The Great Debate UK
from James Saft:
From Dublin to Paris to Budapest to inside those brown UPS trucks delivering holiday packages, it has been a tough few weeks for savers and retirees.
Moves by the Irish, French and Hungarian governments, and by the famous delivery company, showed that in the post-crisis world retirees, present and future, will be paying much of the price and taking on more of the risk.
This goes beyond merely cutting back on pension benefits, rising to actual appropriation of supposedly long-term retirement assets to help fund short term emergencies.
Let's start with Ireland, which is kicking in 10 billion euros from its National Pensions Reserve Fund into an 85 billion euro package of support for its banks.
Economist Douglas Irwin of Dartmouth College has stirred up a bit of a fuss by concluding in some academic research that it was France, not the United States, that was most to blame for The Great Depression.
Irwin's theory, in a paper posted here by the National Bureau of Economic Research, is that France created an artificial shortage of gold reserves when it increased its share from 7 percent to 27 percent between 1927 and 1932. Because major currencies at the time were backed by gold under the Gold Standard, this put other countries under enormous deflationary pressure.
France's plan to ban full face veils, which comes up for a vote in the National Assembly on Tuesday, enjoys 82% popular support in the country, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. Its neighbours also approve -- 71% of those polled in Germany, 62% in Britain and 59% in Spain agreed that there should be laws prohibiting the Muslim veils known as niqabs and burqas in public. (Photo: French woman fined for wearing a niqab while driving outside court in Nantes June 28, 2010/Stephane Mahe)
The poll, conducted from April 7 to May 8, did not range further afield, but reports from other countries show support there as well. The lower house of the Belgian parliament has voted for a ban, which should be approved by the Senate after the summer. In the Netherlands, several bills to ban full veils in certain sectors such as schools and public service are in preparation. Switzerland's justice minister has suggested the cantons there should pass partial bans but make exceptions for visiting Muslim tourists (the wives of rich sheikhs visiting their bankers in Zurich or Geneva?)
- Judith Sunderland, senior Western Europe researcher for Human Rights Watch, has worked extensively on counterterrorism issues. The opinions expressed are her own. -
Torture is prohibited under international law, at anytime and anywhere. No exceptions are allowed. Yet the UK, France and Germany are engaged in ongoing counterterrorism cooperation with foreign intelligence services in countries that routinely use torture.
So keen is the British prime minister to airbrush out his decade as a "light touch" finance minister that he embraced the heretical idea of a levy on financial transactions as one way to make banks pay for future bail-outs -- the so-called Tobin tax.
No longer just a hopeless cause for anti-capitalist activists, the idea of a global tax on financial transactions is gaining ground in Europe.
European Union leaders could not agree to put it on the agenda of this week's G20 summit on reforming the financial system in Pittsburgh, but the leaders of France, Germany and the European Commission endorsed the concept.
More strikingly, the head of Britain's Financial Services Authority, which regulates the world's second biggest banking centre, said last month that such a levy could help shrink a swollen financial sector.
In his cautious Franglais central-bank speak, Jean-Claude Trichet has pointed to the strong possibility that the euro zone may face a double-dip or W-shaped recession.
Of course, that's not exactly what the European Central Bank president said. But how else are we to interpret his repeated references to a "bumpy road" ahead, and his comment that we are likely to see quarters with positive growth and other quarters with "less flattering" figures? All this was illustrated with a hand gesture that drew a W (or a corrugated iron washboard) rather than a V or a U.
It beggars belief that humbled telecom equipment supplier Alcatel-Lucent could be scooped up by a Chinese rival with nothing better to do. Huawei or ZTE seem credible candidates. The question is, why would they ever bother?
That didn't stop shares of Alcatel-Lucent from rocketing up as much as 21 percent on Wednesday on rumors of an unnamed suitor. Momentum was helped by a rating upgrade on the depressed stock by French broker Natixis. The shares later settled back somewhat to trade at 2.75 euros, up 12 percent on the day in Paris.
from The Great Debate:
In America, the health care debate is about to come to a boil. President Barack Obama has put pressure on both houses of Congress to pass versions of his flagship domestic legislative program prior to their August recess.
- Nick Hewitt is a historian in the Department of Research and Information at the Imperial War Museum in London. He studied history at Lancaster University and War Studies at King’s College, University of London, where he specialised in naval history. He joined the Imperial War Museum in 1995. The opinions expresed are his own.-
“D-Day at last! Invasion! Hurrah! God save the King!” wrote a Cheshire schoolgirl on the evening of 6 June 1944. For her, news of the successful D-Day landings clearly meant a great deal. But looking back after sixty-five years, what was the historical significance of D-Day?