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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 7 February

by Nomad Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 01:17:59 PM EST

 A Daily Review Of International Online Media 

Europeans on this date in history:

1478 - birth of Sir Thomas More, an English lawyer, social philosopher, statesman, author of the controversial book Utopia and noted Renaissance humanist. (d. 1535)

More here and here

 The European Salon is a daily selection of news items to which you are invited to contribute. Post links to news stories that interest you, or just your comments. Come in and join us!

The Salon has different rooms or sections for your enjoyment. If you would like to join the discussion, then to add a link or comment to a topic or section, please click on "Reply to this" in one of the following sections:

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  • LIVING OFF THE PLANET - is about the environment, energy, agriculture, food...
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  • PEOPLE AND KLATSCH - this is the place for stories about people and of course also for gossipy items. But it's also there for open discussion at any time.
by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 01:19:56 PM EST
BBC News - Romania spy chief nominated to replace PM Emil Boc

Romania's president has nominated the country's intelligence service chief as prime minister hours after Emil Bloc resigned amid austerity protests.

"The ruling coalition agreed to appoint Mihai Razvan Ungureanu as prime minister designate," President Traian Basescu said in a statement.

The nomination now requires approval by Romania's parliament.

Mr Boc said he was stepping down to "defuse political and social tension" in the face of three weeks of protests.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, he said he had given up the government's mandate as "it is the moment for important political decisions".

Although Romania's economy grew last year, the government has been hit by widespread demonstrations.

Mr Boc has imposed a 25% cut in public sector wages and a freeze on pensions.

Sales tax was also increased to 24%, in a country seen as Europe's second poorest.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 02:56:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Europe's governments are running out of options | World news | The Guardian

For the governments of Europe in the midst of the EU's worst-ever crisis, it is getting increasingly difficult to reconcile internationally ordained austerity packages with popular acquiescence in spending cuts, job losses and slashed budgets.

Whether using the euro or not, governments from the Baltic to the Balkans are struggling to stay in office while implementing the savage savings programmes dictated by technocrats from Brussels, Washington and Frankfurt.

The Romanian government's fall on Monday after weeks of civil unrest in Bucharest is but the latest example. In Greece, another uneasy coalition may be falling apart as it balks at meeting the severe terms of the troika of the European commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) needed to secure a second €130bn (£108bn) bailout in time to redeem a large tranche of its debt next month.

Athens will again be seething with rage on Tuesday as two of the biggest unions stage a 24-hour general strike. Trapped between the demands of their constituency and the dictates of international creditors, governments and political leaders all across Europe are running out of options.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:07:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...governments and political leaders all across Europe are running out of options.

Baloney. There are plenty of options. They could raise tax rates, or start collecting the taxes already due, or change the things they tax. They could move responsibility for social welfare programs to a federal body where the money is controlled. They could tell the banks to take a hike. They could tell the people to take a hike.

What they are running out of is options that will allow the currently-in-power to retain their power and their heads.

by asdf on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 12:15:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ex-ForMin, current Foreign Intelligence chief Mihai Razvan Ungureanu designated new Romania prime-minister - Top News - HotNews.ro
Former Foreign minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, who's been serving as chief of the Foreign Intelligence Service, has been designated new prime minister of Romania following Emil Boc's withdrawal on Monday. Ungureanu said today that his key objective for the moment was the quick formation of a new government and pointed out his ideological options "were always Right-leaning".

Mihai Razvan Ungureanu said on Monday that serving as PM was a great responsibility that he undertook and that he had the experience of two institutions which, under his management, modernized and improved their performance - the Foreign Ministry and the Foreign Intelligence Service.

He said his political independence provided the necessary grounds for him to fulfill his term and promised to continue reform.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:13:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC "journalists" think Romania is an American state, with "sales tax"?

Boc raised a European tax called VAT to 24%.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 04:22:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Former spy boss moves to Deutsche Bank - The Local

Ernst Uhrlau, former head of Germany's foreign intelligence agency the BND, has been on the payroll of Germany's biggest bank since the start of February, just two months after his retirement.

A spokesman for the bank on Sunday confirmed a report in Der Spiegel news magazine that the former intelligence chief is now working as a freelance "global risk analyst" at the bank, and that this new job had been cleared by the Ronald Pofalla, chief of staff at the German chancellery.

The 65-year-old Uhrlau retired at the end of last year, when he reached the age limit for his office at the BND. He spent six years as president of the overseas intelligence agency and was also secret service coordinator for the German government.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 04:16:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Deep freeze tightens grip across Europe

The Arctic conditions sweeping Europe have tightened their grip, with more deaths reported in Poland and Ukraine, taking the toll to well over 200.

Polish authorities said nine people had died in the last 24 hours.

An EU official denied there was an emergency as a result of a drop in Russian gas supplies to member states.

But Italy's economic development minister described the situation in the country - where some 60,000 households are without power - as "critical".

Overnight in Poland temperatures reportedly dropped to beneath -30C.

Ukraine's government has said that the country's death toll stands at least 130.

Many of those who died from hypothermia there were homeless people living on the streets, officials said.

In parts of Italy, temperatures dropped to their lowest levels for years, with -10C recorded in Milan and heavy snow closing Rome's Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

A total of 17 people have died since the plunging temperatures began in Italy, with eight dead on Sunday alone.

Economic Development Minister Corrado Passera said gas flows were being closely monitored after demand in the country reached all-time highs following a sixth straight day of limited gas supplies from Russia.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 02:56:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Eight killed in Bulgarian floods as European cold snap continues | World news | The Guardian

Europe's bitterly cold weather has killed another 33 people, and melting snow caused a dam wall to break and flood a village in Bulgaria.

Four people drowned when the dam flooded the village of Bisser, in southern Bulgaria, after heavy rain and snow melting. Four more people died in Bulgarian floods when their cars were swept away by high waters.

"There are demolished houses and people in distress," the interior ministry said. Bulgaria warned neighbouring Greece and Turkey that two other dams were expected to overflow later on Monday.

Gas supplies to the European Union from Russia improved at the weekend but had not fully recovered, the European commission said, as Italy convened a crisis committee to handle what it called critical shortages of Russian gas.

Nine more people died in Poland, bringing the total to 62 since the end of January. Temperatures fell to -24C at night in north-eastern parts of the country.

In Croatia's Dalmatia region, more than 100 villages were cut off by snow, but rescuers reached some people on Sunday. In one village, a woman gave birth in her house with the help of a neighbour while a midwife from a nearby town gave them instructions by telephone. "The baby girl is fine and beautiful and I'll probably name her Snow White, given the circumstances," the mother, Marta Glavota, told the 24sata news website.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 02:57:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Gas price rises as freezing weather bites across Europe

The price of gas around Europe has risen sharply due to increased demand as a result of the cold weather.

UK gas for next day delivery reached 93 pence per therm, the highest for more than six years.

It marks a rise of 24% in the UK price since Friday.

In addition, Italy has decided to ration the supply of gas to industrial customers after receiving insufficient gas from Russia to meet high levels of demand.

Prices have soared even higher in France, which is struggling to meet demand, reaching the equivalent of almost £1.02 per therm.

Companies supplying residential customers rarely buy gas on the next day market. But it is relied upon by some big commercial users.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:02:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
DutchNews.nl - 'Cautious' optimism about 11-city skating race, but will it thaw?

There is a `cautious chance' that the famous Frisian 11-city skating race or Elfstedentocht will be held in the current cold snap, Wiebe Wieling, chairman of the race association, told a news conference on Monday morning.

The ice in the north of the province is `fantastic' but still not good enough in the south, Wieling said. 'That gives us cause for concern,' Wieling said.

