determine not only where but if a movie gets made. Studios factor them into film budgets, and producers use the promise of credits to secure bank loans or private investment capital to hire crews and build sets.

CNBC entitles:

New mortgage rules may favor wealthiest borrowers

New mortgage rules that go into effect Jan. 10 are designed to protect borrowers and lenders from the ills of the last housing crash. If lenders apply the rules, they are protected from legal recourse by borrowers or investors should the loans go bad.

The rules, however, are not mandatory, and some lenders say they will make loans outside of them, especially in the jumbo and adjustable-rate spaces.

The Hill backs down:

Regulators agree to revisit ‘Volcker Rule’

Financial regulators are considering a fresh exemption to the “Volcker Rule” just weeks after they finalized the long-awaited crackdown on risky trading.

Facing a legal challenge from banks, the Federal Reserve and other Wall Street watchdogs on Friday said they were reviewing whether it would be appropriate to exempt a small subset of securities from the rule. A final decision will be announced by Jan. 15.

Industry groups have threatened to sue the government if the exemption is not granted.

The Independent has a Randian wet dream:

Super-yacht not big enough? ‘Seasteads’ offer libertarians the vision of floating cities for the future

For (very) wealthy libertarians, seasteads – floating cities – might be the way forward, with their ambition of ‘guaranteeing political freedom and enabling experimentation with alternative social systems’

Available soon, for sale or rent: brand new island with sea views from the terrace, fresh fish daily and swimming pool in the resort hotel. An ideal base for 225 pioneers with £100m-plus to spare and a yearning for a new political and social system.

And if you don’t like it, no problem. Hitch the house to the back of a tug boat and try somewhere else.

For the right-wing American libertarian with deep-seated problems with Big Government, the 19th century challenge to “Go West, young man” retains a powerful appeal. But for the current target audience – the free-wheeling capitalist dotcom millionaire in Silicon Valley – going west means getting wet.

The London Daily Mail calls up an austerian posse in Oregon:

Residents form ‘vigilante groups’ after cuts to sheriff department’s budget mean police only respond to life-threatening incidents

  • 12-strong ‘response team’ armed with guns will operate around the clock
  • Follows government cuts, and residents refusing tax hike, forcing state-funded departments to scale back operations
  • Josephine County police dept has had to release prisoners and cut hours

POLITICO exposes a farce:

‘Small typo’ casts big doubt on teacher evaluations

A single missing suffix among thousands of lines of programming code led a public school teacher in Washington, D.C., to be erroneously fired for incompetence, three teachers to miss out on $15,000 bonuses and 40 others to receive inaccurate job evaluations.

The miscalculation has raised alarms about the increasing reliance nationwide on complex “value-added” formulas that use student test scores to attempt to quantify precisely how much value teachers have added to their students’ academic performance. Those value-added metrics often carry high stakes: Teachers’ employment, pay and even their professional licenses can depend on them.

The Nation covers another Obama corporate surrender:

Ted Mitchell, Education Dept. Nominee, Has Strong Ties to Pearson, Privatization Movement

As head of the NewSchools Venture Fund, Mitchell oversees investments in education technology start-ups. In July, Zynga, the creators of FarmVille, provided $1 million to Mitchell’s group to boost education gaming companies. Mitchell’s NewSchool Venture Fund also reportedly partners with Pearson, the education mega-corporation that owns a number of testing and textbook companies, along with one prominent for-profit virtual charter school, Connections Academy.

Jeff Bryant, a senior fellow with the Campaign for America’s Future, says it seems likely that Mitichell will “advocate for more federal promotion of online learning, ‘blended’ models of instruction, ‘adaptive learning’ systems, and public-private partnerships involving education technology.”

From the Atlantic Monthly, doctorates on aisle 4:

‘We Are Creating Walmarts of Higher Education’

As colleges feel pressure to graduate more students for less money, professors worry that the value of an education may be diminished.

Universities in South Dakota, Nebraska, and other states have cut the number of credits students need to graduate. A proposal in Florida would let online courses forgo the usual higher-education accreditation process. A California legislator introduced a measure that would have substituted online courses for some of the brick-and-mortar kind at public universities.

Some campuses of the University of North Carolina system are mulling getting rid of history, political science, and various others of more than 20 “low productive” programs. The University of Southern Maine may drop physics. And governors in Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin have questioned whether taxpayers should continue subsidizing public universities for teaching the humanities.

Salon delivers a smackdown:

Paul Ryan lectures the pope

The Catholic conservative who insists he cares about the poor says Pope Francis doesn’t understand capitalism

“The guy is from Argentina, they haven’t had real capitalism in Argentina,” Ryan said (referring to the pope as “the guy” is a nice folksy touch.) “They have crony capitalism in Argentina. They don’t have a true free enterprise system.”

Independent.ie unfriends:

Young users see Facebook as ‘dead and buried’

A study of how older teenagers in eight countries use social media has found that Facebook is “not just on the slide, it is basically dead and buried”.

Professor Daniel Miller of University College London, one of the researchers working on the project, said in a blog post: “Mostly they feel embarrassed even to be associated with it.

“This year marked the start of what looks likely to be a sustained decline of what had been the most pervasive of all social networking sites. Young people are turning away in their droves and adopting other social networks instead, while the worst people of all, their parents, continue to use the service.

Off to Britain with BBC News booming:

UK could be Europe’s ‘largest’ economy by 2030

The UK will be in a position to overtake Germany as Europe’s largest economy, according to the think tank the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR).

The CEBR predicts that Germany will lose its current top spot in Europe by 2030.

It cites the UK’s population growth as an aid to economic acceleration.

The Guardian admonishes:

Rising household debt is cause for alarm, warns thinktank IPPR

IPPR warns Help to Buy scheme risks pumping up housing market bubble and puts recent recovery at risk

George Osborne has been warned that his policies to boost the economy will lead to ballooning household debt.

The Institute for Public Policy and Research (IPPR), the left-of-centre thinktank, said the chancellor’s attempts to increase business lending had been a failure and that by resorting to policies such as Help to Buy in the housing market he risked undermining the recent recovery.

Intolerance from The Independent:

Islamophobia: Surge revealed in anti-Muslim hate crimes

Many forces reported a particular rise in anti-Islam hate crimes following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby

Islamophobic hate crimes across Britain have risen dramatically this year, new figures have revealed.

Hundreds of offences were perpetrated against the country’s Muslim population in 2013, with the Metropolitan police alone – Britain’s largest force – recording 500 Islamophobic crimes, compared with 336 incidents in 2012 and 318 in 2011.

From The Guardian, unsurprising:

Fury with MPs is main reason for not voting — poll

Poll reveals anger, not boredom, lies behind drop in political engagement

Nearly half of Britons say they are angry with politics and politicians, according to a Guardian/ICM poll analysing the disconnect between British people and their democracy.

The research, which explores the reasons behind the precipitous drop in voter turnout – particularly among under-30s – finds that it is anger with the political class and broken promises made by high-profile figures that most rile voters, rather than boredom with Westminster.

Sweden next with TheLocal.se and profits from poverty:

Financier fears ‘populist welfare profit debate’

A high-profile financier has withdrawn his support from the Social Democrats, stating that both the opposition and the government risk populist pandering with moves to curtail profits in the welfare sector.

Swedish businessman Carl Bennet, who owns shares in companies that employ over 17,000 people, said on Friday he would no longer voice his support for the socialist opposition due to its critique against venture capital firms making a profit in the tax-funded welfare sector.

“Populism is concealing something that fundamentally is good for the Swedish people,” Bennet told the business daily Dagens Industri (DI).

Germany next, with that good old money via The Local.de:

Germans still have €7 billion worth of D-Marks

Germany’s central bank believes nearly €7 billion-worth of the country’s old currency is still floating around, 12 years after the switch to the euro.

The Bundesbank’s last check in November revealed that there were around 170 million Deutsch Mark (D-Mark) notes unaccounted for, and 24 billion coins. This would make 13.05 billion D-Marks, or €6.67 billion.

But the Bundesbank said this was not a problem, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Friday. “A huge amount of D-Marks have been handed over anyway,” it said in a statement.

France next and a fail from The Independent:

François Hollande heading for crisis as he fails to deliver his promise to reduce unemployment

President François Hollande suffered a blow tonight to what remains of his credibility with news that he had failed to deliver his promise to reduce unemployment by the end of this year.

Anxiously awaited jobless figures for November showed that the number of people without employment in France had increased by 17,500, almost wiping out a modest a reduction in French dole queues in October.

More from the London Telegraph:

François Hollande ‘in denial’ over France’s unemployment

François Hollande accused of cooking unemployment statistics after he insists he is still on track for reversing the jobless trend by year’s end despite figures suggesting the reverse

François Hollande’s credibility is lying in tatters after figures indicated he had failed to deliver on a central government promise to “turn the tide” on unemployment by year’s end.

Riding lower in the polls than any of his postwar predecessors, the Socialist leader chose to defy predictions by the IMF, the European Commission and the vast majority of private economists to bank on a turnaround in French unemployment by the end of 2013.

The Guardian crashes, doesn’t burn:

Elysée palace protester against arts cuts used car as weapon, say French police

Director angered by his theatre’s subsidy loss tried to crash through presidential palace gates

The director of a Paris theatre was arrested on Thursday after trying to force his way into the Elysée presidential palace by crashing his car against its gates.

A security cordon was thrown around the building after police took 67-year-old Italian Attilio Maggiulli into custody on charges of damaging a public utility, endangering lives and violence against a public servant with an weapon, his car.

The suspect wanted to bring to President François Hollande’s attention the cuts in public subsidies to his theatre, the Comédie Italienne, police said. He was reported to have sprayed his car with white spirit and “lightly tapped” the gates “at a slow speed” at around 10am.

On to Spain with El País and a chill:

Cabinet to approve minimum wage freeze, say unions

CCOO and UGT argue that workers’ purchasing power has not stopped falling since 2007

The Cabinet is expected today to approve a freeze on the minimum wage for next year, unions said Thursday.

This would mean that salaries will remain at a minimum of 645.30 euros per month in 14 payments. In other words, workers who put in a full day’s work in Spain will earn at least 9,034.20 euros annually.

The CCOO and UGT unions made the government’s proposed freeze public in joint statements in which they rejected the government’s plan.

thinkSPAIN inflates:

Train fares and electricity rise at 10 times the level of inflation

TRAIN fares on regional lines will go up by 1.9 per cent on January 1, the same day that electricity will rise in price by 2.3 per cent, the PP government has announced.

Both are way above inflation – which is 0.2 per cent in the last year – but lower than the train fare increase of January 1, 2013 when these rose by three per cent.

Medium-distance and provincial lines, known as Cercanías, are considered ‘public services’, which means their prices are State-controlled.

El País dissents:

Dissenting voices against abortion reform grow within Popular Party

Central government delegate in Madrid and Basque assembly spokesman speak out against restrictive bill

Socialists vow to take opposition to the measure onto European stage

The central government delegate in Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, has expressed her personal opposition to the government’s draft abortion reform. Although Popular Party (PP) official Cifuentes, who recently returned to the public eye after sustaining serious injuries in a motorcycle accident, recognized that the legislation was an electoral promise that had to be carried through, she said that she preferred the previous system of time periods to the government’s proposal to return to a system of scenarios.

