Nine Circles of Hell!: Monday, November 20
The Nine Circles of Hell! – all the news that gives you fits in print – today’s nine most hellish news stories, including an interview with past This is Hell! guest James K. Galbraith. for Monday, November 21, 2011, are:
As Europe burns, region’s companies continue to profit
Analysts Predict 10% Profit Growth in Europe
As Europe’s debt crisis raises the risk of a recession, companies in the region show no signs of slowing with earnings growth poised to top their U.S. rivals.
Net income for companies in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index will rise by 10.5 percent in 2012 after increasing 11 percent this year, led by carmakers such as Porsche SE and retailers including Burberry Group Plc (BRBY), according to more than 12,000 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg through last week. The gauge is headed for four straight years of income growth exceeding 10 percent, the longest streak since 1998, data show.
Bulls say the 16 percent tumble in European stocks since December has created bargains because profit growth will exceed the 10.1 percent estimated for U.S. companies, even though the economy in the 17-nation euro zone is expanding at one-third the pace, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Bears have no confidence in the earnings forecasts when sovereign borrowing costs are reaching records on concern Greece may default.
“Companies are in a lot healthier position going into a downturn than in 2008,” said Luke Stellini, who helps oversee $636 billion at Invesco Ltd. in Henley-on-Thames, England. “The debate is how north the recession in Europe may spread, but I’d argue that equity valuations take account of most scenarios already.”
International demand will help push net income up more than 10 percent next year at mining companies, retailers and builders, analysts say. As much as 54 percent of sales in the Stoxx 600 comes from outside Europe, according to data compiled by Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. (RBS) Earnings in the Stoxx Banks Index may gain 23 percent in 2012, the data show.
Analysts’ predictions for 2012 imply a fourth year of growth topping the 8 percent average since 1981, data from Bank of America Corp. (BAC)’s Merrill Lynch division show. The forecast for this year’s expansion in Stoxx 600 earnings has dropped to 11 percent from 21 percent in January. Projections for 2012 fell 3.5 percent in October, the most since March 2009.
Lack of funding undermines success in fight against AIDS
Los Angeles Times
World can beat AIDS but funding must increase, U.N. says
The world has made significant gains in its efforts to reduce new HIV infections and deaths from AIDS, according to the United Nations, with a 21% decrease in AIDS-related deaths since the 2005 peak. New infections fell by the same amount since the 1997 peak, according to a report by UNAIDS.
Sub-Saharan Africa is still the world’s hardest hit region, with a million people dying of AIDS every year since 1998.
But recent improvements in access to antiretroviral medications are saving lives and preventing the spread of the disease, according to UNAIDS, the joint U.N. program on HIV/AIDS. About half the people who need antiretroviral medications, or ARVs, are getting them, according to the report released Monday.
In other key findings it reported:
* 34 million people globally are living with HIV
* 2.7 million people were infected with HIV in 2010
* 1.8 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2010
The number of people getting lifesaving ARVs rose 20% from 2009 to 2010. Three African countries, Botswana, Nambia and Rwanda, achieved universal access, defined by UNAIDS as access for 80% or more of those eligible. Four African countries, Kenya, Ethiopia, Swaziland and Zambia, had coverage for between 60% and 80% of infected people.
Since 2007, the number of new infections has plateaued at 2.7 million, 70% of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
However in comparison with the disease peak in 1997, the annual number of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa has fallen by more than 26%, mainly due to changes in sexual behavior, condom use and male circumcisions, the report said.
In South Africa, 5.6 million people are living with HIV, the highest number in the world; 68% of all HIV cases are in sub-Saharan Africa.
The report said that improved access to ARVs had not only saved lives but reduced transmissions …
But the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders said that while dramatic increases in funding were needed, contributions were falling. Donor funding for AIDS prevention declined $ 7.6 billion in 2009 to $6.9 billion in 2010.
Doctors Without Borders cited breakthrough scientific research in 2011 that showed that a person who started HIV treatment early was 96% less likely to pass on the disease. (Male circumcision alone reduces transmission by 60%.)
“Never, in more than a decade of treating people living with HIV/AIDS, have we been at such a promising moment to really turn this epidemic around,” said Tido von Schoen-Angerer, a spokesman for Doctors Without Borders. “Governments in some of the hardest hit countries want to act on the science, seize this moment and reverse the AIDS epidemic. But this means nothing if there’s no money to make it happen.”
No agreement: “supercommittee did the best thing it could have done”
Galbraith Calls U.S. Debt-Deal Flop ‘Best Thing’
The probable failure of a U.S. congressional committee to reach agreement on at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions by this week’s deadline is the “best thing” that could have happened, said economist (past This is Hell! guest) James K. Galbraith.