The association is now looking at possible alternative routes. `But at the moment we are far from the necessary 15 cm of ice. In some places it is far too thin,' Wieling is reported as saying by news agency ANP.


According to the Telegraaf, hundreds of volunteers have been roped in to clear snow from the surface of the ice in an effort to promote thicker ice. Up to one third of the route will have to be cleared by hand, the paper says.

The ice needs to be at least eight centimetres thick to support machine-driven ice clearing equipment.

The 22 local ice association chiefs met on Sunday evening to discuss the prospects. There have been 15 of the grueling 200 kilometre races since the event first took place in 1909.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:02:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Russian people need more power, Putin says - RUSSIA - FRANCE 24

Russia must give its people more political power but should not hastily follow foreign recipes for democracy, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in an article published on Monday, a month before a presidential election he is expected to win.

Facing the biggest opposition protests of his 12-year rule as he prepares to return to the Kremlin, Putin acknowledged in a front-page article in the daily Kommersant that many Russians want a stronger voice.

But he announced no new electoral reform initiatives, signaling he intends to move cautiously in a six-year term and keep a firm grip on the political system he has dominated since he was first elected president in 2000.

"Our society today is completely different than it was at the start of the 2000s. Many people are becoming wealthier, better educated and more demanding," Putin wrote, taking credit for economic improvements since he came to power.

"Our civil society has become incomparably more mature, active and responsible," the former KGB spy wrote. "We need to renew the mechanisms of our democracy - they need to catch up to growing public activity."

However, he added: "Real democracy is not created in an instant and cannot be copied from an external model."

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:10:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
People need more money meaning more equality...and that's the case everywhere. For this to be done people do need more power...How to get there with politicians already in place??? Can they change over night with enough pressure put on them?

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 08:40:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Norway gunman asks to be released - NORWAY - FRANCE 24

The Norway gunman who killed 77 people in twin attacks in July asked an Oslo court on Monday to release him immediately, saying his massacre was a "preventive attack against state traitors."

"I do not accept imprisonment. I demand to be immediately released," Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old right-wing extremist, told the Oslo court that was convened for a hearing on his detention.

Hollow laughter erupted in the rows where survivors and families of the victims were seated, when Behring Breivik twice demanded his immediate release.

The July 22 massacre was "a preventive attack against state traitors" committed to "defend the ethnic Norwegian population," he told the court.

Behring Breivik, who has claimed to be on a crusade against multi-culturalism and the "Muslim invasion" of Europe, set off a car bomb outside government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people.

He then went to Utoeya island, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) northwest of Oslo, and, dressed as a police officer, spent more than an hour methodically shooting and killing another 69 people, mainly teens, attending a summer camp hosted by the ruling Labour Party's youth wing.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:11:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sarkozy's playing dirty, says leader who's soaring in polls (but can't get on the ballot) - Europe - World - The Independent

President Nicolas Sarkozy's chances of re-election this spring will boom if the far right candidate, Marine Le Pen, is locked out of the race, according to a poll published yesterday.

The poll triggered claims from the far right of an "undemocratic" conspiracy by Mr Sarkozy's party, the UMP, to deny Ms Le Pen the 500 official signatures needed to make the first round ballot on 22 April. So far, the National Front (NF) leader has 352 promises from village mayors and elected officials and is struggling to find new sponsors before a 16 March deadline, despite almost 20 per cent support in the polls.

At a rally in Toulose last night, Ms Le Pen said she would not let the "clique" of mainstream parties give her "lessons on democracy...It's not me they're scared of. It's you, the French people, that they are trying to silence."

Centre-right and Socialist politicians said Ms Le Pen was not gathering signatures due to "extreme" and "absurd" statements and xenophobic and anti-European policies. Others claimed she was lying about the number of sponsors in order to seem a "victim of the system".

A poll for the Journal du Dimanche found yesterday that Mr Sarkozy would draw level with Socialist front-runner, François Hollande, if Ms Le Pen was barred from the race. Without her name on the ballot paper, the poll found Mr Sarkozy and Mr Hollande would each attract 33 per cent of the first round vote. If the far right was present, Mr Hollande would score 29.5 per cent, Mr Sarkozy 24.5 per cent and Ms Le Pen 19 per cent.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:12:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Front National plays this victimisation game for the 500 signatures every presidential election. It's a tried and tested way of appearing to be the anti-establishment candidate that the big parties want to silence.

Le Pen will be on the ballot.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 04:20:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by das monde on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 08:24:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurointelligence Daily Briefing: High noon, postponed
Talks to finalise the terms of the next Greek austerity programme have been postponed until today; Kathimerini has the outlines of a deal of €2.5bn: €1.1bn in health care cuts and further cuts in public investments; €850m are still to be agreed; minimum wage is cut by 20-20%, and labour regulation is relaxed; 15,000 administrative workers will lose their jobs;as part of a plan to reduce state employment by 150,000; Germany and France also propose the creation of an escrow account, earmarked for bond repayments, so that they can withhold future funds from Greece without triggering a default; Paul Krugman says the required Greek adjustment is too extreme, and cannot conceivably work; Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy criticise Francois Hollande's threat not to respect the fiscal treaty; Arnaud Leparmentier says Sarkozy wrongly pretends that he is leading Europe, while Merkel wrongly pretends the opposite; Bild explains to its readers why Sarkozy admires Merkel so much; Germany's SPD decided to campaign in favour of Hollande;the French current account deficit reaches 3.6% in 2011; the SPD is going to run the 2013 election campaign with an anti-finance agenda; Jean Pisani-Ferry says eurozone fiscal strategy might work, but requires a measured implementation of fiscal targets, and significant monetary policy support; Joseph Stiglitz accuses the ECB of pandering towards vested interests.

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 04:30:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany and France have found another way to take away Greek sovereignty

France and Germany have come up with another torture instruments for the Greeks

This is fundamentally a story about mistrust. Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy are worried that a new Greek government might squander the funds of a second rescue programme. For that reason, they are now proposing to create a special escrow fund, earmarked to pay off Greek debt holders. This would enable them to withhold funds from Greece, without triggering an automatic default, the FT reports. It is hard to see why Greece should accept this. The article said the plan had the backing of the European Commission. Germany came up with this idea after the angry rejection of its proposal of a fiscal Kommissar. The article quotes a senior French official as saying: "This is a better idea than the proposal of a debt commissar...It is more acceptable.

France and Germany finally make it absolutely transparent that the "Greek rescue" is not a rescue of Greece, but using Greece as a conduit ro give money to their banks.

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 04:32:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is official. EU will be (a) paying off the banks directly (b) adding these sums to Greece's debt (c) screw Greece's GDP into the ground.

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 04:40:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
France, Germany press for Greek debt escrow account
One French source said the idea, floated by Germany, was for funds from a planned second 130 billion euro bailout program for Greece to be siphoned off to reassure bondholders that future payments were guaranteed.

The scheme, which was only at a preliminary stage, was to demonstrate that debt payments were being given priority in Greece's budget, the French source said.

Greece, which has repeatedly failed to meet fiscal targets set out by its international lenders, had reacted angrily to German calls for the appointment of a "budget commissioner," saying it would be undermine national sovereignty.

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 04:46:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If only the debtor nations had told Merkozy to stuff it on day zero and forced them to bail out their banks things would be a lot better now.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 05:22:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Would they just bail out their fucking banks already? What is wrong with these people?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 05:21:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Greece is a braindead pregnant incest rape victim kept on life support by its rapist family so the pregnancy comes to term.

That's what's wrong with these people.

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 05:44:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I mean, seriously, this is what passes for "European Solidarity" these days:Euro Group President Jean-Claude Juncker: If Greece Doesn't Reform, 'It Can't Expect Solidarity'.

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 05:46:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany came up with this idea after the angry rejection of its proposal of a fiscal Kommissar.

