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26 February 2013

by Nomad Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 05:06:18 PM EST

Your take on today's news media

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by Nomad on Sun Feb 24th, 2013 at 11:45:45 AM EST
Centre-left and Berlusconi neck and neck in Italy poll - ITALY - FRANCE 24

taly's general election descended into chaos on Monday amid conflicting reports pointing first to a victory for the centre-left alliance of Pier Luigi Bersani and then for Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right bloc.

As voting ended at 3pm on Monday, exit polls for the key Senate race gave the centre-left coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani between 36% and 38% of the vote, followed by Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right bloc (30%-32%) and the anti-establishment movement of firebrand comedian Beppe Grillo (17%-19%).

But less than an hour later, early results pointed to yet another spectacular comeback by the "Cavaliere".

Projections based on around half of all votes cast for the Senate put Berlusconi's coalition in the lead with 31%, followed by the centre-left on 30%. Beppe Grillo's 5-Star Movement was credited with 24% of votes cast, making it the single largest party in the Senate.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 02:51:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Italy's Bersani keen to soften tough reform plans | Europe | DW.DE | 25.02.2013

Initial results point to Italy's center-left alliance as the largest group in the newly-elected parliament. Former Communist Pier Luigi Bersani could be the next premier.

The election campaign was fierce and personal. In one television program, 61-year-old Pier Luigi Bersani said that he has no problem with his own bald head with its halo of black hair around the sides - an allusion to his main rival, Silvio Berlusconi.

Bersani, who is not a man of grandiose gestures and likes to keep things simple, differs markedly from Berlusconi, who makes no effort to hide his repeated face-liftings and hair implants. Quite the contrary: the 76-year-old Berlusconi even makes fun of his age and the attempts to regain his youth. "I used to look younger. Who was it that got rid of all the mirrors that showed that?" he said with a wry smile during an election rally.

Pier Luigi takes a less light-hearted approach to his public appearances. During the campaign, he said that Italy's economic crisis could not be solved with magic tricks and "hackneyed sound bites."

Unlike Berlusconi, Bersani wants to continue the reform course of the technocratic government under outgoing premier Mario Monti, but also wants to soften some of the more draconian measures, such as the labor market reforms.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 02:55:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also see de Gondi's Italian Political Elections Special for further discussion.
by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 02:56:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Center-Left Takes Lead in Key Italian Election - SPIEGEL ONLINE
After voting booths closed in Italy on Monday, initial polls showed that Pier Luigi Bersani's center left had established a strong lead in the lower house. But Silvio Berlusconi had a narrow lead in the Senate, which could lead to political gridlock and unsettle markets.

Projections from an early vote count showed Berlusconi slightly ahead in the Senate. The media magnate aims to win enough power in the Senate to paralyze a center-left government and block austerity policies that he railed against in the election campaign. Italyurgently needs reforms to cope with its public debts of almost 130 percent of GDP, and to boost it's long-term growth outlook.

As news of Berlusconi's gains came in, the benchmark spread between Italian 10-year bonds and their German equivalent widened from below 260 basis points to above 280 and the Italian share index lost previous gains. The DAX German stock market index halved its gains. The euro fell more than a cent to below €1.32.

A projection by the Piepoli Institute based on a sample of early results showed Berlusconi's coalition ahead in the Senate race with 31 percent against 29.5 percent for Bersani's coalition. According to the Tecne institute, Berlusconi's group was ahead with 31 percent to 29.7 percent.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 03:45:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cyprus votes for a presidential 'chosen one' | Europe | DW.DE | 25.02.2013

In its presidential election, Cyprus traded a communist for a conservative. Nikos Anastasiadis will try to stave off bankruptcy, please his people and cater to the EU. Opposition parties think he's a pawn.

With 57.5 percent of the votes, Nicos Anastasiadis of Cyprus's conservative party defeated the reigning leftist president, Stavros Malás, by a surprisingly wide margin on Sunday (24.02.2012). The new president's biggest challenge will be to provide details of new austerity measures to impatient international donors while simultaneously staving off bankruptcy for his small island republic.

For eight months, Anastasiadis's predecessor, President Christofias, negotiated the terms of a 17.5-billion-euro ($23-billion) aid package with the EU, IMF and ECB "troika." An agreement was supposedly made in principle. Yet questions, particularly regarding the sale of public debt, remain open. In addition, Anastasiadis promised the privatization of state-owned companies during his campaign, the details of which are still vague. In his first statement after the election, however, the conservative party leader attempted to convey a sense of optimism.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 02:57:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com / Foreign Affairs / EU and Ukraine end cold spell in relations
The EU has ended a mini-Cold-War with Ukraine by welcoming back its President in Brussels.

The meeting with Viktor Yanukovych on Monday (25 February) comes after EU leaders last year boycotted Euro 2012 football games and a regional summit in Yalta, Ukraine.

They also told his Prime Minister to "stay home" instead of going to the EU capital last May and did not hold an EU-Ukraine summit for the first time in 15 years.

The cold spell came after Yanukovych jailed political opponents, such as former PM Yulia Tymoshenko, and bullied competing parties in parliamentary elections.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 03:25:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU summit urged to highlight 'abuses' in Ukraine: theparliament.com
Political leaders have been urged to use an EU-Ukraine summit to resolve human rights concerns.

Ahead of the event in Brussels on Monday, Amnesty International is calling on the EU and member states to ensure that Ukraine is called on to tackle "serious" human rights problems if it is to meet its aspirations towards association agreement, trade agreements and visa liberalisation.

"Only adherence to European and international human rights standards can lead to closer political association and economic integration with the EU," said Tetyana Mazur, Amnesty International Ukraine's executive director.

"Ukraine's government still needs to take necessary measures to protect people in Ukraine from torture, and discrimination based on sexual orientation. It is also important to ensure that nobody is returned to countries where they may face serious human rights violations including torture," he added.

Amnesty cites several cases to highlight its message, including that of Mikhail Belikov, a retired miner, who was allegedly tortured and raped by police officers in Donetsk on 17 June 2012.
by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 03:26:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
French education minister targets sacrosanct summer holidays | World news | guardian.co.uk

It takes a brave government minister to touch something as sacrosanct as France's two-month summer holidays.

So the education minister, Vincent Peillon, was either being courageous or committing political suicide when he announced on Monday that he wanted the school summer break reduced from eight to six weeks.

Peillon already has a bloody nose from attempts to overhaul the French education system, suggesting pupils should give up their midweek day off or have classes on Saturday mornings in exchange for a daily reduction of the school day by 45 minutes. The idea caused a walkout among staff at schools last month and has brought teachers and parents on to the streets in protest.

After dropping his summer holiday bombshell, Peillon admitted it would not take effect before 2015, when he hopes to have forced through reforms that will mean French pupils attending school 4.5 days a week instead of the current four.

President François Hollande promised to overhaul the education system after he was elected in May last year, saying: "France has the shortest school year and the longest day." He pledged a massive shakeup, including a reduction in the amount of homework and less "redoubling" or repetition of a school year for those deemed unable to keep up.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 03:48:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Um, why?  More austerity for its own sake, even though it sounds like it would cost more?  Or is this trying to compensate for too many serious people thinking the French are lazy?
by Zwackus on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 07:12:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it does seem that very long school days are not a particularly bright idea.
Whereas 2 whole months (a legacy of the time when you had to let the children help their parents in the agricultural fields...) is probably more than is needed to fully rest. Whereas, if you are lucky enough to have parents who support your education, you may actually learn more than at school during the break, it's more likely that you will lose much of your learning habits if your family is underprivileged.

