Western European News Digest
Denmark Leading Fight vs. 'Evil' Capital Funds
Danish Tax Minister Kristian Jensen addressed a forum of Berlingske Tidende readers on March 14, telling them, "The whole discussion about the role of capital funds is not only a Danish thing. In these months, it is spreading all over Europe, and later today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be presented with a proposed law to be applied against the funds, which is coherent with what we are considering here. It is about widening the tax base and lowering the corporate tax. Denmark is moving first, and all the EU countries will join the discussion," he predicted, adding that Denmark will lose 15 billion krone (EU2 billion) in corporate taxes if the government doesn't intervene.
Jensen underlined that capital funds are not just one thing, but that there are many variations. "But it would be nice if the 'evil' capital funds paid taxes in Denmark. It is the politicians that choose how the tax system should beit cannot be a grab bag," he said.
The Tax Ministry and the government are presently working through the recommendations of the proposed law and will soon present a re-worked legal complex to hit the capital funds' tax avoidance.
French Presidential Candidates Toe Bankers' Line
A recent article in Nouvel Observateur by Thierry Philippon notes the strong similarities in the economic programs of France's three leading Presidential candidates, and summarizes them as follows: 1) France is "too indebted," and the deficit must be reduced; 2) austerity must be imposed on the state; 3) state aid to large companies for employment programs must be redirected to small and medium-sized companies considered as the main job creators; 4) funding for R&D and universities must increase, to ensure competition; 5) finally, support for the "flexi-security" Danish model, in which the unemployed get almost a full wage but are offered immediate training for a new job.
How to explain the agreement? According to Philippon, the consensus was established at the Economic Analysis Council, a type of national security council on economics, created by Lionel Jospin in 1997, comprised of 100 economists from mainstream political parties. Beyond these influences, a single "business executive, Michel Pebereau, president of [bank] BNP Paribas, who has become the image of the punishing father" in the election, carries more weight than the entire business association (MEDEF). Since Pebereau put out his report on public debt a year ago, "no serious candidate dares to propose an increase in debt and deficits." The article mentions that Pebereau also created a website which has been playing the role of the "watchdog," keeping account of the candidates' spending.
Brits Have Their Own Walter Reed Scandal
The neglect of, and appalling conditions suffered by, British soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan was reported in the Sunday Observer March 11, in two major articles. The complaints, contained in family letters obtained by the Observer, are even worse than what has been reported about wounded U.S. soldiers recovering at the outpatient facilities at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Overflowing colostomy bags, poor hygiene practices, underqualified and uncaring staff are only a few of the complaints coming from families of wounded soldiers.
The underlying cause seems to be something even more extreme than the U.S. government privatizing some services at military hospitals. In Britain, they're eliminating military hospitals altogether. A little over ten years ago, Britain had eight military hospitals, but the last one is scheduled to close at the end of this month. "We will be the only country in the civilized world without a dedicated military hospital," said Hampshire councillor Peter Edgar, who is campaigning to keep the last military hospital open. Wounded soldiers are, instead, treated in Britain's National Health Service, with most of them treated at Selly Oak Hospital in South Birmingham, which mixes wounded soldiers with civilian patients.
New Book Equates Anti-Americanism with Anti-Semitism
The core thesis of a new book by Antifa/AntiDeutschen Fuehrer Andrei Markovits, reviewed in the Washington Post March 12, is that the driver behind anti-Americanism in Europe is the same as anti-Semitism. Markovits, says reviewer Jonathan Yardley, "finds an 'increasingly strong overlap between anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism.' In the late 19th Century, he writes, 'it was the fear and critique of capitalist modernity that brought these two resentments together. America and the Jews were seen as paragons of modernity: money-driven, profit-hungry, urban, universalist, individualistic, mobile, rootless, and hostile to established traditions and values.'"
As Yardley points out, Markovits acknowledges that only 30% of Europeansand only West Europeans at thatare actually anti-American, and that he posits is some kind of European "elite," whose hatred goes back to the American Revolution, despite the fact that "Bush and his administration's policies have made America into the most hated country of all time. "According to Markovits' website, the book is an expansion of his German book Amerika, Dich hasst sichs besser. Antiamerikanismus und Antisemitismus in Europa (Twin Brothers: European Anti-Semitism and Anti-Americanism), now in its third edition from Konkret-Literatur Verlag in Hamburg.
Afghanistan Policy Shift Is Aim of Kidnapping Threats
In the context of the March 9 Bundestag decision on German Tornado fighter planes deployment in all of Afghanistan, Germany has been feeling tremendous pressure, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported March 12.
In two video messages by self-described "militant Islamists," Germany and Austria were pressured to disengage from Afghanistan. In the first video, the militants threatened to kill the two kidnapped Germans in Iraq. The two have been held for over one month. In a second video, a group called "Voice of Khalifat," which supposedly belongs to al-Qaeda, demanded the withdrawal of all German and Austrian soldiers from Afghanistan, otherwise their soldiers would be attacked. He also announced a spring offensive in Afghanistan, which would terrorize the world. The threat goes to the governments of Germany and Austria, and also points to Spain. Germany also is warned not to endanger its economic interests by their support for the U.S. Pictures of German cabinet members in front of a German flag were shown. The German government is taking these threats very seriously.
Moreover, there is the situation of the kidnapped Italian journalist in Afghanistan, who is being held by the Taliban, who are demanding the end of Italian engagement in Afghanistan, and freedom for three Taliban spokesmen. Daniele Mastrogiacomo is being accused by the Taliban as a British spy; as of this writing, it appears that threats to kill him have been replaced by negotiations.
Youth Riots, Left-Right Conflicts Spread Throughout Europe
Parallel to the recent outburst of violence in Copenhagen, youth protests escalated in Greece, beginning with student action against changes in the university regulations (less time to study, high tuition, restrictions on enrollment of foreigners). This rapidly escalated into anti-army/police anarchists seeking confrontation with police, culminating March 8 with many wounded on both sides, on Syntagma Square in Athens. Leftist riots also broke out in Exarchia, one of Athens' districts, March 9-10. Firecrackers were once again thrown at police in Athens March 12.
In Germany, an arson attack was carried out against a Berlin office of the right-wing NPD, and windows of seven left-wing PDS party offices in Saxony were smashed. No clear authorship of these provocations has yet been reported. Furthermore, a new scandal has been orchestrated by leftists and Antifa circles, to formally revoke an honorary citizenship for Adolf Hitler in Bad Doberan, the administrative center of the district that also hosts Heiligendamm, the site of the June G-8 summit. A "shadow reigns over the summit," the scandal-mongers claim.