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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 31 January

by Nomad Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 03:26:39 PM EST

 A Daily Review Of International Online Media 

Europeans on this date in history:

1606 - death of Guy Fawkes, executed for his failed attempt to blow up Westminster Palace

More here and here

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by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 03:27:52 PM EST
EU leaders eye balanced budget pact in Brussels - EUROPEAN UNION - FRANCE 24

European leaders struggled to reconcile austerity with growth on Monday at a summit that approved a permanent rescue fund for the euro zone and was trying to put finishing touches to a German-driven pact for stricter budget discipline.

Officially, the half-day 27-nation summit was meant to focus on ways to revive growth and create jobs at a time when governments across Europe are having to cut public spending and raise taxes to tackle mountains of debt.

But disputes over the limits of austerity, and Greece's unfinished debt restructuring negotiations with private bondholders, hampered efforts to send a more optimistic message that Europe is getting on top of its debt crisis.

Leaders agreed that a 500-billion-euro European Stability Mechanism will enter into force in July, a year earlier than planned, to back heavily indebted states. But Europe is already under pressure from the United States, China, the International Monetary Fund and some of its own members to increase the size of the financial firewall.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 04:21:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - EU summit: UK and Czechs refuse to join fiscal compact

Twenty-five of the EU's 27 member states have agreed to join a fiscal treaty to enforce budget discipline.

The Czech Republic and the UK refused to sign up. The UK's position was already well known, while the Czechs cited "ratification reasons".

Czech President Vaclav Klaus, a Eurosceptic, may be reluctant to sign the treaty, called a "fiscal compact".

The goal is much closer co-ordination of budget policy across the EU to prevent excessive debts accumulating.

Germany - the eurozone's biggest lender and most powerful economy - was particularly keen to get a binding treaty adopted to enforce budget rules.

The treaty will empower the European Court of Justice to monitor compliance and impose fines on rule-breakers.

The Czech Republic is not yet in the euro, but like the other new EU member states it is committed to joining.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 04:30:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Greece rejects German plan to surrender economic control - Europe - World - The Independent

Greece yesterday rejected a German plan for it to surrender control of its tax and spending policies to a powerful European Commission official in return for a €130bn (£109bn) bailout.

The row between Greece and Germany put a question mark over the EU and International Monetary Fund plan to rescue the ailing Greek economy. However, hopes are rising that Athens will reach a deal with its private creditors to prevent a disorderly default on its massive debts, which could plunge the global economy into crisis.

Under the agreement, €206bn worth of Greek bonds owned by investors would be exchanged for new bonds worth 60 per cent less. An agreement could be announced today when EU leaders meet in Brussels to agree on a "fiscal compact" aimed at saving the euro by enforcing budgetary discipline.

Germany's demand for a "budget commissioner" to take unprecedented control over the economic policy of a member state reflected the EU's impatience with Greece's failure to resolve its debt crisis. But it provoked a backlash in Greece and failed to win the backing of the European Commission.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 04:32:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com / Economic Affairs / EU leaders differ on special budget tsar for Greece

EU leaders arriving in Brussels for a summit Monday (30 January) have given a mixed response to Germany's radical idea to have an EU commissioner take over Greece's fiscal policy, with Chancellor Merkel saying she hoped to avoid a "controversial" discussion in favour of a "successful" one.

Berlin's proposal to see have a Greece-designated commissioner with a "veto right against budget decisions not in line with the set budgetary targets" dominated journalists' questions ahead of the summit, supposed to be focussing on growth and putting the finishing touches on a fiscal discipline treaty.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt was among the most supportive of the idea. He said he understood Germany's "frustration" noting that Greeks are "do not deliver on the reforms that they have promised others."

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 04:33:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Merkel saying she hoped to avoid a "controversial" discussion in favour of a "successful" one.

"controversial" = somebody disagrees.

"successful" = everyone obeys.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 02:19:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Though it was of course very "controversial":

Merkel did not put up a fight, and tried to bury the issue as quickly as possible, as everybody, including Nicolas Sarkozy, came out in total opposition to these plans. (Eurointelligence, e-mail)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 03:20:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Presseurop: Angela Merkel has gone too far
"The woman who went out into the cold": the expression in Süddeutsche Zeitung refers to the undeniably frosty reception for Angela Merkel's performance at the European Council on 30 January.


At issue is the proposal to send a budget commissar to Athens to oblige the Greeks to take control of their finances. Spiegel dubs the measure "political poison", while Tagesspiegel describes it as "an admission of failure" that will give added fuel to the Nazi comparisons currently flourishing in Greece.

If only it was simply a matter of historical insensitivity, then Germany's jab at the Greeks could be remedied by adroit diplomacy. But that is not the case. The proposal clearly illustrates that there is no longer any desire to preserve the monetary community. Now it is a matter of rich against poor and the strong against the weak. [...] The Greeks already have to deal with the the EU/IMF/ECB troika, and they have no need of another interloper to do up their accounts on a blackboard. The aid package currently under discussion is supposed to strike a balance between reforms and growth. And as such, it will require plenty of money, time, and even more importantly, trust.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 09:41:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A Bluffing Game: European Politicians in Denial as Greece Unravels - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International
Europe's politicians are losing touch with reality. Greece is broke, and yet Brussels wants to send the country billions in new loans, to which there is growing opposition within the coalition government in Berlin. Rescue efforts are hopelessly bogged down by bickering over who will ultimately step up.

Martial music booms from the loudspeakers as warlike images gallop across monitors. A short euro crisis film montage shows police officers being posted in front of the parliament building in Athens and the jostling of frantic reporters, then US investor George Soros uses grim words in an appeal to rescue the euro zone. "The alternative is just too terrible to contemplate," he says.

Speaking in a panel that follows the short film, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has a gloomy expression. It is last Friday when the global business elite were at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss the "Future of the Euro Zone." It becomes quickly apparent that Schäuble would have preferred a different opening than the dark film for this event. The negotiations with Athens' private creditors are going well, he says, and he points out that he is "quite optimistic" Greece can be rescued.

But later European Union Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, standing next to the stage, imparts a very different message to reporters. He concedes that Athens needs money once again, but that he cannot yet reveal just how much. Nevertheless, he adds, it is "likely" that the donor countries will have to come up with "a slightly larger contribution."

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 04:36:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU leaders wake up to youth jobs crisis | EurActiv

Young people should be offered a good job within four months after leaving school, EU leaders will say at an informal summit today (30 January), according to a draft statement obtained by EurActiv. The measure was criticised as empty rhetoric by European socialists.

Stimulating employment among young people is the first priority to spur economic growth in a recession-hit Europe, says the four-page document that EU leaders are expected to adopt later today.

"A particular effort needs to be made immediately to improve labour supply and reduce youth unemployment," read the draft conclusions of today's EU summit in Brussels.

The statement was heavily criticised a "empty proposals" by the Party of European Socialists, which said the EU must invest more money to lift at least 2 million young people out of unemployment.

More than 5.5 million young people in the EU are unemployed - about 22.3% of the entire youth workforce, according to the latest statistics published in January. Spain is the hardest hit, with youth unemployment there edging close to 50%. And the trend does not seem to improve as the economic doldrums push more and more young Europeans to line up for social benefits.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 04:38:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Belgium hit by general strike as EU leaders meet

Belgium is holding its first general strike in more than six years in protest over austerity measures, as EU leaders meet for a summit in Brussels.

The main train station in Brussels was closed while flights at Belgium's low cost airport Charleroi were cancelled.

At Brussels Airport, which remains open, a spokesman estimated about 10% of flights would be affected.

