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French Joblessness Surges To New Record High (Up 30 Of Last 32 Months) | Zero Hedge

French Joblessness Surges To New Record High (Up 30 Of Last 32 Months) | Zero Hedge.

It would appear French President Francois Hollande’s promise to bring jobs to the nation continues to fail dismally. Perhaps it was his recent trip to the US, but French Jobseekers rose more than expected for the 3rd month in a row to a new record high of 3.316 million. Joblessness has now risen for 30 of the last 32 months. The last 5 months have seen jobseekers reaccelerate – surging by 2.5% (the most in 6 months). So, in a nutshell, things are getting worse, faster for the 2nd largest economy in Europe (and 5th largest in the world).

 

 

Charts: Bloomberg

 

Russia Angered At Ukraine Government Vote To Remove President After “I Won’t Resign” Comments | Zero Hedge

Russia Angered At Ukraine Government Vote To Remove President After “I Won’t Resign” Comments | Zero Hedge.

UPDATE

Remember that (laughable) agreement that was signed less than 24 hours ago and was grandly endorsed by all European nations, and which delineated the next legal presidential election sometime between September and December? Good times.

With 328 (of the 450 seats) voting in favor, the Ukraine parliament has agreed to removed President Viktor Yanukovych:

  • *UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES TO REMOVE PRESIDENT YANUKOVYCH
  • *UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES TO HOLD EARLY ELECTIONS ON MAY 25

“Yanukovych, in an illegal manner, removed himself from his constitutional duties,” Turchynov says in chamber before vote. The Russians are not at all happy with Siluanov exclaiming these actions “pose a direct threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty and constitutional order.”

As Martin Armstrong warns:

I believe the nation will survive divided for there is far too much resentment to simply put this all behind and walk forward. Divide Ukraine along the historical language faultline and there is a chance to calm things down. Otherwise, this will flare up and take others with it.

My position is consistent – ALL governments are only a necessary evil. They should never be allowed to have such power over the people for it will also be abused to sustain that same power. It does not matter what form of government – they are all the same.

It would appear we are getting closer to a divided/split nation…

+++++++++++++++

In the minds of so many western journalists, yesterday’s “deal” to reform the constitution, hold new elections in 10 months or so, and generally all ‘just get along’ was a victory but this morning it is clear that very little has changed.

  • *YANUKOVYCH SAYS HE WON’T LEAVE UKRAINE OR RESIGN: INTERFAX

Late last night Ukraine time, President Yanukovych (and some of his key advisers) fled Kiev (amid so-called threats) and headed to the eastern part of the country. Then following rumors he would resign, he stated in a TV address that he would not and that pro-EU forces had staged a “coup d’etat”. This has left a troubled nation with just as divided a future as protesters have taken back control of Kiev.

Russia is not happy; blaming extremists for threatening order.

  • *RUSSIA URGES GERMANY, POLAND FRANCE TO INFLUENCE UKRAINE OPPOS.
  • *RUSSIA SAYS UKRAINE OPPOSITION FAILED TO FULFILL OBLIGATIONS
  • *RUSSIA SAYS UKRAINE OPPOSITION THREATENS SOVEREIGNTY, ORDER
  • *RUSSIA SAYS UKRAINE OPPOSITION `FOLLOWING LEAD OF EXTREMISTS’

The government has moved in his absence:

  • *UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER TURCHYNOV SPEAKS IN ASSEMBLY
  • *UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES TO REMOVE PRESIDENT YANUKOVYCH
  • *UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES TO HOLD EARLY ELECTIONS ON MAY 25
  • *UKRAINE PARLT VOTES TO REMOVE PRESIDENT WITH 328 OF 450 SEATS

Putin will not be happy:

Russia’s foreign minister on Saturday accused Ukraine’s opposition of failing to fulfill its side of a peace deal intended to end the nation’s political crisis and urged Western mediators to intervene.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called his German, French and Polish counterparts, who helped broker Friday’s agreement between Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition. Yanukovych agreed to hold early elections this fall and surrender much of his powers, but opposition supporters have kept pushing for his immediate dismissal.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Lavrov urged his counterparts to use their influence with the Ukrainian opposition, which he said “not only has failed to fulfill any of its obligations, but keeps making new demands under the influence of armed extremists and rioters.”

