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France forced to cut budget again as election looms

Nicolas Sarkozy
© Reuters/Lionel Bonaventure/Pool
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy delivers a speech during a ceremony in Cannes November 4, 2011 at the end of the G20 Summit for Heads of State and Government.
France announced 65 billion euros of tax hikes and budget cuts over five years on Monday, as President Nicolas Sarkozy seeks to protect the country's creditworthiness in financial markets without killing his chances of re-election in six months time.

The main goal was to protect a top-notch credit rating that allows France to fund itself as cheaply as possible at a moment when the debt market crisis that started in Greece threatens to engulf far bigger fish such as Italy.

But economists said the government's growth outlook was still too optimistic, even after cutting the forecast for 2012 to 1 percent from 1.75, meaning the latest measures might not be enough for France to meet its deficit reduction goals.

They also said that much of the plan would have to be carried out by a new government chosen in the election that takes place in two rounds next April and May.

The second package of cutbacks in three months was left to Prime Minister Francois Fillon to announce and included a rise in VAT sales tax and cuts in welfare benefit as well as heftier taxation of dividend income and, temporarily, corporate profit.

Bad Guys

Italy: Berlusconi plays last cards, denies will resign

Silvio Berlusconi
© Reuters/Dylan Martinez
Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gestures during a news conference at the end of the G20 Summit in Cannes, November 4, 2011.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi defied huge pressure to resign on Monday, desperately playing his last cards to save his crumbling government as fears over Italy's instability hit markets across Europe.

Berlusconi denied reports by journalists close to him that he would resign within hours, immediately reversing a brief recovery in stock and government bond markets battered by political uncertainty in the euro zone's third economy.

Yields on Italy's 10-year bonds hit 6.67 percent, their highest level since 1997, at one point on Monday, close to the 7 percent level seen as unsustainable for Italy's huge debt, one of the world's highest. European stocks were also hit by the turmoil.

The movements indicated how much markets saw Berlusconi's departure as the only way to reduce the pressure on Italian bonds which has fueled a revolt in his party, although there is deep uncertainty about what would follow if he stepped down.


Why Is the State Department Using Our Money to Pimp for Monsanto?

© snippits-and-slappits.blogspot.com
The State Department is using taxpayer money to help force genetically modified crops on other countries.

People in India are up in arms about eggplant. Not just any eggplant - the fight, which is also raging in the Philippines, is over Monsanto's Bt eggplant. Even as increasing scientific evidence concludes that biotechnology and its arsenal of genetically modified crops may be doing more harm than good, companies like Monsanto are still pushing them hard and they are getting help from the U.S.

The State Department is using taxpayer money to help push the agenda of Monsanto and its friends all across the world. Here's a recent example:
Assistant Secretary of State Jose W. Fernandez, addressing an event of high-level government officials from around the world, agribusiness CEOs, leaders from international organizations, and anti-hunger groups said,
"Without agricultural biotechnology, our world would look vastly different. One of our challenges is how to grow more crops on the same land. This is where biotechnology plays a role."
Many scientists would disagree with these statements, which are more controversial than Fernandez let on. The Union of Concerned Scientists found that biotech crops did not lead to reliable yield increases compared to conventional, non-GMO crops and that biotech crops actually required more pesticides than conventional crops. These conclusions are reiterated by the scientists who authored the "International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development" (IAASTD) report, a 2008 study written by 400 scientists from around the world concluding that agroecology was the best way to feed the world. And a recent 30-year study by the Rodale Institute found that organic methods provided excellent drought protection, whereas drought-tolerant GMOs are mostly still an idea of the future.

Bad Guys

10 Reasons America Will Be Judged as the Most Brutal Empire in History

© Anthony Freda Art
'Liberty Groped'

Good and evil doesn't have a grey zone. Killing and stealing is bad. Violence is never "good" or necessary unless it is used to defend against killers and thieves. Indeed, that is the morality behind the "just war" principle as defined by international laws and treaties.

Yet, this simple concept of right and wrong gets muddled by differing ideas about religion, patriotism, economics and many other divisions. The "just war" rule has crumbled under the ambitions of empires throughout history. The American-led Anglo Saxon empire is no different.

This empire has been brutally conquering and colonizing territory since the fall of Rome. However, it has only gained an American face in the last century. The United States quickly emerged as the world's "superpower" primarily through its economic might. For some time, many believed the U.S. to be a shining example of economic freedom for other nations to emulate. Indeed, America was eager to promote "economic freedom" globally to open new markets for U.S.-based corporations.

When foreign leaders refused to allow these corporate interests into their country, those leaders were replaced through a variety of covert actions. The form of government that would be installed did not matter to the empire makers so long as the corporate interests were served. In most cases these nations simply surrendered to the seemingly unlimited power of the almighty dollar, thus camouflaging the traditional method of forceful empire building.

Bad Guys

Peace activists 'tasered, beaten' by Israeli commandos, says Australian

© AP/Israeli Defence AP
Israeli soldiers on several small military boats appear to board a civilian boat believed to be one of two protest boats trying to violate Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip
An Australian on a peace flotilla trying to break the Gaza blockade says activists have been beaten up and tasered by the Israelis.

Michael Coleman was among 27 people detained when the Israeli navy intercepted two international vessels carrying pro-Palestinian activists.

