Friday, December 11, 2009

Time to Face the Deficit

Time to Face the Deficit

December 10, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The financial collapse, the Wall Street bailout and the two wars we have been fighting for the past seven years have brought the federal deficit to a record high. In order to keep the country from defaulting and to accommodate a new jobs bill to stem off a growing unemployment problem, Congress is now upping the amount they plan to increase the public debt ceiling by.

Politico reports:

In a bold but risky year-end strategy, Democrats are preparing to raise the federal debt ceiling by as much as $1.8 trillion before New Year’s rather than have to face the issue again prior to the 2010 elections.

“We’ve incurred this debt. We have to pay our bills,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told POLITICO Wednesday. And the Maryland Democrat confirmed that the anticipated increase could be as high as $1.8 trillion — nearly twice what had been assumed in last spring’s budget resolution for the 2010 fiscal year.

The leadership is betting that it’s better for the party to take its lumps now rather than risk further votes over the coming year. But the enormity of the number could create its own dynamic, much as another debt ceiling fight in 1985 gave rise to the Gramm-Rudman deficit reduction act mandating across-the-board spending cuts nearly 25 years ago. […]

Though Treasury can buy itself time by moving assets around, it is already coming close to the current debt ceiling of $12.1 trillion. Last spring, the Democratic-backed budget proposed to raise this to about $13 trillion, but given the current pace of borrowing, no one now expects that will be sufficient to get through 2010.

In fact, fiscal year 2009 ended Sept. 30 with a $1.4 trillion deficit, which demanded higher-than-expected Treasury borrowing. Most of that was due to the downturn in the economy and spending commitments in place before Barack Obama took office. And as much as Republicans point to the president’s economic recovery bill last February as the culprit, only a small share of that $787 billion package was spent by Sept. 30.

The House approved a bill in April to raise the debt ceiling by about $1 trillion, but it never went through the Senate. You can view that bill here. One thing you’ll notice is that it has no sponsor. It’s the only bill in Congress without the name of at least one member of Congress attached to it. Why? Basically, because the House has a special rule (RULE XXVIII) that allows the Clerk to draft these bills because no member of Congress wants their name on a bill to raise the debt ceiling. The Rule also allows the bill to be automatically considered as passed by the House, allowing the House to raise the debt ceiling without putting their names down on record with an actual vote.

The new bill to raise the debt ceiling by $1.8 trillion probably will have to have a sponsor, though. Rule XXVIII only lets the Clerk draft public debt bills after Congress passes a budget resolution that sets forth a level of debt that is higher than what would be in effect under existing law. In this case, they are going to be raising the limit preemptively.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dark Shadows Movie

Dark Shadows Movie

Dark Shadows MovieDirector Tim Burton and Actor Johnny Depp are teaming up for the movie adaptation of Dark Shadows, the classic 1960s gothic TV soap opera. Besides the vampire Barnabas Collins, the original Dark Shadows show featured werewolves, ghosts, zombies, man-made monsters, witches, warlocks, time travel (both into the past and into the future), and a parallel universe.

Tim Burton’s Dark Shadow is said to include vampires, but no clue yet if the film will reunite all the monsters.

Filming of the Dark Shadows movie is set to start in Fall 2010. So the film will probably be released in 2011.


Definitions of roe on the Web:

  • fish eggs or egg-filled ovary; having a grainy texture
  • eggs of female fish
  • the egg mass or spawn of certain crustaceans such as the lobster
  • the eggs or egg-laden ovary of a fish
  • In military or police operations, the rules of engagement (ROE) determine when, where, and how force shall be used (for example, a submarine of ...
  • Roe or hard roe is the fully ripe internal ovaries or egg masses of fish and certain marine animals, such as shrimp, scallop and sea urchins. ...
  • Return on equity — A measure of how well a company used reinvested earnings to generate additional earnings; Rules of engagement — Rules on when to fire or return fire
  • A surname, from a Middle English nickname meaning a roe
  • Indicator of profitability. Determined by dividing net income for the past 12 months by common stockholders equity (adjusted for stock splits). ...
  • A measure of a corporation's profitability; The ROE is useful in comparing the profitability of a company to other firms in the same industry and is calculated as: Illustration for Return On Equity - ROE
  • The rate of return on the average shareholder's investment, also known as average common equity. The ROE is calculated by dividing the net ...
  • A measure of the return realized by the owners of an enterprise. Calculated by dividing an enterprise’s annualized net income by its average ...
  • Most fish species grow their eggs in a sac in the abdomen, and the roe of some species is considered a delicacy in various countries. ...
  • Profit—or net income— divided by shareholder equity. This index is a measure of profitability.
  • An amount, stated as a percentage, that informs common shareholders how effectively the funds invested are being utilized during a specific period ...

Demand Congress Shun Big Labor!

Demand Congress Shun Big Labor!

Help Steve Forbes SEND A MESSAGE to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi that the American people oppose Big Labor's Card Check Forced Unionism Bill, which would:

  • Force millions of additional working Americans to pay union dues under the threat of losing their jobs;
  • Dramatically increase the hate-the-boss propaganda and bitter strikes that shut down businesses and destroy jobs;
  • Enable Big Labor to pump even more campaign cash into the coffers of its radical, tax-and-spend politicians like Barack Obama.

SIGN your petition NOW!

Stop Forced-Unionism by Card Check

Call Your U.S. Senators

Tell them NO on S.560


Martha Coakley: Too Immoral for Teddy Kennedy's Seat

Martha Coakley: Too Immoral for Teddy Kennedy's Seat

In Tuesday's primary election, Massachusetts Democrats chose as their Senate nominee a woman who kept a clearly innocent man in prison in order to advance her political career.

Martha Coakley isn't even fit for the late Teddy Kennedy's old seat. (What is it about this particular Senate seat?)

During the daycare/child molestation hysteria of the '80s, Gerald Amirault, his mother, Violet, and sister, Cheryl, were accused of raping children at the family's preschool in Malden, Mass., in what came to be known as the second-most notorious witch trial in Massachusetts history.

