Japan is reeling between economic and nuclear crises

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | OCTOBER 23, 2012

The earthquake that shook Japan last year is not the only origin of the shock waves the country is now experiencing. The economic crisis has also shaken the Asian nation. During the first semester of the current fiscal year, the Japanese had a historic fall in exports, which in turn resulted in the largest fiscal deficit.

The financial crisis in the Euro zone and North America, greatly decreased the amount of products that Japan was able to send abroad which together with the costly imports of crude oil gave the island’s economy a double punch right on the face. The explosion and collapse of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima complex not only caused the contamination of most of the food and water on the island, but also meant that Japan had to increase imports of oil to satisfy its energy needs.

In the period from April to September, the trade deficit in what is considered the third world economy, surged 90.1 percent year on year and stood at 3.22 trillion yen (31,200 million euros), the highest since 1979, when the Ministry of Finance began compiling the results of this indicator.

Behind this decline was the drop in exports, a pillar that supports about 40% of Japan’s gross domestic product and has been handicapped primarily by lower demand due to the global economic crisis. Japanese exports fell sharply especially in Europe, where they were down 16.1%, with significant losses in countries like the UK (-26.3%), Italy (-31.4%) and Germany (-11, 7%), and Japanese traditional sectors such as semiconductors, electronic devices or vehicles.

Japan posted its first trade deficit in this period with the European Union, which registered at 92,100 million yen (890 million euros), according to preliminary data released Tuesday. In the case of Spain, in the spotlight because of its debt crisis, Japan closed the fiscal semester with a trade deficit of 59.259 million yen (573 million euros), the result of a fall in exports of 19.3%, while imports increased by 13.7%.

To this scenario, Japan had to add the difficult situation with China, which is Japan’s largest trading partner. The two countries began a  territorial dispute that resulted in the worst bilateral tension in years and is reflected in the decline in demand for Japanese products in the Chinese mainland.

In the first six months of the current fiscal year, exports from Japan to the second largest economy contracted by 8.2% over the same period last year, while imports rose 2%. The consequence was a growing deficit of 1, 53 trillion yen (14,800 million euros). The drop was even more pronounced in the month of September, when the conflict with China escalated and there was a wave of demonstrations against Japan all over China. Some protestors even attacked Japanese-owned companies.

Sales for that month, which originated in Japan, suffered a setback of 14.1%, while imports increased by 3.8% over the same month of 2011. The general decline in Japanese exports was also influenced by the strengthening of the yen, which is seen by many investors as a refuge in times of economic uncertainty. The value of the Yen caused Japanese manufacturers to get a smaller return for their products.

The slowdown in exports stopped Japan’s economic recovery after the setback at the devastating tsunami and nuclear accident in March 2011. Imports from Japan increased between April and September by 2.6% year on year to 35.38 trillion yen (EUR 342.537 million), largely due to an increase of almost 10% on the purchase of energy resources.

Japan used to get around 30% of its power from nuclear plants, but after the Fukushima explosion, and with nearly all of its nuclear plants out of service, the country had to buy more oil to power up its thermal power plants. Crude oil imports increased by 8.3% in the first half of the fiscal year, while purchases of liquefied natural went to 24.3%.

Unfortunately, the crisis is all but ending for Japan. New reports as recent as last week, state that Unit 4 from the Fukushima Nuclear Complex, which currently holds more than 1,500 nuclear fuel rods, is near complete collapse. If the total decimation of the nuclear reactor is completed, the deadly radiation would make it imperative to evacuate the whole island. The amount of radiation could be so serious, that it could make much of the world completely uninhabitable.

As reported on NaturalNews.com:

“According to the Secretary of former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the ground beneath Unit 4 has already sunk by about 31.5 inches since the disaster, and this sinking has taken place unevenly. If the ground continues to sink, which it is expected to, or if another earthquake of even as low as a magnitude six occurs in the region, the entire structure could collapse, which would fully drain the cooling pool and cause a catastrophic meltdown.”

As it turns out, Japan’s economic problems are not necessarily what is attracting the attention of the country and the rest of the world.

