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There’s no light at the end of the tunnel for Greece

As economic and social conditions in Greece continue to deteriorate the country remains politically paralysed, trapped in its Euro nightmare.

Alexander Mercouris

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Almost exactly a year after my previous visit to Greece, urgent business obliged me to return there for a flying visit at the end of August.

In August 2015, when I was last there, Greeks were still trying to come to terms with the Tsipras government’s abrupt capitulation to the EU’s terms for the country’s third bailout.  These terms were actually harsher than those originally offered, which the Greek people had rejected in a referendum just a few weeks before.

The Tsipras government’s abrupt reversal of position, accepting even harsher terms than those it and the Greek people had previously rejected, left many Greeks confused.  I repeatedly heard confident claims that in return for accepting the EU’s terms Tsipras  “must have” obtained private assurances of a haircut on Greece’s debt, which for “political reasons” could not be announced publicly. 

The fact that the IMF was known to be unhappy with the deal and was known to want a haircut was seized on by many people as “proof” that such private assurances had been given.

I repeatedly pointed out that this was definitely wrong and that far from having obtained any “private assurances” of a future haircut, the Memorandum of Understanding the Tsipras government signed last year expressly excluded it.  I encountered general incomprehension, and even some criticism.

A year later and all talk of a haircut has gone.  The economic situation, which looked grim in August 2015, in August 2016 if possible looked even grimmer.  In the part of Athens where I stayed – the wealthy suburb of Kolonaki – more shops and businesses had closed, more shop and business premises were empty, none of the shop and business premises that I saw empty a year before appeared to have been relet or sold and all of them were still empty, and there were visibly even more beggars around. 

Alarmingly many of these beggars seemed to be either high or low on various drugs, with a drugs scene proliferating and becoming increasingly and publicly visible.

The cause of the economic distress was not difficult to see.  The country is being strangled by taxes.  Though one of the major memes in the European media is that Greece got itself into its mess because of widespread tax evasion, the effect of the bailout has been to increase tax evasion even more. 

As I was told repeatedly, people feel they have no choice because taxes have become so unsupportably high.  One businessman told me that he has to pay 78% of any income he declares in taxes, which if he traded honestly, declared all his income and paid all his taxes would mean he would soon be out of business. 

The result has been to increase exponentially the “under-the-counter” cash economy beyond anything which had existed before – which is saying something – with honest hardworking middle class people now forced against their will to engage in a practice they abhor.

Moreover since the universal perception is that the taxes are being used to pay the debt rather than to invest in Greece – with social, education and health spending all being cut and public salaries regularly left unpaid – there is anyway a major disincentive to pay the taxes.

The result is that the economy is struggling as people avoid using bank transfers – despite the continuing restrictions on cash withdrawals – and struggle to work with and conceal their cash, whilst despite the massive tax burden, the government finds itself perennially short of money.

August is a quiet time in Greece, with much of the population of Athens on holiday in the country.  However it was difficult to miss the signs of disaffection.  The nature of my visit meant that I was obliged to travel a lot by taxi. 

During each and every one of these taxi rides I had to listen to a stream of complaints about the situation from the drivers.  In fact it was impossible to meet anyone in Greece without the subject of the crisis coming up.

The one thing I did not get however was the slightest indication that this stream of disaffection is translating into political action.  If anything the protest mood seemed more subdued than it was last year, with all illusions gone and a feeling that the country is caught in a trap it cannot escape.   

Confidence in Tsipras appears to have completely collapsed – indeed I couldn’t find anyone who takes him seriously – but there is no obvious alternative to him.  If an election were held tomorrow the likely winners would be the centre-right establishment New Democracy party led by the political dynast Kyriakos Mitsotakis, but this would be a victory by default since there is a complete lack of enthusiasm for them or him. 

I heard alarming suggestions of a big vote for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, with some even predicting that it might come second (ahead of Tsipras and the Left) – in which case it would be the official opposition – but in the very short time I was there I have to say that I saw no visible sign of this. 

As for the various anti-Euro left wing splinter groups that broke away from Syriza last summer led by such people as Panagiotis Lafazanis and Zoe Konstantopoulou, they appear to be making no impact, having descended into typically Greek factional infighting and personal feuding.   

The traditional party of the Greek Left, the Communist KKE, meanwhile is still there, but aside from its sterile Stalinist dogmatism (off-putting to many Greeks) it seems more motivated to block the emergence of left wing alternatives to itself than to offer anything constructive.

One important change is that belief in the EU – once almost universal in Greece and moreover passionately held – appears to be draining away.  I am no longer sure that in a genuinely free vote a majority of Greeks would vote to keep the Euro. 