Under 2010 legislation introduced by the previous Socialist government, a woman could freely terminate a pregnancy up to 14 weeks. The new draft law, passed by the Cabinet this month ahead of debate on the floor of Congress, allows for abortion in only two instances: rape, and the risk of serious psychological or physical harm to the mother.

Off to Lisbon with the Portugal News:

Portuguese among Europe’s most pessimistic

Portuguese citizens are among the most pessimistic in Europe when it comes to the economic outlook and only outstripped in their negativity by the Cypriots and Greeks according to a recent Eurobarometer study.

A total of 64 percent of Portuguese citizens declared they were pessimistic about the future of the European economy with only citizens in Cyprus and Greece, 66 percent and 69 percent respectively, returning more negative outlooks as against a European Union average in which 51 percent managed to express optimism.

Of the 1,047 Portuguese citizens who responded, 77 percent identified unemployment as a cause for concern, against a European Union average of 49 percent while the economic situation concerned 39 percent of respondents against an average 33 percent.

Xinhua warns:

Interview: IMF official warns next year not to be cakewalk for Portugal

Portugal seems to be ending 2013 on a good note. Earlier this month the Portuguese central bank improved its 2013 and 2014 economic outlook and on Friday the national institute of statistics (INE) unveiled that Portugal might have reached the target it agreed with its international creditors commission for this year.

However, Portugal’s implementation of the bailout program with the troika of the European Union, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank next year “won’t be a cakewalk”, IMF Resident Representative in Lisbon Albert Jaeger told Xinhua in a recent interview.

“The economy is still at the early stages of recovery following a pretty long slump in activity,”he said,”so big challenges are still to be tackled.”

The Portugal News walks out:

Chaos looms as strikes are promised to continue into the New Year

This year’s New Year celebrations could be spoiled for many should a series of strikes announced for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day by airlines, airport ground-staff, public transport companies and even hotel workers go ahead as planned, causing widespread travel disruption and general frustration and disappointment from north to south of the country.

The Portugal News with another walkout:

Tax offices shut down

Tax and customs offices around Portugal were closed for much of the past week as workers protested against planned cuts to the service and worsening prospects for public employees’ pay and conditions.

Off to Italy and a necessary move from The Local.it:

Italy transfers migrants from scandal-hit centre

Italy on Tuesday transferred migrants from a centre on the tiny island of Lampedusa at the heart of a controversy over unsanitary conditions and mistreatment, as protests continued in other facilities.

Nine migrants at an expulsion centre near Rome’s airport have also sewn their mouths shut and a total of 37 are on hunger strike, said the director of the centre, Vincenzo Lutrelli, Italian media reported.

“I hope that this being Christmas Eve there will be an end to the protest,” said Lutrelli, who has supported the initiative to draw attention to the long months in which migrants are held in prison-like condition

TheLocal.it unstitches:

Migrants end sewn mouths protest in Italy

A dozen migrants who had sewn their mouths shut in an immigrant detention centre outside Rome ended their protest on Friday, officials at the facility and a visiting parliamentary delegation said.

The last of the migrants taking part allowed medical personnel to remove the thread he had used to stitch his lips and the migrants also ended a hunger strike.

ANSAmed loses:

South Italy has lost ‘600,000 jobs in 6 years’

South GDP eroded of 43.7 billion euros during crisis

Southern Italy has lost 600,000 jobs over the past six years and the economic crisis has wiped out some 43.7 billion euros of area’s gross domestic product, according to data released by industrial employers’ association Confindustria Friday.

And TheLocal.it ponies up:

Italy pledges €800m to fight poverty in 2014

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said on Friday that the coalition government will spend €800 million on fighting poverty next year as more Italians struggle to make ends meet.

A report by Eurostat in early December revealed that 29.9 percent of Italians were suffering, or risked suffering, poverty in 2012, a figure surpassed in the Eurozone only by Greece.

Letta said on Friday that the government had raised an extra €300 million in addition to the €500 million already allocated to fight poverty.

After the jump, Greek crisis, Russian woes, Indonesian anxiety, Chinese transformations continue, environmental threats, and the latest edition of Fukushimapocalypse Now! Continue reading

Kansas abolishes tenure, academic freedom


From The Real News Network a conversation with William K. Black, who rteachs both law and economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and the dangerous and unprecedented decision by the Kansas Board of Regents giving universities power to fire tenured faculty for social media postings [which include journal articles by their definition] that “impairs discipline by superiors or harmony among co-workers,” amongst other things.

The new rules were sparked by a Tweet from Kansas University Associate Professor of Journalism David Guth following the Washington Navy Yard shootings, in which he declared The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you.”

The NRA launched the inevitable campaign for his dismissal, and the university responded with a suspension, while state legislators eager for his scalp demanded action, only to discover tenure protected him.

The Kansas City Star reported on the outcome last week:

The Kansas Board of Regents just adopted a new social media policy, which allows Kansas state universities to fire (tenured and untenured) employees for “improper use” of social media. “Improper use” includes inciting violence (perhaps justifiable though potentially open to contentious interpretations), posting confidential information about students (fine) or posting things that are “contrary to the best interests of the university” (not fine at all!)

Read the rest.

The university’s rationale, as reported in a second piece in the Star:

“When the incident with David Guth occurred at the University of Kansas, it made the nine-member board realize no policy existed regarding the use of social media,” said Breeze Richardson, a board of regents spokeswoman.

The board said in a statement that the policy was needed because of social media’s “particular susceptibility to misuse and damage to our universities.”

“The goal was to craft a constitutionally sound policy, utilizing Supreme Court language, that does not violate the free speech or due process rights of university employees while also establishing guidelines for employees and employers,” Richardson said.

Read the rest.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education cites some of the Orwellian reasons the university can use to fire faculty:

The chief executive officer of a state university has the authority to suspend, dismiss or terminate from employment any faculty or staff member who makes improper use of social media. … “Improper use of social media” means making a communication through social media that:

[...]

ii.  when made pursuant to (i.e. in furtherance of) the employee’s official duties, is contrary to the best interest of the university;

[...]

iv.  subject to the balancing analysis required by the following paragraph, impairs discipline by superiors or harmony among co-workers, has a detrimental impact on close working relationships for which personal loyalty and confidence are necessary, impedes the performance of the speaker’s official duties, interferes with the regular operation of the university, or otherwise adversely affects the university’s ability to efficiently provide services.

Read the rest.

In this report from The Real News Network, Jaisal Noor discusses the real and profoundly disturbing implications of the new policy:

Kansas Board of Regents Undermine Academic Freedom at State Universities

Program notes:

Bill Black: Draconian measure enacted by Kansas Board of Regents that effectively ends tenure and limits academic freedom could be replicated at colleges nationwide

Headlines of the day II: EconoGrecoSinoFuku


Radiation leaks hit a new deadly high at Fukushima, with the latest site outside the building housing stricken Reactor Four hot enough to kill after a 20-minute exposure.

Lots to cover, so straight ahead we roll. . .

We open with a statement of the obvious via Al Jazeera America:

World Bank president: Universal health coverage key for economic growth

Jim Yong Kim calls open-access health care ‘one of the best things’ to spur immediate, long-term economic growth

From the Japan Times, pressing hard for another one of those accords decried by Pope Francis:

TPP crunchtime talks may find deal elusive

As the proposed deadline for sealing a deal by year’s end looms, ministers from 12 countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks are tasked with making tough political decisions as they meet in Singapore from Saturday, with hard negotiations on outstanding issues lying ahead.

The four-day meeting is expected to be the last opportunity for Japan, the United States and 10 other countries bordering the Pacific Ocean to try to realize the ambitious economic initiative — encompassing roughly one-third of all world trade — on schedule.

Techdirt notes an anomaly:

European Commission Desperately Tries To Justify Inclusion Of Corporate Sovereignty In TAFTA/TTIP; Fails Dismally

from the is-that-really-the-best-you’ve-got? dept

And from the Economic Times, a done deal:

WTO reaches its first ever trade deal at Bali meeting

The World Trade Organization reached its first ever trade reform deal on Saturday to the roar of approval from nearly 160 ministers who had gathered on the Indonesian island of Bali to decide on the make-or-break agreement that could add $1 trillion to the global economy.

The approval came after Cuba dropped a last-gasp threat to veto the package of measures.

On to the U.S., and widely hailed numbers from the Los Angeles Times:

Economy adds 203,000 jobs in November; unemployment rate drops to 7%

The U.S. economy added a surprisingly strong 203,000 net new jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 7%, the lowest level in five years, the Labor Department said Friday.

The November figure, which beat analyst expectations of about 180,000 new jobs, along with slight revisions to the previous two months’ figures mean the economy has added an average of 204,000 jobs over the past four months.

CNBC catches one skeleton in the numeric closet:

Yes, more jobs, but wage growth holds up recovery

The job market may be gradually improving, but the gains aren’t showing up in worker’s paychecks.

And the resulting belt-tightening continues to weigh on an economy heavily dependent on consumer spending.

From The Guardian, the looters prepare:

State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax

  • State Policy Network co-ordinating plans across 34 US states
  • Strategy to ‘release residents from government dependency’
  • Revelations come amid growing scrutiny of tax-exempt charities

The strategy for the state-level organisations, which describe themselves as “free-market thinktanks”, includes proposals from six different states for cuts in public sector pensions, campaigns to reduce the wages of government workers and eliminate income taxes, school voucher schemes to counter public education, opposition to Medicaid, and a campaign against regional efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

China Daily USA covers a rising demographic [and see the Chart of the day]:

Asian Americans’ buying power is still on the rise

Asian American households outspend median US households by an average of 19 percent, and earn 28 percent more on average than the US median income, according to a consumer report released by Nielsen this week. As early adopters of new technologies, they also lead in high-speed Internet access, mobile connectivity, use of social media and in the number of internet pages viewed each month.

From Al Jazeera America, business as usual along the political divide:

Democrats press to extend emergency unemployment program

Congressional Republicans have indicated that they are willing to let the benefits expire on Dec. 28, which would immediately cut off aid to 1.3 million long-term unemployed Americans, according to the White House.

And from The Hill, what happened to that guy preaching about growing inequality in the U.S.?:

White House: Obama won’t insist on jobless aid in budget deal

The White House will not insist that an emerging budget deal include an extension of the unemployment benefits program set to expire at the end of the year, press secretary Jay Carney said on Friday.

Carney said that it would be “terrible to tell more than a million families across the country just a few days after Christmas that they’re out of benefits,” but that the White House was agnostic on how the extension happened.

But by all means, pay the folks in the military/industrial complex. From Bloomberg:

U.S. Bomber Planes at $81 Billion Seen 47% More Than Plan

The U.S. Air Force’s new long-range bomber may cost as much as $81 billion for the 100 planes planned, 47 percent more than the $55 billion sticker price the service has listed.

The Air Force based its estimate of $550 million per plane on the value of the dollar in 2010, and it represents only the production costs for an aircraft that won’t be deployed for at least 10 years. Including research and development, the bomber would cost as much as $810 million apiece in this year’s dollars, according to calculations by three defense analysts.

