Italy votes against austerity leaving EU in turmoil

Three years of German-led austerity and budget cuts aimed at saving the euro and retooling the European economy was left facing one of its biggest challenges as Italian voters’ rejection of spending cuts and tax rises opened up a stark new fissure in European politics.

The governing stalemate in Rome and the vote in the general election – by a factor of three to two – against the austerity policies pursued by Italy‘s humiliated caretaker prime minister, Mario Monti, meant that the spending cuts and tax rises dictated by the eurozone would grind to a halt, risking a re-eruption of the euro crisis after six months of relative stability.

Fears that the deadlock will lengthen Italy’s near two-year recession and spill over into the rest of the eurozone hit markets across Europe. The Italian banking sector fell 7% in value, dragging the main MIB stock market index 4% lower.

The market turmoil in Milan spread to Germany, France and the UK, with domestic banks among the biggest fallers. Deutsche Bank saw almost 5% knocked off its value, while Barclays suffered a 4% decline. The FTSE 100 fell 1.4%. The German Dax slumped more than 2% and the Paris Cac was down 2.75%.

The cliffhanger vote saw the maverick comedian Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star movement take almost one in four of the votes and the political revival of the ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. But the narrow victor, Pier Luigi Bersani, on the centre-left, claimed the mantle of the premiership, although it was unclear if he would be able to form a government.

Despite the withering popular verdict on cuts and taxes, Brussels and Berlin insisted the austerity programme had to be continued in Italy. France and others seized on the outcome for their own purposes, arguing for a relaxation of spending cuts and greater emphasis on policies to boost growth and job creation.

Bersani moved to try to cobble a government together by wooing the upstart Grillo with tentative talk of a reformist leftist coalition. Looking weary, Bersani said it was time for the 5 Star movement to do more than just demand a clean sweep of Italy’s established political order.

“Up to now they have been saying ‘All go home’. But now they are here too. So either they go home as well, or they say what they want to do for their country and their children.”

Grillo said earlier his followers in parliament would not join a coalition, but would consider proposals “law by law, reform by reform”.

Bersani said that, since his four-party alliance had won an outright majority in the lower house of the Italian parliament and more seats than any other grouping in the Senate, it had a responsibility to suggest ways in which Italy could be governed, despite the deadlock in the upper house.

Shunning the idea of a grand coalition with Berlusconi and the right, he proposed a government committed to a five-point plan for sweeping reform of Italy’s political parties and institutions.

The north-south split in Europe opened up by the election presaged clashes between eurozone governments, likely to surface at an EU summit next month, amid calls for a shift away from the harsh regime prescribed and driven through by Berlin in recent years as the price of bailing out insolvent eurozone periphery countries.

The Italian stalemate combines with tough negotiations over a bailout for Cyprus, being resisted by Germany, worries about the French economy, an unresolved debt crisis in Spain, and David Cameron’s decision to throw Britain’s future in Europe into question, making EU politics unusually volatile.

“Italy plays a central role in successfully overcoming Europe’s debt crisis,” said the German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle.

“So we assume that the policy of fiscal consolidation and reform will be consistently followed by a new government.”

Angela Merkel, bidding for a third term as German chancellor in September, has been banking on a period of eurozone calm in the run-up to her election, but Italian voters have wrecked that calculation.

The Dutch finance minister, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, recently made head of the political committee that runs the euro, said Monti’s policies had to be continued. “They are crucial for the entire eurozone.”

The European Commission echoed the calls for sticking with the austerity medicine. Italy has the highest national debt level in the eurozone after Greece, although its budget deficit is in better shape than many others, including France and the Netherlands.

But Paris led the chorus for a policy shift. French government ministers, including Pierre Moscovici, the finance minister, demanded a change of course in remarks directed at Berlin.

Spain waited anxiously to see what impact the Italian leap in the dark would have on its debt crisis. “This is a jump to nowhere that does not bode well either for Italy or for Europe,” said the foreign minister, Jose-Manuel Garcia-Margallo, adding he was “extremely concerned” about the effect on Spain’s borrowing costs.

Both Berlusconi and Grillo have been harshly critical of the Germans, decried Monti’s austerity packages, and have raised questions as to whether Italy, the eurozone’s third biggest economy, should remain in the single currency. Grillo has called for a referendum on the matter.

