DPC “Car ferry Michigan Central turning in ice, Detroit River” 1900
What were ya thinking?
Productivity is probably the most important measure of economic health that policy makers know the least about. Its pace will help determine how soon Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and her colleagues increase interest rates and how far rates ultimately will rise. A quicker advance would argue for a later lift-off because the economy would have more room to run before bumping up against capacity constraints. It also eventually would require a higher ending point to prevent the more-vibrant expansion from overheating. Slower productivity would call for the opposite strategy. The trouble, according to former Fed Vice Chairman Alan Blinder, is that economists – including those at the Fed – don’t have a good idea of how fast productivity will grow in the next few years.
The long-run trend is “hugely important,” but “it can take years” to recognize any changes, he said in an interview. Yellen will lay out the central bank’s views of the economy and policy when she testifies before Congress next week. At their Jan. 27-28 meeting, officials discussed the timing and pace of potential rate increases. Many were inclined to keep the benchmark federal fund rate near zero “for a longer time,” according to minutes of the gathering released Feb. 18. John Fernald, a senior research adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, pegs the trend growth rate of productivity at 1.8% a year for U.S. businesses and 2.1% for the economy as a whole.
Such projections are consistent with the Fed raising rates this year for the first time since 2006, said Dale Jorgenson, a professor at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and former chairman of its economics department. The margin of error around Fernald’s forecast is wide, though, as he is the first to acknowledge. “There’s basically an 80% chance over the next 10 years that productivity growth will average between 1 and 3%,” the Fed official said. Productivity measures the overall efficiency of the economy and matters beyond the central bank. It governs how fast the economy can expand, how much companies can earn and pay their workers, and how much the government can increase its budget. That is why economists put in a lot of time trying to parse it out.
a 10000 ways.
The eurozone was never designed with an exit plan in mind. The Maastricht Treaty’s 112 pages make no mention of a way for a country to pull out of the euro project. At the height of the eurozone crisis in 2011 and 2012, policymakers refused to countenance the idea of a splintered euro bloc. When pressed on the issue in late 2011, Mario Draghi, the president of the ECB, would only say the possibility “is not in the treaty”. He was discussing the chance of a Greek exit – or Grexit – from the euro, a risk that has come back to haunt the project’s architects in recent weeks. The rise of populist anti-austerity parties across the continent – including Syriza in Greece – threatens to tear apart the bloc. Last week analysts warned that the risk of a euro breakup was greater than at the height of the last crisis. The odds on a Grexit offered this Friday – before a deal between Greece and its creditors was struck – gave it a more than a one-in-three chance by the end of the year.
A breakup of a currency union such as this would have been without recent precedent. The classic example of a union breaking apart – in the absence of violent conflict – is the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918. It provides a crucial lesson: changes in currency need surprise. Anyone with assets will attempt to move them to safe havens, wary of a sharp devaluation. To work well, as few people as possible should know about the planned switch. Michael Spencer, an economist, told NPR’s Planet Money that while in principle it can be done: “It is much more likely that people see this coming.” The most likely suspects for a euro exit all have weaker economies than the area as a whole. Wary that whatever new currency is issued is likely to suffer a sharp devaluation, anyone with assets will attempt to move them to safe havens. To work well, as few people as possible should know about the planned switch.
In 1918, it became apparent that a breakup was imminent. Mr Spencer said that people took “boxcar loads of currency” across borders to where, upon conversion, their money would have greater worth. The process of conversion then involved stamping currency with ink, as almost all money was held in a physical form. Now, most savings are held electronically, and could be converted in an instant. So as long as word doesn’t get out, most cash can be dealt with. If it does, then capital can flee even more quickly than before, as shuffling currency to a different currency no longer relies upon the maximum speed of a horse. In Greece this deposit exodus has already begun. Capital outflows have reached €1bn a day. JP Morgan warned a week ago that capital flight would leave lenders without collateral within 14 weeks. By Friday, fears that a compromise would not be found led deposits to fall by a further €1bn in just two days, Reuters said citing sources.
“It doesn’t take the wisdom of Solomon to see that the defeat of one is the defeat of all.”
