Posted by Kendall Harmon

Italian officials on Tuesday (Aug. 5) moved to expel a Moroccan imam who was caught on video inciting violence against Jews during Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said he had ordered the imam, Raoudi Aldelbar, to be expelled “for seriously disturbing the peace, endangering national security and religious discrimination.”

The imam was filmed during a Friday sermon in a mosque near Venice last month calling for Jews to be killed “one by one,” according to the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute, which published the video on its website.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamJudaism

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Posted August 5, 2014 at 1:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The President of Italy has formally signed a decree which recognizes seven years of preparation by the Church of England to have official status in the country and be recognised as a denomination. It was granted after careful and detailed examination of the Ministero dell’Interno (Italian Home Office) the Direzione Centrale degli Affari dei culti (central department for religious affairs) and Consiglio di Stato (advisory body of the Italian government on administrative matters and their legal implications, with the approval of the Consiglio dei Ministri (Italian Cabinet). It gives legal status to the association Chiesa d’Inghilterra and accepts its statutes.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly

3 Comments
Posted August 5, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Watch it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Economics, PoliticsEnergy, Natural Resources* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* Theology

3 Comments
Posted August 5, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...as the table shows, the European leagues are still dominating the tournament.

The world’s best players come from around the world. Yet the money is in Europe, which means that most of them spend their professional peaks in England, Germany, Italy or Spain.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationSports* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEuropeGermanyItalySouth AmericaBrazil

0 Comments
Posted July 8, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

After a pledge by Pope Francis to “excommunicate” mobsters from the Catholic Church, an archbishop in southern Italy has proposed a 10-year ban on naming godparents at baptisms and confirmations as a way to stop the Mafia from spreading its influence.

Monsignor Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini, the archbishop of Reggio Calabria, wrote to Francis some time ago with his suggestion “to prevent the exploitation of the church,” in particular by the powerful Calabrian Mafia known as ’Ndrangheta, and discussed his proposal with the pope at the Vatican last weekend.

Mobsters taking part in the baptisms of newborns as a godfather, or “padrino,” help the mob establish a special bond with future generations of potential criminals.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis * TheologyEthics / Moral TheologySacramental TheologyBaptism

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Posted July 2, 2014 at 1:18 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Unexpectedly, and unforgettably, the Pope took the Metropolitan and myself, alone, down to the tomb of St Paul which is in the centre of the basilica. He held us by the elbows as he beckoned us to approach the grave, and then he indicated that we should bow, which we did for some minutes, the three of us, in that sacred space. Then we continued with Vespers.

At the end he took the two of us with him again and we greeted all the other Church representatives. After we had recessed together he embraced and kissed the two of us with a holy kiss. These actions of his were said to be unprecedented in recent memory in that liturgy and left a deep impression on the two of us. Surely these dramatic demonstrations of unexpected love are at the heart of the quest for unity.

Read it all (from March but still of interest).

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury Anglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis

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Posted May 3, 2014 at 9:51 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II will meet with Pope Francis at a private audience in the Vatican on Thursday afternoon. The Queen, who’ll be accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, will also have a private encounter with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano during the one day visit to Rome.

The audience with Pope Francis will mark the 87-year-old Queen’s fifth encounter with a Roman pontiff here in the Vatican, beginning with Pope Pius XII whom she met in 1951, the year before her accession to the throne. In 1982 she became the first monarch since the Reformation to welcome a pope to Britain during John Paul II’s pastoral visit to the country and in 2010 she also hosted Pope Benedict XVI on his state visit to the United Kingdom.

Read and listen to it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis

0 Comments
Posted April 3, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

he Vatican Library has begun digitising its priceless collection of ancient manuscripts dating from the origins of the Church.

The first stage of the project will cover some 3,000 handwritten documents over the next four years.

The cost - more than $20m (£12m) - will be borne by Japan's NTT Data technology company.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryScience & Technology* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

1 Comments
Posted March 23, 2014 at 5:35 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On the first Sunday of Lent in Poggio Mirteto, a priest in the town's cathedral recalls the serpent in the Garden of Eden.

He admonishes parishioners in this hilltop hamlet just outside Vatican City to resist earthly delights during the time of penance and self-denial leading up to Easter.

"We must remember we are weak before evil, because the devil is very tricky," he says.

Just outside the doors, the warning goes unheeded as a parade of revelers passes.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsLent* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureRural/Town Life* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly

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Posted March 16, 2014 at 11:09 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It was 700 years ago, many scholars believe—in the 12th year of Dante’s exile from Florence—that the Inferno first saw the light of day. Thirteen fourteen: the year has a sprightly sound, hinting at upcoming sequels, and the Italian l’anno mille trecento quattordici has just the right number of syllables (11) to form the first line of a Dantean tercet. I imagine a second year following and a third year rhyming until, year by year, carried along by Dante’s ingenious interlocking terza rima, we are brought to the present moment, duemila quattordici, still marveling at a poem that from link to link makes paradise rhyme with hell.

But does paradise rhyme with hell? Setting aside the cliché about the Inferno being more interesting than the Paradiso, any serious reader will find a deep unity of theme running throughout the hundred-canto trilogy, from Dante’s promise “to treat of the good that I found there” (Inferno 1:8) to the final canto, which T. S. Eliot deemed “the highest point that poetry has ever reached or ever can reach.” Eliot has yet to be proven wrong; the poem deserves its canonical status on a shelf below the Bible and above the ranks of merely literary classics. To borrow a word from Dante, the Divine Comedy, if we are willing to read it whole, imparadises the mind.

Though the poem has a deep unity, the tradition of its interpretation does not; and to read the Divine Comedy in English—ideally with the Italian close at hand—is to step into a stream roiled by rival literary and religious movements.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryPoetry & Literature* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* TheologyEschatology

0 Comments
Posted February 3, 2014 at 1:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Dioceses across Italy, as well as in countries such as Spain, are increasing the number of priests schooled in administering the rite of exorcism, fabled to rid people of possession by the Devil.

The rise in demonic cases is a result of more people dabbling in practices such as black magic, paganism, Satanic rites and Ouija boards, often exploring the dark arts with the help of information readily found on the internet, the Church said.

The increase in the number of priests being trained to tackle the phenomenon is also an effort by the Church to sideline unauthorised, self-proclaimed exorcists, and its tacit recognition that belief in Satan, once regarded by Catholic progressives as an embarrassment, is still very much alive.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeItalySpain* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 6, 2014 at 11:27 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On June 28 this year, Italian police arrested a silver-haired priest, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, in Rome. The cleric, nicknamed Monsignor Cinquecento after the €500 bills he habitually carried around with him, was charged with fraud and corruption, together with a former secret service agent and a ­financial broker. All three were suspected of attempting to smuggle €20m by private plane across the border from Switzerland.

Prosecutors alleged that the priest, a former banker, was using the Institute for Religious Works – the formal name for the Vatican’s bank – to move money for businessmen based in the Naples region, widely regarded in Italy as a haven of organised crime. Worse still, Scarano (who, together with the other men, has denied any wrongdoing) had until only a month earlier been head of the accounting department at the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, the treasury of the Vatican.

The arrest, and the headlines that screamed across the Italian press, was the latest shock for the Holy See....

Read it all (if necessary, another link may be found there).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted December 10, 2013 at 3:44 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Some of the rarest and most fragile religious texts in the Vatican and Bodleian libraries, including ancient bibles and some of the oldest Hebrew manuscript and printed books, are being placed online in a joint project by the two great libraries, which will eventually create an online archive of 1.5m pages.

The website launched on Tuesday with funding from the Polonsky Foundation includes the first results of the four-year project, including the Bodleian's 1455 Gutenberg Bible, one of only 50 surviving copies of the first major book printed in the west with metal type.