That was a serious proposal? Really? I've been busy and sort of assumed it was one of those things floated by someone semi-connected.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 05:28:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, it's been considered a German diplomatic failure by overreach.

Now, as people don't know what "escrow" means, but they do know what "kommissar" means, they are hoping the new idea will fly.

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 05:43:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
sort of assumed it was one of those things floated by someone semi-connected

Let's review the pedigree of the idea:

June 2011: Trichet suggests it in his Charlemagne Prize acceptance lecture

"But if a country is still not delivering, I think all would agree that the second stage has to be different," he said, suggesting that eurozone authorities be given "a much deeper and authoritative say in the formation of the country's economic policies if these go harmfully astray".

He added: "It would be not only possible, but in some cases compulsory, in the second stage for the European authorities - namely the council on the basis of a proposal by the commission, in liaison with the ECB - to take themselves decisions applicable in the economy concerned."

Also in June: Jürgen "raving mad" Stark repeats Trichet's suggestion
ECB chief economist Jürgen Stark, in an interview with Italy's Il Sore 24 Ore, repeated the suggestion of external budgetary intervention. "If countries in difficulty do not introduce the necessary adjustment measures, then interfering in their national policy could be a necessary way of ensuring the correct functioning of monetary union," said Mr Stark.
September 2011: The Dutch government takes the idea and runs with it
The Dutch  prime minister Mark Rutte, in a joint article with his finance minister Jan Kees de Jager, called for the forced expulsion of member states. He also wants to appoint a new budget tsar, the FT writes in its news story accompanying the article, with powers to dictate taxes and spending in eurozone countries, and who would be empowered to kick countries out of the eurozone.
Then at the end of last year the CDU and started toying with the idea, and it was leaked as a trial balloon the week before the end-of-January "informal Council summit".

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 10:50:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My timeline says a German flag has been set alight outside the Greek parliament. This is what it's come to? Very sad. #Greece #euro #Germany

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 11:37:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
El Mundo [ES] via Presseurop: Why we've had enough of Greece
Yesterday the troika of the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission had to threaten the Greek government with the torments of hell to get them to agree to lay off 15,000 civil servants in 2012 to lower the country's deficit. Greece has more than 700,000 public servants (out of a population of 11 million) and has promised to cut that number by 150,000 by the year 2015. But it is doing so with the alacrity of a turtle. In fact, it already had promised to slash 32,000 last year, but in the end trimmed only 2,000.


The Spanish government is no stranger to this. The EU leadership do not like the prospect of opening the exit door of the euro club, because after Greece would go Portugal, and nobody knows where the list could end. But they would also like the Greek politicians to take events more seriously. "We knew long ago that the Greeks are the way they are. The problem is not only economic but political," says a senior official.

And the way out does not seem to lie in threats, like the German threat to appoint a proconsul or the French idea of creating a separate account where the money to pay the interest can be deposited. The Greeks have never felt inferior to other Europeans. Although their economy is in ruins, their national self-esteem and pride are gigantic. They have, in fact, always distrusted the idea of Europe, unless it would mean that Brussels would fund their lifestyle. But all this was known almost from the day they entered the EU.

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 11:48:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC: Greece exit would not end euro, says EU commissioner
European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes told a Dutch newspaper that there would be "absolutely no man overboard" if Greece left the euro.
Of course not: once someone is fully dehumanize you can throw them overboard without guilt.
"The Greeks have to realise that we Dutch and we Germans can only sell emergency Greek aid to our taxpayers if there's evidence of good will."

A similar message was delivered with a more optimistic spin by Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the "eurogroup" of eurozone finance ministers, who said he had no doubt that Greece would remain within the eurozone, provided that it met its obligations to other members.

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 05:06:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nomad, what are the connotations of the following turns of phrase in Dutch?

Volkskrant: Neelie Kroes: Euro kan best zonder Athene

Kroes is er vooralsnog geen voorstander van als Griekenland de euro inruilt voor de drachme. 'Maar er is absoluut geen man overboord als we iemand missen uit de eurozone.' Ze beseft dat haar uitlatingen omstreden zijn en koren op de molen van de PVV die al langer bepleit de Europese geldkraan naar Athene dicht te draaien. Kroes: 'Misschien is mijn woordkeus niet helemaal gelukkig. Wat is een man overboord? Er wordt steeds gezegd: als je één land laat uitstappen of vraagt om uit te stappen, dan stort het hele bouwwerk in. Maar dat is gewoon niet waar.'

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 11:00:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A song for Neelie Kroes and Greece:

Keelhaul that filthy bastard
send him down to the depths below
let the landlubber walk the plank
with a bottle of rum and a yo-ho-ho

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 11:04:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 01:19:59 PM EST
Maastricht 20 years on: Eurocrat blues | Presseurop (English)

Over the last year, the Schuman roundabout, at the foot of the community institutions in Brussels, has been transformed into a depressing urban shambles. In a decor worthy of an industrial park in a hard boiled crime thriller, cranes, concrete mixers, and scaffolding have taken possession of the administrative and political epicentre of the European Union.

Delays already announced to the works, scheduled to continue until 2014, are a cruel symbol of the decline in the fortunes of the eurocrats who reign over this part of city where the EU's "founding fathers" - Schuman of course, but also Jean Monnet, Alcide de Gasperi and other less well-known figures such as Emile Noël, general secretary of the Commission from 1967 to 1987 - are venerated. And among such luminaries, one name is repeated more often than all the others: Jacques Delors, the president of the EU executive from 1985 to 1995. On 7 February 1992, with the support of the Kohl-Mitterrand duo, the former French government minister led the eurocracy out of the darkness with the signature of the Maastricht Treaty on monetary union. Obligation for transparency dragged Commission into abyss

Delors, remembered as a leader who stood his ground against heads of state, charmed the press and embodied the union. Twenty years on, he is still with us. On 7 February, he will be back in Brussels to commemorate Maastricht. But the eurocracy no longer has the same fire of those years. Far from it. Developments that followed 1992 - enlargement to include 15 additional countries by 2007, French and Dutch rejection of the ill-fated European Constitution in 2005, the scramble to adopt the Lisbon Treaty and finally the financial crisis - have been more than enough to douse the flame.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:20:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Greece faces ultimatum on new bailout | EurActiv

Greece's coalition parties must tell Brussels today (6 February) whether they accept the painful terms of a new bailout deal, as EU patience wears thin with political dithering in Athens over implementing reforms.

Technocrat Prime Minister Lucas Papademos tried to get leaders of the three parties in his government yesterday (5 February) to sign off on the terms of a €130 billion rescue, which Greece needs soon to avoid a chaotic debt default.

In a statement, Papademos said party chiefs - who may face angry voters in parliamentary polls as soon as April - had agreed measures including wage cuts and other reforms as part of spending cuts worth 1.5% of gross domestic product (GDP).

But a spokesman for the PASOK socialist party said a number of major issues demanded by the "Troika", representing Greece's EU, European Central Bank and IMF lenders, remained unresolved.

Talks on the new bailout, which would be Greece's second since 2010 - and an accompanying deal to ease the country's huge debt burden via its private creditors accepting deep losses on the bonds they hold - have dragged on for weeks, stretching the EU's patience to breaking point.

"Things are very tough and difficult," a Greek government official said, requesting anonymity.

Now the parties - PASOK, the conservative New Democracy and far-right LAOS - must respond to a working group of senior euro zone finance ministry officials who are preparing for a meeting of their ministers later in the week.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:21:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Greece caves to pressure and cuts state jobs - Europe - Al Jazeera English

Greece's coalition government has agreed to demands to cut civil service jobs, announcing 15,000 positions would go this year, amid mounting international pressure to agree on austerity measures needed to secure major new debt agreements.