Today we will see who cares more for the future of the Greek people and for the eurozone’s stability, and which government places its own prestige above all else. Will Athens give more ground? Will Berlin remain unyielding? The 19 finance ministers of the Eurogroup face a paradox: they know that what is good for the Greeks is good for the common currency and vice versa – but the clumsy handling of the issue by the protagonists of the drama has created division which harms both Greece and the euro. How can the rift be bridged so that Greece can return to its efforts for economic recovery and Europe can move toward greater union? The Greek government has covered a lot of ground from its initial promises to halve the public debt, reject the austerity program in whole, roll back many reforms and turn its back on the troika of creditors.
On Wednesday, Athens asked the Eurogroup for a six-month extension of the aid agreement and accepted many of its partners’ demands – to the point that this was widely seen as capitulation. Of course, the proposal was murky on several points, so that the government could save face but also implement at least parts of its policy. This was quickly noted by the German Finance Ministry, which rejected the Greek proposal. It is significant that Greece made major concessions whereas Germany remained fixed in its position. We could argue, of course, that Greece had to cover a greater distance because it had strayed so far from the bailout agreement it had reached with its partners, whereas Germany was simply insisting on the restoration of order. But it is also clear that Berlin needs to show some flexibility in order to achieve progress – given the weaknesses, mistakes and many injustices of the program implemented in Greece.
The rigid imposition of the agreements (with only some unclear promises of future flexibility in the program) mirrors the initial rigidity of the Greek government, which put its utopian promises above the need to come to an honorable compromise with its partners. Athens started off by drawing red lines across existing agreements and commitments, presenting any effort at compromise as an effort to blackmail it into surrender. Fortunately, the German “no” did not derail today’s Eurogroup meeting and there is still some hope for an agreement that will allow both sides to work toward the stability of the Greek economy and of the euro. If both sides move a little closer they may just achieve this. Then Greece will be able to turn toward problems that need urgent attention and the EU will have shown that with some flexibility – in a show of leadership and not vengeance – it can keep alive the spirit of communal progress. It doesn’t take the wisdom of Solomon to see that the defeat of one is the defeat of all.
The Greek economy and the Greek government weren’t strangled, as was perhaps the original political plan by centers abroad and within the country..”
Greece’s left-wing government insisted on Saturday it had avoided being “strangled” by the eurozone, which agreed in principle to extend a financial rescue deal as nervous savers pulled huge sums from Greek banks. Athens said the deal struck late on Friday in Brussels should calm Greeks who had feared capital controls might be imposed as a prelude to leaving the euro. But some weary voters questioned what their new leaders had achieved in weeks of testy exchanges with euro zone hardliners led by EU paymaster Germany. After often ill-tempered negotiations, Greece secured late on Friday a four-month extension to euro zone funding, which will avert bankruptcy and a euro exit, provided it comes up with promises of economic reforms by Monday.
“We won time,” said government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis. “The Greek economy and the Greek government weren’t strangled, as was perhaps the original political plan by centers abroad and within the country,” he told Mega TV, without naming the euro zone hawks who forced the government into a climbdown at the Brussels talks. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has won wide support at home for what Greeks see as their leaders finally getting tough instead of going to Brussels cap in hand and taking orders from Berlin. But it was also under intense pressure at home. About €1 billion flooded out of Greek bank accounts on Friday, due to savers’ fears that the talks would fail and Athens might have to halt such withdrawals or prepare to reintroduce a national currency.
This added to an estimated €20 billion euros that Greeks have withdrawn since December, when it became clear that the radical SYRIZA party of Tsipras was likely to win power in last month’s parliamentary elections. Faced with the risk of a chaotic bank run on Tuesday after a long holiday weekend, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis stressed that the deal should calm savers. “It is quite clear that the reason why we had a deposit flight was because every day, even before we were elected, Greeks were being told that if we were elected and we stayed in power for more than just a few days the ATMs will cease functioning,” he told reporters in Brussels on Friday. “Today’s decision puts an end to this fear, to the scaremongering.”
“Syriza’s “red lines won’t be violated, that’s why they’re called red.”
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras claimed an initial victory after emergency talks with creditors gave the country a reprieve from the prospect of insolvency, as he began the task to sell the deal domestically. “Yesterday we won a battle, but not the war as the difficulties, the real difficulties, not only those related to the discussions and the relationship with our partners, are ahead of us,” Tsipras said in a televised speech on Saturday. Talks in Brussels between officials from the 19 euro-area countries concluded late Friday with an agreement to extend bailout funds to Greece for four months. Tsipras’s government must submit a list of economic measures it will undertake on Monday. Finance chiefs will then decide whether his proposals go far enough.
