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Sunday, May 19, 2013

EU ridiculed for banning olive oil jugs from restaurants

Move to ensure olive oil is served in non-refillable bottles condemned as weirdest decision since curvy cucumber ruling

EU bureaucrats have been ridiculed for shifting their focus from fighting the eurozone's debt crisis to impose strict rules on how restaurants serve olive oil.

From 1 January eateries will be banned from serving oil to diners in small glass jugs or dipping bowls and forced instead to use pre-sealed, non-refillable bottles that must be disposed of when empty.

The European commission said the move was designed to improve hygiene and reassure diners that olive oil in restaurants had not been diluted.

But critics say the rules are a sop to Europe's olive oil producers, and will only add to the frustration felt by many towards a bloated bureaucracy regarded as out of touch with ordinary people.

The commission said its proposal was supported by 15 of 27 EU-member governments, including the continent's main olive oil producers – Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal – which are among the countries worst affected by the euro crisis.

Germany opposed the plans in a private vote; Britain, which regularly cites perceived meddling from Brussels as the reason for its strained relationship with Europe, abstained.

The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung described the move as the "weirdest decision since the legendary curvy cucumber regulation", referring to now-defunct EU rules on the shape of fruit and vegetables sold in supermarkets.

The regulations are based on those in force in Portugal since 2005 and are part of an EU initiative to help olive oil producers hit by rising operating costs and falling profits in recent years. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds



SYRIZA New Democracy Clash Over Golden Dawn

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras Greece’s main political parties continue to be befuddled on how to deal with the rising influence of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, with Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative party leader Antonis Samaras’ government backing off an anti-racism bill and saying that the major opposition party Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) has ';many ...


Crisis Pushes Greeks Back To Mommy

Greece’s crushing economic crisis, which has created record unemployment and hardship, is helping out moms who don’t want their adult children straying too far from home. Unable to make it on their own, many of the country’s young, with unemployment for those under 25 at 64 percent, are perfectly content to come back to the parent’s nest and let their mothers care for ...


Tapping our inner-Greek till last light

Tens of thousands of people were still enjoying the weather, fine food and dance at the 2013 Paniyiri Festival late Sunday night.        


Greece to sell Postbank, Proton in July, stress-test big banks

Yahoo!7 News

Greece to sell Postbank, Proton in July, stress-test big banks
Chicago Tribune
ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's bank rescue fund will aim to sell Hellenic Postbank and Proton by mid-July with big banks continuing to absorb small lenders as part of plans to revive the battered sector, the country's foreign lenders said in an inspection ...
Greece's Piraeus hire banks to advise on share issue - sourcesYahoo!7 News
Troika charters map of action for credit sectorKathimerini

all 3 news articles »


Sir Mervyn King: don't demonise bankers

Outgoing Bank of England governor blames regulatory failure for banking crisis and not individuals

The outgoing governor of the Bank of England has called on the British people not to "demonise" bankers for the financial crisis.

Sir Mervyn King said on Sunday that the failings of the financial and regulatory system were the root cause of the turmoil which struck the world economy almost six years ago.

King, who leaves the Bank this summer, told Sky News's Murnaghan programme that there was widespread risk-taking in the runup to the credit crunch, and it had been a mistake to give the banking sector such a lofty status in the good times.

"Where the banks contributed to the problem was that they themselves had taken too many risks on their balance sheet and they simply didn't have enough capital to absorb the losses that were likely to come along and people took fright, they lost confidence in the banks, they didn't provide money to the banks so the banks couldn't lend to businesses or households.

"I would say to people though, don't demonise individuals here. This wasn't a problem of individuals, this was a problem of failure of a system. We collectively allowed the banking system to become too big, we gave them far too much status and standing in society, and we didn't regulate it adequately by ensuring it had enough capital."

Asked if he regretted not doing more to prevent the crisis, King said he and the Bank had issued warnings.

Conservative MP Brooks Newmark said King could not escape some responsibility for the errors that helped to cause the biggest financial crisis in generations.

"He is governor of the Bank of England ... that's what it says on the tin," Newmark told Murnaghan.

Lord Myners, the former City minister, agreed that King had failed to see the problems in the runup to 2007, and had become "hung up on moral hazard" once the banking sector was being bailed out.

"The judgment of history, which for bank governors is written in about 100 years, will say he failed in those two ways, and also failed to modernise the banks," Myners added.

King also expressed concern over Britain's new Help to Buy scheme, which involves the government guaranteeing up to 15% of a mortgage on properties worth up to £600,000.

The scheme, which begins in January 2014, is due to run for three years. King warned that there is "no place" for a permanent scheme of this kind.

"This scheme is a little too close for comfort to a general scheme to guarantee mortgages. We had a very healthy mortgage market with competing lenders attracting borrowers before the crisis, and we need to get back to that healthy mortgage market.

"We do not want what the United States have, which is a government-guaranteed mortgage market, and they are desperately trying to find a way out of that position.

