Opinion

The Great Debate

Sunny side up: why eggs are safer in Europe

egg aisleThe following is a guest post by Bonnie Azab Powell, co-founder of the food-politics blog The Ethicurean who started the Bay Area’s first Community-Supported Agriculture program for meat, BAMCSA, in 2006. She now manages the CSA programs for Clark Summit and Soul Food farms. She eats two runny eggs nearly every day. The opinions expressed are her own.

Reading about the recall of 550 million possibly salmonella-tainted U.S. eggs, laid and packed in just a handful of massive Iowa factories made me think about the egg aisle of a Sainsbury’s supermarket I visited in England, near Brighton, two years ago.

I was so struck by the store signage, which read not only “Organic” and “Free Range” — familiar terms — but also “Barn” and “Caged,” that I took several pictures with my iPhone. My English host practically had to drag me away from reading all the explanatory text included on the cartons: barn eggs are “laid by hens free to nest, perch, and roam in spacious barns,” while “Woodland organic free-range” eggs are “from hens free to roam in a natural environment with trees.”

Not only are the cartons informatively labeled, each egg is stamped with a simple code that tells what kind of system produced it.

It sounded so … pleasant. I didn’t see how anyone with a heart could pass over these visions of happy nesting, perching, tree-scratching chickens – despite being more expensive — for the grim “from caged hens.” And yet as I watched, plenty of shoppers opted to save the pound or more per dozen.

A painful holiday’s end for Europe

Europe’s long summer holiday still has a week to run but this year’s reentry will bring with it evidence that very little progress has been made on the issues that threaten to rend the currency union and upend the global economy.

Despite waving the stress-test magic wand over its banks in late July the same problems continue to grow unchecked: a euro zone periphery that can’t compete, may not be able to pay its debts and so may bring down with them the very banks that have been pronounced healthy.

While the German economy is growing at a rate not seen since the Berlin Wall came down, things are a good bit worse in Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and especially Greece, all of which face some combination of an austerity-induced recession and debts public and private which which threaten their banking systems, local governments and Treasuries.

Europe’s speculator full Employment Act

Far from setting a trap for the “wolfpack,” Europe’s $1 trillion bailout package amounts to a full employment act for speculators, or should that be the reality-based community, for the foreseeable future.

Hoping to tame markets it accused of “wolfpack behavior,” the European Union on Monday unveiled a 750 billion euro package intended to avert a rolling sovereign debt crisis that has engulfed Greece and threatens to spread widely among the weaker euro zone countries.

The package can’t be blamed for being too simple: it contains loans from the International Monetary Fund, an EU emergency fund and euro zone governments, as well as an interesting undertaking by the European Central Bank to buy bonds in order to restore liquidity to supposedly poorly functioning parts of the bond market. In a move straight out of a Russian fairy tale, Spain and Italy, to name just two, are pledging money towards a package that may well be used to bail themselves out. Maybe they should have put up even more money.

Europe shambles as Greek fire spreads

Europe desperately needs to get out in front of its solvency problem, Greek edition; not because it is right, not even because it will work in the long term, but to stem rapid and costly contagion through financial markets to other weak links in the euro zone, not least to banks.

Whether euro zone institutions will have the agility and resolve to quickly put in place out-sized measures for Greece is doubtful.

That Greece on Wednesday was paying more than 20 percent, or about double the rate of Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, to borrow money for two years showed that investors were expecting either a default or very large burden sharing by existing creditors, and possibly a, by definition, disorderly exit from the euro by Greece. Spain joined the list of sovereign downgrades, as Standard & Poor’s cut its rating a notch to AA, a day after the debt rating agency slashed Greece to junk status and cut Portugal to AA.

Embrace reality, not fight speculation

Stock up on canned goods, the authorities appear to be opening a new front in the War Against Speculation; this time taking aim at the people who might profit from Greece and its European partners’ woes.

Just days after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission voted new limits on short selling, Germany is investigating the credit default swap trading of speculators to try to prevent them from profiting from any bailout of Greece.

