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Monday, January 14, 2013

Greece all but secures next tranche


Kathimerini

Greece all but secures next tranche
Kathimerini
By Nikos Chrysoloras. The disbursement of the January tranche of the bailout loans to Greece, amounting to 9.2 billion euros, can now be taken for granted, following Mondayís favorable decision by the Euro Working Group in Brussels that is expected to ...
Eurozone crisis live: Greek PM defiant after attacks, as Lagarde sees recoveryThe Guardian
Lagarde Backs Reforms, Says Revenues NeededGreek Reporter
Greece will exceed expectations: IMFRTHK
FXstreet.com
all 9 news articles »

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Greece Approves Steps Creditors Demanded

Greek lawmakers on Monday approved a law covering a series of actions demanded by international creditors, taking Athens a step closer to securing its next multibillion-euro aid tranche.

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Republican hubris on spending cuts: a character flaw that will ruin America | Heidi Moore

Obama says the US is not a 'deadbeat nation' about to default. But if Congress won't raise the debt ceiling, then actually it is

President Obama scheduled a press conference Monday morning to warn Republicans that America is "not a deadbeat nation". That's more of a hopeful statement than a definitive one.

Obama may hope that the US is not a deadbeat nation; the truth is, though, that we won't really know that until a few weeks from now, when the US treasury is set to run out of money. At that point, as Obama pointed out, government checks will dry up: there will be no social security payments, paychecks for troops, or tax refunds.

Some Republican leaders seem unconcerned by that. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, is at the forefront of the movement to use the debt ceiling as political leverage to gain budget concessions. In a statement, he said:

"The president and his allies need to get serious about spending, and the debt-limit debate is the perfect time for it. I do know that the most important issue confronting the future of our country is our deficit and debt."

Actually, the most important issue confronting the future of this country, for the moment, is the millions of people who are unemployed and, increasingly, without hope. But let's ask John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives:

"The American people do not support raising the debt ceiling without reducing government spending at the same time. The consequences of failing to increase the debt ceiling are real, but so too are the consequences of allowing our spending problem to go unresolved. Without meaningful action, the debt will continue to act as an anchor on our economy, costing American jobs and endangering our children's future. The House will do its job and pass responsible legislation that controls spending, meets our nation's obligations and keeps the government running, and we will insist that the Democratic majority in Washington do the same."

There are a lot of ideas in both those statements, but they boil down to this: the US can afford, for a time at least, to refuse to pay its bills.

That's a mistaken idea. The idea that the US can avoid paying its bills is the kind of luxurious self-indulgence that only a rich nation – assured and entitled to its wealth – can take. The US is not running out of money, so some lawmakers, abusing that financial power, believe that it can afford to act like it is. We have so many advantages, the thinking goes, we can squander them.

This is hubris. And you don't have to be a scholar in ancient Greek literature to know that hubris is always punished – in people and in governments. Hubristic thinking is not clear thinking; it's not rational thinking. It's egotistical.

The second debt ceiling fight will show that America's inability to decide on budget matters is a character issue, a matter of hubris. It is not a temporary roadblock, but a reliable trend: we are willing to create a crisis rather than make hard decisions.

It is notable that, for all the posturing and yelling and press conferences about the debt ceiling and the budget, there are almost no specific proposals on the table. The president has not presented a budget. Republicans have not set forth terms that they want. Political positioning has replaced hard work. 

For the next few weeks and months, Americans will become as sick of the term "debt ceiling" as they were of "fiscal cliff". Like the fiscal cliff, the argument that is sure to ensue around the debt ceiling is a manufactured one: a creation of a Washington lacking the techniques to make basic political compromises, ruled by petty enmities, and driven by fevered dreams of political leverage.

The debt ceiling, as many people may remember from 2011, is not a way to control government spending. Government spending is set by Congress, so if anyone has a problem on that point – especially in Congress – their time to address it has passed. The debt ceiling is just a number that tells us how much the Congress is allowed to commit the treasury to spend.