The site will also host a growing collection of scholarly essays, and interviews with the Oxford and Vatican librarians, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who said the digitisation was of huge international significance.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetBooksEducationHistoryReligion & CultureScience & Technology* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEuropeItaly

3 Comments
Posted December 3, 2013 at 7:28 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Pope Francis cranked up his charm offensive on the world outside the Vatican on Tuesday, saying in the second widely shared media interview in two weeks that each person “must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them” and calling efforts to convert people to Christianity “solemn nonsense....”

Some conservative Catholics were also taken aback by the interview.

“My e-mail is filled with notes from people who need to be talked off the ledge,” wrote the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, author of one of the more popular blogs for Catholic conservatives.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationMediaReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis * Theology

1 Comments
Posted October 2, 2013 at 6:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Pope Francis told me: "The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don't even look for them any more. They have been crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live crushed under the weight of the present? Without a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing."

Read it carefully and read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis

2 Comments
Posted October 2, 2013 at 6:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Pope Francis attempted to set a new tone for a Vatican beset by scandals on Saturday by naming a veteran diplomat as secretary of state, a role often called the "deputy pope".

Archbishop Pietro Parolin's appointment ends the era of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was widely blamed for failing to prevent ethical and financial scandals that marked the eight-year reign of former Pope Benedict, who resigned in February.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistory* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis * TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted August 31, 2013 at 5:11 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the Hall of Five Hundred at the Palazzo Vecchio, the city hall of Florence, tourists are craning their necks and staring upward. They’re trying to spot the words “cerca trova” — “seek and you shall find” — on a Vasari mural that figures in the plot of “Inferno,” the latest bestseller by Dan Brown. (Hint: You need binoculars.) In his latest book, Brown has art historian Robert Langdon racing across Florence in pursuit of a bad guy who’s obsessed with Dante Alighieri, the author of the original “Inferno.”

The hall is magnificent, but I’m in Florence on a different mission: to seek out what’s left of Dante’s medieval world. Would the great poet recognize anything in this city so dominated by Renaissance art and architecture if he were to return? The last time he walked these streets, after all, was 700 years ago.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryTravel* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly

0 Comments
Posted August 3, 2013 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It should be stressed that the reports in the air today are based on leaked notes from the meeting with Francis, and the Vatican has refused to confirm or deny their content, so we don't actually know what the pope said. Nonetheless, because the "gay lobby" business is back in the headlines, I'll repeat here what I said in February.

Bottom line: It's no secret there are gays in the Vatican, and it's reasonable to think officials would be concerned that insiders with a secret to keep might be vulnerable to various kinds of pressure. The issue, in other words, isn't so much their sexuality, but rather the potential for manipulation anytime someone serving the pope is leading a double life. That said, there's also no evidence this was the "real" reason Benedict quit just as there's no reason to believe now that Francis is on the cusp of launching an anti-gay witch hunt.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMedia* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI

2 Comments
Posted June 13, 2013 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On Pentecost Sunday all hell broke loose in Rome. Following Mass that day, the unpredictable Pope Francis laid hands on a demon-possessed man from Mexico and prayed for him. The YouTube video of this encounter was flashed around the world, and the story caught fire: Is Pope Francis an exorcist? The Holy Father’s Vatican handlers were quick to deny such. The pope simply offered a prayer of deliverance for the distraught man, it was said. Exorcism in the Catholic Church is a sacramental, a sacred act producing a spiritual effect, which must be done according to the officially prescribed Rite of Exorcism. And yet what the pope did on Pentecost Sunday in St. Peter’s Square was more than a simple prayer for someone to get better. It looked for all the world like a real act of spiritual warfare.

Timothy GeorgeThe scene now shifts to South America, the continent where Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born and has spent most of his life. The place: All Saints Church, in Steenrijk, Curaçao, in the Anglican Diocese of Venezuela. The date: May 12, 2013, one week before the pope’s exorcism-like event in Rome. The preacher: The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church (formerly known as ECUSA). When she was elected to her post in 2006, Father Richard John Neuhaus described it as an occasion of great sadness. His reaction reflected neither personal animus nor schadenfreudlich glee. Rather, he saw her accession to this high office as likely to deepen the pain and division within the Christian community. Sadly, he was right.

In Venezuela, Bishop Katharine also confronted a demon—the one found in her sermon text for the day, Acts 16:16-24. This is Luke’s account of Paul’s exorcism of a manic slave girl in Philippi. The bishop’s sermon was really a polemic against what she called, in postmodernist lingo, “discounting and devaluing difference.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeItalySouth AmericaVenezuela* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis

11 Comments
Posted June 3, 2013 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Steps from the immense colonnade of St. Peter’s Square, Sarwar Jahan stood next to his souvenir stand. A dark, clean-shaven man wearing a navy blue jacket and a black knit cap, Jahan is one of the legions of peddlers selling trinkets of the new Pope Francis to tourists and pilgrims.

Like many of his fellow street merchants, Jahan is neither a Catholic nor a natural-born Italian. He’s a Muslim who moved to Rome from Bangladesh in search of work.

In a country dominated by Roman Catholics, Muslims make up Italy’s second-largest religious group. A Pew study estimated that more than 1.5 million Muslims live in Italy, a number projected to double by 2030.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

0 Comments
Posted May 28, 2013 at 12:45 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Italian police arrested four men on Tuesday, who are suspected of planning terrorist attacks in Italy, the US and Israel, reports Reuters News. One of the arrested men is believed to be a Tunisian former imam at a mosque in the city of Andria, in the southern Italian region of Puglia, where police said the terror cell was based. According to paramilitary police, the men aimed to train terrorists and send them to fight abroad, and are suspected of conspiracy to commit international terrorism and incite racial hatred.

According to investigators, the four men focused their recruitment activities among illegal immigrants, who were subsequently sent to training camps in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Chechnya. Police described the group as being characterized by "fierce anti-Semitism and anti-Western sentiment" and an aversion to states viewed as enemies in the context of religious war.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

0 Comments
Posted May 1, 2013 at 4:11 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Dean of Durham, the Very Revd Michael Sadgrove, has welcomed a statement issued by the new manager of Sunderland Football Club, Paolo Di Canio, on Wednesday, saying that he does "not support the ideology of fascism".

Dean Sadgrove wrote an open letter to Mr Di Canio on Tuesday, seeking clarification whether he held fascist beliefs. Mr Di Canio, whose appointment as Sunderland manager was announced on Sunday evening, gave a straight-arm salute more than once when he was a player, and said in his autobiography that he was "fascinated by Mussolini".

The former Foreign Secretary David Miliband resigned from the board of Sunderland FC because of "past political statements" made by Mr Di Canio.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchHistoryMediaReligion & CultureSports* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEuropeItaly* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 5, 2013 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The week of prayer for Christian Unity draws to a close on Friday as Pope Benedict prepares to celebrate Vespers in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls with representatives of all the different local Christian communities.

Among them will be Canon David Richardson, the outgoing director of the Anglican Centre here in Rome. Set up in the wake of the Second Vatican council, the centre has an important library, runs educational courses, welcomes pilgrims to Rome and maintains close contact with the different Vatican departments.
Every Tuesday the centre welcomes locals and visitors for a Eucharist, followed by an informal lunch hosted by David and his wife Margie for people of all religious backgrounds or none. The aim, as Philippa Hitchen found out, is to foster understanding, reconciliation and better relations amongst all members of the Body of Christ…….

Listen to it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

0 Comments
Posted January 25, 2013 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Pontifical Council for the Promoting Christian Unity has welcomed the appointment of a new director for the Anglican Centre in Rome and representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Vatican. Archbishop David Moxon of Waikato, the senior Anglican bishop in New Zealand, will take up his new post after Easter 2013, following the retirement of the current director, Canon David Richardson.

