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Is Yanis Varoufakis on the way out as Finance Minster in Greece?

Under pressure from the EU, and left with no more options to finance Greece’s debt burden, its appears Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is reshuffling his finance ministry to become more euro-friendly, it what may be the last card left to play before Greece’s inevitable default takes hold.

Alex Christoforou

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Post originally appeared on Zerohedge.

On Friday, Greece’s embattled FinMin Yanis Varoufakis added to his highlight reel of “kerfuffles” when he put on a performance at the negotiating table in Riga that prompted his peers to describe him as an amateurish time-wasting, gambler. As talks with creditors drag on under the constant threat of a Greek default and a disorderly euro exit, it appears Varoufakis’ antics may have finally gone too far, for as Reuters reports, PM Tsipras looks to have effectively replaced the FinMin as lead negotiator. Here’s more:

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday reshuffled his team handling talks with European and IMF lenders, after his finance minister was sharply criticized for his performance at a euro zone meeting last week…

Tsipras and senior aides expressed support for Yanis Varoufakis and agreed the finance minister would supervise a new team negotiating a reforms deal with lenders, but appointed deputy Foreign Minister Euclid Tsakalotos as coordinator of the group, a government official said.

The appointment suggested Tsakalatos, an Oxford-educated economist and professor who is soft-spoken and well-liked by officials representing creditors, would have a more active role in face-to-face talks from now on.

And here are more details via Bloomberg:

Greek representative at Euro Working Group George Chouliarakis will be responsible for Greek delegation in Brussels Group meetings.

General secretary of Greek govt Spyros Sagias will assume coordination of technical work in Athens.

General secretary of finance ministry Nikos Theoharakis will focus on drafting a growth plan for Greek economy, which will be basis for June agreement with creditors.

 

The move comes on the heels of reports that eurozone negotiators had finally become so exhausted with Varoufakis that they had sought to bypass him altogether after the Greek FinMin apparently adopted a stance so contentious on Friday that talks never even progressed to the point where divisions over reforms could be discussed. Meanwhile, Varoufakis was busy playing the martyr, tweeting out FDR quotes and having dinner by himself. Here’s FT:

Greece’s dire financial position is forcing eurozone authorities to look beyond

Mr Varoufakis to Alexis Tsipras, prime minister, much like in February when Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who chairs the eurogroup, brokered an extension of the current bailout programme.

According to two eurozone officials, Mr Dijsselbloem phoned Mr Tsipras from Riga in an effort to mend fences after Friday’s feisty eurogroup meeting, where Mr Varoufakis was rounded on by his eurozone colleagues.

In a sign that Mr Varoufakis’s combative approach is prompting concern in Greece as well, a senior Athens official said the Riga meeting was likely to lead to him being sidelined as Mr Tsipras and his deputy Yannis Dragasakis take a more hands-on role…

Mr Varoufakis shrugged off criticism from his eurozone colleagues, comparing his situation to that of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he pushed through the New Deal. “They are unanimous in their hatred for me and I welcome their hatred,” he tweeted.

Some eurozone and Greek officials believe divisions between Mr Varoufakis and Mr Tsipras are deepening and that a concerted appeal to the prime minister could still produce a deal by late May, the time many feel an agreement has to be reached if any aid disbursement can be made before the current bailout expires at the end of June.

“There is an element of cognitive dissonance here,” said one official involved in the talks. “Varoufakis does not comprehend that at the political level one just does not negotiate every item. Other people do that.”

And when it comes to dinner plans, Varoufakis was not interested in joining his fellow European officials at the gala…

As the buses carrying European finance ministers left for a gala dinner in the Latvian capital on Friday night, one of the party hung back at the hotel and then wandered off alone into the dusk.

…because he does not like “boring dinners.”

We suppose that’s a good thing, because it now appears he’ll be invited to a lot less of them.

References:

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-04-27/under-pressure-europe-tsipras-prepares-show-varoufakis-door

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‘Iron’ Mike Pence Stares-Down Putin In APEC Showdown

Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Advisor John Bolton were seen shaking hands and chatting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Singapore.

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Via Zerohedge


Forget the All-Blacks ‘Haka’, ignore Foreman-Frasier, Drago-Balboa, and Ortiz-Liddell, the honor of the greatest (or perhaps most awkward) staredown in history now goes to US Vice President Mike Pence…

Having been blamed for everything from Trump’s election victory to USA soccer team’s loss to England last week, Russia faced accusations all weekend and was reportedly confronted by the US contingent over “meddling.”

As The Sun reports, Pence and Putin “discussed the upcoming G20 Summit and touched on the issues that will be discussed when President Trump and President Putin are both in Argentina for the summit,” according to the vice president’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah.

An NBC reporter tweeted: “New per the @VP’s Office—> The VP’s office says Vice President Pence directly addressed Russian meddling in the 2016 election in a conversation with Vladimir Putin on Thursday in Singapore.

“The conversation took place following the plenary session this afternoon at ASEAN.”

But, it was the following clash of the titans that caught most people’s attention.

As the Russian president joined the that Pence shook Putin’s ‘deadly’ hand, met his ‘steely KGB-trained’ gaze, and desperately tried not to smile or blink for 20 seconds as Putin appeared to chat amicably with the US VP…

While Putin has (if his accusers are to be believed) grappled his opponents to death with his bare hands (remember he is a sinister KGB agent and jiu-jitsu expert); we suspect the only thing VP Pence has gripped tightly in his hands is his bible.

Sadly, John Bolton then blew the tough guy act (or is he Mike Pence’s ‘good cop’) as he does his best impression of a teenage girl meeting their popstar idol for the first time…

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Orthodox Churches begin to respond forcefully to Ukrainian situation

Two jurisdictions, including one with a difficult history with Russia, move to condemn uncanonical acts in Ukraine.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Two local jurisdictions within the Eastern Orthodox Church announced their refusal to accept the legitimization of two schismatic groups in Ukraine, a move authorized by the Ecumenical Patriarch, but spurred by powers in the United States and Petro Poroshenko’s secularist-oriented Ukraine.

On October 11th, 2018, the Ecumentical Patriarch, Bartholomew I of Constantinople, authorized his legates to pronounce two schismatic Orthodox “churches” in Ukraine to be restored to canonical communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and by extension, across the entire Orthodox world.

This move was strongly condemned by the authorities of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has the only canonically accepted church presence in Ukraine, a situation that the Ecumenical Patriarch himself agreed with only a few years ago.

Russia moved to break communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, creating a split in the Orthodox Church, but a split that at first risked Russia standing alone in their statement of disapproval of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s actions.

For a time the reaction of the other “local” Orthodox Churches was cautious, with the vast majority (excepting only the Greek Church in the USA) coming out in support of the canonical group in Ukraine, but without taking similar action to Moscow.

That appears to be changing.

On November 12 and 16, respectively, the Churches of Serbia and Poland issued strong statements. They both categorically refused to recognize the Ukrainian schismatic groups and they forbade their clergy to concelebrate with the “clergy” within these groups. The Serbs’ statement on this was as follows:

“The Assembly does not recognize the mentioned figures and their followers as Orthodox bishops and clergy and, consequently, does not accept liturgical and canonical communion with them and their supporters.”

The Polish Church made a similar announcement, but with even more force:

“The Holy Bishops’ Council forbids the priests of the Polish Orthodox Church from having liturgical and prayerful contact with the ‘clergy’ of the so-called Kiev Patriarchate and the so-called ‘Autocephalous Orthodox Church,’ which have committed much evil in the past,” the statement reads.

According to the Polish hierarchs, persons deprived of episcopal and clerical ordination cannot be leaders in establishing peace in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Only the observance of the dogmatic and canonical norms of the Church and the preservation of the centuries-old tradition will protect Orthodoxy from severe ecclesiastical consequences on an international scale. The Polish Orthodox Church prays fervently for the unity of the holy Orthodox Church and for peace for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” the message further reads.

And while yet officially under the omophorion of Constantinople, several Greek monasteries on Mount Athos, the Orthodox monastic republic that is the spiritual center of all of Eastern Orthodoxy, inserted special petitions in their services to pray for Metropolitan Onufry and the people of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – that is, the canonical group that is a highly autonomous, or independent, Church while yet under the Moscow Patriarchate.

This is an interesting situation because in terms of ecclesial jurisdiction, Mount Athos is actually under the Ecumenical Patriarchate. However, the monasteries there often are known for taking the hardest of hardline stances when even their own Patriarchate takes actions they feel to be wrong:

Thousands of Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Christians go on pilgrimage to Mt. Athos, which is under the jurisdiction of Constantinople, every year. However, the Russian Church, of which the Ukrainian Church is an autonomous, self-governing part, broke communion with Constantinople on October 15, which the Ukrainian Church confirmed yesterday, due to unilateral Constantinople’s interference in ecclesiastical life in Ukraine.

We know that the majority of the abbots of the Athonite monasteries do not agree with the anti-canonical decisions of the Phanar,” Met. Anthony said.

“In several monasteries—Greek ones, by the way—they have included a special petition in the Litany of Peace in the morning and evening services: ‘For His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry with his suffering flock.,’” he explained, adding, “We are very grateful to the Athonites for their brotherly love and prayers.”

This is a story that it still developing, but the recent moves by Poland and Serbia may be outlining the path that other local Orthodox Churches will take.

That move is to deny recognition to the schismatics that Patriarch Bartholomew lifted the anathemas and depositions for. If this step were to be taken by all the local Churches that have expressed support for the canonical Ukrainian Church, the result would be not much different than where the schismatics were on October 10th:

Filaret Denisenko’s group and Makary’s group would indeed have communion with Constantinople, and presumably the Greek Orthodox Church in the USA, but with no one else.

This move would be a severe repudiation of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s repeated declaration that he has the sole authority to grant autocephaly to anyone anywhere in the Orthodox world (or even to take it away), which is a canonical absurdity.

Given the substantial problems that Filaret Denisenko continues to create, such as refusing to be considered only a Metropolitan (this was the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s order), and to still consider himself a patriarch, blessing a blasphemous “icon” that is really just a monument to Ukrainian ultra-nationalism and secularism (note the neo-Nazi wolfsangel and machine guns in the upper right of this photo:

And given the ideations of Patriarch Bartholomew himself, who is also recently reported to be pushing towards creating unity with the Roman Catholic Church, while acting like a pope himself by insisting that all the local Orthodox Churches will accept his decisions, it does not look like this situation is going to go away by itself.

However, by placing the problem of the schismatics squarely in Patriarch Bartholomew’s hands (since he created the problem), the pressure created by other churches refusing to concelebrate with the Ukrainian schismatics may be enough to isolate the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself, rather than fulfilling the highly likely goal that the US, Ukraine and Patriarch Bartholomew may have had initially – to isolate Russia and create a situation where Russia is made to look like the bad guy, once again.

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How George W. Bush Corrupted America’s ‘News’-Reporting

George W. Bush and his Republicans managed to take all of America’s major ‘news’-media, and to turn them into super-prostitutes.

Eric Zuesse

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Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org:


In order to understand today’s demonization of Vladimir Putin, one must go back to US President George W. Bush’s propaganda for “regime-change in Iraq” and demonization of Saddam Hussein at that time. The US regime now has come to recognize that with Putin’s high approval-ratings from the Russian public, the US aristocracy’s dream of fomenting Putin’s ouster by Russia’s voters will not work; and, so, all foreign leaders who cooperated with Russia, such as Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Viktor Yanukovych, and Bashar al-Assad, were first targeted by the US regime for “regime-change,” so as to isolate Russia and soften it up for the demanded US-takeover (‘democracy’, ‘free market’, etc., which Russia actually now already has, at least as much as America does); and, then, since that hasn’t yet worked, came the US aristocracy’s campaign to ‘protect The West’ by NATO troops and weapons surrounding Russia and forcing regime-change in Russia. It has escalated now to the point where World War III is more likely than ever it was during the Cold War.

Regime-change in Russia will thus either occur by the democratic vote of the Russian public at some distant time and produce a Russian Government that’s likely to be against the US regime in every possible way (which the current Russian Government is not), or else it will require a US-and-allied invasion of Russia, and that would destroy the world (but the US aristocracy want it anyway).

However, America’s aristocracy (or as they call it when referring to the same thing in low-income countries, “oligarchs”) — basically just its billionaires — are very impatient; they want to control the entire planet during their own lifetimes, and care little (if at all) about what will happen to the planet after they’re gone. (Look, for example, at their enormous resistance to doing anything against global burnout; protecting their fossil-fuels investments is ‘more important’.) Their ‘non-profits’ are just tax-avoidance schemes that double as PR operations for themselves and as ways to get their names in print and on big ‘non-profit’ buildings, like the Pyramids were in ancient Egypt. (Those Egyptian aristocrats wanted permanent honors, but today’s American ones want only to be recognized as being top-of-the-heap while they’re still alive; it’s a cultural difference.)

Anyway, here is how George W. Bush and his Republicans managed to take all of America’s major ‘news’-media, which were highly prostituted even before he came into office, and to turn them into super-prostitutes like the very worst of them prior to his Presidency were. That very worst was most prominently recognized as having been the neoconservative (or pro-US-imperialism) Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel. Of course, it’s rotten, today, no less than it was back in 2000, and here’s a representative sample of that, displaying a classic propaganda-operation:

This particular show aired on 5 September 2015 on Fox ‘News’, and interviewed their contracted expert:

TRANSCRIPT, starting at 4:45:

4:45, Interviewer: The other place that nobody seems to want to go these days is Russia and China, and Russia and China are both the two countries that have really gotten behind Assad, and certainly try to prop him up and those kinds of things; and as we look at pictures from China’s military day parade [posted onscreen], how much of this is Russia and China trying to slough off these refugees on Europe and everybody else … to try to gain political and global capital?

McFARLAND: Well, in China I think less so, but Russia, certainly, because we’ve seen even in the last week that Russia has increased its military presence in Syria. Russia is trying to prop up the Assad government, like the Iranians are; and so Russia is sending military equipment; it’s sending it by sea, it’s sending it overland, it’s sending it by air, to try to prop up the Assad government to continue the fighting.

Q: To continue the refugee crisis?

MCFARLAND: Oh, sure, exactly.

They want their suckers to believe that the Government of Syria wants “to continue the refugee crisis” (which actually was resulting from the Democratic Party’s President Barack Obama’s policy, but Republican-Party billionaires want regime-change in Syria as much as Democratic-Party ones do and so this con is a bipartisan one) instead of to restore the peace and modest prosperity that had preceded the US-Saudi-Turkish-UAE-Quwaiti campaign to recruit and arm tens of thousands of jihadists into Syria to overthrow Syria’s committedly non-sectarian and highly secular Government, headed by Assad. They want their fools to believe that Assad instead of Obama sought the overthrow of Assad. But no matter how stupid their pitch is, it’s acceptable by their very conservative audience. Even when Fox News needs to cover-up evils of a Democratic Party regime in order to sic their suckers on hating Assad or any other ally of the arch-demon Putin, they do it, in order to service their Republican Party billionaires, who are just as eager to take over Russia — and its allies such as Syria — as Democratic Party billionaires are. And that’s how bad Fox ‘News’ is, and was. But now they’re all like that.

THE BACKSTORY:

Whereas back in 2002 and 2003, the US aristocracy’s biggest push for “regime change” was to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq; and whereas in 2011 the biggest push for “regime change” was to remove Muammar Gaddaffi from power in Libya; and whereas next in 2011 the biggest push for “regime change” became to remove Bashar al-Assad from power in Syria; and whereas in 2013 the biggest push for “regime change” became to remove Viktor Yanukovych from power in Ukraine; the biggest push for “regime change” now is to remove Vladimir Putin himself from power in Russia.

Media-lies have been crucial to them all; and here is how it’s done — by spreading Fox’s garbage over the rest of the major ‘news’ media:

On 2 October 2003, the media-watch organization, worldpublicopinion.org, headlined “Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War:Study Finds Widespread Misperceptions on Iraq Highly Related to Support for War: Misperceptions Vary Widely Depending on News Source: Fox Viewers More Likely to Misperceive, PBS-NPR Less Likely.” In fact, the people who received their news primarily through NPR or PBS exhibited the lowest rate of misperceptions at that time, and Fox News Channel viewers exhibited the highest misperceptions-rate: Whereas 77% of NPR/PBS listeners/viewers gave correct answers on all three factual news questions asked, only 20% of Fox News Channel viewers did; and whereas only 23% of the NPR/PBS audiences got one or more of these three factual questions wrong, 80% of Fox’s did.

So, the George W. Bush Administration forced NPR and PBS to adhere more fully to Bush’s (the US aristocracy’s) line. Bush lowered the best of the nation’s news-edia down to the standards that already existed for the lowest.

At NPR’s “Morning Edition” on 20 May 2005, host David Folkenflik reported about the pre-Bush culture at the Corporation for Public Broadvasting and compared it to the new culture there. He said that, the “culture gap became evident as long as two years ago. At oneclosed board meeting, according to two former CPB officials, [the Bush-appointed CPB chief Kenneth] Tomlinson suggested bringing in Fox News Channel anchor Brit Hume to talk to public broadcasting officials about how to create balanced news programs.”

