Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

The Congressman who went off the grid
Roscoe Bartlett spent 20 years on Capitol Hill. Now he lives in a remote cabin in the woods, prepping for doomsday.
By JASON KOEBLER
Politico online, 3 January 2014

roscoebartlett

Dr. Roscoe Bartlett entered public service after “…a science career that saw him go through IBM in its start-up years and the U.S. Navy as an engineer, before becoming director of the Space Life Sciences research group at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, where he helped the U.S. win the space race by, among other things, developing a device that allows astronauts to breathe at high altitudes and low temperatures.”

When Roscoe Bartlett was in Congress, he latched onto a particularly apocalyptic issue, one almost no one else ever seemed to talk about: America’s dangerously vulnerable power grid. If the United States doesn’t do something to protect the grid, and soon, a terrorist or an act of nature will put an end to life as we know it.

Bartlett loved to conjure doomsday visions: Think post-Sandy New York City without power but spread over a much larger area for months at a time. He once recounted a conversation he claimed to have had with unnamed Russian officials about how they could take out the United States: They would “detonate a nuclear weapon high above your country,” he recalled them saying, “and shut down your power grid — and your communications — for six months or so.”

(Retired from office now) …. Having failed to safeguard the power grid for the rest of the country, Bartlett has taken himself completely off the grid.

Bartlett'sCabin
I visited Bartlett this past fall. During the four hours he spends showing me around, Bartlett continually stresses his reliance on only very basic technology to make his little corner of West Virginia livable — the solar panels and the batteries they charge, the power inverters, the water pipes and the wood stoves.

Bartlett tells me that the farm’s simplicity is a challenge, but it’s also an insurance policy. If he were to die, he says, his wife might not be able to repair more complicated technology. And besides, he tells me, if he used higher-tech power inverters “loaded with computers and chips and stuff,” they might fail, and then they’d be in trouble. I ask why that would be an issue — couldn’t they just drive to the nearest town to pick one up or order a new one off the Internet? “I have no idea,” he answers. “A giant solar storm? EMPs?”

EMP is shorthand for electromagnetic pulse, an electronic disturbance that can be delivered by a warhead — nuclear or otherwise — and that can instantly short out electrical equipment for as long as months at a time. For survivalists of Bartlett’s bent, it is one of the terrifying threats against which all this living off the land is designed to protect.

As Bartlett points out to me, every single one of America’s 17 critical infrastructure systems — food and agriculture, water and sewer, transportation, emergency services and so on — are useless without electricity. Here in West Virginia, running a power system completely independent of the municipality, he’s safe in the event of a massive outage. (His wife also notes helpfully that at 4,000 feet, “an awful lot of the country could get flooded before it gets here.”)

And EMPs aren’t the only source of Bartlett’s concern. In 1859, the sun unleashed a flare — a powerful storm of energy — in the direction of the Earth. The charged particles from the storm lit telegraph wires on fire and put others out of commission for months. That storm is now known as the “Carrington Event,” after Dr. Joseph Carrington, the man who studied it. Such storms are estimated to occur once every 150 years — which means we’re overdue for another one…

A similar event today could knock out the power grid between Washington and New York for up to two years, according to a June report by Lloyd’s, a British group that assesses risk for insurance companies.

In the last 36 months, there have been solar storms strong enough to disrupt GPS satellites, threaten the International Space Station and knock crucial military satellites offline for a few minutes. Stronger storms would damage or destroy electronics on Earth for an unknown period of time, and an EMP would have a similar effect. According to Bartlett, a terrorist with a “$100,000 Scud launcher and any crude nuclear weapon” could detonate a bomb above the atmosphere and knock out power for more than a year.

There are ways to “harden,” or protect, electrical transformers and other infrastructure, but doing so is costly. After a solar storm knocked out power in Quebec for 12 hours in 1989, the Canadian government invested $1.2 billion in hardening its grid, but no similar actions have been taken in the United States.

Read the entire article — it’s well worth the time. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/01/roscoe-bartlett-congressman-off-the-grid-101720.html#.UsgUaPu8qAp

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From Time U.S.
12 October 2012

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued what he said is a “clarion call” Thursday for Americans to wake up to the growing threat posed by cyber war.

