We begin today’s compendium of news from the worlds of economic, politics, and the enviornment — including the latest sobering news from the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster with a march back in time to the days of the ancient Roman tax farmers with a headline from the Washington Post:
Congress moves to turn back taxes over to debt collectors
The Internal Revenue Service would be required to turn over millions of unpaid tax bills to private debt collectors under a measure before the Senate, reviving a program that has previously led to complaints of harassment and has not saved taxpayers money.
The provision was tucked into a larger bill, aimed at renewing an array of expired tax breaks, at the request of Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), whose state is home to two of the four private collection agencies that stand to benefit from the proposal.
It requires all “inactive tax receivables” to be assigned to private debt collectors if the IRS cannot locate the person who owes the money or if IRS agents are unable to make contact within a year.
Some taxpayers would be spared the barrage of notices and phone calls, including innocent spouses, military members deployed to combat zones and people “identified as being deceased.”
And from United Press International, a three alarm hint of the consequences of resurrecting tax farms:
Foreclosures drive up suicide rates, study finds
“Losing assets at that stage in life is likely to have a profound effect on mental health and well-being,” said Jason Houle.
Data analysis has previously shown economic downturn to provoke an increase in suicide rates, but a new study shows an even stronger correlation between suicides and foreclosure rates.
According to research published this week in the American Journal of Public Health, higher rates of suicide are uniquely linked to spikes in foreclosures.
By comparing state-by-state suicide rates with the numbers of issued foreclosures — while accounting for other disruptive factors — the researchers were able to conclude that the correlation was “independent of other economic factors associated with the recession.”
From the San Jose Mercury News, back to the bad old days:
Report: California among worst in the nation in school segregation
As racial separation in education steadily grows, California now leads the nation in children going to school with their own kind, a UCLA study released Wednesday contends.
On the 60th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education ruling intended to dismantle segregation, the report by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project says that California students are more likely than ever to attend racially isolated schools.
In the Bay Area, most schools followed the same pattern, though were more integrated than schools in Southern California.
From Salon, one of the major reasons:
Fox News’ divisive race strategy: How O’Reilly, Hannity and Coulter intentionally tore America apart
False claims go unchallenged, racial fears are stoked — and political scientists discover it helps GOP at polls
Right-wing political figures have often defended the content of Fox News and other right-leaning media. A common ploy is the insinuation that the “mainstream” news establishment is in fact biased in favor of liberal ideological framings of issues or that it is actually antiwhite. For example, Sarah Palin famously blamed the “leftist lamestream media” for allegedly pressuring Newt Gingrich to soften his critique of Republican congressman Paul Ryan (while in fact the disapproval came from Fox News), and Palin again insinuated charges of political targeting when she decried the media as attacking right-wing figures with their brand of unfair “gotcha journalism.” Rush Limbaugh also compared the mainstream press to a “drive by shooter except the microphones are guns.” Limbaugh further asserted that the anti-right, mainstream media attempts to “destroy people’s careers. Then they get in the convertible, head on down the road and do it all over again, while people like you and me are left to clean up the mess with the truth. So I call them the drive-by media.”
And from United Press International, com;eting the taming of the Times:
Glenn Greenwald: Dean Baquet is too ‘subservient’ for journalism
Former executive editor of the New York Times Jill Abramson was abruptly fired this week. The lack of explanation for her dismissal has caused the newspaper to receive biting criticism.
Glenn Greenwald slammed the New York Times for the decision to make Dean Baquet executive editor, saying he will lead the newspaper into “neutered” journalism.
He may have had harsh words for Baquet but had nothing but compliments for his predecessor Jill Abramson, who was unexpectedly fired from her position earlier this week. In an interview with HuffPost Live, Greenwald said in the last ten years Abramson has been the “best advocate for an adversarial relationship between the government and the media.”
Greenwald, most famously known as the journalist to first publish the documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, is a strong proponent for freedom of the press and transparency in government.
From the Christian Science Monitor, another hint of things to come:
California wildfires set relentless pace months before typical season
This week, San Diego is the hardest hit. But drought, blistering winds, and unseasonably hot temperatures have produced 1,244 wildfires across the state this season, and officials expect no letup.
San Diego residents are bracing for a second day of wildfires, with temperatures expected to hit a high of 106 degrees, after at least nine fires closed schools and roads forced more than 21,000 people from their homes on Wednesday.
Thousands remain perched in front of their television sets, watching local broadcast team coverage of wildfires and hoping the wind won’t bring the fire and smoke toward their own communities.
For many Californians, the wildfire season has settled into expectation and habit. But this year, the highly flammable combination of record heat, the seasonal Santa Ana winds, and lack of rain are exacerbating the problem and producing severe fire conditions several months ahead of the usual fire season.
From the Guardian, resistance:
Fast-food strike: US workers join world protests over wages and union access
Calling for higher pay and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food workers staged protests on Thursday in 150 cities across the US and in 33 other countries
And from Al Jazeera America completing corporatization:
FCC votes to advance new Internet rules
In split decision, commission put forward rule change that could lead to firms being charged for fast track delivery
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted Thursday to formally put forward new rules on net neutrality that may result in a two-tier delivery service to consumers.