Following the announcement from Lambeth Palace on Tuesday, the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity issued a note saying “It is felt that Archbishop Moxon’s considerable experience and gifts will suit him well for this important position which has such a significant role in relations between the Holy See and Canterbury, confirming the bonds of affection between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, and assisting our mutual understanding and work. As co-chairman of ARCIC (Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission) the appointment will lend even greater prominence to the progress of this long-standing dialogue.”
Since taking on the task of Anglican co-chair of ARCIC III, Archbishop Moxon has been working closely with the Pontifical Council and other Catholic experts in the ecumenical world. During a recent visit to Rome, he told Vatican Radio's Philippa Hitchen that he's optimistic about the amount of progress already made between Anglicans and Catholics....

Listen to it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury Anglican ProvincesAnglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI* Theology

0 Comments
Posted December 8, 2012 at 1:59 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On August 28 the European Court of Human Rights declared that access to pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) must be allowed.

The court decision dealt with Law 40/2004 on assisted fertilization in Italy. The case of Rosetta Costa and Walter Pavan v. Italy regarded a married couple who were both carriers of cystic fibrosis who wished to use PGD to screen their children as embryos.

The couple already aborted a child suffering from cystic fibrosis and they brought their case to the court arguing that the current Italian law that prohibits pre-implantation genetic diagnosis infringes their private and family life.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHealth & MedicineLife EthicsMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureScience & Technology* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly

2 Comments
Posted September 10, 2012 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Greeted with initial fanfare by investors and economic officials, the unlimited bond-buying plan that the European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi, announced Thursday ran into immediate political problems in the crucial countries of Germany, Spain and Italy.

In Germany, despite Chancellor Angela Merkel’s support for Mr. Draghi and the independence of the Central Bank, political and news media reaction was scathing, with accusations that the bank, in seeking to stabilize the euro currency union, was subverting its mandate to fight inflation and forcing debt upon euro zone members.

“A Black Day for the Euro,” “Over the Red Line” and “Pandora’s Box Opened Forever” were some of the German headlines, with the normally sympathetic Süddeutsche Zeitung headlining an editorial: “The E.C.B. Rewards Mismanagement.” Even the German Bundesbank, officially part of the European Central Bank, put out a statement commenting acidly that the plan was “financing governments by printing bank notes.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Foreign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010GermanyItalySpain

0 Comments
Posted September 9, 2012 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The anger within the three parties of the ruling coalition is understandable. These are the parties of the German taxpayer, after all, and ever since the sovereign debt crisis began they have been reciting the mantra that the eurozone is not and will not become a “transfer union”; that there will be no mutualisation of debt; that Mediterranean sloth and tax evasion will not be rewarded by payments from hardworking, honest Nordic Germany.

If this sounds racist, it’s because the debate is tinged on all sides by nationalist stereotypes. The German middle class feels it has been had and the country is digesting Moody’s downgrading of its credit rating. “Is this what we get for saving the Greeks?” asks the tabloid Bild. Good question....

It is impossible to explain to a German who has had her retirement age upped to 67, or an unemployed German whose benefits have been cut to balance the budget, why billions of euros should go south to support governments that didn’t have the guts to slash social spending or who let their citizens retire to the beach at 55.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010GermanyGreeceItalyPortugalSpain

0 Comments
Posted July 31, 2012 at 5:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It was a dominant performance today.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMenSports* International News & CommentaryEuropeItalySpain

2 Comments
Posted July 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Congratulations to them they played well; Buffon is quite the goalie.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMenSports* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermanyItaly

0 Comments
Posted June 28, 2012 at 4:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Italy were the better team and deserved to win.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMenSports* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEuropeItaly

1 Comments
Posted June 24, 2012 at 4:27 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What will become of the European Union? One road leads to the full break-up of the euro, with all its economic and political repercussions. The other involves an unprecedented transfer of wealth across Europe’s borders and, in return, a corresponding surrender of sovereignty. Separate or superstate: those seem to be the alternatives now.

For two crisis-plagued years Europe’s leaders have run away from this choice. They say that they want to keep the euro intact—except, perhaps, for Greece. But northern European creditors, led by Germany, will not pay out enough to assure the euro’s survival, and southern European debtors increasingly resent foreigners telling them how to run their lives.

This has become a test of over 60 years of European integration....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Foreign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010FranceGermanyGreeceItalyPortugalSpain

1 Comments
Posted May 27, 2012 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Like the single market before, ...[the Euro] was conceived primarily as glue to bind Europe more closely together, tie Germany’s prosperity to that of its neighbors and prevent a third world war from the Continent, which had brought us two. A few engineering flaws wouldn’t be allowed to get in the way of such an important project.

A little over a decade since the first euro bills hit the shops in Madrid and Berlin, the euro’s design flaws have pushed much of the European Union into a deep economic pit. And political imperative is again being deployed as a major reason to stick to the common currency. “This enormously important motivation is often underestimated by outsiders,” argued the Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf, the most sober analyst of Europe’s economic maelstrom....

The main problem is that while leaders eagerly embraced the monetary bond, they rejected its necessary complement: a central budget that would transfer money from successful regions to underperforming ones, as the United States government sends tax dollars collected in Massachusetts to pay for unemployment benefits in Nevada.

The euro fed the illusion that Greece, Spain and Italy were as creditworthy as Germany or the Netherlands, propelling a decade-long credit boom in Europe’s less-developed periphery. And it was spectacularly ill-designed to deal with the shock when capital flows to those nations suddenly stopped. Weak countries not only had to rely on their own devices; they had to do so without a currency or a monetary policy of their own to absorb the blow....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Foreign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010FranceGermanyGreeceItalyPortugalSpain

2 Comments
Posted May 19, 2012 at 8:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There could be immediate risks to the Spanish and Italian economies: Tens of billions of dollars have left those nations in recent months as investors doubt their ability to both control rising public debt and boost their economies from recession. A Greek departure from the euro would, officials and analysts fear, push the lack of confidence in the euro zone to another level, accelerate that capital flight and leave one or both nations close to economic collapse.

It is a pattern reminiscent of what happened in Latin America and Asia in the 1990s, and it is the most likely way that a Greek exit from the euro could ignite a global round of financial contagion. The risks were highlighted Thursday when the Moody’s rating agency cut its assessment of Spanish banks, saying it had less confidence in the ability of the Spanish government to support the country’s financial system.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010GreeceItalySpain

0 Comments
Posted May 18, 2012 at 5:55 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The euro crisis is entering its final stages. Economic pain is now interacting with political resistance to produce intense financial pressure. I expect Greece to leave the euro – and perhaps very soon.

It could happen voluntarily, but both the Greek people and Greek politicians are still clinging to the idea that they can put an end to austerity yet still stay in the euro. In order to try to achieve that, a new government may call the eurozone's bluff.

At that point, the other eurozone members would face an awkward choice. Doubtless there would be voices in favour of providing the money, willy nilly. That might well be the French position. But if the eurozone gives way on this, what chance would there be of painful austerity being continued, not just in Greece but also in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland? The northern countries would face the prospect of pouring money into a bottomless pit.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010FranceGermanyGreeceItalyPortugalSpain

3 Comments
Posted May 15, 2012 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If Spain’s crisis deepens Europe’s recession, it could tip the entire world economy into a stubborn slump. The ramifications would be enormous, including: reduced odds of Barack Obama’s reelection, assuming a weaker U.S. recovery; less political cohesion and more social unrest in Europe (even now, the European Union’s unemployment rate is 10.2 percent); and growing pressures in many countries for economic nationalism and protectionism.

Spain is suffering a hangover from what economist Desmond Lachman of the American Enterprise Institute calls “the mother of all housing booms.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010FranceGermanyGreeceItalySpain

0 Comments
Posted April 23, 2012 at 5:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Is the euro crisis back with a vengeance, or do investors have a needless case of anxiety?