EU leaders have gathered in Brussels to continue talks on the eurozone crisis - their first summit this year.

They are expected to sign a treaty that will bind eurozone states to tougher budget rules known as the "fiscal compact".

Staff at the summit were asked to arrive for the 14:00 (13:00 GMT) meeting at 05:30 to avoid the disruption.

The strike has brought most of the transport system in Brussels to a standstill.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 04:39:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Slovenia gets centre-right leader in time for summit | EurActiv

The Slovenian parliament confirmed Janez Janša as prime minister on 28 January, nearly two months after an inconclusive 4 December election. Janša, who is expected today (30 January) at the EU summit, is the 19th head of state or government from the centre-right EPP family among the 27 member countries.

The newly formed centre-right coalition consists of all three parties - the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS, 26), Slovenian People's Party (SLS, 6) and New Slovenia (NSi, 4) - affiliated with the European People's Party. It also features Gregor Virant's Civic List (DGLV, 8) and the Democratic Party of Slovenian Pensioners (DeSUS, 6).

Janša won 51 votes in the 90-seat parliament.

The new premier has 15 days to put forward a cabinet charged with driving economic growth and introducing reforms to stop the country's credit rating from being cut. But he has a corruption trial hanging over him, which could derail his premiership if he were found guilty.

The cabinet must be confirmed by parliament, in which Janša's five-party coalition has a solid majority.

Janša, also prime minister from 2004 to 2008, has promised to cut taxes, red tape and the budget deficit, ease the credit crunch and raise the retirement age in the eurozone member.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 04:41:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Young people should be offered a good job within four months after leaving school, EU leaders will say at an informal summit today (30 January), according to a draft statement obtained by EurActiv. The measure was criticised as empty rhetoric by European socialists.

The words job guarantee were used by Barroso in his press remarks after the summit. This means that, rhetorically, the EPP has already staked a claim to where the European Socialists should be.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 04:36:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well - that depends on the EPP's definition of 'good.'

Which might not match the socialist definition. (Although in practice it probably will.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 05:12:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I read you rightly, you mean European Socialists should be promising (sans rhetoric) a job guarantee for all?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 05:36:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, yes. The only way out of the depression is a state-run job guarantee program. @javiersolana
The idea that "structural reform", plus austerity, plus better job training will do the trick is - well - pious baloney.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 05:37:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Solana quote correctly criticizes rightwing bullshit, but doesn't directly support your proposal.

So public-sector jobs for all (who want them)?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 06:43:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Basically, the state employment services guarantee that you can come up to them and say "I'd like to work so many hours per week at the minimum wage" and they'll give you a placement.

I'm thinking ceebs might have something to say about such a scheme, because in practice it might not be that different from the work he's being forced to do to justify his unemployment subsidy.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 06:58:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If it's at all like what he's being forced to do, he might have something negative to say about it...

I can understand the idea of a minimum income for all, but the job thing appears to be making work for public servants to organize work that the "beneficiaries" might find demotivating or demeaning, at least insofar as it corresponds to little real need or to the actual skills and capacities the "beneficiaries" possess.

On the other hand, a youth programme was organized by the Jospin government in France that offered subsidized work contracts, nominally for five years, that the state itself then used to hire educational assistants, for example. It worked quite well but was of course phased out when the right got back in.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 07:56:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it all depends on the scheme and they need watching very carefully,  I've experienced  reasonable and bad and no people who have been on downright abominable.

One example, as part of their contract a  training firm had to provide either a months work experience or a months training.  they had found that it was cheaper to  spend the month providing  training than to pay travelling expenses to get people out to the work placements. so all work placements were cancelled with two days notice. (those two being the upcoming weekend) the next four weeks were spent going over  a course in excruciating detail on how to apply for jobs, the same course that was taught by the DWP in tewo days. the last three days were spent doing a basic health and safety certificate  so that it could be shown that it wasn't time completely wasted.

The one that i was on Yesterday they did suggest that If I was there for a period of time they held out a vague hope that there might be a forklift certificate that would enable warehouse work in the future. but that was just a vague offer.

There is on UK schemes a regulation that to qualify as usable charities to accept people, the charity must primarily  provide service to the community, and can't just exist  to service industry. but this appears relatively easy to get round. The charity I was working for yesterday  exists "to help people back into work" and has  a contract to recycle all the returned goods from a major UK supermarket chain. so supposedly they are an environmental charity rather than a  cheap source of labour doing a job a supermarket should be paying for.

Assuming the French plan is built around the same sources of rightist ideology, no doubt  the same  sort of scheme will happen.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 08:45:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Assuming the French plan is built around the same sources of rightist ideology, no doubt  the same  sort of scheme will happen.

The problem I see is that it's the EPP government of Europe that's staking a claim on the concept of youth job guarantee and that the programme touted by Barroso last night that all member states committed to put in place will be based around rightist ideology.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 08:49:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is on UK schemes a regulation that to qualify as usable charities to accept people, the charity must primarily  provide service to the community, and can't just exist to service industry. but this appears relatively easy to get round.

I think this is wrong, and based on the (wrong) idea that government provision "crowds out" the private sector. Evidently the problem is not that there isn't work to be done, but that it isn't getting done and the job market isn't clearing. The point of the job guarantee is to help it to clear, and restricting participation in a government work guarantee scheme to entities engaged "not in industry" seems counterproductive.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 08:54:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you're still going to get some crowding out. In the UK the crowding out is happening by having free workers , i'd say that in the French system, you'd end up with crowding out as the HR and some of the management functions are taken out of their cost base.

I'd argue that the work isn't getting done, and the companies are managing to externalsie part of their costs. and those costs are being hidden inside the benefits budget, which can then be used to beat the unemployed over the head as the taxpayer is having to pay the costs.

 It depends on the scheme and you'd have to look at it in detail, not only to see who is being pushed into it, but also who is benefiting.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 09:17:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, the French scheme wasn't of that kind, and the right got rid of it on their return to power.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 11:56:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The job thing is always about appearances. People don't want 'jobs', they want economic participation and some measure of control over their quality of life.

Reducing the issue to 'jobs' plays to the right. Jobs - like votes - are supposed to be synonymous with participation and distributed power. In reality most workplaces are run as 9-5 - or 9-10pm - dictatorships.

(I'm convinced that a lot of the poor service you get in the UK is a result of passive aggression against impossible employment conditions.)

Careers - lasting, valued work with relaxed working hours and reasonable quality of life - are a different concept to jobs. You won't usually find right-wingers promising anyone a career, because being able to destroy jobs for personal gain is too important a privilege for them to give up.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 08:45:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can understand the idea of a minimum income for all, but the job thing appears to be making work for public servants to organize work that the "beneficiaries" might find demotivating or demeaning, at least insofar as it corresponds to little real need or to the actual skills and capacities the "beneficiaries" possess.

The fact that the work being done doesn't meet a need should be corrected, but part of the point of making the job guarantee around "minimum wage" jobs is that they're unqualified jobs that anyone should be able to do in principle. It should not be the purpose of the government job guarantee to organize the distribution of qualified labour.

Another point is that the jobs provided by the guarantee should not be necessarily 9-5 jobs. The user of the guarantee would specify how many hours they would like to work, and their favoured times. This would be a way to help support people who cannot work full time, for instance because they have dependents to take care of.