Failure for the committee to reach agreement will lead to across-the-board cuts to domestic and defense programs, starting in January 2013. The lack of a deal would deprive President Barack Obama of a vehicle extending a payroll tax cut and insurance benefits for unemployed Americans, which expire at the end of the year. Lack of agreement also means tax cuts for top earners enacted under President George W. Bush may also be allowed to expire at the end of 2012, Galbraith said.
“As things stand, there will be an examination of the defense budget, and a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over that,” Galbraith, an economics professor at the University of Texas in Austin, said in a radio interview on “Bloomberg Surveillance” with Ken Prewitt and Tom Keene. “And the Bush tax cuts expire,” he said. “If you are doing honest budget accounting, that gives you all of the deficit reduction you could possibly want” …
“The supercommittee did the best thing it could have done,” Galbraith said. “Any agreement would have caused much more damage than no agreement at all. All of this talk about a failure is really misplaced.”
Galbraith said an accord by the supercommittee that would have included long-term cuts in social security, Medicare and other programs “would have done enormous damage to the remaining bulwarks of what remains of the middle class” …
Galbraith said rising U.S. bond prices and falling yields showed there is “no confidence problem” regarding the ability of the U.S. government to fund itself. “It’s about time to wake up to that fact” …
Galbraith said he wasn’t concerned about the effects of another possible U.S. credit downgrade, following Standard & Poor’s August move that reduced the nation’s AAA rating by one notch after congress narrowly resolved a debt-ceiling impasse that pushed the country to the brink of default.
“Ratings agencies are obviously a joke,” he said. “They completely missed the subprime debacle and made enormous amounts of money pedaling corrupt securities to the world and now they presume to come and pass judgment on the government of the United States.”
To spur the economy and hiring, he said the U.S. government should increase the minimum wage. “That would have a very strong stabilizing effect across all of the population of this country that has been hard hit by the financial crisis. It would be a form of reparations for the 99 percent” of the population that “has received nothing but abuse for the past three years.”
Governor Walker recall petitioners threatened, targeted for theft
Walker Opponents Plagued By Threats, Thefts
Opponents of Gov. Scott Walker said they have faced threats and thefts in the days since the recall effort began.
Two volunteers in the petition drive reported violent threats made against them to the police. Neighbors in Monona also complained to authorities of politically motivated thefts from their yards.
The threats involved phone calls from an area code in Minnesota. The calls came overnight after Walker’s opponents began the recall, said Madison resident Tom Peer, who said he received a call at 2 a.m. on Thursday.
“They said, ‘If you don’t stop circulating recall petitions, we will kill you,’” said Peer.
A similar call came to Heather DuBois Bourenane, of Sun Prairie. The United Wisconsin recall worker jumped out of bed when her phone rang around 4 a.m. on Thursday.
“He said I had attracted the attention of some very bad people, and my life and the lives of my family were in danger,” Bourenane said.
She called Sun Prairie police, who confirmed investigators were working on the case.
The male voice’s number came from the Minneapolis area. WISC-TV called that number Sunday, but the calls went straight to voicemail and the message service hadn’t been activated.
Meanwhile, neighbors on Dean Avenue in Monona said they had contacted police that someone had stolen several political signs from their yards.
Jim Lemens had three signs taken since the recall began Tuesday. On Sunday, another large homemade sign sat in his front yard.
“I can’t just give this up. If it wasn’t important to me, I wouldn’t have put the sign up in the first place,” Lemens said. “It’s just sad, it’s not how things are supposed to be around here. It’s not what Wisconsin’s known for.”
Police had been driving by more often since the incidents, but they keep happening, Lemens said. Monona Police declined comment until Monday.
“It’s just uncomfortable, you just don’t want to live in an area where you constantly have to watch out the window,” Lemens said, adding that another neighbor was considering pouring concrete to protect his sign. “I’m just a guy with a sign. I’m not intimidating anybody, I’m not forcing anybody to do anything they don’t want to do.”
Police have reminded people that acts such as stealing yard signs, making threats, and ripping or falsifying recall signatures constituted crimes.
The United Wisconsin recall effort had gotten 105,000 signatures by Saturday, the group reported.
Religious lobbyists spend $390 million per year
The Washington Post
Pew study shows dramatic growth in religious advocacy
Mixed in with the thousands of corporate lobbyists on Capitol Hill each day is an unusual troop: religious advocates whose numbers have increased five-fold in recent decades and spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year, according to a new study.
The report by the Pew Forum appears to be the most extensive research on lobbyists and advocates who come from a faith perspective. The biggest spenders include AIPAC, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and established social conservatives who focus on opposing abortion and same-sex marriage, among other things.
There are 212 faith-oriented advocacy groups that spend $390 million per year, according to the report.
