Wall Street and Greek protests spread to Brussels

A nurse shouts slogans during a protest by hospital staff in Athens, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011. (AP / Thanassis Stavrakis)

Disenchanted citizens promise to fill the streets of financial districts en masse this weekend as they grow weary of bailing out banks. EurActiv Greece contributed to this article.

While people in the US, the UK, and many European countries including Belgium, are mobilising for mass street protests in their cities this Saturday, people in the capital of the EU will put on a comparatively smaller show.

500 protesters expected in Brussels

In comparison to the 4,000 people expected to arrive at the London Stock Exchange, just over 500 people are expected to arrive at Rue Wiertz outside the European Parliament in Brussels.

Belgium has been recently hard hit by financial scandal after it emerged that the CEO of the nationalised Dexia bank has been living at a Brussels hotel three days a week for the past three years.

The bank downplayed Pierre Mariani’s actions, saying he paid for the room by himself.  Moreover, figures in the Belgian press indicate that the Dexia bailout will cost €5,000 per taxpayer.

Trade unionists in Brussels claim they have tried to get in touch with the Occupy Brussels movement to show their support but have not had any luck finding a spokesperson.

Patricia Grillo, a spokesperson from the European Trade Union Confederation said there was “no boss, between brackets” because the protestors probably do not want to align themselves with any group or political party to get more people involved.

Asked about the significance of the protests, a spokesperson for the European Commission answered: “How does that concern us?”

The lack of support from EU policymakers has upset followers of the movement who say it highlights why people feel compelled to make themselves heard on the street.

“That really pinpoints why there is such an explosion of activity, and that is the idea that people in places of influence are not worried about what citizens think,” Naomi Colvin, a supporter of Occupy the London Stock Exchange, the UK-arm of the protest, told EurActiv.

The predicted turnout figures in Europe are paltry compared to the number of participants in the US. An umbrella group for the entire movement stateside, Occupy Together, has a total 99,260 followers.

In the last few days, US news media report that the protests have escalated and in some parts, grown personal. Yesterday, thousands of protestors targeted the houses of several billionaires on the Upper East Side of New York.

Occupy LSX

The London protests, dubbed Occupy LSX, are unlikely to target individuals’ homes, says Colvin, as this has not been agreed at the movement’s General Assembly which has been planning the march.

“It is a bad idea to personalise this. That is a misrepresentation of what we are talking about. We are talking about a systemic problem,” Colvin said.

Colvin explained that the movement had many goals, among which, that action is taken against investment banks and credit rating agencies who allowed sub-prime mortgages to be wrapped up in AAA-rated Credit Default Swaps, swelling a bubble of toxic assets.

Observers lament that the man on the street does not know what they are protesting about but Colvin insists that laymen do understand the actions taken by banks which caused the crisis.

“There is a real danger in assuming that this is too complex for people to understand. It’s like selling medicines that were not labelled properly. Would we want that to happen?” she said.

Prosecuting bankers?

Since the crisis not a single person or institution has been either indicted or convicted for misleading clients on CDS. Financial analysts in the US believe that banks like Goldman Sachs, which have been selling CDS linked to sub-prime, won’t face criminal prosecution related to these sales because such a move could threaten the financial system.

“The real question is not whether some people are put in prison but whether democracy is restored and the financial sector serves the real economy again. They should be taxed like any other economic sector and become truly accountable to the people,” Sven Giegold, a German Green told EurActiv.  The German Greens have called on their electorate to participate in Saturday’s protests.

After the protest, some countries in Europe will enter a phase of general strikes. Colvin hopes a strike in the UK on 6th November will underline the movement’s motives.

This week Greece has been inundated with protests against further austerity measures involving wage and pension cuts and 30,000 planned redundancies.

According to EurActiv Greece, ongoing protests are bringing Athens to a standstill, literally, as a 10-day strike by Greek Petroleum prevented drivers from getting fuel yesterday. Buses, trams and metros stopped purely in protest at the cuts.

These strikes will culminate in a general strike planned for 19 October with many banks, petrol stations, public servants (from municipal administrations to government departments), teachers and students threatening to participate.

Next steps:
  • 15 Oct.: “Indignados” protests across European cities.
  • 19 Oct.: General strike in Greece.

Source

Public Transport halted as Greek strikes spread

ATHENS — Unions and protesters shut down the Acropolis, halted public transport and occupied government buildings on Thursday, intensifying their confrontation with the Greek government as it scrambles to push more painful cuts through parliament.Greece’s largest labour union, the GSEE, sided with protesting public servants and announced plans to strike on Oct. 19 and 20, in opposition to the Socialist government’s “ineffective and catastrophic policies,” it said.Stores and even farmers’ markets in Athens are also due to close on the first day of the strike.Public servants are the main targets of new austerity measures, slated for parliamentary approval Oct. 20, that include across-the-board salary cuts, and the suspension of 30,000 workers on the state payroll with reduced salaries.Pensioners will also see more cuts, and salary earners will pay higher taxes, while parliament has already approved an emergency property tax due to be levies starting this month through electricity bills.