“The whole point of this is that we simply don’t just sit back and wait for a goddamn crisis to happen,” Panetta told Time. “In this country we tend to do that, and that’s a concern.”

Panetta came to the nation’s financial hub – New York City – to issue his battle cry. The city is the brightest bulls-eye on the American target for foes wishing to cripple the U.S. economy with computerized “worms” and “malware” that can infect computer networks via the Internet or insider sabotage.

“It is the kind of capability that can basically take down a power grid, take down a water system, take down a transportation system, take down a financial system,” he told Time editors. “We are now in a world in which countries are developing the capability to engage in the kind of attacks that can virtually paralyze a country.”

Aware his alarm might be drowned out by Thursday night’s vice presidential debate, Panetta stopped by the magazine’s midtown offices Thursday afternoon to detail his concerns to a Time editorial board gathering.

“Everybody knows what their iPhone can do, everybody knows what their computer can do, but I think there are too few people out there who understand the potential for the kind of attack that could cripple this country,” Panetta said. “The American people just have to be made aware of that.”

Panetta cited a series of “disruptive” attacks against U.S. companies, and detailed the far more serious so-called “Shamoon” virus attack on the Saudi Arabian state oil company, Aramco. That August strike wiped out 30,000 of the companies computers. It created the image of a U.S. flag in flames on the infected computers and “it basically burned [the computers] up,” Panetta said. It marked, he said, a significant escalation in cyber warfare.

In the hour-long session with the magazine’s editors, he also said:

— “We are facing the threat of a new arena in warfare that could be every bit as destructive as 9/11 — the American people need to know that. We can’t hide this from the American people any more than we should have hidden the terrorism-attack threat from the American people.”

— “The three potential adversaries out there that are developing the greatest capabilities are Russia, China, Iran.

— “Out of a scale of 10, we’re probably 8 [in cyber-war skills. But potential foes] are moving up on the scale – probably the others are about a 3, somewhere in that vicinity, but they’re beginning to move up.”

— He also said the U.S. military is stepping up its offensive cyber war capability: “I think we have to develop the ability to conduct counter-operations against a country we know, or anticipate, that they’re going to launch that kind of attack. So we have to have both defensive and offensive capabilities.”

Beyond merely shutting down enemy systems, the U.S. military is crafting a witch’s brew of stealth, manipulation and falsehoods designed to lure the enemy into believing he is in charge of his forces when, in fact, they have been secretly enlisted as allies of the U.S. military. The U.S. already has deployed a cyber-war offensive technology against Iran’s nuclear program, the New York Times has reported.

But the U.S. is also a target. Panetta said “potential aggressors” are probing for weaknesses in the nation’s cyber defenses. “They’re beginning to exploit transportation systems, power systems, energy systems,” he said. “Our concern is that in doing that kind of exploration, they’re doing it for purposes of determining how could they attack.”

The defense chief added that the Pentagon’s still-fuzzy rules of engagement for waging war in cyber space are being tightened, and will allow the Pentagon to defend other U.S. networks, in and out of government. But such technology isn’t cheap: major defense contractors see cyber defense as the next post-9/11 money pot – annual cyber spending is about $12 billion.

In his speech Thursday night before Business Executives for National Security from the hangar deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, Panetta warned of cyber terrorists derailing U.S. passenger trains – as well as trains laden with lethal chemicals. He told Time’s editors that both Congress and U.S. businesses have been hesitant to pass legislation – and make the investments necessary – to defend the nation’s critical cyber infrastructure from attack. Part of the reason for speaking out, he said, is to generate public pressure on lawmakers to act.

That’s one reason President Obama designated October as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Private-sector companies wonder if the government is exaggerating the threat. They seem willing to wait for an “electronic Pearl Harbor” to justify the investments they would need to make to protect their info-infrastructure. But Panetta and others fear that could be too late.

“Government depends on these networks to defend this country,” Army General Keith Alexander, chief of U.S. Cyber Command , told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Oct. 4. “And it depends on the power grid to operate. So we have a vested interest in making sure that that works.”