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The ‘Spanish Autumn’ Begins now

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | SEPTEMBER 26, 2012

The ‘Spanish autumn’ is here. The same pictures we saw months ago in Greece and Portugal, are now popping up in Madrid. The Spanish people went out by the thousands on Tuesday to tell their government they are angry and that the people cannot take it anymore. Spain is being pushed to the limit and unfortunately it is just the beginning.

The discontent of the Spanish citizens due to the cuts and their distance from the political class flooded the streets of Madrid on Tuesday. Thousands of people, many of which arrived from other regions, came to support activists who gathered outside Congress to show their dissatisfaction about the way the Spanish government is handling the crisis.

Although the organizers insisted until the last moment that the protest was a peaceful one, Spanish police launched themselves against them, which increased the tension between the two groups. According to police records, 26 protesters were detained while 64 others were wounded. A total of 16 people were taken to the hospital due to their serious lesions. Among the injured are 27 police agents.

Riot police tried to disperse the protestors once again at 9:00 pm after they entered the square near Congress.

Many congregants tried to flee by running through streets surrounding the Congress. Police said some violent demonstrators started throwing bottles, batteries and other items. Some participants in the protests in Madrid beat police agents after they found themselves trapped between two police security rings. The police then charged against protesters, which rendered many of them with bloodied heads.

Throughout the evening, attendees attempted demonstration as close as possible to Congress, which is surrounded by 13 small streets. The Delegate, Cristina Cifuentes, insisted that demonstrations were prohibited during Congress sessions.

The main goal of the protest, carried out under the name ‘Surround Congress’ was to express people’s concern about the current economic conditions in Spain and to start a constitutional process, said organizers of the protest. The frustration of many of the protesters was visible.

“I came to show my suffering face to the politicians,” said Mamen GuBas, an unemployed 41-year-old man from Bilbao. Among those attending were outraged but also unemployed students, housewives and elderly people from Andalusia, Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia and Galicia.

Protesters were harassed by police even before they arrived to their last stop in Madrid. The bus they were traveling in was approached by police to identify the occupants. “I ask our representatives to look after the people and protect financial markets,” said Joaquin Sanchez, a priest from Murcia.

More than 1,300 policemen from 30 regions of the country were sent to Madrid to watch over the protesters. Most of them belong to Police Intervention Unit (PIU) an organ of the National Police.

In total there were three security rings around Congress, two of which were closed and bolted before six o’clock. A group of dog handlers plus some cavalry units completed the operation.

Spanish Government still not listening

The government led by Mariano Rajoy not only ignores the calls of the people to stop the handover of Spain to the European bankers, but it seems it actively continues to negotiate the so-called ‘financial rescue’. A report by the Financial Times of London reveals that both the European Central Bank and the European Commission are advising the Spanish government on how to request the rescue.

The ‘Times’ says in an editorial that these negotiations are “politically understandable” and notes that “Madrid is keen to avoid the humiliation involved in having the European bailout conditions being dictated by the bankers.” It seem then that the Rajoy administration has been lying throughout the whole process.

At first, Rajoy had said that the rescue would not be necessary, but his comments have been changing ever since Spanish ‘communities’ began requesting financial aid. Spain will then introduce more painful fiscal and structural reforms as a package developed ‘in house’, when in reality those will be conditions imposed by Brussels in a complete loss of sovereignty.

If those Spanish protesters think they are living in difficult times now, they have seen nothing. The pain to come will be greater once Spain requests and approves the financial rescue package now being discussed between their leaders and the European bankers.

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Europe to experience economic contraction in 2012 and 2013

A new report issued by the European Central Bank forecasts a downward trend in growth and similar inflation.

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | AUGUST 9, 2012

The “let’s do the same thing and expect better results” crowd is getting what they wanted in the Euro zone. The latest analysis issued by consultants hired by the ECB explains that the European economy is bound to contract n 2012 and continue on that trend in 2013. No surprises here, unless you are one who believes in banker controlled economies as supposed to market driven ones.

The results of the corporate elite’s policies that were supposed to help bankrupt nations to stay afloat, while they think of new non-solutions, crashed to the ground in Greece but that did not stop the bankers from applying the same so-called solutions in Spain, which is a more significant member of the European economy. So the story repeated itself there as well.