The announcement on Monday signals a major shift in Greece's policy, as state jobs have so far been protected during the country's acute financial crisis, which started about two years ago.

Dimitris Reppas, Greece's minister for public-sector reform, said the job cuts would be carried out under a new law that allows such firings.

Al Jazeera's John Psaropoulos, reporting from Athens, said the reduction in state workers may be only the beginning of job losses.

"[The cuts] are coming as part of a commitment to fire 150,000 public service workers... This is in addition to 200,000 public service employees who have left through [negotiated] dismissal, early retirement and firing," he said.

Greece is racing to push through painful reforms and clinch a $170bn bailout deal from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund to avoid a March default on its bond payments.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:22:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Poverty without firing a shot. How civilized!

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 04:59:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC: Greece exit would not end euro, says EU commissioner
A similar message was delivered with a more optimistic spin by Jean-Claude Juncker, ...

"The euro will outlivebury us all," he said.

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 05:18:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Greek Vise - NYTimes.com

How much is the troika demanding from Greece? How tight is the squeeze? Here's a look based on the most recent IMF report (pdf).

The current plan calls for Greece to move into large primary surplus -- that is, surplus not counting interest payments on the debt:

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:29:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, if they meet that target they could default around this time next year, and there'd be fuck all the ECBuBa could do to stop them.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 07:52:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Chinese economic growth at risk from European downturn | Business | The Guardian

A sharp downturn in Europe could cut China's economic growth rate nearly in half, the International Monetary Fund said on Monday, adding to warnings about a possible severe global slowdown this year.

The IMF said Beijing should be ready to launch a multibillion-dollar stimulus to ward off a slump in the world's second-largest economy.

The IMF is forecasting 8.2% growth this year for China but said that could be reduced by up to four percentage points if Europe's crisis causes large declines in credit and output.

"The global recovery is threatened by intensifying strains in the euro area and fragilities elsewhere," it said. "In the unfortunate event such a downside scenario becomes reality, China should respond with a significant fiscal package, executed through central and local government budgets."

China rebounded quickly from the 2008 global crisis and its economy expanded by a healthy 9.2% last year but growth has declined as Beijing tightened credit and investment curbs to prevent overheating.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:29:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why New York Giants' Super Bowl Victory Is Good for the Economy - Real Time Economics - WSJ
New England may be in mourning over the outcome of Sunday's nail-biter of a Super Bowl, but all is not lost: The Giants' victory will provide a much-needed boost to the nation's economy.

Sure, there could be a small boost to consumer spending as gamblers spend their winnings from betting on the inexplicably underdog Giants. But this is bigger than that. Much, much bigger.

On Tuesday, for the first time since the "Occupy" protesters were ousted from Zuccotti Park, thousands of members of the "99%" will descend on Lower Manhattan. But this time, instead of division and conflict, the gathering will foster unity as bankers, construction workers and busboys come together to celebrate a uniquely American story: the triumph of a less-talented younger brother over his more-talented brother's more-talented arch-nemesis. A triumph that took place in a building built for the older brother, who will probably never play there again. A triumph secured when a 250-pound man accidentally scored a touchdown by falling backwards into the end zone. Heck, even Pats fans can take comfort in the fact that the Giants' parade will royally tick off Jets fans.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:29:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The result is that taxpayers subsidise banks implicitly in good times, explicitly in bad times, and suicidally in a sovereign debt crisis.

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 04:48:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bloomberg: Capitalism Seen in Crisis by Investors Citing Inequalities
As the global financial and business elite gather in Davos for their annual forum, a majority in the Bloomberg Global Poll agree that income inequality hurts the economy and that governments need to do something to address it -- ideas at the heart of "Occupy" protests worldwide. Those surveyed also voice reservations about the financial industry's role in society, with seven in 10 seeing at least some truth in the argument that banks have too much power over governments.

"Capitalism is in crisis because there is a huge and growing disparity in income/wealth distribution in Western economies, and an equally divisive generational disparity," poll participant Michael Derks, chief strategist for FXPro Financial Services broker in London, said in an e-mail.

"It requires government intervention on an enormous scale, because an economy cannot survive if it does not invest in the younger generation," Derks said.

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 05:58:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Businessweek: Raise Taxes on Rich to Reward True Job Creators: Nick Hanauer
I'm a very rich person. As an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, I've started or helped get off the ground dozens of companies in industries including manufacturing, retail, medical services, the Internet and software. I founded the Internet media company aQuantive Inc., which was acquired by Microsoft Corp. in 2007 for $6.4 billion. I was also the first non-family investor in Amazon.com Inc.

Even so, I've never been a "job creator." I can start a business based on a great idea, and initially hire dozens or hundreds of people. But if no one can afford to buy what I have to sell, my business will soon fail and all those jobs will evaporate.

That's why I can say with confidence that rich people don't create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is the feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion a virtuous cycle that allows companies to survive and thrive and business owners to hire. An ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than I ever have been or ever will 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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 07:02:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The comment thread over there just renewed my faith in humanity.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 07:50:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 08:39:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Joseph Stiglitz: Capturing the ECB (Project Syndicate)
There are three explanations for the ECB's position, none of which speaks well for the institution and its regulatory and supervisory conduct. The first explanation is that the banks have not, in fact, bought insurance, and some have taken speculative positions. The second is that the ECB knows that the financial system lacks transparency - and knows that investors know that they cannot gauge the impact of an involuntary default, which could cause credit markets to freeze, reprising the aftermath of Lehman Brothers' collapse in September 2008. Finally, the ECB may be trying to protect the few banks that have written the insurance.

None of these explanations is an adequate excuse for the ECB's opposition to deep involuntary restructuring of Greece's debt. The ECB should have insisted on more transparency - indeed, that should have been one of the main lessons of 2008. Regulators should not have allowed the banks to speculate as they did; if anything, they should have required them to buy insurance - and then insisted on restructuring in a way that ensured that the insurance paid off.


The final oddity of the ECB's stance concerns democratic governance. Deciding whether a credit event has occurred is left to a secret committee of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, an industry group that has a vested interest in the outcome. If news reports are correct, some members of the committee have been using their position to promote more accommodative negotiating positions. But it seems unconscionable that the ECB would delegate to a secret committee of self-interested market participants the right to determine what is an acceptable debt restructuring.

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 09:18:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 01:20:03 PM EST
U.S. Embassy in Syria Halts Operations as Violence Flares - NYTimes.com
The United States closed its embassy in Syria on Monday and withdrew all staff members amid escalating mayhem in what American officials called the Syrian government's unbridled repression of an 11-month-old uprising that has become the bloodiest conflict in the Arab revolts.

The confrontation in Syria has turned even more violent and more unpredictable, while diplomatic efforts have largely collapsed, save for a Russian delegation visiting Damascus on Tuesday. Both the Syrian government and its opposition have signaled that each believes the grinding conflict will only be resolved through force of arms.

For weeks, Western embassies have reduced their staffs, and on Monday, Britain also recalled its ambassador for consultations. Echoing a cascade of diplomatic invective, the British foreign secretary, William Hague, described the mounting violence as yet more evidence that President Bashar al-Assad had no option but to surrender power.

"This is a doomed regime as well as a murdering regime," he said in a statement to the House of Commons. "There is no way it can recover its credibility internationally."

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:32:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Inside Syria's Revolution: Outmatched Rebels Gain Ground Amid Crackdown - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

It is a mistake to believe that dead people don't talk. They talk nonstop in Syria, at least on the telephone. "It's the last greeting from our martyrs," says one of the young organizers of the resistance movement in a suburb of Damascus, as people around him discuss battles and changing fronts without fear that intelligence agents will monitor on their conversations. That's because the insurgents are using phones that contain the SIM cards of dead people. They can no longer be killed, the man says calmly.

