Harris&Ewing Oil for salads 1918
Say goodbye to your health care system. And your life expectancy.
More than a third of adults in the U.S. have a condition called “metabolic syndrome,” which involves a combination of risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, according to a new study. In the study, researchers looked at data from 2011 and 2012 and found that about 35% of U.S. adults had metabolic syndrome (also known as Syndrome X). The health conditions that are the components of metabolic syndrome may contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease and even premature death, the researchers said. “That’s a scary %age — that a third of adults have it,” said study author Dr. Robert J. Wong, of the Alameda Health System-Highland Hospital in Oakland, California.
Although the researchers knew that obesity affects more than a third of adults in the U.S., Wong said that before the new results, he thought that the%age of people with metabolic syndrome “would be a little bit less.” To have metabolic syndrome, a person must have at least three of the five conditions that are considered to be “metabolic risk factors,” according to the National Institutes of Health. The five conditions are: a large waistline, a high level of triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood), a low level of “good” HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and a high level of blood sugar after fasting.
In the study, the researchers examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey collected between 2003 and 2012. In the survey, data are collected from not only interviews with the participants, but also physical exams. The researchers also found that the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome increased with age. They found that 47% of people ages 60 and older had metabolic syndrome, compared with 18% of people ages 20 to 39. Among people ages 60 and older, more than 50% of women, and more than 50% of Hispanics, had the syndrome.
Let’s make this an international initiative.
In a rare show of unity France’s parliament voted unanimously Thursday to ban food waste in big supermarkets, notably by outlawing the destruction of unsold food products. “It’s scandalous to see bleach being poured into supermarket dustbins along with edible foods,” said Socialist member of parliament Guillaume Garot who sponsored the bill. Under the new legislation, supermarkets will have to take measures to prevent food waste and will be forced to donate any unsold but still edible food goods to charity or for use as animal feed or farming compost. All large-sized supermarkets will have to sign contracts with a charity group to facilitate food donations. French people throw away between 20kg to 30kg (44 to 66 pounds) of food per person per year costing an estimated €12bn to €20bn ($13-22bn) annually. The government is hoping to slice food waste in half by 2025.
In fact, it does. QE makes the rich richer, austerity makes the poor poorer.
The ECB’s move to front-load asset purchases effectively means that QE will be expanded in months when net supply is positive and tapered when negative, which underscores a feature of PSPP that sets it apart from QE in the US and Japan: Mario Draghi is buying at a time when European governments have been cornered into an austerity fixation by the troika, meaning in many cases, monthly asset purchase targets will be difficult to hit owing lackluster supply. This of course highlights something rather absurd about the ECB’s asset purchase program specifically, and about Brussels’ stance on fiscal discipline more generally.
Namely, there’s something quite contradictory about telling governments to tighten their belts while promising to buy any and every piece of paper their treasury departments care to issue. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that a €1.1 trillion QE program simply cannot peacefully coexist with a strict, currency bloc-wide austerity policy. [..] In other words, the ECB’s announcement in January has made it easier for EMU governments to borrow (the opposite of fiscal discipline), recent bond market turmoil notwithstanding. But the ECB is willfully ignorant (at least we hope it’s willful, although with central bankers, it’s hard to say what they might or might not understand) of the fact that its policies run counter to notions of fiscal restraint:
At the same time, a strong signal needed to be sent to euro area governments urging them to press ahead with structural reforms and to take measures to improve the business environment. Only with such complementary action could the full benefits of the monetary policy measures be reaped. Swift and effective implementation of appropriate reforms in the euro area would not only lead to higher sustainable growth in the medium to long term but also raise expectations of permanently higher incomes and encourage households to expand consumption …
It doesn’t get much more ridiculous than that. Coeure has just called fiscal reform “complementary” to a €1.1 trillion government bond buying program. But these two things aren’t complimentary at all, a fact which is on full display in Germany where the government does not need to borrow money, meaning that unless Bunds can be purchased in the secondary market, QE simply can’t be implemented in full under the capital key.
“..to increase consumption by 1% of GDP, you would need a transfer of 3% of GDP. UK QE currently stands at about 20% of annual GDP.”
Government policy is based upon a belief that now the crisis is over, the animal spirits of the private sector will awaken and interest rates gradually normalise. But this is policy-making based on hope. A genuinely responsible government needs a contingency plan in case hope fails us. And if the Bank is to be the leader, as well as the lender of last resort, we should at least give them the tools to do the job. With fiscal policy off the table, and existing monetary tools exhausted, we propose that the government legislates to empower the Bank of England with the ability to make payments directly to the household sector – QE for the people.