"So, we mustn't let this scheme turn into a permanent scheme. Now when is the right time to terminate it will depend on economic conditions at the time."

King also warned that the struggling eurozone economy remains the largest threat to the UK, and criticised European leaders for driving their economies into a "downward spiral".

Britain's "modest recovery" could be derailed, he warned, if the single currency region remains trapped in recession or only achieves low growth.

"It is very difficult to see that they will be growing quickly for a long while, and that downward drag on exports from the UK to Europe, they account for almost half of our exports, and the fact that our banks still have some exposure to the euro here is undoubtedly the single biggest factor dragging down on our economy."

The eurozone economy has now been shrinking for the past 18 months, with sharp recessions in countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece where tough spending cuts and tax rises have been imposed. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds



Two cargo ships collide off Greece 10 missing

ATHENS, April 29 (Xinhua) -- Two cargo ships collided early Monday off southwestern Greece, with 10 crew members missing, the Greek coastguard said. One ship under a Cook Islands flag was seriously damaged and sank, according to the Greece ...


Tapping our inner-Greek till last light

Tens of thousands of people were still enjoying the weather, fine food and dance at the 2013 Paniyiri Festival late Sunday night.        


Brisbane's inner-Greek shines till last light

Brisbane's inner-Greek shines till last light - Brisbane Times
Brisbane Times
It included those who are part and parcel of Brisbane's Greek community: the stallholders, the traders, the Greek Orthodox Community of St George and the Greek men and women who are now Australians. However, the sea of people include the newcomers, ...
Greeks join 'everyone else' at PaniyiriBayside Bulletin

all 2 news articles »


Greek Festival a local link to the Old World

The Virginian-Pilot

Greek Festival a local link to the Old World
Frederick News Post (subscription)
Staff photo by Sam Yu The inviting smells of Greek food was in the air Saturday evening under the food tent at the Greek Festival sponsored by Sts. Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church at 920 W. 7th St. in Frederick. The festival continues today from ...
Thousands attend 41st annual Greek
Thousands celebrate Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox CathedralThe Sentinel
Festival's food offers a taste of GreeceMansfield News Journal
The Virginian-Pilot
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Three reasons why the US got itself out of an economic mess

America's economic structure, its leaders' ability to make rapid political decisions and cultural memories of the Great Depression have been the engine of its recovery

Any way you cut it, the US recovery from recession has been weak. Measured by jobs growth, factory output, growth rates, house prices or the federal budget deficit, it has been the feeblest pick-up since the second world war. When he was running for re-election in 1984, Ronald Reagan ran ads boasting of "morning in America", hailing the boom that followed the slump of the early 1980s. Barack Obama can make no such claims.

But everything is relative. From a European perspective, the world's biggest economy looks in reasonable shape. It may not be firing on all cylinders but the economy is expanding and jobs are being created. That cannot be said of the eurozone, where unemployment has risen to a record one in eight of the workforce and the economy has contracted for the past 18 months.

There are three main reasons why the US has outpaced Europe in the early stages of what has proved to be a prolonged period of rehab: economic structure, policy decisions and culture. Starting with structure, America is a true single market and Europe is not. Rich states such as New York subsidise poor states in the south without the bitterness that surrounds fiscal transfers from, say, Germany to Greece. Moreover, labour-market mobility means that workers who lose their jobs in one part of the US head off to a state where prospects are brighter. In 2007 almost 900,000 Americans moved from the north-east to the sun-belt states of the south and west.

American voters are often frustrated by gridlock in Washington, but in times of crisis the US can move swiftly because it takes only a handful of policymakers – the president, the chairman of the Federal Reserve and the treasury secretary – to make a big decision. Those who think the US political system is dysfunctional should look across the Atlantic to Europe, where decisions require the approval of 17 governments in the eurozone.

This helps explain why the US has proved more nimble and imaginative than the eurozone in tackling the crisis. In the autumn of 2008, when the entire global financial system was on the brink of collapse, it was the supposedly non-interventionist, free-market US that swiftly deployed the full power of Washington to slash interest rates, pump money into the economy and – crucially – allow troubled banks to dispose of their toxic assets. Where Europe's banking system remains in poor shape, America's has been largely cleaned up and is starting to lend again.

The Obama administration has also been more relaxed about deficit reduction than governments in the eurozone. Put simply, the president's approach has been that economic growth should take priority over repairing the damage to the budget caused by the slump. Fiscal policy is being tightened in the US, but at a more leisurely pace than in the eurozone.

In large part, the differing way of thinking about austerity reflects cultural differences – the third big factor that divides the US and Europe. Washington's policy response has been shaped by memories of the soup kitchens and the dole queues of the Great Depression. Given America's relatively ungenerous welfare system, the Fed sees its primary task not as tackling inflation but bringing unemployment below 6.5%. The European Central Bank, cloned from the German Bundesbank, sees things differently. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds



The Tories want out of Europe. Let's try to get out of this depression instead

Even Francophile Conservatives now want Britain to go it alone. But it's not the euro that's holding us back: it's the government

According to Greek mythology, Cerberus was the many-headed hound that stood at the gates of Hades, the underworld. Feeding the hound of hell was a thankless task. He always wanted more. Hence the expression "a sop to Cerberus", meaning a futile gift of a morsel that only leaves the hound baying for more.