“The recession is deepening, unemployment has rocketed to appalling heights, the economy is collapsing, the living standards of our people has been pushed back decades back,” the civil servants’ union ADEDY said. “Employees and society are being driven to despair as the (government) pursues its policies that are creating the economic deadlock.”

The barrage of punishing reforms comes after Greece acknowledged it would miss its deficit-cutting targets in 2011 and promised international debt inspectors to take further corrective action in 2012.

The country is surviving on C110 billion ($151 billion) in rescue loans from other eurozone members and the International Monetary Fund, and would default next month unless it receives the next bailout payment of C8 billion ($11 billion) to be considered for approval next week.

Matthias Mors, a European Commission debt inspector, said in a newspaper interview published Thursday that they were aware of the difficulties the government faced in imposing so many reforms in such a short space of time.

“But I would say that we are at a critical moment, where Greece has to convince the international community and the other euro area members that it is willing and able to reach the objectives it has committed itself to,” the daily Kathimerini quoted him as saying.

Mors said Greece needed to overhaul its bloated public sector, but that it had agreed with the government that this should be done over the course of five years.

“We are not saying that there should be large-scale dismissals,” he said.

Outside parliament, hundreds of transport workers and protesting hospital staff — some sporting surgical equipment and wearing oxygen masks — staged anti-governmeht rallies that ended peacefully.

Elsewhere, protesting Culture Ministry employees sealed the entrance to the Acropolis and other ancient sites and museums, while protesting power workers occupied administrative offices of the Public Power Corporation to try and disrupt the distribution of property tax notices.

And local government workers stormed a nationwide meeting of mayors, scuffling with organizers. Their protest has halted garbage collection for 12 days in the Greek capital — causing piles of trash to build up on street corners.

State television and radio journalists, lawyers, hospital doctors, teachers, customs and tax officers, seamen and municipal workers have also either walked off the job or are planning strikes in the coming days. Taxi drivers are expected to stay off the streets Friday during the second day of the public transport strike, leaving private cars as the only transport in Athens.  Source

Hit the pocket books and the profiteers might listen.

Greece really knows how to protest. The people in Greece stand together, which is what makes their protests more effective then some others around the world.  They also do not give up.

They are not about to loss their pension, jobs, or social services.

The rest of the world could use their ideas in their own protests. United We Stand, divided we fall.

We, all around the world are fighting for the same things.

Greeks are definitely an inspiration to the rest of the world. The greedy bankers and bad corporations, helped put them in the position they are in as well as the IMF and probably Free Trade.

Free Trade has caused more poverty and job losses then any other agreements ever implemented around the world. Which leads back the the US and so do the bad bankers as well.

These protesters hot the homes of the profiteers.

Protesters who say the state’s tax on millionaires should not expire marched on the Upper East Side apartments of five of the city’s richest men Tuesday.

They carried giant checks for $5 billion – how much they say the state will lose when the tax dies in December – made out to “the top 1%” and tried to give them to each tycoon.

The target list: News Corp.CEO Rupert Murdoch, conservative billionaire David Koch, financier Howard Milstein, JP Morgan ChaseCEO Jamie Dimon and hedge fund titan John Paulson.

“(Gov.) Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature are about to give this man and his billionaire friends a $5 billion tax cut,” the crowd of several hundred chanted at each address.

“We are the 99% and we are here to say no more tax cuts for the billionaires while we cut schoolteachers, firefighters and cops.”

For the rest of the story and video go HERE
Greedy bankers, Free Trade, and the cost of continual Wars cause major problems in the US as well as other NATO countries.
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Published in: on October 13, 2011 at 11:34 pm  Comments Off on Wall Street and Greek protests spread to Brussels  
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European Commission plans sanctions for wayward bankers – reports

March 4 2009

By Clive Leviev-Sawyer

The European Commission wants Europe to set up a sanctions regime for banks and bankers that flout industry rules, according to plans to be published on March 4 2009, AFP reported.

The proposal is part of plans for a major shake-up of European supervision of the financial sector based on recent recommendations from an expert panel headed by former IMF director Jacques de Larosiere.

In a media statement on March 4, the EC said that it was calling on EU leaders to further step up co-ordinated European action to fight the economic crisis.

In its communication to the European Council summit on March 19 and 20, the Commission sets out proposals for building on the extensive support already being given to the real economy and to employment.

