The downward spiral of the Greek economy — and now likely that of Italy — has led to calls for the European Union to step in and prevent a total collapse. Portugal, Ireland, and Spain — the other three of the so-called PIIGS EU member-states — are enduring their own woes, such as downgrades of sovereign debt and corresponding jumps in the interest rates on government bonds. The cumulative effect — particularly if Italy does suffer a crisis serious enough to reduce its national credit rating to junk-bond status — will ripple throughout Europe and across the Atlantic.
With Greece’s Prime Minister George Papandreou agreeing to step down in order to secure more bailout funds from the ECB, attention turned immediately to Italy’s financial problems that dwarf those of Greece’s. The Greek PM’s decision now clears the way for an interim government to agree formally to the new austerity measures demanded by the European Union as a condition of receiving additional financing by the end of the month. Those funds are needed to pay Greece’s bills through January 2012.
Government programs often begin with limited, easily identifiable purposes, then grow over time to become expensive, wasteful, and even dangerous monstrosities. Such is the case with the federal War on Drugs, which began with little fanfare under a modest 1914 anti-narcotics law and has since grown to enormous proportions, eviscerating the Bill of Rights and entangling the United States in countries all around the globe in a futile effort to eradicate the supplies of highly sought-after commodities.
After being slapped with a $2.4-million bill by the Beijing tax bureau, Chinese artist and political dissident Ai Weiwei (left) could be charged with illegal fundraising. Ai disclosed to the public his hefty tax bill only last week, and since then nearly 20,000 people have donated more than 5.3 million yuan ($840,000) to help the artist pay an enormous sum of back taxes and fines.
Communist China has long been seeking to increase its influence over the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, whether through economic, industrial, diplomatic, or militaristic means, as part of its gambit for geopolitical dominance. Part of this overall mission has been the establishment of formal ties with various African nations, most of them impoverished and home to petty dictators, such as the beleaguered nation of Zambia, where concerns have been raised that China is engaged in widespread human rights abuses against Zambian copper mine workers, according to a report released last week from Human Rights Watch.
According to American intelligence sources, senior Israeli ministers who once opposed a military strike against Iran are now indicating support for such an endeavor. Those sources indicate that Israeli officials have been swayed by updates on the progress Iran has made toward building a nuclear program, believing that the next round of sanctions will not be tough enough. Israeli President Shimon Peres has warned that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly imminent, prompting U.S. officials to voice concerns that Israel may attack Iran without any warning for the United States.
Rosen Plevneliev managed a narrow victory in Bulgaria's recent presidential elections on a reform platform pledging to clean up the country's corruption-plagued government, one of the most notorious in Europe. On November 3, Plevneliev was certified as the official winner in Bulgaria’s presidential race. The President-elect immediately declared that the first thing he plans to do after assuming office is fire all Bulgarian diplomats abroad who have been exposed as former agents of the communist Committee of State Security (CSS).
The European Commission has requested information on patents from smartphone powerhouses Apple (makers of the immensely popular iPhone) and Samsung. While Apple is not itself a target of the EC’s patent protectors, it has been asked to voluntarily submit critical information regarding its use of 3G technology. Samsung, on the other hand, is being investigated.
A string of attacks launched in Nigeria on Friday left dozens dead, according to international news reports. The attacks are believed to have been carried out by Islamists. The bombers and gunmen reportedly targeted churches and government facilities in the northeastern region of the country.