Their actions “pose a direct threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty and constitutional order,” he said.

Via WSJ,

From Deal to Defection…

*YANUKOVYCH SAYS SOME PARTY MEMBERS DEFECT IN BETRAYAL: UBR TV

Government authority appeared to melt away Saturday, leaving protesters in control of the capital’s center. President Viktor Yanukovych left the capital for a city in the country’s Russian-speaking east and said he would work to prevent the country from splitting up.

In a television interview Saturday afternoon in Kharkiv, where Russian-speaking supporters had gathered, Mr. Yanukovych denounced the events in Kiev as a “coup d’etat” that he blamed on “bandits.” He said he wasn’t stepping down and vowed to remain inside the country. He said parliament’s decisions today are “illegal” and that he would refuse to sign them. Asked about his plans, he said he will travel in the Russian-speaking south and east of the country, “where for the moment it’s less dangerous.”

Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko earlier had called on parliament to vote to oust Mr. Yanukovych and announce presidential elections in May, as police withdrew from the center of the capital Saturday.

Ukraine opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was expected to be released from prison within hours, according to a spokeswoman for the opposition.

The army has said it will not get involved…

*UKRAINE MILITARY, DEFENSE MINISTRY `REMAIN FAITHFUL TO PEOPLE’
*UKRAINE DEFENSE MIN: ARMY WON’T BE INVOLVED IN GOVT CONFLICT

Opposition leaders signed a peace deal with Mr. Yanukovych Friday after dozens were killed in clashes between protesters and police. The deal proposed power sharing and presidential elections by the end of the year. But protesters weren’t satisfied and called for his immediate ouster.

In Kiev on Saturday, volunteer security brigades from among the protesters took over security at government buildings, and journalists reported around 300 people had entered Mr. Yanukovych’s opulent suburban residence without resistance.

Oleh Tyahnybok, an opposition leader, called on parliament to adopt a resolution calling on police and protesters’ “self-defense” forces to work to prevent looting in Kiev and other cities.

Outside the Kiev headquarters of Ukraine’s security service, plain-clothed men wearing earpieces stood at the street corners, eying those who passed. They wouldn’t say who they worked for.

With truckloads of activists armed with baseball bats driving the streets of Kiev, the security service appeared to be taking no chances. In the interior lobby and parking lot of the building, fire hoses and fire extinguishers were piled in the corners.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that “it serves only the Ukrainian people and fully shares the desire of citizens for immediate change.” It called for cooperation from all sides to ensure public order.

A power vaccum has developed…

Opposition lawmakers in parliament called for calm amid concerns over a power vacuum, calling on state officials and religious and civic leaders to work together to ensure order.

Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Rybak, a close ally of Mr. Yanukovych, handed in his resignation Saturday. Lawmakers elected opposition leader Olexander Turchinov to replace him. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the opposition could muster sufficient support to vote Mr. Yanukovych out.

The European Union is prepared to offer Ukraine financial support, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said on Saturday.

If there is a reform-minded government in Ukraine, we will work with the international community and international financial institutions to support Ukraine,” Mr. Barroso told German newspaper “Welt am Sonntag.”

Ukraine Crisis Settlement Agreement Reached: Full Statement | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Crisis Settlement Agreement Reached: Full Statement | Zero Hedge.

An agreement in the Ukraine has just been signed, which sees early presidential elections. Europe is delighted by this development as confirmed by the following statement by the unelected Herman Van Rompuy:

Statement by the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, on Ukraine

I welcome the agreement reached between the government and the opposition in Ukraine. The agreement is a necessary compromise in order to launch an indispensable political dialogue that offers the only democratic and peaceful way out of the crisis that has already caused too much suffering and bloodshed on all sides. It is now the responsibility of all parties to be courageous and turn words into deeds for the sake of Ukraine’s future. This agreement was facilitated by important work by the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, Poland and the Special Representative of the President of Russia and based on the persistent efforts during the last two months by High Representative Ashton and Commissioner Füle. The EU continues to stand ready to support Ukraine.