The Commission’s communication unveils a comprehensive reform of the financial system based on the de Larosiere report.

“It shows how a clear and united commitment to this ambitious programme can pave the way for the EU to give a global lead at the G20 summit in London on April 2,” the EC said.
EC President Jose Manuel Barroso said: “The Spring European Council must send a strong signal to citizens, businesses and the world. Yes, there is a way out of this crisis. Yes, Europe has the unity, the confidence and the determination to win this battle. We must forcefully implement the agreed recovery plan in a coordinated way. We must use the single market to the full.

“Today we are asking EU leaders to agree on a comprehensive action plan. To do everything possible to protect our citizens from unemployment. To clean up financial markets on the basis of the de Larosiere Report. And to pave the way for Europe to lead by example and by persuasion as we approach the G20 summit in London,” Barroso said.

The Commission’s communication begins with an overview of the measures taken since autumn 2008 which have prevented the meltdown of the European banking industry and thus prevented countless bankruptcies and job losses.

It urges member states to act quickly to restore confidence and get bank lending flowing again, in particular by implementing the guidance the Commission issued on February 25 2009 on removing impaired assets from banks’ balance sheets.

“The Commission endorses – and asks EU leaders to endorse – the key principles set out by the de Larosiere Group,” the EC statement said.

The Commission calls for a supervisory system combining much stronger oversight at EU level with maintaining a clear role for national supervisors.

It backs the Group’s proposal to set up an early warning body under ECB auspices to identify and tackle systemic risks.

The Commission supports the Group’s recommendation for a core set of regulatory standards throughout the EU.

In April, the EC will bring forward initiatives already in the pipeline on hedge funds, private equity and remuneration structures.

Following an impact assessment, the Commission will put forward to the June European Council a detailed timetable for further measures based on the de Larosiere report.
It will bring forward proposals in the autumn on the new supervisory framework and on issues including: liquidity risk and excessive leverage; further reinforcing protection for depositors and policy holders; and effective sanctions against wrongdoing.

The communication points to good first results of the European Economic Recovery Plan. The overall fiscal support to the economy from European and national measures and from automatic stabilisers amounts to at least 3.3 per cent of GDP over the 2009-2010 period.

An annexe summarises 500 national measures and concludes that they are broadly in line with the principles that recovery action should be timely, targeted and temporary.

The Commission calls on EU leaders to endorse clear principles for further action, in line with the single market, with open trade worldwide, with building a low carbon economy and with returning to sustainable public finances as soon as possible.

The Commission repeats its call for Member States to agree on the targeted investment of five billion euro in energy interconnections and broadband.

The Commission’s contribution calls for member states to step up efforts to tackle unemployment – which could approach 10 per cent in 2010 for the first time since the 1990s – and social exclusion.

“These efforts will also help maintain demand and prevent further job losses.”  They should be a central plank of national stimulus plans, the EC said.

The Commission invites member states to use measures such as financial support for temporary working-time arrangements, boosting income support for unemployed people, lowering non-wage costs for employers and boosting investment in skills and retraining.

At European level, the EC calls for rapid approval of its proposal to allow an immediate increase of 1.8 billion euro in advance payments under the European Social Fund.

The Commission also sets out a road map towards the European Employment Summit in Prague in May, which should agree on further concrete measures to save jobs and create them in the sectors of the future.

The Commission will organise a series of workshops with all key stakeholders in different member states in the approach to the summit.

The EC asks EU leaders to agree on a number of areas “where Europe can and should give a firm lead” on April 2 at the London G20 summit, building on the success it achieved by speaking with one voice at the Washington Summit in November 2008.

“The EU should make a united push to improve the global financial and regulatory system, focusing on: better transparency and accountability; appropriate regulation of all financial actors; tackling difficulties caused by uncooperative jurisdictions; boosting international supervisory cooperation; and reforming the IMF, Financial Stability Forum and World Bank,” the EC statement said.

“Europe should also promote global recovery by calling for a review of the global impact of fiscal measures taken so far, by promoting open trade and by inviting the London Summit to launch a multilateral initiative on trade finance and to reaffirm the Washington commitment to the Millennium Development Goals,” the EC said.

Source

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Published in: on March 6, 2009 at 5:09 am  Comments Off on European Commission plans sanctions for wayward bankers – reports  
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EU member states urged to sign, ratify, implement cluster bomb ban treaty

December 1 2008

OSLO: Some 100 countries will ban the use of cluster bombs with the signing of a treaty Wednesday in Oslo but major producers such as China, Russia and the United States are shunning the pact.

The treaty, agreed upon in Dublin in May, outlaws the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions which primarily kill civilians.

“It’s only one of the very few times in history that an entire category of weapons has been banned,” said Thomas Nash of the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC) umbrella group that comprises some 300 non-governmental organisations.