While the agreement potentially frees up some money to meet at least some of the pledges made by Tsipras before last month’s election, the outcome may still prove politically bruising for him. Even after last night’s agreement, his policies are subject to validation by the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission, the institutions collectively known as the troika from which Tsipras vowed to break free. “While Greece secured some ability to rewrite the terms of its current program, the sense is that the combination of pressure on its banking sector and on state cash flows has forced the bulk of concessions to come from their side,” Malcolm Barr, economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co., said in a client note. “This may place some degree of strain within Syriza itself.”
Tsipras said the deal “cancels austerity” and pledges by the previous government to cut wages, pensions and public sector employees and increase sales taxes. The list of reforms will be “based on the current arrangement,” the Eurogroup meeting of finance ministers said in a statement. That will include corruption fight, public administration and tax system changes, government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis said on Mega TV on Saturday. Syriza lawmakers would approve the list of measures even if they didn’t fully meet pre-election promises, George Stathakis, Greek minister for economy, shipping, tourism and infrastructure, said in an interview in Kathimerini. Still, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis said in an interview with Real News that Syriza’s “red lines won’t be violated, that’s why they’re called red.”
Not getting the idea.
Greece’s people have undergone hardship on a scale not seen in a developed country since the 1930s. At the same time, Athens was effectively forced to subcontract economic policymaking to the troika, with its budgets pored over line by line by unelected foreign officials. And as the Jubilee Debt Campaign recently pointed out, more than half of the bailout funds went not to keep schools and hospitals open, but to repay the private sector speculators, in many cases German and French banks, that lent recklessly to Greece in the runup to the crisis, charging the government in Athens little more to borrow at the time than they asked of the parsimonious Germans. Tsipras and Varoufakis were right to question the virtue of austerity as a catalyst for economic recovery, too. The ECB’s recent decision to unleash a €60bn-a-month quantitative easing programme underlines the fact that demand in the eurozone economies remains weak and the recovery fragile.
Yet once Varoufakis and his colleagues were in the harsh spotlight of the world’s media in Brussels, they appeared ill-equipped for the brutal battle. For one thing, they appeared to give away many of their strongest cards almost as a starting point. Debt forgiveness, much talked about during the campaign, seemed to be off the agenda; “Grexit”, which should have been Varoufakis’s nuclear option, seemed ruled out from the start. While extremely risky, default and devaluation could have offered the Greek economy a re-set; and the market chaos that would inevitably follow would exact a high price for other eurozone members. Varoufakis should surely have left that possibility hanging like a sword over last week’s talks, instead of insisting in his long-winded introductory remarks – later leaked to the press – that “Greece is a permanent and inseparable member of the European Union and our monetary union”.
Perhaps it was a tactic, but there was a lot of bluster and very few numbers in Greece’s initial proposals. Wolfgang Schäuble also has a democratic mandate and he was always going to want to see how Athens would make the sums add up. In the end, when Friday night’s deal was announced, it was hard to see what Varoufakis had salvaged. Admittedly no one used the word “bailout”, instead referring to “the Master Facility Agreement”. But Greece will accept the supervision of the troika (without calling it such), submitting detailed reform proposals for review by the end of Monday; it will refrain from “rowing back” on reforms where they might endanger “fiscal sustainability”; and it will seek an extension of financial support, “on the basis of the conditions of the current arrangement”. What’s more, instead of the six-month bridging loan it had asked for, it will get just four months’ grace.
Merkle will prove to be useless in peacetime.
The German parliament is likely to approve a four-month extension to euro zone funding for Greece, on condition Athens presents a list of reforms as promised, a senior ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel was quoted as saying. “The Greeks have to do their homework now,” Volker Kauder, leader of Merkel’s conservatives in parliament, told Welt am Sonntag newspaper, according to excerpts of an interview published on Saturday. “Then, an extension of the aid program can be approved by the German Bundestag.” Kauder added: “Greece has finally realized that it cannot turn a blind eye to reality.”