The Foreign Ministers of Germany, France, and Poland said the following:

The Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and Poland welcome the signing of the agreement on the Settlement of the crisis in Ukraine, commend the parties for their courage and commitment to the agreement and call for an immediate end to all violence and confrontation in Ukraine.

And the full agreement is below (link):

Agreement on the Settlement of Crisis in Ukraine

Concerned with the tragic loss of life in Ukraine, seeking an immediate end of bloodshed and determined to pave the way for a political resolution of the crisis,

We, the signing parties, have agreed upon the following:

1. Within 48 hours of the signing of this agreement, a special law will be adopted, signed and promulgated, which will restore the Constitution of 2004 including amendments passed until now. Signatories declare their intention to create a coalition and form a national unity government within 10 days thereafter.

2. Constitutional reform, balancing the powers of the President, the government and parliament, will start immediately and be completed in September 2014.

3. Presidential elections will be held as soon as the new Constitution is adopted  but no later than December 2014. New electoral laws will be passed and a new Central Election Commission will be formed on the basis of proportionality and in accordance with the OSCE & Venice commission rules.

4. Investigation into recent acts of violence will be conducted under joint monitoring from the authorities, the opposition and the Council of Europe.

5. The authorities will not impose a state of emergency. The authorities and the opposition will refrain from the use of violence. The Parliament will adopt the 3rd amnesty, covering the same range of illegal actions as the 17th February 2014 law.

Both parties will undertake serious efforts for the normalisation of life in the cities and villages by withdrawing from administrative and public buildings and unblocking streets, city parks and squares.

Illegal weapons should be handed over to the Ministry of Interior bodies within 24 hours of the special law, referred to in point 1 hereof, coming into force. After the aforementioned period, all cases of illegal carrying and storage of weapons will fall under the law of Ukraine. The forces of authorities and of the opposition will step back from confrontational posture. The Government will use law enforcement forces exclusively for the physical protection of public buildings.

6. The Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, Poland and the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation call for an immediate end to all violence and confrontation.

Kyiv, 21 February 2014

As a reminder, this won’t be the first “crisis settlement” agreement that will be promptly violated.

IMF report: ‘Debt is good’. What are these people smoking?

IMF report: ‘Debt is good’. What are these people smoking?.

February 18, 2014
Sovereign Valley Farm, Chile

Probably every kid in the world has at some point dreamed of having a time machine and being able to travel back to the past… usually to see dinosaurs or something like that.

Time travel is an almost universal fantasy. And if I could snap my fingers and turn the pages of time, I’d be seriously curious to check out the thousand-year period between the decline of the Western Roman Empire and the rise of the Renaissance.

They used to refer to this period as ‘the Dark Ages’ (though historians have since given up that moniker), a time when the entire European continent was practically at an intellectual standstill.

The Church became THE authority on everything– Science. Technology. Medicine. Education. And they kept the most vital information out of the hands of the people… instead simply telling everyone what to believe.

People living in that time had to trust that the high priests were smart guys and knew what they were talking about.

Interpreting facts and observations for yourself was heresy, and anyone who formed original thought and challenged the authority of church and state was burned at the stake.

Granted, human civilization has come a long way since then. But the basic building blocks are not terribly different than before.

Anyone who challenges the state is still burned at the stake. And our entire monetary system requires that we all trust the high priests of central banking and economics. Those that stray from the state’s message and spread economic heresy are cast down and vilified.

You may recall the case of Harvard professors Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart who wrote the seminal work: “This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly”.

The book highlighted dozens of shocking historical patterns where once powerful nations accumulated too much debt and entered into terminal decline.

Spain, for example, defaulted on its debt six times between 1500 and 1800, then another seven times in the 19th century alone.

France defaulted on its debt EIGHT times between 1500 and 1800, including on the eve of the French Revolution in 1788. And Greece has defaulted five times since 1800.

The premise of their book was very simple: debt is bad. And when nations rack up too much of it, they get into serious trouble.

This message was not terribly convenient for governments that have racked up unprecedented levels of debt. So critics found some calculation errors in their Excel formulas, and the two professors were very publicly discredited.

Afterwards, it was as if the entire idea of debt being bad simply vanished.

Not to worry, though, the IMF has now stepped up with a work of its own to fill the void.