The controversial changes being proposed could allow for providers to charge content sites like Netflix for faster service. But it would prevent them from blocking or slowing down certain websites. The proposals were widely anticipated and have been the subject of intense debate in recent months.
Opponents of the new rules staged protests outside the FCC’s headquarters.
But Deutsche Welle raises an obstacle:
German Economy Minister: ‘Google breakup may be required’
German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has warned US Internet giant Google could eventually achieve such a strong market position that a breakup of the company could become an option to consider. Google was not amused.
While failing to explain how exactly to enforce a breakup of a US-based company, Sigmar Gabriel said Friday such a move could be a last resort for countries seeking to prevent Google from “systematically crowding out competitors.”
The German Economy Minister made those remarks in an op-ed published by the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) newspaper, painting an alarming picture of the threat posed to society by Internet companies.
“It’s about nothing less than the future of democracy in the digital age and therefore also about the self-determination of 500 million people in Europe,” Gabriel commented.
Via the Christian Science Monitor, more privatization:
Detroit bankruptcy: Bondholders balk at plan for city’s artworks
The collection is central to how the Detroit bankruptcy plan is carried out. Bondholders – one group in the bankruptcy – believe the art should be valued higher, but the judge in the case isn’t making a reappraisal easy.
Judge Steven Rhodes, who is presiding over Detroit’s efforts to emerge from bankruptcy, agreed last week to a restructuring plan submitted by the city. The plan still requires a vote by pension groups, labor organizations, and bond insurers, and state lawmakers would have to approve a $350 million cash injection from the state. But it has appeared that most groups are onboard with the plan.
A potential snag, however, appeared Thursday. In a three-hour hearing, attorneys representing two bondholders – creditors for the city that do not fare as well in the plan as some other groups – took aim at the arrangement that has been struck for the city’s art collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). That collection is central how the plan is carried out.
The plan values the collection at $816 million, but the bondholders argue it should be worth more. A higher value for the collection could enable the city to fulfill more obligations.
On to Europe, first with BBC News:
Eurozone economic growth loses momentum
Eurozone economic growth lost momentum in the first three months of 2014, official figures show, with the growth rate unchanged from the previous quarter at 0.2%.
That was weaker than many economists had expected.
German growth picked up pace, with the economy expanding by 0.8%.
But France and Italy disappointed. The French economy failed to grow, while Italy’s contracted by 0.1%, having only just emerged from recession last year. Spain’s economy grew by 0.4% in the first quarter.
On to Old Blighty with BBC News and a truly terrible privatization:
Academics warn over child protection privatisation
A group of academics say they have serious concerns about proposals to let private contractors take over some child protection services in England.
Professor Ray Jones of Kingston University said child protection was too important to be handled by firms “driven by the profit motive”.
He said any such move could be destabilising and cause “chaos”.
BBC News again, running out of gas:
UK’s oil, coal and gas ‘gone in five years’
In just over five years Britain will have run out of oil, coal and gas, researchers have warned.
A report by the Global Sustainability Institute said shortages would increase dependency on Norway, Qatar and Russia.
There should be a “Europe-wide drive” towards wind, tidal, solar and other sources of renewable power, the institute’s Prof Victor Anderson said.
The government says complete energy independence is unnecessary, says BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin.
The report says Russia has more than 50 years of oil, more than 100 years of gas and more than 500 years of coal left, on current consumption.
Class divisions with the London Telegraph:
One in five university graduates becomes a millionaire
More than two million degree-holders have a net worth of £1m or more as new statistics reveal the education gap between rich and poor
One person in five who receives university education becomes a millionaire, according to official figures.
Twenty per cent of all adults who hold at least one university degree — more than two million people — now have wealth totalling at least £1 million, data from the Office for National Statistics show.
Almost a tenth of all British adults now own assets — property, pensions, savings and physical objects — worth £1 million or more.
The total number of millionaires in Britain has risen by 50 per cent in four years despite the recent financial crisis. The figures showed a stark gap in wealth between people with different levels of education. Only three per cent of people with no formal educational qualifications have assets worth more than £1 million.
Norway next and Obaman umbrage from TheLocal.no:
Top Obama aide raged at Norway over Nobel
Norway’s ambassador to the US received an angry “dressing down” from Barack Obama’s chief of staff after the US President won his controversial Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, a senior Norwegian diplomat has claimed.
Morten Wetland, Norway’s former ambassador to the United Nations, told The Local that Rahm Emanuel, nicknamed “Rahmbo” for his explosive disposition, has taken US ambassador Wegger Strömmen to task after the award was announced.
“What I know for a fact is that he gave the ambassador some words, ‘a dressing down’, with respect to this,” Wetland said. “The word ‘fawning’ was used.”
Wetland, now a partner with the Oslo lobbying firm First House, speculated that Obama’s advisors must have seen the prize as an unwelcome embarrassment.
“My guess is that the president’s staff want to be in control and not to be forced into a position that they have not been seeking themselves,” he said. “It could have been perceived that someone was consciously or subconsciously thinking about the prospect of having Obama visit Norway. Obama wouldn’t have visited Norway if it hadn’t have been for the Peace Prize.”