Of course, parents like the long days -you don't have to pay for care while the child is at school, something that is going to be a problem for me from september here in London, when my elder son will be out at 3:20...
And teachers probably like extra holidays (I don't blame them, they have a stressful job).

But if you think of what's best for the education of all children, it's quite likely that shorter days and a somewhat shorter break over the summer would make sense. I don't think it's anything to do with costs.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 03:09:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Sweden we have public financed after-school care (often in the same building as the school) for kids up to the age of 12, though participation drops sharply after 9 years of age when most kids are big enough to get home and stay home for a couple of hours on their own. It is essentially an extension of the public financed day care for pre-school children.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Wed Feb 27th, 2013 at 01:33:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He's seen the stats on education outcomes: France is slipping in both relative and absolute terms, i.e. the education system is failing the kids. This is his legacy issue : he is ready to put the resources into education, taking them out of other fields as necessary in order to balance the budget...

These reforms are part of what is needed, but will only pass if he puts up the money, otherwise the teacher unions and the municipalities will sink them.

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

by eurogreen on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 03:28:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Outcomes of the French educational system constitute a faithful copy of the social hierarchy, and one of the ways of changing that is to increase the number of days spent at school. More, but shorter, school days in the year works to the advantage of the otherwise disadvantaged -- those who don't have home support, money to pay for private coaching, etc.  
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 03:53:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
something as sacrosanct as France's two-month summer holidays.

Foreign Correspondent's Disease strikes again. The two-month break is more of a problem for most families. Roughly half the kids in France don't go away on holiday during that period. As for salaried workers, those who can take a full month off in summer are a dwindling number.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 04:02:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sweden has ten weeks. Apparently even longer in the States. (Even even longer in Finland?)
Great for kids, tricky for parents.

A better spread over the year might be better. From second hand experience the the UK midterms aren't wonderful for parents either.

I guess the question is what kind of society we want, now that we're done with industrialisation. Families/no families? Children?

sapere aude

by Number 6 on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 06:20:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Persuading people to have children is one of the toughest parts of social engineering, and crucial for a sustainable society.

For a sustainable economy, perhaps not?

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

by eurogreen on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 08:21:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Academic year in San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD):

First Day of School (K-12): Monday, August 20, 2012

Last Day of School (K-12): Friday, May 31, 2013 - Early Dismissal

by Bernard on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 09:27:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Pope's change to conclave rules speeds up succession - VATICAN - FRANCE 24

Pope Benedict XVI issued a decree on Monday allowing cardinals to bring forward a conclave to elect his successor, as the resignation of a top cardinal and deepening intrigue in the Vatican clouded the run-up to the vote.

"I leave the College of Cardinals the possibility to bring forward the start of the conclave once all cardinals are present," said the pope, who steps down on Thursday.

The conclave is traditionally held between 15 and 20 days after the papal seat becomes vacant although that period normally includes nine days of mourning for a deceased pope.

A climate of intrigue and scandal has gripped the Vatican at the approach of the conclave, accentuated by the resignation announced Monday of British Cardinal Keith O'Brien over allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 03:51:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FT.com: Bundesbank tells France to stick to budget (February 25, 2013)
Germany's central bank has called on France to stick to its EU-mandated budget deficit target, saying that any slippage by such a eurozone heavyweight would further undermine confidence in the bloc's fiscal discipline.


After hints from Olli Rehn, the EU's economic chief, that he was willing to give France more time, Jens Weidmann, president of Germany's Bundesbank, entered the debate on Monday in a speech in Paris, urging the French government to stick to its commitments.


The Bundesbank is fiercely independent of the German government, which has been more equivocal in its response to the likely French miss, although it shares the diagnosis that the sovereign debt crisis was borne of a crisis of confidence in the bloc's economic governance.

Clearly an independent Central Bank is not an apolitical Central Bank. It's just differently political.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 05:01:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's independently political.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 05:11:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am still not sure why anybody should care about the opinion of the manager of some ECB branch office.
by IM on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 05:32:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah and how come Otto Abetz had so much influence in French politics?

(just kidding)

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

by eurogreen on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 05:37:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh come on. That is rather idiotic.
by IM on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 05:38:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, read the French papers, and see how the political class behaves. OK, more like Jaruzelski with Brezhnev breathing down his neck.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 05:49:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"It will be seen that, as used, the word `Fascism' is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley's broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else."


by IM on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 05:51:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you should care that your Central Banker sees it fit to interfere in the fiscal policy of a foreign government.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 05:53:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He isn't a central banker. My central banker is someone called Draghi.
by IM on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 05:57:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To be air, he is 1/23 of my central banker.
by IM on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 05:59:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Animal Farm - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"All animals central bankers are equal, but some animals central bankers are more equal than others"

Then again, maybe Mr.Weidmann considers himself as just one central banker among 22 colleagues, whose word doesn't carry more weight than, say, Mr.Noyer (Banque de France chairman) commenting on Germany, deficit spending and inflation target.

Now the interesting point would be why Weidmann's word does carry much more weight than those of his colleagues; that would be a change from the usual bickering (in all fairness, it's probably not - entirely - the German's fault).

by Bernard on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 09:16:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the German establishment appears to be annoyed that Weidman's vote is not weighted by his country's GDP in ECB general council decisions. That way he'd count as 8 of his colleagues.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 09:30:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which would give him an additional incentive to destroy the GDP of other countries....
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 09:33:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Now the interesting point would be why Weidmann's word does carry much more weight than those of his colleagues"

The interesting point from my perspective is, how big is his effective influence? As I see it, he has been in the minority in the governing council since he entered office.

by IM on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 10:11:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As far as I know, the Bundesbank President is appointed by the German government without participation by the ECB, does not report to the ECB president, not can he be disciplined by either the German Government or the ECB.

Seems to me like a pretty autonomous political personality.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 09:32:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A autonomous political personality that constitutes 1/23 of a central banker.
by IM on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 10:05:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Note that he is the Bundesbank's president -not even the ECB's!
I wonder what we would hear if Christian Noyer solemnly instructed Germany to engage in massive deficit spending and to target 7% inflation.

Admittedly, he did so in a speech at HEC, which could be construed as an unofficial event (although of course he knew it would be spoken of. Times change. I don't recall that any of the speeches we got at Polytechnique made news, maybe that's because students at HEC pay a lot to study, so that makes them important).
But he came up with "we MUST acknowledge that what we've had was a crisis of confidence" (translated from a translation into French, so maybe not word for word).

We must? Why, since there is not a shred of evidence pointing that way?
I suppose that the only truthful answer is "because otherwise, we could not have a job at the head of the Bundesbank".

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 05:11:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Sun Feb 24th, 2013 at 11:45:49 AM EST
Pound falls to two-year low as currency markets lose faith in UK economy | Business | guardian.co.uk

Sterling fell to a two-year low on Monday as currency markets signalled their waning confidence in the UK economy's ability to exit the longest depression in 80 years.

The pound, which has tumbled by 8% in recent weeks, fell to $1.51 as investors digested the loss of Britain's AAA credit status and the increasingly gloomy economic outlook from independent forecasters. As recently as December it was trading at $1.63.

The ratings agency Moody's, which downgraded the UK to the lower AA1, joined many analysts in predicting that the economy will be held back by a longer than expected period of low growth and bigger debt mountain.