From Reuters, cui bono?:

Special Report: How Fed policy enriches private equity, if not workers

The Fed’s “real intention was capital investment would be stimulated, jobs would be created, incomes of the 99 percent would rise,” says Martin Fridson, a high-yield expert and chief executive of FridsonVision LLC, a financial research firm in New York. But, he adds, it’s “not clear how effective that has really been. It’s certainly clear that those who are wealthy enough to own a substantial amount of assets have been made even wealthier by the Fed policy.”

Across the Atlantic with New Europe and debt collectors unleashed:

Council agrees on cross-border recovery of debts

The European Commission welcomed the agreement by the EU Justice Ministers to adopt the proposal to help businesses and individuals on the cross-border recovery of debts.

On 6 December, the Commission said that the proposal on the cross-border recovery of debts will give creditors more certainty about recovering their debt, thereby increasing confidence in trading within the EU’s single market. The proposal is part of the Commission’s “justice for growth” agenda, which seeks to harness the potential of the EU’s common area of justice for trade and growth.

Britain next, with bad news for the working class from The Independent:

Britain’s poor ‘will die before they retire’ if pension reforms aren’t matched by health improvements

Stark disparity in healthy life expectancy ‘must be tackled’ for pension age  to be raised fairly

Thousands of Britain’s poorest people “will be dead before they can retire” if sweeping pension reforms are not matched by urgent action on health inequalities between rich and poor, experts have said.

Plans to raise the basic state pension age to 70 for people currently in their twenties were laid out in the George Osborne’s Autumn Statement this week. But with male life expectancy at birth as low as 66 in some of the most deprived parts of the country, public health experts have warned that a “one size fits all” pension age risks condemning many to a life without retirement.

From the London Telegraph, a bubblin’ away:

House prices across the UK are rising at nearly ten times average earnings

Halifax reveals house price inflation running at 7.7pc as low interest rates and Government schemes trigger a £37-a-day jump over past year

Ireland next, with a warning from the Independent.ie:

Central Bank warns of recovery challenges despite positive developments

THE pace and effectiveness of dealing with the bad loans in the banks could hit domestic demand and stymie the ability of the economy to recover, the Central Bank has warned.

And it said the level of distress among small and medium borrowers is “particularly acute” endangering not only the profitability of the banking sector but has far reaching consequences for the viability of the businesses and jobs they generate.

On to Holland with grim news from DutchNews.nl:

Half of the unemployed over-55s don’t find another job

Many of the over-55s who lose their jobs are still without paid work once their unemployment benefits dry up, according to research by the state job centre organisation UWV.

The UWV looked at how many people had managed to find a job after the jobless benefits – which run for a maximum three years – had stopped, the Volkskrant said.

Almost 75% of the total jobless pool had found new employment, but youngsters are far more likely to succeed than older workers, the research showed.

Germany next, with the usual from Independent.ie:

Bundesbank raises growth outlook for Germany

GERMANY’S Bundesbank has hiked its growth projections for the country for this year and next year, highlighting the diverging fortunes of the Eurozone’s economies.

The bank said it expects the Eurozone’s biggest economy to grow 0.5pc this year and 1.7pc next year compared with June-forecasts of 0.3 pc and 1.5pc  respectively.

France next, and a confused picture from ANSAmed:

Unemployment booms in France but 1 in 3 works off the books

10.5% jobless, highest rate in 15 years

The latest data released by statistics’ institute Insee showed unemployment registered a slight increase in the third quarter of this year to 10.5% – the highest level in 15 years though below record rates registered in 1994 and 1997 (10.8%). A first, positive sign was also recorded as far as youth unemployment is concerned as it remained stable at 24.5% in the same period. But the survey also found that illegal work has boomed from 13% to 33% in five years.

On to Spain, with banking news from El País:

Broader powers for central bank in the works

Draft law hikes fines against bankers who break the rules

In an effort to prevent another national financial catastrophe, the government is to pass legislation giving the Bank of Spain and the National Securities Commission (CNMV) broader powers to prevent bank failures and fight illegal market speculation, sources said Thursday.

A denial from EUobserver:

Merkel denies pressuring Spain on bailout

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has “no memory” of allegedly pressuring Spain on taking a bailout in 2011, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Friday (6 December).

Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Rodriguez Zapatero last week published a book called “The Dilemma” about his last years in office, recalling how Merkel, as well as the heads of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approached him during 2010-2011 to ask his country to take a bailout.

And from TheLocal.es, failed hopes:

Bankruptcy epidemic slays Spain’s businesses

Washing machines, fish fingers and football teams: not even household names are safe from a Spanish bankruptcy epidemic ravaging big and small businesses alike.

The number of companies filing for bankruptcy in Spain rose from 1,147 in 2007, the year before Spain’s real estate bubble disastrously burst, to nearly 6,200 in 2009, according to the National Statistics Institute.

It topped 9,000 in 2012 and “I think that in 2013 we are going to get close to 10,000,” said Carlos Sancho, a lawyer and expert in financial management at IESE Business School.

New Europe takes us to Portugal and a protest:

Portugese teachers protest

Hundreds of teachers protested outside Portugal’s parliament building on Thursday against a new controversial exam for teachers imposed by the Portuguese government.

The protestors, all dressed in black, called for Education Minister Nuno Crato to step down while holding banners that read “You’ve failed.”

Italy next, and an exodus from TheLocal.it:

Over 100,000 people fled Italy in 2012

106,000 people left Italy in 2012 in search of work elsewhere, according to the latest figures from the Censis Institute.

In a report on Friday, Censis said the number of people leaving had jumped 115 percent since 2002, when 50,000 left the country.

ANSAmed covers another dressing down:

EC berates Italy on debt again after Letta clash

Rehn’s office says supplementary budget adjustment needed

The office of European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said Thursday that Italy must do more to reduce its massive public debt, returning to an issue that has caused considerable tension between the European Commission and Rome in recent weeks.

TheLocal.it covers putt-putts:

Italians reduce scooter rides in bid to save cash

Italy’s economic crisis has cut the spending power of 69 percent of households and forced a growing number of young people to leave the country, a study by the Censis institute released on Friday found.

“Around 69 percent of families indicated a reduction or aggravation of their spending power,” said the report, which surveyed 1,200 families across Italy.

The study said 53 percent of respondents said they had reduced car or scooter travel to save on fuel, 68 percent had cut down on cinema and entertainment and 45 percent now spend less on restaurants.

While ANSAmed has more grim numbers:

One in 4 Italian households ‘struggling to pay bills’

Country ‘profoundly weakened’ by economic crisis

The study said “much of the country” was in a situation of “fragility”, with economic uncertainty causing “worry and unease” in many families, as Italy struggles to emerge from its longest recession in over two decades. It added that falling consumer spending was a symptom of a country that was “under stress”, “lost” and “profoundly weakened” by the economic crisis that started five years ago.

After the jump, Greek meltdown intensifies, Ukrainian conflict, an Indian WTO win, more Chinese neoliberal moves, Japanese Reaganomics, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: EconoAusterioFukulala


A great deal happening, so straight to it.

We begin with a peculiarly belated recognition from The Hill:

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

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

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

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

Pension Ruling in Detroit Echoes West to California

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

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

From Mother Jones, a good idea:

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

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

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

From Salon, confirmation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian covers Kochs:

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

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

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

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

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

From Reuters, more belated action to come:

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

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

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

Bloomberg Businessweek covers another side of the banking world:

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

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

From Reuters, just doin’ business:

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

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

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

From My Budget 360, reality:

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

Channel NewsAsia Singapore with upbeat numerals:

US trade gap shrinks to US$40.6b in October

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

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

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

North of the border with the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Bank of Canada frets over low inflation, cites retail competition

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

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

CBC News drops a media ax:

Sun Media announces 200 layoffs

‘Cost containment’ continues at parent company Quebecor Media

And National Post has the latest Toronto mayoral folly:

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

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

The New York Times covers Banksters Behaving Badly:

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

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

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

From New Europe, feeble numbers:

In the EU28 GDP increased by 0.2 per cent

Second estimate in Eurozone’s GDP

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

From Salon, a neoliberal desideratum nears completion:

Austerity is Americanizing European labor markets

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

On to Britain with an ultimatum from the London Telegraph:

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

The Independent covers a national shame:

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

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

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

And the BBC News covers another austerian move:

Autumn Statement: Plan to raise state pension age sooner

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

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

On to Sweden with TheLocal.se:

Sweden’s health system ‘worst in the Nordics’

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

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

Sweden Democrats gain most in key voter survey

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

TheLocal.no covers another sign of dark feelings rising:

Foreign criminals who return face two years’ jail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

German conservatives stir up ‘welfare tourism’ row

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

From Spiegel, the Americanization of German politics:

The Deal Makers: Coalition Deal Shows Rising Clout of Lobbyists

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

On to France and a frayed icon from Spiegel:

Disneyland Paris: Europe’s Magic Kingdom Loses Its Magic

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

TheLocal.ch notes Swiss spending:

Swiss ready to spend more this Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Spain won’t recover from crisis until 2033′

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

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

A contrary view from BBC News:

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

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

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

El País covers a neoliberal dream legally stricken:

Court rules one-year trial work contract without compensation illegal

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

thinkSPAIN conveys a reprimand:

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

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

From El País, secession alliance:

Catalan pro-sovereignty parties seek deal for united ballot front

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

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

Maximum price for CTT post office privatisation

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

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

Italy next, and Bunga Bunga resurgence from New Europe:

Berlusconi considering running as a Bulgarian MEP

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

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

Europe Online has another Bunga Bunga tale:

Berlusconi’s poodle a hit with Russia’s Putin

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

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

EUbusiness covers intolerance rising:

Italy minister hit by racist slurs warns over populism

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

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

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

Headlines of the day II: Econo/Greco/Fukumania


The great neoliberal revolution continues, with ruthless privatizations and looting the order of the day.

We start in the U.S. with Al Jazeera America:

Homeless in Detroit allege they are being driven out of downtown

Some homeless make accusations that police pick them up and drive them out of town, away from new development

From the New York Times, another blow to the poor:

Lack of Doctors May Worsen as Millions Join Medicaid Rolls

In California, with the nation’s largest Medicaid population, many doctors say they are already overwhelmed and unable to take on more low-income patients. Dr. Hector Flores, a primary care doctor in East Los Angeles whose practice has 26,000 patients, more than a third of whom are on Medicaid, said he could accommodate an additional 1,000 Medicaid patients at most.

“There could easily be 10,000 patients looking for us and we’re just not going to be able to serve them,” said Dr. Flores, who is also chairman of the family medicine department at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles.

From USA TODAY, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh, suing JPMorgan for damages in bad mortgage securities, wants to see Uncle Sam’s hole card:

JPMorgan foe seeks Justice’s unfiled complaint

Legal fight focuses on court complaint federal prosecutors prepared before finalizing a record $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan.

JPMorgan Chase is being pressed to disclose a secret legal document that could provide new details of how the nation’s largest bank handled and sold billions of dollars in now-toxic mortgage securities.

. . .in other words, they want to see the stick the administration used to sell the settlement, including all potential criminal charges. That’s a document every America deserves a chance to peruse.