It’s unlikely now that you’re going to see large scale use of cluster bombs,” he said.

Dropped from planes or fired from artillery, cluster bombs explode in mid-air to randomly scatter hundreds of bomblets, which can be three inches (eight centimetres) in size.

Many cluster bomblets can fail to explode, often leaving poverty-stricken areas trying to recover from war littered with countless de-facto landmines.

According to Handicap International, about 100,000 people have been maimed or killed by cluster bombs around the world since 1965, 98 per cent of them civilians.

More than a quarter of the victims are children who mistake the bomblets for toys or tin cans.

“This is not about disarmament, this is not about arms control. This is a humanitarian issue,” said Annette Abelsen, a senior advisor at the foreign ministry in Norway which played a key role in hammering out the international agreement.

In Laos, the most affected country in the world, the US Air Force dropped 260 million cluster bombs between 1964 and 1973, or the equivalent of a fully-loaded B52 bomber’s cargo dropped every eight minutes for nine years.

Dispersed in fields and pastures, the weapons make it perilous to cultivate the land and can claim numerous lives for decades after the end of a conflict.

On Wednesday, France and Britain will be represented by their foreign ministers, Bernard Kouchner and David Miliband. Japan, Canada, Germany and Australia will also sign the treaty.

But, as was the case with the Ottawa Convention that outlaws landmines, key countries such as the United States, Russia, China and Israel have objected to the ban and will not sign it because they are the biggest producers and users.

The election of Barack Obama as president may however bring about a change in the US position, activists hope.

“Obama has voted for, previously, a national regulation in the US for cluster ammunitions,” said Grethe Oestern, a policy advisor at the Norwegian People’s Aid organisation and a co-chair of the CMC.

“So that’s not just a theoretical possibility at all that we could see the US onboard this treaty sometime in the future,” she added.

In 2006, Obama voted in the US Senate to ban the use of cluster munitions in heavily populated areas, but in the end the motion was rejected.

The Oslo Convention is nonetheless expected to stigmatise the use of the weapon even by non-signatory countries, according to activists.

While the United States, Russia and China “seem to have an allergy to international law in general,” there are signs that “the stigma against this weapon is already working,” Nash said.

NATO’s decision not to use cluster bombs, including in Afghanistan, and the lightning-quick denial from Moscow when it was accused of using the munitions against Georgia in the August war shows that these countries also find the weapon “morally unacceptable,” Nash said.

“Even big countries like Russia don’t want to be associated in the media with having used cluster bombs.”

Source

November 21 2008

BRUSSELS,

The European Parliament on Thursday urged European Union (EU) member states to sign and ratify the Convention of Cluster Munitions (CCM) as soon as possible and to take steps toward implementation even before it is signed and ratified.

The resolution was adopted with 471 votes in favor, 6 against and 21 abstentions in Strasbourg, France.

The European Parliament requests EU member states not to use, invest in, stockpile, produce, transfer or export cluster munitions even though the CCM has not entered into force.

EU member states which have used cluster munitions are called on to provide assistance to affected populations and to provide technical and financial assistance for the clearance and destruction of cluster munitions remnants.

The European Parliament urged the European Commission to increase financial assistance through all available instruments to communities and individuals affected by unexploded cluster munitions.

Cluster bombs scatter over a wide area when dropped from the air or used in artillery shells. Many do not explode and it is often children who pick them up, with devastating consequences.

The charity Handicap International estimates that 98 percent of the victims of cluster bombs are civilians, of whom 27 percent are children.

EU member states are also requested to refrain from taking action, which might circumvent or jeopardize the CCM and its provisions. In particular, the parliament called on all EU members not to adopt, endorse or subsequently ratify a possible Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) Protocol allowing for the use of cluster munitions which would not be compatible with the CCM.

Source


How Big is the Problem?

Timeline and Use


Laos still paying the price of Vietnam war
November 5 2008

Cluster bomb survivor Ta with examples of the weapons that maimed him. Photo by Stanislas Fradelizi.

Cluster bomb survivor Ta with examples of the weapons that maimed him. Photo by Stanislas Fradelizi.

Xieng Khouang, Laos –

Imagine growing up in a country where the equivalent of a B52 planeload of cluster bombs was dropped every eight minutes for nine years. Then imagine seeing your children and grandchildren being killed and maimed by the same bombs, three decades after the war is over.

Welcome to Laos, a country with the unwanted claim to fame of being the most bombed nation per capita in the world. Between 1964 and 1973, the U.S. military dropped more than 2 million tons of explosive ordnance, including an estimated 260 million cluster munitions – also known as bombie in Laos.

To put this into perspective, this is more bombs than fell on Europe during World War Two.

