Austrian Far-Right Legislator Convicted of Anti-Muslim Incitement

Austrian Far-Right Legislator Convicted of

Anti-Muslim Incitement

More news stories on Europe

DPA, Earth Times, January 22, 2009

Austrian far-right parliamentarian Susanne Winter was convicted Thursday of incitement because of her anti-Muslim statements, including the claim that Islam’s prophet Mohammed was a paedophile. A court in Winter’s home town of Graz also found the 51-year-old politician guilty of humiliating a religion. She was sentenced to a fine of 24,000 euros (31,000 dollars) euros and a suspended prison term of three months, Austrian news agency APA reported.


She also proposed in a discussion with students that Muslim men should commit bestiality rather than making “indecent advances” on girls.

The politician had pleaded innocent Thursday, claiming that she “did not want to insult anyone, but only to point out problems.”


Original article

(Posted on January 26, 2009)


Mohammed humiliated his religion by marrying and consummating his marriage to a little girl on her ninth birthday. If all the world learned the Muslims worship a pedophile prophet and it failed to humiliate Islam, nothing would. It is our job to spread the word…

Posted by Anonymous at 5:43 PM on January 26

I recall being in Vienna a few years ago. I’m Jewish so I decided to visit a very old Moorish synagogue truly a masterpiece I needed to give 4 forms of ID in order to get in, why not because of “neo-Nazis” but because of Turks, Arabs and other Muslims. I tell you I as a Jew would vote Joerg Haider anyday after this.

Posted by Anonymous at 6:04 PM on January 26

So this is what the white Europeans’ vaunted social democracies come down to: keep your mouth shut, your head down, and your taxes paid up. Don’t speak your mind or the truth, or you might go to jail. No wonder white people in Europe don’t seem to want to save themselves and their institutions from Third World encroachment.

Posted by Zorba_the_Geek at 6:34 PM on January 26

Any man who has sex with pre-pubescent girls is a pedophile. If I remember my Koranic studies : ) , Mohammed fits the bill. Is even truth not a defense? Not in the New World of Diversity.

Posted by Schoolteacher at 6:57 PM on January 26

What in Gods name are the prosecutors thinking?
Now insulting someone or some group is a CRIME!!!!!!!!!!
What exactly is an insult? If one LOOKS at some one with a scowl on their face, is THAT going to be a CRIME?!!!!
Is a Judge in a trial INSULTING a defendant who has been found guilty by calling them guilty?? Wouldn’t the Judge then be guilty of a CRIME??
I sometimes think that there must be some sort of virus which causes paralyzes of reasoning that has infected a large majority of the Europeans. (Not to mention American Liberals)
To me they seem really quite mad.
Although I am not a Doctor, I would still prescribe them a healthy dose of Amren articles for a possible cure of their mental afflictions.

Posted by dkidwell at 9:01 PM on January 26

She deserves an award for thinking in this way. Liberals cry out loud for freedom of speech, except for when it involves something that they don’t like.

There’s a word for the mental disease that is leftism: Hypocrite.

Posted by K.E. at 9:25 PM on January 26

So the real question is when are these Kangaroo Kourts coming to America? The concept of Western Civilization is based around the ideals of freedom of speech, but I guess since it has been decided that the West should commit suicide it’s best to get rid of silly things like freedom of speech. The governments of the west let moslems into their countries and let them have free reign to incite violence and advocate the murder of non moslems, yet a native born person faces jail for suggesting that moslem men shouldn’t rape girls.

Posted by Eric at 9:35 PM on January 26

This is good news. This hostile attitude toward those of us that are immigrants must come to an end!

Posted by African Immigrant at 9:49 PM on January 26

A woman I knew years ago had a friend who lived in the mideast for a while and told her that women were for breeding and boys were for pleasure. And a Jordanian muslim told us that they breed their wives through a hole in a sheet. These people just ain’t right. I remember these things when I see pictures of muslim men in big bunches with boys.

Posted by Anonymous at 9:53 PM on January 26

Australias problems with muslims are going to get worse given the proximity to Indonesia and it’s more violent muslims.

Posted by SKIP at 9:54 PM on January 26

The solution is to FIGHT SMART. There are hundreds of different tactics that can be used to expose, humiliate and defeat the Elitists and their snarling dogs in the media. One succesful tactic used against the dictator Milosovich was used by activist youth; they would secretly spray paint suggestive slogans on bridges, walls, etc, like, “Change is Coming” or “He won’t last long”. Everyone knew who they were talking about. It educated and inspired the masses.
Similarly, the Islamists and their treasonous protectors can be ridiculed. How about verses direct from the Koran and Hadith, with page numbers, spray painted on majory over passes and walls. No other comment, just the FACTS. Let the Koran desecrate ITSELF. No comment is even neccesary. Hell, for all they would know, someone put it up there because they LOVE the Koran!
Similarly, stickers with the truth can be stuck inside phone booths, restrooms, subway walls, bus stations…leaflets can left in magazines in doctors waiting rooms…tucked inside library books…you get the idea.
The Elites and the Media ARE the ENEMY. Fight smart…or lose everything.