Until very recently, the gloom over the Continent had seemed to be lifting, with the conclusion of Greece’s second bailout and the calming effect on the financial sector of cheap loans from the European Central Bank. But last week’s jump in borrowing costs for Spain and Italy provided a clear signal that the euro’s problems are far from solved....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010ItalySpain

0 Comments
Posted April 16, 2012 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If I read my Twitter feed correctly, Jorg Asmussen, the German representative on the European Central Bank's executive board, thinks that the ECB has already played its part as far as saving the euro is concerned with last December's LTRO intervention; it's now up to national governments to complete the process, he says, by undertaking the necessary structural reform (Mr Asmussen has been speaking at the Institute for New Economic Thinking conference in Berlin).

As is becoming ever more common when it comes to euroland, it's a view which is quite at odds with the facts. True enough, the ECB's surprise liquidity operation did succeed in dousing the crisis, at least temporarily. A Lehman's style meltdown was averted. But the idea that the ECB can now sit back and let the politicians do the rest is surely deluded.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010GermanyItalySpain

1 Comments
Posted April 13, 2012 at 3:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A man aged 20 has been arrested in northern Italy on suspicion of plotting an attack on a synagogue in Milan.

The suspect, described as Moroccan-born, was said to have had details of the synagogue and plans for an attack on his computer.

Police in London said a 40-year-old woman was also arrested on suspicion of collecting information useful to terrorism.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireViolence* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism

0 Comments
Posted March 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It was a very tough and closely fought home and away match set against Napoli.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMenSports* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEuropeItaly

0 Comments
Posted March 14, 2012 at 5:23 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Pinched by the global recession and tough-love budget demands of the European Union, the Italian government is looking for extra revenue, and has its eyes set on commercial properties owned by the Roman Catholic Church.

On Feb. 15, the government of Prime Minister Mario Monti announced it wants to revise rules on the tax-exempt status of church-owned commercial property. Although the exemption also applies to other not-for-profit entities, such as trade unions, political parties and religious groups, the Catholic church is its largest beneficiary.

"Such a move would have been unimaginable six months ago," said Francesco Perfetti, a history professor at LUISS University in Rome. "After all, no matter whether you are a believer or not, the church is an integral part of Italy's culture."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesChurch/State MattersReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyHousing/Real Estate MarketTaxes* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly

0 Comments
Posted March 7, 2012 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Watch it all. Clint Dempsey rocks.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchSports* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.EuropeItaly

7 Comments
Posted March 1, 2012 at 9:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Vatican this...[week]dismissed as “biased and banal” a broadcast on Italian television yesterday evening suggesting that a senior church official, who is today the pope’s ambassador in the United States, issued a blunt warning to Benedict XVI in March 2011 about financial corruption in the Vatican.

A Vatican spokesperson also appeared to threaten legal action against the broadcast, which named a handful of senior officials and financial advisors in the Vatican as involved in alleged mismanagement and lack of adequate financial controls.

The broadcast, which appeared on one of Italy’s leading commercial networks, focused on Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, named in October as Benedict’s new nuncio to the United States. Prior to that position, Viganò had served as the number two official in the government of the Vatican city-state, where he earned a reputation as a financial reformer.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI

0 Comments
Posted January 29, 2012 at 4:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Almighty God, who didst call Fabian to be a faithful pastor and servant of thy people, and to lay down his life in witness to thy Son: Grant that we, strengthened by his example and aided by his prayers, may in times of trial and persecution remain steadfast in faith and endurance, for the sake of him who laid down his life for us all, Jesus Christ our Savior; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistorySpirituality/Prayer* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly

0 Comments
Posted January 20, 2012 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Organised crime has tightened its grip on the Italian economy during the economic crisis, making the Mafia the country's biggest "bank" and squeezing the life out of thousands of small firms, according to a report on Tuesday.

Extortionate lending by criminal groups had become a "national emergency", said the report by anti-crime group SOS Impresa.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe Banking System/SectorPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010Italy

1 Comments
Posted January 10, 2012 at 7:33 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

FM: What inspired you to write “The Prague Cemetery,” and what did you hope to accomplish with it?

UE: I always said that one of the main features of human languages is the possibility of lying. Dogs do not lie. When they bark to say that someone is outside, they tell the truth. Human beings lie continuously ... A particular form of lying is forgery ... like “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which, if not the only cause, certainly contributed to the Holocaust. I find [“The Protocols”] interesting because, one, they are a completely self-contradictory text ... Second scandal, they were proven in 1921 to be false, and after that they were believed more and more, so it’s an interesting story. The fact that many beautiful and interesting historical essays were written on this topic is evidently not enough, because they have not reached the mass public audience. So, I don’t say it is the only motivation, but one of the motivations was that, maybe, transforming it into a narrative, I could reach more of an audience. I was just told yesterday that my book has been asked to be translated for Indonesia, a Muslim country. I don’t think Indonesians have gotten many opportunities to read the great scholarly books on “The Protocols”, which are reserved to a few scholars.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryPoetry & LiteraturePsychology* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* TheologyAnthropology

0 Comments
Posted November 27, 2011 at 2:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Even as the euro zone hurtles towards a crash, most people are assuming that, in the end, European leaders will do whatever it takes to save the single currency. That is because the consequences of the euro’s destruction are so catastrophic that no sensible policymaker could stand by and let it happen.

A euro break-up would cause a global bust worse even than the one in 2008-09. The world’s most financially integrated region would be ripped apart by defaults, bank failures and the imposition of capital controls....The euro zone could shatter into different pieces, or a large block in the north and a fragmented south. Amid the recriminations and broken treaties after the failure of the European Union’s biggest economic project, wild currency swings between those in the core and those in the periphery would almost certainly bring the single market to a shuddering halt. The survival of the EU itself would be in doubt.

Yet the threat of a disaster does not always stop it from happening. The chances of the euro zone being smashed apart have risen alarmingly, thanks to financial panic, a rapidly weakening economic outlook and pigheaded brinkmanship. The odds of a safe landing are dwindling fast.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankStock MarketThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Foreign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010FranceGermanyGreeceItalyPortugalSpain

1 Comments
Posted November 26, 2011 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Banks clamored for emergency funds from the European Central Bank on Tuesday, borrowing the most since early 2009 in a clear sign that the euro region’s financial institutions are having trouble obtaining credit at reasonable rates on the open market.

Indebted governments among the 17 members of the European Union that use the euro are also finding it harder to borrow at affordable rates as investors lose confidence in their creditworthiness.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010FranceGermanyItalyPortugalSpain

0 Comments
Posted November 22, 2011 at 11:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Ninety-three percent of Italians believe cutting the country's hobbling public debt is a top priority, but few are willing to make personal sacrifices to do so, according to an AP-GfK poll released Tuesday.

Only about a quarter of Italians favor reforming labor laws to make it easier to fire workers, or raising the retirement age from 65 (and sometimes lower) to 67 - two of the reforms considered critical to curb Italy's public spending and boost economic growth.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyEuroEuropean Central BankPersonal FinancePolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010Italy

3 Comments
Posted November 22, 2011 at 3:18 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

First it was Athens. Then Rome. Could Paris be next?

While Italy has replaced Greece as the focus of anxiety amid Europe’s worsening debt crisis, investors are increasingly concerned about the outlook for France, whose banks are among the world’s biggest and are closely linked with their counterparts in the United States.

One crucial gauge of investor sentiment, the difference between what France pays to borrow versus what Germany pays, has doubled since the beginning of October, and last week reached its widest point since the formation of the euro currency zone in 1999. Meanwhile, speculation that France could soon lose the sterling triple-A rating on its sovereign debt intensified after Standard & Poor’s mistakenly told clients on Thursday that it was downgrading France’s debt.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankStock MarketThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010FranceItaly

0 Comments
Posted November 14, 2011 at 5:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mr [Mario] Monti's candidature was announced after President Giorgio Napolitano spent the day in 17 meetings with senior politicians.

Speaking to reporters shortly afterwards, Mr Monti said Italy should be an "element of strength and not weakness" within the EU.