From CNBC, unsunny disposition:

US recession is nigh…and the Fed can’t stop it: SocGen’s Edwards

The United States might be posting some promising growth data amid government shutdowns and debt ceiling debates, but Albert Edwards, Societe Generale’s uber-bearish strategist, has predicted a recession is coming for the world’s biggest economy.

From the World Socialist Web Site, a compromising position in the sell-off of the commons:

Detroit union joins legal action to force sell-off of DIA art

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has joined a legal action to demand that Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr sell the cultural treasures of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) to pay off the city’s creditors.

AFSCME Council 25 filed the motion jointly with several bond insurance companies and banks, including Financial Guarantee Insurance Company, Syncora Capital Assurance, Ambac Assurance, Hypothekenbank Frankfurt AG, and Wilmington Trust Company.

Boing Boing offers a Fordian allusion:

Florida sheriff arrests mayor on drug charges: “This isn’t Toronto”

Barry Layne Moore, erstwhile mayor of Hampton, Florida, has been arrested for possessing and selling Oxycodone.

Off to Europe, starting with financial news from EUbusiness:

European banks face EUR 280 bn capital shortfall: PwC

European banks will require 280 billion euros ($380 billion) of extra capital in 2014 to meet reforms aimed at avoiding a repeat of the global financial crisis, according to a report published Thursday.

The report by auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers said that banks would be forced to turn to the market to raise 180 billion euros of the required capital, as other methods of securing the funds — including the sale of assets — would fall short of closing the gap.

From Reuters, more Eurobankster anxiety:

Euro zone loans contraction increases pressure on ECB

A contraction in loans to households and companies in the euro zone quickened in October, piling pressure on the European Central Bank to do more to buoy the euro zone’s weak recovery.

The ECB cut its main refinancing rate earlier this month to 0.25 percent, but the euro zone central bank’s record low interest rates are not feeding through evenly to the real economy in all corners of the currency bloc.

Still more from the London Telegraph:

Eurozone M3 money plunge flashes deflation alert for 2014

Eurozone in danger of Japanese-style deflation, crippling Club Med nations, as money supply drops to record low levels, ECB monetary data shows

Europe Online covers a contrary trend:

Eurozone economic confidence rises to more than two-year high

The economic mood in the eurozone brightened in November with a key sentiment survey released Thursday rising to its highest level in more than two years.

Economic sentiment in the 17-member currency bloc rose for the eighth-consecutive month to 98.5 from 97.7 in October, the European Commission’s closely watched Economic Sentiment Indicator showed.

More euroanxiety from EUbusiness:

Ukraine under pressure at EU-Russia tug-of-war summit

Ukraine was pressed to choose sides Thursday as an EU summit designed to draw six ex-Soviet states into the Western fold opened Thursday amid a tough East-West tussle over influence.

Diplomats told AFP that pre-summit talks in the frosty Lithuanian capital between Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and EU leaders Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso — respectively presidents of the EU Council and European Commission — had not produced significant results.

And from ANA-MPA, concerns over European scapegoats:

EU Roma Summit on April 4, local agency official says

An EU Roma Summit will take place on April 4, 2014, the president of the National Centre for Social Solidarity (NCSS) Panagiota Iakovidou told ANA-MPA on Thursday.

Referring to the situation in Greece, she said that the Roma belong to the most vulnerable groups of the population and should be supported.

Britain’s Channel 4 News takes us to the U.K. and a look at the hysteria surrounding the Roma:

Roma in the UK

Program note:

Former home secretary, David Blunkett, has added to concerns over Roma in the UK by warning that some cities could face “race riots”.

From The Independent, another British anxiety:

Homebuilders under pressure after Bank of England announces plans to cool down house market

The Bank of England’s stunning move to clamp down on rising house prices sent shockwaves through the City’s listed housebuilders today, wiping more than one billion pounds off the sector as panicking investors dumped the shares.

British finance ministry and BOE jointly launched the FLS scheme to provide up to 80 billion pounds (130 billion U.S. dollars) to banks and building societies to help increase lending to home-buyers and businesses in a bid to stimulate economic growth.

The Guardian covers still another anxiety:

Norfolk police warn of alarming clown epidemic

Public told not to approach anyone wearing ‘Halloween-type’ clown masks after spate of reports of terrifying sightings

While the Economic Times notices a shift:

China overtakes India in UK migration figures

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) here today showed that 40,000 people came to Britain last year from China, compared to 37,000 from India – which had previously ranked No 1 for three consecutive years since 2009.

From Business Insider, Bloviatin’ Boris Johnson does it again:

Mayor Of London Says Economic Inequality Can Be Good, And Some People Are Just Too Dumb To Succeed

Iceland next, and a familiar pattern — massive layoffs at a public broadcaster, done in the name of austerity. From the Reykjavík Grapevine:

Four Hundred Strong Protest Layoffs At RÚV

Over four hundred people showed up at noon today in protest of the 39 immediate layoffs of lower- and middle-tier RÚV staff members. Protesters chanted “Our RÚV, Let’s Save RÚV,” surrounding the building with locked hands, symbolically forming a shield wall around it.

“We were outraged by the layoffs and decided to do something,” said Valgerður Þóroddsdóttir, who organised the event with Arngunnur Árnadóttir. “We felt we had a personal stake in the affair as RÚV belongs to everyone, and it has reliably provided excellent in-depth journalism as well as upheld important cultural values.”

Holland next, and medical malpractice from DutchNews.nl:

Doctors, hospitals don’t warn patients their treatment may cost money

Doctors and hospitals do not warn patients they may have to pay for part of their treatment at some hospitals because they have a budget health insurance policy, according to RTL news.

Nor do doctors check if treatment at the hospital they send patients to is covered by the patient’s health insurance. This could leave patients facing bills of thousands of euros, the broadcaster said.

France next, first with a rollback from TheLocal.fr:

French CEO gives up €21m pension amid fury

The CEO of French car giant PSA Peugeot Citroen announced he was giving up his €21 million pension plan, just hours after news of the eye-watering golden parachute had caused uproar among unions on Wednesday. The French president said it was a “wise” decision.

Xinhua covers ongoing failure:

Hollande says curbing job claims to take “necessary time”

Struggling to reverse rampant unemployment rate by year-end, French President Francois Hollande on Thursday said bringing down job claims will take the “necessary time.”

More from RFI:

Hollande hints at failure to hit unemployment goal by year end

French president François Hollande hinted on Thursday that he would fail to achieve his goal of reversing the rise in French unemployment by the end of the year, a target he has frequently touted as a key priority.

From BBC News, blue mood on the Seine:

France ‘more pessimistic’ on economy as confidence dips

France is “more pessimistic” about the state of its economy than fellow eurozone countries, a European Commission survey has found.

French consumer confidence declined sharply in November, reflecting “worsening expectations about the future general economic situation, unemployment expectations and savings over the next 12 months”, it said.

FRANCE 24 covers resurrection dreams:

Ex-president Sarkozy ‘could launch comeback in 2014′

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy could take advantage of next year’s local and European elections to launch a comeback, a former government minister and close aide told the popular Europe 1 radio station Thursday.

Germany next with Deutsche Welle and a marriage of convenience:

Economists criticize tame coalition deal

Two months after the elections, the Christian Democrats, its sister party and the Social Democrats have reached a coalition agreement. The minimum wage was one of the most discussed issues during the coalition talks.

Bloomberg entertains notions of tapering:

German Inflation Gauge Rises After CPI Data; Spanish Notes Fall

Germany’s inflation expectations rose from an 18-month low as a report showed consumer prices increased more in November than economists forecast, damping the case for further European Central Bank stimulus.

From Deutsche Welle, maintaining:

German jobs market treads water, unemployment edging up in November

Unemployment in Germany rose slightly in November but stays below the symbolic 3-million mark. The Labor Agency says job creation is in line with economic growth and will accelerate on bigger expansion due next year.

Deutsche Welle covers historic resolution in Baden-Württemberg:

German state signs historic treaty with Sinti and Roma

They are Germans and have been living in Germany for centuries. But Sinti and Roma have been persecuted since the Nazi era and are still discriminated against. A new treaty aims to strengthen the minorities’ rights.

On to Spain and a declaration from TheLocal.es:

Spain declares two-year recession officially over

Spain said on Thursday it has technically escaped a two-year recession by posting feeble growth in the third quarter, but with an unemployment rate still towering at 26 percent.

ANSAmed notes numbers rising:

Spanish exports hit record 34% of GDP

  • Highest in Europe after Germany
  • Spanish exports of goods and services will total EUR 350 billion at the end of the year.

Across the peninsula with the Portugal News:

Tax workers strike on last days of fiscal pardon

The Portuguese tax workers’ union (STI) has called a strike for 19,20 and 23 December, dates that coincide with the end of a government tax pardon for individuals and companies with overdue taxes.

The government approved the pardon on 3 October for tax payers who owe money to the tax office or social security which should have been paid up until 31 August, exempting them from paying any interest and administrative costs and charging lower fines if they resolve the situation.

And on to Italy with the latest in Bunga Bunga from euronews:

Berlusconi ready to bounce back after political expulsion

The Italian Senate may have killed Silvio Berlusconi’s political career by expelling him on Wednesday, but the political animal is very much alive, and retains a nasty bite.

The disgraced former prime minister promises this is not the end, and he remains at liberty to lead an opposition movement. He has promised revenge by the ballot box for what he calls a “coup”.

More from Bloomberg Businessweek:

Even Political Expulsion Can’t Take Berlusconi out of Politics

In spite of his political setback, most polls put his Forza Italia party and its likely allies ahead of Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s center-left coalition, with over 30 percent of the vote. And while he will not be able to stand for election or take public office, there’s nothing stopping him from leading his party from the outside.

After the jump, Grecocrisis, Latin American conflict, Southeast Asian crisis, Chinese policy, Japanese economic woes, and the latest edition of Fukushuimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day I: Econo/Greco/Fukufails


We were editing this selection yesterday when the power went out, so we’ll offer it belatedly, because there’s so much of critical import — especially in the case of Greece [after the jump] along with the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypdr Now!

From the Los Angeles Times, an aciton close to home:

UC labor walkout affects medical centers, dining operations

Thousands of tutors, service workers and patient care employees stage a one-day job action as tense negotiations continue over a new contract.

Salon covers a Big Box threat:

Wal-Mart labor group promises 1,500 Black Friday protests next week

Amid scrutiny of Wal-Mart taking up employee-to-employee charity, strike wave continues against retail giant

From USA TODAY, rich getting richer:

Dow closes above 16,000 for the first time

In one of the most dramatic signs yet of the bull market’s strength, on Thursday the Dow Jones industrial average closed above 16,000 for the first time in the much-watched average’s 117-year history.

The Daily Dot offers relief:

TPP unlikely to be ‘fast tracked’ through Congress this year

A top House Democrat has announced that it was unlikely that Congress would take up a bill this year that would speed up the TPP process and make it more likely that all of its controversial elements would pass.

From The Guardian, numbers games?:

Officials to investigate claims Census Bureau manipulated jobs figures

New York Post alleges census employee Julius Buckmon was caught faking results to make unemployment rate appear lower

USA TODAY covers a relief of sorts:

Jobless claims fall more than expected

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits slipped 21,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 323,000, in a sign the labor market continues to improve as businesses see little need to cut jobs.