As of this moment, the Congress committed more money to pay its bills than the treasury currently has on hand. The only entity that can fix this is Congress; neither treasury, nor White House, nor Federal Reserve has any power to raise taxes or increase spending on its own.

So what would happen?

There's a neat flowchart of events that would ensue. To make good on those IOUs – to pay its bills – the government has to raise the debt limit. If Congress does not raise the debt limit, the US is likely to default on its debt. As it becomes more and more clear that the US is coming close to defaulting on its debt, the stock markets and bond markets are likely to show evidence of panic. That will hurt the retirement accounts of ordinary Americans, at least for a time.

As the "crisis" keeps going, we are likely to see worse effects: potential downgrades of the US credit rating, perhaps an uptick in the price the US has to pay to borrow money. More importantly, the US will be revealed to citizens and foreigners alike to be untrustworthy when it comes to its finances, which will wipe out decades of work to improve its financial reputation. That doesn't even count the humiliation of having our credit ratings cut again, as they surely would be.

The alternative: Congress could come up with a plan to balance the federal budget.

Those who want to take the US into default believe that the country is strong enough to take it. They will likely point to 2011, when the US came within hours of defaulting – and paid a mild price: a downgrade from a couple of credit agencies.

It's unlikely, however, that the US will get off so easy again. This time, the ratings agencies are expecting trouble, and nearly all have warned that the US will get a slap for flirting with default. Foreign investors, too, are no longer trapped in treasury bonds as the only attractive investment, as they were in 2011. Back then, the European debt crisis meant that no right-thinking investor would dip a toe into the Eurozone. This year, some Eurozone bonds have proven to be immensely profitable. The US is not, as it was last time, the only game in town.

If Congress toys with default again, it is playing a psychological game it is bound to lose.

The truth is that the US financial position – our debt, and how much money we have – is not based on budgets and deficits. It is based on psychology. Credit is a system of trust. Credit is a system that asks, "Are you good for this loan?" And there are only two ways to answer: yes or no. If you say "maybe", that means no. If you say "sometimes", that means no.

Just as F Scott Fitzgerald said that personality was a series of successful gestures, credit is a series of successful payments.

To this day, there are large swaths of the government – outside Congress, of course – that maintain that debt is a character issue. The CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies won't employ anyone who has excessive debt, or who doesn't pay his or her debt off. The department of defense has a nice rule on this point. It applies to people. It could just as easily apply to governments:

"Failure or inability to live within one's means, satisfy debts, and meet financial obligations may indicate poor self-control, lack of judgment, or unwillingness to abide by rules and regulations, all of which can raise questions about an individual's reliability, trustworthiness and ability to protect classified information. An individual who is financially overextended is at risk of having to engage in illegal acts to generate funds."

In other words, debt is a character issue.

This is an interesting complication, because many Republicans who threaten to hold up the debt ceiling would also call spending a character issue. They believe that America should stop spending – especially on pension programs like social security and Medicare – to show fiscal discipline.

The most basic fiscal discipline, however, is to just pay your bills.


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Germany, Greek opposition clash on austerity


Business Recorder

Germany, Greek opposition clash on austerity
Huffington Post
BERLIN — Germany's finance minister and Greece's leftist opposition leader clashed Monday over the austerity program attached to Athens' international bailout loans, with the Greek politician insisting the approach is a "nightmare" and a failure. As a ...
German finance minister urges Greek opposition leader Tsipras to back ...Fox News
UPDATE 2-Greek leftist tells German minister reforms have failedReuters
German FinMin tells Greek leftist no alternative to reformsFox Business
Reuters UK
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Mitroglou and Mirallas acclaimed


UEFA.com

Mitroglou and Mirallas acclaimed
UEFA.com
Kostas Mitroglou and his one-time Olympiacos FC club-mate Kevin Mirallas received the top prizes as Greece celebrated its stars of the 2011/12 season on Monday night. E-mail. Print. Mitroglou and Mirallas acclaimed in Greece. Kostas Mitroglou received ...