And surprise, surprise, their new paper “[does] not identify any clear debt threshold above which medium-term growth prospects are dramatically compromised.”

Translation: Keep racking up that debt, boys and girls, it’s nothing but smooth sailing ahead.

But that’s not all. They go much further, suggesting that once a nation reaches VERY HIGH levels of debt, there is even LESS of a correlation between debt and growth.

Clearly this is the problem for Europe and the US: $17 trillion? Pish posh. The economy will really be on fire once the debt hits $20 trillion.

There’s just one minor caveat. The IMF admits that they had to invent a completely different method to arrive to their conclusions, and that “caution should be used in the interpretation of our empirical results.”

But such details are not important.

What is important is that the economic high priests have proven once and for all that there are absolutely no consequences for countries who are deeply in debt.

And rather than pontificate what these people are smoking, we should all fall in line with unquestionable belief and devotion to their supreme wisdom.

Guest Post: The Merger Of State And Commerce | Zero Hedge

Guest Post: The Merger Of State And Commerce | Zero Hedge.

Submitted by Stephen Merrill, editor of the Alaska Freedom News. He served in the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps and as a Navy Reserve Intelligence Officer

The Merger of State and Commerce

The Leviathan’s Thumb

Many observers of the US economy have come to the realization there are now few truly free markets left within 21st Century Western capitalism.

It seems all investments today are controlled to unfair advantage in some large way by the governments and financial firms operating the markets, especially the market in money itself.  The newly-invented powers of the central banks to buy anything, to fund any bailout, can reach into any area of the economy, either to grant large favors or to inflict great pain, typically with the cooperation of the too-big-to-jail banks that own the Federal Reserve and its policies.

The precious metals market is a good example of the Fed and its henchmen inflicting pain.  The Western paper gold market has been the long-used tool of Leviathan to bludgeon the world’s only true money.

In one of the Fed’s generous ways the second US housing bubble has been inflated from a river of counterfeit money and a wet-blanket of negative interest rates.  The QE Forever giveaway to the Fed’s banker friends through buying toxic mortgages at full price charges on.

A Swinging Pendulum

It is nothing at all new for a nation to defy the basic economic principle that allows for ever increasing wealth benefiting all layers of society.  In a word it is liberty.

The underlying concepts of capitalism were best set out by British author Adam Smith.  Smith postulated it is the magic of the invisible hand of a free market that best distributes economic resources and best energizes the people and industry and innovation.   Smith’s signature work The Wealth of Nations was written well over two hundred years ago.

The magic of Smith’s free market proved to be the model for the first sustained, rapid economic growth in global history, since at least the early Roman Empire.  It seems, whatever its academic merit in Ivy League halls, general economic liberty has clearly proven to be the best way to serve all society, given how humans themselves are created, as individuals each seeking a good life and secure family.

European medieval economics between the Romans and  the 18th Century Industrial Revolution showed how the vulture practices of monarchs and nobility eliminated even the hope for economic growth or of ever fostering a middle-class, while stifling innovation at every turn.  The private institutions empowered by law in that time were the lesser nobility and the Catholic Church.

With the Enlightenment period led by writers like Adam Smith, John Locke and Edmund Burke, the grip of elitism in commerce in Britain and France and beyond began to be replaced by private enterprise and capital quite completely.   Individual rewards for productivity and innovation and risk-taking became the driving force for economic decision-making, no longer centered on the whim of the lord or his knights as things have largely returned to in today’s fascist economy.   It was the belief in bottom-up capitalism in its rawest form.

The Europeans had suddenly become a juggernaut of innovation and growth after many centuries of stagnation.  The United States later in the cycle became the signal success of free-market capitalism.

In the wake of this revolution in society, the 19th Century saw the fastest economic growth in human history, all fueled by economic liberty.  For the first time a large prosperous middle-class of workers came into existence in many countries, no longer just the rulers lording over the peasants.

The same economic revolution is happening across most of Asia during our 20th and 21st Centuries.  Just one example, tiny city-state Singapore has proven once again the amazing achievements for all citizens from unbridled capitalism.  Singapore has risen from post-WWII devastation to the top of the world economic ladder without ever asking for or accepting foreign aid from any nation.  Singapore is the heir of Ancient Athens, the first free city, the founder of monetary silver.