The allegations against the Amiraults were preposterous on their face. Children made claims of robots abusing them, a "bad clown" who took the children to a "magic room" for sex play, rape with a 2-foot butcher knife, other acts of sodomy with a "magic wand," naked children tied to trees within view of a highway, and -- standard fare in the child abuse hysteria era -- animal sacrifices.

There was not one shred of physical evidence to support the allegations -- no mutilated animals, no magic rooms, no butcher knives, no photographs, no physical signs of any abuse on the children.

Not one parent noticed so much as unusual behavior in their children -- until after the molestation hysteria began.

There were no witnesses to the alleged acts of abuse, despite the continuous and unannounced presence of staff members, teachers, parents and other visitors at the school.

Not one student ever spontaneously claimed to have been abused. Indeed, the allegations of abuse didn't arise until the child therapists arrived.

Nor was there anything in the backgrounds of the Amiraults that fit the profile of sadistic, child-abusing monsters. Violet Amirault had started the Fells Acre Day School 18 years before the child molestation hysteria erupted.

Thousands of happy and well-adjusted students had passed through Fells Acres. Many returned to visit the school; some even attended Cheryl's wedding a few years before the inquisition began.

It's one thing to put a person in prison for a crime he didn't commit. It's another to put an entire family in prison for a crime that didn't take place.

In the most outrageous miscarriage of justice since the Salem witch trials, in July 1986, Gerald Amirault was convicted of raping and assaulting six girls and three boys and sentenced to 30 to 40 years in prison. The following year, Violet and Cheryl Amirault were convicted of raping and assaulting three girls and a boy and were sentenced to 8 to 20 years.

The motto of the witch-hunters was "Believe the Children!" But the therapists resolutely refused to believe the children as long as they denied being abused. As the police advised the parents: In cases of child abuse, "no" can mean "yes."

To the children's credit, they held firm to their denials for heroic amounts of time in the face of relentless questioning.

But as copious research in the wake of the child abuse cases has demonstrated, small children are highly suggestible. It's surprisingly easy to implant false memories into young minds by simply asking the same questions over and over again.

Indeed, the interviewing techniques in the Amirault case were so successful that the children also made accusations against three other teachers, two imaginary people named "Mr. Gatt" and "Al" and even against the child therapist herself -- the one claim of abuse that was provably true.

But only the Amiraults were put on trial for any alleged acts of abuse.

Coakley wasn't the prosecutor on the original trial. What she did was worse.

At least the original prosecutors, craven and ambition-driven though they were, could claim to have been caught up in the child abuse panic of the '80s. There had not yet been extensive psychological studies on the suggestibility of small children. A dozen similar cases from around the country had not already been discredited and the innocent freed.

Of all the men and women falsely convicted during the child molestation hysteria of the '80s, by 2001, only Gerald Amirault still sat in prison. Even his sister and mother had been released after serving eight years in prison for crimes that never occurred.

In July 2001, the notoriously tough Massachusetts parole board voted unanimously to grant Gerald Amirault clemency. Although the parole board is not permitted to consider guilt or innocence, its recommendation said: "(I)t is clearly a matter of public knowledge that, at the minimum, real and substantial doubt exists concerning petitioner's conviction."

Immediately after the board's recommendation, The Boston Globe reported that Gov. Jane Swift was leaning toward accepting the board's recommendation and freeing Amirault.

Enter Martha Coakley, Middlesex district attorney. Gerald Amirault had already spent 15 years in prison for crimes he no more committed than anyone reading this column did. But Coakley put on a full court press to keep Amirault in prison simply to further her political ambitions.

By then, every sentient person knew that Amirault was innocent. But instead of saying nothing, Coakley frantically lobbied Gov. Jane Swift to keep him in prison to show that she was a take-no-prisoners prosecutor, who stood up for "the children." As a result of Coakley's efforts -- and her contagious ambition -- Gov. Swift denied Amirault's clemency.

Thanks to Martha Coakley, Gerald Amirault sat in prison for another three years.

Remember all that talk about President Bush shredding constitutional rights? Overzealous liberal prosecutors and feminist do-gooders allowed Gerald Amirault to sit in prison for 18 years for crimes that didn't exist -- except in the imaginations of small children under the influence of incompetent child "therapists."

Martha Coakley allowed her ambition to trump basic human decency as she campaigned to keep a patently innocent man in prison.

Anyone with the smallest sense of justice cannot vote to put this woman in any office. If you absolutely cannot vote for a Republican on Jan. 19, 2010, write in the name "Gerald Amirault."

Demand Congress Shun Big Labor!

Help Steve Forbes SEND A MESSAGE to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi that the American people oppose Big Labor's Card Check Forced Unionism Bill, which would:

  • Force millions of additional working Americans to pay union dues under the threat of losing their jobs;
  • Dramatically increase the hate-the-boss propaganda and bitter strikes that shut down businesses and destroy jobs;
  • Enable Big Labor to pump even more campaign cash into the coffers of its radical, tax-and-spend politicians like Barack Obama.

SIGN your petition NOW!

Broadband tax included in pre-Budget report

Broadband tax included in pre-Budget report

Alistair Darling announces broadband tax

The government's controversial broadband tax has been given the green light by chancellor Alistair Darling in his pre-Budget report.

The £6-a-year levy will be imposed on all households with a fixed line phone.

The money made will be put into a fund to ensure rural areas of the UK do not miss out on super-fast broadband services.

Mr Darling said the government would provide super-fast broadband to 90% of the UK by the end of 2017.

Announcing the tax, Mr Darling said: "We are modernising the UK's digital infrastructure and, in the process, creating thousands more skilled jobs.

"We have provided funding to help extend the opportunities of the broadband network to more remote communities.

"We now want to go further, so we can provide the next generation of super-fast broadband to 90% of the population by the end of 2017."