Stock markets remained calm and gilt yields, which show the government's borrowing costs, at 2.1% remained higher than Germany's 1.6%, but lower than France's 2.2%.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 04:49:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
United Kingdom: A-A-Another one bites the dust | Presseurop (English)

The reality of Britain's credit downgrade is likely to prove less dramatic than the anticipation. It had been widely expected that the UK would be stripped of its AAA rating in the next few weeks. The only surprise is that Moody's took the decision before the Budget in March. The insouciance of investors when France and the US lost their top ratings suggests the market reaction may be more a shrug than a shudder.

Politically it is highly significant, however, not least because George Osborne said that retaining Britain's AAA rating would be a key benchmark of the success of his deficit reduction strategy. Some of his critics, including the Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, claim that losing the rating demonstrates that the strategy has failed and that he should change tack. But this newspaper believes the problem is not that the strategy laid out by the coalition in 2010 was wrong. It is that the government has failed to implement that strategy with sufficient vigour and political courage.

Mr Osborne was absolutely right that the priority was a credible plan to reduce the government deficit and that this should be achieved mainly by cuts in public spending rather than tax increases. This would form part of a longer-term shift away from a high-spending state to a low-tax economy with room for the private sector to thrive freed from unnecessary regulation. Helped by the fall in the pound, there would be a rebalancing of the economy towards exports and the regions and away from an overheated City and the rest of the south east.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 04:54:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Guardian - Ed Balls taunts 'downgraded chancellor' George Osborne over credit rating

Balls said. "Over a weekend, he went from saying he must stick to his plan to avoid a downgrade to saying that the downgrade is the reason why he must stick to the plan.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 03:28:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nice one.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 04:03:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But this newspaper believes the problem is not that the strategy laid out by the coalition in 2010 was wrong. It is that the government has failed to implement that strategy with sufficient vigour and political courage.

Before you carry on reading, we'd like to make it clear that we are batshit crazy.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 03:40:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"This newspaper" = The Times of [Murdoch Alert] fame.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 04:05:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed. Here's Porthes summarising Plan A:
What is Plan A?  Eliminating the structural budget deficit by the end of the Parliament? That was abandoned in 2011.  Reducing the debt-GDP ratio in 2015-16?  That went in the Autumn Statement.  Setting DEL spending targets but allowing the "automatic stabilisers" which the Chancellor once described as a "key part of the flexibility built in to our plan" to function?  The Autumn Statement dropped them too.

So did 'this paper' complain about this in 2011 and after the Autumn Statement?
Not sure I can tell.

sapere aude

by Number 6 on Wed Feb 27th, 2013 at 09:53:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com / Economic Affairs / Unemployment now the main problem in eurozone
February 22 was a black Friday wherever you were in Europe. The morning brought the publication of dismal economic data to the effect that the eurozone will remain in recession in 2013.

Then, at 10pm Brussels time as the the markets closed, ratings agency Moody's quietly issued a statement stripping the UK of its AAA credit rating.

For those lulled into a false sense of security through a recent combination of relatively benign financial markets and the euro strengthening against sterling and the yen, it was a rude awakening.

Reading the European Commission's Winter Forecast is a singularly dispiriting experience. The bald figures are that the eurozone is expected to remain in recession with a 0.3 percent contraction in 2013. The words "sluggish ... weak ... vulnerable ... modest ... fragile'" litter the 140 pages of charts and analysis.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 04:55:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Economics and Politics by Paul Krugman - The Conscience of a Liberal - NYTimes.com

I've been browsing through the collected speeches of Olli Rehn, the vice-president of the European Commission, who has emerged as the face of denialism when it comes to the effects of austerity. What I wanted to do is pinpoint what, exactly, he and those who share his position see as the evidence that their view is right. And I think it's two things.

First, they look at the decline in interest spreads against Germany for troubled countries:

I see that too -- but it looks as if only a fraction of the needed adjustment has taken place, with years to go.

So basically they have seized on the ECB's success at stabilizing debt markets -- which from the De Grauwe point of view, which I share, is a demonstration that extreme austerity was unnecessary and unwise -- as a vindication of austerity; and they have taken the slow progress of grinding deflation as a sign that all will be well.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 04:57:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Vice-president of the European Commission". What an ignorant.

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.
by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 09:38:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What's missing is "one of".
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 27th, 2013 at 02:24:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, that would make it clearer, but it's not wrong without it.
I can say "Woody Allen, the film director", for example, without implying that there is only one.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi
by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Wed Feb 27th, 2013 at 05:13:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ratings agency Moody's quietly issued a statement

What was quiet about it? Moody's knew perfectly well it would flash around the world in minutes.

It is just such empowering publicity for an agency to get to use nations as whipping-boys.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 04:08:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama presses Congress over cuts - FT.com

President Barack Obama warned that automatic spending cuts due to hit in four days were already having an adverse impact on the US economy, as he urged state governors to make a last-ditch attempt to nudge Congress into an unlikely deal to stop them.

Mr Obama said just the threat of budget sequestration - worth $85bn through the end of the fiscal year in September - had businesses "preparing lay-off notices" and households "preparing to cut back expenses".

"The longer these cuts are in place, the bigger the impact will become," Mr Obama said.

Mr Obama's admonition came as he heads to southeastern Virginia on Tuesday - to a naval shipyard where he will illustrate the danger of the automatic cuts to the Pentagon budget, which would shoulder half of the reductions.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 04:57:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
America's Sequestered Recovery by Laura Tyson - Project Syndicate
The United States is confronting another round of cuts in federal government spending, this time threatening to trim at least 0.5 percentage points from GDP growth and to precipitate a loss of at least one million jobs. Automatic across-the-board spending cuts, the so-called "sequester," would reduce spending by $85 billion, with defense programs cut by about 8% and domestic programs by about 5% this year - and with additional cuts of comparable dollar amounts every year until 2021.

All major government functions - national security, foreign aid, basic research, emergency relief, and education, to name a few salient examples - would experience an immediate and sizeable funding hit. These cuts, along with the tax increases agreed to in January, would knock about 1.25 percentage points off 2013 GDP growth, consigning the economy to another year of tepid recovery and disappointing job gains.

The real aim of the sequester's advocates is a smaller federal government - a goal that often is cloaked in the argument that excessive government spending is choking economic growth. Although this is a politically compelling argument, because it stokes public fears about an out-of-control deficit, it flies in the face of the facts.

Anemic government spending, not profligacy, has been a major factor behind the economy's lackluster recovery. According to a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office, large spending cuts by state and local governments - and, more recently, a significant reduction in federal spending - have contributed to the unusual and prolonged weakness of aggregate demand.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 04:59:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Map: States Vulnerable To Sequestration - Business Insider

Unless Washington can pull off a last minute deal, the sequestration budget cuts will begin on March 1.

Sequestration is the series of $85 billion worth of spending cuts that'll ripple across the U.S. government.

And across the U.S., some states are likely to get hit worse than others.

Wells Fargo's Mark Vittner and Michael Brown took a closer look and build a map.  From their report:

In order to assess the potential regional impact of these budget cuts, we have identified those states that have the greatest exposure to federal funding cuts. We utilize the metrics calculated by the Pew Center on the States for federal spending as a percentage of state GDP.    We then identify those states that are most susceptible to defense and those most susceptible to nondefense spending cuts. Even a cursory review of the data shows that the process of budget sequestration will harm certain states disproportionally. In general, the greater Washington, D.C. area and southern states will be the hardest hit, while states in the Midwest and along the West Coast will likely be impacted to a lesser extent.