Finally, one argument for giving people work like this and not just an allowance would be that giving people money for free is needlessly inflationary whereas money in exchange for labour isn't, as long as the labour fulfills some need. The labour also doesn't have to consume a lot of resources if it's in the service sector as opposed to industry, so you can boost employment and service provision without impacting on resource use.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 09:00:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Im not convinced by the needlessly inflationary argument.  you're still  inputting the same ammoutn of money into the economy. and wether the  person has spent the week making candles, or providing support for the sick, you're still going to have more money in the economy chasing the same goods. it doesn't have some psychic moralty as to know it has been produced virtuously.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 09:21:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed. The amount of inflation produced - if any - will be insignificant compared to the asset and commodity price inflation created by speculation.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 09:23:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, if you have been making candles or caring for the sick, that's a service that has a cost and that cost is paying for the money the worker is receiving, so you've actually increased the amount of goods and services being chased by the increased amount of money wages.

Evidently, the more one digs into this issue the more apparent it becomes that money is not a commodity, it is a tool for exercising political power as JakeS put it, or even reified social status.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 09:37:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
but equally the people who are recieving money for not doing things will be using some of the time of working people, reducing their ability to chase goods and services. might the two balance out?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 09:53:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that applies to all the public services (whether organized by the state or by NGOs of various kinds) the drown-government-in-a-bathtub crowd think should be left to the optimal resource allocation of markets, ie, in the direction of greatest profit. If they got their way, there would be a considerable loss of real economic substance, and of the capacity for organisation, expression, resilience, political and social existence, of entire swathes of the population - those doing the work, and those receiving the services. (Such that one may wonder if, in the political underpinnings of free-market theology, it is not more important to empty some pockets than to fill others).

I'm all for public services, and not against the idea of guaranteed employment - just a bit dubitative about the possibility of always offering useful, needful work (quantity on demand). I don't think Keynes advocated having people dig holes and fill them up again, just that, in certain circumstances, it would be better than nothing. Most of the time, probably not.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 11:52:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the case of Spain Zapatero introduced a dependence law which was supposed to guarantee state support for people who need to care for a dependent or are dependent themselves. That would be a huge source of minimally qualified work (you don't need a fully trained nurse or therapist to take care of many mild cases of dependence) and it would greatly alleviate unemployment. Also, to tie in with another ongoing discussion, it wouldn't increase Spain's imports of fossil fuels.

That's just one example of what's being buried by austerity (and it was already underfunded and underdeveloped under Zapatero).

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 11:57:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the 30s the liberal Swedish government ran a program with relief-work in effect building roads and stuff for below existing wages (so not to crowd out private enterprise).

The unions demanded and the soc-dems enacted another program with jobs for all at decent wages (compared to average existing wages). That was a hit and marked the start of some 50 years of full employment policies.

So I would say jobs for all with decent wages looks like the sensible demand.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 02:24:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean we've known the answer for 80 years but are pretending we don't?

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 02:37:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It got lost 30 years ago.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 02:52:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Only one thing remains: the vague collective knowledge that "Keynes was wrong".

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 04:26:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd settle for at least the unions remembering their own history.

Instead I some time ago saw a documentary with a former union boss who was minister of employment or some such under Persson. There he explained that since unemployment was necessary they deemed that the young could handle it better and be more likely to get a job later on then older workers, so their politics aimed at protecting older workers and letting young people bear the burden of unemployment.

Now, of course the former minister should be credited for actually admitting that they were running a policy for unemployment - most would deny it. But it is tragic to see what has become of the union-soc.dem movement when the best they can come up with is pitting generations against each other. And of course the right-wing has used the conflict to gain youth votes in exchange for promises of low-paying jobs through lower employer taxes on the young.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 05:38:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
a former union boss who was minister of employment or some such under Persson ... explained that since unemployment was necessary


tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 08:33:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How else are we going to keep wages inflation down?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 1st, 2012 at 01:13:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There were downsides. The strangling effects of the system became apparent during the 70's and 80's, and it all fell to pieces in the early 90's. Minsky would have had something to say about it...

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Feb 5th, 2012 at 01:35:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Midday Express (European Commission press releases): Statement of President Barroso following the Informal meeting of the European Council
To tackle youth unemployment, each member state will prepare a National Job Plan. I proposed that at its core will be a Youth Guarantee which ensures that all young people are either in a job, in training or in education within 4 months of leaving school. The Commission will establish Action Teams with Member States with above-average youth unemployment, namely the eight countries that are the most affected by this problem. They will agree how we can best use the €22bn of European Social Fund money not yet allocated, so that we can improve job opportunities for young people. We can re-deploy part of this funding. The key is to use the best practice across the Union to spark action at the Union level and at the national level too. We want our young people to study, train and work across our Union. With Youth On The Move, we have the programmes to make that happen: Erasmus for studying, Leonardo for training and EURES for job vacancies, and now with these National Job Programmes, part of the National Reform Programmes. As President Van Rompuy said this is indeed part of our exercise in the European semester and the Spring European Council, so on 1 and 2 March we will give concrete guidance to all the European Union member states.
(my emphasis)

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 06:41:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Norway convicts three over terrorist plot - Norway - FRANCE 24

Two men were found guilty Monday of involvement in an al-Qaida plot to attack a Danish newspaper that caricatured the Prophet Muhammad, the first convictions under Norway's anti-terror laws.

A third defendant was acquitted of terror charges but convicted of helping the others acquire explosives.

Investigators say the plot was linked to the same al-Qaida planners behind thwarted attacks against the New York subway system and a shopping mall in Manchester, England, in 2009.

The Oslo district court sentenced alleged ringleader Mikael Davud, to seven years in prison and co-defendant Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak to three and a half years.

Judge Oddmund Svarteberg said the court found that Davud, a Chinese Muslim, "planned the attack together with al-Qaida." Bujak was deeply involved in the preparations, but it couldn't be proved that he was aware of Davud's contacts with al-Qaida, the judge said.

The third defendant, David Jakobsen, who assisted police in the investigation, was convicted on an explosives charge and sentenced to four months in prison - time he's already served in pretrial detention.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 04:41:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Julian Assange's extradition battle enters final round | Media | The Guardian

He has been described as everything from Messianic visionary to terrorist, courageous battler for government accountability to sexual abuser. So why not chatshow host? That is the latest surprise incarnation announced by Julian Assange, who last week revealed his next step, after 13 months on bail fighting extradition to Sweden over sex assault accusations, would be to host a series of televised interviews with "iconoclasts, visionaries and power insiders" on the theme the world tomorrow". The series, beginning in mid-March, will comprise 10 weekly, 30-minute episodes to be screened on Russia Today, the Kremlin-controlled propaganda channel of the Russian government.

Whether the series is being pre-recorded is unclear, but as Assange knows, his next step - including where he will find himself in the next couple of months - is even less certain. On Wednesday , 421 days after he was arrested in London concerning sex assault allegations made by two Swedish women, the Australian will reach the final stage in his battle to avoid extradition to Stockholm to fight potential charges, when his case comes before the supreme court. And so his lengthy, surreal period of house arrest in a Norfolk mansion while fighting off, he recently revealed, the attention of the "hundreds" of besotted women who have turned up at his door, is coming to an end.

In February last year, a court ruled that Assange should be sent to Sweden to answer the accusations; he appealed, and lost. But two high court judges granted him leave to appeal to the highest British court, not on the circumstances of his own case but on a point of law: namely, whether a prosecutor had sufficient authority to require someone's extradition, as in Assange's case. Many legal observers were surprised when the supreme court not only agreed to hear Assange's petition, but said seven judges, rather than the usual five, would preside, "given the great public importance of the issue raised". The court will sit for two days, on 1 and 2 February, though the judges are unlikely to deliver their written verdict for a number of weeks.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 04:43:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Deaths in Ukraine and Poland in freezing Europe weather

At least 18 people have died in Ukraine and 10 in Poland after heavy snow fall and a sudden drop in temperatures across east Europe.