Berlusconi rounded on the Germans on Tuesday, declaring that the “spread” – the difference between how much Italy and Germany pay to borrow on the bond markets – had been “invented” two years ago. This was code for saying that Berlin and Frankfurt, the German government and the European Central Bank, conspired to push up the cost of Italian borrowing in 2011 in order to topple Berlusconi and bring in Monti, the technocratic darling of the eurozone elite.

The turmoil saw Italian bond yields also jump, indicating that any new government will be forced to pay a higher interest rate on its debts.

The 10-year Italian bond yield edged back into dangerous territory on Tuesday after it passed 4.9%, although this is a far cry from 2011 when the yields shot above 7%.

Porky and Buddy Pet Health – Providing Shelter for Horses

Dear Porky Buddy,
This is not a dog or cat question, but I think it is important. On my way to work every morning I drive by a pasture where I can see some horses off in the distance sort of in the woods. They are there every single morning no matter how cold or rainy or windy it is.  There is a barn on the property, but it doesn’t look to me that the horses are ever taken into the barn. Is this right? I don’t think horses should be treated like this.

Dear Sam,
Thanks, first of call, for taking an interest in these horses.

You are right that issues involving the care of horses are different from cats and dogs.

Think of the “Wild West” where wild horses spend their whole lives outdoors finding whatever food and shelter they can on their own. The point being that horses don’t need as much shelter as a lot of other domestic animals. That doesn’t mean that they don’t need some shelter (or that we should all subscribe to the “ethics,” so to speak, of the Wild  West concerning treatment of animals).

It is hard to tell from your letter whether the situation for these horses is unacceptable.

Your alternatives to find out are several.

First, do you know the people who own the horses well enough to just talk to them as a neighbor and express your concern? Maybe they will tell you that the horses do go in the barn at night but are let out early in the morning. Maybe there is some sort of windbreak back in the woods where they can go for shelter when they need it.

All horses need is a three-sided run-in shed with a roof and a place to stand that is not muddy, together with access to food and water.

That is only a minimum and many horses have far better shelter than that, which is a good thing, but a healthy horse with its winter coat will be ok.

If direct contact is not an option and you can see that the horses do not appear to have adequate food and water, then call 911, (explain that it is not an emergency,) report the situation and ask law enforcement to investigate.  They will and then call in other resources if they find a problem.

If you just can’t see enough to justify such a report, call the Oswego County Humane Society at 207-1070 or email them at for help from the Large Animal Assistance Project.

A volunteer from the project will go to the property to take a look, and, if necessary, will contact the owner to assess the situation and find out whether the owner may need some help or advice about adequate care of the horses.

The LAAP will also call in law enforcement if that is appropriate. Remember that the LAAP operates entirely with volunteer assistance, so be patient.

Speaking of volunteer assistance, since you appear to be a horse lover and advocate, why not talk to our LAAP coordinator about volunteer opportunities for you?

It’s a big job, but totally rewarding, and the project always needs knowledgeable horse people to help.

You can find out more about what is involved by calling the Humane Society at 207-1070 or email them at

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County.

Our office is located at 265 W. First St., Oswego, NY.

Phone (315) 207-1070.



Because people and pets are good for each other!

Tom Cruise braces for fight in Life & Style libel lawsuit

Tom Cruise‘s lawsuit against Bauer Media Group, which publishes Life Style magazine, is getting ugly in the discovery phase, mostly because Bauer really wants to prove Cruise abandoned his daughter Suri in the wake of his divorce from Katie Holmes. Seems finding out the facts is something Life Style really takes seriously when they’re being sued for $50 million.

The Hollywood Reporter says Bauer wants to know how often Cruise saw Suri after the split, what his visitation schedule is like, how much Scientology affected the divorce agreement, Suri’s mental state following the divorce and Cruise’s past reputation for suing people. That last part was because Cruise lawyer Bert Fields said Tom was “not a litigious guy.” They also want to depose another Cruise lawyer, Aaron Moss.