I am not suggesting for one moment that Ukip or the Tory party are dogs. But the expression "a sop to Cerberus" – much favoured by my classics master in days gone by – does keep coming to mind, with our beleaguered prime minister in the increasingly frustrating position of delivering the sops.

Mythical history does not relate whether there are also pigeons at the gates of Hades. But if there are, my old friend Lord Lawson has certainly thrown a cat among them with his Ukip-style call for us to leave the European Union altogether – he who himself lives a fair proportion of the year in la belle France.

Lawson likes the way of life in France. So do many of us, who seize every opportunity to relish it – unlike, it seems from recent opinion polls, the French themselves, who are not as content as we thought.

It was admiration for the standards of the French and other European health systems that prompted New Labour to devote a fair proportion of the budget to modernising our own NHS. Further back, envy of what was perceived as superior economic performance was one of the main reasons why our nation applied to join what was then the Common Market.

Whether they vote Conservative, Labour or otherwise, the British people are fundamentally conservative. In the 1975 referendum they always seemed likely to vote to stay in, rather than take a leap outside. And, whatever the opinion polls show now, I suspect that if this new proposed referendum ever takes place, there will once again be a vote for staying in. But what a lot of time would be wasted meanwhile!

As older readers will know, I have always regarded the EU, for all its irritations, as what the authors of 1066 and All That would have described as a Good Thing. But the eurozone was a step too far, and it is to the credit of John Major that we "opted out" and to the credit of Gordon Brown that Tony Blair's pressure to join was resisted.

The ultimate irony was the spectacle last week of David Cameron, in his capacity as this year's chairman of the G8, representing the EU in early discussions with President Obama about a proposed free trade area with the US, while back home his MPs and even ministers were calling for our complete withdrawal from the EU.

As the president reminded Cameron, it is in the UK's best interests to remain in the EU. He could have added that membership of the EU and exemption from the eurozone gives us the best combination.

Freedom from the constraints of the single currency has enabled us to secure a devaluation that, according to the latest estimates from the Office for Budget Responsibility, produced a gain in net trade (exports minus imports) equivalent to 2% of GDP between the fourth quarter of 2007 and the fourth quarter of 2010. Recent figures have not been so good, but have been distorted by the vagaries of production of North Sea oil. The governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King, pointed out last week that since 2007 and the devaluation, the trade deficit (excluding North Sea oil) has averaged 1.5% of GDP compared with 3% before.

Such exchange rate adjustments have not been available to the suffering southern states of the eurozone vis-a-vis super-competitive Germany. Nor, for that matter, have they been available to France. Moreover, the weaker eurozone economies have been further debilitated by austerity programmes that derive partly from the Teutonic belief that suffering does lesser economies good and partly from the way the bond markets panicked until Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, promised to do "whatever it takes" to keep the show on the road.

The bond markets have now woken up to the deficiencies of the austerity model. The fundamental flaws of the way the policy operates in the eurozone are well explained in the latest weekly comment from Russell Jones and John Llewellyn of Llewellyn Consulting. Coming from analysts who, unusually for this country, have been broadly friendly towards the eurozone project, their questioning of the long-term sustainability of the eurozone, on account of the asymmetrical way the rules operate, ought to be taken seriously in Berlin and Frankfurt.

What makes the British economic situation so frustrating is that we are not subject to the deflationary bias of the eurozone: George Osborne and his pals have simply imposed one of their own, inventing imaginary threats from the bond markets.

The cuts in social security have been especially severe for the poorest in our society. Yet, as the Child Poverty Action Group points out, the poorest spend a larger proportion of their income than other groups, and the cuts have multiplier effects that hardly encourage that elusive recovery. The cuts are not only damaging in themselves: they are what Tim Nicholls of CPAG calls a "fiscal hindrance" to economic recovery.

What a convenient diversion from the damage caused by the chancellor's economic strategy all this nonsense about leaving the EU is. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds



Greece?s Muslims Cite ?Slaughter? Threat

The Muslim Association of Greece (MAG) said that it has received a threatening note giving all Muslims, Greeks and foreigners, one month's time to evacuate the country or be ';slaughtered like chickens,'; according to a statement released by the association on May 18. The note, published on the association’s webpage, is written in Greek, English and Arabic and the Golden ...


Police Say Bank Robber Prison Escapee

Greek police said that they think a second man involved in an armed robbery that netted 1 million euros in Larissa, central Greece, on May 16 is also a fugitive from a Trikala prison break. Authorities said they matched fingerprints found at the scene with those of Klement Kala, one of 11 men who broke out of jail in Trikala, central Greece, in April. Now police believe the other man with him ...