Three deaths were also reported in Serbia and one in Bulgaria.

Ukrainian officials said nearly 500 people had sought treatment for frostbite and hypothermia in just three days.

And over that time, more than 17,000 people had sought refuge in some 1,500 shelters, Ukrainian media reported.

Temperatures have plunged to -16C (3F) during the day and -23C (-10F) at night, the Associated Press reports.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:41:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurointelligence Daily Briefing: Work on a rescue umbrella of €1500bn is under way
According to FT Deutschland, the US, the eurozone, and the IMF are working towards creating a multi-part rescue umbrella of €1500bn; it would involve a merger of the ESM an the EFSF; if agreed in full, it would effectively amount to a doubling of the European firewalls; banks are preparing to double their uptake at the Feb 29 LTRO to close to €1 trillion, according to the FT; Portuguese bond yields reach record highs, as investors are concerned about Greece, and a possible spillover; Lucas Papademos said he hoped talks with the troika would be concluded by the end of this week, but says there are still serious obstacles to be overcome; Belgium's first general strikes in two decades brings parts of the country to a complete halt; EU leaders agree fiscal pact, with Brits and Czechs opting out; summit was overshadowed by Germany's demand to impose a fiscal Kommissar on Athens; the FT says in an editorial that since the EU accepted German austerity, Germany must now accept that its current account surplus is a problem; FDP an SPD both applaud Nicolas Sarkozy's financial transaction tax; Francois Fillon halves the French growth forecast; German inflation falls to 2%; the supervisory board chairman of Commerzbank says Greek should exit the eurozone; Paul Krugman, meanwhile, makes the case that austerity in a recession leads to an increase in indebtedness.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 04:25:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
CNN: Why it's too late to save Greece's sovereignty by Yanis Varoufakis
This is a typical case of a shady coalition of vested interests that is disintegrating under the weight of its collective hubris. For the past 18 months, German and Greek leaders have been working together to deny the truth about three simultaneous bankruptcies: The irreversible bankruptcy of the Greek state, the effective insolvency of many Franco-German banks, and, last but not least, the unsustainability of the euro-system as we know it.


The preordained failure of the Greek "program" has not yet exposed our leaders' connivance. It is, instead, generating Teutonic wrath among the hard working Germans (whose living standards have been under constant pressure for a decade, and who are now told they must guarantee even more zillions for the Greek state) and unbearable Sisyphean pain for Greeks caught up in a vicious cycle (from which no amount of hard work or innovative thinking can help them escape).

Something must give. If it is not our leaders' insidious lie, it will be the eurozone. It's that simple.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 05:36:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Presseurop: Slump Pact: Europe's lurch backward (by Jason Walsh)
In fact, the seeds of European Union disregard for the masses we see being played out today are a direct result of the EU's gradualist approach. Instead of taking the bull by the horns and straightforwardly arguing for political union, successive generations of EU leaders have balked at the, admittedly Sisyphean, task of uniting European nations and instead trod a piecemeal path, fiddling here, meddling there and all the while refusing to admit that the ultimate logic of going beyond a mere trade bloc is political union.


There is, and has been, much that is good in European co-operation, even integration, but this madness must stop. Greece is being immiserated, crushed underfoot by Franco-German diktat that cares only about the country's (entirely imaginary) ability to repay its debts. And so, more money will be thrown at Greece, though it will slide through the country without so much as touching the ground, making its way to Greece's creditors while unemployment and poverty will continue to grow.


No country being forced to implement swingeing cuts will ever be able to emulate Germany's enviable export-driven economy even if they desired to do so -  and, in truth, few seem so inclined anyway. Germany too will suffer, with the European market for its goods going into decline. Next to the absence of workable industrial policy and the ability to make strategic investment in industry, talk of stimulating the small and medium enterprise and tackling youth unemployment melts into so much blather. What we will get is a longterm slump.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 09:44:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... more money ... will slide through the country ... making its way to Greece's creditors while unemployment and poverty will continue to grow.

Worth emphasizing.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 12:32:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
New Economics Foundation: The EU's fiscal compact - the most boring suicide note in history?
There's no other way to describe it. Strip away the eurojargon, and the EU's fiscal compact is a despairing embrace of terminal decline. Austerity will now carry the force of law. Forget democracy, as Angela Merkel sternly warns, the European Court of Justice will now determine economic policies, and "Never will you be able to change them through a parliamentary majority."


Elsewhere, FT columnist Wolfgang Munchau - no bleeding-heart Keynesian - has described the treaty as "quite mad". He's too generous: it is wholly lunatic, economic folly on a grand, continent-wide scale. Austerity is driving Europe into a state of permanent stagnation. The crisis was not provoked by public spending, but by the collapse of the banking system and persistent trade imbalances. And yet the whole argument, at least for Europe's elites, is framed around the need for sharper and sharper spending cuts. The diagnosis is wrong, and the prescription actively dangerous. Voluntarily agreeing to it, as the 25 treaty signatories have, is suicidal.


The august gathering in Brussels has no real prospect of acting against the crisis. It is too fissiparous, and compromised by its entanglement with finance and the failed project of the euro. It has fallen back on its own path of least resistance - pay the bankers, screw society. The necessary steps are too far beyond the EU leaders' reach: a creditor-led, sovereign default for Greece and other indebted euro members; a halt to austerity; and the democratisation of financial systems, compelling banks to act in the public interest.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 11:36:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Joschka Fischer: The Chancellor Who Played with Fire (Project Syndicate)
Europe's disintegration has already advanced much further than it might appear. Distrust and national egoism are spreading rapidly, devouring European solidarity and common purpose.

Institutionally, Europe has been on the right track since the last summit, but it threatens to disintegrate from the bottom up. To save the euro - which is essential, because the European project's fate depends on the success of monetary union - Europe needs action now: in addition to indispensable austerity measures and structural reforms, there is no way to succeed without a viable economic program that will assure growth.

That won't come cheap. If Merkel's government believes that paying lip service to growth is enough, it is playing with fire: a euro collapse in which not only Germans would be badly burned.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 01:34:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 03:27:56 PM EST
BBC News - France cuts 2012 growth forecast

France has cut its growth forecast for this year to 0.5% from 1%, Prime Minister Francois Fillon has announced.

The revision was made to "take into account the deterioration of the economic situation", he said.

It comes as European leaders meet in Brussels to discuss the eurozone crisis, and are expected to focus on growth and job creation.

On Sunday, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced plans to introduce a tax on financial transactions.

The 0.1% levy, to be introduced in August, is part of a package of measures designed to promote growth, set out by Mr Sarkozy in the run-up to April's presidential election.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund revised down its forecasts for several European countries, including France. It now expects the eurozone's second biggest economy to grow by just 0.2% this year, down from 1.4%.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:00:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Spain's economy contracts by 0.3%

Spain's economy shrank by 0.3% in the last quarter of 2011 from the previous three months, official figure indicate.

The Spanish statistics office also confirmed that there had been zero growth in the third quarter.

It is widely expected that Spain will fall into recession this year, with some analysts warning that the downturn could be prolonged.

The news came as EU leaders gathered in Brussels where talks were set to focus on how to stimulate growth.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:02:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Greek shoppers look but don't buy as economic crisis bites | World news | The Guardian

In recent weeks Antonis Megoulis, who heads the national confederation of Greek commerce, has been playing spot the shopping bag.