"We will aim at solving the financial situation, resume the path of growth. [We want to build] a future of dignity and hope for our children."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankStock MarketThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Foreign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010Italy

0 Comments
Posted November 13, 2011 at 4:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For the second time in two years, European debt troubles threaten to slow the momentum of the fragile recovery in the United States.

Although American financial institutions have taken steps to protect themselves from Europe’s long-simmering problems, the likely slowdown in Europe could damage consumer and business confidence in America and strengthen the dollar, making United States exports less competitive.

“Financial contagion can lead to the very rapid global spread of recession,” said Chris Varvares, senior managing director for Macroeconomic Advisers, a forecasting company. “If trouble intensifies and spills over to equities and other U.S. risk assets, we could see a soft patch.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010FranceGermanyItaly

0 Comments
Posted November 12, 2011 at 2:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

With interest rates on its sovereign debt surging well above seven per cent, there is a rising risk that Italy may soon lose market access. Given that it is too-big-to-fail but also too-big-to-save, this could lead to a forced restructuring of its public debt of €1,900bn. That would partially address its “stock” problem of large and unsustainable debt but it would not resolve its “flow” problem, a large current account deficit, lack of external competitiveness and a worsening plunge in gross domestic product and economic activity.

To resolve the latter, Italy may, like other periphery countries, need to exit the monetary union and go back to a national currency, thus triggering an effective break-up of the eurozone.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Foreign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010Italy

1 Comments
Posted November 10, 2011 at 6:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Italy on Wednesday became the first major economy to require an international bail-out as its debts hit “totally unsustainable levels”.

The country's escalating crisis prompted questions about whether European leaders had sufficient will or financial firepower to rescue it.

The interest rate at which the Italian government borrows on the international bond markets hit seven per cent – the point at which the smaller eurozone economies of Ireland, Portugal and Greece had to be rescued.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Foreign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly

0 Comments
Posted November 9, 2011 at 11:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Italy’s financial crisis deepened on Wednesday despite a pledge by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to resign once Parliament passes austerity measures demanded by the European Union.

The move failed to convince investors, propelling Italy’s borrowing costs through a key financial and psychological barrier of 7 percent, close to levels that have required other euro zone countries to seek bailouts.

Mr. Berlusconi, cornered by world markets and humiliated by a parliamentary setback, appeared to have become the most prominent victim of the broader European debt crisis. But his decision did not remove wide uncertainty about Italy’s ability to tackle the crisis, and some analysts said the prospect of a protracted period of political wrangling could exert further pressure for a quicker exit from the impasse.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010Italy

0 Comments
Posted November 9, 2011 at 7:42 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Obama, at any rate, felt that they would have little value. Instead, he confronted the Germans in Cannes with a suggestion so radical that it alarmed both Merkel and Schäuble. To save the common currency, Obama proposed that the Europeans follow the example of the American Federal Reserve, which buys up almost unlimited amounts of US treasury bonds when necessary.

The Germans pointed out feebly that the ECB operates within a completely different tradition than the Fed, and that it also pursues a different mission. But it is becoming increasingly clear to Merkel and her finance minister that, in the end, only the ECB will be able to save the euro if the crisis continues to escalate. It is the only European fiscal policy institution capable of taking action, and it also comes equipped with unlimited firepower. It can never run out of money, because it can simply print new money when needed.

This is an approach Germany's representatives in the ECB council have strongly resisted....But how long can the Germans resist the pressure from other members?

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Foreign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010FranceGermanyGreeceItalyPortugalSpain

4 Comments
Posted November 9, 2011 at 6:37 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s embattled prime minister, signalled on Tuesday night that he would resign after parliament passes a new financial stability law that will implement fresh austerity measures demanded by the European Union.

Giorgio Napolitano, head of state, said Mr Berlusconi had expressed his recognition of the “urgent need” to respond quickly to the expectations of Europe through the approval of the stability law, which would be amended in light of the most recent recommendations of the European Commission.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Foreign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010Italy

0 Comments
Posted November 8, 2011 at 3:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Check it out.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Foreign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermanyItaly

3 Comments
Posted November 4, 2011 at 6:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The 14th crisis summit in 21 months starts with a meeting of all 27 European Union leaders at 6 p.m. The real business gets under way at 7:15 p.m. when chiefs of the 10 non-euro nations depart, leaving the rest to hash out a strategy that they already say requires more work.

The cancellation of a finance ministers’ meeting to precede the summit underscored the holes in the plan. The finance chiefs will now meet at an as-yet undetermined time after the summit to complete its main elements, including safeguarding banks and writing down Greek debt, according to an EU official.

Global exasperation with Europe’s response is deepening, with politicians from Australia to North America prodding the euro area to get ahead of the crisis before it infects the world economy.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankG20 The Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Foreign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010GreeceItalyPortugalSpain

0 Comments
Posted October 26, 2011 at 6:12 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was put on the defensive at a crisis summit over the country’s finances and appointments at the European Central Bank.

Before the leaders convened yesterday in Brussels, Berlusconi held face-to-face talks yesterday with European Union President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Barroso and then with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

“I never flunked” an exam in my life, Berlusconi told reporters when asked if he was concerned over the push to cut Italy’s debt load, the biggest in the world after the U.S. and Japan.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010Italy

0 Comments
Posted October 23, 2011 at 5:35 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Just when the eurozone governments thought it could not get worse for Europe's single currency, it did.

Shell-shocked EU finance ministers meeting in Brussels on Saturday were already reeling from the worst Franco-German rift for over 20 years and a fractious failure to resolve the problems that have brought Greece, and the euro, close to the brink.

But then a new bombshell hit as a joint report by the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that, without a default, the Greek debt crisis alone could swallow the eurozone's entire €440 billion bailout fund - leaving nothing to spare to help the affected banks of Italy, Spain or France....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Foreign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010FranceGermanyGreeceItalyPortugalSpain

0 Comments
Posted October 22, 2011 at 5:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

EU ministers were wrangling on Saturday over bolstering their banks, with some officials saying broad agreement was nearing but others warning that Spain, Italy and Portugal were objecting because of concerns over the costs involved.

"There is 24 against three - Italy, Spain and Portugal," said one euro zone diplomat. "They think it's too expensive. They don't want to pay it."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Foreign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010GreeceItalyPortugalSpain

0 Comments
Posted October 22, 2011 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

British philosopher A C Grayling has withdrawn from attending an interreligious event to promote world peace hosted by the Vatican.

Although the professor of philosophy had originally planned to attend the third “Prayer for Peace” in Assisi, Italy, he later changed his mind on discovering that it was an event for pilgrims.

Professor Grayling told The Catholic Herald: “I thought it was originally to have a discussion with the Pope about the place of religion in society but then it turned out it was a minor event and what they wanted was these guests to accompany the Pope on a pilgrimage. So I decided to withdraw.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVIOther FaithsAtheism

2 Comments
Posted October 20, 2011 at 12:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The reserve powers would be well advised to pull out all the stops to save Europe and its banking system. Together they hold $10 trillion in foreign bonds. If they agreed to rotate just 4pc of these holdings ($400bn) into Spanish, Italian, and Belgian debt over the next two years, they could offer a soothing balm. None has yet risen to the challenge. It is `sauve qui peut', with no evidence of G20 leadership in sight.

Once again, the US has had to take charge. The multi-trillion package now taking shape for Euroland was largely concocted in Washington, in cahoots with the European Commission, and is being imposed on Germany by the full force of American diplomacy.

It is an ugly and twisted set of proposals, devised to accomodate Berlin's refusal to accept fiscal union, Eurobonds, and an EU treasury. But at least it is big.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankG20 The Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentFederal ReserveTreasury Secretary Timothy GeithnerForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010GermanyGreeceItalySpain

1 Comments
Posted September 25, 2011 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Before the euro zone, individual countries issued bonds in their local currency and could print more of it, whether it be francs, lire or drachmas, if a crisis was making it difficult to pay off the loans.