The work of religious advocates mirrors the issues on the rise in America; the early lobbying groups focused on temperance and funding for Native American schools. Their focus — and the groups themselves — then switched over the decades to focus on the Vietnam War, the passage of Roe v Wade, and today’s groups have waded much more into foreign affairs.
Compared with the budgets of the corporate lobbyists, who make up the vast majority of Hill advocates, that of the religious groups is small. But veterans say they have a particular clout that can wield influence at unexpected times.
Law enforcement agencies at odds over latest alleged terror plot
The Associated Press
AP sources: FBI declined to pursue NYC bomb plot
Federal authorities declined to pursue a case against an “al-Qaida sympathizer” accused of wanting to bomb police stations and post offices in New York City because they believed he was mentally unstable and incapable of pulling off the alleged plot, two law enforcement officials said Monday.
New York Police Department investigators sought to get the FBI involved at least twice as their undercover investigation of Jose Pimentel unfolded, the officials said. Both times, the FBI concluded that he wasn’t a serious threat, they said.
The FBI concluded that 27-year-old Pimentel “didn’t have the predisposition or the ability to do anything on his own,” one of the officials said.
The officials were not authorized to speak about the case and spoke on condition of anonymity. The FBI’s New York office declined to comment on Monday. New York City authorities said that the FBI was involved in the case, but did not specifically say they declined to pursue the charges.
“We just believed that we couldn’t let it go any further. We had to act,” said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
New York authorities said Pimentel was motivated by terrorist propaganda and resentment of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Authorities said police had to move quickly to arrest Pimentel on Saturday — because he was approximately one hour from being able to detonate explosives.
“He was in fact putting this bomb together,” Kelly said. “He was drilling holes and it would have been not appropriate for us to let him walk out the door with that bomb.”
The suspect was being held after his arraignment on numerous terrorism-related charges. His lawyer Joseph Zablocki said his client’s behavior leading up to the arrest was not that of a conspirator trying to conceal some violent scheme. Zablocki said Pimentel was public about his activities and was not trying to hide anything.
“I don’t believe that this case is nearly as strong as the people believe,” Zablocki said. “He (Pimentel) has this very public online profile. … This is not the way you go about committing a terrorist attack.”
#Occupy turns its focus on the media
The New York Times
Protest Puts Coverage in Spotlight
As police officers cleared protesters last week from Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, the birthplace of Occupy Wall Street, they made sure most reporters were kept blocks away, supposedly for their own protection.
But in almost every other respect, mainstream news media outlets have been put right in the middle by the movement.
Newspapers and television networks have been rebuked by media critics for treating the movement as if it were a political campaign or a sideshow — by many liberals for treating the protesters dismissively, and by conservatives, conversely, for taking the protesters too seriously.
The protesters themselves have also criticized the media — first for ostensibly ignoring the movement and then for marginalizing it.
Lacking a list of demands or recognized leaders, the Occupy movement has at times perplexed the nation’s media outlets. Press coverage, minimal in the first days of the occupation in New York, picked up after amateur video surfaced online showing a police officer using pepper spray on protesters. On several occasions, video of confrontations with the police, often filmed by the protesters, has propelled television coverage.
In the initial coverage, “I saw almost nothing that talked about our reasons for being there, and that trend has largely continued,” said Patrick Bruner, an organizer for Occupy Wall Street in New York. He said the group welcomed investigations of “our ideas, why we’re here, what we’re saying and talking about.”
Alicia Shepard, who was until recently the ombudsman for NPR, said most news coverage of Occupy “hasn’t been about the issues, it’s been about who’s up and who’s down,” likening it to the “horse race” style of coverage prevalent in political campaigns.
An analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism indicates that the movement occupied 10 percent of its sample of national news coverage in the week beginning Oct. 9, then steadily represented about 5 percent through early November.
Coverage dipped markedly, to just 1 percent of the national news hole, in the week beginning Nov. 6, supporting Ms. Shepard’s assertion that it had “died down” before the early morning eviction in New York last Tuesday. It has since rebounded strongly.
Throughout the protests, Occupy Wall Street has become something of an ideological litmus test, with accusations of media bias from the left and the right. Days after the protest began in New York, the liberal filmmaker Michael Moore appeared on MSNBC, asserting that the mass media had a tendency to play down left-wing protests.
Conversely, L. Brent Bozell III, the president of the conservative Media Research Center, appeared on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox telling other media outlets to “put their pompoms down for a minute.”
Now, any time there are misstatements of fact — on Thursday the Fox News affiliate in New York falsely reported that protesters planned to “shut down” the subways, and “CBS Evening News” reported that hundreds had turned out for an afternoon rally when in fact many thousands had — questions about bias are raised.