The experts consulted by the ECB have revised their forecasts for growth in the euro area this year and forecast a contraction of 0.3% versus the 0.2% forecast in May, which speaks against all measures adopted so far by Brussels and its accomplices in the banking power structure. The non-solution at hand that is being proposed is to once again cut in interest rates.

In the survey, the European Central Bank (ECB) held between 16 and 19 July and published today in the August monthly bulletin, experts conclude that growth will continue its downward trend for this year and next. With this review, the regulator says that the euro zone has room to lower interest rates in September.

“The results also imply that inflation expectations for 2012 and 2013 have experienced virtually no change compared with the previous survey,” the ECB said.

As for the inflation forecast in the longer term, the average remains unchanged at 2%. That is under current conditions, which are not likely to stand, as the euro region digs itself into a deeper hole by continuing their policies of further indebtedness, which will only prolong and worsen the crisis. Consequently, inflation will certainly not stay at 2%.

The ECB president Mario Draghi said last week that “the governing board of the entity discussed a possible lowering of interest rates, but decided that it is not the right time.” Some experts expect the ECB to reduce the price of money, currently at 0.75% at its September meeting. As in other occasions, the European Central Bank will wait until the last minute to act, and its actions will not be the real solutions needed to bring the euro economy back. As we have now heard the main stream media confess it, that is the goal of the banking elites: to delay the collapse as much as possible while inflicting pain to the nations that are in financial trouble, because this will assure the maximum consolidation of power and resources.

Expectations of growth of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2012 have been revised slightly downwards by 0.1 percentage points and currently stand at -0.3%. For 2013, forecasts of growth in the euro area have declined significantly, by 0.4 percentage points to 0.6%. Under current conditions, once can expect, that even with cooked numbers, Europe will have no growth at all after 2013, especially if more nations such as Italy and France need to be rescued as well.

“The main determinants of the downward revisions are stepping up fiscal consolidation measures in some countries in the euro area and the greater uncertainty surrounding the resolution of sovereign debt crises,” the report said. Also, “maintaining the downside risks to growth in GDP in the euro area, resulting primarily from an escalation of the sovereign debt crisis.” And what is the ECB or the IMF doing to solve the sovereign debt crisis? Nothing. That is the big pink elephant in the room, but the bankers are simply staring at it without proposing a single solution. This inaction stems from the same reason explained above. A slow, prolonged collapse will assure better results for the bankers.

“These risks are also mentioned a further deterioration in confidence, increased levels of uncertainty and a fall in external demand as a result of a slowing global economy,” according to the ECB. The inflation forecasts for 2012 and 2013 obtained from the survey are located at 2.3% and 1.7% respectively, implying that not been revised figures for 2012 and have been revised 0.1 percentage point decline in the 2013.

This downward revision for 2013 was primarily “to lower prices for energy and raw materials, the less favorable growth prospects and the fact that wage pressures have been more limited,” according to the ECB. He added that inflation expectations for 2014 are at 1.9%. Risks to the outlook for price developments remain generally balanced over the medium term.

Upside risks come from further increases in indirect taxes, resulting from the need for fiscal consolidation, and some increases in energy prices over the medium term plan. The main downside risks are related to the impact of lower growth than expected in the euro area, especially due to the escalation of tensions in financial markets that could affect the balance of risks to the downside.

Barack Obama Issues Executive Order to Control Communications Infrastructure

There is little that needs to be added as press when the words are so clear. The Executive Order below calls for the seizing of the communications infrastructure in cases of “crisis”.

THE REAL AGENDA | JULY 9, 2012

Executive Order — Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communications Functions

EXECUTIVE ORDER

ASSIGNMENT OF NATIONAL SECURITY AND EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS COMMUNICATIONS FUNCTIONS

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. The Federal Government must have the ability to communicate at all times and under all circumstances to carry out its most critical and time sensitive missions. Survivable, resilient, enduring, and effective communications, both domestic and international, are essential to enable the executive branch to communicate within itself and with: the legislative and judicial branches; State, local, territorial, and tribal governments; private sector entities; and the public, allies, and other nations. Such communications must be possible under all circumstances to ensure national security, effectively manage emergencies, and improve national resilience. The views of all levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and the public must inform the development of national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP) communications policies, programs, and capabilities.