Adam Smith’s Lassie Faire capitalism has become though the ancient, barbaric relic in our modern fiat money Western world economy, especially in America.  No living American has experienced an economic system that can be fairly described as general capitalism.

The US has now what is called a “mixed economy” involving many “public-private partnerships” and “professional self-regulation” and “social programs”.  These are modern phrases that explain the slow return to feudal ways.

Monopolies of political power or of markets yield huge profits for the few over generations without much having to change a thing.  Monopoly power is a distant mirror of feudal nobility.  It operates in both the public and the private sector and so often in direct combination with each other.  Power not only corrupts: power wins, power stagnates, power destroys.

The Money-Changers Above the Law

Then there are the market traders in a fiat, debt-fueled world.

Whenever free markets can be conned, fixed or disrupted there is a lot of money to be made in the process. There always has been short-term gain for those insiders who manage to fleece the public by harming the secure, uninterrupted flow of goods and services and finance and information.

Most economic transactions, at their base, rely on a large element of trust.  Deceit punishes trust to self-advantage.  Deceit harms the economic market itself, beyond the impact of the con-jobs in play.  A marketplace chocked with deceit is a fraud itself, the absence of the rule of law.  Only the law can fully deal with deceit in order to allow a free marketplace to even exist.

The more hidden processes used by modern bankers and traders to obtain unearned wealth is little different in its societal effects than robbing a convenience store is, or robbing hundreds of thousands of convenience stores actually, given the numbers typically involved in white collar crime at the highest levels.

The counterfeiting of the private-public central banks, that strangles the middle class to further enrich the wealthy, is daily theft on the grandest scale.  Counterfeiting by central banks now affects almost every investment decision.

In the end, it is little different than the peasants always giving a one-third share of their crops to the royal duke just because the King says so.

The Rule of the Cartels on Main Street

This collectivist syndrome in the United States is far from limited to the Congress-buying Wall Street cartel and the subject of finance.  The same general form of corruption permeates an increasing number of professions and businesses.  Even tattoo artists and legal process servers have earned their guild status by law in many states, hoping to, like others do, choke off low-price competition in their field.

The national health-care industry seems to have become almost a single cartel empowered by federal spending.  The Obamacare spending bonanza is designed to pay off every big healthcare interest in sight and the health-insurance industry to boot.

The provision of education in the United States has long been the fiefdom of rigged markets and systems.

The socialism model rules primary and secondary education almost alone.  Even 40-years of abject failure in effectively educating students has failed to dent the nationwide taxpayer spending spree for this state-imposed monopoly rule in the most crucial work there is for society.  Alaskans today pay over $18,000 per student for K-12 education.  Test scores are well below those of students from some third-world countries.

A mix of public and private institutions rule US higher education as a single-minded oligarchy.  This cartel is primarily empowered by federal spending in the form of student loans.  The younger generations are saddled now with a trillion dollar in debt to repay college tuition and fees that no longer deliver a good job.

The lawyer guild has controlled its market for professional services in every state in the union for generations.  Market-fixing remains one of the central goals of bar association rules:  ditto for the physician guild.

Part private business organization, part government institution, part professional guild, part bank regulator, entirely self-interested, the creature from Jekyll Island, the Federal Reserve, has become the go to mechanism for replacing free markets with aristocratic privilege.  He who issues the money controls the nation the phrase goes.

The Unifying Force

But the ultimate overarching rigged system in the US is the effective monopoly by two private political cartels sharing the same basic agenda, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.  As a consequence of these two faces of modern fascism, the nation and its liberty has been for sale for more than two generations now.

This welfare-warfare party, one bent on ever expanding centralized power, has owned the Congress and most of the Presidents going back to WWI and the founding of the Federal Reserve.  The success in keeping the “two-party system” in place has had far more to do with the special privileges granted by law to Democratic and Republican candidates than to any good reason for a lack of meaningful political competition.

What is the fundamental error of governance made in all of this modern injustice?

It is the practice of the government surrendering open elections and free markets to officially anointed regulatory systems that then form an unchallengeable oligopoly within their bailiwick.