Here's their map:

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 05:00:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow! Virginia and Maryland get hammered. A 3% cut is hard enough. That is what Arkansas faces, but they face almost 20%? and almost 13% for New Mexico?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 05:44:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course those figures are not the cuts, but the portion of the state domestic product that derives from federal spending, so Virginal and Maryland might face a couple of percentage points of reduced economic activity.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 05:46:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, so much of our local economy is tied to the Federal government we're pretty much screwed here in NM if the cuts go into effect.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 06:02:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wouldn't be surprised if the sequester, if allowed to continue for more than a month, produced a 1% drop in GDP. Maybe that would get some attention. But to really have any effect the entire "debt crisis" meme needs to be shown for the BS it is. Debt is a good choice if it is used to finance socially useful investment. It is certainly better than foregoing forever the loss of potential production that more sane policies would have produced.

To lay off teachers, health care workers, fire fighters, etc. when they are needed is just insanity. Unless he intends to fold, Obama needs to get his head out of his ass and take on this crap. He has the ability to do what is needed and just needs the will. He has to be willing to let the financial sector be angry with him. So he might not get his presidential library. There are better legacies available. He should study Bepe Grillo and find his inner populist. But perhaps he is afraid he will sound too low class.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 01:34:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't they just cut it from the Pentagon's bloated budget ?

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 03:31:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The sequester only takes less than half from 'defense'. I don't object to that. For another opinion on the sequester see Wm. K. Black, even thought the quote is excessively long.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 01:08:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If what I'm reading is accurate - always a serious question with the MSM - 13% of the cuts will come from Defense, 9% from non-defense.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 01:54:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I presume you are talking about the division between a 22% cut in the areas not shielded from the cuts.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Feb 27th, 2013 at 02:59:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Executive Branch must submit it but Congress controls the budget.  Up until recently the budget was decided by submissions and negotiations and posturing and deal-making during writing.  Once finalized, it pretty much sailed through.  


Congress has been highly allergic to passing tax increases to pay for all the spending they passed and their political power depends on bringing home the necessary spending plus pork to their districts.

The President, by law, must spend the money budgeted in accordance with the budget, thus the Executive Branch has no choice but to borrow money if spending is above income.

The GOP is, essentially, making A Deal and then reneging.

Obama, in theory, could go to the American People (the simple folk, the common clay ... you know ... morons) and make a stink about this.  That's not Obama.  He's not going to do it.  

In Theory Congress could write and pass a budget to actually address the actual problems.  Up to now, they've shown no signs of doing that.  Instead they keep passing FantasyLand budgets mandating increased debt assumption and then loudly complain about it.

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

by ATinNM on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 01:49:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama, in theory, could go to the American People (the simple folk, the common clay ... you know ... morons) and make a stink about this.

No, he may be going for a 'grand bargain' both as a legacy and as a final favor to his financial sector heroes. That wouldn't be so bad were there any real excesses in Medicare and Social Security and were the COALAs too generous, but it is very hard to make the case that they are. And at least half of the morons are going to think they are enjoying the fucking - until they realize that they aren't.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Feb 27th, 2013 at 02:57:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Funny, the high/low 'risk' correlates with red/blue states.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 01:45:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, there is Washington and New Mexico is at least purple.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 01:09:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
U.S. CEO Blasts French Work Culture - WSJ.com
The chief executive of a U.S. company that had considered buying a tire factory in northern France delivered a blistering critique of French work habits, writing to France's industry minister that he would be "stupid" to operate in a country where workers get high wages for little actual work.

Maurice Taylor, the CEO of Titan International Inc., criticized France's labor culture, saying that French unions and the government do nothing but talk. His letter, published on Wednesday in French newspaper Les Echos, highlights the danger that President François Hollande's labor reform plans, including measures that would allow companies to cut working hours and wages when production slows, may be too slow-paced for foreign investors.

Titan had expressed interest in acquiring an unprofitable plant put up for sale by tire maker Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., but the company pulled out of negotiations last year after workers, headed by the communist-backed CGT union, refused to work longer hours to save jobs.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 05:04:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Bernard on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 09:18:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yahoo chief bans working from home | Technology | The Guardian

Surfing the web from at home might be just what Yahoo's chief Marissa Mayer wants her audience to do - but she has banned employees of the company itself from working "remotely", in an edict sent out last Friday to Yahoo's thousands of staff.

Several hundred staff must now relocate their home offices to Yahoo's nearest office outpost by June - or quit, as the former Google chief gets serious about getting the company's staff back into "meat space" so it can be a contender in the web space.

The memo from human resources chief Jackie Reses - but driven by Mayer - says that "to become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices."

But the mood of Yahoo's 11,500 employees - down from 14,100 at the end of 2011 - can be guessed from the fact that the memo is marked: "PROPRIETARY AND CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION - DO NOT FORWARD" and that it has been forwarded to the news site AllThingsD by "a plethora" of staff, according to senior editor Kara Swisher, who broke the story.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 05:04:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As somebody speculated, given that this will trigger an outflow of staff, it's a cheap way to reduce staff costs

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 03:33:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why Obama Refuses to Kill the Sequester  Wm. K. Black

We are in the midst of the blame game about the "Sequester."  I wrote last year about the fact that President Obama had twice blocked Republican efforts to remove the Sequester.  President Obama went so far as to issue a veto threat to block the second effort.  I found contemporaneous reportage on the President's efforts to preserve the Sequester - and the articles were not critical of those efforts.  I found no contemporaneous rebuttal by the administration of these reports.
I raised the President's efforts to save the Sequester because they revealed his real preferences.  Those of us who teach economics explain to our students that what people say about their preferences is not as reliable as how they act.  Their actions reveal their true preferences.  President Obama has always known that the Sequester is terrible public policy.  He has blasted it as a "manufactured crisis."

the administration has stated publicly the three reasons this is so.  First, the Sequester represents self-destructive austerity.  Indeed, it would be the fourth act of self-destructive austerity.  The August 2011 budget deal already sharply limited spending and the January 2013 "fiscal cliff" deal raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans and restored the full payroll tax.  The cumulative effect of these three forms of austerity has already strangled the (modest) recovery - adding the Sequester, particularly given the Eurozone's austerity-induced recession, could tip us into a gratuitous recession.

Second, the Sequester is a particularly stupid way to inflict austerity on a Nation.  It is a bad combination of across the board cuts - but with many exemptions that lead to the cuts concentrating heavily in many vital programs that are already badly underfunded.

Third, conservatives purport to believe in what Paul Krugman derisively calls the "confidence fairy."  They assert that uncertainty explains our inadequate demand.  The absurd, self-destructive austerity deals induced or threatened by the Sequester have caused recurrent crises and maximized uncertainty.  They also show that the U.S. is not ready for prime time.

When he acted to save the Sequester, Obama proved that he preferred the Sequester to the alternative.  When the alternative threatened by the Republicans was causing a default on the U.S. debt (by refusing to increase the debt limit), one could understand Obama's preference (though even there I would have called the Republican bluff).  The Republicans, however, had extended the debt limit in both of the cases that President Obama acted to save the Sequester in 2011.

Similarly, President Obama has revealed his real preferences in the current blame game by not calling for a clean bill eliminating the Sequester.  It is striking that as far as I know (1) neither Obama nor any administration official has called for the elimination of the Sequester and (2) we have a fairly silly blame game about how the Sequester was created without discussing the implications of Obama's continuing failure to call for the elimination of the Sequester despite his knowledge that it is highly self-destructive.