Even as some protesters have complained about the media, others have courted coverage, and still others have taken matters into their own hands. For more than a month, Tim Pool, a 25-year-old from Illinois, has been attending Occupy Wall Street events in New York and live-streaming them to the Internet from his cellphone. “I just wanted to see an accurate portrayal of what was happening without internal or external bias,” he said.
Mr. Pool clearly sympathizes with the protesters but considers himself independent from the group. At the peak of the protests in New York on Thursday, 30,000 people were watching his shaky video feed at any given moment, according to his host site, Ustream. Mr. Pool said the police officers treated him like a protester, not a cameraman, raising questions about who qualifies as a reporter in the Internet age and what rights they should be afforded, if any.
The questions are relevant in part because 26 reporters and photographers have been arrested at protests linked to the movement, according to a count by Josh Stearns of the media advocacy group Free Press. A significant portion of those arrested were freelance workers, students and writers for alternative publications. “As journalism is changing,” Mr. Stearns said, “it’s going to create new friction and conflict over what we mean by the First Amendment.”
Many journalists were blocked from Zuccotti Park as the eviction took place on Tuesday morning, leading to accusations of police suppression of media coverage.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the restrictions were put in place “to prevent a situation from getting worse and to protect members of the press.”
Egyptian violence threatens vote
Cairo clashes cast doubts over Egypt vote
Protesters calling for Egypt’s military to hand over power have beaten back a new raid by security forces to evict them from Cairo’s Tahrir Square after more than 48 hours of violence in the heart of the Egyptian capital.
Security forces fired tear gas and attacked a makeshift field hospital on Monday morning, while protesters broke up pavements to hurl chunks of concrete at police.
Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Tahrir Square, said: “Throughout the morning plumes of tear gas are rising over houses. There are sporadic clashes happening around the outskirts of the square.”
The violence has been some of the worst since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in February when Tahrir Square was the major rallying point for protesters during the 18-day uprising that ended the former president’s three decades of power.
Egypt’s health ministry said at least 22 people have been killed and 1,500 wounded in clashes between government forces and protesters in Cairo and other cities since Saturday, raising concerns over parliamentary elections due to begin later this month.
On Sunday, a press conference planned for Monday to detail how the election process would proceed was postponed with no new date set.
Several political parties and individual candidates said they were suspending their electoral campaign, raising concerns over whether the vote will go ahead or be postponed.
Police backed by army officers fired tear gas and charged demonstrators in the square as darkness fell on Sunday night, temporarily sending protesters fleeing.
Security forces burned down banners and video footage posted on the internet, which could not be independently verified, showed police beating protesters with sticks, pulling them by the hair and, in one case, dumping what appeared to be a corpse on piles of rubbish.
Demonstrators swiftly regrouped in side streets and returned to take control of the square during the night. Police tried again to retake Tahrir after dawn.
A makeshift field clinic was set up as injured protesters streamed in suffering from ammunition wounds from rubber-coated steel bullets, birdshots, and tear gas.
Late on Sunday, a deal was reached between Imam Mazhir Shahin, who led last Friday’s prayers, and security officials allowing protesters to remain in the centre of the square as long as they didn’t move to government buildings around the perimeter of the plaza.
Even so, clashes on also took place near Cairo’s interior ministry and in major cities throughout Egypt, including the major population centres of Alexandria and Suez.
Richest nations delay global warming talks until 2020
Rich nations ‘give up’ on new climate treaty until 2020
Governments of the world’s richest countries have given up on forging a new treaty on climate change to take effect this decade, with potentially disastrous consequences for the environment through global warming.
Ahead of critical talks starting next week, most of the world’s leading economies now privately admit that no new global climate agreement will be reached before 2016 at the earliest, and that even if it were negotiated by then, they would stipulate it could not come into force until 2020.
The eight-year delay is the worst contemplated by world governments during 20 years of tortuous negotiations on greenhouse gas emissions, and comes despite intensifying warnings from scientists and economists about the rapidly increasing dangers of putting off prompt action.
After the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009 ended amid scenes of chaos, governments pledged to try to sign a new treaty in 2012. The date is critical, because next year marks the expiry of the current provisions of the Kyoto protocol, the only legally binding international agreement to limit emissions.
The UK, European Union, Japan, US and other rich nations are all now united in opting to put off an agreement and the United Nations also appears to accept this.
Developing countries are furious, and the delay will be fiercely debated at the next round of international climate talks beginning a week on Monday in Durban, South Africa.
The Alliance of Small Island States, which represents some of the countries most at risk from global warming, called moves to delay a new treaty “reckless and irresponsible”.
Postponing an operational agreement until 2020 would be fatal to hopes of avoiding catastrophic climate change, according to scientists, economists and green campaigners.