OAS_RICH('Middle2'); What began about 11 months ago as a peaceful protest for democracy and reforms has since turned into a war waged by the regime against large segments of the Syrian population. Month after month, protesters were beaten and shot, thousands were killed and tens of thousands disappeared without a trace -- until autumn, when the rebels began returning fire.

International appeals and embargoes have failed to deter President Bashar Assad's regime from responding with increasing violence. Until Friday of last week China and, most notably, Russia, had blocked every United Nations resolution against Syria. Not even the presence of an observation mission from the Arab League kept the regime in check. Instead the brutality has increased dramatically since the observers left on Jan. 28. Elite troops, particularly members of the 4th Division of the Syrian Army, under the command of the president's brother, Maher Assad, are no longer shooting at individuals with guns. They are now using tanks and grenade launchers to bombard entire rebel neighborhoods from a distance.

It is an uneven match between the heavily armed troops of the regime and the poorly equipped rebels of the Free Syrian Army, or FSA. Nevertheless, the rebels are gaining ground.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:33:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Scotsman: Syria: Free Syrian Army vows to free nation from Bashar al-Assad (5 February 2012)
THERE is no choice but to use force to drive president Bashar al-Assad's regime from power the commander of rebel Syrian soldiers has declared, after Russia and China used their Security Council vetoes to block a UN resolution aimed at resolving the crisis.


He called Russia and China's veto a "strike against the Syrian people," not just the opposition.


In an interview with Al-Arabiya TV on Saturday after the UN vote, the head of the Syrian National Council Burhan Ghalioun said a coalition might give the FSA support "if necessary" to "protect the Syrian people".

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 09:28:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sarkozy pushes 'Friends of Syria' group at UN | EurActiv

Western and Arab states voiced outrage yesterday (5 February) after Russia and China vetoed a UN resolution that would have backed an Arab plan urging Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to give up power. French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed creating a "Friends of Syria" group to advance initiative.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the veto a "travesty". It came a day after activists said Syrian forces bombarded a district of Homs, killing more than 200 people in the worst night of bloodshed in the 11-month uprising.

Russia said the resolution was biased and would have meant taking sides in a civil war. Syria is Moscow's only big ally in the Middle East, home to a Russian naval base and customer for its arms. China's veto appeared to follow Russia's lead.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Moscow and Beijing had turned their backs on the Arab world. France's Alain Juppé said they "carried a terrible responsibility in the eyes of the world and Syrian people".

Clinton said the United States would work with other nations to try to tighten "regional and national" sanctions against Assad's government "to dry up the sources of funding and the arms shipments that are keeping the regime's war machine going."

"We will work to expose those who are still funding the regime and sending it weapons that are used against defenseless Syrians, including women and children," she said. "We will work with the friends of a democratic Syria around the world to support the opposition's peaceful political plans for change."

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:34:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama tightens sanctions on Iran's finances - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

US President Barack Obama has tightened sanctions on Iran, including its central bank, seeking to increase pressure on the country's economy as a nuclear showdown intensifies.

Obama signed an executive order on Sunday that implements parts of a new sanctions regime passed by congress late last year, allowing US institutions to freeze all property and interests of the Iranian government. The order took effect on Monday.

Obama's decision comes amid high tensions with Iran, which has threatened to close the crucial Strait of Hormuz, a crucial oil and natural gas shipping lane from the Gulf. Israel has also suggested it may attack Iran's nuclear sites soon, insisting that the government in Tehran is close to being able to build a nuclear weapon.

The executive order allows US institutions to freeze all property and interests of the Iranian government, the central bank of Iran and all Iranian financial institutions that come within US jurisdiction. Previously, US banks were required to reject and send back, rather than block and freeze, Iranian transactions.

In a letter to Congress, Obama said more sanctions were warranted, "particularly in light of the deceptive practices of the Central Bank of Iran and other Iranian banks.'' He said the problems included the hiding of transactions of sanctioned parties, the deficiencies of Iran's anti-money laundering regime and the unacceptably high risk posed to the entire international financial system by Iran's activities.

The measures, passed with wide majorities in congress last year, also included a requirement for Obama to impose sanctions on foreign financial institutions that do business with the Iranian central bank or other finance firms, but Obama did not implement those sanctions on Monday.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:35:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Robert Fisk: An attack on Tehran would be madness. So don't rule it out - Robert Fisk - Commentators - The Independent

If Israel really attacks Iran this year, it - and the Americans - will be more dotty than their enemies think. True, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a crackpot, but then so is Avigdor Lieberman, who is apparently the Israeli Foreign Minister. Maybe the two want to do each other a favour. But why on earth would the Israelis want to bomb Iran and thus bring down on their heads the fury of both the Lebanese Hezbollah and Hamas at the very same moment? Along with Syria, no doubt. Not to mention sucking the West - Europe and the US - into the same shooting match.

Maybe it's because I've been in the Middle East for 36 years, but I sniff some old herrings in the air. Leon Panetta, the US Defence Secretary no less, warns us that Israel may strike. So does CNN - an older herring it would be difficult to find - and even old David Ignatius, who hasn't been a Middle East correspondent for a decade or two, is telling us the same, taken in, as usual, by his Israeli "sources".

I expected this sort of bumph when I perused last week's The New York Times Magazine - not an advertisement, this, for I would not want The Independent readers to burn their energy on such tosh - and read a warning from an Israeli "analyst" (I am still trying to discover what an "analyst" is), Ronen Bergman of Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:39:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Over 1 500 Malians flee Tuareg conflict - News - Mail & Guardian Online
More than 1 500 Malians fleeing a Tuareg rebellion in the north and reprisal attacks in Bamako have found refuge in neighbouring Burkina Faso, a security official said on Monday.

"We have more than 1 500 Malians who have found refuge inside our borders," the official said on condition of anonymity.

"There are those who are fleeing the fighting in the north and those fleeing the abuses committed in Bamako," he said, adding that deserting soldiers and paramilitary forces were also among the refugees.

He said that the refugees had come to the capital Ouagadougou and to the country's second city of Bobo Dioulasso, 365km to the west.

The Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) and other Tuareg rebels seeking more autonomy launched a major offensive in north Mali on January 17, sparking clashes that have killed dozens on both sides.

Retaliatory mob attacks in Bamako mainly targeting property owned by Tuaregs -- a nomadic tribe of Berber origin -- and other light-skinned communities such as Arabs and Mauritanians have also been reported.
by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:39:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Army Colonel Challenges Pentagon's Afghanistan Reports - NYTimes.com

And then, late last month, Colonel Davis, 48, began an unusual one-man campaign of military truth-telling. He wrote two reports, one unclassified and the other classified, summarizing his observations on the candor gap with respect to Afghanistan. He briefed four members of Congress and a dozen staff members, spoke with a reporter for The New York Times, sent his reports to the Defense Department's inspector general -- and only then informed his chain of command that he had done so.

"How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding?" Colonel Davis asks in an article summarizing his views titled "Truth, Lies and Afghanistan: How Military Leaders Have Let Us Down." It was published online Sunday in The Armed Forces Journal, the nation's oldest independent periodical on military affairs. "No one expects our leaders to always have a successful plan," he says in the article. "But we do expect -- and the men who do the living, fighting and dying deserve -- to have our leaders tell us the truth about what's going on."

Colonel Davis says his experience has caused him to doubt reports of progress in the war from numerous military leaders, including David H. Petraeus, who commanded the troops in Afghanistan before becoming the director of the Central Intelligence Agency in June.