Posted by Paul at 11:15 PM on January 26

So much for freedom in Austria. By the way, the “prophet” was a fraud and a pedophile. Having sexual relations with a nine year old girl should make muslims ashamed, but it doesn’t.

Posted by Anonymous at 11:17 PM on January 26

Campaigns to Protect Native Species ‘Are Racist’

Campaigns to Protect Native Species ‘Are Racist’

More news stories on Bizarre Racism Charges

Matthew Moore, Telegraph (London), January 26, 2009

There is no justification for conservationists to defend particular species because of their “ethnicity”, Professor Christopher Smout writes in a new book, Exploring Environmental History.

Campaigns against “alien invaders”—such as the cull of American ruddy ducks to prevent them from breeding with European duck species—have no basis in science, he argues.

“Conservationists are up in arms because they fear the ducks will all get turned into some kind of mishmash,” he told The Independent.

“The conservationists would say: ‘We’re doing this because it’s endangering the genetic integrity of the white-headed duck.”

“I don’t think that’s a scientifically valid point of view. The concern with genetic integrity seems almost quasi-racist. Our attitude to alien species is culturally determined and sometimes you end up with rather bizarre actions by scientists.”

Prof Smout, who is Scotland’s Historiographer Royal and founder of the Institute for Environmental History at St Andrews University, said that conservationists should judge species based on whether or not they are pests, and ignore their origins.

He added that interbreeding between species could often bring evolutionary benefits, and dismissed fears that the genetic identity of red deer in Scotland is threatened by silka deer, which were brought to the UK from Asia in 1860.

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds described the “quasi-racism” charge as outrageous, and said that conservationists “give their lives to give beleaguered native fauna a chance”.

Original article

(Posted on January 26, 2009)


Am I in the twilight zone? Is this real? Too early for April Fools day..

Posted by Anonymous at 6:00 PM on January 26

Ducks and racism….two words you don’t see together very often.
Much the same as academe and common sense.

Posted by Graham of Wales at 6:05 PM on January 26

“I don’t think that’s a scientifically valid point of view. The concern with genetic integrity seems almost quasi-racist. Our attitude to alien species is culturally determined and sometimes you end up with rather bizarre actions by scientists.”

Talk about anthropomorphism!

Tell us, “Professor” Smout, shouldn’t we actually be aiding non-native species in displacing native species, since we’re so concerned about the possibility of “quasi”-racism? (Mustn’t be anthropocentric, now!) If affirmative action is necessary for the human population of Britain, why not other species? Why not volunteer to breed Siberian tigers in your backyard, my dear “Professor”: think of the “enrichment” and “vibrancy” you’ll bring to non-human Britain!

Posted by Zorba_the_Geek at 6:23 PM on January 26

“…interbreeding between species could often bring evolutionary benefits…”

I’m no scientist, but isn’t breeding between species impossible?

Posted by passingthru at 6:50 PM on January 26

“Campaigns against “alien invaders”—such as the cull of American ruddy ducks to prevent them from breeding with European duck species—have no basis in science, he argues.

“Conservationists are up in arms because they fear the ducks will all get turned into some kind of mishmash,” he told The Independent.

“The conservationists would say: ‘We’re doing this because it’s endangering the genetic integrity of the white-headed duck.”

Perhaps Professor Smout can provide a believable and acceptable explanation as to why the white gene is the most regressive gene, and when whites cross racial lines to breed – the little crumb cruncher who pops out, nearly ALWAYS resembles the minority non-white parent MORE than the white race traitorous idiot parent?

And, after this anti-white, hate filled, white racial genocide promoting weasel finishes with that topic – maybe he can then explain how whites should not be worried about being mongrelized into extinction as a result their swallowing lies like Smout promotes?

You know something, fellow AR readers? I am having a serious bout of conspiratorial suspicions about this Professor Smout’s intentions regarding this subject. I think Mr. Smout has an agenda, and that agenda is to exterminate white people visi vi miscegenation.

Does anyone else see through this sinister propaganda?

Posted by Luke at 6:51 PM on January 26

“Campaigns against “alien invaders”—such as the cull of American ruddy ducks to prevent them from breeding with European duck species—have no basis in science, he argues.”

You got it all wrong,Charlie. What has no basis in science is your leftist ideology that is based on a pack of lies and adapted only by those who are mentally disabled.

He should be roundly ridiculed and laughed at for his unnatural concentration on his desire to throw everything into a hopper and see what comes out. Nature has a specific purpose for making various species, and this little tin god wants to formulate his own brand of natural law, because it makes him feel all warm and fuzzy, which, of course, is the latter stage of total decadence.

Posted by Robert Kelly at 7:01 PM on January 26

“I don’t think that’s a scientifically valid point of view. The concern with genetic integrity seems almost quasi-racist………..This kind of thinking is what ruined the cttle industry in the Soviet Union back in the 1930s. They abandoned selective breeding of cattle claiming it was racist. I guess with proper education dairy cattle could be just as good as beef cattle.

