* EU’s VAN ROMPUY STRIKES NEW BLOW AGAINST DEMOCRACY, TELLING ITALY IT DOESN’T “NEED” ELECTIONS
The EU’s hostility to democracy is now so brazen it thinks it has the right to tell European countries when they can and can’t vote for their governments
Source: The Commentator
In a memorable speech last year at the European Parliament, UKIP’s Nigel Farage lambasted newly appointed (not elected of course) European Council President Herman Van Rompuy saying he had “the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low grade bank clerk.”
There can be little dispute about it. But a few moments later Farage went on to talk about Van Rompuy’s intention to become “the quiet assassin of European democracy.” On that one, he couldn’t have been more wrong. The man’s shouting it from the roof tops.
Here’s what he said yesterday after Italy’s Northern League, Silvio Berlusconi’s erstwhile backers, said it would not support the country’s prospective new government and called for a general election:
“This country needs reforms, not elections,” he said bluntly.
Who is this guy? No really, who precisely does Herman Van Rompuy think he is in telling one of Europe’s most historic nations that it doesn’t need elections?
It’s jaw dropping stuff. It’s like thinking you’re having a nightmare only for it to dawn on you that this is actually happening. It’s real.
These are dark days for modern Europe. Half of the continent only made it to democracy two decades ago. Spain, Portugal and Greece only consolidated their own democracies a decade or so before that.
Democracy is a fragile thing. And far too valuable to be entrusted to the likes of Herman Van Rompuy.
It’s time to take these people down. It’s time to destroy the new, emerging class of autocrats and to do so before it’s too late.
* KNOW YOUR ENEMY – THE OLIGARCHS
* ECB PRESIDENT DRAGHI DECLARES WAR ON EUROPE’S SOCIAL SAFETY NETS
By Naked Capitalism
I’m late to the remarkable interview given by ECB president Mario Draghi to the Wall Street Journal. I find the choice of venue curious, since the Financial Times has become the venue for top European politicians and technocrats to communicate with English speaking finance professionals.
But Draghi’s drunk-on-austerity-Kool-Aid message was a perfect fit for the Wall Street Journal. While he wasn’t as colorful as Andrew Mellon’s famous “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate,” Draghi is still a true heir in believing that his prescription, per Melllon, will result in “High costs of living and high living will come down.” The “high living” that Draghi is particularly opposed to is Europe’s social safety nets.
The bizarre part about that is it is those very programs that kept Europe from being in even worse shape than it is now. I recall in early 2009 that American economic officials were hectoring Europeans, particularly Germans, for not doing enough in the way of economic stimulus. European readers argued that that reflected abject ignorance. Germany provides generous support to idled workers, and that spending was automatic. Germany performed far better than its US critics anticipated.
Not surprisingly, the Journal did not question the notion that democratic governments should take orders from an unelected finance official. But Draghi tried to make his views sound a tad more legitimate by blaming the planned ritual sacrifice as a demand of the market gods. […]
* PAYROLL TAX CUT UNDERMINES SOCIAL SECURITY
If Social Security becomes just another line item in the federal budget, what’s to save it from being swept up in an across-the-board orgy of spending reductions?
By Michael Hilzik, LATimes
The accepted response to the economic deal reached in Congress last week, extending the Social Security payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance and maintaining reimbursement levels for Medicare doctors, is huzzah!
Finally Congress got something important done with a minimum of brinkmanship and posturing, and more than a few minutes before the deadline. A threat to the embryonic economic recovery was averted, and the extensions even pushed any subsequent fracas over the same issues to the end of this year, safely past the presidential election.
So why should we consider this action cause for despair?
It’s because with every extension of the payroll tax holiday, which was first enacted in 2010, the prospect that Congress will ever restore the tax to its statutory 6.2% of covered income recedes a little bit further over the horizon. And that’s bad medicine for Social Security. […]
* VATICAN TOLD TO PAY TAXES AS ITALY TACKLES BUDGET CRISIS
End of controversial property tax breaks leaves the Pope facing €600m-a-year bill
By Michael Day, The Independent
After several years of scandal in which the Catholic Church has faced allegations of financial impropriety, paedophile priests and rumours of plots to kill the Pope, the Vatican is now facing a new €600m-a-year tax bill as Rome seeks to head off European Commission censure over controversial property tax breaks enjoyed by the Church.
As the EC heads closer to officially condemning the fiscal perks enjoyed by the Catholic Church and introduced by the Berlusconi administration, Prime Minister Mario Monti has written to the Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, saying that the Vatican will resume property tax, or Ici, payments.
Mr Almunia said in 2010 that the exemption amounted to state aid that might breach EU competition law. A parliamentary proposal by the Italian Radicals party last August to repeal the exemption, with a successful petition on Facebook, upped the pressure. A spokesman for Mr Almunia appeared to give the thumbs-up yesterday: “It is a proposal that constitutes a significant progress on the issue and I hope will be implemented,” he said. […]
* WHO ARE THE WINNERS AND LOSERS IN GREECE?
While a second bailout means there is money for the bankers, the Greek people face a decade of austerity.
Greece has received its bailout and default has been avoided until, well, the next time.
But it is not the Greek people who stand to benefit from the bailout – while there is money for the bankers, the Greek people face a decade of austerity. Which begs the question: What is it really all about?
Just hours before the bailout deal was struck, a confidential report was released detailing just why it would not work.
READ and VIDEO @ http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/countingthecost/2012/02/201222573721642601.html
* ESCALATING ANGER IN ATHENS
More than 160 German tax officials intend to travel to Greece in order to strengthen the Greek tax mechanism, according to the German magazine “Wirtschaftswoche”, which will be published on Monday.
Germans, who are making the largest financial contribution to the euro zone bailout for Greece, are growing increasingly impatient with the Greek “bottomless pit”, and since Greeks can’t do the job on their own they decided to take the situation in their own hands and send German tax officials to “help” Greek authorities. The preparations for the tax advice mission is being made under the auspices of the European Union and International Monetary Fund. The big question, however, is whether such assistance is wanted by the Greek people.
The article also refers to a confidential report from the European Commission, under which the mechanism of tax collection in Greece is facing serious problems. Tax evasion has basically turned into the most popular national hobby and tax evasion rates in major professions such as doctors, lawyers and engineers, who frequently declare income below the taxable limit, and entrepreneurs who do not pay VAT are the highest in Europe. […]
* CUSTOMERS SHIFTING MONEY OUT OF BANKS IN SOUTHERN EUROPE
By Chris in Paris, AmericaBlog
Can you blame them? It’s a nervous time for many people and none of the options are great. It hardly seems likely that the latest bailout for Greece will do much to settle the situation. The only surprise with the crisis in Europe is that the dollar is falling against the euro. Bloomberg:
Greece (TODETOGR)’s total deposits plunged 28 percent from the peak in June 2009 to 169 billion euros ($225 billion) at the end of December, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In Spain (TODETOES), deposits slid 5 percent in the five months through November to 934 billion euros, the least since April 2008. Italian (TODETOIT) banks held 974 billion euros in November, the lowest in 18 months. Deposits in Germany (TODETODE) have climbed by almost 10 percent since May 2010, when Greece was granted its first bailout. Deposits have risen every month except five since the end of 2009, and reached 2.15 trillion euros at the end of 2011, Bloomberg data show. The deteriorating growth outlook in the euro region risks exacerbating those flows, according to Dario Perkins, an economist at Lombard Street Research in London. “The biggest systemic risk is if people lose confidence in keeping their euros in Spain, Portugal or Italy,” Perkins said. “It makes sense to put your cash into Germany just to be safe and that’s where the real systemic danger lies. That contagion isn’t priced in, and bank deposits are the place we’d spot it.”
* CHICAGO WORKERS STOP LAYOFFS AFTER OCCUPYING THEIR FACTORY
Workers facing layoffs at a Chicago window factory have declared victory after occupying their plant for 11 hours. Through direct community action, including the support of Occupy Chicago, the workers and their union prevented the California-based Serious Energy company from closing the plant for another 90 days. The workers hope this will give them time to keep the plant open, possibly by purchasing it themselves and creating a worker-owned co-op. “We can run this company,” Juan Cortez, who has worked more than 23 years in the factory, told the media. “We got smart people to manage the money. We can find customers. We know how to run the company.” Members of Occupy Chicago showed up in solidarity and brought supplies. In 2008, workers at the same factory occupied their plant for six days during a labor dispute with its previous owners, Republic Windows and Doors. That occupation forced Bank of America into a $1.75 million settlement with the workers. […]
* THE IMPERIAL WAY: U.S. DECLINE IN PERSPECTIVE
Imperialism is still with us, but power has become more broadly distributed in a diversifying world.
By Noam Chomsky, Aljazeera
In the years of conscious, self-inflicted decline at home, “losses” continued to mount elsewhere. In the past decade, for the first time in 500 years, South America has taken successful steps to free itself from western domination, another serious loss. The region has moved towards integration, and has begun to address some of the terrible internal problems of societies ruled by mostly Europeanised elites, tiny islands of extreme wealth in a sea of misery. They have also rid themselves of all US military bases and of IMF controls. A newly formed organisation, CELAC, includes all countries of the hemisphere apart from the US and Canada. If it actually functions, that would be another step in US decline, in this case in what has always been regarded as “the backyard”. […]
* A PLANNED ECONOMY FOR THE 1%
Source; The Real News w/ Michael Hudson
* STUDY: ROUNDUP DILUTED BY 99.8 PERCENT STILL DESTROYS HUMAN DNA
By Ethan A. Huff, Pakalert Press
A new study published in the journal Archives of Toxicology proves once again that there really is no safe level of exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup (glyphosate) herbicide formula for genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). According to the new findings, Roundup, which is applied by the tens of thousands of tons a year all around the world, is still toxic to human DNA even when diluted to a mere 0.02 percent of the dilution amount at which it is currently applied to GM food crops.
Numerous studies have already identified the fact that Roundup causes DNA damage, not to mention endocrine disruption and cancer. But this new study, which originates out of the Medical University of Vienna, is one of the first to illustrate Roundup’s toxicity at such drastically diluted levels, which is a direct contradiction of the agri-giant’s talking points about the supposed safety of Roundup.
“Comparisons with results of earlier studies with lymphocytes and cells from internal organs indicate that epithelial cells are more susceptible to the cytotoxic effects and DNA-damaging properties of the herbicide and its formulation,” wrote the authors in their abstract.
“Since we found genotoxic (DNA damaging) effects after short exposure to concentrations that correspond to a 450-fold dilution of spraying used in agriculture, our findings indicate that inhalation may cause DNA damage in exposed individuals.” […]
* USGS ADMITS FUKUSHIMA FALLOUT REACHED U.S. AFTER JAPAN EARTHQUAKE
By Chris Monty, Blippit
The U.S Geological Survey has confirmed that radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan was measured in minimal amounts in precipitation in the U.S. in approximately 20 percent of 167 sites sampled in a nationwide study released earlier this week.
The USGS led the study as part of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP).