The Greece v. Germany row gets deeper

Two weeks ago, European leaders tapped Germany to lead a bailout of Greece. Since then -- sturm und drang and chaos. Germans are infuriated over everything from Greece's hiring of Wall Street firms to hide its debt to the country's retirement age (in Germany, 67, in Greece, 61). In turn, Greeks have accused German papers of racism and western European leaders of paternalism.

Yesterday, a 60,000-person strike shut down Athens and turned violent, Theodoros Pangalos, the deputy prime minister of Greece, brought history into it. In an interview with BBC radio, he invoked the 1941 Nazi invasion of Greece, which caused an estimated 300,000 deaths:

[The Nazis] took away the Greek gold that was at the Bank of Greece, they took away the Greek money and they never gave it back. This is an issue that has to be faced sometime in the future. I don't say they have to give back the money necessarily but they have at least to say "thanks."And they shouldn't complain so much about stealing and not being very specific about economic dealings.

All in all, I can't see anyone benefiting from this diplomatic low blow. The Greeks don't want German help, and the Germans don't want to have to give it to them. But, the alternative is mass unemployment and emigration, deep cuts to social services, and a prolonged depression. As I understand it, even moderate austerity measures combined with very high taxes on the rich, the Greek populist proposal, simply will not work. And, just as an aside, I'll go ahead and guess that Angela Merkel saying "Thanks for the gold!" would not go down well in Athens at all.

Milos Bicanski/Getty Images


How the world does drugs

The UN's International Narcotics Control Board released its annual report on the global trade Wednesday. A few points to ponder:

  • The gender gap is closing; men have typically exhibited higher rates of drug use than women globally, but in many countries that margin is now narrowing.
  • Prescription drug abuse is up globally. 
  • The U.S. remains the world's top market for illicit drugs.
  • More than a third of ecstacy seized globally in 2008 was bound for Australia.
  • Meth is most frequently abused illegal drug in Japan, Korea, and the Phillipines.
  • In most of the world -- East and Southeast Asia are the exception -- cannabis is the most commonly used drug.
  • In Iraq, valium is the most often abused prescription drug. It is widely available in correctional and health facilities across the country.
  • Countries with faltering economies "are at risk for and, in some cases, show increasing drug use."