Posted by tony Soprano at 7:14 PM on January 26

A complete crackpot consumed with a mad ideology.Invasive species are a threat because they extirpate the native species which exist no where else on the planet out of an ecosystem. And once these species are gone, they are gone forever. More books on the shelves in the library are permanently lost.

The snake-head fish-released into the Potomac by a Chinese LEGAL IMMIGRANT-is a plague upon the Potomac. Over time it will reduce the Potamac to an ecological wasteland. The saner conservation biologists in the US encourage anyone who catches the snakehead fish to kill it immediately.

England is clearly now an insane asylum.

Posted by Jupiter at 7:51 PM on January 26

If a so-called “native species” cannot hold off intrusions by non-native species, then it seems fairly clear that the native species probably does not have the best adaptations for the native environment at the present time and the non-native species does.

Nature doesn’t play favorites. It just keeps tinkering with life so that some form of life will fill the particular environmental niche. How best to see which is the best form for the particular environment but to let them compete?

Posted by RPT at 8:20 PM on January 26

I’d like to see how Professor Christopher Smout would react if his daughter brought home a black african with a bone through his nose and announced their engagement…

Posted by Anonymous at 8:44 PM on January 26

LOL! The left is its own worst enemy.

Posted by Sleep at 8:56 PM on January 26

Mr. Smout isn’t much of an environmentalist if he has failed to appreciate the singular fact that the vast majority of these invasive species are the result of human interference / importation. Environmentalists typically work to reverse such human impact, instead of cheerfully supporting it as a form of diversity.

Posted by Visine at 9:24 PM on January 26

Unless Professor Smout is an ardent Scottish Nationalist, I would say that his attitude toward species preservation is more culturally determined than the people at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. I would even say that Professor Smout is willing to accept environmental losses, rather than see a biological point of view that might be analogous to an argument against multiculturalism accepted. A true fanatic.

Posted by Schoolteacher at 9:49 PM on January 26

These people have no idea what the word diversity means and how and why it’s important to keep it.

Posted by sbuffalonative at 11:02 PM on January 26

Prof Smout, who is Scotland’s Historiographer Royal and founder of the Institute for Environmental History at St Andrews University, said that conservationists should judge species based on whether or not they are pests, and ignore their origins.

I’m sorry, but why the hell is anyone listening to a what a Professor in Historiography ( Broadly speaking, historiography examines the writing of history and the use of historical methods, drawing upon such elements such as authorship, sourcing, interpretation, style, bias, and audience. ) thinks about which species are “pests”, why genepool dilution is good/bad etc?

I wonder if he thinks that maintaning different breeds of dog for different functions is also “backward” and “racist”…

Posted by Obscuratus at 11:04 PM on January 26

In America, Speaking the Truth Is a Career-ending Event

In America, Speaking the Truth Is a Career-ending


By Paul Craig Roberts

“The evidence is sitting on the table. There is no avoiding the fact that this was torture.”

These are the words of Manfred Nowak, the UN official appointed by the Commission on Human Rights to examine cases of torture. Nowak has concluded that President Obama is legally obligated to prosecute former President George W. Bush and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. [UN Rapporteur: Initiate criminal proceedings against Bush and Rumsfeld now, By Scott Horton, Harper’s Magazine, January 21, 2009]

If President Obama’s bankster economic team finishes off what remains of the US economy, Obama, to deflect the public’s attention from his own failures and Americans’ growing hardships, might fulfill his responsibility to prosecute Bush and Rumsfeld. But for now the interesting question is why did the US military succumb to illegal orders?

In the December 2008 issue of CounterPunch, Alexander Cockburn, in his report on an inglorious chapter in the history of the Harvard Law School, provides the answer. Two brothers, Jonathan and David Lubell, both Harvard law students, were politically active against the Korean War. It was the McCarthy era, and the brothers were subpoenaed. They refused to cooperate on the grounds that the subpoena was a violation of the First Amendment.

Harvard Law School immediately began pressuring the students to cooperate with Congress. The other students ostracized them. Pressures from the Dean and faculty turned into threats. Although the Lubells graduated magna cum laude, they were kept off the Harvard Law Review. Their scholarships were terminated. A majority of the Harvard Law faculty voted for their expulsion (expulsion required a two-thirds vote).

Why did Harvard Law School betray two honor students who stood up for the US Constitution? Cockburn concludes that the Harvard law faculty sacrificed constitutional principle in order not to jeopardize their own self-advancement by displeasing the government (and no doubt donors).

We see such acts of personal cowardice every day. Recently we had the case of Jewish scholar and Israel critic Norman Finkelstein, whose tenure was blocked by the cowardly president of DePaul University, a man afraid to stand up for his own faculty against the Israel Lobby, which successfully imposed on a Catholic university the principle that no critic of Israel can gain academic tenure.