Tom, meanwhile, wants to know the magazine’s sources, Bauer Media Group editorial policies and history of paying sources, how they cover Cruise and his family and whether they have a history of bigotry toward minority religious groups, likely referring to Scientologists. If there’s no settlement in the trial, the nonexpert discovery phase could last until Oct. 13, THR says, and dispositions are due a year from now. That’s plenty of time for Life Style to dig up a whole bunch of new dirt!


Cardinal Keith O’Brien resigns amid claims of inappropriate behaviour

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the UK’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, has resigned as the head of the Scottish Catholic church after being accused of “inappropriate acts” towards fellow priests.

News that Pope Benedict had accepted the cardinal’s resignation as archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh came after the Observer disclosed a series of allegations by three priests and one former priest.

O’Brien has denied the allegations and had been expected to continue in his post as archbishop until mid-March, when he was due to retire at age 75.

However, in a statement released by the church on Monday, it emerged that the pope had accepted O’Brien’s resignation a week ago, on 18 February.

In the statement, O’Brien apologised to any people he had let down and said he did not want the controversy to overshadow the election of the new pope.

“I have valued the opportunity of serving the people of Scotland and overseas in various ways since becoming a priest,” he said. “Looking back over my years of ministry, for any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended.”

His resignation means the cardinal will not now take part in the election of a successor to Pope Benedict. This will leave Britain unrepresented in the process, as O’Brien was the only cardinal in the British Catholic churches with a vote in the conclave.

Although Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the archbishop emeritus of Westminster and former leader of Catholics in England and Wales, will attend pre-conclave meetings, he will not have a vote in the election itself as cardinals aged 80 and over are ineligible to vote. He is 80.

O’Brien, who missed celebrating mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh on Sunday, had been due to fly out to the Vatican on Tuesday for the conclave.

His resignation is a heavy blow to the church and Benedict, whose papacy has been beset by repeated controversies over misconduct by clergy in Europe and the US and allegations of corruption and incompetence at the Vatican.

However, with the Vatican and Benedict’s successor facing a series of serious challenges to its reputation, O’Brien’s speedy retirement will allow the church to move quickly to settle this controversy.

The Observer reported that the four men came forward last week to demand his resignation largely because the complainants did not want O’Brien taking part in the papal election.

O’Brien said he had already agreed with Benedict that he would step down on 17 March as he was “approaching the age of seventy-five and at times in indifferent health”. The pope had now agreed he could resign immediately, he said, forcing the church to find an “apostolic administrator” to run the diocese until a new archbishop could be appointed.

Confirming he would not now go to the conclave, O’Brien said: “I thank Pope Benedict XVI for his kindness and courtesy to me and on my own behalf and on behalf of the people of Scotland, I wish him a long and happy retirement.

“I also ask God’s blessing on my brother cardinals who will soon gather in Rome to elect his successor. I will not join them for this conclave in person. I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me, but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor. However, I will pray with them and for them that, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, they will make the correct choice for the future good of the church.

“May God, who has blessed me so often in my ministry, continue to bless and help me in the years which remain for me on Earth and may he shower his blessings on all the peoples of Scotland especially those I was privileged to serve in a special way in the archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh.”

Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, said he had learned of the cardinal’s decision with “the greatest sadness”.

He said: “In all of my dealings with the cardinal, he has been a considerate and thoughtful leader of the Catholic church in Scotland, stalwart in his faith but constructive in his approach.

“The hugely successful visit of Pope Benedict in 2010 was a highlight of his cardinalship and symbolised the key role of the Catholic church in Scottish society.”

Salmond said it would be a “great pity if a lifetime of positive work was lost from comment in the circumstances of his resignation”. He added: “None of us know the outcome of the investigation into the claims made against him but I have found him to be a good man for his church and country.”

Austen Ivereigh, a Catholic writer and co-ordinator of Catholic Voices, said he was not surprised that the church had moved so quickly following the emergence of the allegations.

“I think the speed of the announcement has everything to do with the fact that these accusations were made on the eve of the papal election,” he said. “It was important not to distract from the pope and the election process, and I think frankly it was a necessary act and [O’Brien] did it for the good of the church.”

Ivereigh said the rapid response showed both the church’s “renewed transparency and accountability” and its desire for the election of Benedict’s successor to proceed as uncontroversially as possible.

