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Egyptian Military Advisor: Protesters Should “Be Thrown Into Hitler’s Ovens”

Sarah Seltzer, AlternNet
Things are not looking good in Egypt–protesers are dying in the streets and the military is doubling down.

At least a dozen protesers have been killed in the past few days, and photos of women being beaten and dragged have been particularly shocking. And yet, from the authorities, only a stream of condemnation, denial and worse. From the NY Times:

“a general from Egypt’s ruling military council insisted on Monday that soldiers had not used force against peaceful protesters after a weekend of such attacks that were “witnessed by journalists, captured on video and broadcast across the Internet and on satellite television.”

But a still more baffling statement was made by a retired general who now serves as an adviser to the military government’s public relations department. In comments published by the Egyptian newspaper Al Shorouk on Monday, the adviser, Gen. Abdel Moneim Kato, said that the protesters who came under attack by soldiers were delinquents “who deserve to be thrown into Hitler’s ovens.”

(20 December 2011)

Will China Break?

Paul Krugman, New York Times
Consider the following picture: Recent growth has relied on a huge construction boom fueled by surging real estate prices, and exhibiting all the classic signs of a bubble. There was rapid growth in credit — with much of that growth taking place not through traditional banking but rather through unregulated “shadow banking” neither subject to government supervision nor backed by government guarantees. Now the bubble is bursting — and there are real reasons to fear financial and economic crisis.

Am I describing Japan at the end of the 1980s? Or am I describing America in 2007? I could be. But right now I’m talking about China, which is emerging as another danger spot in a world economy that really, really doesn’t need this right now.

I’ve been reluctant to weigh in on the Chinese situation, in part because it’s so hard to know what’s really happening. All economic statistics are best seen as a peculiarly boring form of science fiction, but China’s numbers are more fictional than most. I’d turn to real China experts for guidance, but no two experts seem to be telling the same story.

Still, even the official data are troubling — and recent news is sufficiently dramatic to ring alarm bells.
(18 December 2011)

China’s epic hangover begins

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph
China’s credit bubble has finally popped. The property market is swinging wildly from boom to bust, the cautionary exhibit of a BRIC’s dream that is at last coming down to earth with a thud.

It is hard to obtain good data in China, but something is wrong when the country’s Homelink property website can report that new home prices in Beijing fell 35pc in November from the month before. If this is remotely true, the calibrated soft-landing intended by Chinese authorities has gone badly wrong and risks spinning out of control.

… China faces an epic deleveraging hangover, like the rest of us.
(14 December 2011)
Suggested by EB co-editor Simone. -BA

China’s top paper praises settlement of village dispute

Chris Buckley, Reuters
China’s top newspaper praised on Thursday the defusing of a 10-day standoff between villagers and officials, suggesting that the handling of the dispute would not necessarily harm the prospects of Wang Yang, Guangdong province’s ambitious boss.

The protests in Wukan Village in Guangong, the province next to Hong Kong, ended on Wednesday after officials offered concessions over seized farmland and the death of a village leader, whose family suspects he was beaten in custody.

Villagers denounced local officials as corrupt and heartless throughout their months-long wrangle, which erupted in rioting in September, but they ended up welcoming provincial party officials as brokers who finally stepped in to compromise.

The People’s Daily chided officials for letting the dispute get out of hand in the first place, but also praised the outcome as an example of how the government should handle an increasingly fractious and vocal society.
(21 December 2011)

Greek woes drive up suicide rate to highest in Europe

Helena Smith, Guardian
The suicide rate in Greece has reached a pan-European record high, with experts attributing the rise to the country’s economic crisis.

Painful austerity measures and a seemingly endless economic drama is exacting a deadly toll on the nation. Statistics released by the Greek ministry of health show a 40% rise in those taking their own lives between January and May this year compared to the same period in 2010.

Before the financial crisis first began to bite three years ago, Greece had the lowest suicide rate in Europe at 2.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. It now has almost double that number, the highest on the continen
(18 December 2011)

Fragments of a Defunct State

Stephen Holmes, London Review of Books

Mafia State: How One Reporter Became an Enemy of the Brutal New Russia
Luke Harding
Guardian, 310 pp, £20.00,
September 2011,
ISBN 978 0 85265 247 3

How to characterise the Putin regime, a now shaken and besieged ruling group sometimes said to be the richest in the history of the world? ‘Soft authoritarianism’, ‘hybrid regime’, ‘managed democracy’: the labels reveal less about Russia than about the inability of commentators to loosen the Cold War’s lingering hold on their thinking.

… The potted neo-Soviet storyline also distracts attention from what is most crucial about contemporary Russia: the stark divisions between the haves and the have-nots. The instability and squalor of ‘a rich country full of poor people’ are papered over by upbeat statistics about per capita GDP and household consumption which notoriously omit any reference to inequality, mortality, morbidity, environmental degradation or the wasting away of public infrastructure and public services. Putin’s system, Harding writes, has created ‘the most unequal society in Russia’s history’.

To keep the have-nots at arm’s length, the wealthiest Russians live in exclusive, walled-off residential compounds like those along the Rublyovo-Uspenskoye Road outside Moscow. But since the highest fliers among Russia’s nouveaux riches lead an essentially borderless existence, their most prized gated communities are located in the West. Those who own real estate abroad include numerous public officials and civil servants: ‘Russian bureaucrats have their houses and families in London, and their children are going to Cambridge and Oxford.’ The reason this ‘very strange political class’ craves an extraterritorial foothold is illuminating: ‘They keep their money outside Russia because none of them believes in Russia and none of them believes in official stability. All of them know that this stability could be finished any day.’ They don’t believe in official stability because, as the ones responsible for guaranteeing it, they are aware of their own limitations. For all their talk about ‘the restoration of Russia’s superpower status’, Russia’s senior political officials have an astonishingly ‘primitive mission’, which is to ‘take this money outside Russia, buy houses outside Russia and give their children a future abroad’. Russia’s affluent classes are irresistibly drawn to relocate their assets to countries where there appears to be a future. Their lack of confidence doesn’t reflect a fear that the government they work for is too strong and may one day initiate mass confiscations. Their worry, on the contrary, is that their government isn’t stable enough to protect their investments.

Such feelings of insecurity have grown over the past few months. Well before the December events, local observers told Harding that the Kremlin had been ‘badly spooked’ by the Arab Spring. Indeed, given the absence of any connective tissue between the haves and the have-nots, Russia’s elite was ‘deeply fearful that a similar popular uprising could take place at home’.
(5 January 2012 issue)