The same calculation of self-interest causes American journalists to serve as shills for Israeli and US government propaganda and the US Congress to endorse Israeli war crimes that the rest of the world condemns.

When US military officers saw that torture was a policy coming down from the top, they knew that doing the right thing would cost them their careers. They trimmed their sails. One who did not was Major General Antonio Taguba. Instead of covering up the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal, General Taguba wrote an honest report that terminated his career.

Despite legislation that protects whistleblowers, it is always the whistleblower, not the wrongdoer, who suffers. When it finally became public that the Bush regime was committing felonies under US law by using the NSA to spy on Americans, the Justice (sic) Department went after the whistleblower. Nothing was done about the felonies.

Yet Bush and the Justice (sic) Department continued to assert that “we are a nation of law.”

The Bush regime was a lawless regime. This makes it difficult for the Obama regime to be a lawful one. A torture inquiry would lead naturally into a war crimes inquiry. General Taguba said that the Bush regime committed war crimes. President Obama was a war criminal by his third day in office when he ordered illegal cross-border drone attacks on Pakistan that murdered 20 people, including 3 children. The bombing and strafing of homes and villages in Afghanistan by US forces and America’s NATO puppets are also war crimes. Obama cannot enforce the law, because he himself has already violated it.

For decades the US government has taken the position that Israel’s territorial expansion is not constrained by any international law. The US government is complicit in Israel’s war crimes in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank.

The entire world knows that Israel is guilty of war crimes and that the US government made the crimes possible by providing the weapons and diplomatic support. What Israel and the US did in Lebanon and Gaza is no different from crimes for which Nazis were tried at Nuremberg. Israel understands this, and the Israeli government is currently preparing its defense, which will be led by Israeli Justice (sic) Minister Daniel Friedman. UN war crimes official Richard Falk has compared Israel’s massacre of Gazans to the Nazi starvation and massacre of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. Amnesty International and the Red Cross have demanded Israel be held accountable for war crimes. Even eight Israeli human rights groups have called for an investigation into Israel’s war crimes.

Obama’s order to close Guantanamo Prison means very little. Essentially, Obama’s order is a public relations event. The tribunal process had already been shut down by US courts and by military lawyers, who refused to prosecute the fabricated cases. The vast majority of the prisoners were hapless individuals captured by Afghan warlords and sold for money to the stupid Americans as “terrorists.” Most of the prisoners, people the Bush regime told us were “the most dangerous people alive,” have already been released.

Obama’s order said nothing about closing the CIA’s secret prisons or halting the illegal practice of rendition in which the CIA kidnaps people and sends them to third world countries, such as Egypt, to be tortured.

Obama would have to take risks that opportunistic politicians never take in order for the US to become a nation of law instead of a nation in which the agendas of special interests override the law.

Truth cannot be spoken in America. It cannot be spoken in universities. It cannot be spoken in the media. It cannot be spoken in courts, which is why defendants and defense attorneys have given up on trials and cop pleas to lesser offenses that never occurred.

Truth is never spoken by government. As Jonathan Turley said recently, Washington “is where principles go to die.”

A Bibi-Barack Collision?

A Bibi-Barack Collision?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“Where there is no solution, there is no problem,” geostrategist James Burnham once wryly observed.

Ex-Sen. George Mitchell, the latest U.S. negotiator to take up the Palestine portfolio, may discover what it was that Burnham meant.

For Israel’s three-week war on Gaza, where Palestinians died at a rate of 100 to one to Israelis, appears to have been, like Israel’s wars in Lebanon, another Pyrrhic victory for the Jewish state.

In 1982, after an attempted assassination of their ambassador in London, Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon drove through Lebanon to Beirut, shelling the city for weeks until Arafat agreed to pull out the PLO and depart for Tunisia.

The Israelis’ triumph quickly turned to ashes in their mouths.

Weeks of bombarding Beirut turned world opinion against Israel. Defense Minister Sharon was savaged for enabling a massacre in the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps. Most critically, as future Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin ruefully observed, in invading a quiescent south Lebanon, Israel “let the Shia genie out of the bottle.”

South Lebanon became Indian country. Hezbollah, born of Israel’s invasion, would, 18 years later, force a bleeding Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and its Lebanese allies out of the country, turning Israel’s once-friendly northern border into a new battlefront in the Arab-Israeli war.

Moreover, the Americans, persuaded to send Marines to train the Lebanese Army, were punished with terrorist bombings of the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks at Beirut airport, with 241 U.S. dead.

President Reagan would withdraw, and the Americans never came back.

In 2006, Ehud Olmert used the border ambush of an Israel patrol and the kidnapping of two soldiers to launch a second Lebanon war.

Hezbollah lost hundreds of fighters, but its stature soared as it became the first Arab force to fight Israel and emerge unbroken and unbeaten. And the thousands of Hezbollah rockets that rained down on the Galilee destroyed forever the myth of Israeli invulnerability.