Israeli commandos boarded the Irish-flagged Saoirse (Freedom) and the Canadian ship Tahrir (Arabic for Liberation) in international waters off Gaza on Saturday (AEDT) before the navy escorted them to the port of Ashdod, the military said.

But Michael's father John Coleman said he had spoken with his son, 35, who was aboard the Tahrir and he had also seen a letter smuggled out by a Canadian activist to his lawyer.

"That indicates the ship was bombarded by a water cannon and then the 30 commandos boarded," said John Coleman.

Card - VISA

The eurozone decouples from the world

The G20 summit last Friday certainly did not measure up to the billing it was given by the UK Chancellor in September, when he said that policymakers had "six weeks to save the world". Nevertheless, equities and other risk assets have risen markedly over the same period. As Goldman Sachs' Jim O'Neill argues this weekend, this is probably due to improvements in economic data in the US, and to the rising prospects of a soft landing in China. A less optimistic way of summarising recent news is to say that Europe has now decoupled from the rest of the world. It is already in recession, which may prove to be a deep one, and the debt crisis is arguably getting worse, not better.

There never was much reason to expect the G20 to come to the rescue of the eurozone. Certainly, there are no grounds in terms of equity why such an extraordinarily rich and economically successful region should be "rescued" by poorer nations. Furthermore, the eurozone has a small surplus on the current account of its balance of payments and a manageable public debt position, so it really has no need for outside capital. The problem is one of the distribution of funds within the eurozone, which admittedly has proven very difficult to solve.

The eurozone is often accused of lacking a strategic plan, but that is not true. It does have a plan, and a very clear one. The plan, which has been imposed by the creditor nations led by Germany, requires the debtor nations to take two major actions, both of which will be beneficial in the long term. First, they need to balance their budgets on the timetable agreed in recent summits. Second they need to introduce major reforms to their economic structure, notably involving labour market flexibility and privatisation. In exchange for these reforms, the creditor nations and the ECB are willing to provide short term liquidity injections to prevent sovereign bankruptcies. The question is not whether this plan exists, but whether it can work.


Anonymous Wins Round One of Drug Cartel Fight

© SecurityNews
Say hello to my 133713 friend! Credit: Universal Pictures

The "hacktivist" movement Anonymous appears to have won a victory over a ruthless Mexican drug cartel, with word late yesterday (Nov. 3) that the Anonymous member kidnapped by Los Zetas had been released. However, unofficial Anonymous spokesman Barrett Brown says he may yet share an alleged 25,000 Mexican government emails containing the names of Zetas members and associates.

Arrow Down

Goldman: Euro Could Split Apart

© Reuters
Portugal, Ireland, Finland and Greece could pull out of the single currency rather than have to operate under a single eurozone treasury.
The chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management has said that the need for a German-led fiscal integration in the eurozone would make it increasingly unattractive for all the countries who joined to stay in the single currency.

Jim O'Neill, whose division manages more than $800bn (£500bn) of assets, said that countries as diverse as Portugal, Ireland, Finland and Greece could pull out of the single currency rather than have to operate under a single eurozone treasury.

Yesterday, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said the market turmoil could last for a decade and there was still "a chunk of work" to do.

"The Germans want more fiscal unity and much tougher central observation - with the idea of a finance ministry,"

Mr O'Neill said in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph. "That will emerge for those that want to stay in this damn thing, or can stay in.

"With that caveat, it is tough to see all countries that joined wanting to live with that - including the one that is so troubled here [Greece]. If you wind the clock back, it was pretty obvious that economically probably only Germany, France and Benelux of the original joiners were the ones that were ideal for a monetary union.


Defiant Silvio Berlusconi Refuses IMF Bailout and Insists He Will Not Resign Despite Mounting Italian Debt Crisis

Defiant Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi today refused an offer of financial support from the IMF - and insisted he would not resign.

The 75-year-old leader insisted he did not think his coalition government would collapse as they struggle to deal with their debt crisis.

With its colossal £1.6trillion debt, Italy is now at the eye of the storm and is paying 6.43 per cent to borrow money for ten years.
Silvio Berlusconi
© unknown
Resolute: Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi insists he will not resign as he speaks to journalists in Cannes at the G20 today

Bad Guys

Is the Black Bloc a COINTELPRO operation?


Black Bloc anarchist attacks bank window in London protests in March.
It happens over and over again, wherever a successful left-wing protest movement is underway. A peaceful march is going along, and suddenly mysterious black-clad ninja wannabes step out of the crowd and start throwing rocks through windows and throwing rocks, bottles, and firecrackers at police officers. In response, TV news shows only the violence and covers the cause that the protest was about not at all, newspapers print outraged editorials about how violent, vile and despicable left-wingers are, and the majority of people shake their heads and turn on Rush Limbaugh, who, after all, has never thrown a brick through a window.

Is the Black Bloc a COINTELPRO operation? That's certainly a question worth asking. The fact that they show up *only* at left-wing protests, not at any other events that attract crowds, is rather... odd. As is the fact that they show up in geographically far-removed places with no visible means of funding for such widespread travelling. And while the Black Bloc claims to be anarchists, anarchists of my acquaintance have nothing but disdain for the Black Bloc and their tactics, pointing out that smashing the windows of a Starbucks is hardly the same thing as smashing the power structures that anarchists believe must be removed in order to bring anarcho-paradise of voluntary syndics of like-minded people blah de blah.