The U.S. bombing was largely aimed at destroying enemy supply lines during the Vietnam war which passed through Laos. The war ended 35 years ago, yet the civilian casualties continue.

According to aid agency Handicap International, as many as 12,000 civilians have been killed or maimed since, and there are hundreds of new casualties every year.

Take Ta, a father of seven who lives in a remote village in Khammoune Province in southern Laos. One morning four years ago, he saw something that looked like a bombie. He knew it was dangerous, but he had also heard that the explosive inside could be used for catching fish, so he decided to touch it with a stick. That one small tap cost him both arms and an eye. Ta had to travel nine hours to get medical help. He sold his livestock to pay hospital bills, and when he ran out of things to sell, he went home.

Ta says he had to ‘eat like a dog’ for four years, before non-governmental organisation COPE provided him with prosthetic arms. Now he is able to help in small domestic chores.

When $50 is too much:

Then there is 31-year-old Yee Lee. He was digging around in his garden in August when suddenly his hoe came down hard on a bombie. He lost both legs and two fingers.

I met Lee at Xieng Khouang provincial hospital where he was having a moulding done for prosthetic legs. He was unsure and worried about what the future held. “I have five very young children, and my wife is six months pregnant,” he said. For now, his elderly parents and younger brother help his family. “I hope, with the prosthetic leg, to get back to work either in the field or around the house.”

Unfortunately, most survivors are unable to continue physical work, even if, like Lee, they receive free treatment and prosthetic limbs from agencies such as COPE and World Education . A prosthetic leg that can last up to two years costs as little as $50, yet in a country consistently ranked one of the region’s poorest and where almost 30 percent of the population live on less than $1 a day, this is more than most families can afford. Worse, loss of a breadwinner means loss of income and increased poverty.

Cluster bombs are dropped by planes or fired by mortars. They open mid-air releasing multiple explosive sub-munitions that scatter over a large area. These bomblets are usually the size of tennis balls.

Aid agencies say the indiscriminate nature of these weapons and the fact many bomblets fail to go off mean they have a devastating humanitarian impact.

On December 3 this year, over 100 nations will sign an international treaty to ban the use of cluster bombs.

Legacy of Vietnam War:

In Laos, it’s thought that around 30 percent of bombies failed to explode on impact, leaving about 80 million live munitions lying on or under the soil which has posed a serious threat to people’s lives and livelihood.

So far, fewer than 400,000 bombies have been cleared, a meagre 0.47 per cent. The United Nations estimates almost half of all cluster munition victims are from Laos.

Even with community awareness programmes run by national authority UXO Laos, with support from numerous aid agencies, the injuries and deaths continue. Sometimes people touch the bombies out of ignorance, other times it’s out of curiosity (children) or for economic reasons (adults).

With scrap metal going at $1 to $3 a kilogramme, some people collect war remnants to sell, and this includes unexploded ordnance.

In a private foundry on the outskirts of Phonsavanh, the capital of Xieng Khouang, the humanitarian organisation Mines Advisory Group (MAG) sorted through five years’ worth of scrap metal, and discovered over 24,000 live items, including 500 cluster munitions.

Xieng Khouang, in northern Laos, is one of the most affected areas – more than 500,000 tons of bombs were dropped here.

The mountainous and beautiful terrain is marred by craters of all sizes – locals liken it to the surface of the moon – and littered with metal shrapnel.

Children are at constant risk. In a small village school 20 minutes from the provincial capital, 248 bombies were found in a 4,200 sq metre area.

The province is also famous for the Plain of Jars – a vast plateau of ancient stone jars whose origins remain a mystery. But the amount of war debris scattered between the giant jars has seriously hampered archaeologists’ efforts to find out more about them.

David Hayter, country director of MAG, says the sad truth is that Laos will never be 100 percent rid of cluster bombs. “The priority is in clearing the land where people are living and working,” he said. “We are teaching them to learn to live safely within the environment. It’s a mixture of education and clearance.”

Source

Cluster Bomb

Thursday, 29 May 2008

cluster_big.png

More than 100 nations have reached an agreement on a treaty which would ban current designs of cluster bombs. Diplomats meeting in Dublin agreed to back an international ban on the use of the controversial weapons following 10 days of talks. But some of the world’s main producers and stockpilers – including the US, Russia and China – oppose the move. Prime Minister Gordon Brown called it a “big step forward to make the world a safer place”.

He announced earlier that Britain would be taking cluster bombs out of service. The final draft of the treaty went before delegates from a total of 109 countries on Wednesday afternoon.

How a Cluster Bomb Works (Source: Handicap International)

Cluster bombs are complex weapons. The following sequence explains its functioning and why bomblets cover a large area.

cluster1.pngStep 1: The cluster bomb CBU-87 is dropped from a plane. It weighs about 430 kg and carries about 200 bomblets. This bomb can be dropped from a wide range of aircrafts from many different countries. The bomb can fly about 9 miles by itself before the bomblets are released.


cluster2.pngStep 2: A short time before the bomblets are released the cluster bombs begin to spin. The canister opens at an altitude between 100m and 1000m. The height, velocity and rotation speed determine what area will be covered by the bomblets.


cluster3.pngStep 3: Each bomblet is the size of a soft drink can. They deploy a little parachute that stabilizes them and makes sure that they descend with their nose down. Each of the bomblets holds hundreds of metal pieces, which can pierce armour.


cluster4.pngStep 4: Depending on the altitude from which the bomblets were released and on the wind conditions, the bomblets can cover an area of up to 200m by 400 m. When the bomblets explode, they cause injury and damage across a wide area. The blast of one bomblet can cause deadly shrapnel injuries of in a radius of up to 25 metres.


cluster5.pngThis map shows the area of Trafalgar Square, London. It illustrates the radius of the bomblets. One cluster bomb could spread bomblets covering the red area. The green area shows the radius in which the bomblets could cause fatal injuries.

‘Bomblets’

Cluster bombs have been used in countries including Cambodia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Lebanon.They are made up of a big container which opens in mid-air, dropping hundreds of smaller individual sub-munitions, or “bomblets”, across a wide area.

Source


All politicians around the world should be “Urged” to sign and ratify this Treaty.

Don’t hesitate to give your “Government” a call or e-mail them.

Some times a bit of encouragement is needed.

War “Pollution” Equals Millions of Deaths

Landmine Treaty Ignored, 5,400 killed or injured in 2007

Alitalia brushes off strikes as deal powers ahead

By Deepa Babington

November 18 2008

ROME

Labour strife has repeatedly scuppered Alitalia’s efforts to restructure but, for once, wildcat strikes aimed at thwarting the Italian airline’s takeover seem unable to put the brakes on a deal.

While hundreds of flight cancellations dominate headlines as protests enter their second week, the CAI consortium of Italian businessmen is quietly but swiftly nearing the finish line in its bid to buy and relaunch the bankrupt flag carrier.

The group overcame the key hurdle of regulatory approval by winning European Commission backing for the 375 million euro ($474.2 million) takeover last week. The green light from the airline’s bankruptcy commissioner is expected this week.

The commissioner must ensure CAI’s offer is not below market value. But with no other bidders in the fray and the airline’s cash reserves expected to dry up by the end of the month, he has already hinted the offer will be accepted.

“We’ll wrap up the deal this week,” Augusto Fantozzi told Italian television, adding that CAI’s offer was not far off the value of Alitalia assets as estimated by independent advisers. “I hope only pleasant surprises remain. By the middle of the week, there will be serenity.”

CAI is offering 275 million euros for Alitalia’s flight operations and 100 million euros in a mix of cash and debt for other units, and will take on further debt of 625 million euros.

Indeed, the group this week began sending out letters to hire selected Alitalia staff for the relaunched airline, even if only four out of nine airline unions back the deal.

Pilot and cabin crew unions reject new labour contracts under the takeover, and a small group of renegade workers triggered airport chaos and delayed or cancelled hundreds of flights last week with impromptu work-to-rule protests.

Alitalia is expected to cancel a further third of all flights this week. It plans to seek legal redress while the government has vowed to prosecute the offenders.

But two sources close to CAI, who requested anonymity because of the confidential nature of talks related to the rescue, said the strikes posed little threat to the takeover, even if they exposed the airline’s Achilles heel once again.

The Italian government that backs CAI is confident.

“CAI’s project is going ahead inexorably and irreversibly,” said Labour Minister Maurizio Sacconi. “A small minority can’t stop what’s in the general interest.”

The commissioner Fantozzi appeared equally unfazed, even if labour opposition nearly forced CAI to pull its offer in October and scuppered a previous Air France-KLM takeover of Alitalia.

“The protests are, as is reasonable, flaming out because in my opinion, this is a backward-looking battle,” he said.

AIR FRANCE-KLM RETURNS?

Barring further surprises, CAI should wrap up the deal — including a purchase of smaller rival Air One’s assets — by the end of the month so Alitalia can reinvent itself under private ownership early next month.

Talks to line up a foreign partner to give Alitalia backing on an international level continue, the sources close to CAI said. Italian media say Air France-KLM

is almost certain to edge out Lufthansa in that race and enter with a 20 percent stake in the relaunched carrier, but the sources cautioned that no decision had been made.

Another source close to the talks said Mediobanca had been chosen as the adviser for Air France-KLM and a decision on a partner could come as early as this week.

The French airline’s Chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta last week also played down reports and said a partner had yet to be chosen.

Air France-KLM has long been considered Alitalia’s logical foreign partner, and the two have commercial ties under the Skyteam alliance. Choosing a partner from another alliance might force Alitalia to exit Skyteam and pay a penalty.

But Lufthansa’s strategy of relying on several hubs is favoured by Italian politicians and unions, who believe it will allow Alitalia to maintain operations at its Milan hub and save more jobs in the city.

“The competition is still alive, and it could go either way,” one of the sources said. (Editing by David Cowell)

Source

Ailing Alitalia grounds flights, says more misery next week

November 15 2008

ROME

Strike-hit Italian flag-carrier Alitalia cancelled about 40 flights from and to Rome and Milan on Saturday and told travellers to expect further delays next week.

“Alitalia is developing a reduction plan for its flights for all of next week due to the continuation of the strike,” said a company statement on the sixth day of the industrial action by air crew opposed to a takeover deal.

The ailing airline plans to post a list of next week’s affected flights on its website from Sunday.

Seven departure flights and 21 arrivals were cancelled on Saturday at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, the Telenews agency reported. The Italian news channel Sky Tg24 said 16 flights in and out of Milan Linate would be grounded.

The airline grounded 60 flights in or out of Rome on Friday.

The pilots are striking in protest at a takeover deal by investor group Italian Air Company (CAI). The group made a binding offer last month for the air passenger transport activities of Alitalia, which was put in special administration in August.

Under the terms of its offer, CAI would take on 12,500 Alitalia workers while cutting some 3,250 jobs.

The airline, which is 49.9 percent state-owned, is losing about three million euros (3.8 million dollars) a day.

Antonio Martone, the head of the Italian watchdog for labour action affecting public services, said Thursday the strike was a “flagrant violation of the rules (and) a serious infringement of citizens’ rights.”

He issued a “final warning” to the representatives of the five unions to come to an agreement on the takeover deal.

The new Alitalia is set for take-off on December 1.

Source

Italian Prime Minister meets with German Chancellor

Ryanair to appeal EU’s ‘corrupt’ support of Alitalia takeover

Published in: on November 18, 2008 at 9:05 pm  Comments Off on Alitalia brushes off strikes as deal powers ahead  
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Moscow aims to restore trust with the U.S.

November 16 2008

Dmitry Medvedev has said the election of Barack Obama provides an opportunity for a renewal of trust between Moscow and Washington. Relations between the two sides have soured since the U.S. announced plans to build an anti-missile defence shield in Europe.

Speaking in the U.S. capital, the Russian President said “we have great hope and aspirations for the new administration.”

Medvedev has been doing the diplomatic rounds in the past week, from the EU summit in Nice to the G20 in Washington. A top issue for discussion has been the proposed U.S. anti-missile defence shield in Europe.

Speaking at Saturday’s G20 summit in Washington, The Russian president explained that Russia will place short-range missiles in its westernmost Kaliningrad region only if the planned U.S. bases are built in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Relations between the two sides were on the agenda before the Russian president managed to take off from Moscow.

The day after the U.S. election Medvedev gave a speech to the parliament’s upper chamber, announcing a plan to counter the US missile defence system in Europe with Iskander missiles deployed in Kaliningrad.

The address caused much alarm and criticism in the West, and ahead of the EU meeting Medvedev had to explain once again what he meant.

“I would not in any way link my speech on November 5 to any other political events, apart from my address to the Russian Federal Assembly. In other words, it is not in any way linked to the U.S. presidential election, or any other political events,” Medvedev told the French newspaper Le Figaro.

“I think it’s an absolutely adequate response. We did not start this. It is only a response to the unilateral move to deploy the US radars and missiles”.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who heads the EU at the moment, did not want to be held up by U.S-Russia sticking points. Sarkozy and preferred to focus on progress as well – like the EU’s work as a peace broker following last summer’s crisis in the Caucasus.

The U.S. couldn’t be avoided altogether. Russian and French leaders and the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso were expected for dinner at the White House shortly after the Russia-EU summit wrapped up with plans for future security meetings.

The G20 meant all eyes were on the economy. They couldn’t help but wander in the direction of the man who will inherit an enormous task in January, even though he was far from Washington this weekend. Moscow anticipates that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama might better understand Russia’s concern about NATO expansion and missile defence in Europe.

“I hope we’ll be able to build normal partnership relations with the new administration and find solutions to some difficult issues which we could not find with the current administration,”
Medvedev said.