From Bloomberg Businessweek, Schadenfreude time:

Survey: The Job Market Gets Worse for MBAs

Future business leaders of America, brace yourselves. Some 43 percent of employers plan to cut the number of MBAs hired, according to Michigan State University’s new survey of 6,500 employers, a drop that will cause expected employment of MBAs to plummet nearly 25 percent from last year. Demand is down across almost all economic sectors, the report says, with financial services and government reporting the steepest drop.

From Reuters, something inevitable:

After gains, Vice Fund seeks ‘Budweiser of marijuana’

Gerry Sullivan has an eye out for the sins of tomorrow, but he’s no puritan.

Since taking the helm of USA Mutuals’ iconoclastic Vice Fund in 2011, Sullivan has scored big gains spotting trends in tobacco, guns, alcoholic beverages and gambling. Now he’s seeing new ways to make money on human transgression.

But cautions abound, even in the Centennial State, where voters opted to legalize the weed. From Westword:

Multiple marijuana businesses being raided by DEA, IRS, Denver cops

Westword has learned that the federal Drug Enforcement Administration is conducting raids at this writing at multiple marijuana businesses in the Denver area.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver has issued a statement confirming the ongoing operation, which is being conducted by the DEA in collaboration with the Internal Revenue Service and the Denver Police Department. Our sources tell us it’s likely to continue throughout the day and involves a notable number of targets.

From Calbuzz, capitalizing on what they battled:

Big Ag’s Secretive $50-Million Obamacare Contract

Western Growers Association, one of California’s most powerful conservative business forces, is profiting handsomely from Obamacare — despite its fierce opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

Calbuzz has learned that a $50-million contract to oversee implementation of health insurance for small businesses in California was awarded to a private company wholly owned by the heavyweight ag group. The contract was granted by Covered California, the organization set up to manage Obamacare in the state.

From Bloomberg Businessweek, life, and less of it, in neoloberal America:

The U.S. Lags in Life Expectancy Gains

Life expectancy in the U.S. has been growing more slowly than in other developed countries and is now more than a year below the developed-country average, according to a new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

CNBC covers a multi-trillion-dollar disaster-in-the-making:

Crisis in America: a crumbling infrastructure

Announced during his State of the Union speech in February, Obama’s Fix-It-First program calls for $40 billion in spending on a backlog of urgent repairs and upgrades. That would follow $31 billion that went into infrastructure as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. But those sums are dwarfed by the $3.6 trillion in investment the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) says is needed by 2020.

And once in a while we run a headline, well, just because — as in this gem from CBC News:

Moose-eating shark rescued in Newfoundland harbour

Greenland shark either bit off more that it could chew or was just enjoying a big meal

To Reuters for a global picture:

U.S. factories rebound, but Europe, China falter

U.S. factory output rebounded this month but hiring remained sluggish, while business activity across the euro zone and at China’s manufacturers slowed, surveys showed on Thursday. The data underscored the fragile nature of the global recovery and the difficulties still facing the world’s biggest economies.

More global consequences from MercoPress:

US ‘budget-debt ceiling’ political clashes threaten slower world growth, warns OECD

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD, cut its forecast for global economic growth through next year and warned that fiscal and monetary policy decisions looming in the U.S. could derail the recovery. OECD said world economic output would expand 2.7% this year and 3.6% in 2014, down from May’s forecast of 3.1% and 4%.

From Europe Online , cozying up:

China-EU summit to focus on investment, strategic ties

Leaders of China and the European Union gathered in Beijing on Thursday for an annual leaders’ summit that was expected to focus on a bilateral investment deal and long-term strategic cooperation.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso led the two sides for the talks, which EU officials said would cover trade and investment, market access, and “the need to secure green growth.”

A European alert from the London Telegraph:

Eurozone slows as ‘sick man’ France hits recovery

Disappointing eurozone PMI survey signals slowing growth for second month in November with activity in France shrinking and the bloc’s service sector weakening

Another from The Guardian:

Medicalisation of misery to blame for soaring use of antidepressants, say GPs

Doctors across Europe warn limited time and resources leads many to prescribe pills for less-urgent cases of depression

To Old Blighty, and another alert, this one from The Independent:

‘Disaster’ as UK house-building rate falls away

Less than half the amount of new houses needed to meet demand were built in the last year

The number of affordable houses and flats built in England fell sharply last year, highlighting the pressures facing first-time homebuyers, Government figures released today have disclosed.

Germany next, with a long-belated acceptance from BBC News:

Angela Merkel clears way for national minimum wage

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has signalled the likely introduction of a national minimum wage in Germany.

Mrs Merkel, speaking at a meeting of business leaders, said that it was clear that the opposition SPD “would not conclude coalition negotiations without a legal minimum wage”.

German anxieties growing, via Spiegel:

Near Zero: ECB Interest Rate Cuts Hit Savings Hard

As the European Central Bank pushes interest rates to a new low, Germans are growing increasingly concerned about their savings. The money in their accounts is losing value and life insurance policies are yielding lower returns. Investors and central bankers feel trapped.

From TheLocal.de, more good news for Germany:

Tax coffers swell again on shopping and jobs

A booming job market and an increase in consumer spending saw Germany’s tax receipts grow again in October, putting €39 billion into government coffers.

TheLocal.de, with another ranking:

Germany tops world ‘soft power’ rankings

Germany has been ranked the world’s leading “soft power” edging Britain and the USA off top spot for its cultural and sporting prowess, economic might and diplomacy

TheLocal.fr takes us to France and a violent end:

French farmers told to end protest after death

A protest by French farmers unions provoked the ire of the government on Thursday after a motorist was killed and six others injured in two separate accidents at road blocks on the outsirts of Paris on Thursday morning. The blocks were lifted at around midday.

Holland next, with an unanticipated uptick from DutchNews.nl:

Jobless total falls unexpectedly

The official Dutch unemployment figure fell unexpectedly by 11,000 in October, the national statistics office CBS said on Thursday.

At the same time, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits (ww) rose by 8,000 to 408,000, the CBS said.

To Spain next, with calls for action via thinkSPAIN:

Countrywide demonstrations against austerity this weekend

NUMEROUS protest marches have been planned across Spain this weekend, particularly in its major cities, over funding cuts and austerity measures.

TheLocal.es with a hopeful declaration:

Spanish PM calls time on austerity policies

The Spanish government will ease its austerity reforms over the coming two years as the economy appears to be emerging from recession, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Thursday.

thinkSPAIN covers draconian measures:

Judges call 600,000-euro fines for ‘personalised’ protests or photographing police ‘repressive’ and ‘autocratic’

NEW legislation attempting to limit public demonstrations and imposing fines ranging from 30,000 to 600,000 euros for ‘insulting a police officer’ or ‘protesting in public without authorities’ consent’ has been slammed by judges, pressure groups and even the police themselves.

El País on taxing travails:

Cemex probe creates storm at Tax Agency

The management of the Spanish Tax Agency last week fired a tax inspector working in its large contributors department on the spot after she rejected an appeal lodged by Mexican cement manufacturing giant Cemex’s Spanish subsidiary against a multi-million- euro fine for unpaid taxes.

EUbusiness casts doubt:

Moody’s says no ‘clean bill of health’ for Spain banks

International credit rating agency Moody’s warned Thursday that Spain’s banks still face significant challenges despite nearly completing a 41-billion-euro ($55 billion) eurozone-financed bailout.

And El País cites another neoliberal move:

Government is aiming to cut personal income tax, says Rajoy

PM rules out more major fiscal adjustments

To Lison and report card time from the Portugal News:

Troika returns on 4 December for 10th bailout review

The team of international officials overseeing Portugal’s euro-zone bailout are to return to Lisbon on 4 December to start the 10th regular review of its progress in implementing the agreement, the government announced.

ANSAmed offers qualified endorsement:

EU praises Portugal’s anti-crisis plan, but risks remain

From Bloomberg, a complication:

EU Says Portugal Court Rulings May Complicate Return to Market

The European Commission said new rulings by Portugal’s Constitutional Court blocking government measures may make it tougher for the country to regain full access to the bond market.

“Risks from further negative rulings by the Constitutional Court cannot be discarded and could make the government’s plans to fully access the debt market from mid-2014 on significantly more challenging,” the Brussels-based commission said today in a report on the eighth and ninth reviews of the aid program for Portugal.

And from the Portugal News, austerian reality:

Child benefits keep falling

The Portuguese family association confederation said it could not understand a 60,000 family reduction in the numbers receiving family subsidies in October, saying policy should aim at stimulating the birth rate.

The Portugal News again, this time with an action:

More Lisbon metro strikes Thursday as union contests budget

Lisbon Metro workers are staging another partial strike to protest against pay cuts and other measures contained in the right-of-centre’s government’s state budget for 2014 and labour reform legislation.

Italy next, with more selling of the commons via TheLocal.it:

Italy will sell stakes in eight firms including Eni

Italy will sell stakes in eight companies including energy giant Eni in a “first packet of privatisations”, Prime Minister Enrico Letta said on Thursday, in a drive to reduce debt

And from RT, Bunga Bunga gotcha:

‘Bunga Bunga’ director: Court details Berlusconi’s ‘underage sex’ case

A court in Milan said that former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi had sexual relations with underage dancer Ruby “in exchange for considerable sums of money and other items.” The court released a document explaining the 7-year sentence handed down in June.

More from TheLocal.it:

Berlusconi ‘paid off witnesses’ in sex trial

Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, found guilty in June of paying for sex with an underage prostitute, falsified evidence and corrupted dozens of witnesses in a bid to escape jail, a court report said on Thursday

After the jump, the Greek crisis deepens, Ukrainian rejection, Venezuelan power shift, Indian woes, Chinese neoliberalization, Japanese economic notes, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now! . . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: EconoEnviroFuku-woes


Lots of ground to cover, plus the first day [or is it] of removing that deadly spent radioactive fuel from Fukushima, so let’s get straight to it.

From the Washington Post, the beneficiaries of crisis in stark relief:

How to get rich in the new Washington

Over the past decade, big spending on government contracts and lobbying has created a wave of well-heeled insiders and transformed Washington.

A second Washington Post headline raises a concern we share:

150 years after the Gettysburg Address, is government by the people in trouble?

From Reuters, about time someone said it:

Icahn warns stock market could face ‘big drop’

Activist investor Carl Icahn on Monday said there was a chance the stock market could suffer a big decline, saying valuations are rich and earnings at many companies are fueled more by low borrowing costs than management’s efforts to boost results.

Reuters again, noting a chord struck:

Dow, S&P pull back from records after Icahn’s caution

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq ended lower on Monday while the Dow failed to close above its milestone level of 16,000 as stocks sold off late in the session following Carl Icahn’s cautious comments on the equities market.

The Economic Times reported on the market before Icahn dropped his bomb:

Dow, S&P 500 at new highs: China reform plans buoy stocks

Benchmark US stock indices rose to record highs on Monday, buoyed by the prospect of continued Federal Reserve stimulus, while the dollar slipped and global equity markets climbed, driven by economic reform plans in China.