In the case of public regulation rather than a guild system, the regulated industry invariably become the effective master of the industry regulators, like Democrats and Republicans have for instance in US politics.  Within any regulated business, the temptation of well-heeled collegiality from industry always wins over government regulators eventually or, more often, the people that appoint the regulators.

With professional guilds in power its officials take over entirely for the government in controlling the business and its participants.  Professional guilds as a rule disconnect their own disciplinary code and market-rigging from the courts as much as possible, the place where everyone else is required to go for such matters.

Self-regulation for a profession invariably becomes mostly a program for less competition for guild members.  It freezes the present elite in their power and position, a never ending goal of humanity it seems.

In a wider sense, the officially anointed protector of the public safety, whether it is the state bureaucrat or a private guild official, over time becomes an enabler of reduced accountability for wrongdoing, a way to keep standards low for the industry or service by locking out competition and even the law, to the extent possible.

The US economy has regressed to feudal ways like these in such force that a variety of private guilds, cartels, unions and oligopolies exercise, officially or in practice, many of the powers of government itself, especially those powers assumed by but never granted by a constitution to the government.  It has all become a part of the “the law”.

The Revolution Looms Anew

Today’s economic model was best summed up by dictator Benito Mussolini in one short sentence: “Fascism … is the perfect merger of power between the corporations and the state”.

But tyranny also has its life-cycle within the balance between the past and the future.  Once the past becomes far too much of a millstone for the future generations to carry any longer, governments fall and debt and servitude recede.

Empires can fall largely without violence and allow a new, freer system to emerge, as most of the satellite states of the Soviet Union achieved.   Or the legacy of fallen empire becomes violent chaos followed by renewed oppression, like the French Revolution.

This bottom-up style revolution is happening to nations across our 21st Century.  The future lies in the balance.  The bell tolls for all Western nations, too.

So, in the United States, it seems, liberty will have its chance again before too long.

Greece Is Back: Germany, France, Creditors Hold Secret Meeting Due To Greek Bailout “Mounting Concerns” | Zero Hedge

Greece Is Back: Germany, France, Creditors Hold Secret Meeting Due To Greek Bailout “Mounting Concerns” | Zero Hedge.

There was a time – roughly between May 2010 and the spring fall of 2011 – when all the world had to worry about was Greece. Then the realization finally dawned that since a Grexit from the Eurozone would kill the EUR and the European integration dream with so much “political capital” invested, crush Deutsche Bank, and bring back the much dreaded (by German exporters) Deutsche Mark, it became clear that there is no fear that Greece, which is now a decrepit shell of a country with a collapsed economy and society in shambles, has now become a slave state to European bureaucrats, business and banks (in Nigel Farage’s words), will never be formally kicked out of Europe and only an internal coup would allow it to finally break free from the clutches of unelected European tyrants. And then the world moved on to more important things: like Japan, China Emerging Markets and how they are all enjoying the Fed’s taper. Sadly, we have to reportthat Greece is once again baaaaack.

According to the WSJ, “top officials peeled away from colleagues after a euro-zone finance ministers meeting in Brussels Monday evening for a secret meeting to discuss mounting concerns over Greece’s bailout.

WSJ adds:

High-level officials from the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, the European Central Bank, senior euro-zone officials and the German and French finance ministers were present, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to talk to the press.

 

They were trying to figure out how to tackle two issues threatening to unsettle the fragile economic recovery in Greece and the broader euro zone.

 

They discussed how to press the Greek government to forge ahead with unpopular structural reforms; and second, how to scramble together extra cash to cover a shortfall in the country’s financing for the second half of the year, estimated at €5 billion-€6 billion ($6.81 billion-$8.17 billion).

Of course, this being Europe, nothing was decided: “The meeting was inconclusive, the people familiar with the situation said. Talks with the Greek authorities continue remotely—though representatives of the three institutions, known as the troika, have put on hold their plans to travel to Athens. Concerns are growing because Greece faces a large maturity of government bonds in May of €11 billion. The IMF hasn’t disbursed any aid to Greece since July and is €3.8 billion behind in scheduled aid payments. The IMF insists on having a clear view of the country’s finances 12 months ahead, and this condition hasn’t been met.”