With this tool the Bank would be equipped to mitigate any sharp slowdown in the economy, caused by domestic or external factors, such as a deflationary shock from a Chinese or US recession, or a continued slump in the eurozone. The empirical evidence from analogous policies – such as tax rebates in the US – suggests that transfers to the household sector would have a far greater impact on demand at a fraction of the size of QE. Consumers appear to quickly spend between a third and a half of any cash windfalls. So to increase consumption by 1% of GDP, you would need a transfer of 3% of GDP. UK QE currently stands at about 20% of annual GDP. The Bank of England estimates this raised GDP by 3%. Further QE would likely have less effect.
So cash transfers to consumers are a far more effective stimulus than that provided by more QE for a lower spend. Consistent with operational independence of the Bank of England, the size of payments and their timing should be solely under its control, and subject to the inflation target. Parliament needs to equip the Bank with the infrastructure to administer payments, and determine in advance the recipients. An equal payment to all households is likely to be the least controversial rule. It would have an immediate impact on spending and it is transparent and fair – favouring neither borrowers nor savers, rich nor poor, nor one demographic over another.
One more way to spell ‘insane’.
If sometimes it feels like central banks have “have your back” when trading stocks every single day since the collapse of Lehman, you are wrong. They only have your back every third day, because according to Bank of America there have been a ridiculous 572 rate cuts around the globe since the fall of Lehman, one every three trading days!
Perhaps this explains why with 572 rate cuts in the rear view mirror, which have succeeded in pushing global stock markets to record highs and yet have failed to either unleash the “wealth effect” for the rest of us, to stimulate inflation, or send US GDP into a stable, 3%+ growth trend, in fact culminating with the most recent GDP contraction during the so-called recovery (at least until all negative data is revised positively), one can see why the Fed is just a little worried about breaking a trend that has been working… if only to create the illusion of paper wealth for a select few.
P.S. the number above of course does not account for the $13 trillion in direct liquidity injections central banks have conducted since 2008, which have flowed through directly into both the bond and the stock market, leading to unprecedented bubble in both asset classes.
No doubt about it.
“..the surest way to change incentives is to ensure crooked employees, rather than the banks, face criminal charges”
Life is looking up at Barclays, eh? The share price stands at a 15-month high, the new chairman promises more action, and one of these days the dividend might be lifted. What’s that? There’s a $2.4bn (£1.5bn) fine for rigging currency markets? Pah. It’s ancient history. Besides, it could have been worse. That, roughly speaking, was the market’s reaction to the forex fines and, strange to report, it was logical. Barclays had set aside £2bn and came away with a less bloody nose. The “spare” £500m might yet be absorbed in a related inquiry but Barclays shares rose 3%. Royal Bank of Scotland’s improved 2%. There is a sense that the high watermark for fines has passed. Naturally, the bank’s management treated us to another chorus of regret.
“This demonstrates again the importance of our continuing work to build a values-based culture and strengthen our control environment,” said Barclays chief executive Antony Jenkins. Yes, but the events also demonstrate the inadequacies of past stabs at reform. Remember, the forex fiasco was continuing while banks were being investigated for rigging Libor, a different market. Compliance departments should have been on red alert and traders in a state of fear. Instead, as the New York State Department of Financial Services notes, Barclays was alerted to potential misconduct in forex in mid-2012 but did not begin a full investigation “until the publication of a Bloomberg article in June 2013”.
Barclays and the others, no doubt, will succeed in ensuring there is no repeat in the forex and Libor markets. Indeed, devious traders would be dumb to try their luck in the same spot. But financial markets are deep and wide and those on the front line will continue to have better, and faster, information than their back office policeman. They will also be paid more. Meanwhile, a ban on multi-bank electronic chatrooms removes one venue for collusion and ripping off clients, but wine bars and corridors cannot be abolished. As with all these rigging scandals, there’s a simple conclusion: the surest way to change incentives is to ensure crooked employees, rather than the banks, face criminal charges. The authorities keep saying that’s the plan; it never seems to work out that way.
A surefire way to go broke.