Today, with the European Central Bank in charge of euros, governments in Athens, Rome and elsewhere no longer control the “printing press.” Yet even as individual governments lost the power to pay off debts by printing money, the politics and regulations of the euro zone encouraged banks, insurance companies and other financial firms to load up on government bonds — and countries to issue them.

The “persistence in sustaining risk-free status . . . has, in our view, directly contributed to the development and severity of recent market turmoil,” Achim Kassow, a member of the board of managing directors of Germany’s Commerzbank, wrote in a recent study of the bank rule for the European Parliament. “Both the course and the severity of the crisis can clearly be tied to incentives set by current regulation.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010FranceGermanyGreeceItalyPortugalSpain

0 Comments
Posted September 23, 2011 at 7:35 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Key indicators of credit stress have reached the danger levels seen before the Lehman Brothers failure three years ago, with Markit's iTraxx Crossover index – or "fear gauge" – of corporate bonds surging 56 basis points to 857 on Thursday....

The yield spread between Italian 10-year bonds and Bunds reached a fresh record of 408 basis points before the European Central Bank (ECB) intervened in late trading. It is near the level at which LCH.Clearnet raises margin requirements, the trigger that forced Greece, Portugal and Ireland to request bail-outs.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankG20 The Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010FranceGermanyGreeceItalyPortugal

0 Comments
Posted September 22, 2011 at 8:28 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The agency said the country's net general government debt is the highest among A-rated sovereigns, and now expects it to peak later and at a higher level than it previously anticipated.

“In our view, Italy’s economic growth prospects are weakening and we expect that Italy’s fragile governing coalition and policy differences within parliament will continue to limit the government’s ability to respond decisively to domestic and external macroeconomic challenges,” S&P said in a statement.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010FranceGermanyGreeceItaly

0 Comments
Posted September 19, 2011 at 6:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

(Before you read the full article, guess the answer to this question: What percentage of public sector employees in Italy have lifetime tenure?).

With only 960 residents and a handful of roads, this tiny hilltop village in the arid, sulfurous hills of southern Sicily does not appear to have major traffic problems. But that does not prevent it from having one full-time traffic officer — and eight auxiliaries.

The auxiliaries, who earn a respectable 800 euros a month, or $1,100, to work 20 hours a week, are among about 64 Comitini residents employed by the town, the product of an entrenched jobs-for-votes system pervasive in Italian politics at all levels.

“Jobs like these have kept this city alive,” said Caterina Valenti, 41, an auxiliary in a neat blue uniform as she sat recently with two colleagues, all on duty, drinking coffee in the town’s bar on a hot afternoon. “You see, here we are at the bar, we support the economy this way.”

Read it all (including the answer to the question above).

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyEuroEuropean Central BankLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe Banking System/SectorPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010Italy

0 Comments
Posted September 16, 2011 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Premier Wen Jiabao said his country and will play its part to "prevent the further spread of the sovereign debt crisis," but warned that China will not sign a blank cheque for states that have failed to carry out full reform.

"Countries must first put their own houses in order," he told the World Economic Forum in Dalian.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryAsiaChinaEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010Italy

0 Comments
Posted September 14, 2011 at 11:27 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mrs. [Angela] Merkel, 57, faces far-reaching decisions about how to deal definitively with the debt crisis in Europe and, more immediately, whether to allow Greece to default or even to leave the currency union. American officials fear that if she does not act more decisively, bank lending could freeze up and the result would be another sharp financial downturn on both sides of the Atlantic.

Fears of a worsening debt crisis slammed European stocks on Monday, especially shares of French banks, forcing the French government to declare its support for its three largest financial institutions. The turmoil added to worries that the Greek crisis would prove difficult to contain without more robust action from Germany and, ultimately, its taxpayers.

The project of European integration, which began in the difficult years after World War II, is also on the line. If Greece were forced to abandon the euro, as more and more voices on the German right are demanding, it would be a jarring setback for solidarity on the Continent.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010GermanyGreeceItalyPortugalSpain

0 Comments
Posted September 14, 2011 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Financial turmoil in Europe is no longer a problem of small, peripheral economies like Greece. What’s under way right now is a full-scale market run on the much larger economies of Spain and Italy. At this point countries in crisis account for about a third of the euro area’s G.D.P., so the common European currency itself is under existential threat.

And all indications are that European leaders are unwilling even to acknowledge the nature of that threat, let alone deal with it effectively.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe 2009 Obama Administration Housing Amelioration PlanThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010FranceGermanyGreeceItalySpain

5 Comments
Posted September 12, 2011 at 7:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Continued involvement of the ECB could be stymied by two factors. The first is its own distaste for the job. "The fact that markets are dysfunctional is, in our opinion, the responsibility of governments," ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet said in Brussels on Monday. "They are issuing their own securities. They have the responsibility for the credibility of their own securities."

There are also question hanging over the Italian austerity plan that the ECB wanted as the price of its support. On Monday, a proposed tax increase on high earners was ditched and some cuts to local-authority funding were scaled back.

"If Italy can't deliver austerity, it is going to run into some hard questions from the ECB this year," Mr. Penn said.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankTaxesPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010Italy

0 Comments
Posted August 31, 2011 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If the experience of previous ECB interventions is anything to go by it is only a matter of time until we see larger-scale ECB operations, potentially accompanied by a European Financial Stability Facility (and later European Stability Mechanism) bailout. This is how it happened in the cases of Ireland and Portugal. ECB measures have always been announced as ways to prevent further, more costly rescue packages. The strategy never worked because in the end we got both. It won’t work this time, either.

It is remarkable how far the ECB has now moved from its initial Bundesbank-like philosophy of independence and monetary stability. These were not just soap-box oratories but supposedly law. The EU Treaty defines the ECB’s role very clearly: “The primary objective of the European System of Central Banks [the ECB and eurozone central banks] shall be to maintain price stability.” And the ECB “shall be independent in the exercise of its powers and in the management of its finances. Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies and the governments of the Member States shall respect that independence.” If only!

Maybe the ECB somehow manages to conform to the letter of the law. It certainly doesn’t to its spirit....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankStock Market* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010ItalySpain

0 Comments
Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:49 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An advertising campaign for Italy’s revenue agency that starts Tuesday has set itself a lofty goal: to get Italians to pay taxes.

Read it all.

Filed under: * International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly

0 Comments
Posted August 9, 2011 at 12:39 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

No amount of jaw-jawing from the ECB (or from the G-7, which yesterday put out an odd statement calling the rise in euro-zone bond yields not "warranted") can make investors buy Italian debt. Mr. Trichet continues to act as if the markets are having an attack of the vapors, from which they'll recover presently. But no rational person or institution is going to start buying sovereign debt from heavily indebted, stagnant, deficit-running countries as if the past 15 months had never happened. The lamp has been rubbed, the genie has escaped, and no amount of un-rubbing will put him back in the lamp.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankStock MarketThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010FranceGermanyItaly

0 Comments
Posted August 9, 2011 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A half-hearted approach by the EBC will achieve little. Even full-blown "shock and awe" will only buy time. That's because the real instability stems from fears euro-zone governments will impose losses on those holding individual country bonds if debts prove unsustainable. Those fears are mounting as the growth outlook deteriorates. Italy's announcement of new austerity measures Friday may help address concerns over the deficit but could actually worsen the short-term challenge of growth.

That's why the second part of the crisis resolution requires a vast expansion of the euro zone's bailout facilities and most likely a move by European countries to guarantee European Financial Stability Facility's bonds, effectively turning them into genuine euro-zone bonds.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010GreeceItalyPortugalSpain

0 Comments
Posted August 7, 2011 at 11:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Professor Willem Buiter, Citigroup's chief economist, said the apparent ECB action was pointless. "The warped logic of intervening in two countries that don't need it is as strange as it gets."