He described O’Brien as a “very affable, warm and hospitable” man who was always unafraid to speak his mind. “He’s never been considered one of the high-flying cardinals; he doesn’t know Rome that well or have fluent Italian and so he’s never been a cardinal who has been as significant in the Vatican as Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor,” said Ivereigh.

“But he’s been a very stalwart defender of the Scottish church’s stances on various issues and he has been valued for his forthrightness and directness – even though I think sometimes some of his pronouncements have not been judiciously phrased.”

Ivereigh also pointed out that although O’Brien’s decision not to attend the conclave left British Catholics without a vote in the election of the next pope, it did not leave them without a voice.

“It’s important to remember that it’s not just the conclave where cardinals bring their influence to bear,” he said. “In many ways the more important time over the next few weeks will be the general congregations when the cardinals meet together before the conclave to discuss the state of the world and the state of the church – and Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor will be present at those because the over-80 cardinals are part of those discussions; they’re just not allowed to vote.

“I think the perspectives of the British church will still make themselves felt within the college because of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s presence and influence.”

O’Brien has been an outspoken critic of gay rights, denouncing plans for the legalisation of same-sex marriage as “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of those involved”. He was named bigot of the year in 2012 by the gay rights group Stonewall because of his central role in opposing gay marriage laws in Scotland.

Colin Macfarlane, the director of Stonewall Scotland, called for a full inquiry into the claims against the former cardinal. “We trust that there will now be a full investigation into the serious allegations made against ex-cardinal O’Brien,” Macfarlane said. “We hope that his successor will show a little more Christian charity towards openly gay people than the former cardinal did himself.”

Tom Cruise's $50M Life & Style Lawsuit Wants Sources And 'Bigotry' History Revealed

tom cruise

AP / Matt Sayles

Tom Cruise’s legal team is looking into a history of bigotry surrounding Life Styles’ parent company, Bauer Publishing, in its $50 million lawsuit against the publication.

Tom Cruise’s $50 million lawsuit against Bauer Publishing Company, the publishers behind In Touch and Life Style, will touch on the publishing company’s alleged pattern of religious discrimination, according to court papers filed Thursday. 

A Joint Rule 26(f) Report, filed by Cruise and Bauer in U.S. District Court in Central California on Thursday, lays out the parameters of the discovery process for the trial, offering hints at what tactics both sides might employ.

In the report, Cruise’s legal team says that it believes discovery will need to be taken regarding “Bauer’s history of bigotry and hatred toward minority religious groups and their members.”

On Thursday, an investigative report by TheWrap uncovered Bauer Media Group’s deep connections to Neo-Nazi magazines and pornography, with titles such as “Inglorious Bitches” and “Band of Bastards.”

Also read: In Touch Tabloid Publisher — Mired in Tom Cruise Lawsuit — Trades in Nazis, Porn and Sometimes Both (Exclusive)

The report’s reference to minority religious groups presumably would pertain to Cruise’s standing as a Scientologist. It also says that Cruise’s side expects that discovery will need to be taken regarding “Bauer’s policies and practices with respect to publishing stories about Tom Cruise, Suri Cruise and Scientology or other minority religious groups.”

The report also says that discovery will probably be sought regarding the “identity of Defendants’ sources, and communications with those sources,” though that will most likely be met with resistance by Bauer.

“Based upon the discovery that Plaintiff has propounded, Defendants anticipate asserting the applicable shield law(s) and other privileges that protect the identification of confidential sources,” the report reads.

Also read: Tom Cruise Sues ‘Life Style’ Publisher for $50M Over Suri Abandonment Claims

Bauer also brings up the subject of Scientology in the report. The company’s legal team says that it believes discovery will be necessary for the “role, if any, that Plaintiff’s membership in the Church of Scientology played in his decisions regarding his visitation and communications with Suri Cruise after his separation and divorce.”

Lawyers for Bauer also say it will probably be necessary to explore his daughter “Suri Cruise’s mental and emotional state following her parents’ separation and divorce.”

Cruise filed his defamation suit in October, claiming that Life Style and In Touch falsely claimed that he had abandoned his daughter, Suri, following his split from wife Katie Holmes.

The actor’s attorney, Bert Fields, called the tabloids’ reports “a disgusting, vicious lie” and has characterized Bauer as “serial defamers.”

The report says the trial is expected to last five days, if it makes it to court.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.