Standing on Ermou, an Athens street that once commanded Europe's highest rents from retailers, he counted the number of shopping bags carried by passersby. "If you do it yourself you will see there are hardly any at all," he said. "Consumers are out there looking but no one is buying."

As winter sales began in Greece, Ermou was certainly bustling, but even with prices slashed by as much as 70%, cash-strapped Greeks were still more interested in window shopping than snapping up goods.

Consumers suffering wage and pension cuts, rising inflation and a recession of a severity not seen since the second world war ensured that shops had one of their worst Christmases on record, with retail sales down 30% on the previous year.

"It couldn't be worse," said Megoulis. "Our monthly surveys are shocking reads. Sales are down, businesses are closing every day and there are no signs of optimism on the horizon."

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:03:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Relax, Germans! | Presseurop (English)

for two months now Italy has been ruled by a man who, apart from these qualities, possesses a few that Merkel lacks. A certain cosmopolitanism for example, as well as profound economic expertise and the determination that comes with it.

There was some amusement in Italy when the German media tagged Mario Monti and the new ECB chief Mario Draghi as "Prussian Italians". Monti had hardly moved into the Palazzo Chigi before the pristine image of Angela Merkel began to tarnish. The luminary reduced to the role of maestrina, a somewhat narrow-minded teacher who raps the knuckles of the rebellious students in the class, never grasping that sometimes they're precisely the ones who actually have the better ideas.

When Berlusconi stepped down, to relief all round, Germany was swiftly singled out in Rome as the biggest problem for Europe. In Germany, "policies are made by the barometer of public opinion," remarked Giovanni Moro, a son of the assassinated Christain Democrat Aldo Moro. "With its rigid dogmatism Merkel's Germany is risking not only the euro but the entire Union," wrote one journalist close to Monti.

Inexorably, the feeling is getting around Rome: "We can do it differently - the Germans can't." In his first appearance before the foreign press Mario Monti rhapsodised at length about Scandinavia. The merits of the northern European countries have been overlooked by Europe for far too long. Europe need not convalesce, the message goes, strictly German-style. There are other models too.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:06:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"We can do it differently - the Germans can't."

But not in the existing EU.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 08:52:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurozone Problems - NYTimes.com

I'm giving a talk in Paris tomorrow. Here are some slides; they won't come as a shock to regular readers, but it may be useful to see them all in one place.

First, I make the case that the overall economic crisis is driven by private debt, not public debt:

Then I point to the huge swing of the private sector into financial surplus, which necessitated large public deficits to avoid a much deeper slump:

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:19:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
W.T.O. Orders China to Stop Export Taxes on Minerals - NYTimes.com
The appeals panel of the World Trade Organization ruled on Monday that China must dismantle its system of export taxes and quotas for nine widely used industrial materials.

The legal setback for Beijing could set a precedent for the West to challenge China's export restrictions on other natural resources, including rare earth metals that are crucial to many modern technologies, trade experts said.

In the closely watched case, the trade organization's Appellate Body, its highest tribunal, ruled that China distorted international trade through dozens of export policies it maintains for bauxite, zinc, yellow phosphorus and six other industrial minerals.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:20:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Forget Stocks--Chinese Turn Bullish On Booze and Caterpillar Fungus - WSJ.com

For generations, Chinese men looking for a dose of vigor have sworn by a traditional remedy: fungus harvested from dead caterpillars, known in some quarters these days as Himalayan Viagra.

Now Chinese investors are using the rare fungus to try to boost something else--their investment returns. The fungus has doubled in price over the past two years and the top grade now fetches more than $11,500 a pound, according to Fuzhou-based brokerage firm Industrial Securities.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:22:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
King of Morocco to be biggest benefactor of EU trade agreement - Telegraph

The European Parliament's committee for International Trade last week gave the green light to a new agriculture agreement that will ease restrictions on the importation of fruit and vegetables from Morocco.

But it has emerged that the single biggest beneficiary of the deal will be the King of Morocco, who is head of one of the three largest agricultural producers in the north African country and lays claim to 12,000 hectares of the nation's most fertile farmland.

Human rights groups have warned that royal estates covered with polytunnels stretch across swathes of the Dahkla region of the Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco in 1975.

They argue that the deal amounts to a breach of international law and effectively legitimises Morocco's occupation of the disputed Western Sahara region.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:25:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Anschluss Economics - The Germans Launch A Blitzkrieg on the Greek Debt Negotiations   Marshall Auerback  New Economic Perspectives

The question which has been persistently asked since the debt renegotiations started with Greece is: what will stop Portugal, Ireland, or indeed Spain from demanding the same deal? And I continue to believe that Spain is the domino which is too big to fail. Its liabilities are too big to be covered by the existing firewall established by the EFSF and ESM. An expansion of the LTRO might address the solvency/banking crisis, but not the broader problem of deficient aggregate demand, high unemployment, and rising social turmoil.

So to repeat the question: how do you preclude Portugal, Ireland and, indeed, Spain from asking for the same deal as Greece, if the negotiations succeed?

Answer; you can't. So the Germans throw a politically impossible demand in front of the Greeks, in effect saying, "No more money unless you effectively surrender your national sovereignty." And that's the implied warning ahead for the other periphery countries which look to secure the deal currently on the table for Greece.

In effect, the Germans (behind the auspices of the troika) are saying, "It's fiscal austerity on our terms. You try to renegotiate like the Greeks and we take you over. The other alternative is that you leave.".

Anschluss economics, plain and simple.

Is this too harsh an assessment? Well, when their national interests are at stake, the Germans are perfectly prepared to shed the "good European" persona and play hardball.   Think back to how the Bundesbank engineered the departure of Britain from the ERM back in the early 1990s, and you've got the template for today. By publicly suggesting that sterling was overvalued and refusing to offer support to the British pound (in contrast to its subsequent defence of the French franc), then BUBA President Helmut Schlesinger virtually assured the UK's ejection from the Exchange Rate Mechanism. Let's face it: history shows that Germany doesn't do "subtle" very well. This looks like a blitzkrieg, plain and simple. Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Italy - you have been warned.

Perhaps the title should be Anschluss by economics. Except that the point of the German demand, according to Auerbach, is to derail PSI negotiations. The periphery should not just leave but leave and form their own union with better common economic governance.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 08:49:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What are the downsides for the average 99%er if:

  1. Greece defaults?

  2. The EU goes kaput?

All this nonsense sounds like a means to enslave populations without firing a shot. Like neutron bombs ... kill the flesh, spare the property.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 07:24:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Guardian: Who came up with the model for excessive pay? No, it wasn't the bankers - it was academics (Aditya Chakrabortty)
The usual criticism of economists is that they missed the crisis: they preferred their models to reality, and those models took no account of the mischief that could be caused by bankers running wild. Of all explanations, this is the most comforting; all academics need to do next time, presumably, is look a little harder - ideally with a grant from the taxpayer.

But economists didn't just fail to spot the financial crisis - they helped create it. They provided the intellectual framework and drew up the policies that helped caused the boom - and the bust. Yet rather than a full-blown investigation, their active involvement in this crisis and their motivations have barely got a look-in. As Philip Mirowski, one of the world's leading historians of economic thought, puts it: "The bankers have got off the hook, and gone back to business as usual - and so too have the economists." It's the same discipline that spoke all that nonsense about markets always being efficient that is now deciding how to reform the economy.