Greece late on Friday secured its four-month funding extension, averting bankruptcy and a euro exit, provided it comes up with promises of economic reforms by Monday. However, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Saturday the agreement struck with euro zone ministers cancelled austerity commitments made to international creditors by a previous conservative-led government. Other German conservative lawmakers welcomed the agreement cautiously, but also stressed there was still work to do. “We’ve taken an important step forward, but we’ve not reached the finishing line yet,” said Ralph Brinkhaus, deputy parliamentary floor leader for Merkel’s conservatives.
“..companies, banks and governments all prepare for the kind of worst case scenario that isn’t even addressed in euro-zone statutes..”
On Wednesday of this week, 30 top managers at a large German bank all received a text message and an email at the exact same time. A short time later, their mobile phones rang with an automated voice giving them all passwords and a number to call at exactly 8:30 a.m. to join a teleconference with the board of directors. The communication blast was the initial step of the bank’s emergency “Grexit” plan, a strategy laid out in a document dozens of pages long detailing exactly how managers should react in the event that Greece leaves the euro zone. Each of the 30 bank managers were required to work through the emergency measures pertaining to his or her division. Information was to be transferred to the supervisory board and public officials were likewise to be kept informed as was the German Finance Ministry.
The plan also called for large investors to be put at ease. Questions pertaining to potential bank losses from Greek bond holdings were to be addressed as were changes in monetary transactions with Greece once it was no longer part of the common currency zone. The response also extended to internal bank communication, with instructions to employees for dealing with the new situation posted in the financial institution’s intranet. Customers and stake holders were also to be kept informed. At exactly 6 p.m., the crisis came to an end, as did the work day. Plan “Grexit” was just a dry run, nothing more. At least not yet. Such scenarios are being acted out across Europe these days as companies, banks and governments all prepare for the kind of worst case scenario that isn’t even addressed in euro-zone statutes: the exit of one of the common currency area’s member states.
On Thursday, Greece’s new government under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras finally applied for an extension to its bailout program. But, from the perspective of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, he failed to fulfill the conditions laid down by the Euro Group. Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke on the phone with Tsipras and negotiations have continued, with the next major round scheduled for Friday night. But even if a compromise is found in the end, the game of high-stakes poker will not be over. Both sides would have to agree to a new plan for nursing the country back to financial health.
Farrell going astray…
Yes, Pope Francis really is a capitalist. Forget his anticapitalist, anticonsumerism rhetoric. Unless he reverses Catholicism’s outdated and destructive dogma on population control, Francis is destined to help capitalists take absolute control of the global economy …. and do more damage to Planet Earth’s climate than the “poison of consumerism.” Yes, thanks to Pope Francis and his dogma on population control, marriage and contraception, capitalists have a steady supply of new consumers fueling their growth. And they’ll get far richer as this supply of new consumers grows to 10 billion by 2050. Why is this so crucial? Because the pope’s failure to reverse the Catholic Church’s historic religious policies on birth control is fueling population growth … guaranteeing explosive consumer growth for capitalists … strengthening capitalism.
Will Pope Francis ever change? Unlikely, certainly not in time to save the world from capitalism’s guaranteed self-destructive trajectory. Why? Because Francis is handicapped by his all-male army of more than 200 cardinals, 5,000 bishops and 450,000 priests all committed to celibacy, against artificial birth control, all driven by perpetual population growth policies also essential to economic growth in today’s capitalist economy, while also accelerating climate change disasters that will eventually decimate human civilization, self-destruct the planet, and even destroy their precious capitalism! Can’t save the world? Well actually there is one way Francis could save the world, if he chose to. He could reverse the Catholic dogma fueling out-of-control global population growth.
Yes, that’d ne a start, but not enough. The pope would then have to convince more than his 1.2 million Catholic faithful. He’d also have to nudge all heads of state, and the world’s seven billion humans, especially young parents making babies, that they’d have cut back their family expectations. But that isn’t going to happen, in time. Climate disasters? You bet, demographic experts like The Earth Institute’s Jeff Sachs, who warns that by the end of this century the planet not only can’t feed 10 billion, we cannot even feed five billion. What a dilemma: Parents love babies. Families thrive on children. Capitalists also love babies, but for a different reason. Babies are consumers, fuel businesses, increase revenues, profits, wealth. It’s a simple economic equation, capitalists just see babies as new consumers. It’s all about money, period. Later, those babies grow up. The cycle continues.
Wow, BBC even!
A rally has taken place in Moscow to condemn the “coup” in neighbouring Ukraine, a year after the downfall of its pro-Russian president. Russian state media heavily promoted the rally and march with the slogan “We won’t forget! We won’t forgive!”. Ukraine’s protests ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. Speaking on Russian TV, the ex-leader condemned “lawlessness” in Ukraine, saying the situation there had caused him “very many sleepless nights”. Since Mr Yanukovych’s departure, Russia has annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and is accused of backing rebels in eastern Ukraine. A ceasefire plan agreed this month in Minsk has appeared close to collapse since taking effect just over a week ago. The Ukrainian government, Western leaders and Nato say there is clear evidence that Russia is helping the rebels in eastern Ukraine with heavy weapons and soldiers. Independent experts echo that accusation. Moscow denies it, insisting that any Russians serving with the rebels are “volunteers”.
Nearly 5,700 people have died since the fighting erupted last April and some 1.5 million people have fled their homes, according to the UN. Groups of demonstrators gathered in central Moscow on Saturday under patriotic Russian banners. Police estimated that about 35,000 people in total took part. The Moscow event was styled as an “anti-Maidan” march – a reference to Ukraine’s pro-EU protests that started on Kiev’s central Independence Square, widely known as the Maidan. The BBC’s Sarah Rainsford, at the scene, says the event was highly organised, with flags and banners distributed and buses laid on from some provinces. The marchers included Cossacks in full uniform and young women in anoraks emblazoned with pictures of Russian President Vladimir Putin, she says.
Legal status please?
The question is not whether the fall of the strategically important road and rail hub of Debaltseve was a blow to Ukraine’s political and military leaders. It was. The question is how big the impact will be. President Petro Poroshenko is portraying the retreat of thousands of Ukrainian government forces as an “orderly” tactical withdrawal. However, initial reports indicate it may have been just the opposite. It is still possible that the retreat avoided a larger, more catastrophic defeat – something along the lines of the Ilovaysk debacle last summer, when Ukrainian forces were encircled by insurgents and possibly regular Russian forces, and were ambushed as they attempted to escape, with untold numbers killed. Much of the political fallout will depend on how big the Debaltseve losses were. So far, the government is saying at least 13 soldiers were killed, 157 wounded, 90 captured and 82 missing.
But the actual figures might be much higher. Also potentially damaging could be the reportedly slapdash, chaotic manner in which the evacuation was carried out, with soldiers escaping on foot after their vehicles were destroyed, and large amounts of armour and ammunition left behind. Already there are rumblings of public discontent. “I have seen this with my own eyes, on the battlefield and in the army headquarters, how military action is planned and executed,” Semyon Semenchenko, commander of the volunteer Donbass battalion, told the BBC. “I can assure you that we lost Debaltseve not because of the Russian military advantage, but because our generals refuse to take responsibility,” he said. Mr Semenchenko has proposed a “parallel” co-ordinating structure for the volunteer battalions fighting in the east. So far 13 battalion leaders have signed up, including Dmytro Yarosh of the nationalist Right Sector.
Mr Semenchenko insists this is not to replace, but to help, the army’s general command in “information exchange, planning, logistical assistance and facilitating mobilisation.” Still, his announcement raised concerns. Eight battalion commanders have refused to join the body, calling on Mr Semenchenko to “end his daily populist and PR statements”. President Poroshenko seems to have a firm grip on power, and many Ukrainians believe he is doing his best in a horrible political and economic situation. Nonetheless, his popularity is slipping. A recent poll showed his approval rating had decreased from 57% to 45%, with 46% saying he was doing a bad job. The “don’t knows” were 9%. Debaltseve has not helped matters at all. And it is possible that the defeat – should the truth be worse than what is being presented at the moment – could significantly damage the Ukrainian president..
Stupid is as stupid does.
Nato forces must prepare for an overwhelming Blitzkrieg-style assault by Russia on an eastern European member state designed to catch the alliance off guard and snatch territory, the deputy supreme commander of the military alliance has warned. Openly raising the prospect of a conventional armed conflict with Russia on European soil, the remarks by Sir Adrian Bradshaw, second-in-command of Nato’s military forces in Europe, are some of the most strident to date from Nato. They come amid a worsening in relations with the Kremlin just days into a second fragile ceasefire aimed at curbing continued bloodshed in Ukraine’s restive east between Kiev’s forces and Russian-backed separatists.
Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank in London on Friday, Sir Adrian warned that as well as adapting to deal with subversion and other “hybrid” military tactics being used by Russia in Ukraine, allied forces needed to be prepared for the prospect of an overt invasion. “Russia might believe the large-scale conventional forces she has shown she can generate at very short notice — as we saw in the snap exercises that preceded the takeover of Crimea — could in future not only be used for intimidation and coercion, but could be used to seize Nato territory,” he said.
Sir Adrian is a former commander of British land forces and the most senior UK officer in the alliance. He added: “After which the threat of escalation might be used to prevent re-establishment of territorial integrity — this use of so-called escalation dominance was, of course, a classic Soviet technique.” Deploying overwhelming force at short notice has become a hallmark of recent Russian military exercises. Russia’s 2013 “Zapad” (“West”) war game involved the rapid mobilisation of 25,000 troops in Belarus and the enclave of Kaliningrad for a conflict with a Nato state.
The Heinz tool box.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned that further sanctions may be imposed against Russia over the next few days if further breaches of a truce in Ukraine continue. “Some additional steps will be taken in response to the breaches of this cease-fire,” Kerry told reporters at the U.S. Embassy in London after talks Saturday with U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. “There are some yet very serious sanctions that can be taken which have a profound, increased negative impact on the Russian economy.” Ukraine accused Moscow of sending more troops into eastern Ukraine, contravening a European-brokered truce that was reached in Minsk and took effect Feb. 15. U.S. officials said at the time they wouldn’t rule out imposing tougher sanctions on Russia or giving more security assistance to Ukraine if the Minsk deal isn’t fully implemented.
“We know to a certainty what Russia has been providing and no amount of propaganda is capable of hiding these actions,” Kerry said. Moscow has denied accusations that its forces are fighting in Ukraine. The Russian economy is already swaying as households are hit by a 44% slump in the ruble in the past year and prices soar. “We are not seeking to hurt the people of Russia who regrettably pay a collateral price as a result of these sanctions,” Kerry said, but “increasingly there will be an inevitable, broader impact as the sanctions ratchet up.” Kerry travels to Geneva Sunday for two days of talks with senior Iranian officials on Tehran’s disputed nuclear program before a March 24 deadline for a framework agreement.
The Ukrainian cease-fire agreement brokered last week has been tested by persistent clashes near the cities of Donetsk and Mariupol. Ukraine’s pro-Russian rebels and the government prepared to exchange prisoners in a move toward meeting the terms of the agreement.
Ukraine, the U.S., the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization say Russia is backing the separatists with hardware, cash and troops – accusations leaders in the Kremlin deny. Russia says Ukraine is waging war on its own citizens and discriminates against Russian speakers, a majority in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. EU President Donald Tusk said Friday he’d start consultations on new steps “to increase further the costs of aggression on eastern Ukraine” in response to continued “ruthless attacks” by the rebels.
Ok, well, that’s a bit much maybe.
Ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych has controversially spoken out from self-imposed exile in Russia, promising, exactly a year after he fled Kiev, to return to Ukraine to ease people s lives and help stop the war. Yanukovych’s interview with Russia’s state-owned Channel One was his first public appearance since he gave two bizarre press conferences in Rostov-on-Don in February and March 2014, claiming he remained Ukraine’s president. I regret that I was unable to do anything, Yanukovych said. As soon as it s possible, I will come back and do everything in my power to ease people’s lives. The main task now is to stop the war. In the year since he fled, Russian president Vladimir Putin has annexed Crimea, Russia-backed rebels have established breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine, and at least 5,600 people have died in the conflict.
Yanukovych is despised across much of Ukraine, viewed as a corrupt Russian puppet by the pro-western protesters that forced him from office, and as a coward in the pro-Russia east. As he spoke, a fragile peace plan remained in the balance, with a prisoner exchange proceeding on Saturday amid continued shelling. Meanwhile thousands assembled in Moscow for an anti-Maidan rally . Veterans, Cossacks, prominent pro-Putin bikers and others waved signs denouncing Kiev, and banners reading, We don t need western ideology and gay parades, and Putin is our president.
Rows of buses parked nearby and the rapid departure of attenders after the rally raised suspicions that hired protesters had been brought in from other regions, a common tactic at pro-Kremlin rallies. In Kiev, Petro Poroshenko, the oligarch who publicly backed the EuroMaidan protests last winter and was elected president in May, blamed Russia for inciting conflict at an anniversary vigil in memory of more than 100 demonstrators killed at the height of the unrest. Commemorations continued on Saturday with a display by the defence ministry of grenade-launchers, drones and other weaponry seized in eastern Ukraine, which it claimed was from Russia.
