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Member since: Wed Mar 16, 2005, 10:12 AM
Number of posts: 60,364

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Editorial: (TPP) undue influence


The biggest issue in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations is how much lobby groups are controlling the US position.

Editorial: undue influence
By The Listener In Editorial
28th November, 2013

The real cliffhanger in these closing phases of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations is not whether New Zealand will fold, but whether the United States will.

Recently leaked documents from the talks suggest the US is the country on the spot, trying to defend special treatment for its pharmaceutical, agricultural, entertainment and other sectors.

Domestic critics of the 11-country free-trade deal would have us believe the Government is in thrall to the US and is, for instance, considering neutering our world-leading drug-buying agency Pharmac as part of the price for getting this deal done.

The reality, however, appears to be that the US Government is in thrall to the pharmaceutical and other lobbies. Few, if any, of the other countries wish to make sovereignty-denting and budget-busting concessions to those lobbies. It is very possible the TPP will fail precisely because the US cannot bring itself to rein in its powerful business-sector friends.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Nov 29, 2013, 08:13 AM (0 replies)

Poverty Migration: Berlin Backs Cameron's 'Benefit Tourism' Offensive


Germany has now stepped into the UK-triggered fray over introducing new restrictions on migration within the EU. The European Commission is enraged, and even conservative EU parliamentarians warn of pandering to populists.

Poverty Migration: Berlin Backs Cameron's 'Benefit Tourism' Offensive
By Carsten Volkery and Severin Weiland
November 29, 2013 – 01:29 PM

"Free movement within Europe needs to be less free," British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote on Friday in a guest editorial for the Financial Times. Then he outlined a detailed list of ways the United Kingdom plans to limit access for European Union citizens to his country's social benefits.

The attack on some of the EU's most popular basic rights has sparked outrage across Europe, though Cameron has defended his comments by saying that other countries -- such as Germany, Austria and the Netherlands -- share his position.

Indeed, in April the four countries sent a letter to the European Commission complaining of the burden immigrants have placed on their social systems and calling for solutions. And in the new coalition contract between Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the CSU pushed through several passages critical of migration under the heading "Poverty Migration within the EU." National and European laws must be changed so that "incentives for migrants in social security systems will be reduced," it says. To achieve that, "the facilitation of temporary re-entry barriers" is necessary, among other things. In addition, exemptions for jobseekers should be "clarified."

The escalation in rhetoric is related to an impending deadline: Beginning on Jan. 1, 2014, there will be full freedom of movement for workers from Romania and Bulgaria. Both countries have been full European Union members since 2007, but their citizens have thus far faced restricted access to labor markets in nine other EU states. Experts believe that the feared stampede of new migrants will not materialize because the majority of people who wanted to move abroad did so a long time ago. But politicians in Western Europe are still nervous. Cameron, in particular, is worried that the right-wing populist UK Independence Party (UKIP) will make massive gains in the European Parliament elections scheduled for next spring.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Nov 29, 2013, 07:37 AM (7 replies)

Il Cavaliere No More: Expulsion Spells Berlusconi's Demise


By voting to expel former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Senate has brought a long struggle to an end. The controversial former leader now faces new legal threats -- and maybe even a lengthy jail term.

Il Cavaliere No More: Expulsion Spells Berlusconi's Demise
By Hans-Jürgen Schlamp
November 28, 2013 – 12:57 PM

As recently as Monday, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was hosting "the most powerful man in the world" -- his "friend" Vladimir Putin, as he calls him. On Wednesday, his situation became considerably less impressive: In an anxiously awaited decision, a majority of members of the Italian Senate voted to throw the former prime minister out of parliament as a result of his conviction for tax evasion in the so-called Mediaset trial.

The 77-year-old head of the revived conservative Forza Italia party has vigorously been fighting this outcome. Italian law calls for him to give up his seat as a result of criminal conviction, but he has been asking for an exception, calling the effort to remove him a campaign by his enemies. To maintain his position, he threatened, and failed, to topple the coalition government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta in October. But now it appears that Berlusconi has been vanquished.

Although he swears he will be back in Italy's Palazzo Chigi, the seat of the prime minister, in 2015, that would be impossible. According to a law approved by his party in Dec. 31, 2012, he is banned from running for a parliamentary seat, let alone the office of the prime minister, for six years.

He will also be unable to defeat Letta's government. Berlusconi's former party, People of Liberty (PdL) has split and one part will continue governing with the Social Democrats under Letta for the rest of the legislative period. This coalition has a comfortable majority in the Chamber of Deputies and a narrow, but sufficient six-vote majority in the Senate. Berlusconi and his loyalists can vote however they want -- it won't change anything.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Nov 29, 2013, 07:31 AM (1 replies)

India Falls Behind: Corruption Plagues Rising Economy


Two decades after the start of its economic miracle, India is falling behind its rival China. Corruption is rampant, and investors are pulling out of the country. Will parliamentary elections next year offer a fresh start?