A few weeks ago, I described the current economic system as a bankocracy run by the banks, for the banks. Mainstream economists play the role of a secularised priesthood, explaining to the laity just how and why the markets' will must be done. Why are they doing this? Luigi Zingales, an economist at Chicago, calls it "economists' capture". Much of the blame for the financial crisis has fallen on regulators for being captured by the bankers, and seeing the world from their point of view. The same thing, he believes, has happened to academics. When Zingales looked at the 150 most downloaded academic papers on executive pay he found that those arguing that bosses should get more (à la Jensen and Murphy) were 55% more likely to get published in the top journals.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 06:13:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 03:28:00 PM EST
Syria army digs in after retaking Damascus suburbs | World news | The Guardian

Syrian forces remain heavily deployed in parts of Damascus that were controlled by rebel forces over the weekend after launching a counterattack to reinforce the increasingly vulnerable capital.

Opposition groups, spearheaded by the irregular forces of the Free Syrian Army claim to have made a tactical withdrawal from the areas, mainly on Damascus's northen outskirts, and have vowed to mount more guerrilla-style operations as their campaign against President Bashar al-Assad's regime enters a new phase.

They say the aim of the weekend forays was to demonstrate the capital was no longer an impregnable regime stronghold, but buffeted from the escalating violence rife in many of Syria's other towns and cities.

The soaring death toll in Damascus and across the country suggests the fighting has indeed reached levels rarely witnessed during the 10-month uprising.

More than 60 people, including loyalist troops, are believed to have been killed nationwide on Sunday and at least 30 more deaths were reported by early afternoon on Monday as both sides stepped up offensives.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 04:58:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Clinton to attend U.N. meeting on Syria - The Washington Post

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the escalation of Syrian government attacks on opposition protesters, and said she would attend a U.N. Security Council meeting on the subject Tuesday.

The Security Council is due to discuss a proposal by the Arab League that calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside during a political transition, a plan similar to the Arab-backed initiative that eased Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh from power.

Russia has already indicated it would not support the proposal, and would reject a Western-backed resolution calling for additional economic sanctions against Syria.

Moscow has offered to mediate talks between the Assad government and the Syrian opposition, and said Monday that the government had agreed to participate. The Syrian National Council, a leading opposition group, rejected the proposal over the weekend.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 04:59:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sea trafficking report reveals how ships move guns and drugs | World news | guardian.co.uk

Most ships involved in reported cases of sanctions-busting or illicit transfers of arms, drugs and equipment that could be used in the development of missiles and weapons of mass destruction are owned by companies based in the world's richest countries, according to the first comprehensive study of maritime trafficking.

The ships are primarily commercial lines based in Germany, Greece and the US, according to the report, released on Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

"This doesn't mean the ship owners, or even the captains, know what they are carrying. But it is relatively easy for traffickers to hide arms and drugs in among legitimate cargoes," said the report's co-author Hugh Griffiths.

The report shows that the methods adopted by arms trafficking networks in response to UN embargos on Iran and North Korea were pioneered by drug traffickers.

They included hiding goods in sealed shipping containers that claim to carry legitimate items; sending the goods on foreign-owned ships engaged in legitimate trade; and using circuitous routes to make the shipments harder for surveillance operations to track.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:23:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Senegal's top court upholds Wade poll bid - Africa - Al Jazeera English

Senegal's highest court has confirmed its approval of incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade's bid to seek a third term in next month's election, as opposition leaders vowed to continue "national resistance".

The Constitutional Council, appointed by 85-year-old Wade and known as the "five wise men", late on Sunday confirmed its ruling from Friday that declared the president's candidacy valid.

The court said a series of appeals against its ruling were "unfounded", also rejecting Wade's own challenge against the inclusion of three other opposition candidates.

The top court also turned down an appeal by music icon Youssou N'Dour against its rejection of his candidacy on the basis that he had not provided enough supporting signatures.

Meanwhile,  Senegal's opposition rallied the nation to a fresh protest on Tuesday to force President Wade to scrap his candidacy for a controversial third term which has already sparked deadly riots.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:24:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
allAfrica.com: Nigeria: No Dialogue Until FG Adopts Sharia, Says Boko Haram

The leadership of the dreaded Boko Haram, has rejected the olive branch that the Federal Government extended to it, vowing to continue its attacks, until the country adopts the Sharia legal system.

President Goodluck Jonathan had urged members of the group to come forward with its grouse to government so it would be to work out an agreement that would foster peace in the country especially in the wake of ceaseless attacks by the group on key government and private institutions, particularly in the northern part of the country.

The President in an interview session with a cable news media, Reuters at the Presidential Villa on Thursday said, "If they clearly identify themselves now and say this is the reason why we are resisting, this is the reason why we are confronting government or this is the reason why we destroyed some innocent people and their properties, why not."

His (President Jonathan's) position came as a result of the inability of the security agents, especially military personnel that have been deployed to the various flashpoints in the north to bring the activities of the group to a halt.

Reacting to the gesture, spokesman of the group, Abu Qaqa told a British Newspaper, the Guardian in an interview monitored in Lagos that Boko Haram will continue its attacks until the government succumbs to its demand.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:24:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Israel tops cyber-readiness poll but China lags behind

Israel, Finland and Sweden are seen as leading the way in "cyber-readiness", according to a major new security report.

The McAfee-backed cyberdefence survey deemed China, Brazil and Mexico as being among the least able to defend themselves against emerging attacks.

The rank is based on leading experts' perception of a nation's defences.

The report concluded that greater sharing of information globally is necessary to keep ahead of threats.

It also suggests giving more power to law enforcement to fight cross-border crime.

The UK, with a grading of four out of five, ranks favourably in the survey - along with the USA, Germany, Spain and France. 'Subjective view'

The rankings are based on the perceived quality of a country's cyber-readiness - the ability to cope with a range of threats and attacks.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:24:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FYI, in the defense world, "cyber" means "cyber security." Illiteracy is spreading...
by asdf on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 09:46:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Colombia Reports: A recent testimony by former paramilitary leader "Don Berna" has given weight to the allegation that the government of Alvaro Uribe plotted with paramilitaries to discredit the Supreme Court, said the high court's former president Monday. "Time has proven us right," Judge Jaime Arrubla told Caracol Radio. "There was a real conspiracy against the Supreme Court of Justice. We knew this was going on. It broke under my presidency and it has become clear that the court was victim to wiretapping, the shadowing of magistrates and the illegal spying of financial activities by [financial intelligence unit] UIAF."
More HERE.

MercoPress: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has called for a presidential summit of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of our America, ALBA, for next February 5 in Caracas when it is expected Chavez will insist in the creation of an economic block.

The Independent: Parents leading a campaign for Argentina's 'Disappeared' have been hit by a huge corruption scandal. Simeon Tegel reports: ...More than 60 people are facing charges, including the daughter of the Mothers' main driving force, Hebe de Bonafini, in connection with alleged fraud and kickbacks over multi-million pound government contracts to build social housing for the country's poor. The scandal has also laid bare the group's cozy relationship with the populist left-wing government of Cristina Kirchner.

LIMA - The death toll has risen to 27 in the fire that erupted on the weekend at a center for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts in the Peruvian capital.

HAVANA (AP) -- Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff began a tour of Cuba on Monday in a visit emphasizing trade and economic cooperation.

TEGUCIGALPA, Jan 30, 2012 (IPS) - Last Friday marked two years since the inauguration of Porfirio Lobo as president of Honduras, amidst accusations of corruption, an unprecedented crime wave, and his lowest approval rating yet.
... And in case you missed it: Dana Frank Tells it Like it is in Honduras.