Market-led approach


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The broadband tax has attracted criticism from within the industry with some experts saying the fund will fall short of what is needed to provide fast broadband services to all areas of the UK.

The money is earmarked for the 30% of homes that experts think will be by-passed by commercial fast broadband plans.

It is estimated that the broadband tax would raise about £170m a year, which is some way short of BT's estimate of £5bn needed to provide super-fast fibre services to every UK home.

The Conservatives have vowed to scrap the tax if they win the next general election.

Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has been given the Conservative remit for broadband.

He has said the Conservatives will favour a market-led approach with public funds only considered once the market has taken broadband as far as it can.

Currently BT is committed to rolling out next-generation broadband to about 40% of the UK with Virgin Media offering speeds of up to 50Mbps (megabits per second) to about half of UK homes.

Addicted to Spending

Addicted to Spending

Today's Wall Street Journal skewers President Obama's spending addiction:

If at first fiscal stimulus doesn't succeed, spend, spend again. That's the motto President Obama embraced yesterday, even if he didn't use the word "stimulus,"... This time, the spending is being called "Proposals to Accelerate Job Growth and Lay the Foundation for Robust Economic Growth."

But wasn't that also supposed to be the point of last February's $787 billion stimulus, or for that matter of the Nancy Pelosi-George W. Bush $165 billion stimulus?

Politicians just love to give their spending sprees a feel-good name. The last stimulus was going to magically create "shovel-ready" jobs. But -- surprise, surprise -- it never really came through:

... [T]he bulk of that money was shovel-readied to such transfer payments as Medicaid, welfare, community block grants, and cash for the clunkers who run failing public schools. This time, we're told, roads and bridges really will get the money—and you can bet they'll all be built with higher Davis-Bacon wage rates that will balloon their cost.

And how will we pay the bill for this next spending spree? Future tax increases and borrowing more money, of course. Both only make it harder for jobs to be created. Obama also hopes to use repaid TARP funds to pay for job "creation". In fact:

... TARP is now morphing into a revolving line of Democratic political credit. Barney Frank wants to divert at least $4 billion to bail out more home owners ... .

The TARP money was promised to be returned to the taxpayers after the banks repaid. But politicians never give anything back.

I like the this suggestion from the Journal:

... If Congress won't reduce taxes, the best stimulus now would be for Congress to stop scaring private job creators by promising to help them. Just do nothing at all.

Pre-Budget report: A Government addicted to spending

Pre-Budget report: A Government addicted to spending

Far from using tax rises to cut crippling debt, Darling is acting as if there were no crisis, says Norman Lamont.

Alistair Darling delivers a very political pre-Budget report
Alistair Darling delivers a very political pre-Budget report

Watching Alistair Darling yesterday was like stepping into a time machine. It was as if we were observing one of Gordon Brown's long-forgotten Budgets, from the time before the bubble burst and revealed the full extent of his catastrophic mismanagement of the public finances. Here we were in 2009, with Britain in its worst peacetime fiscal hole, listening to the Chancellor announce a list of new spending commitments as if he were reading out the Kirkcaldy telephone directory.

Even before Mr Darling got to his dissembling about the depth of the recession, I counted eight new spending commitments, excluding the cut in bingo duty. Then George Osborne caught him out red-handed, pointing out that the Chancellor was comparing the peak-to-trough fall in GDP for other economies with Britain's fall in output in just this single year.

Indeed, the whole package was based on a deceit, designed to politicise the hard choices that will inevitably follow the election. "To cut support now could wreck the recovery," the Chancellor asserted. "That's a risk I am not prepared to take." Really? In his very next breath, he was confirming that VAT would be going up in January.

The real explanation is that Labour's election campaign will be based on a strategy of concealing what it would be forced to do, if re-elected, in terms of raising taxes and cutting spending. For although the Chancellor was right to point to signs of a stabilisation following the near-collapse of the banking system last year, that does not make a Goldilocks resumption of growth the most likely outcome.

We had the mother of all asset bubbles, pumped up with debt, but the necessary de-leveraging has scarcely begun. Many banks' capital positions remain weak. The debt hasn't gone away: indeed, the recent default in Dubai shows that there's more bad debt lurking in the banking systems, especially in those of Britain and the US, which were the most over-extended and are now most exposed to weak domestic economies.

The weight of this debt means that a decade of stagnation is more likely than the Chancellor's rosy scenario of year after year of growth at 3.25 per cent magicking away government borrowing. True, quantitative easing has helped spark a strong rally in the debt and equity markets, but it cannot carry on indefinitely, with the Bank of England owning more and more of the state's debt. A sustainable recovery is, by definition, no longer dependent on stimulus. All we have done is administer the anaesthetic without embarking on the adjustment.

If government spending made countries wealthy, Sweden would not have been forced to cut public spending as a proportion of GDP by 20 per cent since its economic crisis in the early 1990s. The Chancellor talked about making tough, necessary choices. So what were his? "Phasing in the roll-out of pension personal accounts." "Outsourcing inefficient prisons." "Cutting back on the scope of major IT projects" – and, of course, increasing pensions by way more than the rate of inflation. If he wanted to persuade Britain's creditors that he wasn't serious about what needed to be done, he was going the right way about it.

Even worse, however, was his decision to increase National Insurance by an additional half a per cent, to raise an extra £3.2 billion a year. So what's he going to do with the money? Given the dire state of the public finances and the real risk of a debt trap, with rising interest costs accounting for an ever-increasing proportion of government spending, you'd have thought there could only be one sensible thing to do.

But the Chancellor is not going to use the money to reduce government borrowing: instead, he's going to spend it. He did exactly the same in the Budget, when he announced the 50p top rate of income tax. It's like a drug addict in rehab who keeps saying he needs another shot, because he can't kick the habit.

The headlines, of course, are likely to be captured by the windfall tax on bank bonus pools. There is a serious case to be made that utility banks should not use their implicit backing from the taxpayer to engage in proprietary trading. If the Government believes such activities should not be conducted by government-owned banks, it should act. It decided not to. Instead, we saw the arbitrary use of tax policy to attack bank bonuses – a sign of weakness which will do lasting damage to Britain's reputation as a world financial centre, and make it less likely that the markets will give the Government the benefit of the doubt in the future.