The only logical inference that can be drawn is that Obama remains committed to inflicting the "Grand Bargain" (really, the Grand Betrayal) on the Nation in his quest for a "legacy" and continues to believe that the Sequester provides him the essential leverage he feels he needs to coerce Senate progressives to adopt austerity, make deep cuts in vital social programs, and to begin to unravel the safety net.  Obama's newest budget offer includes cuts to the safety net and provides that 2/3 of the austerity inflicted would consist of spending cuts instead of tax increases.  When that package is one's starting position the end result of any deal will be far worse.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 02:41:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh for heaven's sakes ...

I hold no brief for Obama but this is just silly.  It's not Obama's budget.  He's not the God Emperor of America, issuing edicts from on high.

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

by ATinNM on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 01:53:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is not Black's claim. His claim is that Obama wants the threat of the sequester in front of Congress and the country as a means of bringing about a 'grand bargain' the concessions for which from the Democrats' side are net harmful. He rejected the opportunity to get the whole sequester abomination off the table. That is his revealed preference. Of course it is not his budget. But without the threat of the sequester there is little chance he could get the Democrats in Congress to go along with the concessions which the majority of the population don't want and which will be harmful to the country.

It is as good an explanation for his conduct as I have seen. Faced with the choice of dumb and dumber Obama says: "Let's compromise!" If/when he starts to effectively push back and argue the stupidity and the futile nature of even considering such nonsense I will change my opinion.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 11:01:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Sun Feb 24th, 2013 at 11:45:53 AM EST
.:Middle East Online::U-turn: Syria regime now ready for talks with rebels:.

The Syrian regime is ready to talk with all parties, including armed rebels, who want dialogue to end the conflict, Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said on Monday at talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

"We are ready for dialogue with all who want dialogue, including those who are carrying arms," Muallem said at the Moscow talks with Lavrov, in an apparent reference to the rebels battling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

"We still believe in a peaceful solution to the Syrian problem," said Muallem, pointing to the creation of a government coalition that would negotiate with both the "external and internal opposition."

Lavrov said alongside Muallem that there was no alternative to a political solution to the two-year conflict agreed through talks.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 04:31:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
.:Middle East Online::Pillay: UN Security Council has 'failed' to end Syria conflict:.

The United Nations Security Council has "failed" to bring an end to the spiralling conflict in Syria, the UN's human rights chief said on Monday.

"The Security Council has so far failed with regard to Syria," Navi Pillay told ministers as the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council kicked off in Geneva.

Vuk Jeremic, the president of the UN General Assembly, joined Pillay in criticising the international community's inaction on Syria.

"For close to two years, the international community has failed to put a stop to the carnage," he said.

"The immediate cessation of hostilities should be our foremost priority."

Pillay said her office had pushed repeatedly for the Security Council to refer the conflict to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 04:40:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Except there is no u-turn, it is a consistent policy.

M of A - Not The First Time Haaretz Is Caught Lying

Do those Haartez writers really think that their readers have such a short memory?

Posted by b on February 9, 2013 at 07:40 AM | Permalink

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Wed Feb 27th, 2013 at 01:16:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Powers to offer Iran sanctions relief at nuclear talks | Reuters

Major powers will offer Iran some sanctions relief during talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan, this week if Tehran agrees to curb its nuclear program, a U.S. official said on Monday.

But the Islamic Republic could face more economic pain if it fails to address international concerns about its atomic activities, the official said ahead of the February 26-27 meeting in the central Asian state, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"There will be continued sanctions enforcement ... there are other areas where pressure can be put," the official said, on the eve of the first round of negotiations between Iran and six world powers in eight months.

A spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who leads the talks with Iran on behalf of the powers, said Tehran should understand that there was an "urgent need to make concrete and tangible progress" in Kazakhstan.

Both Russia and the United States stressed there was not an unlimited amount of time to resolve a dispute that has raised fears of a new war in the Middle East.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 04:38:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
An impromptu American-Iranian dialogue | Marc Lynch

Talks between Iran and the P5+1 on the Iranian nuclear program are set to begin tomorrow in Kazakhstan after some eight months. The expectations game is in full swing, with American officials tipping an offer of a "clear pathway" to sanctions relief (which won't be easy) and Iran signaling a tough initial line. Few expect a breakthrough at the talks, but there is some hope that it might lay the foundation for more regular, ongoing negotiations on the core issues or even to direct U.S.-Iran talks. I don't know what's going to happen in Almaty. But at this weekend's Camden Conference in Maine, I at least got a preview of what the opening rounds of a direct Iranian-American dialogue might look like. It wasn't pretty. But it was a useful demonstration of the vast conceptual divide between the two sides which any negotiation will somehow need to bridge.

The preview came at the end of the first day of the conference. Shai Feldman of Brandeis University first presented a detailed, sophisticated account of Israeli strategic thinking about Iran (see here for a sample of his analysis on the Middle East Channel). He left the stage following his remarks, and was followed by Hossein Mousavian, a former Iranian nuclear negotiator and currently a Research Scholar at Princeton University who presented a standard Iranian narrative of unjustified international suspicion and illegitimate international pressure (his December Carnegie Council presentation and today's FT column gives a sense of his talk).

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 04:38:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Afghanistan Moves to Curb U.S. Forces - WSJ.com

The Afghan government ordered U.S. Special Operations Forces to immediately cease operations in Wardak--one of Afghanistan's most dangerous provinces--and pull out in two weeks, in President Hamid Karzai's latest showdown with the international military coalition.

The demand comes after complaints by Wardak residents that U.S. Special Operations Forces and Afghans working with the elite units have unlawfully detained, tortured and killed innocent civilians, the government said on Sunday. Afghan officials also say U.S. Special Operations Forces are propping up local armed groups, which are harassing the population.

The move will complicate the transition process by worsening U.S.-Afghan tensions and increasing operational uncertainty as international forces hand over security responsibilities to their Afghan counterparts.

It is also the Afghan government's latest attempt to limit the scope of international military operations before the 2014 withdrawal, coming about a week after Mr. Karzai barred Afghan forces from calling in coalition airstrikes in residential are

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 04:45:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Digital Spying Burdens German Relations with Beijing - SPIEGEL ONLINE

Last year, Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, reported close to 1,100 digital attacks on the German government by foreign intelligence agencies. Most were directed against the Chancellery, the Foreign Ministry and the Economics Ministry. In most cases, the attacks consist of emails with attachments containing a Trojan horse. Security officials noticed that the attacks were especially severe in the run-up to the G-20 summit, targeting members of the German delegation and focusing on fiscal and energy policy. The Green Party has also been targeted before.

In mid-2012, hackers attacked ThyssenKrupp with previously unheard of vehemence. The attempts to infiltrate the steel and defense group's corporate network were "massive" and of "a special quality," say company officials. Internally, the subject was treated as a top-secret issue. The hackers had apparently penetrated so deeply into the company's systems that executives felt it was necessary to notify authorities. ThyssenKrupp told SPIEGEL that the attack had occurred "locally in the United States," and that the company did not know whether and what the intruders may have copied. It did know, however, that the attacks were linked to Internet addresses in China.

Hackers have also apparently targeted pharmaceutical giant Bayer and IBM, although IBM isn't commenting on the alleged attacks. In late 2011, a German high-tech company, the global market leader in its industry, received a call from security officials, who said that they had received information from a friendly intelligence service indicating that large volumes of data had been transferred abroad.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 04:46:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indian land grabs in Ethiopia show dark side of south-south co-operation | Anuradha Mittal | Global development | guardian.co.uk

A case in point is the land grab by Indian corporations in Ethiopia, facilitated by the governments of both countries, which use development rhetoric while further marginalising the indigenous communities that bear the pain of the resulting social, economic and environmental devastation. It is against this scenario that international solidarity between communities affected by the insanity of a development model that prefers profits over people is reclaiming the principles of south-south co-operation.

