Western European News Digest
Tremonti: Revolts Could Expand to West
March 5 (EIRNS)Speaking at an Aspen Institute meeting in Istanbul, Italian Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti said of the revolts in North Africa and elsewhere: "I am convinced that the trigger of many revolts was caused by the increase of commodity prices." He recalled that he raised the issue at the G8 meeting in 2008. "The 'scientific' answer, especially from the International Monetary Fund, was that speculation does not exist," he said. The revolts could expand eastward and ultimately infect developed countries, where an oil shock is already feared and where support for the extreme right-wing could grow, Tremonti said.
Tremonti also expressed his concern that, in a reaction to ill-advised sanctions, Libya and other countries could withdraw their investments in the West, with destabilizing effects on stock markets.
Unions in Germany Support Wisconsin Protests
Feb. 28 (EIRNS)The Wisconsin mass strike issue is on the agenda now also of the public sector labor unions in the German state of Hesse, with the United Services union (ver.di) calling on the 47,000 workers and employees of the state to join walkouts in major cities such as Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, Darmstadt, and Kassel today.
In 2003, Hesse's then-Minister President Roland Koch (CDU)now a director at the Frankfurt office of the Swiss bank UBSintroduced the so-called "Wisconsin Model" of "workfare," which forces welfare recipients to accept any (badly paid) work if they want to receive payments from the welfare fund. Koch pushed this through, after talks with Tommy Thompson, then-governor of Wisconsin.
Austrian Unions Send Open Letter to Wisconsin
March 2 (EIRNS)The Austrian labor union of the municipal employees and artists (GdG) sent an open letter of protest to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) which says, among other things: "We understand that you have refused to meet the unions to negotiate solutions that could contribute to balancing the budgetthis is not the way we expect democratically elected leaders to act.
"We have been informed that you have announced that you will call out the National Guard if public sector unions protest in what you may consider a disruptive way. We are sure that you have been following the developments in Tunisia and Egypt and will welcome real democracies in these countries.... Instead of attacking the public sector unions and their members in your state, we urge you to choose a constructive path and stand by commitments that have already been set out in legally negotiated collective agreements."
British Media Reflect Unease on Irish Result
Feb. 27 (EIRNS)All British media on Sunday, following the Irish national election, note nervously, that the Sinn Fein party made by far the most significant electoral gains, by fighting the IMF/EU bank bailout. The Telegraph explains further, that common to all the various independents, socialists, etc. elected alongside Sinn Feiners, is that "they all want to sink the banks."
The British press also notes the possibility of Irish unification being put on the political table, reporting that Martin McGuiness of Sinn Fein, who is a deputy prime minister of Northern Ireland, issued a statement of congratulations, and came to speak at Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams' victory celebration in Dundalk.
Qaddafi Ties Burning Blair and Symons
March 1 (EIRNS)The Daily Telegraph said it simply: "The Fall of Gaddafi Could Finish Off Tony Blair." Blogger Damian Thompson observed: "It's beginning to look as if the Gaddafi connection will bring about what even the Iraq war didn't quite accomplish: the destruction of Tony Blair's credibility on the world stage. There was more than a hint of Nixonian panic in the videotaped interview the former PM gave to a friendly Times hack over the weekend. The darting sideways glances, the nervous slurping of coffee, the tugging at his trouser legGod knows how Blair would have behaved if he'd been facing a hostile journalist asking about his strangely intimate links with the Gaddafi family."
Some of the British press are also roasting Baroness Liz Symons, who held a post on the Libyan government's international trade advisory board.
(See InDepth for more.)
German Defense Minister Resigns Over Plagiarism
March 1 (EIRNS)Presented with 50,000 protest signatures from the science and academic sector of Germany calling for his resignation or dismissal, Defense Minister Karl Theodor von und zu Guttenberg announced his resignation this morning. His sudden fall puts an end to one of the most glossy, rapid careers in German politics: The media that made him, also destroyed him, in what may be seen as a step to destabilize the German government as a whole.
This is the second big blow against the Merkel government, after the spectacular resignation of Bundesbank governor Axel Weber only three weeks ago.
Britain's NHS Patients Are Refused Cancer Drugs
March 2 (EIRNS)The Telegraph reports finding 86 cases in which the National Health Service has denied patients the cancer drugs their doctor sought, in the four months since a £250 million fund was introduced to stop health authorities from rationing treatments. In its first four months, the fund has paid for approximately 1,300 patients' drugs, even though research last March suggested that up to 20,000 cancer patients' lives were being shortened each year by drug rationing.
Bureaucrats have created complex structures, leaving terminally ill patients to spend their last months fighting for drugs which could increase their survival. The policies say every possible funding route for drugs must be exhausted before the NHS will even consider dipping into the fund. Cancer charities fear the £250 million fund may actually end the financial year underspent because of the restrictions.
Parliamentary Question on Angelides Report
Feb. 28 (EIRNS)Italian Sen. Oskar Peterlini has introduced a Parliamentary Question regarding the conclusions of the U.S. Fiscal Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) Report, asking the government if it has studied the report's conclusions, what actions it is taking to reform the international financial system, and whether introducing the Glass-Steagall principle into the Italian financial system isn't necessary to deal with the current situation. The resolution is entitled, "The Angelides Commission and Glass-Steagall: Reorganize the Financial System To Avoid an Even Worse Crisis." Peterlini expects other Senators will be adding their signatures to the Question, which will be sent to the Executive for an official response.
Italian Government Clips Solar Hoax
March 5 (EIRNS)Environmentalist organizations and the solar power industry will ask Italian President Giorgio Napolitano not to sign an executive order that cuts subsidies to solar energy. Opponents are talking about up to 10,000 jobs and investments for EU80 billion which will be cancelled, a figure which is probably 50% exaggerated.
The government had taken the decision once figures were published showing that Italy, in one year, has reached the EU target of renewable energy for 2020, thanks to a boom in solar panel installations, and that subsidies totalled EU3 billion last year alone. Moreover, mafia organizations cashed subsidies for solar plants that were never built.
Environmentalists are challenging the government plan for a nuclear renaissance with a referendum to be held in the Spring.
Decision Due in Britain's Kelly Case
March 2 (EIRNS)A decision is due in weeks in the case of the alleged suicide of British weapons inspector Dr. David Kelly. U.K. Attorney General Dominic Grieve requested, and was presented with, legal papers arguing that, because there were no fingerprints on five items found with Dr. Kelly's body, a coroner's inquest must be held to determine how he died. Grieve will now consider if there is sufficient fresh evidence for a full examination.
The decision made by the Attorney General will have major ramifications for, among others, former Prime Minister Tony Blair. It was Kelly who charged that the "evidence" of Saddam Hussein's WMD had been "sexed up" to provide the pretext for the Iraq War. He was found dead shortly thereafter.