Panetta said his prior job – running the CIA – gave him a close-up look at the damage a cagey cyber-warrior could do to the U.S. “I can tell you from my old job, the level of expertise that I saw – and I don’t consider myself to be schooled in the art of knowing what the hell cyber systems [do] and how it all works –- I’m not close to being there — but I saw people that are extremely bright, extremely able,” he said

“They can develop the kind of malware that has tremendous potential to bring down systems very effectively,” Panetta continued, making clear the U.S. is exploring offensive cyber weapons. ”Frankly, in my past capacity, having seen that potential — and now, as secretary of defense, I’m now beginning to see how that is beginning to get in to the arena of other countries that are saying: `Whoa, this has got some great potential.’”

http://nation.time.com/2012/10/12/panetta-sounds-alarm-on-cyber-war-threat/

Russia Green Lights $65 Billion Siberia-Alaska Rail and Tunnel to Bridge the Bering Strait
Inhabitat.com
08/23/11

The high speed railway and tunnel will be a private public partnership whose economic impact could be startling. 100 million tons of freight could be moved per year using the most efficient known way of transport. Proposed tidal energy plants could provide 10 gigawatts of energy and a string of wind power fields could churn a constant supply of clean energy, serving as a vital link to a worldwide energy grid. The tunnel alone would take fifteen years to complete — and an energy and railway network would take many more — but the project would significantly change the shipping and energy industry.
http://inhabitat.com/russia-green-lights-65-billion-siberia-alaska-rail-and-tunnel-to-bridge-the-bering-strait/2/

Russia planning Bering Strait tunnel to connect to Alaska
Digital Journal online
Aug 25, 2011

Officials are questioning the feasibility of a proposal by the Russian government to build a 64-mile long tunnel under the Bering Strait that would connect Siberia and Alaska.

“Russian officials insist that the tunnel is an economic idea whose time has now come and that it could be ready within ten years. They argue that it would repay construction costs by stimulating up to 100 million tons of freight traffic each year, as well as supplying oil, gas and electricity from Siberia to the US and Canada,” reported The Times Online.

The Bering Strait tunnel would be also be used for a high-speed railway line and to house a fiber-optic cable network between the countries. This mega-project is expected to cost $65 billion.

Aleksandr Levinthal, the deputy federal representative for the Russian Far East, said at a conference in Yakutsk that looked at way to improve the regions infrastructure, “it would be a cheaper and faster way to move goods around the world than on container ships.”

Levinthal said the tunnel would be an extension of a 500-mile rail line that is currently being built that will link Yakutsk to the Trans-Siberian railway, reports MSNBC.

Satellite image of Bering Strait. Cape Dezhnev, Russia is on the left, the two Diomede Islands are in the middle, and Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska is on the right.

Renewed by the recent support of the Russian government, plans are underway to build the tunnel, which would “pass underneath the Big Diomede and Little Diomede islands and straddle the international dateline to link East and West,” said the Daily Mail.

The Russian officials plans to submit a proposal to the United States government in the coming weeks asking for assistance in underwriting the construction of the tunnel in exchange for a share of the revenue it will produce.

A tunnel between the two countries could save the US and Russia $20 billion per year in electric costs, says supporters of the project, but it would require the US government to build railway lines from Canada to the Bering Strait to connect the tunnel with the rest of North America.
http://digitaljournal.com/article/310733#ixzz233TXVwH6


Detailed updates, maps, sketches (such as above), photos, and multiple links to practical information is available on the InterBering website, “Construction of Interhemispheric Railroad Canada – Alaska (USA) – Russia and Bering Strait Tunnel.”

“We at InterBering believe that the entire project on the American continent can be financed through private funding, without the financial help of central governments. This is in fact the way the Eurotunnel was built. With approval by local territorial governments – if not those in Washington and Ottawa – sufficient money could be found through private investors.”
http://www.interbering.com/

Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bering_Strait_crossing

The Examiner online
18 March 2012

The order is not limited to wartime implementation, as one of the order’s functions includes the command and control of resources in peacetime determinations.

On March 16th (2012) President Obama signed a new Executive Order which expands upon a prior order issued in 1950 for Disaster Preparedness, and gives the office of the President complete control over all the resources in the United States in times of war or emergency.

The National Defense Resources Preparedness order gives the Executive Branch the power to control and allocate energy, production, transportation, food, and even water resources by decree under the auspices of national defense and national security.

The order is not limited to wartime implementation, as one of the order’s functions includes the command and control of resources in peacetime determinations.

Section 101. Purpose. This order delegates authorities and addresses national defense resource policies and programs under the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended (the “Act”).