Sec. 2. Executive Office Responsibilities.

Sec. 2.1. Policy coordination, guidance, dispute resolution, and periodic in-progress reviews for the functions described and assigned herein shall be provided through the interagency process established in Presidential Policy Directive-1 of February 13, 2009 (Organization of the National Security Council System) (PPD-1).

Sec. 2.2. The Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) shall: (a) issue an annual memorandum to the NS/EP Communications Executive Committee (established in section 3 of this order) highlighting national priorities for Executive Committee analyses, studies, research, and development regarding NS/EP communications;

(b) advise the President on the prioritization of radio spectrum and wired communications that support NS/EP functions; and

(c) have access to all appropriate information related to the test, exercise, evaluation, and readiness of the capabilities of all existing and planned NS/EP communications systems, networks, and facilities to meet all executive branch NS/EP requirements.

Sec. 2.3. The Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and the Director of OSTP shall make recommendations to the President, informed by the interagency policy process established in PPD-1, with respect to the exercise of authorities assigned to the President under section 706 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (47 U.S.C. 606). The Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and the Director of OSTP shall also jointly monitor the exercise of these authorities, in the event of any delegation, through the process established in PPD-1 or as the President otherwise may direct.

Sec. 3. The NS/EP Communications Executive Committee.

Sec. 3.1. There is established an NS/EP Communications Executive Committee (Executive Committee) to serve as a forum to address NS/EP communications matters.

Sec. 3.2. The Executive Committee shall be composed of Assistant Secretary-level or equivalent representatives designated by the heads of the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Commerce, and Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the General Services Administration, and the Federal Communications Commission, as well as such additional agencies as the Executive Committee may designate. The designees of the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of Defense shall serve as Co-Chairs of the Executive Committee.

Sec. 3.3. The responsibilities of the Executive Committee shall be to: (a) advise and make policy recommendations to the President, through the PPD-1 process, on enhancing the survivability, resilience, and future architecture of NS/EP communications, including what should constitute NS/EP communications requirements;

(b) develop a long-term strategic vision for NS/EP communications and propose funding requirements and plans to the President and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), through the PPD-1 process, for NS/EP communications initiatives that benefit multiple agencies or other Federal entities;

(c) coordinate the planning for, and provision of, NS/EP communications for the Federal Government under all hazards;

(d) promote the incorporation of the optimal combination of hardness, redundancy, mobility, connectivity, interoperability, restorability, and security to obtain, to the maximum extent practicable, the survivability of NS/EP communications under all circumstances;

(e) recommend to the President, through the PPD-1 process, the regimes to test, exercise, and evaluate the capabilities of existing and planned communications systems, networks, or facilities to meet all executive branch NS/EP communications requirements, including any recommended remedial actions;

(f) provide quarterly updates to the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and the Director of OSTP, through the Co-Chairs, on the status of Executive Committee activities and develop an annual NS/EP communications strategic agenda utilizing the PPD-1 process;

(g) enable industry input with respect to the responsibilities established in this section; and

(h) develop, approve, and maintain a charter for the Executive Committee.

Sec. 4. Executive Committee Joint Program Office.

Sec. 4.1. The Secretary of Homeland Security shall establish an Executive Committee Joint Program Office (JPO) to provide full-time, expert, and administrative support for the Executive Committee’s performance of its responsibilities under section 3.3 of this order. Staff of the JPO shall include detailees, as needed and appropriate, from agencies represented on the Executive Committee. The Department of Homeland Security shall provide resources to support the JPO. The JPO shall be responsive to the guidance of the Executive Committee.

Sec. 4.2. The responsibilities of the JPO shall include: coordination of programs that support NS/EP missions, priorities, goals, and policy; and, when directed by the Executive Committee, the convening of governmental and nongovernmental groups (consistent with the Federal Advisory Committees Act, as amended (5 U.S.C. App.)), coordination of activities, and development of policies for senior official review and approval.

Sec. 5. Specific Department and Agency Responsibilities.

Sec. 5.1. The Secretary of Defense shall: (a) oversee the development, testing, implementation, and sustainment of NS/EP communications that are directly responsive to the national security needs of the President, Vice President, and senior national leadership, including: communications with or among the President, Vice President, White House staff, heads of state and government, and Nuclear Command and Control leadership; Continuity of Government communications; and communications among the executive, judicial, and legislative branches to support Enduring Constitutional Government;

(b) incorporate, integrate, and ensure interoperability and the optimal combination of hardness, redundancy, mobility, connectivity, interoperability, restorability, and security to obtain, to the maximum extent practicable, the survivability of NS/EP communications defined in section 5.1(a) of this order under all circumstances, including conditions of crisis or emergency;

(c) provide to the Executive Committee the technical support necessary to develop and maintain plans adequate to provide for the security and protection of NS/EP communications; and

(d) provide, operate, and maintain communication services and facilities adequate to execute responsibilities consistent with Executive Order 12333 of December 4, 1981, as amended.

Sec. 5.2. The Secretary of Homeland Security shall: (a) oversee the development, testing, implementation, and sustainment of NS/EP communications, including: communications that support Continuity of Government; Federal, State, local, territorial, and tribal emergency preparedness and response communications; non-military executive branch communications systems; critical infrastructure protection networks; and non-military communications networks, particularly with respect to prioritization and restoration;

(b) incorporate, integrate, and ensure interoperability and the necessary combination of hardness, redundancy, mobility, connectivity, interoperability, restorability, and security to obtain, to the maximum extent practicable, the survivability of NS/EP communications defined in section 5.2(a) of this order under all circumstances, including conditions of crisis or emergency;

(c) provide to the Executive Committee the technical support necessary to develop and maintain plans adequate to provide for the security and protection of NS/EP communications;

(d) receive, integrate, and disseminate NS/EP communications information to the Federal Government and State, local, territorial, and tribal governments, as appropriate, to establish situational awareness, priority setting recommendations, and a common operating picture for NS/EP communications information;

(e) satisfy priority communications requirements through the use of commercial, Government, and privately owned communications resources, when appropriate;

(f) maintain a joint industry-Government center that is capable of assisting in the initiation, coordination, restoration, and reconstitution of NS/EP communications services or facilities under all conditions of emerging threats, crisis, or emergency;

(g) serve as the Federal lead for the prioritized restoration of communications infrastructure and coordinate the prioritization and restoration of communications, including resolution of any conflicts in or among priorities, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense when activities referenced in section 5.1(a) of this order are impacted, consistent with the National Response Framework. If conflicts in or among priorities cannot be resolved between the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, they shall be referred for resolution in accordance with section 2.1 of this order; and

(h) within 60 days of the date of this order, in consultation with the Executive Committee where appropriate, develop and submit to the President, through the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, a detailed plan that describes the Department of Homeland

Security’s organization and management structure for its NS/EP communications functions, including the Government Emergency Telecommunications Service, Wireless Priority Service, Telecommunications Service Priority program, Next Generation Network Priority program, the Executive Committee JPO, and relevant supporting entities.

Sec. 5.3. The Secretary of Commerce shall: (a) provide advice and guidance to the Executive Committee on the use of technical standards and metrics to support execution of NS/EP communications;

(b) identify for the Executive Committee requirements for additional technical standards and metrics to enhance NS/EP communications;

(c) engage with relevant standards development organizations to develop appropriate technical standards and metrics to enhance NS/EP communications;

(d) develop plans and procedures concerning radio spectrum allocations, assignments, and priorities for use by agencies and executive offices;

(e) develop, maintain, and publish policies, plans, and procedures for the management and use of radio frequency assignments, including the authority to amend, modify, or revoke such assignments, in those parts of the electromagnetic spectrum assigned to the Federal Government; and

(f) administer a system of radio spectrum priorities for those spectrum-dependent telecommunications resources belonging to and operated by the Federal Government and certify or approve such radio spectrum priorities, including the resolution of conflicts in or among such radio spectrum priorities during a crisis or emergency.