Now, in the aftermath of the war on Gaza, which almost all in Israel supported, come the second thoughts. Of 1,400 dead from air strikes and invasion, one-third were Palestinian children. Al Jazeera video of the dead and dying civilians, juxtaposed with video of Barack Obama enjoying a round of golf in scenic Hawaii, were devastating for the U.S. image, as U.S. weapons had been used by Israel to deliver the death and destruction.

Like Hezbollah, Hamas has emerged more entrenched, while the moderates like Mahmoud Abbas are portrayed as Quislings. Now, a rift has appeared between Obama, who has called for a lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza to allow aid and commerce to flow freely, and an Israel determined to maintain its chokehold on Hamas.

In none of these three wars was the Israel Air Force challenged or the IDF defeated. In casualties, Hezbollah and Hamas, Lebanese and Gazans, all suffered many times more dead and wounded.

Yet, looking back, were any of these wars necessary? Did any make Israel more secure than when the Lebanese border was quiet? Does the future look brighter today than in 1982, after the peace with Egypt and withdrawal from Sinai, before the war on Beirut?

Three months before launching the Gaza war, Olmert told two journalists that Israel, to achieve lasting peace, would have to return the Golan Heights to Syria and almost all of the West Bank to the Palestinians, and give East Jerusalem back to the Arabs who live there.

“In the end, we will have to withdraw from the lion’s share of the territories, and for the territories we leave in our hands, we will have to give compensation in the form of territories within the state of Israel at a ratio that is more or less 1:1.”

“Whoever wants to hold on to all of (Jerusalem) will have to bring 270,000 Arabs inside the fences of sovereign Israel. It won’t work.”

No, it won’t.

Like Rabin in 1994 and Barack in 2000, two of the most decorated soldiers in Israel’s history, Olmert had concluded, late in life, that it is either land for peace, with all its risks, or endless war for Israel.

Yet, after that interview, he launched the December blitz and invaded Gaza, killing and wounding 5,000 Palestinians, making of the Strip a zone of permanent hatred and making Hamas, whom he sought to dethrone and undeniably wounded, even stronger.

Enraged that Hamas was not destroyed or disarmed, Israelis are leaning toward the Likud Party of “Bibi” Netanyahu, who opposed the withdrawal from Gaza, opposes a withdrawal from the West Bank, will never share Jerusalem and calls Gaza “Hamastan.”

Should he win, a Bibi-Barack collision appears inevitable. Backing Bibi will be the Israeli lobby, the Evangelicals, the neocons and a Congress that could find only five members to oppose a resolution endorsing all the Israelis had done and were doing to the people of Gaza.

Where there is no solution there is no problem.

Once a Boon, Euro Now Burdens Some Nations

Once a Boon, Euro Now Burdens Some Nations

Miguel Riopa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Spanish economy has been hard hit. Martinsa-Fadesa, the builder of homes like this one in northwestern Spain, is insolvent.

Published: January 23, 2009

ATHENS — “The Italians, the Spaniards, the Greeks, we all have been living in happy land, spending what we did not have,” said George Economou, a Greek shipping magnate, contemplating his country’s economic troubles and others’ from his spacious boardroom. “It was a fantasy world.”



Times Topics: Credit Crisis — The EssentialsEuro

Yannis Kolesidis for The New York Times

In Greece, another of the euro zone nations in trouble, stores like this one in Athens are offering deep discounts to stay open.

For some of the countries on the periphery of the 16-member euro currency zone — Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain — this debt-fired dream of endless consumption has turned into the rudest of nightmares, raising the risk that a euro country may be forced to declare bankruptcy or abandon the currency.

The prospect, however unlikely, is a humbling one. The adoption of the euro just a decade ago was meant to pull Europe together economically and politically, ending the sometimes furious battles over who could devalue their currency the fastest and beggar their neighbor.

For the Continent, the currency signaled the potential to one day rival the United States. For its poorer countries, winning admission to the euro zone was a point of pride, showing that they had tamed their budget deficits and set their financial houses in order.

Now, in the middle of the worst economic downturn since the euro’s birth, a new view is emerging — especially as the creditworthiness of Greece, Spain and Portugal, one after the other, has been downgraded. The view is that the balm of euro membership allowed these countries to gloss over serious economic problems that have now roared to the fore.

“Membership is not a panacea for a country’s social and economic problems,” said Simon Tilford, the chief economist at the Center for European Reform in London.

“In fact, there has been a huge divergence in competitiveness that shows up in massive trade imbalances,” he said, comparing Greece with the wealthier euro countries. “While Greece may have been insulated from the risk of a currency crisis, there is also the risk of a credit crisis and a collapse of confidence in its solvency.”

While sharing a currency with some of the mightiest economies in the world helped Europe’s poorer nations share in the wealth, a boon during boom times, in hard times the rules of membership are keeping them from doing what countries normally do to ride out economic storms, including enormous spending.

So Germany, France and the Scandinavian countries are mounting billion-dollar stimulus plans and erecting fences to protect their banks. But the peripheral economies are being left to twist in the market winds.

