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What does the YES vote mean? What does the NO vote mean? Greeks face confusion amid Sunday’s referendum

The crisis ballot on a European bailout proposal comes down to 68 word question and two financial / technical documents that may have Greek citizens a bit confused as to what happens after the referendum results are announced.

Alex Christoforou

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If the referendum goes along as scheduled (reports suggest it might be rolled back), Greeks are struggling to find meaning with the choice they are being asked to make come Sunday.

The governing SYRIZA party has positioned the referendum as a vote on whether to accept the Troika’s proposal…but what exactly would that mean for Greeks voting YES to such a plan? Will things magically go back to normal? Will the austerity they voted YES for result in another memorandum a year down the line, and indefinite loans to keep afloat?

If Greeks vote NO, then what? Is a new proposal going to surface? Will both parties restart negotiations?

The EU has cleverly positioned the referendum as a vote on whether to stay in the Euro. Of course no one in Brussels has clarified if this means to stay in the Eurozone or the actual European Union (two very different things).

More questions arise regarding the Euro YES or NO framing of the referendum.

If Greeks vote NO does this give the EU the right to kick Greece out of the Eurozone, but remain in the European Union…or is Greece out of both entities? More importantly since no mechanism exists for “leaving” Europe…who, how, and under what legal premise will all this take place?

Once again if Greeks vote YES, will Brussels see this as capitulation so as to begin heavy austerity measures and full on asset stripping? Will Europe place their own, “Brussels friendly” puppet leader (as they have done once before in Greece and in Italy) in order to secure the country’s assets and avoid another mini uprising? Will the EU see this as a green light for full-on colonisation?

The 68-word ballot question mentions four international institutions and asks Greek voters for their opinion on two technical documents that were not made public before the referendum call.

The referendum question translated into English:

“Greek people are hereby asked to decide whether they accept a draft agreement document submitted by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, at the Eurogroup meeting held on on June 25 and which consists of two documents:

‘‘The first document is called Reforms for the Completion of the Current Program and Beyond and the second document is called Preliminary Debt Sustainability Analysis.

‘‘- Those citizens who reject the institutions’ proposal vote Not Approved / NO

 ‘‘- Those citizens who accept the institutions’ proposal vote Approved / YES.’’

Via Bloomberg…

“If we go back to the drachma, then what?” asks George Beltas, a 75-year-old retired construction worker in the Greek city of Patras.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called a surprise referendum for Sunday on how much more austerity his country is willing to endure, and Beltas is struggling to make sense of it all.

The ballot question, formally presented on Monday afternoon, loosely translates as: “Should we accept the proposal submitted on June 26, 2015, by the Eurogroup, European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund?” Whether in Greek or English, voters say, the referendum is confusing, referring to a “plan of agreement … composed of two parts,” attaching two complex documents in English and not clearly explaining anything.

“Yes or no, that’s what they tell us the choice is,” Beltas says. “But they’re not saying what will happen later. … What will the government do after the vote?” He plans to vote yes.

“People don’t understand what they’re voting for,” says George, an attorney in Athens who asks that his last name not be used. “Many think it’s voting for Tsipras or voting against Tsipras. Or they say: ‘I want to stay in Europe, whatever this means.’ Everyone, the Greek people, the government, the Europeans, interprets the question in their own way. That’s the problem.”

Tsipras isn’t rushing to clear it up. In fact, things could get more confusing. His government today asked the EU for a two-year bailout, hours after the Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini cited unnamed sources saying that Tsipras was reconsidering a last-ditch offer proposed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Negotiations have dragged for six months over how to manage Greece’s €312 billion ($350 billion) debt. They broke down late on Friday, when Tsipras surprised even his own government with a call for a referendum. The prime minister and his Syriza party leaders are encouraging voters to answer no (Όχι!) on Sunday and have taken to Twitter and other social and news media to describe the lenders’ stance toward Greece as “blackmail.” “The dignity of the Greeks” is at stake, Tsipras has repeated over the last several days.

Tens of thousands of anti-austerity demonstrators rallied in Athens on Monday night, carrying placards proclaiming “Όχι!” Today, a #YesToEuro rally is also drawing thousands of demonstrators in the Greek capital.

It’s not so simple, says Lilly Papagianni, a publicist with a film distribution company. “It’s a yes-or-no question, but it’s not a yes-or-no situation,” she says. “If we vote, it’s completely uncertain what happens next. What I don’t know and can’t figure out is what the EU really wants to do with Greece. Do they want to deal with us, or do they want to kick us out?”

Papagianni, who didn’t support Tsipras in the January elections, also plans to answer yes. “I didn’t trust him from the beginning because he was appealing to so much desperation, and he was proposing a dream that he couldn’t possibly make good on,” she says. One thing is making her choice easier, Papagianni says: “All I need to know is that no is the way the members of Golden Dawn [Greece’s nationalist, neo-Nazi party] will vote, so I’m comfortable with being on the opposite side of the spectrum from them.”

As of early Tuesday, polling in Greece suggested that no is beating yes, but the situation is volatile, according to Maria Karaklioumi, an Athens-based pollster. “Hour by hour, we’re seeing big shifts in people’s responses, and 15 percent of voters say they’re undecided,” she says. Her polls show support for Tsipras falling. His approval rating is just under 50 percent today; two weeks ago, it was more than 60 percent.

“People don’t trust Tsipras as much,” Karaklioumi says. “He tells us that the vote doesn’t have to do with our presence in the euro zone or not, so they’re afraid of that and don’t trust that.” On the question of whom the Greeks blame for the nation’s crisis, they’re not letting anyone off—they see both the government and the lenders as having created the mess they find themselves in. The deep division among Greeks on how to vote is playing out on social media, with people posting news articles and photos of flyers—anything to explain or sway the vote. An advocacy group for children with cancer posted a flyer to Facebook asking what yes and no mean: “Will their medicines be available? Will the necessary radiation devices be available?”

A deputy to the prime minister, asked in a TV interview on Monday what Greece will do if it fails to make its Tuesday payment of €1.5 billion to the IMF, didn’t answer the question. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis confirmed on Tuesday that Greece doesn’t have the money to make the payment, and the lenders said an extension would not be granted. In an interview that aired late Tuesday in Greece, Tsipras said that he’s not an “all-weather prime minister” and that he will resign if fewer than 55 percent of Greeks vote no.

The Greeks have suffered under austerity. Calls for pension cuts by the country’s lenders haven’t let up following a gradual series of reductions over the last few years. The government has raised property and utility taxes. Unemployment is at 25 percent, and it’s nearly double that for younger Greeks.

The latest challenge confronting Greeks is the capital controls imposed over the weekend. Banks are closed and will stay closed until at least Monday. For pensioners  who don’t have bank cards and are due to collect their monthly payments on Tuesday, the Finance Ministry said about 1,000 branches will open on Wednesday for withdrawals capped at €120 (about $135) this week and—after cards are issued—up to €60 a day.

Beltas, the retired construction worker, has a monthly pension of €700, cut by €150 two years ago. He hopes to receive the full payment on Tuesday. That, too, is a source of some confusion.

“I hear the banks will reopen to pay pensioners, and they’ll give us the full amount,” he says, adding that he doesn’t see how long this can go on.

References:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-30/greek-voters-have-just-one-question-what-does-yes-mean-

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Major Syrian Army Assault On Southeast Idlib As Sochi Deal Unravels

Though the Syrian war has grown cold in terms of international spotlight and media interest since September, it is likely again going to ramp up dramatically over the next few months. 

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Via Zerohedge


The Syrian Army unleashed a major assault across the southeastern part of Idlib province on Saturday, a military source told Middle East news site Al-Masdar in a breaking report. According to the source, government forces pounded jihadist defenses across the southeast Idlib axis with a plethora of artillery shells and surface-to-surface missiles.

This latest exchange between the Syrian military and jihadist rebels comes as the Sochi Agreement falls apart in northwestern Syria, and in response to a Friday attack by jihadists which killed 22 Syrian soldiers near a planned buffer zone around the country’s last major anti-Assad and al-Qaeda held region. The jihadist strikes resulted in the highest number of casualties for the army since the Sochi Agreement was established on September 17th.

Though the Syrian war has grown cold in terms of international spotlight and media interest since September, it is likely again going to ramp up dramatically over the next few months.

The Al-Masdar source said the primary targets for the Syrian Army were the trenches and military posts for Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham in the towns of Al-Taman’ah, Khuwayn, Babulin, Haish, Jarjanaz, Um Jalal, and Mashirfah Shmaliyah. In retaliation for the Syrian Army assault, the jihadist rebels began shelling the government towns of Ma’an, Um Hariteen, and ‘Atshan.

Damascus has been critical of the Sochi deal from the start as it’s criticized Turkey’s role in the Russian-brokered ceasefire plan, especially as a proposed ‘de-militarized’ zone has failed due to jihadist insurgents still holding around 70% of the planned buffer area which they were supposed to withdraw from by mid-October. Sporadic clashes have rocked the “buffer zone” since.

Russia itself recently acknowledged the on the ground failure of the Sochi agreement even as parties officially cling to it. During a Thursday press briefing by Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova admitted the following:

We have to state that the real disengagement in Idlib has not been achieved despite Turkey’s continuing efforts to live up to its commitments under the Russian-Turkish Memorandum of September 17.

This followed Russia also recently condemning  “sporadic clashes” and “provocations” by the jihadist group HTS (the main al-Qaeda presence) in Idlib.

Likely due to Moscow seeing the writing on the wall that all-out fighting and a full assault by government forces on Idlib will soon resume, Russian naval forces continued a show of force in the Mediterranean this week.

Russian military and naval officials announced Friday that its warships held extensive anti-submarine warfare drills in the Mediterranean. Specifically the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s frigates Admiral Makarov and Admiral Essen conducted the exercise in tandem with deck-based helicopters near Syrian coastal waters.

Notably, according to TASS, the warships central to the drill are “armed with eight launchers of Kalibr-NK cruise missiles that are capable of striking surface, coastal and underwater targets at a distance of up to 2,600 km.”

Since September when what was gearing up to be a major Syrian-Russian assault on Idlib was called off through the Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement, possibly in avoidance of the stated threat that American forces would intervene in defense of the al-Qaeda insurgent held province (also claiming to have intelligence of an impending government “chemical attack”), the war has largely taken a back-burner in the media and public consciousness.

But as sporadic fighting between jihadists and Syrian government forces is reignited and fast turning into major offensive operations by government forces, the war could once again be thrust back into the media spotlight as ground zero for a great power confrontation between Moscow and Washington.

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Trump Quietly Orders Elimination of Assange

The destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government.

Eric Zuesse

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On June 28th, the Washington Examiner headlined “Pence pressed Ecuadorian president on country’s protection of Julian Assange” and reported that “Vice President Mike Pence discussed the asylum status of Julian Assange during a meeting with Ecuador’s leader on Thursday, following pressure from Senate Democrats who have voiced concerns over the country’s protection of the WikiLeaks founder.” Pence had been given this assignment by U.S. President Donald Trump. The following day, the Examiner bannered “Mike Pence raises Julian Assange case with Ecuadorean president, White House confirms” and reported that the White House had told the newspaper, “They agreed to remain in close coordination on potential next steps going forward.”

On August 24th, a court-filing by Kellen S. Dwyer, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia, stated: “Due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure [than sealing the case, hiding it from the public] is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged. … This motion and the proposed order would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.” That filing was discovered by Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. On November 15th, he posted an excerpt of it on Twitter, just hours after the Wall Street Journal had reported on the same day that the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute Assange. However, now that we know “the fact that Assange has been charged” and that the U.S. Government is simply waiting “until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter,” it is clear and public that the arrangements which were secretly made between Trump’s agent Pence and the current President of Ecuador are expected to deliver Assange into U.S. custody for criminal prosecution, if Assange doesn’t die at the Ecuadorean Embassy first.

On November 3rd (which, of course, preceded the disclosures on November 15th), Julian Assange’s mother, Christine Ann Hawkins, described in detail what has happened to her son since the time of Pence’s meeting with Ecuador’s President. She said:

He is, right now, alone, sick, in pain, silenced in solitary confinement, cut off from all contact, and being tortured in the heart of London. … He has been detained nearly eight years, without trial, without charge. For the past six years, the UK Government has refused his requests to exit for basic health needs, … [even for] vitamin D. … As a result, his health has seriously deteriorated. … A slow and cruel assassination is taking place before our very eyes. … They will stop at nothing. … When U.S. Vice President Mike Pence recently visited Ecuador, a deal was done to hand Julian over to the U.S. He said that because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high, the plan was to break him down mentally…   to such a point that he will break and be forced to leave. … The extradition warrant is held in secret, four prosecutors but no defense, and no judge, … without a prima-facie case. [Under the U.S. system, the result nonetheless can be] indefinite detention without trial. Julian could be held in Guantanamo Bay and tortured, sentenced to 45 years in a maximum security prison, or face the death penalty,” for “espionage,” in such secret proceedings.

Her phrase, “because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high” refers to the worry that this new President of Ecuador has, of his cooperating with the U.S. regime’s demands and thereby basically ceding sovereignty to those foreigners (the rulers of the U.S.), regarding the Ecuadorian citizen, Assange.

This conservative new President of Ecuador, who has replaced the progressive President who had granted Assange protection, is obviously doing all that he can to comply with U.S. President Trump and the U.S. Congress’s demand for Assange either to die soon inside the Embassy or else be transferred to the U.S. and basically just disappear, at Guantanamo or elsewhere. Ecuador’s President wants to do this in such a way that Ecuador’s voters won’t blame him for it, and that he’ll thus be able to be re-elected. This is the type of deal he apparently has reached with Trump’s agent, Pence. It’s all secret, but the evidence on this much of what was secretly agreed-to seems clear. There are likely other details of the agreement that cannot, as yet, be conclusively inferred from the subsequent events, but this much can.

Basically, Trump has arranged for Assange to be eliminated either by illness that’s imposed by his Ecuadorean agent, or else by Assange’s own suicide resulting from that “torture,” or else by America’s own criminal-justice system. If this elimination happens inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, then that would be optimal for America’s President and Congress; but, if it instead happens on U.S. soil, then that would be optimal for Ecuador’s President. Apparently, America’s President thinks that his subjects, the American people, will become sufficiently hostile toward Assange so that even if Assange disappears or is executed inside the United States, this President will be able to retain his supporters. Trump, of course, needs his supporters, but this is a gamble that he has now clearly taken. This much is clear, even though the rest of the secret agreement that was reached between Pence and Ecuador’s President is not.

Scooter Libby, who had arranged for the smearing of Valerie Plame who had tried to prevent the illegal and deceit-based 2003 invasion of Iraq, was sentenced to 30 months but never spent even a day in prison, and U.S. President Trump finally went so far as to grant him a complete pardon, on 13 April 2018. (The carefully researched docudrama “Fair Game” covered well the Plame-incident.) Libby had overseen the career-destruction of a courageous CIA agent, Plame, who had done the right thing and gotten fired for it; and Trump pardoned Libby, thus retroactively endorsing the lie-based invasion of Iraq in 2003. By contrast, Trump is determined to get Julian Assange killed or otherwise eliminated, and even Democrats in Congress are pushing for him to get that done. The new President of Ecuador is doing their bidding. Without pressure from the U.S. Government, Assange would already be a free man. Thus, either Assange will die (be murdered) soon inside the Embassy, or else he will disappear and be smeared in the press under U.S. control. And, of course, this is being done in such a way that no one will be prosecuted for the murder or false-imprisonment. Trump had promised to “clean the swamp,” but as soon as he was elected, he abandoned that pretense; and, as President, he has been bipartisan on that matter, to hide the crimes of the bipartisan U.S. Government, and he is remarkably similar in policy to his immediate predecessors, whom he had severely criticized while he was running for the Presidency.

In any event, the destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government; and, just like in Khashoggi’s case, the nation’s ruler controls the prosecutors and can therefore do whatever he chooses to do that the rest of the nation’s aristocracy consider to be acceptable.