In Shenzhen, home of China’s hottest stock market, rallies of more than 500% aren’t unusual. What’s become rare are the type of corrections that rocked Hong Kong this week. Hanergy Thin Film Power Group Ltd. and Goldin Financial Holdings Ltd. plunged more than 45% in Hong Kong after surging more than sixfold in the past 12 months. Across the border in Shenzhen, there are 103 stocks that rallied that much in a year, compared with only four in the former British colony. Among the 1,721 stocks on the Shenzhen Composite Index, four have declined this year. The Shenzhen benchmark jumped 12% this week, the most since 2008, as turnover topped trading in both Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Investors have piled into the non-state companies that dominate the Shenzhen bourse after the government pledged to support developing industries, including technology and health care, to shift the economy away from manufacturing and property development. “Hanergy and Goldin are a good reminder for investors in China,” Ronald Wan, chief executive at Partners Capital, said in Hong Kong. “They have a close similarity with many stocks in Shenzhen which have rallied based on speculation rather than fundamentals.” The 103 stocks in the Shenzhen 500% club trade at an average 375 times reported earnings, while their average market capitalization has risen to $3.5 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Many of them recently sold shares for the first time.
The best performer is Beijing Baofeng, a provider of online movie players, which has jumped 3,822% since its initial public offering two months ago and made its chairman Feng Xin a billionaire. Zhejiang Longsheng Auto Parts, which makes car-seat parts, has climbed about 1,600% in the past year to trade at almost 600 times profits. Wanda Cinema’s 1,047% rally since its January IPO turned it into a $22.1 billion company.
Compared to what?
ECB head Mario Draghi said that “growth is too low everywhere” in the 19-country eurozone despite a modest recovery. Draghi made the blunt remark as he opened a conference on the unemployment problem plaguing several of the EU member countries that share the euro currency. “Recently, economic conditions have improved somewhat in Europe,” he said at the ECB’s conference on inflation and unemployment in Sintra, Portugal. “But growth is too low everywhere.” He said that inflation was too low — a sign of economic weakness — and that “people in Europe are frustrated by the lack of growth they have witnessed in recent years.” Draghi’s remarks come as the eurozone shows increasing signs of recovery.
The economy grew 0.4% in the first quarter, and growth this year may be strong enough to start whittling down an unemployment rate of 11.3%, economists say. Still, it could take years to achieve a significant reduction in the jobless rate, which remains painfully high in the weaker member countries. Youth unemployment is 50% in both Greece and Spain. The eurozone also faces a challenge in Greece, where the government is struggling to pay its debts despite two rounds of bailout loans from other eurozone countries and the IMF. A default could lead Greece to leave, raising questions about the currency union’s permanence. Draghi’s growth call was echoed by a top U.S. Federal Reserve official at the conference.
Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer said the euro’s crisis has led to new institutions such as EU-level banking supervision and procedures to wind up bad banks to spare taxpayers the costs of bailouts. Fischer said the euro appeared to have weathered the current crisis but warned that “in the longer run,” the monetary union “will not survive unless it also brings prosperity to its members.” U.S. officials have pressed Europe to tackle its growth problem. The eurozone remains a key market for many U.S. firms and its health is an important factor for the global economy. The eurozone has struggled with a crisis over too much government and bank debt since Greece reported its deficit was out of control in 2009.
The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition is to ask Greek banks to revise their restructuring plans in light of the rapid deterioration of financial conditions in the country. Kathimerini understands that Brussels technocrats have already expressed to local banking officials their concerns regarding the existing restructuring plans, citing the need for an adjustment to the new macroeconomic data, the deterioration of liquidity conditions, the sharp increase in nonperforming loans (NPLs) and the general delays observed in the implementation of the plans owing to the political and economic uncertainty of the last few months. The forecasts on the course of the Greek economy, on which the stress tests of last year had been based, provided for 2.9% growth this year, rising to 3.7% in 2016. These estimates are now seen as unrealistic and the Commission has already revised its estimate for 2015 to 0.5%.
Banks have also received two more big blows: The dramatic deterioration of liquidity conditions and the spike in bad loans. Since the start of the year, the flight of deposits has exceeded €30 billion and the sole access lenders have to funding is emergency liquidity assistance (ELA). Greek banks have drawn over €120 billion from the Eurosystem, fully reversing the commitments they had made in their restructuring plans to reduce their dependence on ECB liquidity, as lenders have now slumped back to 2012 in dependence terms. On the bad loans’ front, the uncertainty of recent months, the inability of the government to reach an agreement with Greece’s creditors and the cultivation of expectations about more favorable repayment terms have led to an increase in NPLs. From an estimated 34.4% in end-December, the rate of bad loans is estimated to have reached 35% in end-March and has kept growing since.