With the need for stimulus to deal with the severe downturn, these countries find themselves caught in an awful policy bind: credit is available, but only at punitive rates; and further borrowing not only breaks with European Commission dictates but raises broader questions about their solvency.

Bond and currency speculators have demonstrated that they intend to punish countries with dubious economic prospects, just as they have punished banks. Yields are skyrocketing on the debt of peripheral European economies with growing deficits. The British pound has plummeted because of a lack of confidence in plans to shore up British banks.

Few experts expect Greece or the other Mediterranean countries to run out of money or leave the euro. But the widening gap between the interest rate that Greece and larger economies like Germany have to pay to borrow reveals the first cracks in what so far has been a fairly solid fortress Europe.

Standard & Poor’s has also downgraded the debt of Spain, another growth stalwart, because of the toll taken by its housing crisis.

In Ireland, once the high-growth darling of the European Union, the economy continues to reel from a housing collapse and a defunct banking sector with liabilities that surpass the country’s gross domestic product.

As with Greece, bond yields there are diverging from those in Germany. The apparent suicide of a prominent real estate developer, Patrick Rocca, is but the most recent reminder of the fear and shock gripping the country.

But Greece’s problems are probably the worst. The country has been an easy target for the vigilantes of the European bond market, and recently it has been shaken by a wave of violent protests.

The omnipotent hand of the Greek state produced a public debt of more than 90 percent of Greece’s total economic output. The relentlessly rising demand of its consumers, who were able to put off the day of reckoning because they enjoyed the shelter of the low-inflation euro, has created a current-account deficit of 14 percent of its gross domestic product — estimated to be the highest in Europe.

The current account measures the difference between a nation’s exports and imports of all goods and services.

Last week, Standard & Poor’s downgraded Greek debt to A—, and the gap between the interest rate it pays on its bonds, versus what richer countries like Germany pay, is nearly 3 percentage points, the widest in the euro zone.

Mr. Economou, the Greek shipping company operator, is caught in the crossfire. The stock of his company, DryShips, is down 90 percent; banks in Europe that once clamored for his business no longer do so.

“The psychology is shattered,” he said with a rueful smile as he considered the blow to his business and net worth. “I have already cried — now I have dried up.”

While a shock to many Greeks, who had become accustomed to the relatively recent comfort of buoyant economic growth and a strong currency, some others, who lived through the country’s past financial and political crises, say the current shakiness is to be expected.

“We knew this couldn’t last,” Vassilis Karatzas, a fund manager based in Athens, said as he sipped Greek coffee at an outdoor cafe in the city center. “There is fear about the euro zone, but I don’t think the commission will allow its periphery to go down. United we rise, divided we fall.”

Yannis Stournaras, an economist who was a top economic adviser to the previous government of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, says that after a long period of convergence, the recent Greek divergence from northern Europe is to be expected.

Adding to the pressure, surpluses from countries like Germany are no longer being recycled back to Greece and other less prosperous countries. Moreover, Germany, the largest exporter in the world, tends not to encourage its consumers to buy more from the rest of Europe.

But Mr. Stournaras scoffed at the prospect of a bankruptcy like those once common in Latin America. Nor did he accept the idea that Greece might leave the euro zone and try to devalue its way back to recovery.

“Bankruptcy? No, no, no,” he said with a vigorous shake of his head. “Since the beginning of the 20th century, we have never had problems with our arrears.”

But others are not prepared to rule out such an event, though they concede it is highly unlikely.

One of the few politicians in Greece who has not shied from addressing these issues is Stefanos Manos, a gregarious former economic minister who in the early 1990s ushered in a drastic, and ultimately successful, privatization program.

He has founded a new party and is considering a return to Parliament in the hope of joining a new government that would heed his longstanding message: Greece needs to stop running deficits and address the issue of global competitiveness.

“We need money to finance our deficits and I see difficulty in us attracting such funds from abroad,” he said, as he received a string of admirers in the Old World splendor of the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens. “I am not sure that this won’t spiral out of control, and that makes me saddened and frustrated.”

As for the rest of Europe, particularly its weaker links, he also has doubts.

“I don’t think Europe is up to it,” he said. “It expanded too rapidly without fixing its institutions.”

Iceland says coalition government collapses – Global financial meltdown and collapsing banks spark current crisis

Iceland says coalition government collapses

Global financial meltdown and collapsing banks spark current crisis

Protesters clash with police

Thorvaldur Kristmundsson / AP file
Protesters clash with police behind the parliament building in Reykjavik last week.
REYKJAVIK, Iceland – Iceland’s coalition government collapsed Monday, leaving the island nation in political turmoil amid a financial crisis that has pummeled its economy and required an international bailout.

Prime Minister Geir Haarde said he was unwilling to meet the demands of his coalition partners, the Social Democratic Alliance Party, which insisted upon getting the post of prime minister to keep the coalition intact.

“I really regret that we could not continue with this coalition, I believe that that would have been the best result,” Haarde told reporters.