Sec. 5.4. The Administrator of General Services shall provide and maintain a common Federal acquisition approach that allows for the efficient centralized purchasing of equipment and services that meet NS/EP communications requirements. Nothing in this section shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect the procurement authorities granted by law to an agency or the head thereof.

Sec. 5.5. With respect to the Intelligence Community, the DNI, after consultation with the heads of affected agencies, may issue such policy directives and guidance as the DNI deems necessary to implement this order. Procedures or other guidance issued by the heads of elements of the Intelligence Community shall be in accordance with such policy directives or guidelines issued by the DNI.

Sec. 5.6. The Federal Communications Commission performs such functions as are required by law, including: (a) with respect to all entities licensed or regulated by the Federal Communications Commission: the extension, discontinuance, or reduction of common carrier facilities or services; the control of common carrier rates, charges, practices, and classifications; the construction, authorization, activation, deactivation, or closing of radio stations, services, and facilities; the assignment of radio frequencies to Federal Communications Commission licensees; the investigation of violations of pertinent law; and the assessment of communications service provider emergency needs and resources; and

(b) supporting the continuous operation and restoration of critical communications systems and services by assisting the Secretary of Homeland Security with infrastructure damage assessment and restoration, and by providing the Secretary of Homeland Security with information collected by the Federal Communications Commission on communications infrastructure, service outages, and restoration, as appropriate.

Sec. 6. General Agency Responsibilities. All agencies, to the extent consistent with law, shall: (a) determine the scope of their NS/EP communications requirements, and provide information regarding such requirements to the Executive Committee;

(b) prepare policies, plans, and procedures concerning communications facilities, services, or equipment under their management or operational control to maximize their capability to respond to the NS/EP needs of the Federal Government;

(c) propose initiatives, where possible, that may benefit multiple agencies or other Federal entities;

(d) administer programs that support broad NS/EP communications goals and policies;

(e) submit reports annually, or as otherwise requested, to the Executive Committee, regarding agency NS/EP communications activities;

(f) devise internal acquisition strategies in support of the centralized acquisition approach provided by the General Services Administration pursuant to section 5.4 of this order; and

(g) provide the Secretary of Homeland Security with timely reporting on NS/EP communications status to inform the common operating picture required under 6 U.S.C. 321(d).

Sec. 7. General Provisions. (a) For the purposes of this order, the word “agency” shall have the meaning set forth in section 6.1(b) of Executive Order 13526 of December 29, 2009.

(b) Executive Order 12472 of April 3, 1984, as amended, is hereby revoked.

(c) Executive Order 12382 of September 13, 1982, as amended, is further amended by striking the following language from section 2(e): “in his capacity as Executive Agent for the National Communications System”.

(d) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the OMB relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(e) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(f) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

BARACK OBAMA

Economic Dispair Makes Suicide Rate Explode in Greece

By ERIK KIRSCHBAUM | REUTERS | APRIL 28, 2012

On Monday, a 38-year-old geology lecturer hanged himself from a lamp post in Athens and on the same day a 35-year-old priest jumped to his death off his balcony in northern Greece. On Wednesday, a 23-year-old student shot himself in the head.

In a country that has had one of the lowest suicide rates in the world, a surge in the number of suicides in the wake of an economic crisis has shocked and gripped the Mediterranean nation – and its media – before a May 6 election.

The especially grisly death of pharmacist Dimitris Christoulas, who shot himself in the head on a central Athens square because of poverty brought on by the crisis that has put millions out of work, was by far the most dramatic.

Before shooting himself during morning rush hour on April 4 on Syntagma Square across from the Greek parliament building, the 77-year-old pensioner took a moment to jot down a note.

“I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life so I don’t find myself fishing through garbage cans for sustenance,” wrote Christoulas, who has since become a national symbol of the austerity-induced pain that is squeezing millions.

Greek media have since reported similar suicides almost daily, worsening a sense of gloom going into next week’s election, called after Prime Minister Lucas Papademos’s interim government completed its mandate to secure a new rescue deal from foreign creditors by cutting spending further.