Last March, for example, Mr. Petraeus, then an Army general, testified before the Senate that the Taliban's momentum had been "arrested in much of the country" and that progress was "significant," though fragile, and "on the right azimuth" to allow Afghan forces to take the lead in combat by the end of 2014.

Colonel Davis fiercely disputes such assertions and says few of the troops believe them. At the same time, he is acutely aware of the chasm in stature that separates him from those he is criticizing, and he has no illusions about the impact his public stance may have on his career.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:45:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds like somebody was asleep when they covered Vietnam in their military history class...
by asdf on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 12:31:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Saudi Women Sue for Right to Drive - WSJ.com

A court in Saudi Arabia agreed to hear the first lawsuits by Saudi women challenging the kingdom's de facto ban on women driving, a lawyer for one of the women said.

The legal push is a shift by activists after years of simply appealing to Saudi leaders for permission to drive and, more rarely, taking to the roads in small numbers to test enforcement.

Since mid-2011, the limited push to win women the right to drive has been one of the few fronts in a country largely bypassed by the Arab Spring activist movements of the past year.

The lawsuits, one of them by Manal al-Sharif, who founded small movement last year called Women2Drive, risk a backlash from the public and officials in the conservative kingdom.

But with no breakthroughs in a campaign for the right to drive begun by Saudi women during the first Gulf war in the early 1990s, it was time to change tactics, said Ms. Sharif, a 32-year-old Saudi computer consultant.

"It's 22 years now," she said. "We have to just finish it."

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:46:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Tibetan officials warned to maintain stability

The Tibetan regional government has warned its officials to maintain stability or face dismissal or criminal charges ahead of the Tibetan new year.

The notice was posted on the regional government website.

It follows a series of deadly protests in Sichuan province in January and the self-immolations of 19 ethnic Tibetans in the past year in apparent protest against Chinese rule.

Tibet celebrates its new year on 22 February.

The anniversary of deadly 2008 riots in Lhasa falls shortly afterwards, on 14 March.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:47:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Three Tibetan Herders Self-Immolate in Protest - NYTimes.com
In a fresh illustration of growing turmoil among ethnic Tibetans in Sichuan Province, three livestock herders set themselves on fire to protest what they saw as political and religious repression at the hands of the Chinese authorities, according to a Tibetan rights group and an ethnic Tibetan living in Beijing.

If confirmed, the latest cases would bring the total self-immolations over the past year to 19, an unprecedented wave of self-inflicted violence among the tiny ethnic minority in China, according to scholars. They were also apparently the first by lay people, rather than current or former members of the clergy, suggesting that self-immolation may be gaining popularity as a form of dissent.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:48:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Thousands evacuated from Queensland flooding

Floods continue to threaten Queensland in eastern Australia, with the town of St George expected to be worst hit.

Thousands have been evacuated from the area, which is seeing its third major flood in less than two years.

The Balonne River in St George reached 13.48 metres on Monday and was expected to keep rising to a peak of 14-15 metres by late Tuesday.

Despite a mandatory order to leave, about 400 residents remained in town, Australian media reported.

''The danger area now is St George,'' Queensland Premier Anna Bligh told ABC News.

The evacuation, which she said was the largest ever for a town in the state, was orderly.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 04:06:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
MercoPress: Troops locked down the northeast Brazilian city of Salvador on Sunday as an elite unit prepared to besiege the legislature and arrest armed police officers whose strike action has sent homicides spiralling.

MEXICO CITY - The capital's Human Rights Commission said Monday that 134 attacks on communications professionals, including 11 murders, took place in Mexico last year.

SANTO DOMINGO - Eighteen people are now confirmed dead in a shipwreck over the weekend off the northeastern Dominican Republic, while rescue teams continue to search for dozens of people missing in the accident, officials said Monday. The small boat, which was carrying more than 70 illegal immigrants bound for Puerto Rico, sank early Saturday.

HAVANA, Cuba (ACN) -- The leader of the Cuban Revolution and former president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, attended the launch on Friday of his memoirs, a two-volume book titled "Fidel Castro Ruz: Guerrillero del Tiempo" (Fidel Castro Ruz: Guerrilla of Time), at Havana's Convention Palace.

HAVANA - Cuba has begun to employ a new technology to produce white sugar, a measure that improves its quality, avoids the refining process and reduces the cost of manufacture, local media reported Sunday.  The technology, which to date had never been used in the island's sugar industry, uses a sulfur salt produced in Guatemala that - once dissolved in water - directly adds to the bleaching, according to official daily Juventud Rebelde.

Institute of the Americas Energy Podcast Series.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne

by maracatu on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 08:08:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
police officers whose strike action has sent homicides spiralling
So it's true that the only thing keeping us from killing one another is the fear of getting caught.
by Andhakari on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 03:26:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Israeli cabinet approves construction of high-speed train line between Tel Aviv and Eilat | Ha'aretz
Israel's cabinet on Sunday morning approved construction of a new high-speed train line between Tel Aviv and the southern port city of Eilat.

The electrified rail line will reach top speeds of 186 miles (300 km) per hour, allowing it to complete the trip in two and a half hours. The 220-mile long (350 km) route will include 63 bridges and five tunnels.


Netanyahu emphasized the line's advantages as an overland route for passenger and cargo traffic. "We have the ability to create an alternative transportation route that bypasses the Suez Canal - this is an insurance policy," he said.

300 km/h line to a city of 50,000 in a country where nothing else goes over 200? High-speed shared with freight? Does this make any sense? And how does a high-speed train take 2 1/2 hours to do 350km?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 06:48:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 01:20:06 PM EST
Commission plays down risk of gas running short | EurActiv

Squeezed supply of Russian gas to some EU countries fell further today (3 February), the European Commission said, but added the situation had not reached emergency levels despite freezing temperatures gripping much of Europe.

A cold front blamed for more than 100 deaths is lashing the continent, bolstering demand for heating and forcing countries to tap stored gas supplies.

"I can confirm that there has been a decrease in gas deliveries in various member states: Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Italy," EU energy spokeswoman Marlene Holzner told a regular news briefing.

"Yesterday, we saw in Austria a decrease of 30%, Italy of 24%, and Poland 8%. But I must also say that it's not a situation of emergency yet."

All member states had so far been able to secure gas from other sources, either from storage facilities or substituting supplies with liquefied natural gas (LNG), Holzner said.

Reduced supply of Russian gas via Ukraine has raised EU fears of a repeat of the gas crisis in 2009, when supplies to Europe were suspended for about two weeks because of political tensions between Moscow and Kiev.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:53:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com / News In Brief / Gas cuts: Germany, Italy and Romania still down
The EU commission said on Monday that Russian gas supplies to Germany, Italy and Romania are still on the low side, as Gazprom struggles to meet EU and Russian demand in the cold snap. It added that supplies are back to normal in Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:53:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
China bans its airlines from paying EU carbon tax | Environment | guardian.co.uk

China has banned its airlines from paying the new European Union carbon charge, state news agency Xinhua has reported - stepping up the international battle over the scheme.

The levy applies to all airlines flying to and from EU countries. Companies that do not comply face fines and ultimately could be banned from using EU airports.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said on Monday that airlines were not allowed to pay the EU charge, increase freight costs or add other fees, according to Xinhua. It cited authorisation from the state council, China's cabinet.

Hinting at possible retaliation, Xinhua added: "China will consider adopting necessary measures to protect interests of Chinese individuals and companies, pending the development of the issue."

The EU's ambassador in Beijing, Markus Ederer, told a press briefing it hoped to resolve the issue through negotiation. Beijing's announcement came one week before a China-EU summit.