On to Germany, sprinting ahead with EUbusiness:
Germany sprints ahead of flagging eurozone recovery
The German economy, Europe’s biggest, sprinted ahead in the first quarter of 2014, amid a big setback for the eurozone which highlighted the fragility of the recovery, data showed on Thursday.
Germany, the region’s economic locomotive, saw growth double to 0.8 percent in the period from January to March, the strongest quarterly growth for three years and ahead of analysts’ expectations.
But the French economy, described by some economists as the weak link in Europe, turned in zero growth in the same period, highlighting divergence between the eurozone’s two biggest economies which is of deep concern to policymakers.
Austria next, with intolerance rising from TheLocal.at:
Right-wing march in Vienna
Supporters of a German right-wing radical group Die Identitaere Bewegung (The Identity Movement) are holding a march in Vienna on Saturday.
The movement, initiated by disaffected, tech-savy youth, began in France and now has groups in Germany and Austria.
The group spreads its anti-Islamic, anti-multicultural message via social media and has gained attention by posting clips of its protests on YouTube and Facebook.
France next, and the neoliberal imperative from TheLocal.fr:
Europe warns France about protectionism
The European Commission warned France on Thursday against resorting to protectionism after Paris unveiled new measures to head off hostile foreign bids for key companies.
“The objective of protecting essential strategic interests is clear when it involves security or public order and that is recognised in EU treaties,” EU Finance Markets Commissioner Michel Barnier said.
“But we also must check if this is applied in a proportionate fashion, otherwise it could amount to protectionism,” said Barnier, a French politician.
From TheLocal.fr, another quarter heard from:
US business body scolds French ‘protectionism’
The leading US business group on Friday called France protectionist, after Paris asserted its right to veto any foreign takeover of key French companies.
The US Chamber of Commerce said the move by Paris, announced Thursday as US industrial giant General Electric presses to buy a division of France’s Alstom, would not help the country’s economy.
“From an open investment policy perspective there is nothing about the motivations behind the recent French decree… that isn’t explicitly a mix of industrial policy and protectionism,” said Sean Heather, executive director for international policy and antitrust policy at the chamber.
Such moves are “doing nothing to increase the country’s competitiveness,” he told AFP.
From TheLocal.fr, striking news:
Flights snarled as French civil servants strike
A country-wide civil servant strike on Thursday meant headaches for travellers on Thursday with dozens of flights cancelled. Strikers are angry about a four-year pay freeze that shows no signs of thawing.
Travellers were scrambling for alternatives on Thursday after a national civil servant strike meant dozens of flights were cancelled and dozens more delayed at France’s biggest airports.
Fliers coming into and out of Toulouse, Paris and Lyon were among those stuck on the ground with at least 20, 16 and seven cancellations respectively in the first half of the day, French daily Le Parisien reported.
From the Guardian, without comment:
Unemployed people in Czech Republic are ‘missing out on office sex’
Social Democratic party Euro election campaign video aims to highlight plight of young adult jobless in the country
The Czech Social Democratic party (C(SSD), which is hoping to add to its seven MEPs in Strasbourg, endorsed the video posted by its youth branch, the message of which can be summed up as “unemployment is depriving people of the joys of an office fling”.
The video shows a young woman in office clothes working at a computer. After glancing at the clock, she sneaks off to the next room and can be seen in passionate embrace with a colleague behind the adjoining door.
“Everybody who wants to should be able to enjoy something a bit different during breaks. It is a shame there are half a million people who don’t have jobs,” says a voice-over accompanying the video.
Spain next, and another American arrives via El País:
US wholesaler Costco opens first Spanish megastore in Seville
Warehouse club confident it can overcome reticence of local customers to pay membership fee
They have managed to get 15,000 people to pay for the privilege of shopping at their store, and they haven’t even opened their doors yet.
The US warehouse club chain Costco is disembarking in Spain with a first establishment due to open in Seville today.
Though modest, this incursion into Spanish territory has not gone unnoticed by the distribution sector, which will keep a close watch on the performance of its new rival.
El País covers costs:
Overrun costs or corruption? Why Spain’s public works are in crisis
In six years, the government has paid out €10bn to cover excess spending on construction projects
The amount is equivalent to the cuts it made on health and education when it came to office
Arrests of nine on embezzlement charges provide latest example of an overly abused process
Between 2008 and 2014, the Public Works Ministry has paid out €5.12 billion to modify already completed works. A further €4.1 billion has been paid to cover cost overruns, along with €900 million for expropriating land. In total, over the last six years, the Public Works Ministry has had to find more than €10 billion to cover cost overruns on roads, rail and ports, the same amount that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced he would be cutting from health and education spending in April 2012, shortly after he took office.
There are any number of examples: the new port complex at A Coruña was tendered in 2004 for €436 million, and then awarded later that year for €370 million, according to Spain’s Ports Authority. The job ended up costing €547 million. And more money will be required, with the final cost likely to be more than €700 million.
The Environment Ministry, the government’s other big public works spender, paid out €1.5 billion in cost overruns between 2004 and 2012 on desalination plants, dams and other projects.