Some medical experts say this form of political suicide is a reflection of the growing despair and sense of helplessness many feel. But others warn the media may be amplifying the crisis mood with its coverage and numbers may only be up slightly.

“The crisis has triggered a growing sense of guilt, a loss of self-esteem and humiliation for many Greeks,” Nikos Sideris, a leading psychoanalyst and author in Athens, told Reuters.

“Greek people don’t want to be a burden to anyone and there’s this growing sense of helplessness. Some develop an attitude of self-hatred and that leads to self-destruction. That’s what’s behind the increase in suicide and attempted suicide. We’re seeing a whole new category: political suicides.”

Police said the geology lecturer, Nikos Polyvos, who hanged himself, was distraught because a teaching job offer had been blocked due to a blanket hiring freeze in the public sector.

NATION IN SHOCK

Experts say the numbers are relatively low – less than about 600 per year. But increases in suicides, attempted suicides, the use of anti-depressant medication and the need for psychiatric care are causing alarm in a nation unaccustomed to the problems.

Before the financial crisis began wreaking havoc in 2009, Greece had one of the lowest suicide rates in the world – 2.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. There was a 40 percent rise in suicides in the first half of 2010, according to the Health Ministry.

There are no reliable statistics on 2011 but experts say Greece’s suicide rate has probably doubled to about 5 per 100,000. That is still far below levels of 34 per 100,000 seen in Finland or 9 per 100,000 in Germany. Attempted suicides and demand for psychiatric help has risen as Greece struggles to cope with the worst economic crisis since World War Two.

Nikiforos Angelopoulos, a professor of psychiatry, has a busy psychotherapy practice in an upmarket Athens neighborhood. He said the crisis has exacerbated the problems for some already less stable people and estimates that about five percent of his patients have developed problems due to the crisis.

“We’re a nation in shock,” he said, even though he suspected that it was the media coverage of suicides that had increased dramatically rather than the actual numbers of suicides. He nevertheless says the crisis is behind a notable rise in mental health problems in Greece.

“I had one patient who came in with a severe depression – he owns a furniture making company that got into financial trouble and he had to lay off 20 of his 100 workers,” he said. “He couldn’t sleep and couldn’t eat because of that. He said his good business was being ruined and he couldn’t cope anymore.”

The furniture maker spent four months in therapy and was also helped by anti-depressants, Angelopoulos said.

“He’s better now. He realized what happened just happened. But there are many others who are unstable or psychotic to begin with and the crisis is increasing their anxiety and insecurity.”

Angelopoulos, 60, has also suffered himself because about 20 percent of his patients can no longer afford his 100 euro ($130) per hour sessions. Some have asked for a half-price discount while others tell him they simply can’t afford to pay anything.

“I never turn people away,” he said. “If a patient says to me ‘I have no money’, I couldn’t tell them to go away. I tell them okay you don’t have to pay now but remember me later.”

HAPPY GREEKS?

There are several possible explanations for Greece’s low suicide rate that go beyond the fact that the country has an abundance of sunshine and balmy weather.

To avoid stigmatizing their families, some suicidal Greeks deliberately crash their cars, which police often charitably report as accidents. Families often try to cover up a suicide so their loved ones can be buried because the Greek Orthodox church refuses to officiate at burials of people who commit suicide.

Another important factor behind the low suicide rate is that Greeks have extremely close knit families as well as a highly communicative and expressive culture.

“Greece is a country where everyone will talk to you,” said Sideris, the Athens psychoanalyst. “You’ll always find someone to share your suffering with and someone’s always there to help.

“It’s not only the good weather. It’s the powerful network of support that has made the suicide rate in Greece so low. It’s still there but this crisis is still too much for some people.”

Many Greeks have also not lost their sense of humor.

Dimitris Nikolopoulos, a 37-year-old salesman, laughed at the idea that the suicide rate was so low because Greeks are well-adjusted and a generally happy people.

“Greeks used to be very happy people because we were living off money that didn’t belong to us,” he said with a wry smile. “But sometimes you have to face reality. It wasn’t our money.”

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