(b) assess on an ongoing basis the capability of the domestic industrial and technological base to satisfy requirements in peacetime and times of national emergency, specifically evaluating the availability of the most critical resource and production sources, including subcontractors and suppliers, materials, skilled labor, and professional and technical personnel; – White House

Additionally, each cabinet under the Executive Branch has been given specific powers when the order is executed, and include the absolute control over food, water, and other resource distributions.

Sec. 201. Priorities and Allocations Authorities. (a) The authority of the President conferred by section 101 of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2071, to require acceptance and priority performance of contracts or orders (other than contracts of employment) to promote the national defense over performance of any other contracts or orders, and to allocate materials, services, and facilities as deemed necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense, is delegated to the following agency heads:

(1) the Secretary of Agriculture with respect to food resources, food resource facilities, livestock resources, veterinary resources, plant health resources, and the domestic distribution of farm equipment and commercial fertilizer;

(2) the Secretary of Energy with respect to all forms of energy;

(3) the Secretary of Health and Human Services with respect to health resources;

(4) the Secretary of Transportation with respect to all forms of civil transportation;

(5) the Secretary of Defense with respect to water resources; and

(6) the Secretary of Commerce with respect to all other materials, services, and facilities, including construction materials.

(e) “Food resources” means all commodities and products, (simple, mixed, or compound), or complements to such commodities or products, that are capable of being ingested by either human beings or animals, irrespective of other uses to which such commodities or products may be put, at all stages of processing from the raw commodity to the products thereof in vendible form for human or animal consumption.

“Food resources” also means potable water packaged in commercially marketable containers, all starches, sugars, vegetable and animal or marine fats and oils, seed, cotton, hemp, and flax fiber, but does not mean any such material after it loses its identity as an agricultural commodity or agricultural product.

Executive Orders created for national defense and national preparedness are not new in American history, but in each instance they brought about a Constitutional crisis that nearly led standing Presidents to hold dictatorial power over the citizenry.

During the Civil War, President Lincoln halted freedom of speech and freedom of the press, while at the same time revoking Habeas Corpus and the right to a fair trial under the sixth amendment.

During World War I, when Congress refused to grant Woodrow Wilson extended power over resources to help the war effort, he invoked an Executive Order which allowed him complete control over businesses, industry, transportation, food, and other economic policies.

In both cases, it was only after the death of each President that full Constitutional powers were restored to the citizens of the United States.

The economy of the United States is based on the free flow of resources, energy, and the rights of consumers to buy and sell as they see fit. Any interference in this economic process quickly leads to shortages, rising prices, and civil unrest.

The purpose of President Obama signing this new Executive Order is yet unclear, however, it may coincide with information coming out of Israel yesterday that plans for a tactical or strategic strike on Iran are accelerating. Oil prices in Europe rose over $3 a barrel for Brent crude after the Israeli actions, and US oil prices rose $2 for WTI.

The Obama administration appears to be preparing for a long drawn out war in the Middle East, or at the very least, an expected crisis that will require the need to override Constitutional authority and claim dominion over all resources in the United States under the guise of national defense.

With the rise in Disaster Preparedness growing for both individuals and states leading up to yesterday’s Executive Order, the mood of the nation points strongly towards some event or disaster that will require massive preparations on a national as well as local scale.

http://www.examiner.com/finance-examiner-in-national/president-obama-signs-executive-order-allowing-for-control-over-all-us-resources#ixzz1pRkOE9uk

See also:

http://www.examiner.com/finance-examiner-in-national/states-begin-to-prepare-for-economic-collapse-the-us

Reuters online 30 Nov 2010

“Sovereign default fears could soon extend to Japan and the United States…” (Bette: The US stock market fell today partly on fears about the Eurozone crisis.)

LISBON/DUBLIN (Reuters) – The euro zone’s debt crisis deepened on Tuesday, with investors pushing the risk premium on Spanish and Italian government bonds to euro lifetime highs amid concern weaker member states may ultimately be forced to default.

European policymakers appeared at a loss to calm markets hell-bent on testing their determination to rescue countries like Portugal and Spain after approving an 85 billion euro ($110.7 billion) bailout for Ireland at the weekend.