Ethiopia's late prime minister, Meles Zenawi, welcomed India's expanding footprint in Africa as essential for his country's wellbeing, a vision shared by his successor, Hailemariam Desalegn. The Export-Import Bank, India's premier export finance institution, gave the Ethiopian government a $640m (£412m) line of credit to develop the controversial sugar sector in lower Omo. Indian companies are the largest investors in the country, having acquired more than 600,000 hectares (1.5m acres) of land for agro-industrial projects.

With 80% of its population engaged in agriculture, Ethiopia is home to more than 34 million chronically hungry people. Every year, millions depend on aid (pdf) for their survival. Amid such hunger, large-scale land deals with Indian investors are portrayed as a win-win situation, modernising agriculture, bringing new technologies and creating employment.

Research by the Oakland Institute, however, contradicts such claims.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 04:48:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Senators Close in on Background Check Agreement on Guns - Bloomberg

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is closing in on an agreement to expand background checks for gun purchases, a test of how far lawmakers may go to address gun violence after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, and Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma have worked out 90 percent of their differences over a measure that would expand criminal background checks to most private sales of guns, according to two Senate aides who asked for anonymity to discuss the talks.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 05:01:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Islamist arrested for politician's murder | World news | guardian.co.uk

A hardline Islamist has been arrested in connection with the killing of a Tunisian opposition politician whose death earlier this month ignited protests across the country, a security source said on Monday.

Tunisia was plunged into political crisis when the secular opposition politician Chokri Belaid was gunned down outside his house on 6 February, leading to the biggest street protests since the overthrow of president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali two years ago.

"The police arrested a Salafist suspected of killing Belaid," the source told Reuters without giving more details. Last year, Salafist groups prevented several concerts and plays from taking place in Tunisian cities, saying they violated Islamic principles. Salafists also ransacked the US embassy in September.

Tunisian radio station Express FM cited a senior security official as saying police had arrested three Salafists, including a police officer, in connection with Belaid's killing.

Abd Majid Belaid, brother of the victim, said he could not confirm or deny the report. The Ministry of Interior and Justice was not available for comment.

Is this a political show? Too early to say. Salafists are the most plausible murderers; the question is whether they are tied to Ennahda or not in this case, and/or to Interior Ministry spooks as has been alleged.

The arrests are convenient for Ali Larayedh, minister of the Interior and Prime Minister-designate. He is an alleged moderate and the salafists don't like him. He needs to show signs of cracking down on them to obtain a majority in Parliament, but not too much or he will lose the support of his own party Ennahda, a large faction of which is very close to the salafists.

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

by eurogreen on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 03:41:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Le tueur présumé de l'opposant tunisien arrêté - Libération The alleged killer of Tunisian dissident arrested - Liberation
Les deux sources interrogées ont indiqué que les deux suspects appartiennent à la mouvance radicale salafiste et que leur arrestation avait été facilitée par le témoignage d'une femme qui a été placée sous protection policière. L'un de ces sources a précisé que le tueur était actif dans la Ligue de protection de la révolution (LPR) une milice brutale pro-islamiste, du Kram, une banlieue populaire de Tunis voisine de Carthage. Plusieurs médias tunisiens ont aussi indiqué que deux militants salafistes présumés avaient été arrêtés pour le meurtre de l'opposant, citant aussi des sources sous couvert de l'anonymat.Both sources interviewed indicated that the two suspects belong to the radical Salafi and that their arrest was facilitated by the testimony of a woman who has been placed under police protection. One of the sources said the killer was active in the League for the Protection of the Revolution (LPR) a pro-Islamist militia brutal, Kram, a suburb of Tunis Carthage neighbor. Several Tunisian media also reported that two militants suspected Salafists were arrested for the murder of opposition, citing as source on condition of anonymity.
Selon la radio Mosaïque FM le tueur «a déjà avoué son implication dans le meurtre de Chokri Belaid et a confié qu'il a exécuté une fatwa qui appelait au meurtre» de cet opposant qui dirigeait un petit parti appartenant à une alliance de plusieurs mouvements de gauche et nationalistes, le Front populaire.According to Mosaique FM radio killer "has already confessed his involvement in the murder of Chokri Belaid and said he followed a fatwa calling for the murder" of the opponent who ran a small party belonging to an alliance of several movements of the left and nationalist, the Popular Front.

If this leak is true, then the missing element is of course, the identity of the religious figure who issued the fatwa against Belaïd.

There is no shortage of candidates : the Tunisian social media were, at least until recently, full of calls for the execution of various impious public figures. Meanwhile, the Minister of Education has called for an inquiry into a video of Tunisian schoolkids performing the Harlem Shuffle.

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

by eurogreen on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 05:09:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Sun Feb 24th, 2013 at 11:45:56 AM EST
Greens call for 'fundamental' reform of Europe's agri-food system: theparliament.com
The Greens group has demanded a three-pronged 'action plan' to help prevent a repeat of the current horsemeat scandal.

This should include ensuring that responsibility for food control checks remain in the hands of national authrorities.

Speaking in parliament on Monday, Belgian Greens deputy Bart Staes said the group was "fiercely" opposed to suggestions that responsibility for this should be passed to private companies.

"This is a bad idea and we will fight it," said Staes.

The group has also called for "sufficient" staffing and resources for the food and veterinary office (FVO) to tackle such food scares.
by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 03:31:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany probes organic egg farmers for possible fraud | EurActiv

German authorities are investigating possible large-scale fraud by organic egg producers amid increased concern over food industry practices following Europe's horsemeat scandal.

The northern state of Lower Saxony, a major agricultural hub, has launched probes of some 150 farms suspected of wrongly selling eggs produced by hens kept in overcrowded conditions under the organic label.

Two other states are investigating a further 50 farms.

"If the accusations [against the farms] are found to be true, then we are talking of fraud on a grand scale: fraud against consumers but also fraud against the many organic farmers in Germany who work honestly," German Farm Minister Ilse Aigner said in a statement on Monday (25 February).

She urged regional governments to ensure the full implementation of tough German and EU laws on organic food production, adding that consumers must be able to have full confidence in the labelling of products.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 03:37:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Increased sale of horsemeat after production scandal

Despite the much publicized food scandal this month, when horsemeat was detected in frozen lasagna all over Europe, the sale of horse meat has skyrocketed in Norway, according to butcher shops.

Last month, horsemeat was detected in ready-made, frozen lasagna that was supposed to only contain beef. Several grocery stores chains in Norway found traces of horsemeat in their lasagna products, and have now started extensive products testing.

However, the food scandal seems to be good business for Norwegian meat shops and butchers.

"The past week we have sold more horsemeat than ever," says Ole Jacob Erdal, manager of the butcher shop at Mathallen, a food market in Oslo.

Erdal explains that customers are curious about the meat and how it tastes. He can reveal that it's slightly sweeter than beef, and very tender.

Also the restaurant in Amsterdam that sold for decades horse steaks as beef has been packed since the fraud was revealed.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 03:40:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Historical studies shore up proof of indirect biofuels emissions | EurActiv

Projections that feedstock-based biofuels will indirectly cause net greenhouse gas emissions in the future have been confirmed by preliminary results from two new studies of past land use change.

If the papers' results remain unchanged by the peer review process, they will significantly strengthen the case for bringing forward a review into whether indirect land use change (ILUC) factors should be included in EU legislation.

The two studies were co-authored by the EU's Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency (PBL) and Koen Overmars, an independent Dutch consultancy.

