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Fri, 22 Oct 2021
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France to European Union: Stop Monsanto's Corn

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© SIPA/Durand Florence
France has asked the European regulators to suspend the authorization to plant Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) MON810 corn. France's ecology minister says the decision is based on studies showing GM crops "pose significant risks for the environment."

Agence France-Presse reports:
The request is "based on the latest scientific studies" which show that the use of the GM crops "pose significant risks for the environment," the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry pointed to a recent study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that raised concerns with another form of GM crop, BT11, that it said could also be applied to MON 810.

"If the European Union does not act, we can invoke the safeguard clause" which allows EU nations to independently restrict or prohibit the sales of products, it said.

President Nicolas Sarkozy in November pledged to seek new legal measures after the European Court of Justice and France's top administrative court overturned a French ban on GM crops from US agriculture giant Monsanto.

Eye 2

The "Global Crises of Capitalism" - Whose Crises, Who Profits?

From the Financial Times to the far left, tons of ink has been spilt writing about some variant of the "Crises of Global Capitalism". While writers differ in the causes, consequences and cures, according to their ideological lights, there is a common agreement that "the crises" threatens to end the capitalist system as we know it.

capitalism
There is no doubt that, between 2008-2009, the capitalist system in Europe and the United States suffered a severe shock that shook the foundations of its financial system and threatened to bankrupt its 'leading sectors'.

However, I will argue the 'crises of capitalism' was turned into a 'crises of labor'. Finance capital, the principle detonator of the crash and crises, recovered, the capitalist class as a whole was strengthened, and most important of all, it utilized the political, social, ideological conditions created as a result of "the crises" to further consolidate their dominance and exploitation over the rest of society.

In other words, the 'crises of capital' has been converted into a strategic advantage for furthering the most fundamental interests of capital: the enlargement of profits, the consolidation of capitalist rule, the greater concentration of ownership, the deepening of inequalities between capital and labor and the creation of huge reserves of labor to further augment their profits.

Comment: As we've said time and again, as long as individuals without conscience are in positions of power, whether hiding their true agenda for personal power and control behind the capitalistic or socialist or any other ideology, the problems of the common people will not go away. Only knowledge about the truth of the matter will ever get us out of this mess, because it is this knowledge that will open our eyes and give us the power and incentive necessary to get off our collective butts and act towards creating a world by the people and for the people.


Dollar

Some Greeks Might Have to Pay for Their Jobs

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© Reuters
It's being called the "negative salary": Due to austerity measures in Greece, it's being reported that up to 64,000 Greeks will go without pay this month, and some will have to pay for having a job. Numbers in austerity reports have usually reflected figures in the millions, since they reflect industry-wide cuts (i.e. a 537-million euro cut to health and pension funds). And plans of cutting minimum wage by up to 32% is all but a given in the country. Today's "negative salary" deal - which could have government employees returning funds - reveals the real human impact of the austerity measures.

As Zero Hedge and the Press Project report:
Salary cutbacks (called "unified payroll") for contract workers at the public sector set to be finalized today. Cuts to be valid retroactively since november 2011. Expected result: Up to 64.000 people will work without salary this month, or even be asked to return money. Amongst them 21,000 teachers, 13,000 municipal employees and 30,000 civil servants.

Light Sabers

French socialists' Latin revolt against Germany

The half-century habits of Franco-German condominium die hard. It is a painful process for French elites to admit that monetary union is asphyxiating their economy and must inevitably trap France in mercantilist subordination to Germany.

Sarkozy and Merkel

Nicolas Sarkozy has clung to the fig leaf of Franco-German parity, staking all on ties to Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Carolingian union is all that anybody in French public life can really remember. It worked marvellously for two generations, levering French power on the global stage, and the euro was of course their own creation, intended to tie down a reunited Germany with "silken cords". How can they now face the awful truth that this elegant strategy has blown up in their faces, enthroning Germany as undisputed hegemon?

Yet they can hardly ignore the evidence. While German unemployment has fallen to a post-Reunification low of 5.5pc, France's jobless rate has crept up to a post-EMU high of 9.9pc and is certain to rise further as recession bites again.

While both countries had the same sorts of export surplus in the early 1990s, they have diverged massively since the D-Mark and franc were fixed in perpetuity. Germany has a current account surplus of 5pc of GDP: France has a deficit of 2.7pc, anathema for Colbertistes.

Comment: Whereas a return to the national currencies might help some EU-controlled countries reclaim their sovereignty, the power struggles between the French and German governments are just that: who's going to have political and economic control over all else. It is not about the welfare of the citizens, and never has been.


Cut

Greece and the Rape by the Rentiers

Sabine Women

The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna, in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence.
Here's the draft of the supposed agreement to "sort out" the Greek debt problem once and for all. According to Bloomberg, here are the essentials:
  • Greece's 2012 GDP will shrink by as much as 5%.
  • Greece is expected to return to growth in 2013.
  • Greece will cut 15,000 state jobs in 2012.
  • Minimum wage will be cut by 20 percent.
  • There will be no increase to sales tax.
  • The government will cut medicine spending from 1.9% to 1.5% and merge all auxiliary pension funds.
  • It will also sell stakes in six companies - in particular, energy companies and refineries.
Of course, the current thrust of fiscal policy will almost certainly guarantee that there still will be a default, involuntary or otherwise, in spite of this agreement. If you don't have a mechanism to allow growth, then how can the Greeks service their debt, even with the reduced debt burden?

Bad Guys

Greece begrudgingly cedes sovereignty in exchange for bailout funds

The conditions the European Union set for Greece in exchange for a second bailout represent a very unusual amount of outside control and oversight of a sovereign country.