And so the posturing resumes, with the Troika pretending it won’t hand over the funds unless Greece “reforms”, and Greece promising the “reform” as soon as it gets the funds. Nothing new here. What is new, is that finally the facade of Greek sovereignty and independence was stripped away as decisions regarding Greece took place… without
Greece: “Greek Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras, who was briefing the
press in the same building at the time, wasn’t invited.”

Which is right – after all when a nation is enslaved and has no sovereignty, it doesn’t deserve to have a voice in its future.

Ethiopia – Land for Sale – People & Power – Al Jazeera English

Ethiopia – Land for Sale – People & Power – Al Jazeera English.

Just a few decades ago, Ethiopia was a country defined by its famines, particularly between 1983-1985 when in excess of half a million people starved to death as a consequence of drought, crop failure and a brutal civil war.Against this backdrop, it is impressive that in recent years, Ethiopia has been experiencing stellar economic growth. The headline statistics are certainly remarkable: the country is creating millionaires faster than any other in Africa; output from farming, Ethiopia’s dominant industry, has tripled in a decade; the capital Addis Ababa is experiencing a massive construction boom; and the last six years have seen the nation’s GDP grow by a staggering 108 percent.

But it is not all positive news, because for all the good figures there are still plenty of bad ones.

Around 90 percent of the population of 87 million still suffers from numerous deprivations, ranging from insufficient access to education to inadequate health care; average incomes are still well below $1500 a year; and more than 30 million people still face chronic food shortages.

And while there are a number of positive and genuine reasons for the growth spurt – business and legislative reforms, more professional governance, the achievements of a thriving service sector – many critics say that the growth seen in agriculture, which accounts for almost half of Ethiopia’s economic activity and a great deal of its recent success, is actually being driven by an out of control ‘land grab’, as  multinational companies and private speculators vie to lease millions of acres of the country’s most fertile territory from the government at bargain basement prices.

At the ministry of agriculture in Addis Ababa, this land-lease programme is often described as a “win-win” because it brings in new technologies and employment and, supposedly, makes it easier to improve health care, education and other services in rural areas.

“Ethiopia needs to develop to fight poverty, increase food supplies and improve livelihoods and is doing so in a sustainable way,” said one official.

But according to a host of NGO’s and policy advocates, including Oxfam, Human Rights Watch and the Oakland Institute, the true consequences of the land grabs are almost all negative. They say that in order to make such huge areas available for foreign investors to grow foodstuffs and bio-fuels for export – and in direct contravention of Ethiopia’s obligations under international law – the authorities are displacing hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples, abusing their human rights, destroying their traditions, trashing the environment, and making them more dependent on food aid  than ever before.

“The benefits for the local populations are very little,” said renowned Ethiopian sociologist Dessalegn Rahmato. “They’ve taken away their land. They’ve taken away their natural resource, because these investors are clearing the land, destroying the forest, cutting down the trees. The government claims that one of the aims of this investment was to enable local areas to benefit by investing in infrastructure, social services … but these benefits are not included in the contract. It’s only left up to the magnanimity of the investor.”

And those investors, he continued, are simply not interested in anything other than serving their own needs: “They can grow any crop they want, when they want it, they can sell in any market they want, whether it’s a global market or a local market. In fact most of them are not interested in the local markets.”

He cited as an example a massive Saudi-owned plantation in the fertile Gambella region of south west Ethiopia, a prime target area for investors: “They have 10,000 hectares and they are producing rice. This rice is going to be exported to the Middle East, to Saudi Arabia and other places. The local people in that area don’t eat rice.”

But the most controversial element of the government’s programme is known as ‘villagisation’ – the displacement of people from land they have occupied for generations and their subsequent resettlement in artificial communities.

In Gambella, where two ethnic groups, the Anuaks and the Nuers, predominate, it has meant tens of thousands of people have been forced to abandon a traditional way of life. One such is Moot, an Anuak farmer who now lives in a government village far from his home.

“When investors showed up, we were told to pack up our things and to go to the village. If we had decided not to go, they would have destroyed our crops, our houses and our belongings. We couldn’t even claim compensation because the government decided that those lands belonged to the investors. We were scared … if you get upset and say that someone stole your land, you are put in prison. If you complain about being arrested, they will kill you. It’s not our land anymore; we have been deprived of our rights.”