Haarde, who has been prime minister since 2006, said he would officially inform the country’s president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, that the government had collapsed. Grimsson, largely a figurehead, has asked Haarde’s government to remain in place until a new administration is formed.

Last week, Haarde called elections for May — bringing forward a contest originally slated for 2011 after weeks of protests by Icelanders upset about soaring unemployment and rising prices.

But Haarde said he wouldn’t lead his Independence Party into the new elections because he needs treatment for cancer.

Bid to form new government
Foreign Minister Ingibjorg Gisladottir, head of the Alliance party, is expected to start talks immediately with opposition parties in an attempt to form a new government that would rule until the new elections are held.

Gisladottir said Monday she won’t seek to replace Haarde as Iceland’s leader, proposing Social Affairs Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir — an Alliance member — instead.

The prime minister told reporters Monday that he had proposed Education Minister Thorgerdur Katrin Gunnarsdottir to be the new prime minister, but Gisladottir rejected that offer.

“It was an unreasonable demand for the smaller party to demand the premiership over the larger party,” Haarde said.

He said he hoped a national government, formed from all of Iceland’s main political parties, could lead the country until the elections.

The Alliance Party also has sought the ouster of central bank governor David Oddsson, Iceland’s former prime minister, and sought changes to Iceland’s constitution to allow it to become a full member of the European Union.

Banking collapse
Iceland has been mired in crisis since the collapse of the country’s banks under the weight of debts amassed during years of rapid expansion. Inflation and unemployment have soared, and the krona currency has plummeted.

Haarde’s government has nationalized banks and negotiated about $10 billion in loans from the IMF and individual countries. In addition, Iceland faces a bill likely to run to billions of dollars to repay thousands of Europeans who held accounts with subsidiaries of collapsed Icelandic banks.

The country’s commerce minister, Bjorgvin Sigurdsson, quit Sunday, citing the pressures of the economic collapse.

“We are happy that the government has gone, but now we need to clean up the financial supervisory authority and the central bank,” protester Svginn Rumar Hauksson said at a rally Monday outside Parliament. “The protests will continue until it becomes clear that things are really changing.”

Economic crisis fuels unrest in Eastern Europe

Economic crisis fuels unrest in Eastern Europe

Region’s shaky governments are facing growing public anger

Clashes in Riga, Latvia
A man argues with riot police in front of Latvia’s Parliament building in Riga on Jan. 13.
updated 11:50 p.m. PT, Sun., Jan. 25, 2009

RIGA, Latvia – On a frigid evening this month, more than 10,000 people gathered outside a 13th-century cathedral in this Baltic capital to protest the government’s handling of Latvia’s economic crisis and demand early elections. The demonstration was one of the largest here since the mass rallies against Soviet rule in the late 1980s, and a sign of both the public’s frustration and its faith in the political system.

But at the end of the night, as the crowd dispersed, the protest turned into a riot. Hundreds of angry young people, many drunk and recently unemployed, rampaged through the historic Old Town, smashing shop windows, throwing rocks and eggs at police, even prying cobblestones from the streets to lob at the Parliament building.

Similar outbursts of civil unrest have occurred in recent weeks across the periphery of Europe, where the global financial crisis has buffeted smaller countries with fewer resources to defend their economies. Especially in Eastern Europe, the turmoil reflects surging political discontent and threatens to topple shaky governments that have been the focus of popular resentment over corruption for years.

Europeans have compared the unrest to events of the 1960s and even the 1930s, when the Great Depression fueled political upheaval across the continent and gave rise to isolationism and fascism. But no ideology has tapped into public anger and challenged the basic dominance of free-market economics and democratic politics in these countries. Instead, protesters appear united primarily by dashed economic hopes and hostility against the ruling authorities.

“The politicians never think about the country, about the ordinary people,” said Nikolai Tikhomirov, 23, an electronics salesman who participated in the Jan. 13 protest in Riga. “They only think of themselves.”

Days after the riot, a demonstration by 7,000 protesters in neighboring Lithuania turned violent, leading police to respond with rubber bullets. Fifteen people were injured. Smaller protests and clashes have erupted in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Hungary, following weeks of street violence in Greece last month. On Thursday, police in Iceland used tear gas for the first time in half a century to disperse a crowd of 2,000 protesting outside Parliament in Reykjavik. The next day, Prime Minister Geir Haarde agreed to call early elections and said he would step down.

‘The situation is really, really serious’
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, said the financial crisis could cause further turmoil “almost everywhere,” listing Latvia, Hungary, Belarus and Ukraine as among the most vulnerable nations. “It may worsen in the coming months,” he told the BBC. “The situation is really, really serious.”

There is particular concern about the relatively young and sometimes dysfunctional democracies that emerged after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, where societies that endured severe hardship in the 1990s in the hope that capitalism and integration with the West would bring prosperity now face further pain.

“The political systems in all these countries are fragile,” said Jonathan Eyal, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute, a research group in London. “There’s a long history of unfulfilled promises and frustration with the political elites going back to the Communist era.”