The assault against truth isn’t only against Assange, but it is instead also closing down many of the best, most courageous, independent news sites, such as washingtonsblog. However, in Assange’s case, the penalty for having a firm commitment to truth has been especially excruciating and will almost certainly end in his premature death. This is simply the reality. Because of the system under which we live, a 100% commitment to truth is now a clear pathway to oblivion. Assange is experiencing this reality to the fullest. That’s what’s happening here.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Libya’s Peace Process Dies in Palermo

The best the Palermo negotiators could come up with at the end was a bland statement declaring their hope that sometime in the future all the Libyan forces will meet to sort out their differences.

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Authored by Richard Galustian for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity:


“Resounding flop” was the verdict of Italy’s former prime minister Matteo Renzi on this week’s Libya peace conference held in Palermo. He’s not wrong. The conference hosted by Italy’s new government achieved the remarkable feat of making Libya’s tensions worse, not better. Acrimony broke out between the parties, and Turkey’s delegation walked out, its vice president Fuat Oktay accusing unnamed States of trying to “hijack the process.”

Some sources in Palermo suggested, yet to be verified, that the US thought the Conference was not too bad: a joke if true.

Moreover the mystery we might ask is what “process” is there to hijack? Because the truth is, the peace plan the conference was supporting is already dead.

That plan was the brainchild of the United Nations, launched more than a year ago with the aim of ending Libya’s split between warring Eastern and Western governments with elections in December.

Even before the first delegates set foot in the pleasant Sicilian city of Palermo this week, the UN admitted the election date of December 10 they had decided to scrap.

The eastern government, led by the parliament in Tobruk, had made moves in the summer to organize a referendum on a new constitution which would govern the elections. But no referendum was held, and most Libyans agree it would be pointless because Tripoli, home to a third of the country’s population, is under the iron grip of multiple warring militias who have the firepower to defy any new elected government. Hours after the delegates left Palermo, those militias began a new bout of fighting in the Tripoli suburbs.

The best the Palermo negotiators could come up with at the end of the talks was a bland statement declaring their hope that sometime in the future all the Libyan forces will meet in a grand conference to sort out their differences – and this after four years of civil war. To say that chances of this are slim is an understatement.

Dominating the Palermo talks, and indeed Libya’s political landscape, was and is Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army, the country’s most powerful formation. In four years, the LNA has secured Libya’s key oil fields and Benghazi, its second city, ridding most of the east Libya of Islamist militias.

Haftar met reluctantly negotiators in Palermo, but insisted he was not part of the talks process. The Italian government press office said Haftar was not having dinner with the other participants nor joining them for talks. Haftar specifically opposed the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood champion, Qatar, at the event along with Turkey.

Haftar clearly only attended because he had a few days before visiting Moscow – which sent to Sicily Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev – and because also of Egyptian President Sisi’s presence along with his allies.

Possibly Haftar was simply fed up. Twice in the past two years he has attended previous peace talks, hosted each time in Paris, giving the nod to declarations that Libya’s militias would dissolve. Yet the militias remain as strong as ever in Tripoli.

Haftar is detested by the militias and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) but supported by a large segment of the population – 68 percent, according to an opinion poll by America’s USAID. His popularity is based on a single policy – his demand that security be in the hands of regular police and military, not the militias.

Not everyone is happy, certainly not Turkey, which is backing Islamist, MB and Misratan forces in western Libya who detest Haftar. Yet Turkey’s greatest statesman, the great Kamal Ataturk, was a champion of secularism: After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following World War One Turkey faced the prospect of utter disintegration, and it was Attaturk who rose to the challenge, defending the country’s borders, while ordering that the mullahs, while responsible for spiritual welfare, have no political power.

Political Islam is not popular in Libya either. Libya is a Muslim country, its people know their faith, and most want government to be decided through the ballot box.

The problem for Libya is what happens next with the peace process broken. Haftar has in the past threatened to move on Tripoli and rid the militias by force if they refuse to dissolve, and it may come to that – a fierce escalation of the civil war.

The second possibility is that Libya will split. The east is, thanks to the LNA, militarily secure. It also controls two thirds of the country’s oil and operates as a separate entity, down to it banknotes, which are printed in Russia while the Tripoli government’s are printed in Britain. A formal split would be an economic boon for the lightly populated east, but a disaster for Tripolitania, its population losing most of the oil, its only source of export income.

Yet with the failure of peace talks, and no sign of Tripoli militias dissolving, military escalation or breakup seem more likely than ever.

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