Perhaps the tipping point in the popular mood on this issue has not yet quite been reached, but Greece does seem to be approaching it. 

However even if that tipping point is reached, given the Greek establishment’s determination to hold on to the Euro at any cost, and the lack of an alternative, it does not follow that a Grexit would happen.  In the absence of any political force able or willing to argue for a Grexit effectively, it is difficult to see how it can happen.

The unhappy truth is that despite a situation in Greece that for many people has become completely intolerable, and despite all the indications pointing to the economy being once again in recession, I heard people talking of leaving the country and making their lives elsewhere, not of them protesting or fighting to change the situation. 

Quite simply, the people I spoke to did not believe that protesting or fighting – or indeed voting – would change anything.  In saying this I of course accept that the sample of people I spoke to may not be representative.

Having said this, in my opinion Greece’s deliverance from its Euro nightmare is not going to come from political or popular opposition within Greece itself. 

If it comes at all it will come if or rather when the EU leadership and the EU public – especially the public in Germany – finally recognises that the policy structure the EU has imposed on Greece has failed, and realises that more money thrown at Greece to sustain an unworkable policy is simply money thrown away. 

At that point economically rational policies – which may include Grexit – will at last become possible.  Judging from the way the mood in Germany is going sour, we may be closer to that point than many think.  For the sake of Greece I hope so.

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Russia’s economy continues to outperform as gold takes center stage (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 118.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine how US and EU sanctions have continued to provide a huge boost to Russia’s economy. Russia’s food sovereignty has practically been achieved, as the Russian central bank continues to buy gold and lower its exposure to western financial markets.

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Via TASS…

Outside pressure in the form of sanctions has become an incentive to resolve various issues of Russia’s economy, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev stated in an interview with the Izvestiya daily.

He noted that through introducing sanctions against Russia, “the West aims to destabilize Russia’s economy and to create social and political tensions in society.”

“But during the difficult times, Russians have always stuck together and mobilized their resources in order to ensure the country’s sovereignty. This is what is happening now – the outside pressure has become an incentive to resolve many problems in Russia’s economy,” he said.

“Before the sanctions, it seemed that we would never be able to feed ourselves and that we are doomed to be dependent on Western import. However, right now, Russia’s food sovereignty in crucial sectors has practically been achieved, and in some areas, Russia has become the leading exporter,” Patrushev noted.

Those who apply the sanctions “can see that they (the sanctions – TASS) are ineffective and often achieve the opposite goal,” the Russian security chief concluded.

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US Neocon Foreign Policy and the War Waged Against Serbia

The Serbian assault began first by a ‘financial war’; by sanctions and finished off by an aggressive unprovoked incessant NATO bombing campaign.

Richard Galustian

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The ‘witch-hunt’ against President Trump over Russian collusion has officially ended, following the submission of the Mueller Report, enabling us to now focus on the real problems of America that effects the whole world.

In the hope of a waining of the Russophobia in America, let’s look at the US’s recent war history by starting with the 20th anniversary this month of the NATO war on Serbia in 1999 which amounted to almost 100 days of bombing of historic cities and infrastructure.

Firstly, these problems are, in the main caused by the Neocons, or Deep State, whatever you wish to call them, and the continuing promotion, by the US Military-Security Industrial Complex, of wars and regime change and secondly, Trump’s unreserved support for Israel, regardless of war crimes they may continue to commit against the Palestinians.

Incredibly after that one sided unjust and illegal war that NATO executed, NATO has the audacity to invite Serbia to join it! Something that will never happen. What do they smoke in DC, in the Pentagon and Brussels based NATO?

To compound these overall problems, the US Military and Israeli Defence Forces collaborate on these US regime change policies on all continents evidenced most recently by the arrival of crack Israeli troops last month in Brazil, prepared to support an attack potentially by Brazil and Columbia on Venezuela.

As, has now come to be expected, America pursues its Venezuelan regime change with full main stream media (MSM) cooperation, using well proven sophisticated propaganda techniques along with a variety of pretexts.

From Serbia to Iraq to Libya, where does it end? Observe that Trump is now seeking a ‘NATO alliance’ offering NATO status, to President Bolsonaro of Brazil to back the invasion of Venezuela.

So it is important to remember, as an example, that after a long war of economic and financial destabilization ended with the bombing of Serbia.

Serbia was previously a part of Yugoslavia, a country which had successfully evolved after 1945 to solve the old rivalries of the 19th and early 20th Century Balkan ethnic animosities which was, prior to the advent of power of President Tito, its past history.

The United Nations, instead of supporting, in effect, so called ‘humanitarian wars’ and ‘regime change wars’ by the US, using NATO, helped and relentlessly driven home by MSM outlets like CNN and FOX NEWS into people’s heads, must finally take a stand.