Towards the end of his speech, Mr Darling attacked the previous Conservative government for the underfunding of public services. And here is the ultimate irony of the Brown/Darling years. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, if only half of Labour's planned fiscal tightening from 2014 onwards comes from squeezing spending, then spending by government departments will be reduced to below the level Labour inherited from the Conservatives. All Labour will have achieved is to take us back to where it began – except with higher taxes, and double the level of government debt. It is an experience the country will never wish to repeat.

Greece's debt reaches 300bn euros

Greece's debt reaches 300bn euros

An old man sells tissues outside a store in central Athens
Other EU members are concerned about Greece's debt

Greece's debt has reached the highest level in its modern history, the country's deputy finance minister Philippos Sachinidis has said.

Mr Sachinidis said the country's debt stood at 300bn euros ($442bn; £272bn).

Separately, Sweden's prime minister, who currently holds the European Union presidency, said Greece's problems should be solved domestically.

Earlier this week, the international ratings agency Fitch downgraded Greece's debt rating.

Mr Sachinidis was speaking after an all-party crisis meeting called by Prime Minister George Papandreou.

EU support?

Meanwhile, there were mixed messages coming from European leaders ahead of an EU summit in Brussels later.

"What we now are seeing in Greece is of course problematic, but it is basically a domestic problem that has to be addressed by domestic decisions," Swedish premier Fredrik Reinfeldt said as he arrived at the summit.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU shared a "common responsibility" for Greece.

"What happens in a member country influences all the others, particularly when you have a common currency," she said after a meeting in Bonn.

Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said the most important thing was that there were no "surprises" lurking behind Greece's statements.

Zimbabwe exodus to South Africa continues

Zimbabwe exodus to South Africa continues

Asylum seekers at a centre in Musina, Limpopo
Desperate Zimbabweans come into South Africa illegally daily to escape poverty

By Pumza Fihlani
BBC News, Musina

More than a year after the signing of a power-sharing deal aimed at rescuing Zimbabwe's shattered economy, young people are still leaving the country in droves, seeking a better life in South Africa.

"Not much has changed in Zimbabwe over the past year," says 21-year-old Blessed Rugaru, a day after arriving in South Africa from the eastern Zimbabwean city of Mutare.

Brian Ngovu wants asylum in South Africa
If I can get papers for asylum I can get a good job
Zimbabwean Brian Ngovu, 17

She has left behind her parents, who have both lost their jobs.

Zimbabwe's economy has stopped its freefall - mainly because the government has adopted foreign currencies instead of the worthless Zimbabwe dollar.

But this means that those without access to hard currency are in a desperate situation.

The Red Cross has launched an appeal to aid some 220,000 people - mainly in rural areas - it says have no access to money from abroad.

And so those who can send South African rand back to to their families are increasingly valuable.

"There is nowhere to work in Zimbabwe - even if you are educated there are just no jobs," says Brian Ngovu, 17.

They are some of hundreds of Zimbabweans waiting in long queues to be served at a refugee reception centre in Musina in Limpopo Province.

It opened its doors in July 2008 to deal with the thousands of Zimbabwean asylum-seekers then camping out in an open field in the border town.

There are three refugee centres in South Africa and the Limpopo centre, close to the Beit Bridge border post, receives the largest number of people - about 350-400 new asylum applications daily.

"The trends have not changed, we are still seeing the same large groups of people coming here as before the elections last year," says a senior official at the centre.

He refuses to give his name in case he gets "into trouble for speaking to the media".

Queuing for change

The halls and corridors of the centre are packed; the air is warm and stuffy and there is very little conversation as people wait their turn.

Migrants, most of them from Zimbabwe, at an entrance of a refugee centre in Johannesburg in 2008
Many applications for refugee status are turned down

Mr Ngovu is in the queue that snakes outside; beads of sweat have formed on his face.

He has had nothing to eat that day but he says he will not go home without being served - which looks unlikely to happen before the office closes.

He has been in South Africa for a year - trying to get a job but failing as he does not have legal documents.

He is living in Thohoyandou, about 100km (62 miles) from Musina, with friends who sometimes get jobs at gardeners or painters, but they never get anything long-term because they do not have papers.

"I am looking for a job here so I can help my family back home. If I can get papers for asylum I can get a good job," he says.

But unemployment is high in South Africa and he left school a year before graduating. With no official qualification, finding a job - even with legal documentation - will be difficult.

In a country of close to 50 million people, more than 23% of South Africa's citizens are without jobs.

But between three and four million Zimbabweans are believed to have already crossed into South Africa.

Xenophobic fears

Tension in some townships and informal settlements with a large number of foreigners is on the rise again, following last year's spate of xenophobic attacks.

Blessed Rugaru is a Zimbabwean asylum seeker
I want to be able to build computers from scratch and then I can fix the broken computers in my country
Zimbabwean Blessed Rugaru, 21

Some 3,000 foreign nationals, mostly Zimbabweans, were recently driven from their homes in a township outside Cape Town - their shacks were set alight and their belongings destroyed.

Ms Rugaru says fears of more attacks against Zimbabweans are never far from her mind.

"I am worried that the attacks might happen again," she says.

"Things are not good right now in Zimbabwe but I will go back, home is best."

But she is prepared to stay in South Africa as long as it takes to get her refugee papers.

"When I get asylum papers I will use them to apply for study bursaries here," she says.

"I want to be able to build computers from scratch and then I can fix the broken computers in my country."

No guarantees

Both Ms Rugara and Mr Ngovu believe the answer to their troubles is being awarded refugee status.

However, the authorities at the centre say only cases that have "merit" are considered.

"South Africa is obliged by AU [African Union] laws to give permits to refugees, but most of these people do not qualify for refugee status," the senior official explains.