“It would be bad if it were to emerge after a rescue that the money had gone into the pockets of speculators,” a source with knowledge of the efforts told Reuters.

Who wins in U.S. vs Europe contest?

In these days of renewed gloom about the future of Europe, a quick test is in order. Who has the world’s biggest economy? A) The United States B) China/Asia C) Europe? Who has the most Fortune 500 companies? A) The United States B) China C) Europe. Who attracts most U.S. investment? A) Europe B) China C) Asia.

The correct answer in each case is Europe, short for the 27-member European Union (EU), a region with 500 million citizens. They produce an economy almost as large as the United States and China combined but have, so far, largely failed to make much of a dent in American perceptions that theirs is a collection of cradle-to-grave nanny states doomed to be left behind in a 21st century that will belong to China.

That China will rise to be a superpower in this century, overtaking the United States in terms of gross domestic product by 2035, is becoming conventional wisdom. But those who subscribe to that theory might do well to remember the fate of similar long-range forecasts in the past. At the turn of the 20th century, for example, eminent strategists predicted that Argentina would be a world power within 20 years. In the late 1980s, Japan was seen as the next global leader.

from The Great Debate UK:

Obama risks South-American style economic decline

richard-wellings- Richard Wellings is Deputy Editorial Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Argentina should be an object lesson for the U.S.

A century ago, it was one of the richest countries in the world. Today, it has fallen far behind Europe and North America, after a hundred years marked by long periods of recession.

Faced with economic crisis, for example during World War I and the Great Depression, Argentina’s politicians turned to socialism. Lame-duck industries were subsidised and protected from competition, and policy was often driven by powerful vested interests such as the trade unions.

from The Great Debate UK:

Thomson Reuters Newsmaker: Ireland and the Lisbon Treaty

Political leaders gathered in Dublin to debate both sides of the controversial Lisbon Treaty and the implications it could have on the future of Europe.

The panel consisted of Micheál Martin, Ireland's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nigel Farage MEP, leader of UKIP, Mary-Lou McDonald, Deputy President of Sinn Fein and David Begg, General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Watch the debate on the player below.

from The Great Debate UK:

Pound’s fall a symptom of crisis, not a problem in itself

vince-cable

--Vincent Cable is Deputy Leader of Britain's Liberal Democrats. He is a former economist who is also the party's spokesman on economics and finance. The views expressed are his own. --

Most of Britain’s moments of high economic drama in the 20th century centred on sterling: the Gold Standard in the inter war period; the various balance of payments crises of 1949 and 1967; Black Monday and the ERM.  It is perhaps understandable that commentators should reach for these folk memories and attach the word “crisis” to the current fall of sterling against the main trading currencies particularly the Euro.  Understandable; but wrong.

Britain certainly faces very deep and painful economic problems  which may prove as serious as any since the second world war: a sharp contraction in output; high unemployment; perhaps, for the first time since the 1930’s, sustained price deflation; serious depressed asset markets, as for equities and housing; and, not least, a virtual collapse of the banking system.

from Global News Journal:

What should the world do about Somalia?

Islamist militants imposing a strict form of Islamic law are knocking on the doors of Somalia's capital, the country's president fears his government could collapse -- and now pirates have seized a super-tanker laden with crude oil heading to the United States from Saudi Arabia.

Chaos, conflict and humanitarian crises in Somalia are hardly new. It's a poor, dry nation where a million people live as refugees and 10,000 civilians have been killed in the Islamist-led insurgency of the last two years. A fledgling peace process looks fragile. Any hopes an international peacekeeping force will soon come to the rescue of a country that has become the epitome of anarchic violence are optimistic, at best.

But besides causing instability in the Horn of Africa, the turmoil onshore is spilling into the busy waters of the Gulf of Aden. The European Union and NATO have beefed up patrols of this key trade route linking Asia to Europe via the Suez Canal as more and more ships fall prey to piracy. Attacks off the coast of east Africa also threaten vital food aid deliveries to Somalia.

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