Although the scheme came into force from 1 January, fees do not have to be paid until March 2013. Supporters believe including aviation in the emissions trading scheme is crucial because the industry's carbon output is soaring.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:54:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This could get interesting. The conflict with America, China and whoever else should heat up just as the summer droughts are kicking in. The spectacle of the major economies in a pissing match over their right to pollute just as the climate is sucking the life out of their countries' agriculture would be highly entertaining if it didn't actually impact the probability of my children's survival.
Fucking morons.
by Andhakari on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 03:39:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ESA Portal - ESA's Mars Express radar gives strong evidence for former Mars ocean
ESA's Mars Express has returned strong evidence for an ocean once covering part of Mars. Using radar, it has detected sediments reminiscent of an ocean floor within the boundaries of previously identified, ancient shorelines on Mars.
The MARSIS radar was deployed in 2005 and has been collecting data ever since. Jérémie Mouginot, Institut de Planétologie et d'Astrophysique de Grenoble (IPAG) and the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues have analysed more than two years of data and found that the northern plains are covered in low-density material.

"We interpret these as sedimentary deposits, maybe ice-rich," says Dr Mouginot. "It is a strong new indication that there was once an ocean here."

The existence of oceans on ancient Mars has been suspected before and features reminiscent of shorelines have been tentatively identified in images from various spacecraft. But it remains a controversial issue.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:58:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - ExoMars cooperation between Nasa and Esa near collapse

The American space agency looks set to pull the plug on its joint missions to Mars with the European Space Agency.

Nasa has told Esa it is now highly unlikely it will be able to contribute to the endeavours, which envision an orbiting satellite and a big roving robot being sent to the Red Planet.

The US has yet to make a formal statement on the matter but budget woes are thought to lie behind its decision.

Europe is now banking on a Russian partnership to keep the missions alive.

A public announcement by Nasa of its withdrawal from the ExoMars programme, as it is known in Europe, will probably come once President Obama's 2013 Federal Budget Request is submitted.

This request, expected in the coming days, will give the US space agency a much clearer view of how much money it has to implement its various projects.

"The Americans have indicated that the possibility of them participating is now low - very low. It's highly unlikely," said Alvaro Gimenez, Esa's director of science.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 04:00:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wind energy: over 21% of all new power capacity in 2011 | EU Reporter

2011, 9,616 MW of wind energy capacity was installed in the EU, making a total of 93,957 MW - enough to supply 6.3% of the EU's electricity, according to figures published today by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

 Representing 21.4% of new power capacity, wind energy installations in 2011 were very similar to the previous year's 9,648 MW. The wind industry has had an average annual growth of 15.6% over the last 17 years (1995-2011).

"Despite the economic crisis gripping Europe, the wind industry is still installing solid levels of new capacity", commented Justin Wilkes, Policy Director of EWEA.

"But to achieve the EU's long-term targets we need strong growth again in future years. It is critical to send positive signals to investors by European governments maintaining stable policies to support renewables and for the European Union to commit to put in place a binding renewable energy target for 2030."

Growth in onshore installations in Germany and Sweden, and offshore in the UK - together with continuing strong performances from some emerging onshore markets such as Romania - offset a fall in installations in mature markets such as France and Spain.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:58:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EWEA is putting a good spin on this year's capacity installations, focusing on long-term cumulative growth, and of course the higher % of demand met by wind. But the simple fact is that both onshore and offshore wind were slightly down from 2010, and significantly down from the 2009 peak.

The factors underlying the unacceptable situation include the financial meltdown, as well as some limitations by transmission constraints, but is primarily due to the unwillingness of most governments to accept that the fastest, cheapest way to increase renewables is to prioritize onshore wind.

Two years into the downturn one can imagine the financial pressure both on the manufacturers and the associated supply chain. Vestas' problems hit the news often (today their annual report release and presentation happens), but global giants Siemens and GE have also been hit hard. Second tier companies like Nordex or REpower the same, but with less capacity to carry over.

Without the overheated market in mainland China, global windpower numbers would be even more down than in Europe.

Think about that the next time your aunt tells you she doesn't want to see industrial technology on her Sunday walk. Please remind her she's still breathing coal dust and mercury.

Let's list the countries down or significantly down (CAPS) from last year (remember their total capacity may be a small part of the EU entire).


On the surface, the formerly UNITED KINGDOM grew from 1 gigawatt installed to 1.3 gigawatts, but subtract out offshore and Europe's strongest wind resource grew a measly 0.5 gigawatts.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 03:25:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some positives:

Percent of Electricity demand met:

Denmark:   25.9%
Spain:         15.9%
Portugal      15.6%
Ireland        12 %
Germany     10.6%

EU total         6.3%

Strong increases:

Austria, Estonia, GERMANY, GREECE, IRELAND, Netherlands (dismal 4% of demand), PORTUGAL, ROMANIA, SWEDEN.  Outside the EU, Norway and Ukraine showed some small gains.

OK, enough procrastination,... for your chart and graph orgasms, EWEA 2011 REPORT

At least 71.4% of all new capacity in Europe was renewable. Be thankful for small favors.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 03:38:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For anyone who wishes to watch the wind industry in real time, Vestas will release it's annual report for 2011 at 8:30 CET tomorrow. At 14:00, you can call to listen to the presentation and analyst questions during a conference call.

Details Here

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 04:30:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Olive glut puts skids under oil producers at risk - Europe - World - The Independent

On Thursday, in the grounds of Granada's Parque de las Ciencias, delighted tourists and students watched a demonstration of olive trees being harvested. Flails whirred in the branches, clouds of olives thudded to the ground on to canvases spread for their collection. It was a timeless image of an industry whose Iberian roots stretch back to the Phoenicians in the sixth century BC, and in which Spain is the undisputed world leader.

Some 40 kilometres further north, however, in the tiny town of Benalua de las Villas, where the real olive harvest is currently taking place, the mood is decidedly less festive. As far back as 2010, local media reports regularly described the industry as going through the toughest time in its 2,500-year history. And this winter in Andalucia, a region that annually produces a third of the world's olive oil, there is no sign of improvement. Already faced with a glut of olives equivalent to 95 million litres of olive oil, this exceptionally dry winter means the industry is braced for its second bumper crop in a row, which could see a further 285 million litres flood an already saturated market.

Factor in a 70 per cent increase in production costs, the stagnation of prices paid to olive oil farmers in the past 15 years, (olive oil retails at over 10 times as much in supermarkets) and a Spanish economy on the rocks, and the result is clear: after years of overproduction, large sectors of the olive oil industry are going to the wall.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 04:01:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For a different meaning of "living off"

Spiegel: Investing in Death: Betting on US Life Expectancy Proves Risky (09/01/2009)

Deutsche Bank and other financial institutions manage complex funds that buy up Americans' life insurance policies and pay their premiums in return for their payouts. But angry German investors are finding that Americans aren't dying as quickly as expected -- and that only the bankers are making a buck.

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 06:55:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 01:20:10 PM EST
New genetic discovery could boost treatment for stroke patients - Science - News - The Independent
Scientists have identified a genetic mutation in one of the 23,000 human genes that can double the risk of a stroke, which kills more than six million people worldwide each year and is the second top cause of death in developed countries.

A study of thousands of stroke patients in Britain and Germany found a link between the most common type of stroke - a blocked blood vessel leading to the brain - and a genetic variation in a gene known as HDAC9. Although strokes are known to run in families, this is one of the first studies to identify a precise DNA variant in the human genetic code that doubles a person's risk of developing a blocked artery supplying vital oxygen to the brain.

The HDAC9 gene was already known to be involved in the formation of muscle tissue and the development of the heart, but the latest research suggests it is also implicated in a particular kind of illness called large-artery ischaemic stroke.