So too, Yugoslavia, once the envy of many in the world, given its then ‘non-aligned’ status under President Tito, was destroyed and broken up; ‘Balkanized’ in the early 1990s.

The Serbian assault began first by a ‘financial war’; by sanctions and finished off by an aggressive unprovoked incessant NATO bombing campaign. That’s what we can expect in Venezuela next.

This ‘Balkanization’ strategy similarly applies to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria et al. It serves US Neocon interests to dismember States in the world and create smaller more ‘manageable’ countries.

‘Regime change’ runs against the intent, the very words contained in the US Constitution. No one in MSM ever reminds us of that fact. Nevertheless America’s ambition to overthrow other States continues, which they arrogantly now make no secret of. The next States will probably be Nicaragua then Iran to name but two.

A very noteworthy most recent outrageous unilateral declaration was made by President Trump, not yet formally agreed by US institutions, ‘giving’ something he has no authority to give; Syrian territory, the Golan Heights to be precise, to Israel. Something that one day could trigger a full scale Arab-Israeli War.

This is of extreme importance yet no real outcry comes from world leaders; well not so far.

The main reason for that decision given by senior US Administration figures is that “God anointed Trump to save the Jews”.

Not forgetting Trump’s need (which we the people don’t understand exactly why) to support Prime Minister Netanyahu in his difficult upcoming elections in Israel – in part because both countries failed to ‘regime change’ Syria – but more importantly to help the ‘financial terrorists’ who formed a company jointly that has already started drilling for oil in the Golan Heights. You might like to know who owns such oil drilling company which should answer a plethora of questions in one go that you must be asking yourselves.

The shareholder’s names tells us everything; Dick Cheney; Baron Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch. The titular heads of neocons, bankers and media on the planet.

In ending there is no more evidence required for us, the people of the world, to rise up against the globalist dark forces wherever they exist, be it in Brussels, London, France or Washington. We must demand democratic elections or start revolutions, the latter has already begun in France in the form of ‘the yellow vests’. And Brexit, by definition, is a rejection by the British people of globalism and American Hegemony.

The pattern of US destabilization and destruction of States to loot them of their sovereign resources is the unseen history of the last 100 years, not taught in any university, anywhere in the West.

As far as Ukraine is concerned, its government was taken down by the CIA and replaced by an ultra fascist regime that has full backing from America. This is no secret. But the MSM simple don’t report it.

US led NATO is ‘the transnational war machine’ of the world, devouring almost all free countries wealth. It can extort to terrorize all into conformity to the global ‘carcinogenic’ US Neocon imperialistic strategy.

A total estimated 20m people around the world have died since the end of WW11 at the hands of US Forces. Think about that for a moment.

One of the most famous sayings attributed to America’s great President Abraham Lincoln is about deception: “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

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‘Dark day for internet freedom’: EU approves controversial copyright reform

Julia Reda, a German MEP with the Pirate Party, described it as a “dark day for internet freedom.”

RT

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Via RT


The European Parliament has voted to adopt the highly controversial Article 13 provision which would govern the production and distribution of content online under the auspices of increasing copyright protections.

Tuesday’s move will update the EU’s 20-year-old copyright rules and will govern everything from audiovisual content to memes, much to the dismay of many social media users who have already begun outpouring their grief online.

MEPs passed the legislation by 348 votes to 274 Tuesday. Opponents had hoped for last-minute amendments to be made but their efforts were in vain.

Julia Reda, a German MEP with the Pirate Party, described it as a “dark day for internet freedom.”

Article 13 or ‘The Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market’ makes all platforms legally responsible for the content hosted and shared on their platforms.

The process of updating the bloc’s copyright laws began in the European Commission two years ago, ostensibly to protect Europe’s publishers, broadcasters and artists and guarantee fair compensation from big tech companies.

By essentially forcing companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter to pay artists and publishers for the reproduction of their work online, include in meme format, the EU is effectively clamping down on online memery.

The onus will now be on tech companies to clamp down on content-sharing on their platforms, which will likely ensure yet more draconian policing of speech and content.

EU member states now have two years to pass their own laws putting Article 13 into effect.

Tens of thousands marched in protest across Germany ahead of the vote, decrying what they viewed as severe online censorship.

Tech giant Google said that while the directive is “improved” it will still lead to legal uncertainty and will damage Europe’s creative and digital economies.

Critics have argued that the only way for Article 13 to be effectively enforced would be through the use of upload filters which automatically check content to see if it’s copyrighted or not, at least in theory. However, the exact mechanics of such a system have yet to be fully debated and the potential for abuse is immediately clear.

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