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SYRIZA "cleans up" football by rewarding violence and its favorite oligarchs

PAOK FC, owned by pro-SYRIZA oligarch Ivan Savvidis, has penalty for object thrown by fans at opposing coach reversed, while SYRIZA claims it has “cleaned up” Greek football.

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It was about a year ago when Greek football, including professional clubs and the national team, faced the specter of being suspended from all international competition, following “reforms” which the SYRIZA government attempted to ram through which would have formally created state oversight of the country’s national football federation and football leagues.
Faced with the threat of expulsion from international play, the “reforms” were eventually diluted enough to avert such an outcome. However, numerous other changes, including the restructuring of the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) board of directors and roster of referees, moved forward. These “reforms” were enacted purportedly to “eliminate corruption” in Greek football.
That “catharsis” has been on full and proud display this season, as two teams in particular, AEK FC (based in Athens) and PAOK FC (based in Thessaloniki) have been the seeming beneficiaries of this new state of affairs. Refereeing, purportedly “cleaned up” as part of these “reforms,” has been brazenly and unabashed favorable to these two squads, with numerous matches decided on dubious decisions or “missed” calls.
It is surely a coincidence that the presidents of these two teams, wealthy oligarchs Dimitris Melissanidis and Ivan Savvidis, are strong supporters of the current SYRIZA-led government, as well as beneficiaries of the current regime as well.
It is Melissanidis who, along with Czech investors, has taken ownership of the privatized national lottery and sports betting organization OPAP, all the while being the president competing in the very same domestic football league for which OPAP accepts bets. Conflict of interest is apparently an unknown phrase in the ranks of the SYRIZA-led government.
In the 1980s, Melissanidis was twice charged with bribery. This was followed in 1996 by a five-year prison sentence for tax evasion and oil smuggling. In 2013, Melissanidis allegedly threatened the life a journalist who had published an exposé of the activities of Melissanidis-owned Aegean Oil.
In turn, Ivan Savvidis, a former member of the Russian parliament, has recently purchased, along with foreign investors, the port of Thessaloniki. He owns 100 percent of national television broadcaster Epsilon TV. His investments in Greece include ownership of a soft drink factory, a luxury hotel, an aviation company, and a facility which produces tobacco products and which he threatened to liquidate if debts to the state were not written off.
It seems this close-knit relationship with the government pays dividends on the pitch as well, as AEK FC and PAOK are in a neck-and-neck race for this year’s Super League crown, while perennial champions Olympiacos are middling in third place. The owner of Olympiacos FC, shipping magnate Evaggelos Marinakis, is not known to maintain favorable ties with the SYRIZA-led government.
Recently, a scheduled match between PAOK and Olympiacos never began, after a fan threw an object from the stands which struck the coach of Olympiacos in the head. As per league rules and precedent set after a similar incident last season, where Panathinaikos FC was penalized (interestingly enough in a match against PAOK) after a fan hurled a beer bottle which struck one of PAOK’s players. Panathinaikos lost the game on paper, was docked three additional points in the standings, and its home field was penalized for two matches, where the team played in front of empty stands.

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in the Greek finance ministry in Athens, January 30, 2018. A decal of the Ivan Savvidis-owned PAOK football club is visible in the background. (REUTERS/Costas Baltas)


However, cozy relationships with the centers of power apparently pay off, as in the case of PAOK. Following the incident in the match which never began with Olympiacos, essentially the same penalty was levied as in last year’s incident. However, upon appeal, PAOK’s three deducted points were restored, and the suspension of its home field was dropped, just in time for PAOK to face its rival, AEK, in front of a packed house instead of in front of empty seats. The only part of the initial penalty which remained unchanged was the “outcome” on paper of the PAOK-Olympiacos match that never was, which remains an Olympiacos victory by default. The reversal of the original decision ensures that PAOK remains very much in the hunt for this year’s Super League title.
This decision is scandalous not only due to the fact that a clear and evident double standard was employed, seemingly to protect PAOK. It is scandalous also due to the incredible speed with which the decision was levied. In a country where an ordinary judicial case can drag on for a decade or more, and where previous decisions and appeals involving sporting clubs often took weeks to resolve, the appeal was heard and original decision was overturned all in just over 24 hours and issued at 1 am, during a weekend to boot.
Greece is a country that has a reputation of being inefficient and where the state operates in a frustratingly slow and ponderous manner. The reality is that the Greek system can be frighteningly quick and efficient when deemed politically expedient. This is evidently the case with the ultra-fast decision favoring PAOK issued by the “reformed” EPO, stacked with personnel essentially hand-picked by the SYRIZA-led government.
Sports is politics worldwide (as evidenced by the recent Russian “doping scandal” and actions of the International Olympic Committee), and this is plainly evident in Greece, where teams owned by oligarchs favorable to the government are the beneficiaries of favorable treatment. These oligarchs then utilize the organized supporters of their squads to create “voting blocs” which faithfully and fanatically toe the line laid down by the team president and reinforced through sports newspapers and online portals favorable to the team in question.
As this happens, the SYRIZA government has attempted to score political points by claiming that it has “cleaned up football,” just as it is apparently “fishing out corruption” and “punishing those which brought Greece into its current mess” through the serendipitously-timed “Novartis scandal,” targeting members of the former New Democracy and Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) governments. Coincidentally, these reforms in the sports world favored pro-SYRIZA oligarchs, and coincidentally, the “Novartis scandal” successfully removed the massive Macedonia demonstrations and their aftermath, from the news cycle and from public discourse.
And unfortunately, for those who have even a cursory understanding of both the Greek sporting world and Greek politics, the decision to overturn the penalty against PAOK comes as no surprise. This author was at a café in Athens to watch the PAOK-Olympiacos match that never was, and overheard a conversation from the neighboring table, where a PAOK fan who was from Thessaloniki and who apparently had a contact within PAOK’s management reassured her friends that “Kontonis will overturn any decision against PAOK” (referring to former deputy minister of athletics and current justice minister Stavros Kontonis). It looks like her source within PAOK was well informed.
This decision now sets a new precedent, where any teams whose fans bring dangerous objects into the stadium, throw objects and strike opposing players and coaches, will essentially walk away unpunished. So much for SYRIZA’s efforts to “clean up” Greek football. And anyone who believes that this decision was reached without the influence of the highest ladders of power in Greek society, is sadly delusional.
Furthermore, the decision to reverse the previous decision at 1 am before game day and to allow tomorrow’s PAOK-AEK match to go forward with spectators begs the question: when did the tax authorities manage to certify the tickets for Sunday’s game? Did they do so on Friday, before the decision was even issued, knowing what it would be? Or are we expected to believe the tax office will open on Sunday, just for PAOK?

A… motorcycle brought into the stands in the supposedly secure PAOK FC stadium in Thessaloniki, prior to the PAOK-Olympiacos match which never began, February 25, 2018.


Such are “reforms,” SYRIZA-style, in Greece today. While “unlicensed” elderly chestnut vendors are thrown in jail an issued steep fines and while those who set a bank branch ablaze during protests in 2010, killing three people including a pregnant mother-to-be, have not ever been apprehended or charged; hooligans can throw objects, injure opposing teams’ coaches, and bring entire… motorcycles into a supposedly secure stadium (this also happened during the PAOK-Olympiacos match that never was) and go largely unpunished. And for such reforms, SYRIZA’s legions of supporters repeatedly claim, as if reading off a script, that SYRIZA is “doing away with the old corruption.” Perhaps it is, by rewarding the renewed corruption of its supporters, friends, and cronies.
Opinions expressed are those of the author alone and may not reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Hellenic Insider, its publisher, its editors, or its staff, writers, and contributors.

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The conclusion of Russiagate, Part II – news fatigue across America

The daily barrage of Russiagate news may have been a tool to wear down the American public as the Deep State plays the long game for control.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Presently there is a media blitz on across the American news media networks. As was the case with the Russiagate investigation while it was ongoing, the conclusions have merely given rise to a rather unpleasant afterbirth in some ways as all the parties involve pivot their narratives. The conclusion of Russiagate appears to be heavily covered, yet if statistics here at The Duran are any indication, there is a good possibility that the public is absolutely fatigued over this situation.

And, perhaps, folks, that is by design.

Joseph Goebbels had many insights about the use of the media to deliver and enforce propaganda. One of his quotes runs thus:

The best propaganda is that which, as it were, works invisibly, penetrates the whole of life without the public having any knowledge of the propagandistic initiative.

and another:

That is of course rather painful for those involved. One should not as a rule reveal one’s secrets, since one does not know if and when one may need them again. The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, it should be a big lie, and one should stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.

If there has ever been a narrative that employed these two principles, it is Russiagate.

A staggering amount of attention has been lavished on this nothing-burger issue. Axios reports that an analytics company named Newswhip tallied an astounding 533,074 web articles published about Russia and President Trump and the Mueller investigation (a number which is being driven higher even now, moment by moment, ad nauseam). Newsbusters presently reports that the networks gave 2,284 minutes to the coverage of this issue, a number which seems completely inaccurate because it is much too low (38 hours at present), and we are waiting for a correction on this estimate.

Put it another way: Are you sick of Russiagate? That is because it has dominated the news for over 675 days of nearly wall-to-wall news cycles. The political junkies on both sides are still pretty jazzed up about this story – the Pro-Trump folks rejoicing over the presently ‘cleared’ status, while of course preparing for the upcoming Democrat / Deep State pivot, and the Dems in various levels of stress as they try to figure out exactly how to pivot in such a manner that they do not lose face – or pace – in continuing their efforts to rid their lives of the “Irritant-in-Chief” who now looks like he is in the best position of his entire presidency.

But a lot of people do not care. They are tired.

I hate to say it (and yes, I am speaking personally and directly), but this may be a dangerous fatigue. Here is why:

The barrage of propaganda on this issue was never predicated on any facts. It still isn’t. However, as we noted a few days ago, courtesy of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, at present, 53% of US registered voters believe that the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

That means 53% of the voting public now believes something that is totally false.

Many of these people are probably simply exhausted from the constant coverage of this allegation as well. So when the news came out Sunday night that there was no evidence of collusion and no conclusive evidence, hence, of obstruction of justice by the Trump Administration – in other words, this whole thing was a nothing burger – will this snap those 53% back into reality?

Probably not. Many of them may well be so worn down that they no longer care. Or worse, they are so worn out that they will continue to believe the things they are told that sustain the lie, despite its being called out as such.

C.S. Lewis wrote about this peculiarity of human nature, in particular in the seventh book of his Chronicles of Narnia. After a prolonged and fierce assault on the sensibilities of the Narnians with the story that Aslan, the Christ figure of this world, was in fact an angry overlord, selling the Narnians themselves into slavery, and selling the whole country out to its enemy, with the final touch being that Aslan and the devilish deity of the enemy nation were in fact one and the same, the Narnians were unable to snap back to reality when it was shown conclusively and clearly that this was in fact not the case.

The fear that was instilled from the use of false narratives persisted and blocked the animals from reality.

Lewis summarized it this way through the thoughts of Tirian, the lead character in this tale:

Tirian had never dreamed that one of the results of an Ape’s setting up as a false Aslan would be to stop people from believing in the real one. He had felt quite sure that the Dwarfs would rally to his side the moment he showed them how they had been deceived. And then next night he would have led them to Stable Hill and shown Puzzle to all the creatures and everyone would have turned against the Ape and, perhaps after a scuffle with the Calormenes, the whole thing would have been over. But now, it seemed, he could count on nothing. How many other Narnians might turn the same way as the Dwarfs?

This is part of the toll this very long propaganda campaign is very likely to take on many Americans. It takes being strongly informed and educated on facts to withstand the withering force of a narrative that never goes away. Indeed, if anything, it takes even more effort now, because the temptation of the pro-Trump side will be to retreat to a set of political talking points that, interestingly enough, validate Robert Mueller’s “integrity” when only a week ago they were attacking this as a false notion.

This is very dangerous, and even though Mr. Trump and his supporters won this battle, if they do not come at this matter in a way that shows education, and not merely the restating of platitudes and talking points that “should be more comfortable, now that we’ve won!”

The cost of Russiagate may be far higher than anyone wants it to be. And yes, speaking personally, I understand the fatigue. I am tired of this issue too. But the temptation to go silent may have already taken a lot of people so far that they will not accept the reality that has just been revealed.

Politics is a very fickle subject. Truth is extremely malleable for many politicians, and that is saying it very nicely. But this issue was not just politics. It was slander with a purpose, and that purpose is unchanged now. In fact things may even be more dangerous for the President – even risking his very life – because if the powers that are working behind the people trying to get rid of President Trump come to realize that they have no political support, they will move to more extreme measures. In fact this may have already been attempted.

We at The Duran reported a few months ago on a very strange but very compelling story that suggested that there was an attempted assassination and coup that was supposed to have taken place on January 17th of this year. It did not happen, but there was a parallel story that noted that the President may have been targeted for assassination already no fewer than twelve times.  Hopefully this is just tinfoil-hat stuff. But we have seen that this effort to be rid of President Trump is fierce and it is extremely well-supported within its group. There is no reason to think that the pressure will lighten now that this battle has been lost.

The stakes are much too high, and even this long investigation may well have been part of the weaponry of the group we sometimes refer to as the “Deep State” in their effort to reacquire power, and in their effort to continue to pursue both a domestic and geopolitical agenda that has so far shown itself to be destructive to both individuals and nations all over the world.

Speculation? Yes. Needless? We hope so. This is a terrible possibility that hopefully no reasonable person wants to consider.

Honestly, folks, we do not know. But we had to put this out there for your consideration.

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Parliament Seizes Control Of Brexit From Theresa May

Zerohedge

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Schaeuble, Greece and the lessons learned from a failed GREXIT (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 117.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine a recent interview with the Financial Times given by Wolfgang Schäuble, where the former German Finance Minister, who was charged with finding a workable and sustainable solution to the Greek debt crisis, reveals that his plan for Greece to take a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone (in order to devalue its currency and save its economy) was met with fierce resistance from Brussels hard liners, and Angela Merkel herself.

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Via FT

“Look where we’re sitting!” says Wolfgang Schäuble, gesturing at the Berlin panorama stretching out beneath us. It is his crisp retort to those who say that Europe is a failure, condemned to a slow demise by its own internal contradictions. “Walk through the Reichstag, the graffiti left by the Red Army soldiers, the images of a destroyed Berlin. Until 1990 the Berlin Wall ran just below where we are now!”

We are in Käfer, a restaurant on the rooftop of the Reichstag. The views are indeed stupendous: Berlin Cathedral and the TV Tower on Alexanderplatz loom through the mist. Both were once in communist East Berlin, cut off from where we are now by the wall. Now they’re landmarks of a single, undivided city. “Without European integration, without this incredible story, we wouldn’t have come close to this point,” he says. “That’s the crazy thing.”

As Angela Merkel’s finance minister from 2009 to 2017, Schäuble was at the heart of efforts to steer the eurozone through a period of unprecedented turbulence. But at home he is most associated with Germany’s postwar political journey, having not only negotiated the 1990 treaty unifying East and West Germany but also campaigned successfully for the capital to move from Bonn.

For a man who has done so much to put Berlin — and the Reichstag — back on the world-historical map, it is hard to imagine a more fitting lunch venue. With its open-plan kitchen and grey formica tables edged in chrome, Käfer has a cool, functional aesthetic that is typical of the city. On the wall hangs a sketch by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who famously wrapped the Reichstag in silver fabric in 1995.

The restaurant has one other big advantage: it is easy to reach from Schäuble’s office. Now 76, he has been confined to a wheelchair since he was shot in an assassination attempt in 1990, and mobility is an issue. Aides say he tends to avoid restaurants if he can, especially at lunchtime.

As we take our places, we talk about Schäuble’s old dream — that German reunification would be a harbinger of European unity, a step on the road to a United States of Europe. That seems hopelessly out of reach in these days of Brexit, the gilets jaunes in France, Lega and the Five Star Movement in Italy.

Some blame Schäuble himself for that. He was, after all, the architect of austerity, a fiscal hawk whose policy prescriptions during the euro crisis caused untold hardship for millions of ordinary people, or so his critics say. He became a hate figure, especially in Greece. Posters in Athens in 2015 depicted him with a Hitler moustache below the words: “Wanted — for mass poverty and devastation”.

Schäuble rejects the criticism that austerity caused the rise of populism. “Higher spending doesn’t lead to greater contentment,” he says. The root cause lies in mass immigration, and the insecurities it has unleashed. “What European country doesn’t have this problem?” he asks. “Even Sweden. The poster child of openness and the willingness to help.”

But what of the accusation that he didn’t care enough about the suffering of the southern Europeans? Austerity divided the EU and spawned a real animus against Schäuble. I ask him how that makes him feel now. “Well I’m sad, because I played a part in all of that,” he says, wistfully. “And I think about how we could have done it differently.”

I glance at the menu — simple German classics with a contemporary twist. I’m drawn to the starters, such as Oldenburg duck pâté and the Müritz smoked trout. But true to his somewhat abstemious reputation, Schäuble has no interest in these and zeroes in on the entrées. He chooses Käfer’s signature veal meatballs, a Berlin classic. I go for the Arctic char and pumpkin.

Schäuble switches seamlessly back to the eurozone crisis. The original mistake was in trying to create a common currency without a “common economic, employment and social policy” for all eurozone member states. The fathers of the euro had decided that if they waited for political union to happen first they’d wait forever, he says.

Yet the prospects for greater political union are now worse than they have been in years. “The construction of the EU has proven to be questionable,” he says. “We should have taken the bigger steps towards integration earlier on, and now, because we can’t convince the member states to take them, they are unachievable.”

Greece was a particularly thorny problem. It should never have been admitted to the euro club in the first place, Schäuble says. But when its debt crisis first blew up, it should have taken a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone — an idea he first floated with Giorgos Papakonstantinou, his Greek counterpart between 2009 and 2011. “I told him you need to be able to devalue your currency, you’re not competitive,” he says. The reforms required to repair the Greek economy were going to be “hard to achieve in a democracy”. “That’s why you need to leave the euro for a certain period. But everyone said there was no chance of that.”

The idea didn’t go away, though. Schäuble pushed for a temporary “Grexit” in 2015, during another round of the debt crisis. But Merkel and the other EU heads of government nixed the idea. He now reveals he thought about resigning over the issue. “On the morning the decision was made, [Merkel] said to me: ‘You’ll carry on?’ . . . But that was one of the instances where we were very close [to my stepping down].”

It is an extraordinary revelation, one that highlights just how rocky his relationship with Merkel has been over the years. Schäuble has been at her side from the start, an éminence grise who has helped to resolve many of the periodic crises of her 13 years as chancellor. But it was never plain sailing.

“There were a few really bad conflicts where she knew too that we were on the edge and I would have gone,” he says. “I always had to weigh up whether to go along with things, even though I knew it was the wrong thing to do, as was the case with Greece, or whether I should go.” But his sense of duty prevailed. “We didn’t always agree — but I was always loyal.”

That might have been the case when he was a serving minister, but since becoming speaker of parliament in late 2017 he has increasingly distanced himself from Merkel. Last year, when she announced she would not seek re-election as leader of the Christian Democratic Union, the party that has governed Germany for 50 of the past 70 years, Schäuble openly backed a candidate described by the Berlin press as the “anti-Merkel”. Friedrich Merz, a millionaire corporate lawyer who is the chairman of BlackRock Germany, had once led the CDU’s parliamentary group but lost out to Merkel in a power struggle in 2002, quitting politics a few years later. He has long been seen as one of the chancellor’s fiercest conservative critics — and is a good friend of Schäuble’s.

Ultimately, in a nail-biting election last December, Merkel’s favoured candidate, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, narrowly beat Merz. The woman universally known as “AKK” is in pole position to succeed Merkel as chancellor when her fourth and final term ends in 2021.

I ask Schäuble if it’s true that he had once again waged a battle against Merkel and once again lost. “I never went to war against Ms Merkel,” he says. “Everybody says that if I’m for Merz then I’m against Merkel. Why is that so? That’s nonsense.”

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