"We cannot give refugee status to people who only leave their country because there are no jobs; these people are economic migrants not refugees," he says.

Although many Zimbabwean asylum requests are rejected, until its economy starts to recover, people will continue to risk their lives crossing the crocodile-infested Limpopo river to earn the hard currency their families need to buy food back home.

Greeks fear times will get tougher

Greeks fear times will get tougher

Greek stage workers light fires outside parliament in Brussels
Greek stage workers are striking amid fears for their jobs

Fears that Greece will be unable to pay off its debts, after a cut in its credit rating, are reflected by a deep pessimism on the streets, says Philip Pangalos in Athens.

Most ordinary Greeks are increasingly fed up with government pledges to deal with the country's mounting fiscal woes, the reality that tougher times lie ahead and that they will probably have to foot the bill.

But it is time to pay the piper after years of wasted opportunities and an inability to by successive Greek governments to deal with a string of looming economic problems.

The gloomy mood is palpable on the streets of Athens.

"The economic situation here is dismal and I don't see any improvement any time soon," says Stefanos Dallas, a 42-year-old consultant.

"I'm living from month to month and have resorted to borrowing money from friends and family to make ends meet. This is not a way to live."

'One more last chance'

Greece's budget deficit is forecast to reach 12.7% of GDP this year - more than four times the maximum 3% allowed for eurozone members - while public debt levels are ballooning and are forecast to top 120% of GDP next year.

At the same time, tax evasion is rampant and is said to cost Greece some 30bn euros (£27bn) each year, which is more than the annual deficit, while analysts say the state pension system is facing collapse in the next decade unless urgent reforms are undertaken.

European debt and deficit figures

Alexandra Vovolini, the head of the Economia business media and publishing group, said: "Greeks do not like to be cornered on anything… This [essential economic reform] is one more 'last chance' for Greeks to realise their true potential as a modern European country and not as a Third World state."

Not so long ago, Greece was enjoying 4% growth - well above the eurozone average - and basking in the afterglow of a successful-but-costly Athens Olympic Games in 2004.

But Mario, a 30-year-old kiosk owner in the centre of Athens who did not want to give his surname, said times were now tougher for ordinary Greeks and everybody was feeling the effects.

"I see less business month-by-month, my turnover is down by about 3%. I work at least 12 hours every day and I still find it hard to make ends meet," he said.

The Athens stock market plummeted this week following downgrades from international credit rating agencies. It means it is likely to have to pay a much higher interest rate when it issues bonds next year to help finance the country's borrowing needs and service its existing debt mountain.


Apostolos Mokos, a cafe owner in the centre of Athens, believes Greeks like him will have to pay the price for a problem that he says is ultimately down to American banks.

Vandalised statue in Athens - graffiti reads 'Kill the rich'
Anti-capitalist sentiment is mixing with general discontent

"I'm 28 years old and I don't think I'll ever be able to retire or get a pension as the whole pension system will have probably been abolished by the time I reach retirement age," he says.

"As far as business is concerned, from my experience, times are tougher than in recent years and I don't spend as freely as I used to. At the same time, we face higher taxes on everything."

Most ordinary Greeks concede that something has to be done for the Greek economy to get back on track.

But many are not happy about the fact that they may be squeezed even further.

And some, like our first interviewee Stefanos Dallas, are just deeply cynical about the whole situation.

"The government needs to take measures now, not tomorrow, it's already too late," he says.

Previous attempts to cut deficits have just meant tax rises, without any of the required austerity measures, he says.

"The government says things will change. But I'll believe it when I see it."

T.rex 'little cousin' discovered

T.rex 'little cousin' discovered

Tawa hallae (J Gonzalez)
Tawa hallae was a small, meat-eating dinosaur

Researchers have unveiled a new species of dinosaur from the late Triassic period - a small, early relative of T.rex and Velociraptor.

The 2m-long dinosaur, named Tawa hallae, was found in a "bone bed" on the Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, US.

The discovery of this early theropod, reported in the journal Science, sheds light on early dinosaur evolution.

The team says the find also highlights how dinosaurs dispersed across what was then the "supercontinent" Pangaea.

Sterling Nesbitt, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin in the US, led a team from a number of US research institutes that studied the fossilised dinosaur bones.

The researchers named the 215 million-year-old dinosaur Tawa after the Native American Hopi word for the sun god.

Hollow bones

When we saw [the specimens], our jaws dropped
Sterling Nesbitt
University of Texas at Austin

Dr Nesbitt told BBC News that the bone bed was first excavated in 2004, but his team made a larger excavation in 2006, discovering articulated dinosaur skeletons that were between 90% and 95% complete.

These remarkable specimens enabled the researchers to confirm, without doubt, that Tawa was a new type of dinosaur.

"When we saw the [specimens], our jaws dropped," said Dr Nesbitt. "A lot of these theropods have really hollow bones, so when they get preserved, they get really crunched. But these were in almost perfect condition."

"Tawa has an interesting combination of different characteristics," he said. "There's no single huge difference, but in combination, the characteristics show that Tawa is brand new."

The bipedal dinosaur had relatively short forelimbs with sharp claws, and downward curving teeth.

"The teeth have little serrations - like a steak knife - so we're fairly confident that it was a carnivore," said Dr Nesbitt.

Travelling dinosaurs

New Mexico dig (A Turner)
The bone bed yielded remarkably complete skeletons

"Tawa is a little bit of a relic of the early evolution of dinosaurs," Dr Nesbitt told BBC News. "It's about 215 million years old and our oldest dinosaurs are about 230 million years old."

He explained that it filled a gap in the fossil record, demonstrating that dinosaurs split into their three major groups - theropods, sauropodomorphs and ornithischians - very early in their evolution.

"These three groups then persisted until at least 65 million years ago," said Dr Nesbitt.

The finding provides strong evidence for an existing hypothesis that dinosaurs originated in what is now South America, and very soon diverged into three major lines.