"ILUC is a reality," Luisa Marelli, the JRC's lead alternative fuels scientist, told a European Parliament workshop on 20 February. "All of the models and studies now show that there is an ILUC impact and that this is above zero [greenhouse gas emissions]."

The ILUC acronym refers to net carbon loss that occurs when forests and grasslands are cleared for food production that has been displaced by biofuels plantations elsewhere.

EurActiv understands that findings from the new JRC/Dutch historical studies, which cover global trends over a 10-year period, are broadly similar to those from future projection-based models, such as one conducted for the EU by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 03:47:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Fragments of ancient continent buried under Indian Ocean

Fragments of an ancient continent are buried beneath the floor of the Indian Ocean, a study suggests.

Researchers have found evidence for a landmass that would have existed between 2,000 and 85 million years ago.

The strip of land, which scientists have called Mauritia, eventually fragmented and vanished beneath the waves as the modern world started to take shape.

The study is published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Until about 750 million years ago, the Earth's landmass was gathered into a vast single continent called Rodinia.

And although they are now separated by thousands of kilometres of ocean, India was once located next to Madagascar.

Now researchers believe they have found evidence of a sliver of continent - known as a microcontinent - that was once tucked between the two.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 03:50:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
IPS - More Dead Than Red | Inter Press Service

After a decade-long argument, the World Bank released a series of studies last month which deem the proposed `Red-Dead Canal' (as the ambitious scheme is dubbed) technically, environmentally and socio-economically feasible.

The main objectives would thus be fulfilled, the World Bank assesses. All that for a total capital cost of 9.97 billion dollars, the World Bank estimates; half of it amortised by selling desalinated water and hydroelectricity, the other half financed out of international aid to development - "a win-win situation," hails Shalom.

"The project doesn't hold water," counters Gidon Bromberg, director of Friends of the Earth Middle East-Israel (FoEME-Israel), a unique NGO which brings together Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian eco-peace activists.

"The mixing of the Red Sea marine water with the unique brine of the Dead Sea is likely to lead to gypsum (a sedimentary deposit) excretions, to red algae bloom and will slime the water's purity. The two bodies of water won't mix, like oil and water. The Red Sea water will float on top."

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 04:10:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Green Energy Solves Dual Crises of Poverty and Climate - AlertNet

Green energy is the only way to bring billions of people out of energy poverty and prevent a climate disaster, a new study reveals.

Conservative institutions like the World Bank, the International Energy Agency and accounting giant Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) all warn humanity is on a path to climate catastrophe unless fossil fuel energy is replaced by green energy.

The U.N.'s Sustainable Energy for All initiative intends to bring universal access to modern energy, doubling the share of renewable energy globally, and doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030.3

If those targets are met and similar efforts undertaken to reduce deforestation, then climate disaster can be avoided, said Joeri Rogelj of the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich who headed the analysis published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 04:23:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Will EDF become the Barbra Streisand of climate protest? | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian

The climate change campaigners trying to prevent a new dash for gas wrote to their MPs, emailed the power companies, marched and lobbied. They were ignored. So last year 17 of them climbed the chimney of the West Burton power station and occupied it for a week. Theirs was a demonstration in two senses of the word: they presented an issue to the public that should be at the front of our minds. Prompted to act by altruism and empathy, one day they will be remembered as we remember suffragettes and anti-slavery campaigners.

Last week the operator of the power station - EDF, largely owned by the French government - announced that it is suing these people, and four others, for £5m. It must know that, if it wins, the protesters have no hope of paying. It must know that they would lose everything they own, now and for the rest of their lives. For these and other reasons, EDF's action looks to me like a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation - a SLAPP around the ear of democracy.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 04:07:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Sun Feb 24th, 2013 at 11:46:00 AM EST
Putin signs law banning smoking in public places - Europe - World - The Independent

President Vladimir Putin signed an anti-smoking bill into law today that looks set to transform Russian public life. The legislation will see smoking outlawed in government buildings and other public institutions from this summer, and in all restaurants, bars and cafes from next year.

The law mirrors legislation already in force in many Western countries, including Britain, but will be felt particularly in Russia, where almost half the population are smokers. The country is the second-largest tobacco market in the world after China, and the law was opposed by the foreign tobacco giants that dominate the market.

From 1 June, smoking will be banned in schools, government buildings and a number of other public places. But the real changes will come a year later, when street kiosks will be banned from selling tobacco products, and advertising will also be restricted.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 03:03:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How will Russians cope with the smoking ban? | World news | The Guardian

Poverty, fatalism, and unbearably grey six-month winters may explain why Russians cling on to life's simple pleasures, notably cigarettes and booze. And it remains to be seen whether the new "law" will actually work, in a country not exactly known for its judicial system, or its impartial application of official rules. More probable is that the police will seize on the new diktat to fleece - selectively - those caught in the act. The new fine for flouting the law is 3,000 roubles (£65).

Some establishments are already non-smoking. They include Moscow's smattering of hipster cafes frequented by the anti-Putin opposition. Here, activists can enjoy the illusion they live in law-abiding Europe. One favourite is a small, unassuming pancake bar in an underpass beneath Belorussky station.

The big picture, according to the World Health Organization, is that smoking is on the decline in the developed world, while rising in the developing. There are some gender differences: five times as many men as women there smoke. Meanwhile, smoking among women in affluent countries is going up.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 03:09:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Iceland seeks internet pornography ban | World news | guardian.co.uk

In the age of the internet and globe-spanning viral videos, can a thoroughly wired country become a porn-free zone? Authorities in Iceland want to find out.

The government is drafting plans to ban pornography, in print and online, in an attempt to protect children from a tide of violent sexual imagery.

The proposal by the interior minister, Ogmundur Jonasson, has caused uproar. Opponents say the move will censor the web, encourage authoritarian regimes and undermine Iceland's reputation as a Scandinavian bastion of free speech.

Advocates say it is a sensible measure that will shelter children from serious harm.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 03:53:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How did the Australian experiment work out?

sapere aude
by Number 6 on Wed Feb 27th, 2013 at 10:01:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mediterranean Diet Can Cut Heart Disease, Study Finds - NYTimes.com
About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study has found.

 The findings, published on The New England Journal of Medicine's Web site on Monday, were based on the first major clinical trial to measure the diet's effect on heart risks. The magnitude of the diet's benefits startled experts. The study ended early, after almost five years, because the results were so clear it was considered unethical to continue.

The diet helped those following it even though they did not lose weight and most of them were already taking statins, or blood pressure or diabetes drugs to lower their heart disease risk.

"Really impressive," said Rachel Johnson, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. "And the really important thing -- the coolest thing -- is that they used very meaningful endpoints. They did not look at risk factors like cholesterol of hypertension or weight. They looked at heart attacks and strokes and death. At the end of the day, that is what really matters."

Until now, evidence that the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of heart disease was weak, based mostly on studies showing that people from Mediterranean countries seemed to have lower rates of heart disease -- a pattern that could have been attributed to factors other than diet.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 03:54:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wasn't this pretty well known already? Still, seems like a solid study.

A shame olive oil tastes like crap.

sapere aude

by Number 6 on Wed Feb 27th, 2013 at 10:07:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm tempted to troll-rate that one. You want to start an ethnic war? Draw a map of Europe, and trace an east-west line. To the north : butter. To the south: olive oil.

I mean, swallow capsules of it or something. And make a face as you down a glass of medicinal red wine.