Mr Buiter said Europe risks a disastrous chain of events and the worst financial collapse since the onset of the Great Depression unless Europe's central bank steps in with sufficient muscle to back-stop the system.

"The ECB has yet so show it understands that it is the only institution that can save Italy and Spain from fundamentally unwarranted defaults. Everybody is afraid and real money investors are dumping their holdings. The ECB must step in to cap the yields at 6pc or 6.5pc and put a floor under the market," he said.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010ItalySpain

0 Comments
Posted August 4, 2011 at 11:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive of the bond giant Pimco, said investors were selling risky assets like stocks “globally prompted by concerns about the weakening economic outlook, spreading contagion in Europe and insufficient policy responses.”

With Thursday’s dive, the three major American indexes had erased all of the gains made so far in 2011, with the S.&P. and Nasdaq markedly below the start of the year.

Read it all and take a look at this graph picture which says it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyEuroEuropean Central BankStock MarketThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010GreeceItalyPortugalSpain

2 Comments
Posted August 4, 2011 at 3:24 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Debt-laden Italy is likely to default, but Spain might just avoid it, according to the British think tank, the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

With the countries weighed down by debt, the think tank modelled "good" and "bad" economic scenarios for both.

It found that Italy will not avoid default unless it sees an unlikely big jump in economic growth.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankStock MarketThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Foreign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010ItalySpain

1 Comments
Posted August 4, 2011 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...another type of contagion is causing concern: the risk of problems spreading to big banks, especially in Italy and Spain.

The growing vulnerability of the giant banks in these two countries is spurring investor fears that Europe’s latest bid to get a handle on its festering debt crisis, adopted just a few weeks ago, has come up short.

The banks own so many bonds issued by their home countries that they are being weakened as the value of those bonds falls, amid concerns that the cost of government borrowing could become too expensive for Italy and Spain to bear.

Now there are signs that these concerns are, in turn, making it harder and costlier for the banks to borrow money to finance their day-to-day operations, a troubling trend that, at the worst, could lead to liquidity problems.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankStock MarketThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010GreeceItalySpain

0 Comments
Posted August 3, 2011 at 11:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Investors continued to flee Italian and Spanish bonds Tuesday amid renewed concerns about the ability of Rome and Madrid to regain control of their finances in the face of sluggish growth and weakened administrations.

The Italian economy minister, Giulio Tremonti, called a meeting of the country’s financial authorities Tuesday to discuss the recent market turmoil, Reuters reported, citing an unidentified official. The Italian Treasury did not respond to calls seeking comment.

In Madrid, meanwhile, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero delayed the start of a planned vacation to the southern region of Andalucia. Reuters quoted the secretary of state for communications as saying the prime minister wanted to “more closely monitor the evolution of the economic indicators.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Foreign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010ItalySpain

0 Comments
Posted August 2, 2011 at 12:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Behind the paralysis in Washington and prevarication in Berlin lies a troubling thought. Political systems in thrall to 24-hour rolling news have lost the capacity to make difficult choices. Globalisation imposes wrenching change and simultaneously saps the ability of governments to adapt. Politicians find it easier to argue about taxing the rich or cutting Medicare and about central bank bond purchases versus default than to confront the consequences for western societies of the profound upheaval in the global economy.

So it is tempting to say all is lost – that a political and economic model built on western primacy is cracking under the strain of the shifting balance of international advantage. The American dream and European welfare state are bending to the competitive winds of globalisation.

Tempting but premature. It is too early to despair. What makes the crises in Washington and Europe so infuriating is the fact that, for all they demand hard decisions, they are susceptible to political solution. The missing ingredient is leadership.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010FranceGermanyGreeceItalyPortugalSpain* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted July 22, 2011 at 11:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On June 28, Pope Benedict XVI named the 69-year-old Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Angelo Scola, as the new Archbishop of Milan.

At one level, it’s tempting to read this as a lateral move. Venice actually produced three popes in the 20th century (Pius X, John XXIII, and John Paul I) to Milan’s two (Pius XI and Paul VI), so it’s not like Scola’s transfer to the See of Ambrose lifts him out of obscurity. Among insiders, he was already considered an ecclesial heavyweight and top-tier future prospect....

...Milan isn’t just a job -- it’s a unique vote of papal confidence, and a platform for global leadership. Church-watchers usually assume that when a pope sends someone to Milan, he’s pointing him out as a possible successor. Benedict XVI is no naïf; he’s aware of that calculus, which means that at a minimum, he has enough confidence in Scola to put him in a place where the papacy is a live possibility.

Read it all (from the long queue of should-have-already-been-posted material).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI

1 Comments
Posted July 19, 2011 at 5:39 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Five years ago, I was among those who argued that the probability of a collapse of the eurozone was close to zero. Last year, I wrote it was no longer trivial, but small. The odds have risen steadily since, not because of the crisis itself, but the political response. I now would put the odds of a break-up of the eurozone at 50:50. This is not because I doubt the pledge by the European Council to do whatever it takes to save the euro but because I fear it has left things too late. The council may be willing but it will not be able to deliver. As I argued last week, a eurozone bond is the only solution to the crisis. But this gets progressively more expensive, and politically less realistic, once bond spreads of large countries widen.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010FranceGermanyGreeceItalyPortugalSpain

0 Comments
Posted July 18, 2011 at 11:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This week the shortcomings of this muddling-through were laid bare... Financial markets turned on Italy, the euro zone’s third-biggest economy, with alarming speed. Yields on ten-year Italian bonds jumped by almost a percentage point in two trading days: on July 12th they breached 6%, their highest since the euro was created. The Milan stockmarket slumped to its lowest in two years. Though bond yields subsequently fell back, the debt crisis has clearly entered a new phase. No longer confined to the small peripheral economies of Greece, Ireland and Portugal, it has hurdled over Spain, supposedly next in line, and reached one of the euro zone’s giants. All its members, but especially Germany, face a stark choice.

Consider the stakes. Italy has the biggest sovereign-debt market in Europe and the third-biggest in the world. It has €1.9 trillion ($2.6 trillion) of sovereign debt outstanding, 120% of its GDP, three times as much as Greece, Ireland and Portugal combined—and far more than the €250 billion or so left in the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), the currency club’s rescue kitty. Default would have calamitous consequences for the euro and the world economy. Even if the more likely immediate prospect is sustained stress in the Italian bond market, that will surely prompt investors to flee European assets, making the continent’s recovery ever harder. Meanwhile in the background there is the absurd pantomime of Barack Obama and congressional Republicans feuding over how to raise the federal government’s debt ceiling to stave off an American “default”.... That may have distracted American investors briefly; once they realise how much is at stake in Italy, it will not help.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010Italy

0 Comments
Posted July 17, 2011 at 1:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The European debt crisis has entered “uncharted territory,” rekindling concern it will spread eastward through banking and trade links, according to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Italy’s Unicredit SpA (UCG) and Intesa Sanpaolo SpA (ISP), two of eastern Europe’s biggest lenders, fell to the lowest in more than two years July 11 as political infighting threatened to delay efforts to cut the budget deficit in the country with Europe’s largest debt burden. European leaders this week failed to agree on a new aid package for Greece.

“We are in uncharted territory,” Erik Berglof, chief economist at the London-based EBRD, which invests in eastern Europe and Central Asia, said in a July 12 interview. “The source of the contagion seems to be in worse shape.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankG20 The Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010GreeceItalySpain

1 Comments
Posted July 15, 2011 at 6:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...everyone knows that Italy is on the slow train to ruin. Her public finances have been reasonably well run, but the economic fundamentals are skewed against her. Her poor demographic mean fewer workers – and thus taxpayers and savers – to fund the health and social costs of a greying populous. And, like Portugal and Greece, she is fundamentally uncompetitive, unable to match German levels of productivity and exports.