Scientists said the DNA variation occurs on about 10 per cent of the chromosomes carrying the HDAC9 gene. People who inherit two copies of the variant, one from their mother and one from their father, face twice the risk of developing this type of stroke than people with no copies of the gene variant, they said. The study, published in Nature Genetics and funded by the Wellcome Trust charity, used a relatively new scientific technique of genome-wide association studies to compare the DNA of some 10,000 stroke patients with the DNA of 40,000 people who have not had a stroke.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 04:03:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
'Euthanasia on wheels' starts next month | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Six specialised euthanasia teams consisting of one doctor and one nurse will begin making house calls in the Netherlands next month.

Right to Die NL (NVVE) says the teams will visit people who want to end their lives and are eligible for euthanasia under Dutch law, but whose wishes are being thwarted. Such situations can occur when, for instance, doctors refuse to take requests for euthanasia seriously.

The NVVE will open an `end-of-life clinic' in The Hague on 1 March. People not able to have euthanasia administered at home by their family doctors will be able to end their lives at the clinic from around mid-2012.

The NVVE expects to receive about 1,000 euthanasia requests per year. The organisation stresses that people will not be able to opt for euthanasia on impulse: they will have to go through a lengthy intake procedure as required under Dutch law.

This includes a period during which doctors ensure that the decision is voluntary and well-considered, and that the patient's situation is hopeless and unbearable.

In the past, most euthanasia cases have involved cancer patients who have run out of treatment options. The NVVE says people in the early stages of dementia and those suffering from chronic psychiatric problems can also be eligible under present legislation. The organisation says it will, if possible, co-operate with family doctors.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 04:04:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
France impounds African autocrats' 'ill-gotten gains' | World news | guardian.co.uk

At 42 Avenue Foch, the tree-lined boulevard that is one of Paris's most expensive streets, looms a five-storey private mansion complete with disco, spa room, hair salon, gold- and jewel-encrusted taps, lift, pastel pink dining room and a breathtaking balcony-view of the Arc de Triomphe.

Local people always knew when there was about to be a visit from its 41-year-old "playboy" resident, Teodorin Obiang, eldest son of the autocratic president of Equatorial Guinea. Days before Obiang Jr's private jet touched down, two massive lorries would pull up outside and disgorge a sea of fresh flowers to dress the interior of the mansion.

When Obiang was in residence, passersby would see a parade of couturiers from Paris's top design houses, including Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Louis Vuitton, waiting to be admitted for fittings before returning with vanloads of made-to-measure clothes. Crates of the most expensive burgundy were another regular delivery.

On one occasion 15,000 DVDs were hauled in on wooden pallets - roughly 41 years worth of viewing.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 04:04:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
res ipsa loquitur

'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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 02:54:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is why we need more fabulously wealthy people. Think of all the jobs this guy creates.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 10:53:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Land Carvings Attest to Amazon's Lost World - NYTimes.com
Edmar Araújo still remembers the awe.

As he cleared trees on his family's land decades ago near Rio Branco, an outpost in the far western reaches of the Brazilian Amazon, a series of deep earthen avenues carved into the soil came into focus.

"These lines were too perfect not to have been made by man," said Mr. Araújo, a 62-year-old cattleman. "The only explanation I had was that they must have been trenches for the war against the Bolivians."

But these were no foxholes, at least not for any conflict waged here at the dawn of the 20th century. According to stunning archaeological discoveries here in recent years, the earthworks on Mr. Araújo's land and hundreds like them nearby are much, much older -- potentially upending the conventional understanding of the world's largest tropical rain forest.

The deforestation that has stripped the Amazon since the 1970s has also exposed a long-hidden secret lurking underneath thick rain forest: flawlessly designed geometric shapes spanning hundreds of yards in diameter.

Alceu Ranzi, a Brazilian scholar who helped discover the squares, octagons, circles, rectangles and ovals that make up the land carvings, said these geoglyphs found on deforested land were as significant as the famous Nazca lines, the enigmatic animal symbols visible from the air in southern Peru.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 04:04:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spaghetti western reveals differences between human and monkey brains | Mo Costandi | Neurophilosophy blog | Science | guardian.co.uk
A new method may help to overcome some of the difficulties in comparing the human and monkey brains. To test the method, researchers scanned the brains of humans and macaque monkeys while they watched Sergio Leone's classic spaghetti western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Their results, published in the journal Nature Methods, reveal a number of surprising differences between the functional architecture of the human and macaque brains.

In a 2004 study, Uri Hasson and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance to scan the brains of five participants as they watched a 30 minute clip from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. They found that the film activated widespread regions of the cerebral cortex, especially in the visual and auditory parts of the brain, and that the activation patterns were remarkably similar in all of them. This high degree of synchronicity led the researchers to the conclusion that films can make their viewers' brains tick collectively; it also led to a new field called "neurocinematics," which aims to assess the similarities in participants' brain responses during film watching.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 04:17:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Monbiot: The right's stupidity spreads, enabled by a too-polite left
Perhaps it is in the same spirit of liberal constipation that, with the exception of Charlie Brooker, we have been too polite to mention the Canadian study published last month in the journal Psychological Science, which revealed that people with conservative beliefs are likely to be of low intelligence. Paradoxically it was the Daily Mail that brought it to the attention of British readers last week. It feels crude, illiberal to point out that the other side is, on average, more stupid than our own. But this, the study suggests, is not unfounded generalisation but empirical fact.


This is not to suggest that all conservatives are stupid. There are some very clever people in government, advising politicians, running thinktanks and writing for newspapers, who have acquired power and influence by promoting rightwing ideologies.

But what we now see among their parties - however intelligent their guiding spirits may be - is the abandonment of any pretence of high-minded conservatism. On both sides of the Atlantic, conservative strategists have discovered that there is no pool so shallow that several million people won't drown in it. Whether they are promoting the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the US, that man-made climate change is an eco-fascist-communist-anarchist conspiracy, or that the deficit results from the greed of the poor, they now appeal to the basest, stupidest impulses, and find that it does them no harm in the polls.

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 Feb 7th, 2012 at 05:41:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... people with conservative beliefs are likely to be of low intelligence.

In other news, water is wet.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 10:56:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately for us smart people, the Whole Point of democracy is to give everybody the same voice--including the dumb ones who give their voice to the ultra-rich.
by asdf on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 12:39:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 01:20:14 PM EST
Depardieu cast in role of Strauss-Kahn in new biopic - Europe - World - The Independent

Gerard Depardieu is to play Dominique Strauss-Kahn in a Hollywood biopic about the scandal that destroyed the economist's hopes of winning the French presidency.

The film will be made by Abel Ferrara, the controversial US director behind Bad Lieutenant, who described Depardieu as the ideal actor for the part. Filming is expected to start this summer.

"It will be a film about sex and politics, and Gerard Depardieu will be perfect for the role," Ferrara told Le Monde. It will be filmed in Paris, New York and Washington.

Strauss-Kahn was forced to resign as head of the International Monetary Fund when he was accused last May of raping a hotel chambermaid in New York. He was charged with sexual assault but US prosecutors eventually dropped the case.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:49:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
allAfrica.com: Kenya: Obama's Grandmother Injured in Road Accident

US President Barack Obama's grandmother, Mama Sarah Obama, sustained bruises during a road accident at Otonglo on the Kisumu-Busia highway at the weekend.

The accident, which took place on Saturday around 9pm, is reported to have occurred after the driver lost control of the vehicle she was in while trying to overtake another.

According to a witness, Mr Dennis Owuor, some residents rushed to the scene after hearing a loud bang at night.

"When we came to find out what had happened, we discovered that a car had rolled and soon there were a number of police officers at the scene," he said.

Mr Owuor said that the quick response to a "minor accident" made them suspect that a prominent person had been involved.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 6th, 2012 at 03:49:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue Feb 7th, 2012 at 04:48:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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