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

by eurogreen on Wed Feb 27th, 2013 at 10:21:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Very good point. Also
To the North: "Getting drunk is awesome!"
To the South: "enjoy the wine."

sapere aude
by Number 6 on Thu Feb 28th, 2013 at 05:55:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To the South: "enjoy the wine."

and the olive oil, and the ham, and the cheese.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 28th, 2013 at 08:14:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure they included the ham and the cheese in the "mediterranean diet is good for your heart" study. More research required.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Thu Feb 28th, 2013 at 08:29:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, I'll do my bit, some jamón ibérico and a bit of manchego, please.

sapere aude
by Number 6 on Thu Feb 28th, 2013 at 12:17:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's an acquired taste.

Like seal blubber ;)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 27th, 2013 at 11:49:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com / Social Affairs / Tuberculosis - an old plague comes back stronger
Over the course of two weeks in 2011, Stefan Radut lost seven kilos in weight. He coughed constantly. He was chronically tired and had difficulty sleeping. His girlfriend finally persuaded him to go to a doctor.

There he discovered he had tuberculosis (TB) - an illness he thought belonged to the history books.

"I didn't know anything about this disease. I thought it was eradicated," says Stefan

But there was a still grimmer surprise to come. Stefan, a 24-year old university graduate from Romania, did not just have a normal version of the bacterial lung disease. He had a drug-resistant strain. The first line of antibiotics did not work.

Instead he had to be hospitalised for several months and take a cocktail of drugs which are less effective and which have distressing side effects.

Stefan's initial reaction to tuberculosis is common. But the Great White Plague - normally associated with 19th century workhouses - was never fully beaten.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 03:56:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Norwegian prison where inmates are treated like people | Society | The Guardian

The first clue that things are done very differently on Bastoy prison island, which lies a couple of miles off the coast in the Oslo fjord, 46 miles south-east of Norway's capital, comes shortly after I board the prison ferry. I'm taken aback slightly when the ferry operative who welcomed me aboard just minutes earlier, and with whom I'm exchanging small talk about the weather, suddenly reveals he is a serving prisoner - doing 14 years for drug smuggling. He notes my surprise, smiles, and takes off a thick glove before offering me his hand. "I'm Petter," he says.

Before he transferred to Bastoy, Petter was in a high-security prison for nearly eight years. "Here, they give us trust and responsibility," he says. "They treat us like grownups." I haven't come here particularly to draw comparisons, but it's impossible not to consider how politicians and the popular media would react to a similar scenario in Britain.

There are big differences between the two countries, of course. Norway has a population of slightly less than five million, a 12th of the UK's. It has fewer than 4,000 prisoners; there are around 84,000 in the UK. But what really sets us apart is the Norwegian attitude towards prisoners. Four years ago I was invited into Skien maximum security prison, 20 miles north of Oslo. I had heard stories about Norway's liberal attitude. In fact, Skien is a concrete fortress as daunting as any prison I have ever experienced and houses some of the most serious law-breakers in the country. Recently it was the temporary residence of Anders Breivik, the man who massacred 77 people in July 2011.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 04:01:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]

It takes three years to train to be a prison guard in Norway. She looks at me with disbelief when I tell her that in the UK prison officer training is just six weeks.

sapere aude
by Number 6 on Wed Feb 27th, 2013 at 10:13:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
West's meditations blog: David Graeber and Brad DeLong (etc) (11 FEBRUARY 2013)
The most remarkable comments thread I've seen in a while has just been going down on Savage Minds.  David Graeber has been trying to defend his book, Debt: The First 5,000 Years, from sceptical economists and sociologists, and the whole thing has descended into farce, with Berkeley economist Brad DeLong turning up, ad hominems flying about the place, and accusations of lying and misreading showing up in nearly every comment.


The economists and sociologists were arguing about chapter 12, in which Graeber outlines his views on the modern world in the context of his earlier discussions of the origins of money, and I, like many people, found his ruminations more than a little suspicious (I'm not an anarchist, and in fact I rather like states).  But I found the ancient history slightly troubling as well, if only because it looked like early-twentieth century scholarship on display (for some reason).  I wouldn't like to poison the well; if you get the chance, read Debt and see what you think.

Anyway, head to SM to see what happens when academics get their claws out.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 06:22:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sleeping less than six hours a night skews activity of hundreds of genes | Science | guardian.co.uk

Getting too little sleep for several nights in a row disrupts hundreds of genes that are essential for good health, including those linked to stress and fighting disease.

Tests on people who slept less than six hours a night for a week revealed substantial changes in the activity of genes that govern the immune system, metabolism, sleep and wake cycles, and the body's response to stress, suggesting that poor sleep could have a broad impact on long-term wellbeing.

The changes, which affected more than 700 genes, may shed light on the biological mechanisms that raise the risk of a host of ailments, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stress and depression, in people who get too little sleep.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 06:03:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Officials: W.Va. pill users turning to heroin - Houston Chronicle

Scott Masumoto of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration cited state health statistics that more than 152,000 West Virginians have an addiction to prescription medication -- more than 8 percent of the population. But Masumoto said the price of these pills can be $80 or more apiece, making it difficult for teenagers to sustain their addictions, so they are moving to "cheaper" alternatives such as heroin.

Goodwin said what is especially striking is the potential for overdoses among new heroin users

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 at 11:54:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Sun Feb 24th, 2013 at 11:46:05 AM EST

Europe on this date in history:

1909 - premiere of the first Kinemacolor motion picture shown to the general public, an eight-minute short titled A Visit to the Seaside shot in Brighton.

More here and here

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 05:48:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Nomad on Sun Feb 24th, 2013 at 11:46:07 AM EST
Chechen despot Ramzan Kadyrov greets new best friend Gérard Depardieu with pies, songs and dance - Europe - World - The Independent

There were awkward dance moves, impassioned embraces and guffaws of laughter as the French actor and newly minted Russian citizen Gérard Depardieu danced his way further into the land of the surreal in Grozny. The actor, best known for his roles in films such as Green Card and Asterix, was in Chechnya cementing an unlikely bromance with the region's Kremlin-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, best known for allegations of torture and human rights abuses.

Depardieu, who in recent months has apparently become immune to criticism of his fawning over various dictators, outdid himself in Grozny, lavishing praise on the Chechen leader and promising to make a film detailing his achievements during a bizarre visit that was chronicled in photographs by Mr Kadyrov through his Instagram account.

The French actor took Russian citizenship earlier this year after protesting against planned tax hikes in his native France. He flew to Grozny from Saransk, the capital of the region of Mordovia where he was registered as an official resident over the weekend. He was greeted with songs, dances and freshly-baked pies when his private jet touched down in Grozny, and was whisked off to dinner and dances by Mr Kadyrov, who was wearing a white tracksuit top.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 03:28:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Paris museum offers new course - in Martian - The Local

Whether it's for those who want to add an extra language skill to their CV or for anyone wanting to be fully prepared for an invasion from the Red Planet, a new course at the French capital's world-famous Pompidou Centre, could be for you.

As part of its `Nouveau Festival', the centre otherwise known as Beaubourg is offering one particularly special course at the moment - in Martian.

The festival program features performances, lectures, films, exhibitions, and more, all centred around the theme of invented languages in contemporary art, cinema and literature.

"Visitors can write in Martian, create customized books, and discover some 3,000 spoken and written languages," president of the Pompidou Centre, Alain Seban, told France TV.

Top of the list of exhibits is one about the eccentric, turn of the century Swiss medium Hélène Smith, who laid the foundation for much of the written Martian language.

by Nomad on Mon Feb 25th, 2013 at 03:44:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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