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Greece bundles bailout terms into emergency bill


Greece bundles bailout terms into emergency bill
Huffington Post
European rescue lenders last month approved new installments worth (EURO)49.1 billion ($65.5 billion), with (EURO)34.3 billion ($45.76 billion) paid out days later and the rest to be transferred to Greece by March. But many of conditions were ...
Greece bundles bailout terms into emergency bill, promises tougher budget ...Washington Post

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Greek New Democracy party HQ hit in gun attack

Police say bullet pierced window of the office of conservative prime minister, Antonis Samaras, but no one was hurt

Unidentified attackers opened fire on the Athens headquarters of Greece's governing New Democracy party with a Kalashnikov assault rifle early on Monday, in what the government said was a worrying escalation in political violence.

Police said a bullet pierced the window of the office that the conservative prime minister, Antonis Samaras, maintains in the building near the city centre, but no one was hurt.

The early morning gun assault follows a spate of makeshift bomb attacks against journalists and political figures in the past week, some claimed by leftist groups angry at Greece's deep financial crisis.

Greece is in the sixth year of a recession that has fuelled anger against foreign lenders and the political class, blamed by Greeks for bringing the country close to bankruptcy.

Addressing supporters outside his party office on Syngrou Avenue late on Monday, Samaras condemned the shooting.

"You can shoot a person or at building, as they did, but you cannot shoot democracy," he said. "Let them hear it then, those who must: democracy will not be terrorised."

Political violence is not uncommon in Greece but deadly attacks are rare.

Officials said Samaras no longer uses his office on Syngrou Avenue and was not present at the time of the shooting.

"At about 3am (01.00 GMT), guards saw two men coming out of a black car and firing with a Kalashnikov at the building, which was empty at the time," said a police official speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said at least nine bullet casings were recovered from the scene and police were examining a burnt-out car found a few miles away. Anti-terrorism police cordoned off the area and were checking security cameras near the party building.

Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said even a symbolic attack on the prime minister was unheard of.

"This is a new, worrying escalation of the effort to create terror in our society," he said.

The recent attacks have targeted public figures. On Sunday, the Athens home of Kedikoglou's brother was hit by a petrol bomb and three New Democracy offices in the city were targeted on Friday. No injuries were reported in the attacks.

Police blamed Sunday's attack on far-left protesters angry at a police raid last week that cleared a squat popular with anti-establishment groups. About 100 people were arrested.

On Friday, a number of small homemade bombs exploded outside the Athens homes of five Greek journalists working for major media outlets. In an internet statement, a group going by the name Lovers of Lawlessness claimed responsibility, accusing the journalists of doing the bidding of politicians.

The conservative-led coalition government has imposed harsh tax hikes and salary cuts in its six months in power to secure vital international cash for Greece, where unemployment has reached about 27% and living standards have plunged.

The government says Syriza, the radical leftist main opposition party, tacitly backs anti-establishment groups and their attacks. Party spokesman Panos Skourletis denied that.

"This is certainly a dangerous escalation of terrorist attacks of blind violence, which are completely condemned by Syriza," Skourletis said of Monday's attack.


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Rowe Photo to close Greece store


Rowe Photo to close Greece store
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
“The economy hasn't been the best,” Rowe said. “It made sense to open the Greece store 12 years ago. But in this economy it makes more sense to consolidate.” He said that the Greece store's five employees would likely move to one of the other locations.


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Gun attack on PM's party HQ as Greek violence escalates

ATHENS (Reuters) - Unidentified attackers opened fire on the Athens headquarters of Greece's governing New Democracy party with a Kalashnikov assault rifle early on Monday, in what the government said was a worrying escalation in political violence.



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Eurozone showing signs of recovery, says IMF chief

Christine Lagarde predicts return to growth, thanks to measures taken by individual countries to stabilise single currency union

The head of the International Monetary Fund has fuelled hopes that the European financial crisis is easing by predicting the region will grow this year.

Christine Lagarde said she saw the "beginnings of recovery" in the eurozone, currently in recession, as measures taken by individual countries and efforts to stabilise the single currency union started to pay off. "It's clearly the case that investors are returning to the eurozone, and resuming confidence in that market," Lagarde told BBC World Service on Monday.