Source

Published in: on November 17, 2008 at 7:23 am  Comments Off on Moscow aims to restore trust with the U.S.  
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The EU budget is necessarily corrupt

By: Daniel Hannan

November 13 2008

Look, let’s get this straight. The European Court of Auditors has not approved the EU budget. What it has approved is the European Commission’s accounting procedures. The auditors made clear that there remained substantial irregularities and illegalities in the spending itself: they were able certify only eight per cent of the total budget. But they did agree, for the first time, that the EU’s figures were accurate.

In other words, if the EU says that it spent €100 on olive subsidies, the Court of Auditors accepts – in so far as accountants ever accept these things – that it did. What it cannot vouch for is that the recipient was actually growing olives.

Now I don’t want to be mean-minded about this. The European Commission has worked hard to bring its accounting methods into line with international norms. And there is no question that it is doing a better job today than when I was first elected. But the underlying problem of money being claimed under false pretences has not abated. Eurocrats protest, with some justice, that this is not their fault, since it is up to the national authorities to invigilate most of the spending. But here we reach the nub of the problem: as long as the various programmes are funded by EU money, state authorities have little incentive to police them.

The solution, of course, would to stop sloshing the cash through the various tubes and chambers of the Brussels machine, and simply spend it at national level in the first place. But this would put the EU out of business, since its chief role these days is as a massive redistributor of public money. If it has taken 14 years simply to come up with a proper accounting method, there seems little hope that the budget itself will ever be properly apportioned.

Source

Not all is Roses in the Great Garden of the European Union

Ashley Mote Revealing European Union Corruption

Published in: on November 14, 2008 at 9:09 am  Comments Off on The EU budget is necessarily corrupt  
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Sommet de la Francophonie in Canada

Harper welcomes Sarkozy ahead of talks on economy

Oct. 17 2008

Prime Minister Stephen Harper welcomed French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Quebec City Friday ahead of a working lunch where the leaders will discuss the economy and trade issues.

Sarkozy and Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, landed in Quebec City Friday morning and were greeted by Harper on the tarmac.

Harper has vowed to make sure Canadian banks are not negatively impacted by ongoing rescue efforts in Europe and the U.S., where governments are providing aid to financial institutions.

“The French president is the chairman of the EU commission on this whole issue right now so he’s trying to drum up support for different ideas on how to protect banks and the financial sector internationally,” CTV’s Rosemary Thompson said Friday from Quebec City.

The leaders are also expected to discuss a possible free trade deal between Canada and the EU.

“Obviously, the United States has always been our main trading partner but if we can do more with India, China and Asia and if we can do more with the European Union that would help to diversify the Canadian economy,” Environment Minister John Baird told CTV’s Canada AM on Friday.

According to The Globe and Mail, the discussions will focus on the free trade of services, rather than manufactured goods and agriculture, between Canada and France.

The Globe cites a French-language draft version of a joint-statement that says both countries are ready to take steps this year to ensure “operational launch of negotiations as soon as possible in 2009.”

The plan may include an “open skies” agreement for airlines, which would allow airlines from either country to have expanded rights to fly routes in the other’s jurisdiction, says The Globe.

Thompson said a labour mobility agreement between France and Quebec may also be negotiated today.

As part of the deal, Quebec and France would recognize 12 different trades and professions.

“For instance, if you were a doctor in France you could come and work in Quebec as a doctor and there wouldn’t be a hassle over credentials,” Thompson told CTV Newsnet from Quebec City.

After his meeting with Harper, Sarkozy will then deliver an address to the National Assembly in Quebec at 3 p.m.

“Apparently he’s going to take a very balanced approach today saying that he loves Canada but that, of course, Quebec is like a brother to France,” Thompson said.

In the evening, Sarkozy will attend the official opening of the summit of La Francophonie, an organization of 55 French-speaking nations.

However, the French leader has cut short his visit and will not attend the closing ceremonies of the summit — a first for any French president.

Instead, Sarkozy will travel to Camp David in Maryland on Saturday for meetings with U.S. President George Bush.

“It’s a bit disappointing,” Christine St-Pierre, Quebec’s minister responsible for the provincial language law, said Thursday.

Quebec Premier Jean Charest said the shortened visit was understandable given the “extraordinary circumstances.”

Sarkozy’s wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, will not be travelling with her husband.

Source

CTV Newsnet: Leaders speak to media in Quebec  document.write(format_clip_duration(’00:15:12.00′)); // see common.js 15:12
CTV Montreal: John Grant reports from Quebec City and discusses Sarkozy’s plan to reform capitalism  document.write(format_clip_duration(’00:02:36.00′)); // see common.js 2:36
CTV Newsnet: Rosemary Thompson on the discussions expected at the Summit  document.write(format_clip_duration(’00:03:07.00′)); // see common.js 3:07
CTV Newsnet: Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Quebec City  document.write(format_clip_duration(’00:03:52.00′)); // see common.js 3:52