Published: Thursday 15 November 2012
As the movement for that strong social safety net grows around the world, and locally here at home, the mandate is clear: Austerity is not the answer.

Amaia Engana didn’t wait to be evicted from her home. On Nov. 9, in the town of Barakaldo, a suburb of Bilbao in Spain’s Basque Country, officials from the local judiciary were on their way to serve her eviction papers. Amaia stood on a chair and threw herself out of her fifth-floor apartment window, dying instantly on impact on the sidewalk below. She was the second person in two weeks in Spain to commit suicide as a result of an impending foreclosure action. Her suicide has added gravity to this week’s general strike radiating from the streets of Madrid across all of Europe. As resistance to so-called austerity in Europe becomes increasingly transnational and coordinated, President Barack Obama and the House Republicans begin their debate to avert the “fiscal cliff.” The fight is over fair tax rates, budget priorities and whether we as a society will sustain the social safety net built during the past 80 years.

The general strike that swept across Europe Nov. 14 had its genesis in the deepening crisis in Spain, Portugal and Greece. As a result of the global economic collapse in 2008, Spain is in a deep financial crisis. Unemployment has surpassed 25 percent, and among young people is estimated at 50 percent. Large banks have enjoyed bailouts while they enforce mortgages that an increasing number of Spaniards are unable to meet, provoking increasing numbers of foreclosures and attempted evictions. “Attempted” because, in response to the epidemic of evictions in Spain, a direct-action movement has grown to prevent them. In city after city, individuals and groups have networked, creating rapid-response teams that flood the street outside a threatened apartment. When officials arrive to deliver the ...

Published: Tuesday 13 November 2012
Published: Tuesday 16 October 2012
Most European nuclear facilities do not meet even minimum security standards.

The so-called ‘stress tests’ on nuclear power plants in the European Union (EU) have confirmed environmental and energy activists’ worst fears: most European nuclear facilities do not meet minimum security standards.

The tests on 134 nuclear reactors operating in 14 EU member states were carried out in response to widespread concern among the public that an accident similar to the catastrophic meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power reactor in March 2011 could occur in Europe. According to the report, “EU citizens must… be confident that Europe’s nuclear industry is safe.”

But the findings of the report, released in Brussels on Oct. 4, suggest that, contrary to feeling safe, EU citizens have good reason to be afraid.

Only four countries “currently operate additional safety systems (e.g. ...

Published: Thursday 5 July 2012
“Parents whose children travel on IR-4 visas, which in recent years constitute almost half of all inter-country adoptions, finalize procedures by re-adopting their children in their states of residence at which time citizenship attaches.”

 

Excited about turning 18 during a presidential election year, Jenna Johnson registered to vote with her high school classmates and cast her first ballot. She canvassed her local Minnesota neighborhood as a volunteer signing up voters. Then four years later, while sharing stories with other Korean adoptees who remembered their naturalization ceremonies, Jenna couldn’t recall ever experiencing her own. A few days later, she phoned what was then the Immigration and Naturalization Service to check on her status and was shocked to learn that she was not a U.S. citizen. Her green card, which she kept as a memento from her adoption as a 2-year old, had expired.

As a permanent resident, she had unknowingly committed voter fraud, a crime punishable by deportation.

The story of Jenna Johnson (name changed at source’s request) might sound unusual. But she’s actually one of thousands of adult adoptees who were not grandfathered into the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA), which as of February 27, 2001 grants automatic citizenship to children who arrive in the United States on IR-3 visas. Parents whose children travel on IR-4 visas, which in recent years constitute almost half of all inter-country adoptions, finalize procedures by re-adopting their children in their states of residence at which time ...

Published: Sunday 15 January 2012
Short- and medium-term economic policies should aim at stimulating the economy, rather than throttling it with austerity measures.

Bolstered by Germany’s strong economy, Berlin has become the unofficial capital of the battered European monetary union.

However the German government’s proposals to solve the sovereign debt crisis, by imposing severe austerity programs to reduce state deficits and rejecting the distribution of Eurobonds, are coming up against increasing opposition across most of the 17 countries that comprise the Eurozone.

On Jan 9, French president Nicolas Sarkozy was in Berlin to meet German chancellor Angela Merkel and discuss fresh new solutions to the European sovereign debt crisis.

On Jan 11, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, in office since November, visited the German capital for the very same purpose but made no secret of his wish to modify the austerity program, which successive governments have hurled at the crisis with little to no success.

In an interview with the German daily newspaper Die Welt, Monti said that his government has imposed "severe burdens" upon the Italian citizenry by following Berlin’s austerity model, but so far "the European Union has made no concession towards Italy, by way of lower interest rates" for the country’s state bonds.

"If Italian citizens do not see (the immediate) fruits of their austerity efforts, there will be protests against the EU, against Germany, and against the European Central Bank," Monti warned. "There are already signs of these protests."

Although almost all 17 members of the Eurozone currently suffer from sovereign debt, financial markets sanction each of them differently by imposing different interest rates for new state debt bonds.

For instance, Germany, which has a sovereign debt of some 2.1 trillion Euros, pays extremely low interest rates for new debt bonds. Earlier in January, the interest rates for new German debt bonds were negative, meaning that investors were willing to pay Germany for taking out ...

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