India Falls Behind: Corruption Plagues Rising Economy
By Wieland Wagner
November 28, 2013 – 11:00 AM

It rumbled and thundered, then India's first Mars rocket shot into the sky above the Bay of Bengal, trailing a long tail of fire behind it. It was one of those rare moments when Asia's third largest economy showed its modern side, with everything running punctually and precisely. On the ground, the head of India's space program rejoiced, and declared: "Any mission is not beyond our capability."

That was early November, but this country with a population of 1.2 billion could celebrate its actual triumph 10 months from now, when the Indian-designed space probe is scheduled to reach the red planet and orbit it several times. If the mission proceeds as planned, it will make India the fourth space-going power to successfully reach Mars, following the United States, Russia and Europe. And, most importantly, India will achieve this step before its greatest rival, China.

The space mission shone in the sky above India like a glimmer of hope for a country where back on the ground hardly anything is going according to plan. The competition with China for dominance in Asia -- colorfully described for years by Western authors as a duel between the dragon and the elephant -- has long since been decided, economically and thus geopolitically as well, and not in India's favor.

Hailed for two decades for its miraculous ascent, India's economy is now faltering. Growth, once around 10 percent, is now less than half that. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts it will ultimately be under 4 percent for the current year, as it was last year as well.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Nov 29, 2013, 07:27 AM (1 replies)

World from Berlin: 'Germany No Longer a Role Model for Europe'


Germany's next government is expected to shower the country with goodies including a minimum wage and an earlier retirement age. Editorialists warn the extra spending sends the wrong message and will be costly for the next generation.

World from Berlin: 'Germany No Longer a Role Model for Europe'
November 28, 2013 – 03:13 PM

Germany's conservatives and left-leaning Social Democrats reached an agreement this week to create the next federal government after weeks of negotiations following the Sept. 22 election. With Chancellor Angela Merkel of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) at its helm, the coalition government has agreed to a number of joint policy initiatives that will see the establishment of Germany's first-ever legally mandated minimum wage and generous changes to the country's pension system, including the option of retirement at 63. At the same time, the CDU, its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) are pledging to deliver these gifts without raising taxes.

Christoph Schmidt, the head of the German Council of Economic Experts, which advises the German government, said he doesn't believe the government has the funding for all the gifts being given to voters. "It may be possible to finance the planned extra spending until 2017 without raising taxes or fresh borrowing, but it won't be possible after that," he told the newspaper Die Welt.

Schmidt said the plans for allowing retirement at 63 instead of the current 67, along with additional benefits for women who left work to raise children and other pension perks would create lasting additional expenditures. Ultimately, he warned, the money would have to come from either higher individual pension contributions, higher taxes or through a general reduction of pension benefits.

Meanwhile, Clemens Fuest, director of the European Center for Economic Research (ZEW), warned of both the pension changes and the new minimum wage. "The biggest problem is the combination of stricter labor market regulations, the sinking of the retirement age and the introduction of new retirement benefits," he said. "That's going to drive up social security contributions and reduce employment at a time when we actually need more jobs."
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Nov 29, 2013, 07:24 AM (2 replies)

Weak Growth: (S&P) Agency Strips Netherlands' AAA Rating


The Netherlands lost its top credit rating on Friday as S&P moved to downgrade the country as a result of its weak economy. Holland had previously been a stable point in the euro crisis. Only 10 countries, including Germany, still retain AAA status worldwide.

Weak Growth: Agency Strips Netherlands' AAA Rating
November 29, 2013 – 12:24 PM

The list of euro-zone countries with immaculate credit ratings took another hit this week. On Friday morning, Standard & Poor's (S&P) removed the Netherlands' top rating, downgrading the country to AA+. This leaves only three countries in the common currency area with the best grade of AAA: Finland, Luxembourg and Germany. Two years ago, six countries still had that rating.

S&P stated the downgrade resulted from weaker prospects for economic growth than previously anticipated. The agency said the atmosphere would make it more difficult for the government to reach its fiscal targets. Despite a "stable" outlook for the Netherlands, the company said the development of the country's per capita gross domestic product is "persistently lower" than nations with similarly high levels of economic development. The other two major rating agencies, Moody's and Fitch, have also threatened the Netherlands with a downgrade.


Dijsselbloem has stated that he doesn't think the move by S&P will have any substantial effect on the interest rates the country pays on its debt. In a statement released Friday in The Hague, Dijsselbloem said he was "disappointed" by the downgrade, but that he didn't expect it to have any impact on interest rates because the markets were already expecting the change.

