In defiance of all logic, the eurozone weathered a week of harrowing instability this past week, with Portugal, Spain, and Italy managing to persuade the bond markets that their sovereign debt is still worth the risk. Portugal was the primary focus of concern in this latest iteration of European economic upheaval, with speculation rife that the Iberian nation would be forced to accept an international bailout along the lines of what Greece and Ireland have already received. The Portuguese government spent the week leading up to last Wednesday’s successful auction of government bonds denying that Portugal needed outside assistance to solve its debt problem, and Wednesday’s results appeared to vindicate those claims.
Even as the European Union is bankrupting itself with bailouts, the EU’s top Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said on Wednesday that the €440 billion ($570 billion) bailout fund for struggling European nations should not only be increased but given more powers. According to Rehn, the eurozone governments are currently considering the proposal to increase the size of the funds.
The European Union announced today that they would be reinstating a travel ban against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and 40 of his close associates, following his crackdown on political opponents in the country’s elections, which were held on December 19, 2010.
In a November 16, 2010 speech, European Union President Herman Van Rompuy warned that the eurozone economic crisis threatened the very existence of the EU. “We’re in a survival crisis,” Van Rompuy said. “We all have to work together in order to survive with the euro zone, because if we don’t survive with the euro zone we will not survive with the European Union.”
German sociologist and political economist Max Weber once defined a state as an institution that “successfully upholds a claim on the monopoly of the legitimate use of violence in the enforcement of its order.” States, of course, prefer not to be thought of in such terms, so they generally couch their employment of force in less threatening phrases, such as “helping the poor” rather than “robbing the rich,” creating “collateral damage” rather than “murdering innocents,” or even (as Bill Clinton would have it) “accepting contributions” rather than “collecting taxes.” Let someone get in the state’s way, however, and the velvet glove comes off, revealing the iron fist underneath.
New year, new crisis. For the beleaguered, once-independent nations of Europe now entangled in the eurozone, the economic drama unfolding in Portugal this week looks woefully familiar. According to the latest speculations in the financial press, the Portuguese government is now under pressure from other European governments to accept a bailout from the EU, much like what happened with Ireland last fall. As with Ireland, Portugal is now denying the need for any bailout, insisting that she can solve her own problems with spending cuts, tax hikes, and other budgetary modifications.
In 1998, a study conducted by Andrew Wakefield, a former British surgeon and researcher, and his colleagues was published in The Lancet. According to the conclusions of the study, there was a direct connection between the MMR vaccine and autism. However, a new examination of the data reveals that Wakefield may have altered some of the information used in his study to reach his conclusion.
As if news of the restoration of the Soviet Union through the new Customs Union was not alarming enough on its own, Britain's Telegraph recently reported that Russia’s “domestic FSB security service is trying to subsume the SVR foreign intelligence service in order to recreate a latter day KGB in all but name.”