Il miracolo economico of the 1960s – symbolised by millions of little Fiat 500s pouring out of bustling Turin – was possible because a vast reservoir of underemployed agricultural workers could be lured into the cities. That cannot be repeated.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankStock MarketThe Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010Italy

0 Comments
Posted July 12, 2011 at 11:28 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has called an emergency meeting of top officials dealing with the euro zone debt crisis for Monday morning, reflecting concern that the crisis could spread to Italy, the region's third largest economy.

European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet will attend the meeting along with Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the region's finance ministers, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Olli Rehn, the economic and monetary affairs commissioner, three official sources told Reuters.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010GreeceItalySpain

0 Comments
Posted July 10, 2011 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Investors are withdrawing cash from money market funds heavily exposed to short-term debt issued by European banks out of fear that a Greek default could spark contagion across the region’s financial sector.

At the same time there is increasing reluctance among US banks to lend to their European counterparts in the past two weeks because of growing worries over Greece, according to brokers and bank traders.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010FranceGermanyGreeceItalyPortugalSpain

1 Comments
Posted June 25, 2011 at 9:08 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Check it out.


Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010GermanyGreeceItalyPortugalSpain

0 Comments
Posted June 25, 2011 at 8:54 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Vatican is betting an iPod beats "Shush!" in lowering the tour guide noise level in basilicas.

It will even lend you one for free to try to prove its point.

From a tiny booth in the back of St. John in Lateran, the Holy See's pilgrim agency has been quietly asking tourists if they want to tour Rome's oldest basilica with an iPod in hand loaded with an app specially designed to access the place's art, architecture and Christian history.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureScience & Technology* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

0 Comments
Posted June 22, 2011 at 11:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“Faith is not conserved by its own merits in the world, it is not automatically transmitted to the human heart, but must always be announced. To be effective the proclamation of faith must begin with a heart that believes, hopes, loves, a heart that loves Christ and believes in the power of the Holy Spirit!”

This was Pope Benedict XVI’s message to the bishops, clergy religious and laity of his diocese Monday evening, gathered together in the basilica of St John Lateran to open the annual convention of the Diocese of Rome.

The Holy Father called priests, parents and catechists to launch a new evangelisation, to transmit a living faith to the future generation of Romans and create a community of believers in the eternal city where the Gospel is not only preached but put into practice.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI

1 Comments
Posted June 14, 2011 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Yet Dante was the greatest poet of the Middle Ages. It could be argued that he was the greatest of all European poets, of any time or place. But while most non-Italian readers are prepared to take this on trust, they sidestep his work, making him one of the great unreads. In so doing, they leave unsavoured one of the greatest aesthetic, imaginative, emotional and intellectual experiences on offer.

They are like those who have never attended a performance of Mozart's Don Giovanni, or of Shakespeare's Lear; who have never heard a symphony by Beethoven or visited Paris. Quite simply, they are missing out.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchHistoryPhilosophyPoetry & LiteratureReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEschatology

0 Comments
Posted June 13, 2011 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Derek Halpenny at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ said probably the most worrying development for the euro was the surge in Italian government bond yields in response to S&P’s move.

He said: “Italy has the largest government bond market in the eurozone and continued rising yields there over the coming weeks would have a very destabilising impact on the eurozone debt markets.

“With the authorities still seemingly divided over how to proceed with the debt crisis there remains considerable short-term risks for the euro.”

Read it all.


Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010GreeceItalySpain

1 Comments
Posted May 23, 2011 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Pope Benedict XVI elevated 24 new cardinals in a festive ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday, bestowing quadrangular red hats on the new members of a group that will one day elect his successor.

Two Americans were among the newly elected. Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., is seen as a bridge-builder and was greeted with waves of applause from the hundreds of supporters who came for Saturday’s ceremony. Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, a former archbishop of St. Louis, is now the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, a Vatican court, and is known for his outspoken criticism of President Obama and of Catholics who are abortion rights supporters.

Dressed in heavy golden vestments, Benedict called on the new cardinals to devote themselves entirely to humble service to the church, whose force, he said, is “not the logic of supremacy, of power according to human criteria, but the logic of bowing down to wash feet, the logic of service, the logic of the cross which is at the base of every exercise of power.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI

0 Comments
Posted November 20, 2010 at 11:54 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There will be sovereign defaults in the eurozone, with a default by Greece now inevitable. Ultimately the thing that underpins any country's debts is its ability to raise enough tax to service and eventually repay them. Greece cannot hope to do that. Ireland will be pushed to do so but probably can. I would, however, worry about the long-term credit-worthiness of Portugal, Spain and Italy.

So then you have to ask whether a default of a eurozone state breaks up the eurozone. I don't think we know the answer to that yet. We do know that the Germans, who hold the cards, will do absolutely everything they can to stop such a default, even if they have to grit their teeth as they do so. My instinct is that a country defaulting would not of itself lead to that country leaving the euro, but if its costs and prices were totally out of line, that probably would be the least painful way of extracting itself. If that is right in the short-term, things will be patched up and the euro will come through this downturn intact. But the next downturn, in five or 10 years' time? Surely not.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsEuroEuropean Central BankThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--IrelandEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010ItalyPortugalSpain

0 Comments
Posted November 17, 2010 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

American pundits and politicians continue to argue over whether building an Islamic cultural center two blocks from ground zero – where Al Qaeda destroyed the World Trade Center nine years ago – is appropriate.

But as the debate, centered around religious freedom and the role Islam itself played in the 9/11 attacks, continues in New York another of the world's great cultural cities is arguing over a proposal for its first mosque. And proponents are getting help from an unlikely corner: the Vatican.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVIOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

0 Comments
Posted September 23, 2010 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Italian police have seized seven tons of the powerful RDX explosive which they found in a shipping container they believe were likely destined for a terrorist organization.

While the origin and destination of the contraband is still being investigated, police are convinced the huge amount of explosive was in transit, possibly from Iran to Syria.

"The truly astonishing amount (of explosive) we seized leads us to believe the recipients could be large international criminal organizations, perhaps tied to terrorism," Carmelo Casabona, the chief of police said at a press conference in Reggio Calabria today, according to the ANSA news agency.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly

3 Comments
Posted September 22, 2010 at 4:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi, who holds increasing sway in the Italian economy, upset some Italians by urging conversion to Islam during a three-day visit to the predominantly Roman Catholic country.

Col. Gadhafi held a series of private meetings on Sunday and Monday with some 800 Italian women and a small group of young men organized by a hostess agency and paid for by the Libyan government.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAfricaLibyaEuropeItaly* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted September 1, 2010 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Tradition holds that St. Peter was jailed in Rome's maximum security Mamertine Prison before he was crucified upside down and buried on the hill where St. Peter's Basilica was later built.

And now after recent excavations in Rome's oldest prison, archaeologists say they have uncovered evidence that, while not providing direct proof, does support that belief.

The prison, which lies beneath the Church of St. Joseph of the Carpenters facing the Roman Forum, was closed for the past year as experts dug up old floors and picked away plaster.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchPrison/Prison MinistryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly

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Posted August 4, 2010 at 6:50 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Galileo case is often seen starkly as science’s first decisive blow against not only faith but also the power of the Roman Catholic Church. It has never been quite that simple, though. Galileo was a believer, devastated at being convicted, in 1633, of heresy for upending the biblical view of the universe.

Now a particularly enduring Catholic practice is on prominent display in, of all places, Florence’s history of science museum, recently renovated and renamed to honor Galileo: Modern-day supporters of the famous heretic are exhibiting newly recovered bits of his body — three fingers and a gnarly molar sliced from his corpse nearly a century after he died — as if they were the relics of an actual saint.

“He’s a secular saint, and relics are an important symbol of his fight for freedom of thought,” said Paolo Galluzzi, the director of the Galileo Museum, which put the tooth, thumb and index finger on view last month, uniting them with another of the scientist’s digits already in its collection.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureScience & Technology* International News & CommentaryEuropeItaly

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Posted July 24, 2010 at 1:14 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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