Like Germany, the Netherlands had long enjoyed a solid reputation for its stability in the euro crisis -- an image that could take a hit as a result of the downgrade. France, meanwhile, lost its top rating a year ago and was further downgraded early this month by S&P.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Nov 29, 2013, 07:05 AM (1 replies)

Greenwald to BBC: Journalists must investigate the Powerful in Gov’t since they Lie to the People (B


Greenwald to BBC: Journalists must investigate the Powerful in Gov’t since they Lie to the People (BBC Surprised)
Posted on 11/29/2013 by Juan Cole

Glenn Greenwald on the BBC’s Hardtalk seems to surprise the anchor by asserting that journalists need to investigate the powerful since the latter tend to lie to the people.

This is how the BBC describes the program
“Journalist Glenn Greenwald who reported on the data leaked by US whistleblower Edward Snowden has told HARDtalk it is the job of journalists to investigate the claims of people in power.

Mr Greenwald said the Iraq war was as an example of how the US and UK governments had made “false claims” to gain support for the war.

“People in power, specifically national security officials will routinely lie to their population,” he added.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Nov 29, 2013, 06:55 AM (2 replies)

Karzai, Pakistan Protests against US Drone Strikes may force US out



Karzai, Pakistan Protests against US Drone Strikes may force US out
Posted on 11/29/2013 by Juan Cole

Afghan President Hamid Karzai complained Friday that a US drone strike in Helmand Province targeting a Taliban commander on a motorcycle appears to have gone bad and ended up killing a 2 year old child and wounding two women instead. A second drone strike killed the commander.

Karzai said that he would not sign a Status of Forces Agreement with the US until they stopped military operations that involved invading the homes of Afghans, and hinted that the drone strikes are an issue for him too, since they demonstrate, he said, the the US does not respect the lives of non-combatants.

Karzai’s refusal to sign the SOFA may force the US to begin withdrawals and to make plans, at least, to leave completely by the end of December 2014. The withdrawal of the 75,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan is a big logistical task and can’t be left till the last minute, in case there is no SOFA in the end. If US troops tried to operate in Afghanistan without a bilateral agreement, they could be brought up in Afghan courts on war crimes charges if anything went wrong. No US commander would agree to operate under such a constant threat.

US officials were surprised and dismayed when Karzai, after a long period of negotiations with the US on this issue, abruptly announced that he wouldn’t sign the agreement hammered out between his government and the US allowing American troops to remain in Afghanistan.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Nov 29, 2013, 06:50 AM (3 replies)

Watchdog group says Google violated Dutch privacy laws


Watchdog group says Google violated Dutch privacy laws
By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, November 28, 2013 15:17 EST

Internet giant Google is in breach of Dutch privacy laws and will have to change the way it operates, the Dutch privacy watchdog said on Thursday following a seven-month probe.

“Google’s combined use of personal details since revising its privacy policy in 2012 is in breach of the Law on the Protection of Personal Information,” the Dutch Data Protection Authority (CBP) said in a statement.

“Google links personal details of Internet users gleaned through different Google services without informing users and without asking their permission,” said the Hague-based CBP, which advises government on privacy legislation.


The CBP released a 100-page report on Thursday after a seven-month investigation, saying that Google’s use of “tracking cookies” without clearly informing users — or giving them a option to refuse — was breaking the Dutch data protection act.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Nov 29, 2013, 06:34 AM (0 replies)

War-weary Americans back Iran nuclear deal by 2-to-1 margin


War-weary Americans back Iran nuclear deal by 2-to-1 margin
By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, November 28, 2013 9:29 EST

Americans back a newly brokered nuclear deal with Iran by a two-to-one margin and are very wary of the United States resorting to military action against Tehran even if the historic diplomatic effort fails, a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday showed.

According to the survey, 44 percent of Americans support the interim deal reached Sunday between Iran and six world powers in Geneva, and 22 percent oppose it.

The findings come as good news for President Barack Obama, whose approval ratings have dropped in recent weeks, largely due to the botched rollout of his flagship healthcare reform law, the Affordable Care Act.

Even if the Iran deal fails, 31 percent think the U.S. should launch further diplomacy, while 49 percent would want to then increase sanctions. Only 20 percent would want U.S. military force to be used against Iran.

unhappycamper comment: The elephant in the room: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorization_for_Use_of_Military_Force_Against_Terrorists

Until the AUMF is repealed, any US President can start an adventure without Congressional approval.

Another interesting feature of the AUMF:
The AUMF was also the basis of one of the principal arguments advanced by the Department of Justice in the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy, namely that the AUMF implicitly overrode the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Nov 29, 2013, 06:28 AM (0 replies)
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