Word was now out, among journalists throughout the world, that President Bush aimed to turn his country’s public broadcasting system into a domestic propaganda organ; and so, on May 30thThe New York Times headlined “Ombudsmen Rebuff Move by Public Broadcasting”, and reported — datelined May 27th from London — that: “An [international] association of news ombudsmen has rejected an attempt by two ombudsmen from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to join their organization as full-fledged members, questioning their independence. The Organization of News Ombudsmen, which represents nearly a hundred print and broadcast ombudsmen from around the world, more than half of them from the United States, voted at its annual conference here last week to change its bylaws to allow full membership only to those who work for news organizations,” which excluded representatives from CPB, because “it does not itself gather or produce news.” Observed one member, who happened to be the ombudsman from NPR, “We want members who are responsive to readers, not to governments or lobby groups.”

The Los Angeles Times media critic David Shaw took a broad historical view of this matter, headlining May 29th “There’s a ‘Nuclear Option’ for PBS’ Woes” opining that no PBS at all would be better than a PBS that’s a propaganda organ for the White House, and reminding readers: “The Bush administration is not the first to challenge the independence of PBS. Back in the 1970s, the Nixon administration was so estranged by PBS coverage of Watergate and the Vietnam War that it stacked the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with Nixon sympathizers. ‘There were tremendous fights, with the Nixon administration trying to prevent public television from doing any public affairs programming at all,’ Lawrence Grossman, the former president of PBS, subsequently told the New York Times. The Bush administration, which has already accomplished the heretofore seemingly impossible by becoming even more media-averse than the Nixon administration, seems determined to surpass the wizard of Whittier and Watergate in bringing the CPB to heel as well.”

Mr. Shaw, like other major-media commentators about the national media, had previously stood by in silence, during 2002 and 2003, while America’s major media cavalierly spread amongst the US public, as virtually unchallenged, the false rumors coming from the Bush Administration, and from its allies such as the Bush-Administration-financed group of exiles, the Iraqi National Congress, saying that Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein had been proven to be storing huge quantities of weapons of mass destruction and to be working in cahoots with Al Qaeda to threaten the United States. However, now, just a few years later, these very same “news” media were so frightened at the rising extent of this Administration’s control over their “news,” that these commentators were publicizing what those fascists were doing to force them, ‘journalists,’ into a military lock-step. This change in atmosphere was stunning; America’s press were now trying to extricate themselves from the prison they had only recently helped to construct for themselves. They didn’t think that they might get caught up in the prison that they had helped construct to contain the general public.

The United States had entered historic new territory after nearly 50 years of aristocratic/theocratic mass-indoctrination of the American people, which had occurred with the full support and cooperation of the nation’s presslords. There was now doubt; the old arrangements finally started to become questioned. Things were no longer settled. This was a real change of mentality. Only recently, there had been a total passivity of the US press: it propagandized for the President’s Medicaid prescription drug plan; it propagandized for his fabricated accusations against “Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction”; it served as an extension of the White House press office on many other of the President’s fraud-based programs. But this passivity was now finally replaced by a rising fear within the press, that the US might be transforming into a fascist state, which could threaten the press itself. The presslords themselves were at last becoming disturbed.

However, this President was already near to his goal of a totalitarian lock-down. Consequently, what could the press do, at such a late date? They had already given him the rope to hang not just the public, but themselves. He took it. The American press that stenographically transmitted to the American public the US government’s lies about “Saddam’s WMD” is continuing as if it hadn’t been sufficiently compliant. America’s great victories in overthrowing Gaddafi and Yanukovych are now supposed to be followed by Assad, and then Putin.

And European nations take this leadership as their own, instead of abandoning the US, abandoning NATO, and abandoning the US-controlled EU; abandoning all the mega-corporate, US-aristocracy-controlled, international-corporate fascist system — and now they willingly take in the millions of refugees from the bombs that the US had dropped in Libya and Syria, and that the US-installed rabidly anti-Russian government in Ukraine is dropping onto the areas of the former Ukraine that have rejected the US-imposed (in February 2014government in Kiev.

And the next target is Putin.

So: that’s the backstory behind the lie that Putin instead of Obama caused those millions of refugees pouring into Europe.

And, in German ‘news’ media, Bashar al-Assad and ISIS are being blamed for it, because practically no German is so media-deluded (like America’s conservatives are) as to think that Putin is to blame for it; and here is a German who states in very clear terms how rotten he thinks Germany’s ‘news’ media are (though America’s obviously are even worse) with those German media blaming “that the reasons for refugee-flows are Syrian President Bashar Assad and ISIS” instead of that “America is the cause of all these problems, American foreign policy.”

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