Eurogroup meeting
© Yves Herman/Reuters
Greece's Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos (l.) and Greece's Prime Minister Lucas Papademos (r.) hold a joint news conference after a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels February 21. Eurozone finance ministers struck a deal early on Tuesday for a second bailout program for Greece that will involve financing of 130 billion euros ($172 billion) and aims to cut Greece's debts to 121 percent of GDP by 2020, EU officials said.
The $172 billion Greek bailout package hammered out in Brussels Tuesday averts a looming Greek default and, its architects hope, will ward off dangerous financial consequences for neighbors.

The sheer size of the bailout and a promised debt write-off of roughly 100 billion euros ($132 billion) represents a more favorable outcome than Greek officials expected. But the bailout comes with rigorous budget cuts demanded by northern European states and other requirements that represent an unprecedented amount of European Union control over a sovereign member.

"We have been learning for years how to share sovereignty in Europe," says Loukas Tsoukalis of the University of Athens and head of the think tank Eliamep, which deals with European and foreign policy. "With the crisis, we are all being asked to take some difficult steps further. It is uncharted territory. If you are a country on the verge of default, such as Greece, sovereignty and economic survival may create awkward tradeoffs."

Airplane

U.N. watchdog says nuclear talks with Iran failed

Vienna - The U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday it had failed to secure an agreement with Iran during two days of talks over disputed atomic activities and that the Islamic Republic had rejected a request to visit a key military site.

In the second such trip in less than a month, a senior team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had travelled to Tehran to press Iranian officials to start addressing mounting concerns that the Islamic Republic may be seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

The outcome seems likely to add to already soaring tension between Iran and Western powers, which have ratcheted up sanctions on the major oil producer in recent months.

"During both the first and second round of discussions, the agency team requested access to the military site at Parchin. Iran did not grant permission for this visit to take place," the Vienna-based IAEA said in a statement after the Feb 20-21 talks.

The IAEA named Parchin in a detailed report in November that lent independent weight to Western fears that Iran was working to develop an atomic bomb, an allegation Iranian officials reject.

Comment: In the "already soaring tensions" did they "press" Iran or did they "request" information?

"its track record of years of nuclear secrecy" Years eh? Iran Says Invites UN Nuclear Agency To Visit then there is: IAEA has no evidence on Iran''s building nuclear arms - ElBaradei, or how about: IAEA Chief: Iran can't make nukes unless it leaves the NPT - will resign if Iran is attacked?
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© Dr. Starr II



Pirates

Obama to address AIPAC before talks with Netanyahu on Iran

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© Joshua Roberts/Pool/ISP Pool/Corbis
Obama Speaks At AIPAC Policy Conference 2011
Barack Obama will address the annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on March 4, a day before he and visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold talks expected to focus on Iran, the White House announced Tuesday.

With the Middle East peace process stalled, the president and his guest are likely to focus on the best way to confront Iran over its suspect nuclear program, as well as the response to Syria's bloody crackdown on opponents of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The president's speech to the most powerful US pro-Israel lobby group could also have an election-year flavor: Republicans have tried to portray Obama as insufficiently supportive of Israel's security, a charge rejected by several high profile Israeli officials including Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The announcement came after Obama's national security adviser, Tom Donilon, paid a two-day visit to Israel.

Comment: Middle East peace process? Is that what this is:



Crusader

US Religious Right: Graham Doubts Obama's Christianity, Santorum Warns of Satan

Santorum
© Eric Gay/AP Photo
The 2012 race turned to God, Satan and religion when Franklin Graham said he's surer that Rick Santorum is a Christian than President Obama and a 2008 Santorum speech surfaced in which the top GOP candidate told a religious audience that Satan is attacking U.S. institutions.

Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, said on MSNBC Tuesday that he could not verify that President Obama is a Christian. "I just have to assume that he is," Graham said.

But he has no question about Rick Santorum. "His values are so clear on moral issues. No question about it. ... I think he's a man of faith."

Santorum's faith was in the news for another reason, too. The Pennsylvania Republican said in 2008, two years after losing his Senate seat and four years before seeking the presidency, that Satan was attacking U.S. institutions in government and religion.

The comments, not before mentioned during the 2012 election cycle, were the lead item on the Drudge Report Tuesday. Santorum has surged to even or even ahead of Mitt Romney in opinion polls, including in Romney's home state of Michigan, where Republican voters cast their preference for the GOP nominee next Tuesday.

House

US: The 50-State Foreclosure Settlement- Why Hasn't Anyone Gone to Jail?

foreclosure sign 2
© n/a
Under the terms of the 50-state mortgage foreclosure settlement, US taxpayers could end up paying billions in penalties that were supposed to be paid by the banks. That's the gist of a front-page story which appeared in the Financial Times on Thursday, February 17. The widely-cited article by Shahien Nasiripour notes that the 5 banks that will be effected by the settlement - Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial - will be able to use Obama's mortgage modification program (HAMP) to reduce loan balances and "receive cash payments of up to 63 cents on the dollar for every dollar of loan principal forgiven."

And that's not all. If borrowers stay current on their payments after their loans are restructured, the banks could qualify for additional government funds which (according to the FT) "could then turn a profit for the banks according to people familiar with the settlement terms."

How do you like them apples? Leave it to the bank-friendly Obama administration to turn a penalty into a windfall. In effect, the settlement will help the banks avoid losses on mortgages that are vastly overpriced on their books and which were probably headed into foreclosure anyway.

Taxpayers will stump up the money for the principle writedowns that will allow the banks to extract even more tribute from underwater homeowners. What kind of penalty is that?