Without the CIA f%#ing things up..
Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists have exchanged dozens of prisoners in east Ukraine, a Ukrainian Security Council aide confirmed on Sunday, a step toward implementing an internationally brokered peace deal. Reuters reporters in the village of Zholobok, 20 km (12 miles) west of the rebel stronghold of Luhansk, saw more than 130 Ukrainian servicemen being released late on Saturday evening in exchange for 52 rebel fighters. The exchange is one of the first moves to implement the peace deal reached on Feb. 12 in the Belarussian capital Minsk after the French, German, Russian and Ukrainian leaders met. The Security Council’s Markian Lubkivskyi, in a post on his Facebook page early on Sunday, published a list of the 139 released Ukrainian servicemen and said the government would do its utmost to free those remaining in rebel captivity.
Fighting has eased in many areas since a ceasefire came into effect a week ago, but the truce was badly shaken by the rebel capture on Wednesday of the strategic town of Debaltseve, forcing a retreat by thousands of Ukrainian troops. The Ukrainian military said rebels had launched 12 separate attacks on government troop positions overnight, using artillery and mortar fire. The town of Pesky near Donetsk had seen the most intense fighting, while separatist groups had attempted to “storm” Ukrainian positions in Shyrokyne, east of the strategic port city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov, it said on Facebook.
Kiev accuses separatists of building up forces and weapons in Ukraine’s southeast and has said it is braced for the possibility of a rebel attack on Mariupol. Nevertheless, rebel leaders said on Saturday they had signed a document detailing a plan for the withdrawal of heavy weapons, as required by the Minsk agreement, a sign they may be prepared to halt their advance, having achieved their main military objective by seizing Debaltseve. The rebel press service DAN said Ukrainian troops had been shelling parts of Donetsk, reporting that artillery fire could be heard in the city at around 0730 GMT.
That’s all Monsanto needs: an idiot in charge of 20%+s of the world population, and who can be bought.
On a fenced plot not far from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home, a field of mustard is in full yellow bloom, representing his government’s reversal of an effective ban on field trials of genetically modified (GM) food crops. The GM mustard planted in the half-acre field in the grounds of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi is in the final stage of trials before the variety is allowed to be sold commercially, and that could come within two years, scientists associated with the project say. India placed a moratorium on GM aubergine in 2010 fearing the effect on food safety and biodiversity. Field trials of other GM crops were not formally halted, but the regulatory system was brought to a deadlock. But allowing GM crops is critical to Modi’s goal of boosting dismal farm productivity in India, where urbanization is devouring arable land and population growth will mean there are 1.5 billion mouths to feed by 2030 – more even than China.
Starting in August last year, his government resumed the field trials for selected crops with little publicity. “Field trials are already on because our mandate is to find out a scientific review, a scientific evaluation,” Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar told Reuters last week. “Confined, safe field trials are on. It’s a long process to find out whether it is fully safe or not.” Modi was a supporter of GM crops when he was chief minister of Gujarat state over a decade ago, the time when GM cotton was introduced in the country and became a huge success. Launched in 2002, Bt cotton, which produces its own pesticide, is the country’s only GM crop and covers 95% of India’s cotton cultivation of 11.6 million hectares (28.7 million acres). From being a net importer, India has become the world’s second-largest producer and exporter of the fiber.
However, grassroots groups associated with Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have opposed GM crops because of the reliance on seeds patented by multinationals. The Swadeshi Jagran Manch, a nationalist group which promotes self-reliance, has vowed to hold protests if GM food crops are made commercially available. “There is no scientific evidence that GM enhances productivity,” said Pradeep, a spokesman for the group. “And in any case, why should we hand over our agriculture to some foreign companies? A handful of agrichemical and seeds companies dominate the global market for GM crops, including Monsanto, DuPont, Dow and Syngenta. Largely agricultural India became self-sufficient in foodgrains after the launch of the Green Revolution in the 1960s, when it introduced high-yielding seed varieties and the use of fertilizer and irrigation. The challenge now is to replicate that success in edible oils and vegetables, which are increasingly in demand.