From the Washington Post, loathsome vs. despicable:

Sheldon Adelson, top 2012 donor and casino magnate, readies to fight Internet gambling

Billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, whose record-breaking campaign spending in 2012 made him an icon of the new super-donor era, is leveraging that newfound status in an escalating feud with industry rivals over the future of gambling.

From the Globe and Mail, yet more business as usual:

Federal judge orders MF Global to pay $1-billion to customers

A federal judge in New York has ordered MF Global Inc to return more than $1-billion to harmed customers and pay an additional $100-million penalty as part of a civil settlement with U.S. derivatives regulators.

CNBC notes a harsh reality:

America’s cities on the edge

Federal funding cutbacks, combined with the economic damage from the Great Recession, continue to challenge Main Street. Eight cities have filed for bankruptcy since 2010, including Detroit; Scranton, Pa.; and Stockton, Calif. That’s not surprising, considering that all but four of the 384 local economies tracked by Moody’s Analytics’ Business Cycle Index had fallen into recession by 2009. Of those, 255 moved into recovery in 2010.

From the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg drops the ax:

Bloomberg’s News Division to Lay Off About 50 People

Bloomberg LP’s news division will lay off about 50 people or about 2% of its newsroom, according to people familiar with the company’s plans, the latest financial news and data provider to make job reductions.

And from AlterNet, the rich call on the the poor to feed to poorer:

Wal-Mart Asks Workers To Donate Food To Its Needy Employees

Wal-Mart logic: instead of paying workers a living wage, we can encourage low-wage workers to donate to less well-off workers.

Off to Canada with the National Post as the Toronto City Council strips the mayor of his last vestiges of power:

‘You just attacked Kuwait!’ Wounded Rob Ford declares war as council strips him of key powers

Council erupted in chaos Monday as the mayor charged the public gallery, bowling over councillor Pam McConnell. He later plugged his new TV show

Next, a global story from Mother Jones:

Natural Disasters Cost $3.8 Trillion Since 1980, World Bank Says

Using data from Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance (insurance for insurers) agency, World Bank analysts found that 74 percent of that cost arose from weather-related disasters like hurricanes and droughts.

Now to Europe, first with EUobserver:

Eurozone trade surplus doubles, boosts crisis countries

The prospects of the eurozone’s nascent economic recovery were boosted on Monday (18 November) after figures revealed that the bloc’s trade surplus in 2013 was on course to double 2012.

But Reuters casts a skeptical eye:

Euro zone rebound weaker than hoped: ECB’s Nowotny

The economic situation in the euro zone has started to improve but is still weaker than the European Central Bank had hoped, ECB Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny said on Monday.

While France tries to fight intolerance by banning some of its targets, the folks California used to call braceros. From EurActiv:

French EU minister seeks solutions to fight social dumping

In an interview with EurActiv.fr, the French Minister in charge of European affairs, Thierry Repentin, expressed his worries of a surge by far-right in next year’s EU elections. He calls for better regulation of posted workers and a general minimum wage across the EU.

As social tensions mount in France, especially in Brittany where farmers and food sector workers have protested against government taxes for weeks, Repentin expressed serious concern about “posted workers”, who often pay fewer social contributions and taxes than local employees.

The London Telegraph notes German bankster umbrage:

Bundesbank says Italian and Spanish banks still hooked on home state debt

There is still an acute credit crunch for small business in Italy and Spain. The banks are hunkering down and living off their coupons from the state, even as the rest of the economy screams for credit. Their appetite for sovereign debt – boosted first by the ECB’s €1 trillion long-term loans (LTRO), then by Mario Draghi’s debt backstop (OMT) — is touted as a sign of recovery, but it is equally a sign of deformed EU policy.

And EUobserver covers doublespeak and pussy-footing:

Trade deal ‘won’t loosen standards,’ EU and US officials ay

The latest round of talks on an EU-US trade deal concluded on Friday (15 November) with negotiators playing down suggestions that an accord would undercut a raft of rules on consumer protection and environmental standards.

Despite fresh revelations about the extent of phone-hacking and surveillance by the US National Security Agency, data protection was not on the agenda of the second round of talks, which was delayed by the US government “shutdown” in October.

And EurActiv discovers hypocrisy as usual:

Member states backtrack on corporate reporting pledge

A pledge made by heads of state and government this summer to beef up corporate social responsibility reporting for European companies is set to be ditched because too few member states are prepared to support it, EurActiv has learned.

From Reuters, a darn good idea:

Swiss outrage over executive pay sparks a movement in Europe

Here’s an idea for how to end corporate greed and reverse the trend of growing income inequality worldwide: impose a new rule that would limit the pay of top executives to just 12 times that of the lowest-paid employees at the same firm. In other words, prevent CEOs from earning more in one month than the lowliest shop-floor worker earns in a year.

And EUbusiness covers another, more disturbing movement:

Six European far-right groups join forces: Austrian party

Six European far-right parties are joining forces ahead of EU-wide elections in May, in a bid to contain Brussels and take back national powers, Austria’s Freedom Party (FPOe) announced Monday.

Representatives of France’s Front National (FN), Italy’s Lega Nord, the Sweden Democrats, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang and the Slovak National Party met Friday in Vienna to discuss an alliance that will put Europe “back on the right track,” FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache told reporters.

On to Old Blighty, heftily boosted by the London Telegraph:

UK growing at fastest rate in developed world, says OECD

The UK economy grew faster than any of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) 34 nations in the third quarter, think tank says

Bloomberg Pursuits Magazine covers on of the reasons for all that “prosperity”:

London Lures Billionaires as Mansions Seen as Safe Haven

Since 2009, more super-prime properties have traded hands in London than in any other city, including Hong Kong, New York and Singapore; last year, the city accounted for about a third of the approximately 300 super-prime sales globally, according to research from Savills.

While a headline in the Washington Post hints at a dark side:

Why the rise of the ultra-rich in London is bad for the rest of Britain

The prosperity of London has diverged drastically from that of the rest of Britain in the last decade, in ways that contain economic lessons for the rest of the world.

From The Independent, notable posterior osculation:

Boris Johnson says super-rich are ‘put-upon minority’ like homeless people and Irish travellers

Mayor says wealthiest should get automatic knighthoods and “our humble thanks”, in comments deemed “deeply offensive” by London Assembly’s Labour group

Off to Norway, with a nasty little twist form TheLocal.no:

Norway gov mulls Arctic prisons for foreigners

Norway’s new right-wing government is considering sending foreign criminals to abandoned military camps in Norway’s Arctic north to free up prison space for Norwegian inmates.

And another nasty little Norwegian twist, also from TheLocal.no:

Graves in Norway bagged for late payment

A company contracted to run a cemetery in Norway has started putting black plastic bags over gravestones, along with late-payment notices to warn relatives that the grave will shortly be removed.

Germany next, and a pending job action from TheLocal.de:

Union plans Christmas Amazon strikes

Germany’s service-sector union Verdi has confirmed it will hold strike action against online retail giant Amazon over the busy Christmas holiday period, according to reports on Sunday.

France next, with a somber judgment from Deutsche Welle:

Downgraded France has ‘bundle of problems’

France’s economy is in a bad state. Analysts are saying the eurozone nation’s industry, labor market and social system are all chronically ill. The question is is which remedies the country’s citizens will tolerate.

And on to Spain, first with a mixed blessing by way of EUbusiness:

EU welcomes Spanish bank reform, warns on deficit

The European Union on Monday welcomed efforts by Spain to repair its banking sector but warned that the country risked missing its public deficit-cutting targets. Spain is poised in January to exit a programme to shore up its banks’ balance sheets, swamped in bad loans since a property bubble imploded in 2008.

El País cites an exclusion:

ECB won’t include public debt in bank asset quality review

Supervisor still to decide on treatment of these holdings in stress tests

And TheLocal.es cites a troublesome trend:

Spanish bank bad loans surge to record high

Bad loans at Spanish banks struck a new record high in September, official data showed Monday, despite the near completion of a €41 billion eurozone-financed bailout of the battered financial sector

From El País, gone but not forgotten:

UN demands more support from Spain for Franco victims

Committee on Enforced Disappearances approved report by visiting panel urging government to help relatives locate the dead

From thinkSPAIN, another job action — or not:

Ambulance strike partially cancelled

A WEEK-LONG ambulance strike planned throughout the north-eastern region of Catalunya has been partly called off after an initial agreement was reached between workers and their employers.

Thumbs down on secession via El País:

Catalan Socialists close ranks against nationalists’ sovereignty plan

Party’s council votes overwhelmingly to oppose plan to ask Congress to approve holding of status referendum

And from El País again, divisions hit the ruling Popular Party:

Rajoy’s PP suffers painful splits just as the economy perks up

Many party chiefs are asking for more leadership as corruption scandals continue to mount

Off to Italy with a sharp poke at the Baron of Bunga Bunga from Corriere della Sera:

Heart of Darkness-style Power without Heirs

No place for critical thinking in Colonel Kurtz’s camp. Only devotion, obedience and gratitude permitted

Silvio Berlusconi is not Kurtz. Yet. But his inability to manage succession has become disquieting. One by one his political heirs have been disappointed and dismissed as soon as they showed any hint of independence

After the jump, the Greek meltdown accelerates, a Latin American radical prepares for office, China continues its rush to Reaganomics, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!, and more. . . Continue reading

Michael Hudson on debt and the lies we’re told


Michael Hudson, who teaches Modern Monetary Theory [MMT] at the University of Missouri–Kansas City,  offers a brilliant tour through the history of debt and the peculiar distortions and omissions that characterize its portrayal in traditional academics:

The sad reality is that we have been sold a bill of goods designed to keep the many enslaved to debt for the profit of the few.

Hudson is lucid, incisive, and clear, and his message offers us a way out of a morass that is at one toxic and notional.

H/T to Moussequetaire!

Headlines of the day II: Econo/Greco/Sino/Ecolalia


Patterns emerge the looting of the commons rebranded as asuterity continues unchecked, and the momentary stability hailed by the financial press begins to look precarious, while nations rush to embrace policies designed to enrich the few while driving the rest to the bottom.

And yes, it really is that simple, with the bludgeon of debt used as the enforcer.

We begin with the last hint that the Obama administration is set to make a deal once unimaginable to Democrats and, as Eisenhower once noted, too all but a few Texas oil men. From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Social Security benefits may be on table in budget talks

With congressional budget negotiations moving behind closed doors, one item apparently on the table is changing the way cost-of-living adjustments are calculated for seniors, veterans and other recipients of government benefits.

From the Los Angeles Times, more tarnish for the Golden State’s luster:

California’s unemployment benefits fund is mired in debt

The fund owes nearly $10 billion to the federal government — so much, the problem won’t fix itself even if disbursements fall to pre-recession levels, the Employment Development Department says.

From The Contributor, Tea Party toll charges:

Gov Perry Refused Medicaid, Now TX Cities Feel the Squeeze

According to a new study, medical expenses hit Texas cities disproportionately hard. If Governor Perry had not refused Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, millions in taxpayer money would have been saved. Millions that could be better spent on jobs or infrastructure projects.