LIMA - The magnitude-6.2 earthquake that struck southern Peru's Ica region early Monday left 119 people injured and damaged 16 homes, authorities said. The regional emergency services director, Cesar Chonate, said that the majority of injuries were from blows, cuts and bruises and arose from the desperation of people to get out of their homes when the quake struck.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 08:21:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 03:28:45 PM EST
No need for further regulation on shale gas: EU study | EurActiv

There is no need for more environmental legislation in the case of shale gas exploration, at least until it reaches commercial scale, says a new study published by the European Commission.

The activities relating to exploration of shale gas are already subject to EU and national laws and regulations, says the report, carried out for the European Commission by Belgian law firm Philippe & Partners.

Water protection issues, for instance, which have been raised as an issue by shale gas detractors, are already covered by EU legislation under the Water Framework Directive, the Groundwater Directive and the Mining Waste Directive. Meanwhile, the use of chemicals is covered by the REACH regulation, the study says.

"It is a new technology and we do not have a specific legislation on shale gas, because it is so new," said Marlene Holzner, European Commission spokesperson on energy.

"So the study only says that the existing regulations are applicable for shale gas, that the tool is there and has only to be applied," she told EurActiv, adding that the study was carried out only in four countries - Poland, France, Germany and Sweden. It was released on 27 January.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:32:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oil&Gas: Record interest in Barents Sea | Oil & Gas/Shipping

The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy has received proposals from 37 companies regarding blocks which the companies wish to see included in the 22nd licensing round.

A total of 228 blocks and partial blocks have been nominated in the 22nd licensing round, 107 of which were nominated by two or more companies. Some 181 blocks in the Barents Sea have been nominated, the highest-ever number.


- In this round of nominations, particular interest has been shown in our northernmost sea areas, confirming that the Barents Sea is an exciting and internationally attractive petroleum province. This represents major opportunities for the entire region. Exploration in all of the areas which have been opened up is also very important for ensuring further activity, employment and ripple effects throughout Norway, says Minister of Petroleum and Energy Ola Borten Moe.

The oil companies have now submitted their views regarding which blocks they consider interesting. The period leading up to the announcement of blocks will be used to draw up a list of blocks which may potentially be included in the announcement. The list will be the subject of a public consultation during which all public interest bodies will be invited to comment. The government will then undertake a holistic evaluation before deciding which blocks will be included in the announcement.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:33:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Power paradox: Clean might not be green forever - environment - 30 January 2012 - New Scientist

There is a fundamental problem facing any planet-bound civilisation, as Eric Chaisson of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, points out. Whatever you use energy for, it almost all ends up as waste heat.

Much of the electrical energy that powers your mobile phone or computer ends up heating the circuitry, for instance. The rest gets turned into radio waves or light, which turn into heat when they are absorbed by other surfaces. The same is true when you use a mixer in the kitchen, or a drill, or turn on a fan - unless you're trying to beam radio signals to aliens, pretty much all of the energy you use will end up heating the Earth.

We humans use a little over 16 terawatts (TW) of power at any one moment, which is nothing compared with the 120,000 TW of solar power absorbed by the Earth at the same time. What matters, though, is the balance between how much heat arrives and how much leaves (see "Earth's energy budget"). If as much heat leaves the top of the atmosphere as enters, a planet's temperature remains the same. If more heat arrives, or less is lost, the planet will warm. As it does so, it will begin to emit more and more heat until equilibrium is re-established at a higher temperature.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:33:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Volcanic origin for Little Ice Age

The Little Ice Age was caused by the cooling effect of massive volcanic eruptions, and sustained by changes in Arctic ice cover, scientists conclude.

An international research team studied ancient plants from Iceland and Canada, and sediments carried by glaciers.

They say a series of eruptions just before 1300 lowered Arctic temperatures enough for ice sheets to expand.

Writing in Geophysical Research Letters, they say this would have kept the Earth cool for centuries.

The exact definition of the Little Ice Age is disputed. While many studies suggest temperatures fell globally in the 1500s, others suggest the Arctic and sub-Arctic began cooling several centuries previously.

The global dip in temperatures was less than 1C, but parts of Europe cooled more, particularly in winter, with the River Thames in London iced thickly enough to be traversable on foot.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:33:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
British zoos put on alert over rising threat of rhino rustlers - Nature - Environment - The Independent

British zoos have been warned their rhinos may be attacked by poachers because of the soaring value of their horns in the Asian medicine market.

After a rumour that it could cure cancer, the horn is now worth more than $40,000 a kilo, and gangs have been breaking into museums and auction rooms in Britain and Europe to steal trophy rhinoceros heads. The fear is zoos - and live rhinos - may be next.

In an unprecedented alert, all 15 British zoos and wildlife and safari parks which hold rhinos - they have 85 animals between them - have been warned by the National Wildlife Crime Unit to tighten security and report anything suspicious to the police at once.

"We have warned British zoos to be on their guard against the possibility of being targeted by criminals seeking rhino horn," said the head of the unit, Detective Inspector Brian Stuart.

Concern is growing that criminals will try to break into a British zoo at night, kill or tranquillise rhinos, and cut off the horns. The potential profits might be very tempting, as a single big horn could weigh more than 5kg and be worth more than $200,000.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:34:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BP loses attempt to share Deepwater Horizon oil spill costs | Environment | The Guardian

An attempt by BP to offload a major part of its Gulf of Mexico oil-spill compensation bill on to the US rig operator Transocean has been thrown out by a US court.

The setback comes in the run-up to the main legal case against BP and its partners on 27 February in New Orleans, which will rule over who is to blame for the Deepwater Horizon accident, in which 11 workers died.

Shares in the oil group fell 2.7% after a federal judge upheld a clause in the drilling contract that shielded Transocean from having to pay compensation for livelihoods damaged by the Macondo blowout in 2010.

But the district judge, Carl Barbier, left open the possibility that Transocean might still have to pay punitive damages or civil penalties imposed by the US government under the federal Clean Water Act.

BP put a positive gloss on the court decision. "Today's ruling makes clear that contractors will be held accountable for their actions under the law," said a company spokesman.

"While all official investigations have concluded that Transocean played a causal role in the accident, the contractor has long contended it is fully indemnified by BP for the liabilities resulting from the oil spill. The court rejected this view."

Transocean, whose shares rose 9.3%, claimed victory.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:34:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 03:28:50 PM EST
BBC News - Megaupload users face data deletion US prosecutors warn

US prosecutors have said that data belonging to Megaupload users and stored by third parties could be deleted as soon as Thursday.

Users have been unable to access data since the file-sharing service was raided.

The warning was made in a letter filed by the US Attorney's Office.

Megaupload's lawyer Ira Rothken told the Associated Press that at least 50 million users had data which could be deleted.

Mr Rothken said that freezing of Megaupload's funds meant it was unable to pay those who were storing its data.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:37:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
to the cloud....not

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 03:14:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Many of these files were legitimate personal collections of photos, work, and such.

So people will be somewhat pissed off if (when) they disappear.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 05:29:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And presumably they contain data that might be relevant to the investigation. Is this really how law enforcement works?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 05:42:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]

They don't need no steenkin' investigation. The IFPI said they were pirating, and now now they've shut down their business model and burnt their customers.

What would we need an investigation for?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 05:51:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is that Megaupload was buying server space from various third parties, and it has now stopped paying those third parties. So the third parties are pulling the plug on the data.

While there was some obvious piracy, I have no idea how significant it was in the business model compared to plain vanilla storage.

It would be plausible for prosecutors to force the third parties to keep the data, because all of it could be considered evidence.