The theropods were bipedal dinosaurs, and were mainly carnivores. The line included the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex andvelociraptor.

Sauropodomorphs included ground-shaking giants like Apatasaurus, and ornithischians included a range of dinosaurs, such as Stegosaurus and Triceratops.

Dr Nesbitt and his team found other theropods in the same bone bed as Tawa. These simultaneous discoveries allowed them to reconstruct a picture of how the early dinosaurs dispersed throughout the world.

Ghost Ranch (S Nesbitt)
The location of the discovery shows how early dinosaurs dispersed

"The closest relatives of the other theropods [we found] were dinosaurs that are found in South America.

"So Tawa shows us that dinosaurs moved between South and North America," he said.

This was at the time of the supercontinent Pangaea, when "you could walk from the North to the South Pole," Dr Nesbitt told the Science podcast.

David Martill, a palaeontologist from the University of Portsmouth in the UK, who was not involved in this study, said this was a "very exciting discovery".

"This... rewrites the evolutionary tree for meat-eating dinosaurs," Dr Martill told BBC News.

"This beast shows how important it is to keep going in to the field looking for fossils.

"Just one lucky discovery can make such a difference to the way we perceive the evolution of dinosaurs, and any other creature for that matter."

India to create new southern state of Telengana

India to create new southern state of Telengana

Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) supporters shout slogans as police stands guard during a strike in Hyderabad, India, Monday, Dec. 7, 2009.
There have been protests in Andhra Pradesh for many days

The Indian government is to allow a new state to be carved out of part of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

Home Minister P Chidambaram said the process of forming Telangana state would begin soon. Campaigners say the region has long been neglected.

Supporters of the state are celebrating after days of violent protests. One of their leaders ended a hunger strike.

But many in India fear acceding to the protesters' wishes could fuel demands for other new states across India.


Dozens of Andhra Pradesh assembly members and at least one Indian MP with a seat in the state have announced they are resigning in protest at the move.

Analysts say the flurry of resignations, mostly from the governing Congress party, could lead to a political crisis in Andhra Pradesh.

Correspondents say Telangana state is likely to include one of India's major software hubs, Hyderabad.

The city, currently the Andhra Pradesh capital, is home to leading world companies in India like Microsoft and Google.

The government announcement came at midnight on Wednesday.

"The process of forming the state of Telangana will be initiated. An appropriate resolution will be moved in the state assembly," Mr Chidambaram said after talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi.

Sanjoy Majumder
Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News, Delhi

Many are concerned that the move may open a Pandora's box.

They fear that this will only fuel similar movements in other states and end up significantly redrawing the map of the country.

Already one member of parliament from Andhra Pradesh has resigned in protest over the decision to create Telangana.

The government appears to have given into the demands of protesters, particularly after the leader of the campaign became dangerously ill following a hunger strike to press home his point.

It's clear this is not the last that has been heard on this volatile issue.

On hearing the news, crowds in Hyderabad and nine other districts of Telangana erupted in celebration, reports the BBC's Omer Farooq in the state capital.

Mr Chidambaram said the government had asked for court cases against leaders, students and others "associated with the present agitation" to be dropped.

He also appealed to protesters to call off their demonstrations.

His announcement was greeted with jubilation among protesters, who let off fire crackers, beat drums, danced and sang songs.

Some of the celebrations took place outside the Hyderabad hospital where one of the campaign leaders, K Chandrasekara Rao of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) party, had been admitted during his fast.

Mr Rao said: "I am happy that this is the victory of 35 million people who live in the Telangana region."

Protest rallies seeking a separate state planned for Thursday were called off.

Thousands of police had been deployed for the rallies, but after Mr Chidambaram's announcement security was relaxed, our correspondent says.

Long campaign

Telangana region is spread over 10 northern districts of Andhra Pradesh.

Population of 35 million
Formed from 10 districts of Andhra Pradesh, including city of Hyderabad
Landlocked, predominantly agricultural area
One of the most under-developed regions in India
Culmination of 50-year campaign
More than 400 people died in 1969 crackdown

The demand for separate state status for the underdeveloped and drought-prone area dates back 50 years.

More than 400 people died in violence over the demand for a Telangana state in 1969.

Campaigners say Telangana's economic development has been neglected in favour of the richer and more powerful Andhra region - and that a new state is the only solution.

The last three new states in India were formed in 2000: Chhattisgarh was created out of eastern Madhya Pradesh; Uttarakhand was created out of the hilly areas of northern Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand was carved from Bihar's southern districts.

India currently has 28 states.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

DOE offers $100 million for far-out energy tech

DOE offers $100 million for far-out energy tech

by Martin LaMonica
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The Department of Energy is making $100 million in government stimulus money available to researchers with ideas for radically different energy technologies.

The DOE on Monday announced the second portion of the ARPA-E program and said that "concept papers" for three research areas--fuels, capturing carbon dioxide from coal plants, and long-range electric vehicle batteries--are due by the middle of next January. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke unveiled the green-tech research program in conjunction with the start of international climate treaty talks in Copenhagen, which got under way Monday.

One area that the DOE's ARPA-E program is offering research money for is making liquid fuels from microorganisms without biomass or oil. Start-up Joule Biotechnologies is a company that is already pursuing that path using sunlight, CO2, and genetically engineered microorganisms.

(Credit: Joule Biotechnologies)

The research areas reflect the priorities of the administration for jump-starting innovation in the energy industry for both environmental and economic reasons. The three projects topics are called:

• Innovative Materials & Processes for Advanced Carbon Capture Technologies (IMPACCT). This program will seek to fund research in materials and catalysts to separate carbon dioxide from other flue gases at coal-fired power plants. With about half of the electricity in the U.S. made from burning coal, developing more energy-efficient and cost-effective technologies for carbon capture and sequestration is getting significant federal backing. On Friday the Department of Energy announced that $3.18 billion of stimulus money will be spent on accelerating the development of three carbon capture projects in the U.S.