From Bloomberg, damned if you do, damned if you don’t:

Obamacare Deductibles 26% Higher Make Cheap Rates a Risk

Americans seeking cheap insurance on the Obamacare health exchanges may be in for sticker shock if they get sick next year, as consumers trade lower premiums for out-of-pocket costs that can top $6,000 a person.

And a question answered from CNBC:

Who’s smiling through Obamacare blunder? Insurers, of course.

Believe it or not, the “fumble” of the new health-care law has winners—and they’re all publicly traded health-care companies.

Meanwhile BBC News plays ketchup when job axes fall:

Heinz says three North American plants to close

Food maker Heinz has announced the closure of two plants in the United States and one in Canada. The firm says 1,350 jobs will be lost, which adds to the 600 job cuts announced in August.

And another job ax falls, via the Associated Press:

Merck to cease production at Puerto Rico plant

Merck will cease active ingredient production at one of its plants in Puerto Rico in a blow to a city once considered a pharmaceutical hub. The company said Friday that production in Barceloneta will end by late 2014 as part of a global restructuring.

FromThe Contributor, an upbeat story for a change:

Auto Workers Negotiate with VW, Southern GOPers Fear the End of Cheap Labor

Volkswagen says the outcome of negotiations with the Chattanooga, Tennessee, United Auto Workers union will have no bearing on whether or not they will build a new SUV in the United States. Southern politicians are in a tizzy, though, calling any negotiations at all the beginning of the end of cheap labor in the South.

Here in California, another labor action has been announced, reports the Oakland Tribune:

UC graduate students, service workers plan to strike

The University of California service workers union and graduate student union are calling for a system-wide one-day strike on Wednesday.

From The Independent, 21st Century salt mines:

Writing is on the wall for the new slaves: Contributors who work for free for website magazines

Welcome to the post-recession world, where social discourse is subordinated absolutely to advertising and paid work is replaced with “experience”. This is the business model that was pioneered by the Huffington Post and described by Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times as “a galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates”.

And a parallel tale from Quartz:

Twenty-somethings have incredibly unrealistic expectations for retirement

High youth unemployment, the proliferation of unpaid internships and soaring costs of higher education make it hard for young people to save for retirement, even if they want to. And as fiscal shortfalls and longer lifespans push countries to cut state benefits for retirees, younger generations won’t be able to rely as much on governments to support them as their parents did.

And what about the banksters, you may ask? Well, via Just An Earth-Bound Misfit, I, here’s a delightful CNBC video about what happened after one notorious outfit went to Twitter in hopes of puffery and received something quite different in return.

From ThePuppetsCan HearYou:

#AskJPM tweets performed by voice of American Greed & @PuppetsOH

Program notes:

Someone at JP Morgan said, “Let’s ask the American public what they’d like to say to one of our top bankers on Twitter.” Turns out that wasn’t such a great idea. The tweets generated from #AskJPM range from funny to down-right nasty. So someone at CNBC said, “Let’s have award-winning actor, Stacy Keach…the voice from American Greed read them verbatim.” Almost a brilliant idea. Then they had the good sense to add me… the blue puppet. And BOOM now it’s brilliant.

Tweet @PuppetsOH
Like us: www.facebook.com/ThePuppetsCanHearYou

From the San Francisco Chronicle, another war on drugs, Berkeley style:

Berkeley’s next smoking ban may hit home

Berkeley, where residents take pride in exercising their personal freedoms and resisting government intrusion, is the site these days of a much different kind of movement – one to ban cigarette smoking from single-family homes.

For our last domestic item, we turn to Gawker:

Rich Man Buys House Next to Ex-Wife, Erects Giant Middle Finger Outside

A Michigan man has reportedly gone to Internet-ready lengths in order to troll his ex-wife with a daily reminder of his feelings towards her.

Next, to Canada and an inflating bubble with CBC News:

Average house price in Canada rises 8% to $391,820

CREA says number of homes sold also increased

From CBC News again, vanishing choices:

Retirement not by choice for 41% of Canadians, survey says

Although most affluent Canadians approaching retirement believe they will get to pick the day they step away from their careers, in reality 41 per cent of retirees report they didn’t leave their jobs by choice, according to a new report from Royal Bank.

Off to Europe, first with the London Telegraph:

Eurozone inflation at four year low, data confirm

Talk of deflation continues, despite European Central Bank rate cut last week

From EUobserver, doubts raised:

Eurozone economy still in troubled waters

The eurozone economy grew by a meagre 0.1 percent in the last three months, showing that optimism about recovery from the crisis may be premature, according to data from the bloc’s statistical office Eurostat published on Thursday.

Troubled? Maybe more than that, if one considers this from the World Economic Forum via the London Telegraph:

Youth unemployment could tear Europe apart, warns WEF

Crime rates will soar, economies will stagnate and Europe’s social fabric will deteriorate if policymakers do not act to address youth unemployment, World Economic Forum report warns

But Spiegel sees through rose-colored specs:

Euro Crisis Reprieve: End to Bailout Programs Signals Recovery

Some four years after the euro crisis began, Ireland and Spain are set to graduate from their bailout programs, with Dublin planning to begin financing itself again early next year. It’s a positive sign, but economists warn against premature optimism.

Reuters covers a backstop:

EU ministers agree euro zone bailout fund can be used as ultimate backstop for banks

European Union finance ministers agreed on Friday that, as a last resort, the euro zone ESM bailout fund will be able to buy stakes in banks that need rescuing if neither investors nor the government are able to provide funds.

More from New Europe:

Barnier warns all member-states will now have to make compromises

ECOFIN: ESM can be used as backstop for failing banks

And the eruobanksters both give and take. Via Reuters:

Banks to repay 3.6 billion euros of crisis loans: ECB

Banks will next week return 3.59 billion euros ($4.8 billion) of crisis loans early to the European Central Bank, the ECB said on Friday, a lower than expected total as a recent rate cut makes it more attractive to hold on to the funds for now.

The ECB cut its main refinancing rate to a record low of 0.25 percent, automatically reducing the interest rate banks have to pay on the three-year loans.

From BBC News, a dressing down:

EU warns Spain and Italy over their budget plans

It also said French and Dutch plans only just passed muster.

More, including a telling detail, from the London Telegraph:

EU uses new budget powers to demand more austerity in Italy and Spain

Spain and Italy have been warned that their budgets for 2014 are in breach of European Union rules as Brussels uses new powers to force governments to revise spending plans before national parliaments vote on them.

France was also cautioned that plans for painful economic reforms represent only “limited progress” as the European Commission exercised new eurozone powers in a historic shift of sovereignty away from elected governments.

And Deutsche Welle covers a failure to launch:

EU still wrangling over banking union

Ireland is about to leave Europe’s bailout program – that’s the good news from the latest meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels. The bad news: No progress was made on a banking union.

From the Corporate Europe Observatory [CEO], round and round they go:

Mythbusting: the Commission and the revolving door

CEO responds to the Commission’s positive picture of its handling of revolving doors cases and conflicts of interest. Can the Commission afford to be quite so complacent?

Here’s a graphic depiction of CEO’s take on the reality, more evidence for which may be found at their Revolving Door Watch:

BLOG eurocrats

And if you need something more to ponder, there’s this from EUobserver:

Gazprom warns EU of winter ‘catastrophe’

Gazprom has warned that Ukraine might not have enough gas to feed EU transit customers in the coming winter.

Britain next, with The Independent covering democracy in peril:

Apathy? Alienation? How ‘disengaged’ four in ten voters reject ALL parties

Young adults are even more “disengaged”  from the party system, with 46 per cent of under-30s saying “none of the above” when presented with a list of the parties. Although the polling does not mean people are apathetic about politics,  the anti-sleaze watchdog which commissioned it believes the findings pose worrying questions about the future of democracy in Britain.

Sky News brings us the fatuous endorsing the cynical:

Simon Cowell Slammed Over ‘Get Lucky’ Remark

The Education Secretary blasts the X Factor boss for joking that children do not need to work hard, they should just get “lucky”.

From The Independent, austerian accounting:

Nearly a million under-25s still unemployed despite growth

Young people in Britain are experiencing a “jobless recovery” as unemployment among them rises while older people find work, according to a study published today.

And those slightly more fortunate from the London Telegraph:

White-collar workers to become ‘new poor’ as computers take over

Employees such as legal clerks and local government administrators will see their wages collapse as new technology makes their skills less valuable, just like manual workers have, Alan Milburn says

Ireland have officially bailed out of the bailout regime, but there’s a catch. From the Irish Times:

Ireland faces two annual post-bailout inspections

Coalition pledges to press on with reform agenda

Germany next, with anxiety from Deutsche Welle:

German DAX heavyweights increasingly worried about strong euro

More than half of all firms listed in Germany’s blue-chip DAX 30 index have reported shrinking third-quarter turnover and many also declining operating profits. A study says the current strength of the euro is to blame.

From DutchNews.nl, a Hans Brinker on thin ice:

Brussels accepts Dutch 2014 budget despite lack of margin for error

The European Commission has accepted the Dutch government’s spending plans for 2014 even though there is no margin for error in cutting the budget deficit to 3%.

DutchNews.nl again, cultivating interest:

Two in three large councils back organised marijuana cultivation

In total, 26 of the Netherlands’ 38 largest local authority areas support some form of government legalised or organised marijuana production, Nos television says.

Spain next, with a new austerian mandate from El País:

Brussels asks Spain for more fiscal adjustment to meet deficit obligations

Commission believes additional measures worth €35bn will be required over next three years

The Brussels announcement dims Thursday’s announcement, reported by thinkSPAIN:

Spain’s bank bail-out and supervision to end in January, says Eurogroup

SPAIN’S banks will come out of their ‘bail-out period’ in January without the need for any further European Union funding.

Consider another report from Friday’s El País:

Bank of Spain may revise incompatibility criteria

Decision follows row over nomination of former central bank director general to a private financial sector institution

And then there’s this, also from El País:

Outstanding Spanish public debt hits new record high in September

Obligations were equivalent to 93.4 percent of GDP, just under government target for full year

Italy next, with BBC News covering an anti-austerian outburst:

Italy: protesting students clash with police in Bologna and Rome

Thousands of students protesting against government austerity measures clashed with police in cities throughout Italy on Friday. In Bologna and Rome they marched in the streets of the city centre holding banners. Refering to their uncertain future, they chanted: “you’ll pay for it, for job insecurity, for misery and grief.”

Corriere della Sera covers the latest lament of Silvio, Baron of Bunga Bunga:

Berlusconi and the Tribulations of the PDL

“If I had my passport, I’d be off to Antigua”. Former PM forced to mediate with rivals at lunches, dinners and all-nighters]

And Italy delivers its own warning, via EUbusiness:

EU spurs eurosceptics with debt warning: Italy PM

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta accused Brussels of playing into the hands of eurosceptics on Friday in a sharp rebuke to a European Commission warning on Italy’s high debt levels.

Greek meltdown, Venezuelan action, Indian woes, Chinese neoliberalism running rampant, Japanese economic woes, more environmental alarms, and the latest Fukushimapocalypse Now! after the jump. . . Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: Econo/Fuku/Ecotastrophe


Much happening, and a very long post today, including some ominous environmental developments after the jump.