Lagarde also predicted Greece would enjoy a better 2013 than expected, after "a huge and massive effort" to cut spending and reduce its deficit. "The country is going to turn out better results than what was even planned – but it has to continue doing a massive effort on collection of revenue and collection of tax," she added.

The IMF chief's comments echo optimism from the European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi, and EC president, José Manuel Barroso. They helped send the euro up to 83.28p against the pound, its highest level since April 2012.

Traders blamed the pound's weakness on fears that Britain was heading into a triple-dip recession, speculation that its AAA rating was flaky, and jitters over a referendum over Britain's membership of the EU.

"When you compare the 'positive contagion' in the eurozone, where sovereign borrowing costs continue to come down, with the potential for instability in the UK over its relationship with the EU, it may cause investors to limit their exposure to the pound," said Andy Scott of foreign currency exchange brokers HiFX.

There was further relief on Monday night as Standard & Poor's revised its outlook on two AAA countries, Luxembourg and Finland, to stable, from negative. Economic data shows eurozone industrial output fell by 0.3% in November, worse than economists had expected, and was 3.7% lower than a year earlier.

Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight said the figures showed the eurozone recession probably continued in the last three months of 2012. However, a rise in demand for heavy equipment, or capital goods, raised hopes for 2013.

Greece's leftwing opposition leader, Alexis Tsipras, clashed with Germany's foreign minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, at a meeting in Berlin. Schäuble argued that Greece had no alternative but to continue with austerity, while Tsipras insisted Europe needed new policies to encourage growth.

Speaking after the meeting, Tsipras said: "I told him that the austerity programmes have failed all over Europe and especially in Greece. Now we must deal with their impact: poverty, unemployment."

A spokesman for the German finance ministry said Schäuble had pressed Tsipras to give more support to Athens. "Minister Schäuble urged Mr Tsipras to back the path embarked upon."


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The Dish: Fill Up on Greek-Style Lasagna


The Dish: Fill Up on Greek-Style Lasagna
Patch.com
Zorba the Greek is known for Greek favorites in ample portions; order the hummus platter, a gyro, or a salad and you'll see why. The savory Greek-style lasagna – called pastitsio – is no exception. The Dish: Pastitsio with meat sauce ($16.95). What's ...


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Greek court rules that 15 foreigners justified in escape from a miserable lockup

THESSALONIKI, Greece - A group of illegal immigrants was justified in escaping from a police lockup last year because of the miserable conditions in their overcrowded cell, which was filthy, ridden with disease and had no running water, a Greek court has ruled.

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Europe is a living museum of sculpture. Britain is just the gift shop

Yorkshire's audacious bid for title of 'sculpture capital of Europe' reflects the narrow nationalism of the art establishment

Britain gets further away from Europe every day. The Conservative party chews at the bonds between us and our continent like a monster trying to get free. And this blinkered nationalism has an unexpected ally: the art world.

Art museums and their curators have a liberal image, an enlightened aura, but in its way the art establishment is as narrowly obsessed with British uniqueness as any rightwing Eurosceptic.

If you need proof, let's visit Yorkshire, where the Hepworth in Wakefield and the nearby Yorkshire Sculpture Park does an excellent job of celebrating two famous local artists, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. But Yorkshire is not satisfied with the respect it gets for displaying these artists well. It wants to claim an extraordinary title: "sculpture capital of Europe".

I nearly choked on my espresso. Va fa Napoli! Or Rome, or Florence, or Athens.

I know the EU has its troubles at the moment, but that doesn't give British art promoters the right to deny thousands of years of cultural history. The Cycladic islands have a better claim than Yorkshire to be Europe's sculpture capital – it was here during the late stone age that islanders carved abstract figures that were the first really graceful human images in art.

But yet Yorkshire is seriously claiming to be more of a "sculpture capital" than Rome, where Bernini's angels and Michelangelo's Moses compete with the colossus of Constantine. And Rome has rivals. Florence is a city of compelling statues where Donatello's St George shares the honours with … oh yes, Michelangelo's David.