The borrowing costs of countries like Belgium and France also rose — and the euro hit a 2-1/2 month low versus the dollar — as investors looked beyond the so-called euro periphery and targeted core founding members of the bloc.

A Reuters survey of 55 leading fund management houses showed U.S. and UK investors had significantly cut back their exposure to euro zone bonds this month, piling into equities instead despite a weakening in global shares.

“The crisis of confidence in Europe can’t be resolved quickly,” said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in New York. “No single event can put things back in order.”

Markets are already discounting an eventual rescue of Portugal although the government in Lisbon denies, as Irish leaders initially did, that the country needs outside aid.

While a Portuguese rescue would be manageable, assistance for its larger neighbor Spain would sorely test EU resources, raise deeper questions about the integrity of the 12-year old currency area, and possibly spread contagion beyond Europe.

Citigroup Chief Economist Willem Buiter described the turbulence hitting the euro zone as an “opening act” and predicted that sovereign default fears could soon extend to Japan and the United States. “There is no such thing as an absolutely safe sovereign,” he wrote in a research note.

EURO SLIDES, SPREADS WIDEN

The euro fell as low as $1.2969 and has shed nearly 8 percent of its value against the dollar this month.

The yield spreads of 10-year Spanish, Italian and Belgian bonds over German benchmarks spiked to their highest levels since the birth of the euro in January 1999 and the cost of protecting against a euro zone sovereign default surged.

Jitters also hit European banking shares, which fell 1.2 percent, led lower by French banks BNP Paribas, Societe Generale and Credit Agricole on market rumors Standard & Poor’s might cut France’s outlook.

“There is no reason for concern, no risk,” said Francois Baroin, France’s budget minister and government spokesman.

Italian officials also scrambled to play down the risks for their economy, the euro zone’s third largest, which some economists have labeled “too big to bail.”

http://reut.rs/elr387

For more on the Eurozone crisis: http://www.reuters.com/subjects/euro-zone

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What is the Eurozone? From Wikipedia:

The eurozone, officially the euro area, is an economic and monetary union (EMU) of 16 European Union (EU) member states which have adopted the euro currency as their sole legal tender. It currently consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. Eight (not including Sweden, which has a de facto opt out) other states are obliged to join the zone once they fulfill the strict entry criteria.

Sky News online
November 16, 2010

The President of the European Union, Herman Van Rompuy, has warned that the eurozone will not survive if it does not overcome the current debt crisis. The president’s prediction comes on the back of the ongoing debate over Ireland and its economy.

Concern has been mounting over Ireland’s finances since the country’s cost of borrowing soared last week. Several ministers from Eurozone countries have appealed to Ireland to accept a bailout from the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF).

As finance ministers from around Europe meet, Portuguese finance minister Fernanado Teixeira dos Santos urged his Irish counterpart Brian Lenihan to recognise that the problems in Ireland will affect the wider Eurozone as a whole.

Ireland’s government remains resolute in retaining the country’s sovereignty and is said to now be seeking EU bailout assistance for the country’s banks only. This route to recovery would mean that Ireland’s government keeps control of its own finances without EU interference.

Many EU counterparts hope the bailout and subsequent European involvement in Ireland’s budgetary decisions would lead to the country increasing its famously low corporation tax.

It was this low rate of tax for business which attracted international companies to open European offices in Ireland and contributed to the now defunct Celtic Tiger economy.

Irish prime minister Brian Cowen and finance minister Brian Lenihan are due to announce their budget on December 7. Reports from Ireland, however, have claimed the budget – believed to include £3.4bn worth of cuts – could be brought forward.

http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Business/EU-President-Warns-The-Eurozone-Will-Not-Survive-If-It-Does-Not-Over

come-The-Debt-Crisis/Article/201011315810324?f=rss

Several articles struck my eye from overseas today. They are especially interesting in light of the existence and work of the G-20 since 1999, who will be meeting in S. Korea in November to try to fix these global economic woes — perhaps of their own making? Just wondering…

Europe Seen Avoiding Keynes’s Cure for Recession
New York Times online
October 20, 2010

Photo: Demonstrators in London marched on Wednesday against the $130 billion in spending cuts proposed by the government.