• Batteries for Electrical Energy Storage in Transportation (BEEST) is a project aimed at developing battery technology that will extend the range beyond today's existing lightweight electric vehicles. There are a number of electric vehicles coming to market in the next year, such as the Nissan Leaf, but the driving range is limited to about 100 miles because of the limitations in battery energy density.

• The Electrofuels program at ARPA-E is seeking to fund research for methods of making liquid transportation fuels directly from carbon dioxide and sunlight. The program specifies that it is looking for methods that use biological processes using microorganisms, an area of research that could yield a 10 times efficiency improvement over traditional biofuels.

The first grant awards for DARPA-E, totaling $151 million, also went to research projects in liquid fuels and carbon capture but also included energy storage, LED lighting, and solar photovoltaics.

Greenhouse gas ruling sends message to world

The Obama administration's greenhouse gas ruling Monday was meant to send a warning to industry, the U.S. Congress, and the world: with or without a law, Washington will tackle global warming in a serious way.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a final ruling that greenhouse gases endanger human health, allowing it to put limits on emissions even if U.S. lawmakers fail to pass a law to achieve the same objective.

These are the ramifications of the long-expected decision:

• Timing: as the EPA made its announcement, negotiators from nearly 200 countries met in Copenhagen to work toward a political agreement to address climate change.

The timing was no coincidence: the EPA announcement was aimed at an international audience as much as a domestic one.

The U.S. position at the talks is undermined by not having a domestic law in place to curb emissions, but the EPA ruling should reassure other nations that Washington will force businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas pollution one way or another.

Obama's message to world leaders: the United States is a serious partner in Copenhagen and on the climate change issue as a whole.

• Pressure: The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions but the Senate has not. As lawmakers go back and forth on whether such rules would be good or bad for industry and the country, the EPA ruling will now be firmly in the back of their minds.

Obama's message to lawmakers: hurry up and agree on a law, or the administration will take the reins and accomplish this goal without you.

• Risk: Though the White House has given the green light to the EPA finding, officials near Obama would prefer not to talk about it that much. Why? The president still firmly prefers a legislative solution to the problem of regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

By making the threat that regulation will result if a law fails, Obama risks having to actually follow through.

Politically it will be more palatable for the president to tell Americans--especially in coal-producing states that will be hard hit by emissions curbs--that rules governing climate change were approved by their elected representatives rather than imposed by the executive branch.

If the economy does not recover soon, the short-term costs to industry of regulation could create long-term costs for Obama, whose fellow Democrats could lose seats in Congress.

Practically, EPA regulation could also get tied up in a series of legal challenges from businesses and environmental groups. A law would be less messy and potentially more efficient at cutting emissions quickly.

• Certainty: Companies often say certainty is crucial for business planning. Even those that are opposed to climate legislation or EPA regulation- and there are many--would prefer knowing what's coming to not knowing, even if the ramifications are costly.

With the EPA's announcement, pending legislation in Congress, and the U.S. position in Copenhagen all spelled out, industry can now assume that, one way or another, the United States will aim to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions roughly 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

For those that have not already started, making investments to cut industrial emissions and reduce carbon pollution would make

This analysis was written by Jeff Mason.

Story Copyright (c) 2009 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

Additional stories from Reuters

Monday, December 7, 2009

Classification of demons

Classification of demons

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(Redirected from Hierarchy of demons)
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The Temptation of St. Anthony by Martin Schöngauer

There have been many attempts throughout the history of Christianity to classify demons into categories. These systems of classification of demons are a part of Christian demonology. Classification systems are based on the nature of the demon, the sin with which they tempt people, the month in which their power was strongest, the saints that were their adversaries, or other characteristics.



[edit] Classification by domain

It can be noted that according to each author listed below, the domain of each demon is very different (with the exception of Francesco Maria Guazzo, who seem to have copied Michael Psellus with little difference). It can also be seen that each author chooses his demons in a random form.

[edit] The Testament of Solomon

The Testament of Solomon is an Old Testament pseudepigraphical work, purportedly written by King Solomon, in which Solomon mostly describes particular demons whom he enslaved to help build the temple, the questions he put to them about their deeds and how they could be thwarted, and their answers, which provide a kind of self-help manual against demonic activity.The date is very dubious, perhaps 1st century to 3rd century, certainly the oldest work surviving particularly concerned with individual demons.[1][2]

[edit] Psellus' classification of demons

This is a classification of demons prepared by Michael Psellus in the 11th century and that undoubtedly was an inspiration for the one Francesco Maria Guazzo prepared later. They are divided into Empyreal, Aerial, Subterranean, Lucifugi, Aqueous, Terrene[3]

[edit] Spina's classification of demons

Alfonso de Spina, in 1467, prepared a classification of demons based on several criteria:

This classification is somewhat capricious and it is difficult to find a criterion for it. It seems that Spina was inspired by several legends and stories. The drudes belong to German folklore. Familiars, goblins, and other mischievous demons belong to the folklore of most European countries.

The belief in incubi and succubae (and their ability to procreate) seem to have inspired the sixth category, but it could also have been inspired in the Talmudic legend of demons having sexual intercourse with mortal women (see also Mastema).

The visions of tempting demons that some early (and not too early) saints had, perhaps inspired the ninth category (i.e. the visions of Anthony the Great).

The idea of old women attending Sabbaths was common during the European Middle Age and Renaissance, and Spina mentioned it before the Malleus Maleficarum as it is possible to see.

[edit] Binsfeld's classification of demons

Peter Binsfeld prepared a classification of demons in 1589. His demon classification was based on the seven deadly sins, establishing that each one of the mentioned demons tempted people by means of one of those sins.

[edit] Guazzo's classification of demons

Francesco Maria Guazzo prepared this classification of demons based on a previous work by Michael Psellus. It was published in his book Compendium Maleficarum in 1608.