And that’s supposed to have happened because Greeks all lived beyond their means?
The Greek economy risks being more a submerging market than an emerging market. As another round of aid talks between the Mediterranean nation and its creditors ends without a deal, its economy is faring even worse than a string of developing countries which suffered traumas in the last two decades. That leaves Commerzbank AG declaring the country is in little position to pare its debt and that default or a restructuring may loom. “Just as with emerging markets in the past there is a point in time where you need to move on to the next stage rather than being paralyzed,” Simon Quijano-Evans at Commerzbank in London said. “In Greece, we need to think of next steps and be innovative.”
To illustrate Greece’s pain, he published a report this month comparing how the economic fallout from its five-year-old crisis compared with the bouts of turmoil suffered in the last two decades by Turkey, Argentina, Latvia and Thailand. The result illustrates why Commerzbank sees a 50% chance of Greece ultimately leaving the euro area. While Athens has imposed the tightest fiscal squeeze of the five and pushed its budget balance excluding interest payments into surplus from a deficit of about 10% of gross domestic product in 2009, Turkey and Argentina were doing better at the same stage. Even worse, debt of around 175% of GDP is bigger than the 110% at the outset and surpasses those of all the other crisis-hit economies five years on. Turkey managed to cut its debt to 35% from 100% without defaulting.
The amount of lost output is also bigger in Greece than the other economies, all of which had begun to recover by now, and its 25% unemployment is higher. The IMF estimates the Greek economy will be 20% smaller this year than in 2009. To Quijano-Evans, such data reflect how Greece’s economy failed to improve with assistance and austerity. It also demonstrates the challenge of trying to revive an economy without a currency of its own. “Under normal circumstances, if a country adjusts its fiscal backdrop in a meaningful way and allows its exchange rate to float freely, one eventually sees that passing through into a stronger economic picture, coupled with a drop in debt/GDP,” said Quijano-Evans.
“Only a fraction of the 1.4 million people out of work receive unemployment benefits.”
Manolis Rallakis likes to take to the streets to fight for his rights. Battles have come and gone – but always been won. “The lost battle is the battle never fought,” says the retired metal worker, his eyes fixed in a steely glare – “and now we are fighting the battle of our lives.” Seated in his lounge adorned with prints on orange walls, the 75-year-old embodies the Greek trade unionist par excellence: Rallakis is general secretary of the federation of the country’s pensioners. His own pension has been cut by a third to €1,100 (£780) since Greece’s debt crisis began. But while some may view that as poor remuneration for 37 years of welding carriages in an Athenian factory, Rallakis counts himself lucky.
“It is enough just to cover the absolute essentials and is more than most,” he says on the day he led a protest march through Athens. “What we want is not only to retain the pensions we now have, but win back everything they stole from us.” Rallakis’s fighting spirit might have gone unnoticed if the row over pensions and the need for reform were not also at the heart of the prolonged standoff between Greece and the international lenders keeping the country afloat. In the five years that debt-stricken Athens has struggled to remain solvent – surviving on rescue loans issued by the EU, the ECB and the IMF – pensioners have disproportionately endured the austerity meted out in return for the bailouts.
Nearly 45% of Greece’s 2.5 million retirees now live on incomes of less than €665 a month – below the poverty line defined by the EU. Over half that number fell below the threshold at the start of the crisis in late 2009. Only a fraction of the 1.4 million people out of work receive unemployment benefits. A statement released by the office of Greece’s deputy prime minister, Yannis Dragasakis, recently declared: “After five years of recession and a ‘war-time’ cumulative loss of 25% of GDP, pensions have become the last social safety net preventing Greek society from completely falling apart. The elderly population is literally feeding the rest of the family.”
In both Italy and Greece, pensions are a safety net for the entire society. Cutting pensions means either having to increase spending elsewhere or condemning your people to misery.
Matteo Renzi seems to have won a tricky pension battle. But Italy’s prime minister has only skirmished with the real enemy. Italy has a toxic mix of a generous government-funded pension system, an ageing population and slow GDP growth. The distant future looks all right, thanks to the 2011 Fornero reform, which pushed up the retirement age for most current workers. However, that reform mostly spared existing pensioners, who are a burden on state finances and current workers. The European Commission estimates pension costs at 15.5% of Italian GDP in 2020, the second highest in the euro zone after Greece. In his first 14 months in office, Renzi had stayed away from proposing further reforms.