Despite growing internal opposition and international criticism, the Ethiopian government shows no sign of scaling the programme back. According to the Oakland Institute, since 2008, an area the size of France has already been handed over to foreign corporations. Over the next few years an area twice that size is thought to be earmarked for leasing to investors.

So what does all this mean for the people on the ground? In Ethiopia – Land for Sale, filmmakers Veronique Mauduy and Romain Pelleray try and find out.

French Jobseekers Surge To New Record High | Zero Hedge

French Jobseekers Surge To New Record High | Zero Hedge.

For a moment there, mid-year, when the French forgot to send texts out to all their unemployed people to confirm their joblessness, that French and European leaders looked at the French jobseekers data and hailed the corner as having turned. It has not! For the 30th of the last 32 months, French joblessness increased. At 3.303 million jobseekers, French unemployment is at an all-time record high (and 10Y French debt trades 36bps lower in yield than US 10Y).

It seems like it’s time for Hollande to invade another small African nation (and instigate a draft?)

As France24 sums up perfectly –

Anti-François Hollande protests in Paris degenerate into violence | World news | theguardian.com

Anti-François Hollande protests in Paris degenerate into violence | World news | theguardian.com.

Ant-François Hollande protests in Paris

‘You, President, get out’: anti-François Hollande protests in Paris. Photograph: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

Nineteen police officers were injured and 250 people detained as a protest in Paris against President François Hollande‘s leadership degenerated into violence, police have said.

Police said that none of the injuries was critical. The numbers of injuries and detentions are high compared with other protests in recent weeks expressing discontent with Hollande, who is particularly unpopular for his handling of the economy.

Police said 17,000 people took part in Sunday’s largely peaceful protest, while organisers put the number several times higher.

Fifty associations were involved, including conservative and far-right groups. Also present were supporters of the provocateur-comic Dieudonné, who has been repeatedly convicted of antisemitism and racism.

Kiev protesters expand street barricades – Europe – Al Jazeera English

Kiev protesters expand street barricades – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

Ukrainian protesters have erected more street barricades and occupied a government ministry building, fuelling tension after the failure of crisis talks with the president, Viktor Yanukovich.In response to opposition calls, about 1,000 demonstrators moved away from Kiev’s Independence Square in the early hours of Friday and began to erect new barricades closer to the presidential headquarters.

Masked protesters, some carrying riot police shields seized as trophies, stood guard as others piled up sandbags packed with frozen snow to form new ramparts across the road leading down into the square.

After leaving a second round of talks with Yanukovich empty handed late on Thursday, opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko voiced fears the impasse could now lead to further bloodshed.

After speaking first to protesters manning the barricades, Klitschko then went to Independence Square where he declared: “Hours of conversation were spent about nothing. There is no sense sitting at a negotiating table with someone who has already decided to deceive you.”

Klitschko had earlier brokered a truce in the violence between protesters and police, and the ceasefire appears to be holding so far.

A group of protesters took control of the main agricultural ministry building in the centre. “We need the place for our people to warm up,” a local protest leader was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

Meanwhile, protesters near Dynamo Kiev football stadium, the new flashpoint in the city, cranked up their action, setting tyres ablaze again and sending a pall of black smoke over the area.

There were no signs that protesters were heeding an appeal from general prosecutor Viktor Pshonka who said early on Friday that those so far arrested would be treated leniently by the courts if protest action was halted.

At least three protesters have been killed so far after clashes between protesters and riot police.

East-West tensions

Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in the capital after Yanukovich backed away from signing a free trade deal with the EU, which many people saw as the key to a European future, in favour of financial aid from Ukraine’s old Soviet master Russia.

But the movement has since widened into broader protests against perceived misrule and corruption in the Yanukovich leadership.

Protesters have been enraged too by sweeping anti-protest legislation that was rammed through parliament last week by Yanukovich loyalists in the assembly.

Earlier on Thursday, Yanukovich had suggested he might be prepared to make concessions to the opposition when he called for a special session of parliament next week to consider the opposition demands and find a way out of the crisis. But this did not impress opposition leaders.

Underlining the level of mistrust between the government and opposition, the prime minister Mykola Azarov on Thursday accused protesters of trying to stage a coup and dismissed the possibility of an early presidential election.

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