LONDON — The British economist John Maynard Keynes (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/k/john_maynard_keynes/index.html?inline=nyt-per) may live on in popular legend as the world’s most influential economist. But in much of Europe, and most acutely here in the land of his birth, his view that deficit spending by governments is crucial to avoiding a long recession has lately been willfully ignored.

In Britain, George Osborne, chancellor of the Exchequer, delivered a speech on Wednesday that would have made Keynes — who himself worked in the British Treasury — blanch.

He argued forcefully that Britons, despite slowing growth and negligible bank lending, must accept a rise in the retirement age to 66 from 65 and $130 billion in spending cuts that would eliminate nearly 500,000 public sector jobs and hit pensioners, the poor, the military and the middle class because of what he insisted was the overwhelming need to reduce the country’s huge budget deficit.

In Ireland, where the economy is suffering through its third consecutive year of economic slump, Keynes is doing no better. Devastated by a historic property crash and banking bust, the Irish government is preparing another round of spending cuts and tax increases.

Combined with what Dublin has already imposed, the cuts could add up to as much as 14 percent of Ireland’s gross domestic product, an extraordinary amount for a modern industrial country. Ireland’s budget deficit reached 32 percent of total economic output this year.

Indeed, across Europe, where the threat of a double-dip recession remains palpable, governments from Germany to Greece are slashing public outlays.

But even as students and workers in France clash with the police and block fuel shipments to protest a rise (2-year rise from age 60 to 62) in the retirement age, the debate in Europe is more on how fast to cut government spending rather than whether such reductions are the right thing to do under the circumstances.

“Everything Keynes established about the primacy of maintaining demand at a steady pace is gone,” Brad DeLong, a liberal economist and blogger at the University of California, Berkeley, said mournfully.

“Europe obviously thinks it can focus on sound finances while the U.S. manages world demand,” he said in a telephone interview, “but unfortunately we are not doing that.”

Joseph E. Stiglitz argued that the British government’s plan was “a gamble with almost no potential upside” and that it would lead to lower growth, lower demand, lower tax revenues, a deterioration of skills among the unemployed and an even higher national debt.

“We cannot afford austerity,” he wrote in The Guardian.

Mr. DeLong and others on the left have long argued for more stimulus spending in the United States and abroad to lift growth, even if deficits rise temporarily as a consequence.

While that notion may have its adherents in the White House and among many American and European academics, in Europe there is hardly a policy maker to be found who is making the argument that governments need to spend more, not less. (emphasis added)

This is particularly true in Britain, where a combination of collapsing tax revenues and government spending to prop up banks and support the unemployed during the financial crisis has contributed to a budget deficit equal to 11 percent of gross domestic product, second highest in Europe after Ireland.

“Keynsians are regarded here as heterodox, not orthodox,” said Andrew Lilico, an economist at the London-based research institute Policy Exchange, which has close intellectual ties to the Conservative Party. “And it goes back to one thing: we have this internal fear of losing control of our deficits and having foreigners telling us what to do. There is also a sense that deficits of this scale are morally lax.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/21/world/europe/21austerity.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

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Britain Plans Deepest Cuts to Spending in 60 Years
New York Times online
October 20, 2010

LONDON — The British government on Wednesday unveiled the country’s steepest public spending cuts in more than 60 years, reducing costs in government departments by an average of 19 percent, sharply curtailing welfare benefits, raising the retirement age to 66 by 2020 and eliminating hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs in an effort to bring down the bloated budget deficit.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/21/world/europe/21britain.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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French union calls for massive new pension protest
Reuters US Edition online
October 21, 2010

Photo: High school students shout slogans as striking railway workers burn railway tracks during a demonstration at the old port of Marseille October 21, 2010. Credit: Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier

PARIS (Reuters) – One of France’s biggest unions called on Thursday for further “massive” strike action next week against a planned pension reform that has triggered the biggest and most sustained anti-austerity protests in Europe.

A final Senate vote on President Nicolas Sarkozy’s unpopular bill is set to be speeded up to make sure it happens on Friday, a parliamentary source told Reuters, following pressure from the government as protests and fuel blockades drag on.

Sarkozy, a conservative who is determined to face down unions and force through an increase in the retirement age, is battling 10-day-old refinery strikes and fuel depot blockades that have dried up a quarter of the nation’s petrol pumps.

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE69E43320101021?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+reuters%2FworldNews+%28News+%2F+US+%2F+International%29