Eyal warned of a revival of ethnic conflict in the region, where most countries have large minority populations, adding that tensions could rise after workers who have lost jobs in Western Europe return home. But he noted that extreme nationalist movements have won only limited support in Eastern Europe in recent years.

“People here instinctively know the idea of a strongman who imposes order doesn’t work,” he said, arguing that the region’s history with Communist rule, its integration with the European Union and its anxiety about Russia’s intentions make a turn toward authoritarianism unlikely. “They have seen the past, and a return to previous populist schemes isn’t very persuasive. At the end of the day, they know there’s no alternative to the market economy.”

Significant change possible
That assessment rings true in Latvia, where the government’s approval ratings have fallen as low as 10 percent — the worst in the European Union, and lower than at any other time in the nation’s post-Soviet history — but where people scoff when asked if they want to abandon markets and political freedoms.

“If some politician said, ‘Let’s leave the E.U., give up democracy and free markets,’ you can be sure that nobody would vote for him,” said Aigars Freimanis, director of Latvia’s largest polling firm. The memory of Soviet occupation makes it difficult even for mildly left-wing parties to win elections, he said.

But Freimanis said public anger could bring significant political change, noting that the crisis has renewed debate on constitutional reforms, including measures to give citizens the right to dismiss Parliament and to vote for individual lawmakers instead of only political parties.

“We want more democracy, not less,” said Renata Kalivod, 28, a social worker who attended the protest in Riga. She said that her father, who recently lost his job, had given up on elections but that she still believed it was possible for the public to have an impact. “If I gave up, I would leave the country like other young people. But I’m still here,” she said.

After enjoying double-digit growth rates that were among the highest in the E.U., Latvia is now struggling to defend its currency and survive a sharp slowdown. The economy is forecast to shrink by 5 percent this year, after a 2 percent drop last year. Unemployment has doubled in the last six months to 8 percent, with the rate three times as high among young people.

Forced to accept a $10.5 billion bailout from the IMF, the European Union and other sources — including neighboring Estonia, a fact some considered humiliating — the government has embarked on an austerity program involving 25 percent budget cuts, 15 percent wage reductions for civil servants and large-scale layoffs.

Aigars Stokenbergs, an opposition leader in Parliament who quit the ruling coalition and helped organize this month’s protest, said the public was as upset about corruption as economic mismanagement. The same conservative parties have dominated the government for years, he said, and many believe they serve a handful of billionaires who struck it rich in the privatization schemes of the 1990s.

“People don’t want this government anymore. They don’t trust it,” he said, criticizing Parliament for firing the nation’s anti-corruption chief in June and adopting the IMF reforms in a single day without consulting unions, businesses or other groups.

But Andris Berzins, a leader in the ruling coalition and former prime minister, said the public’s anger is misplaced because the country’s problems are rooted in decisions by previous administrations to expand spending instead of building up reserves. “The government needs to take some very serious economic reforms, but it hasn’t been able to build public support for them,” he said.

‘Nothing special’
Public anger intensified in December when the finance minister, Atis Slakteris, badly fumbled an interview on Bloomberg Television. Asked what had caused Latvia’s economic crisis, he replied, “Nothing special.” The words were soon emblazoned on T-shirts and shop windows as parodies proliferated on the Internet.

The riots, which left about 25 people injured and resulted in 106 arrests, have unnerved people in part because Latvia has practically no history of such violence. Some are worried the crisis will exacerbate tensions between ethnic Latvians and the nation’s Russian-speaking minorities, who make up more than a third of the population.

President Valdis Zatlers has responded by distancing himself from the ruling coalition that elected him and essentially siding with the opposition, threatening to dismiss Parliament if it fails by March 31 to pass a set of reforms and take other specific actions to build public trust.

But under Latvia’s aging constitution, the president must call an unprecedented referendum to dismiss Parliament. Early elections would be held if it passed, followed by talks to form a new government. The entire process could take more than eight months, and some say such a prolonged period of political uncertainty would hinder Latvia’s efforts to repair its economy, resulting in further unrest.

Governments across Eastern Europe face similar uncertainty, and analysts said the timing of electoral cycles could determine which ones fall. Newly elected governments in Lithuania and Romania might survive, for example, while the Bulgarian government faces elections this summer and is in trouble.

Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, said it makes sense in Latvia to hold new elections because the current Parliament is “utterly discredited” and can do little for the economy in any case. “You can’t have a government that has no support,” he said. “It’s useless.”

Analysts said the E.U. serves as a bulwark against radical politics in the region, but they warned of a backlash if the developed nations that dominate policymaking ignored the problems of the smaller ones. In Latvia, politicians and business leaders complain about E.U. agricultural subsidies that benefit farmers in Western Europe and trade barriers in the service sector. But they have praised the E.U.’s swift response to the country’s economic crisis so far.

Pavel Nazarov, 21, a physics student who participated in the rally, said he welcomed E.U. intervention for another reason. “They can keep an eye on our corrupt politicians,” he said, “even when we can’t.”