Or what about Paris? Here you can see Michelangelo's Dying Slave, visit the Musée Rodin, and be amazed by Picasso's bull head made with bicycle parts in the Musée Picasso.

Britain is a bit player in the story of European sculpture. This is because we had a Reformation in the 16th century, when Protestants vandalised carvings and statues in churches. After that, it was Catholic countries – above all Italy with its big-spending popes – that produced sculptural geniuses such as Canova.

Europe is a living museum of sculpture. In this living museum, Britain is the gift shop, at best, and Yorkshire is a souvenir teapot hidden behind all the reproductions of David.


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Arson fears

Police investigators walk on Monday outside the headquarters of New Democracy conservative party in Athens. Shots were fired early on Monday near the offices of main Greek ruling party New Democracy in Athens, police said, after a recent wave of arson attacks against political offices.


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The year ahead in the euro zone: Lower risks, same problems


Reuters Blogs (blog)

The year ahead in the euro zone: Lower risks, same problems
Reuters Blogs (blog)
Financial conditions in the euro zone have significantly improved since the summer, when euro zone risks peaked because of German policymakers' open consideration of a Greek exit, and the sovereign spreads of Italy and Spain reached new heights.
Praet sees no reason to change ECB policy -MNIReuters
ECB's Praet says rates appropriate for now: reportMarketWatch
Central bank priorities spell volatilityHong Kong Standard

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Greek MPs to vote on prior actions as next loan tranche is lined up


Kathimerini

Greek MPs to vote on prior actions as next loan tranche is lined up
Kathimerini
Greek MPs are set to vote on Monday evening on a draft law containing a set of so-called ìprior actionsî demanded by the troika in order for further bailout funding to be released. Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras wanted the prior actions, which ...
Greek parliament approves new tax hikesNASDAQ

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Greece Asks EU Help To Catch Tax Cheats


Kathimerini

Greece Asks EU Help To Catch Tax Cheats
Greek Reporter
Conceding that Greece can't deal with tax cheats alone, the government is going to bring in tax experts and analysts from other European countries to help stem the runaway problem which has cost the country more than $70 billion. The reinforcements are ...
Experts come to help Greece collect taxesKathimerini
Greece Offers 10 Billion-Euro Debt Buyback to Unlock AidForexReportDaily.com

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World under Snow: UK, Japan, Greece, California and Middle East Blanketed ...


IBTimes.co.uk

World under Snow: UK, Japan, Greece, California and Middle East Blanketed ...
IBTimes.co.uk
Southern Europe and parts of the Middle East were hit recently with heavy snowfall covering parts of Greece including Athens. The Middle East was hit by its worst winter storm in a decade and snow settled on cities in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria ...

and more »

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German finance minister urges Greek opposition leader Tsipras to back ...


Business Recorder

German finance minister urges Greek opposition leader Tsipras to back ...
Fox News
BERLIN – Germany's finance minister has urged Greece's leftist opposition leader to back the austerity plan attached to the country's international bailout loans. A German government official said Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble held a 30-minute ...
UPDATE 2-Greek leftist tells German minister reforms have failedReuters
German FinMin tells Greek leftist no alternative to reformsFox Business
German finance minister tells Greek leftist: reform or lose euroReuters UK
Shanghai Daily (subscription) -FXstreet.com
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UPDATE 1-Greek leftist tells German minister reforms have failed


The Voice of Russia

UPDATE 1-Greek leftist tells German minister reforms have failed
Reuters
Greek leftist dismisses EU/IMF reforms as failure. * Schaeuble says no alternative to steps pursued by PM Samaras. BERLIN, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Greek leftist firebrand Alexis Tsipras told German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in brief talks on ...
German FinMin tells Greek leftist no alternative to reformsFox Business
German finance minister tells Greek leftist: reform or lose euroReuters UK
German FinMin urges Greek opposition to back reformsShanghai Daily (subscription)
The Voice of Russia -Fox News
all 153 news articles »

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