Then again, they may feel they have enough evidence already.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 06:22:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So if it's not needed for the investigation, why not let the customers have access to their data? (JakeS already answered that....)
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 06:58:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why don't Google's or Apple's cloud services buy that data from Megaupload?

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 07:03:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because neither are simple cloud storage services.

iCloud is actually more of a synchronisation service. So far as I can work out, most files (excluding photos) only live on the server while they're being synced across devices. Photos only live on the server for a maximum of 30 days.

(I don't really understand how this is supposed to help users. Most people have a storage metaphor that assumes data won't just disappear after a set period, so this model makes no sense.)

Some of the stored files are huge, and iCloud offers a maximum of 50GB for $100 a year.

You could set up a web hosting service for less than that, and store more files via FTP with optional web access.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 08:26:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Piracy enabling was integral to their business model. Most of their revenue came from advertising on shared-link pages; payments from subscribers using file-sharing was a minor part.

They were careful not to directly link copyright material (the links came from parasite linking sites), but they were also exceedingly careful not to delete copyright material when contacted by copyright holders. They would only delete the link identified by the copyright holder; popular files had multiple links, and were only deleted when no links were left.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 10:34:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Looking around online, I find that a similar sounding company, Rapidshare, was acquitted in a US court last year. Presumably they avoided doing some of things you describe.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 01:58:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There haven't been convictions here either. Nonetheless their business is dead irrespective of the final outcome.
I'm still suspect the whole mess is intended to placate the MPAA over the failed SOPA bill.

I don't think Rapidshare offers money for frequent downloaded files. Neither does Mediafire. So that is a difference.

RapidShare - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Before 1 July 2010 there was a rewards program that allowed the user to trade "RapidPoints" for a selection of products depending on the number of points the user had collected. On June 18, 2010, RapidShare announced that it would stop this program along with RapidDonations on July 1, 2010, to avoid the impression it rewarded its users for uploading copyrighted material.[7]
by generic on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 03:26:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Resistant Bacteria: Antibiotics Prove Powerless as Super-Germs Spread - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

The pathogens thrive in warm, moist environments. They feel comfortable in people's armpits, in the genital area and in the nasal mucous membranes. Their hunting grounds are in the locker rooms of schools and universities, as well as in the communal showers of prisons and health clubs.

OAS_RICH('Middle2'); The bacteria are transmitted via the skin, through towels, clothing or direct body contact. All it takes is a small abrasion to provide them with access to a victim's bloodstream. Festering pustules develop at the infection site, at which point the pathogens are also capable of corroding the lungs. If doctors wait too long, patients can die very quickly.

This is precisely what happened to Ashton Bonds, a 17-year-old student at Staunton River High School in Bedford County, in the US state of Virginia. Ashton spent a week fighting for his life -- and lost. This is probably what also happened to Omar Rivera, a 12-year-old in New York, who doctors sent home because they thought he was exhibiting allergy symptoms. He died that same night.

The same thing almost happened at a high school in the town of Belen, New Mexico. Less than two weeks ago, a cheerleader at the school was hospitalized after complaining about an abscess. Twelve other female students had been afflicted with suspicious rashes. All the students tested positive for a bacterium that the US media has dubbed the "superbug."

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:37:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From the link:

In fact, the carelessness with which doctors and farmers are jeopardizing the effectiveness of one of the most important groups of drugs borders on lunacy.

20 years too late, assholes.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 07:35:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And "over the counter" antibiotics in India!?  Insane. I'm surprised to note that German farmers can give their animals antibiotics without evidence of illness. I just pictured EU countries as being more sanely regulated that that.

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher
by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 03:23:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When it comes to animal antibiotics, there's a world to win. My impression is that policies differ per country. From what I hear, Denmark has a far stricter policy.

Reports of resistant bacteria strains in farm animals regularly are popping up. So far, these bacteria are not transferred from human to human - but when Dutch farmers are found with a resistant bacteria, they now are quarantined in the Dutch hospitals.

by Nomad on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 03:58:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Antibiotics are a standard ingredient in commercial animal feed.  Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) which, in the US, means all chicken, all eggs, all turkey, and most hog and beef you find in the grocery store could not exist without massive and regular doses of Tetracycline.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Jan 31st, 2012 at 12:25:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Social networks vow to partner with citizens' initiatives | EurActiv

Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social networking sites will support European citizens' initiatives that will be launched starting 1 April, corporate representatives said during a conference in Brussels last week.

The internet will be crucial for ordinary citizens wanting to launch an initiative and willing to gather one million signatures across at least seven countries.

"Social networks can be the partners to facilitate the match between the political world, this initiative and the internet," said Erika Mann, former MEP and current Facebook managing director for EU affairs, told the 26 January conference.

However, citizens should not expect that social networks will create tailored platforms for each initiative. "Initiators should be platform-agnostic if they want to reach out to one million people," argued Google's director for public policy, Simon Hampton.

The major test is not the platform per se, but whether citizens feel really committed to push the initiative forward.

"Outside of Europe citizens, actions have changed things. It is up to the European Commission and the citizens of Europe to change things here," Hampton said, referring to the Arab spring and how citizens empowered themselves to make a drastic change in their political system using the internet and social networks as tools.

Internet experts, however, made the point that online marketing of ideas will be crucial in order to spread the buzz about initiatives in the making.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:37:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Glassmakers of Murano fight to survive influx of cheap imitations | World news | guardian.co.uk

"It's like watching a choreographed ballet," says Francesco da Mosto, a Venetian architect who also works as TV presenter. "There is poetry and beauty in the way they work and in their supreme craftsmanship, which has been fine-tuned over the centuries and down through the generations."

Da Mosto is describing the master glassmakers of Murano, an island in the Venetian lagoon. These workers are heirs to a decorative tradition that goes back to at least the 13th century, and which is now in danger.

Recent months have seen a flurry of protests and initiatives as the recession presents yet another challenge for an industry already under siege.

Since 1990, the size of the workforce has shrunk from about 6,000 to less than 1,000.

Last December, on the feast day of Saint Nicholas - the patron saint of Murano glassmakers - about 70% took part in a half-day strike to demand that their employers make changes. The workers were also calling for a plan to revive the industry. Since then numerous solutions have been proposed.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:37:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Japan population to shrink by one-third by 2060

The Japanese population is expected to shrink by one third in the next half century, a government report says.

The Health and Welfare ministry estimates that 40% of the population will be of retirement age by 2060.

It says that life expectancy - already one of the highest in the world - will continue to rise.

Correspondents say the report presents a grim picture for Japan at a time when it urgently needs to overhaul its social security and tax systems.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has pledged to push through a reform programme this year.

But his political opponents say his plan requires higher taxes than are currently proposed.

The government report says that by 2060, Japan will have 87 million people, down from today's 128 million.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:37:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 03:28:53 PM EST
BBC News - Uggie the dog to retire, says trainer

Uggie, the canine star of Oscar-nominated hit The Artist, is to retire, his trainer has said.

Omar von Muller told Life and Style magazine he was hanging up his collar because the 10-year-old Jack Russell terrier was "getting tired".

"He may do a couple of little things here and there because he enjoys them, but I don't want to put him through long hours anymore," he said.

It is thought Uggie will make his final appearance at the Oscars.

"I hope he gets to go," said von Muller. "They should give him an envelope to bring to Billy Crystal."

The canine plays the best friend of fading matinee idol George Valentin, played by Jean Dujardin in The Artist.

by Nomad on Mon Jan 30th, 2012 at 05:39:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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