The Greek meltdown continues, and the Troika is out for blood, while Japan’s economy stalls and the government creates the framework for a national security state — and both China and Japan are creating parallels to the institutions of the world’s reigning national security state, the U.S.A, including their own spankin’ new national security councils.

We’re playing with the relatively limited typographical options, hence the change. [We're not quite happy with either of the two options. . .]

We begin at home with a four-alarm alert from Business Insider:

Moody’s Cuts Ratings For Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Credit

Moody’s has downgraded the credit ratings for notes issued by Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, and BNY Mellon, citing updated views of government support and issues within the banks themselves.

From Common Dreams and U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff of Manhattan, a breath of fresh air:

Federal Judge Slams DoJ for Not Prosecuting Wall Street Execs

The “’too big to jail excuse’ is mindboggling in what it says about the department’s disregard of fundamental legal principles,” said Rakoff

From MarketWatch, a chuckle:

J.P. Morgan tweet idea gone horribly wrong: #AskJPM

J.P. Morgan Chase as set to host a Twitter conversation on career advice with Jimmy Lee, a vice chairman and one of Wall Street’s top deal makers. But it cancelled the session after a massive backlash: The hashtag #ASKJPM that was supposed to field questions solicited hundreds of snarky comments from every corner of the globe.

From USA TODAY, an unbalancing act:

U.S. trade deficit widens 8% in September

The U.S. trade deficit widened in September as imports increased to the highest level in 10 months while exports slipped.

Sky News notes a pronouncement:

Fed Nominee Says Economy Still Needs Support

In Senate confirmation hearings, Janet Yellen alludes to agreement with the Federal Reserve’s bond buying and low interest rates.

From the Christian Science Monitor, yet another good argument for single-payer:

Businesses cut full-time workers to meet Obamacare mandate, study says

A study of small businesses found that many are cutting full-time workers or worker hours to comply with Obamacare. Franchises are making the biggest cuts.

Form the Oakland Tribune, dashing hopes:

Gov. Brown to UC: Don’t count on state for another budget increase

Gov. Jerry Brown handed the University of California and its new president, Janet Napolitano, what he called “a reality sandwich” on Thursday, saying it’s unlikely state politicians will give the system the extra funding it wants for next year.

From Salon, Christian compassion. Or not:

Arizona prison horror: “Critically ill” inmates told to “pray” for healing

“To say that I’m terrified would be an understatement. But I simply do not know what to do,” one inmate writes

Techdirt raises faint [feint?] hopes:

Congress May Not Be So Eager To Simply Hand Over Its Own Authority To The Obama Administration To Approve TPP

from the a-good-sign dept

From the Washington Post, an ax falls:

Lockheed Martin to cut 4,000 jobs

Defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin announced Thursday that it would eliminate 4,000 jobs and close several facilities in an effort to cut costs in a climate of reduced federal spending.

From IllinoisTimes, the ultimate neoliberal indignity for Honest Abe:

Mayor talks with company about Oak Ridge

StoneMor Partners, a Pennsylvania based cemetery company, has been quietly talking with Springfield Mayor Mike Houston and other top city officials about taking over management of Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Calling StoneMor “a good company,” Houston acknowledged Tuesday that he has spoken with no other firms about taking over cemetery operations. He has said that the city plans to issue a request for proposals aimed at soliciting bids to privatize Abraham Lincoln’s final resting place. The city council must approve any management deal

Up to Canada for something we’d like to see here from the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Conservatives take first step on unbundling cable channels

Canadian Heritage Minister Shelley Glover is taking the first step towards forcing television service providers to let subscribers pay for only those channels they want.

From CBC, an exception:

Canadian tourism declines despite world travel boom

Tourism is one of the world’s fastest-growing businesses, yet the number of international travellers to Canada has declined 20 per cent since 2000, according to a report from Deloitte & Touche.

Oh, and what about our ongoing coverage Toronto Mayor Bob Ford?

The following brief press encounter [NSFW] is all we’ve got to say on the matter:

Off to Europe with the Japan Times:

Eurozone recovery grinds to a near halt; tough slog lies ahead

The recovery from recession in the 17-country eurozone nearly came to a grinding halt in the third-quarter, raising concerns that the region faces a long slog back from its five-year economic crisis.

But the eurobankster raises hopes, via EUbusiness:

ECB survey sees lower eurozone inflation, higher growth

Eurozone inflation will remain below target in the next years, while growth will gather momentum, according to a new survey published by the European Central Bank on Thursday.

But it’s not just “lower inflation,” reports The Guardian:

Deflation fears stalk eurozone as Spain reports fall in prices

Economists fear low inflation plus high unemployment and the economic malaise may drag eurozone towards Japan-style slump

Some austerity at the top from MercoPress:

EU approves 2014 budget 7% lower; 62bn Euros to stimulate growth and jobs

The European Union has clinched a deal on a sharply trimmed 2014 budget after a marathon 16-hour session ending a long dispute over how best to spend taxpayers’ money. After decades of growth, next year’s EU budget is set to be around 7% lower than this year’s at 135.5 billion Euros in contributions by member states.

Reuters reports resistance from the primary beneficiary:

Germany challenges use of euro zone cash to repair banks

Germany challenged a central plank of plans to forge a banking union in the euro zone on Thursday, arguing against the use of the currency bloc’s funds to help lenders exposed as dangerously weak by health checks next year.

On to Britain and a falling ax from BBC News:

Barclays plans to cut 1,700 jobs Barclays sign

Barclays is cutting 1,700 jobs from across its branch network in the UK, saying it is in response to changes in the way people use the bank.

Ireland next, with EUobserver:

Ireland becomes first euro country to quit bailout programme

Ireland will become the first eurozone country to exit a bailout programme, after deciding that it will not request a temporary credit line when its €85 billion rescue ends.

A declaration from Michael Noonan delivered by TheJournal.ie:

“The purpose of the programme was actually to exit the programme” – Noonan

The Finance Minster says that Ireland’s decision not to take a post-bailout credit line was because this was a “benign” time. The Troika say Ireland is in a “strong position”.

From DutchNews.nl, a Dutch coming out?:

The Dutch economy is out of recession – just

The Dutch economy managed to creep out of recession and grew by 0.1% in the third quarter of this year compared with Q2, according to new estimates from the national statistics office CBS on Thursday.

Germany next, with eviction notices in the wind via Spiegel:

Exit Clause: Merkel’s Partners Want Broke Countries Out of Euro

Chancellor Angela Merkel wants the next government to be unified on its EU policy, but her sister party is resorting to populism. Bavaria’s Christian Social Union wants tougher provisions against deficit offenders and the ability to drive them out of the euro zone.

From EUbusiness, heightened interest in lack of interest:

Germany feeling pinch of low interest rates

Banks and insurers in Germany are increasingly feeling the negative side-effects of ultra-low interest rates, the German central bank or Bundesbank warned on Thursday.

Europe Online delivers a German ax blow:

German energy giant RWE to cut 6,750 jobs

German energy giant RWE AG is to cut 6,750 jobs, around 10 per cent of its workforce, by 2016 amid falling profits, a company source said Thursday

BBC News delivers another:

Volkswagen recalls 2.6 million cars

German carmaker Volkswagen has announced a recall of about 2.6 million cars worldwide, including 640,000 in China, a crucial growth market.

France next, with a raging alarm from the London Telegraph:

French officials warn of social tinderbox as economy contracts again

Francois Hollande called on France to judge him on his success in “bending the curve in unemployment”, but this has come back to haunt him

BBC News takes a slice of the commons:

France sells stake in jet engine firm Safran

The French government is selling a 3.6% stake in jet engine maker Safran worth 937m euros ($1.3bn). The government will remain Safran’s biggest shareholder with a stake of more than 22%.

And Reuters delivers a major blow:

French economy contracts 0.1 percent in setback for Hollande

France’s economy unexpectedly returned to contraction in the third quarter as investment dropped, dealing a new blow to President Francois Hollande’s efforts to revive the euro zone’s second biggest economy.

New Europe delivers another:

Electorate looking for radical political solutions to get them out of the crisis

Poll: French want parliament dissolved or PM change

And France 24 has numbers:

Hollande’s popularity hits new low of 15%

After falling to a record low of 26 percent in October, approval for French President François Hollande has collapsed even further, with a poll published Thursday giving him just 15 percent support.

Spain next, with The Local.es, reaching for favorable comparison:

Spain doing better than ‘stagnant’ France

For the first time in nearly five years, the Spanish economy is outperforming that of France, official French figures released on Thursday show.

El País cofers a blessing:

Europe endorses Spain’s exit from bailout program

Economy minister heralds January end to 18-month banking rescue plan

From thinkSPAIN, another emergence:

CAM bank boss pays 1.5-million-euro bail release and leaves prison

HEAD of the now-defunct CAM bank Roberto López Abad has paid a 1.5-million-euro bail release to get out of jail.

El País covers an action against an action:

Madrid mayor gives cleaning companies strike ultimatum

Botella says contractors have 48 hours to cut a deal and meet minimum services in capital’s streets

The Portugal News brings us the same old story with the same old beneficiaries at a time when everyone else has been bled dry:

Rich get richer

The number of multi-millionaires in Portugal soared by more than 10 percent in 2012 alone, while their fortunes swelled even further (11.8 percent), a report by Swiss bank UBS has revealed. The definition of multi-millionaire for the purpose of the study is a person who has a fortune of 25 million euros or more.

El País notes continuing emergence:

Portuguese economy grows for second quarter in a row

GDP rises 0.2 percent in the period July-September as the IMF suggests the need for yet more wage cuts

The Portugal News looks at the victimology:

More than half of Portuguese on some form of benefits

While taxes show no signs of decreasing and wages remain stagnant at best, resulting in widespread social unrest, it has now emerged that the number of Portuguese receiving taxpayer-funded handouts has risen to 57 percent of the total number of the country’s inhabitants.

The Portugal News again, with a note of caution:

House prices fall in September, but optimism remains

While the Portuguese residential market has in modern history often accompanied trends established elsewhere in Europe, especially in the United Kingdom and Germany, it has so far failed to match the spiralling house prices recorded in 2013 over much of northern Europe.

Italy takes a hit, from Europe Online:

Italy posts ninth straight quarter of negative GDP growth

Italy suffered negative growth in the third quarter of the year, official data showed Thursday, confounding earlier expectations that the country would finally exit from a record-length recession.

From Corriere della Sera, the Baron of Bunga Bunga strikes out with Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano:

Berlusconi’s Crucial Rome Meeting with Alfano

Forty-eight hours for reflection. PD warns expulsion from Senate will not be postponed. Former PM’s lawyer rules out request for pardon

From Bulgaria, out-of-sight/out-of-mind with the Associated Press:

Hungarian capital bans homeless from public areas

Budapest’s city council has banned the homeless from living in many public areas of the city, including playgrounds, train stations, cemeteries, and the Hungarian capital’s largest park.

The decision was made possible by a constitutional amendment adopted in March which allows municipalities to ban homeless from public places for security, health and other reasons. A similar law had been earlier declared anti-constitutional by Hungary’s highest court.

After the jump, Greek tensions, Latin American warnings, Indian economic woes, onrushing Chinese neoliberalism amidst mixed signals, Japanese downslides, environmental alarm bells, and the lastest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading