Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart
* SOCIAL ASPECTS OF THE GREEK DRAMA AND THE STRUGGLE FOR A WAY OUT
The humanitarian crisis in Greece is worsening day by day as a result of the policies decided by the IMF-EU-ECB Troika and implemented by the puppet tripartite government (composed by the right-wing Nea Dimokratia, the “social democratic” PASOK and the so called “Democratic Left”). The official data that have been published last week by the Hellenic Statistical Authority under the auspices of EUROSTAT, despite been “embellished”, are quite revealing:
|UNEMPLOYMENT ALMOST TRIPLED SINCE 2009
The unemployment, which was 9,5% in 2009, before the transformation of Greece into a guinea pig by the Troika and its local lackeys, has jumped to 12,5% in 2010, then to 17,7% in 2011, and now (official data for October 2012) amounts to 26,8%. What makes things even worse is that actually, out of the 1.300.000 unemployed, less than 200.000 receive any form of “unemployment benefit” (the term is rather an euphemism: the “benefit” for the few lucky ones ranges from € 180 to € 468 per month, and is paid for a period of 5 to 12 months, depending on the wage, the length of employment, and the number of dependent members of the family).
EXPLOSION OF POVERTY
The percentage of the population living in conditions of poverty, from 12,1% in 2009 passed to 16,3% in 2010, and in 2011 jumped to 22,9%. Considering that in 2011 a series of social services and benefits (which now have been eliminated) still existed, the report of the Statistical Authority expresses “serious concern” for further explosive increase of the poverty in 2012 and 2013.
NO MORE HEALTH CARE
As nowadays the right to health care depends on the number of days that someone has worked during the previous year, the long-term unemployed and the uninsured workers lose their access to health care. In the meantime, the health services offered to the general population have been reduced, since several public hospitals and prevention centers have been shut down as a result of the cuts (40%) in the health and welfare budget, combined with the introduction of increased fees even for the insured patients. These problems, combined with the critical situation of the public hospitals still functioning (many suffer by tragic shortages in personnel and even in basic material, such as medicines, disinfectants, bandages etc.) and the inability of many citizens (mainly pensioners) to pay the much increased share for their medicaments, has led even the EU’s Centre for Disease Control to warn against an imminent outbreak of viral infections, hospital viruses, contagious diseases, HIV etc. […]
* BY THE NUMBERS: 20 FACTS ABOUT THE COLLAPSE OF EUROPE THAT EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW
By Michael, The Economic Collapse
The economic implosion of Europe is accelerating. Even while the mainstream media continues to proclaim that the financial crisis in Europe has been “averted”, the economic statistics that are coming out of Europe just continue to get worse. Manufacturing activity in Europe has been contracting month after month, the unemployment rate in the eurozone has hit yet another brand new record high, and the official unemployment rates in both Greece and Spain are now much higher than the peak unemployment rate in the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The economic situation in Europe is far worse than it was a year ago, and it is going to continue to get worse as austerity continues to take a huge toll on the economies of the eurozone. It would be hard to understate how bad things have gotten – particularly in southern Europe. The truth is that most of southern Europe is experiencing a full-blown economic depression right now. Sadly, most Americans are paying very little attention to what is going on across the Atlantic. But they should be watching, because this is what happens when nations accumulate too much debt. The United States has the biggest debt burden of all, and eventually what is happening over in Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Greece is going to happen over here as well.
The following are 20 facts about the collapse of Europe that everyone should know …
#1 10 Months: Manufacturing activity in both France and Germany has contracted for 10 months in a row.
#2 11.8 Percent: The unemployment rate in the eurozone has now risen to 11.8 percent – a brand new all-time high.
#3 17 Months: In November, Italy experienced the sharpest decline in retail sales that it had experienced in 17 months.
#4 20 Months: Manufacturing activity in Spain has contracted for 20 months in a row.
#5 20 Percent: It is estimated that bad loans now make up approximately 20 percent of all domestic loans in the Greek banking system at this point.
#6 22 Percent: A whopping 22 percent of the entire population of Ireland lives in jobless households.
#7 26 Percent: The unemployment rate in Greece is now 26 percent. A year ago it was only 18.9 percent.
#8 26.6 Percent: The unemployment rate in Spain has risen to an astounding 26.6 percent.
#9 27.0 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Cyprus. Back in 2008, this number was well below 10 percent.
#10 28 Percent: Sales of French-made vehicles in November were down 28 percent compared to a year earlier.
#11 36 Percent: Today, the poverty rate in Greece is 36 percent. Back in 2009 it was only about 20 percent.
#12 37.1 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Italy – a brand new all-time high.
#13 44 Percent: An astounding 44 percent of the entire population of Bulgaria is facing “severe material deprivation”.
#14 56.5 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Spain – a brand new all-time high.
#15 57.6 Percent: The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 in Greece – a brand new all-time high.
#16 60 Percent: Citigroup is projecting that there is a 60 percent probability that Greece will leave the eurozone within the next 12 to 18 months.
#17 70 Percent: It has been reported that some homes in Spain are being sold at a 70% discount from where they were at during the peak of the housing bubble back in 2006. At this point there are approximately 2 million unsold homes in Spain.
#18 200 Percent: The debt to GDP ratio in Greece is rapidly approaching 200 percent.
#19 1997: According to the Committee of French Automobile Producers, 2012 was the worst year for the French automobile industry since 1997.
#20 2 Million: Back in 2005, the French auto industry produced about 3.5 million vehicles. In 2012, that number dropped to about 2 million vehicles. […]
* WHO ARE THE REAL TERRORISTS?
By Dr. Paul J Balles
The US Code defines terrorism as a crime that appears to be intended to (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping.
None of the crimes committed by the 9/11 attackers fall within the “intent” definition of the US code. They were hijackers and mass murderers, but not terrorists.
George W. Bush declared a war against terrorists. Under that guise, the US threatened the Taliban in Afghanistan with military action unless they surrendered Osama bin Laden.
When the Taliban insisted on evidence supporting the US position that bin Laden was the culprit behind the 9/11 hijackings and mass murders, the US remained silent.
Instead, they bombed Afghanistan, violating their own code. They attempted to intimidate and coerce the civilian population of Afghanistan, they attempted to influence policy of the Afghan government through coercion and intimidation, and they attempted to affect the conduct of the Afghan government by assassination and kidnapping.
In retribution for a criminal act, the US defiled its own code by terrorising Afghans on all three counts. […]
* CARMEN ORTIZ AND STEPHEN HEYMANN: ACCOUNTABILITY FOR PROSECUTORIAL ABUSE
By Glenn Greenwald, Guardian
Imposing real consequences on these federal prosecutors in the Aaron Swartz case is vital for both justice and reform
Whenever an avoidable tragedy occurs, it’s common for there to be an intense spate of anger in its immediate aftermath which quickly dissipates as people move on to the next outrage. That’s a key dynamic that enables people in positions of authority to evade consequences for their bad acts. But as more facts emerge regarding the conduct of the federal prosecutors in the case of Aaron Swartz – Massachusetts’ US attorney Carmen Ortiz and assistant US attorney Stephen Heymann – the opposite seems to be taking place: there is greater and greater momentum for real investigations, accountability and reform. It is urgent that this opportunity not be squandered, that this interest be sustained.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that – two days before the 26-year-old activist killed himself on Friday – federal prosecutors again rejected a plea bargain offer from Swartz’s lawyers that would have kept him out of prison. They instead demanded that he “would need to plead guilty to every count” and made clear that “the government would insist on prison time”. That made a trial on all 15 felony counts – with the threat of a lengthy prison sentence if convicted – a virtual inevitability.
Just three months ago, Ortiz’s office, as TechDirt reported, severely escalated the already-excessive four-felony-count indictment by adding nine new felony counts, each of which “carrie[d] the possibility of a fine and imprisonment of up to 10-20 years per felony”, meaning “the sentence could conceivably total 50+ years and [a] fine in the area of $4 million.” That meant, as Think Progress documented, that Swartz faced “a more severe prison term than killers, slave dealers and bank robbers”.
Swartz’s girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, told the WSJ that the case had drained all of his money and he could not afford to pay for a trial. At Swartz’s funeral in Chicago on Tuesday, his father flatly stated that his son “was killed by the government”.
Ortiz and Heymann continue to refuse to speak publicly about what they did in this case – at least officially. Yesterday, Ortiz’s husband, IBM Corp executive Thomas J. Dolan, took to Twitter and – without identifying himself as the US Attorney’s husband – defended the prosecutors’ actions in response to prominent critics, and even harshly criticized the Swartz family for assigning blame to prosecutors: “Truly incredible in their own son’s obit they blame others for his death”, Ortiz’s husband wrote. Once Dolan’s identity was discovered, he received assertive criticism and then sheepishly deleted his Twitter account.
Clearly, the politically ambitious Ortiz – who was touted just last month by the Boston Globe as a possible Democratic candidate for governor – is feeling serious heat as a result of rising fury over her office’s wildly overzealous pursuit of Swartz. The same is true of Heymman, whose father was Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton administration and who has tried to forge his own reputation as a tough-guy prosecutor who takes particular aim at hackers.
Yesterday, the GOP’s House Oversight Committee Chairman, Darrell Issa, announced a formal investigation into the Justice Department’s conduct in this case. Separately, two Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee issued stinging denunciations, with Democratic Rep. Jared Polis proclaiming that “the charges were ridiculous and trumped-up” and labeling Swartz a “martyr” for the evils of minimum sentencing guidelines, while Rep. Zoe Lofgren denounced the prosecutors’ behavior as “pretty outrageous” and “way out of line”.
A petition on the White House’s website to fire Ortiz quickly exceeded the 25,000 signatures needed to compel a reply, and a similar petition aimed at Heymann has also attracted thousands of signatures, and is likely to gather steam in the wake of revelations that another young hacker committed suicide in 2008 in response to Heymann’s pursuit of him (You can [and I hope will] sign both petitions by clicking on those links; the Heymann petition in particular needs more signatures). […]
* BANG GOES THE THEORY
How neoliberalism trashed your life, but made the super-rich even richer
By George Monibot
How they must bleed for us. In 2012, the world’s 100 richest people became $241 billion richer(1). They are now worth $1.9 trillion: just a little less than the GDP of the United Kingdom.
This is not the result of chance. The rise in the fortunes of the super-rich is the direct result of policies. Here are a few: the reduction of tax rates and tax enforcement; governments’ refusal to recoup a decent share of revenues from minerals and land; the privatisation of public assets and the creation of a toll-booth economy; wage liberalisation and the destruction of collective bargaining.
The policies which made the global monarchs so rich are the policies squeezing everyone else. This is not what the theory predicted. Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and their disciples – in a thousand business schools, the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD and just about every modern government – have argued that the less governments tax the rich, defend workers and redistribute wealth, the more prosperous everyone will be. Any attempt to reduce inequality would damage the efficiency of the market, impeding the rising tide that lifts all boats(2). The apostles have conducted a 30-year global experiment and the results are now in. Total failure.
Before I go on, I should point out that I don’t believe perpetual economic growth is either sustainable or desirable(3). But if growth is your aim – an aim to which every government claims to subscribe – you couldn’t make a bigger mess of it than by releasing the super-rich from the constraints of democracy.
Last year’s annual report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development should have been an obituary for the neoliberal model developed by Hayek and Friedman and their disciples(4). It shows unequivocally that their policies have created the opposite outcomes to those they predicted. As neoliberal policies (cutting taxes for the rich, privatising state assets, deregulating labour, reducing social security) began to bite from the 1980s onwards, growth rates started to fall and unemployment to rise. […]