From TheLocal.es, cash and a black hole:
Spain’s ‘black’ economy worth 25 percent of GDP
Spain’s illegal economy is worth a staggering 24.6 percent of its gross domestic product and the country needs to pump far more resources into its rickety tax collection regime, a top tax union said on Friday.
Spain is a world leader in fraud with around €253 billion ($347 billion) in illegal money floating around in the country’s economy in 2013, Spain’s tax office union Gestha said in a statement on Friday. This figure has also risen €50 billion since the country’s crisis kicked in in 2008.
Critically, Gestha also argues Spain that Spain is chronically short-staffed when it comes to fighting tax evasion. Spain has one tax worker for every 1,958 inhabitants, against 942 for France and 740 for Germany, the union said in its statement.
On to Italy and the latest bad numbers from ANSAmed:
Italy returned to negative growth in first quarter
GDP down 0.1% on last three months of 2013 – Istat estimate
Italy returned to negative growth in the first quarter of 2014, with gross domestic product (GDP) dropping 0.1% compared to the last three months of 2013, Istat said Thursday in its preliminary estimate for the period.
The national statistics agency said GDP was 0.5% down in the first quarter of this year with respect to the same period in 2013.
The figures are a big blow to Italy’s hopes of seeing a strong economic recovery after it emerged from its longest postwar recession in the second half of last year.
More austerity from TheLocal.it:
Italy’s state broadcaster braces for cuts
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has hinted at funding cuts to Italy’s state broadcaster Rai, saying the network “must also participate” in cuts as part of the government’s spending review.
The social media-savvy prime minister took to Twitter on Wednesday to announce “The future will also arrive at Rai,” following a heated debate on the broadcaster’s leading talk show.
“Rai must also participate in the spending review,” Renzi said on Rai 3′s Balarò programme on Tuesday evening.
The prime minister would not be drawn on a specific sum of cuts to the state broadcaster, although he said Rai’s numerous regional offices could be sites of “resounding waste”.
TheLocal.it again, with a neoliberal imperative:
Italy approves postal service privatisation
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s government on Friday approved the sale of up to 40 percent of the postal service as part of a wide-ranging privatisation programme to raise some €12 billion.
The sale “can be carried out in several stages and through a public offering,” read the statement from a cabinet meeting authorising the sale of Poste Italiane, which is expected to raise around four billion euros.
The cabinet meeting also approved the sale of Enav, the state air traffic control agency, which could bring around 1.0 billion euros into state coffers.
The government is also planning to list up to 49 percent of state-owned shipbuilder Fincantieri in the biggest privatisations in two decades as part of an effort to reduce Italy’s towering debt mountain.
From ANSA, Bunga Bunga hubris:
Pope doing job as I would have says Berlusconi
‘We’re same age but I look better’ says ex-premier
Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi on Friday said Pope Francis was doing his job exactly as he would have done if he had been elected head of the Catholic Church. “Yes, I like Pope Bergoglio. He is being pope exactly the way I would have done it,” Berlusconi said of former cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
The journalist the billionaire media mogul was speaking to noted that the pope and the centre-right leader are the same age, 77.
“The same age, but I look better for my years,” said Berlusconi.
Magistrate sent bullets after Berlusconi ruling
A magistrate in Milan received bullets in the post after ordering former premier Silvio Berlusconi to do community service for tax fraud, Italian media reported on Thursday.
Public Prosecutor Ilda Boccassini received the bullets at her Milan office in April, remarking that they were the latest in a string of threats.
“I received the most recent bullets a few days ago when we decided Berlusconi should do community service,” she was quoted in La Stampa as telling Superior Council of Judiciary (CSM).
While ANSA covers the latest in growing evidence of Bunga Bunga mob ties:
Mafia arrests may be linked to Scajola
Two police officers among arrests, probe mole suspected
An anti-mafia round-up of 18 people on Friday – regarding alleged infiltration of the Neapolitan Camorra mafia into the northwestern Tuscan coastal area of Versilia – may be linked to last week’s arrest of former Italian interior minister Claudio Scajola, investigators said Friday.
Two police agents, working for the Italian premier’s office and the Lower House, were placed under house arrest in Friday’s anti-mafia sting, accused of breaching the confidentiality of investigations.
Information leaks indicate that investigators has focused on the hypothesis that a mole may have furnished Scajola with privileged information on criminal investigations.
And TheLocal.it, an all-too-common story:
Migrants revolt at Rome detention centre
Clashes erupted at an immigration detention centre in Rome on Thursday as around 250 people barricaded themselves inside the building, described as a place of “desperate detention” by one rights group. The protest comes in the same week a Tunisian man sewed his mouth shut in protest at a nearby facility.
Around a third of the 780 people detained at the facility in Castelnuovo di Porto, north of Rome, joined the protest on Thursday morning, La Repubblica said.
Police were brought in to break through the barricaded entrance and reportedly used a water hose to dispel some of the protesters, who threw stones at police officers, the newspaper said.
After the jump, the latest from Greece, Ukrainian anxieties, Turkish anger, Latin American troubles and a surprising alliance, the right surges to power in India, Thai coup hints, Chinese investor worries, a Japanese surge for the rich accompanied by bad news for the poor [sound familiar?], environmental woes [including the collapse of the American bee population], and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . .For our first Greek item, an ongoing downturn from To Vima:
Eurostat: Greece has highest rate of deflation in the European Union
Consumer prices index dropped by 1.6% in April – Highest rates of recession found in Cyprus and Greece
According to data published by Eurostat, Greece had the highest deflation rate in the European Union in April, when the consumer prices index dropped by 1.6%, compared to the 1.3% drop in Bulgaria and 0.4% drop in Cyprus.
Overall, the rate of inflation in the Eurozone increased from 0.5% in March to 0.7% in April, while a year ago the rate was 1.2%. In the European Union the rate inflation increased from 0.6% in March to 0.8% in April and was 0.1% a year ago.
The highest rates of inflation amongst European Union members were documented in Austria and Romania (both 1.6%), followed by Finland (1.3%) and Germany (1.1%).
Austerity yet to come from ANSAmed:
Greece: 11,000 public sector job cuts still due in 2014
Some 45,000 more workers are at risk
With the Troika due to return to Greece immediately after the European elections, the Ministry of Administrative Reform in Athens is trying to catch up with the 11,000 public sector dismissals slated for 2014, lest bailout funds be withheld.
As GreekReporter online writes today, hundreds of contracts expire within months, but thousands more can expect dismissal this year.
Accordingly, all civil servants not contracted directly by ASEP, Greece’s ultimate arbiter on hiring public sector personnel, will be under review.
From TheLocal.ch, a stereotype debunked:
‘Lazy’ Greeks work more than the Swiss: OECD
During the height of the Euro crisis, Greeks were rapped for being lazy as their country buckled beneath economic woes, but figures from the OECD show they work longer hours than the Swiss — and workers in all other European countries.
Statistics from the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show that the much maligned workers of Greece put in an average of 2,034 hours of work in 2012.
That works out to 42 hours a week, more than any other Europeans. By comparison, the Swiss, despite their reputation for being industrious, worked an average of 1,619 hours a year, which works out to 38 hours a week.
Among the 35 countries surveyed by the OECD only workers in Mexico (2,226), Chile (2,029 hours) and South Korea (2,090 hours in 2011) worked longer hours than Greeks.
To Vima whistles in the dark:
Ministry of Finances claims that the “recession has ended”
ELSTAT announces that recession was 1.1% GDP in Q1- Ministry expects 0.6% growth for the rest of the year
Greek statistics authority ELSTAT announced today that the rate of recession during the first quarter of 2014 was 1.1% GDP, which is a significant improvement from the 6% rate last year.
ELSTAT explained that “available non-seasonally-adjusted data indicates that, in the 1st quarter of 2014, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in volume terms, decreased by 1.1% in comparison with the 1st quarter of 2013″.
This has confirmed the Ministry of Finances’ belief that the 1% rate of recession suggests that the recession has come to an end. Additionally, the Ministry of Finances expects a 0.6% growth rate for the rest of the year.
From To Vima again, the left surges as voting nears:
SYRIZA leads the election race by 5%, according to latest survey
New Democracy trailing in second place and Golden Dawn third, followed by the River and Olive Tree
A survey conducted by Palmos Analysis for the TVXS website regarding the upcoming European election shows that SYRIZA has a 5% lead over government party New Democracy.
The survey results for the European elections are:
SYRIZA – 25.3%
New Democracy – 20.3%
Golden Dawn – 5.7%
The River – 4.9%
KKE – 4.6%
ANEL – 3.6%
DIMAR – 2.6%
LAOS – 1%
Ecologists-Greens – 0.9%
Undecided – 13.3%
Those results may be the reason for the latestblatant effort from up north to influence the outcome.
From To Vima, electioneering from the north:
Juncker: “Tsipras would be a great danger for Greece”
The former Eurogroup head argued that no threats were made against Greece in the 2012 summit in Cannes
The European Peoples’ Party candidate for the presidency of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker gave an interview to the Euro2day website, where he argued that his opponent and SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is not the right man to run Greece. Mr. Juncker further elaborated that if elected Prime Minister, Mr. Tsipras would not be able to cooperate efficiently with the European Union and as such he would be a major risk for the country.
Regarding recent revelations concerning the 2011 summit in Cannes and plans for Greece’s expulsion from the Eurozone, the former Eurogroup head claimed that he had always been an avid supporter of Greece. Juncker was also adamant that no threats were made against Greece or then-PM Giorgos Papandreou, over a proposed referendum.
It should be noted than in a June 2013 interview to the same website Mr. Juncker revealed that plans were made to detail Greece’s departure from the Eurozone and that “many countries” aside from Germany were in favor of such a development.
And it didn’t end there. From Greek Reporter:
Juncker Says Tsipras Unfit To Lead Greece, EU
Juncker, who helped oversee international bailouts that came with harsh austerity measures, saved his best shots for after the televised contest, taking aim at Tsipras, who has fought the terms and said if he came to power in Greece would seek to revise the deals with the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) or default, putting the Eurozone in jeopardy.
Juncker said that stance proved Tsipras wasn’t worthy to lead Greece and proved he couldn’t work with the EU even as the Leftist leader said he wanted its top job.
But the Junkster’s blast was a mere breexe compared to the McCarthyite meltdown of one Greek government minister, reports EnetEnglish.gr:
Health minister in red-scare TV meltdown
Adonis Georgiadis vows not to ‘allow the communists take power’
Greeks will flock to the polls to give thanks to Antonis Samaras, says Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis on his daily TV show, who vows that ‘communists’ will not be allowed ‘take power’
Adonis Georgiadis was welcomed into New Democracy by Antonis Samaras in February 2012 Adonis Georgiadis was welcomed into New Democracy by Antonis Samaras in February 2012 Is it a bird, or a plane? No no … it’s Adonis Georgiadis, Greece’s minister for health, for whom the pressure of the European Parliament elections – and the prospect that the left may come first – is clearly proving to be just too much.
Even though he’s a government minister, Georgiadis continues to host a daily hour-long show on a semi-legal television station. On Thursday, an animated Georgiadis, banging his hand on table, screamed that “we won’t allow the communists take power”, in a clear reference to Syriza coming first in the May 25 elections.
“Some idiots claim that after all we’ve been through, the Greeks, instead of going to the polls to say thanks to [Prime Minister] Samaras, will go to vote against him. But no, we Greeks will be there. To help our prime minister, who is on his feet all day to fight for us. For our families. For our future in Europe. No way will we let them come and tear down what we have built. We won’t allow the communists to take power!” Georgiadis said.
ANA/MPA covers political ornamental rage, with which we partly agree, considering that the Audacity of Hope™ practiced on this side of the Atlantic has rewarded primarily those previously rewarded by good ol’ Dubya [though thus far minus shotguns to the face]:
PASOK lashes out at SYRIZA leader
PASOK lashed out at SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras accusing him of “absolute political absurdity” and “bottomless political audacity.”
PASOK also stressed that “Greek citizens have not suffered amnesia and they remember his constant, petty transformations, which are synonymous with civil fraud.”
SYRIZA replied to the statement: “Unfortunately we cannot play the role of a family adviser that the broken family of PASOK needs. They have to turn elsewhere.”
So why all that unctuous umbrage? From EnetEnglish.gr:
Tsipras calls for New Deal for Europe, end to austerity
Syriza leader says that only European left can reverse current policies that have fuelled unemployment
In debate with fellow candidates for European Commission presidency, Alexis Tsipras blasts austerity and lack of transparency and democracy in Europe, which he said prefers to bail out banks than to support people
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras hammered German-made austerity and called for a European New Deal that could spur employment in his first debate with four of his fellow contenders for the post of European Commission president.
Tsipras – who inexplicably was absent at the first debate – hammered the EU’s lack of an organised plan and funding to combat unemployment, stressing that only €6bn have been earmarked for the next five years.
But in his first debate showing, he attracted the greatest audience interest of all five candidates on Twitter, with 17,763 mentions.
Along the same lines, from ANA-MPA:
PM Samaras: Growth and dev’t projects to help with youth unemployment
Greece is turning the page towards a future free of memorandums after having averted the danger of bankruptcy, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said from the western city of Patras on Friday evening.
Wrapping up a tour of major public works in western Greece with an address at an indoor gymnasium in support of the regional governor candidate, Samaras also unleashed strong criticism of main opposition SYRIZA and its party leader in particular, Alexis Tsipras, both of whom he accused of trying to frustrate Greece’s efforts towards growth and development.
Saying that SYRIZA supports a spendthrift state and trade union impunity, the premier also charged the party with “obstructing development now that we are leaving the memorandums behind,” with feeding on people’s difficulties and with being uninterested in Europe. He also called party leader Tsipras “a dangerous gambler.”
And from Kathimerini English, an odd concurrence, at least in part, from a very odd source:
Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn says Greek program ‘unbearable’
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, has called the economic policy implemented in Greece during the crisis “unbearable.”
Speaking on a French TV show late on Thursday, Strauss-Kahn said that the troika had applied the wrong mix of policies in Greece’s adjustment program. “There should have been less pressure and more growth,” he said.
“The simplest policy, which called for greater strictness and pressure, won out. It may have been necessary in some sectors but it could not suffice.”
In a related electoral battle, the fight against neoliberalism’s prime detection seeks to sound a fluid taps via Kathimerini ENglish:
Thessaloniki residents to vote on water privatization
Opponents of plans to privatize EYATH, the state-run company that provides the northern port city of Thessaloniki with water and sewage services, hope to reverse the process by putting it to a referendum on Sunday.
Citizens are expected to vote on the matter while casting their ballots for the municipal and regional elections at polling centers around the city, but the outcome of the referendum, organized by the Regional Association of Central Macedonia Municipalities, is nonbinding.
Organizers hope that a resounding no vote could still halt plans to denationalize the company, which is being eyed by Suez Environnement SA and Israel’s national water company Mekorot.
And to close our Greek coverage, this from EUbusiness:
Greeks to vent austerity anger in EU elections
Anti-austerity parties are expected to be among the beneficiaries when angry Greeks head to the ballot box for European Parliament elections this month.
After years of swingeing austerity cuts that have pushed Greece’s unemployment to a record high, cut the country’s economic output by a quarter and pushed huge tracts of the population into poverty, many Greek voters are expected to vent their anger in the elections on May 25.
“Europe has no idea what is happening here, this disaster, with children dying of hunger and homeless people eating out of the garbage,” said Dimitris, a 42-year-old taxi driver, who plans to vote for the anti-EU Communist party.
On to the Ukraine and an alert from CNN:
Human rights in eastern Ukraine deteriorating, U.N. report finds
A new U.N. report shows an “alarming deterioration” of human rights in eastern Ukraine, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, said Friday.
The report paints a troubling picture of the situation in Ukraine’s east, citing cases of targeted killings, torture, beatings, abductions and sexual harassment, as well as intimidation of the media.
While many peaceful rallies take place in Ukraine, the findings show “an increasing tendency in some critical urban areas for rallies of opposing groups to be held simultaneously, often leading to violent confrontations,” according to a statement from Pillay’s office.
On to Turkey and continuing troubles from a neoliberlal imperative from the Christian Science Monitor:
Miners say safety declined after Turkey privatized Soma mine
After the government sold the Soma coal mine, production ramped up and costs were cut, paving the way to this week’s devastating accident, miners say.
Miners and local residents say privatization is at the root of the Soma coal mine explosion, Turkey’s worst ever industrial disaster, because safety conditions deteriorated after the state offloaded the mine in 2005.
In the town of Soma itself, thousands of mourners streamed through the picturesque cemetery alongside coffins as mass funerals began. In the town center, several hundred protesters marched against what they said were government attempts to whitewash its culpability.
More than 400 people are believed to have died, although only 282 have been confirmed dead since a power transformer exploded, shutting down mining lifts and ventilation as a fire spread smoke throughout the mine shafts.
CNN pours fuel on the flames:
Image of PM’s aide kicking protester stokes anger over Turkey mine fire
The incident occurred as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the western city of Soma a day after the devastating mine fire.
The man, detained by special forces, can be seen lying on the ground as the suited adviser to Erdogan, identified as Yusuf Yerkel by Turkish media and CNN Turk, aims a kick at him.
The shocking image outraged many in Turkey, prompting an outpouring of anger on social media, and is seen as symbolizing the increasingly polarizing impact of Erdogan’s authority on the country.
The latest from BBC News:
Turkey ends Soma mine disaster rescue, death toll 301
The BBC’s Selin Girit speaks to protesters in Izmir, two hours from Soma
Turkey has called a halt to the Soma mine rescue operation after two more bodies were found, raising the death toll to 301.
The bodies of all miners trapped after the mine collapsed are now thought to be recovered.
Protesters have clashed with police near Soma. Correspondents say more than 30 people, including several lawyers, have been arrested.
On to Latin America and an ominous warning from MercoPress:
Brazilian police tells tourists that if attacked “don’t fight, scream or argue”
If attacked in Brazil: “Don’t fight, scream or argue”. That’s the advice being offered to tourists by São Paulo Civil Police ahead of this year’s World Cup games which authorities have revealed will be enforced by armored, “RoboCop”-styled riot police.
The alarming safety precautions come as 3.6 million tourists are expected to flood the country, which has been labeled “critical” for crime by the US Department of State for the last 25 years.
The advice to tourists on if attacked, first reported by Sao Paulo news site Estadao may sound contradictory of how a victim may react elsewhere, but in Brazil, some say it may very well save your life.
BBC News strikes a deal:
Colombia and Farc rebels agree on drug trade plan
Ivan Marquez and Farc leaders in Cuba Farc negotiator Ivan Marquez says the agreement includes reparations for victims of coca plantation spraying
Colombia’s government and the Farc, the country’s largest rebel group, have agreed on a plan to deal with the illegal drug trade.
Both parties agreed to eliminate all illicit drug production in Colombia should a final deal be reached.
The Farc, which controls large patches of rural Colombia, is believed to be partly funded by money generated by the illegal drug trade.
MercoPress goes nuclear:
Morales reveal that with Argentine help Bolivia is developing nuclear energy
Bolivian President Evo Morales revealed on Thursday that, with Argentina’s help, his country was working to develop nuclear power. Morales had previously indicated that his country had plans to go nuclear with help from both Buenos Aires and France, but this is the first time that the news was confirmed.
“We are working on nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, for medical purposes,” Morales said at the opening of a gas and energy seminar in Santa Cruz. “We salute the Argentine people as we have begun to work on nuclear energy”.
The populist leader and first indigenous president of Bolivia said he had been advised by experts from his country not to go public and therefore had begun bilateral discussions “in secret and behind closed
And from CNN, more woes for Caracas:
First, Air Canada decided to suspend all of its flights to Venezuela in late March. And now, Alitalia is following suit.
In a statement sent to CNN, the Italian airline says that it’s suspending the flights “due to the ongoing critical currency situation in Venezuela,” which is “no longer economically sustainable.”
For the last 11 years, Venezuela has tightly controlled all cash flow within its borders. Under the Venezuelan system, all money collected in ticket sales has to be deposited into an account controlled by the government. No funds can be withdrawn from the account without permission from the officials who control it. The government sets exchange rates for different sectors of the economy, according to priorities also set by officials.
India next, and a win for the right from the New York Times:
India’s Opposition Leader Sweeps Into Power
India’s opposition leader, Narendra Modi, swept into power as prime minister-elect on Friday, as voters delivered a crushing verdict on the corruption scandals and flagging economic growth that have plagued their country in recent years.
In a victory speech in Vadodara, the city in Gujarat state where he won his own parliamentary seat in a landslide, Mr. Modi addressed a wild, chanting crowd shortly after the Indian National Congress, which has controlled India’s government for nearly all of its postcolonial history, conceded defeat.
“Brothers and sisters, you have faith in me, and I have faith in you,” Mr. Modi said, in remarks that were interrupted several times by the crowd chanting his name. “We have the capacity to fulfill the common man’s aspirations.”
After two hours of counting, the B.J.P. was assured of winning more than 272 seats, enough to form a government without brokering a coalition deal with any of India’s fractious regional leaders. That would give Mr. Modi the strongest mandate of any Indian leader since Rajiv Gandhi took office in 1984, riding the wave of sympathy that followed the assassination of his mother, Indira Gandhi.
The Christian Science Monitor backgrounds:
Why Modi matters
His blunt style could galvanize India. Voters have high expectations of his ability to boost the economy, but many Muslims are nervous about the right-wing Hindu nationalist.
Modi’s image as a strong leader was particularly appealing in the wake of an ineffectual government led by the Congress party, which found it hard to make decisions. “Modi stepped into a leadership vacuum,” says political commentator Neerja Chowdhury.
But the next prime minister’s strongman image has compounded alarm about his political rise among India’s Muslim minority, which makes up 19 percent of the population. Many Muslims worry about Modi’s ties to the RSS, a radical group that envisions India as a sacred nation to which only Hindus truly belong. And they recall that he was Gujarat’s chief minister in 2002, when Hindu rioters massacred 2,000 Muslims.
Suspicions that Modi did not do all he might have done to stem the violence have cast a shadow over his political standing. The United States has refused him a visa since the massacre on the grounds that he bore “responsibility for the performance of state institutions” such as the police. But relations have been slowly improving, and US officials have said whoever won the election would be welcome in the US.
The Diplomat compares:
Narendra Modi: India’s Shinzo Abe
India’s next prime minister has much in common with Japan’s nationalistic incumbent.
After a prolonged period of political drift and paralysis, India’s new government will be led by a man known for his decisiveness. Just as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s return to power in late 2012, after six years of political instability, reflected Japan’s determination to reinvent itself as a more competitive and confident country, Narendra Modi’s election victory reflects Indians’ desire for a dynamic, assertive leader to help revitalize their country’s economy and security.
Like Abe, Modi is expected to focus on reviving India’s economic fortunes while simultaneously bolstering its defenses and strengthening its strategic partnerships with likeminded states, thereby promoting regional stability and blocking the rise of a Sino-centric Asia. The charismatic Modi – a darling of business leaders at home and abroad – has promised to restore rapid economic growth, saying there should be “no red tape, only red carpet” for investors.
And from Business Insider, the real sour note:
There’s A Dark Side To India’s New Prime Minister That Should Worry Everyone
Modi is a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) a Hindu nationalist party and has done a good job avoiding questions about his role in the deadly Gujarat Hindu-Muslim riots of 2002 that left over 1,000 dead. Modi was chief minister of the state at the time. The riots began after a train with Hindu pilgrims was set on fire in Godhra, killing 59 people. Hindu mobs then turned on Muslims in Gujarat
In the aftermath, Modi has addressed the issue saying: “I feel sad about what happened but no guilt. And no court has come even close to establishing it.”
Modi only fanned the flames with his New York Times interview in 2002, in which he said his only regret was that he didn’t manage the media better. Following this, the U.S. imposed a visa ban on Modi and Britain announced a 10-year boycott.
On to Thailand and hints of a coming coup from the China Post:
Thai army ‘may intervene’ following grenade, gun attack that killed three
The chief of Thailand’s coup-prone army warned Thursday his troops “may use force” to quell political violence after three people were killed in a grenade and gun attack on protesters in Bangkok.
The rare official statement from General Prayut Chan-O-Cha followed a call by Thai election authorities for July polls to be postponed because of the unrest.
“I want to warn every group — especially those who use violence and war weapons against innocent civilians — to stop now because if the violence continues the military may be needed to come out … to restore peace and order,” Prayut said in unusually strong comments.
Korea next, and a media myth debunked by the Independent:
Kim Jong-un’s ‘executed’ ex-girlfriend miraculously reappears on North Korean state television
In what is a miraculous turn of events, singer Hyon Song-wyol seems to have come back from the dead after being interviewed during a state broadcast.
Last year, reports from newspapers in neighbouring South Korea reported that Hyon had been one of a group of musicians arrested and then machine gunned down after charges of pornography were brought against her.
According to the reports, the singer, along with band members of the Unhasu Orchestra, the Wangjaesan Light Music Band and the Moranbong Band were accused of filming themselves having sex with one another and then selling the recordings.
On to Beijing and financial anxiety from China Daily:
Investors play it safe as doubt over economy rises
Wall Street has caught a case of the jitt