  • Demons of the superior layers of the air, which never establish a relationship with people.
  • Demons of the inferior layers of the air, which are responsible for storms.
  • Demons of Earth, which dwell in fields, caves and forests.
  • Demons of water, which are female demons, and destroy aquatic animals.
  • Demons of the underground part of the Earth, responsible of keeping hidden treasures, causing earthquakes, and causing the crumbling of houses.
  • Demons of the night, which are black and evil. These demons avoid daylight.

[edit] Michaelis' classification of demons

In 1613 Sebastien Michaelis wrote a book, Admirable History, in which included a classification of demons as it was told to him by the demon Berith when he was exorcising a nun, according to the author. This classification is based on the Pseudo-Dionysian hierarchies, according to the sins the devil tempts one to commit, and includes the demons' adversaries (who suffered that temptation without falling).

Note that many demons' names are exclusively French or unknown in other catalogs. St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist are the two St. Johns to whom Michaelis refers. The other saints are cited only by their name without making clear, i.e., which Francis is (of Assisi?).

[edit] First hierarchy

The first hierarchy includes angels that were or are Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones.

  • Beelzebub was a prince of the Seraphim, just below Lucifer. Beelzebub, along with Lucifer and Leviathan, were the first three angels to fall. He tempts men with pride and is opposed by St. Francis.
  • Leviathan was also a prince of the Seraphim who tempts people to give into heresy, and is opposed by Saint Peter.
  • Asmodeus was also a prince of the Seraphim and reportedly continues to be one, burning with desire to tempt men into wantoness. He is opposed by St. John the Baptist.
  • Berith was a prince of the Cherubim. He tempts men to commit homicide, and to be quarrelsome, contentious, and blasphemous. He is opposed by St. Barnabas.
  • Astaroth was a prince of Thrones, who tempts men to be lazy and is opposed by St. Bartholomew.
  • Verrine was also prince of Thrones, just below Astaroth. He tempts men with impatience and is opposed by St. Dominic.
  • Gressil was the third prince of Thrones, who tempts men with impurity and is opposed by St. Bernard.
  • Sonneillon was the fourth prince of Thrones, who tempts men to hate and is opposed by St. Stephen.

[edit] Second hierarchy

The second hierarchy includes Powers, Dominions, and Principalities.

  • Carreau was a prince of Powers. He tempts men with hardness of heart and is opposed by St.s Vincent and Vincent Ferrer
  • Carnivean was also a prince of Powers. He tempts men to obscenity and shamelessness, and is opposed by John the Evangelist.
  • Oeillet was a prince of Dominions. He tempts men to break the vow of poverty and is opposed by St. Martin.
  • Rosier was the second in the order of Dominions. He tempts men against sexual purity and is opposed by St. Basil.
  • Verrier was the prince of Principalities. He tempts men against the vow of obedience and is opposed by St. Bernard.

[edit] Third hierarchy

The third hierarchy includes Virtues, Archangels, and Angels.

  • Belias was the prince of Virtues. He tempts men with arrogance and women to be vain, raise their children as wantons, and gossip during mass. He is opposed by St. Francis de Paul.
  • Olivier was the prince of the Archangels. He tempts men with cruelty and mercilessness toward the poor and is opposed by St. Lawrence.
  • Iuvart was prince of Angels. At the time of Michaelis's writing, Iuvart was believed to be in the body of a Sister Madeleine.[4]

[edit] Barrett's classification of demons

Francis Barrett, in his book The magus (1801), offered this classification of demons, making them princes of some evil attitude, person or thing:

[edit] Classification by month

During the 16th century, it was believed that each demon had more strength to accomplish his mission during a special month of the year. In this way, he and his assistants' powers would work better during that month.

The classification of demons by month seems to have astrological implications more than religious ones.

[edit] Classification by office

There were also classifications by office, like those written in several grimoires.

[edit] Le Dragon Rouge (or Grand Grimoire)

Like many works of mystical nature, Le Dragon Rouge (or the Red Dragon) claims to come from Solomon and his priests and is said to be published in 1517 by Alibeck the Egyptian. However, it was most likely written in France in the 18th century.

The grimoire details the different hosts of hell and their powers, describing how to enter a pact with them to attain the magicians' goals. The demons of hell are classified by three different tiers from Generals to Officers.[6]

[edit] Pseudomonarchia Daemonum

Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, by Johann Weyer, is a grimoire that contains a list of demons and the appropriate hours and rituals to conjure them in the name of God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost (simpler than those cited by The Lesser Key of Solomon below).

This book was written around 1583, and lists sixty-eight demons. The demons Vassago, Seir, Dantalion and Andromalius are not listed in this book. Pseudomonarchia Daemonum does not attribute seals to the demons. [7]

[edit] The Lesser Key of Solomon

The Lesser Key of Solomon or Lemegeton Clavicula Salomonis is an anonymous 17th century grimoire, and one of the most popular books of demonology. The Lesser Key of Solomon contains detailed descriptions of spirits and the conjurations needed to invoke and oblige them to do the will of the conjurer (referred to as the "exorcist"). It details the protective signs and rituals to be performed, the actions necessary to prevent the spirits from gaining control, the preparations prior to the invocations, and instructions on how to make the necessary instruments for the execution of these rituals.

The author of The Lesser Key of Solomon copied Pseudomonarchia Daemonum almost completely, but added demons' descriptions, their seals and details.

[edit] References

  1. ^ "The Testament of Solomon", trans. F. C. Conybeare, Jewish Quarterly Review, October, 1898]
  2. ^ Conybeare, F.C. The Testament of Solomon, The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 11, No. 1, (Oct.,1898)
  3. ^ De operatione daemonum. Tr. Marcus Collisson. Sydney 1843. Full online text, p.42-43
  4. ^ "The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology." Rossell Hope Robbins (1912). Bonanza Books. New York. ©1959. 1981 Edition.
  5. ^ Barrett's The Magus at
  6. ^ A.E. Waite's "Book of Ceremonial Magic," p.97 and p.109
  7. ^ Weyer's Pseudomonarchia Daemonum at Twilit Grotto


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