He was pulled in on April 30, when the constitutional court overturned one part of the Fornero package which did have immediate effect. The restoration of original payments for some high earners could have cost the state €18 billion. That number could have disrupted Rome’s relations with Brussels. It would bring the Italian fiscal deficit to 3.6% of GDP, too high for Italy to qualify for the fiscal leeway the Commission gives to firm reformers. However, Renzi has come back with a €2.2 billion “bonus” to some of the likely claimants. The move is sure to invite litigation, but the government has shrewdly pitched it as progressive and equitable, and so in keeping with the court’s demand. Besides, the court’s verdict was barely passed so a small settlement may be enough to appease the majority.
As for current costs, Renzi is in danger of moving in the wrong direction. He has suggested allowing more early retirements, to open up jobs for the country’s small army of unemployed young people. That shift could push up the state pension obligations even further. Universal pension cuts are always unpopular. But high pension expense drains government spending away from more productive areas, like education, while high worker and employer contributions discourage job creation and encourage black-market activity. Renzi presents himself as a fighter of vested interests and Italy’s gerontocracy. Pension reform is an opportunity to show he means what he says.
Curious to blame it all on shortage, and none on speculation and foreign investors. So more houses are supposed to bring down prices. But is that what Cameron wants? Is it what the banks want?
The number of young adults able to buy homes could fall nearly 50% within five years unless the government addresses the housing shortage, a report has claimed. Over the past decade, home ownership among 25-34-year-olds has dropped by a third, from 1.8m to 1.2m, and analysis by the housing charity Shelter published on Friday suggests that if current trends continue, the number of young homeowners will drop to about 616,600 by the end of this parliament. This would mean that less than 20% in that age group would have made it on to the property ladder, compared with nearly 60% a decade ago. In recent years, soaring house prices and problems with getting mortgages have pushed more young households into the private rented sector.
In 2004, just over 675,000 people aged 25-34 were tenants. However, by 2014, the number was 1.6m. As home ownership becomes increasingly difficult, Shelter said the number of renters could rise to 2.3m by 2020. In addition, it said, a “clipped-wing generation” of young adults living with their parents had emerged. The report followed government figures showing that the number of new homes built last year remained well below the level needed to meet demand. A total of 125,110 homes were built in England in 2014-15, up from 112,400 the previous year, but this is half the rate some experts say is needed. Those stuck in rented accommodation have seen rents rise by 4.6% over the past year, according to figures from letting agents Your Move and Reeds Rains.
The increase, the fastest recorded by the index since November 2010, pushed the average rent in England and Wales to a new high of £774 a month. In London, the average was up 7.8% year-on-year at £1,204. For homeowners and buyers, however, the mortgage price war is continuing to push rates down to record lows, with one leading lender unveiling the UK’s cheapest two-year fixed-rate home loan, priced at 1.07%. The new loan, from Yorkshire building society, trumps a 1.09% deal launched by Co-operative Bank earlier this month. However, the Yorkshire’s mortgage has a £1,369 product fee and is available only to customers able to stump up a hefty 35% deposit. Rachel Springall, at Moneyfacts.co.uk, said the new home loan was “the lowest ever fixed mortgage on record”, adding: “With the rate war ongoing, this is the perfect time for borrowers to secure a low fixed rate.”
Funny. I see a whole different future for Saudi Arabia. Note the Export Land Model: “more than 25% of its total crude production — more than 10m barrels a day — is used domestically”
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, could phase out the use of fossil fuels by the middle of this century, Ali al-Naimi, the kingdom’s oil minister, said on Thursday. The statement represents a stunning admission by a nation whose wealth, power and outsize influence in the world are predicated on its vast reserves of crude oil. Mr Naimi, whose comments on oil supply routinely move markets, told a conference in Paris on business and climate change: “In Saudi Arabia, we recognise that eventually, one of these days, we are not going to need fossil fuels. I don’t know when, in 2040, 2050 or thereafter.” For that reason, he said, the kingdom planned to become a “global power in solar and wind energy” and could start exporting electricity instead of fossil fuels in coming years.
Many in the energy industry would find his target of a 2040 phase-out too ambitious. Saudi Arabia is the largest consumer of petroleum in the Middle East, and more than 25% of its total crude production — more than 10m barrels a day — is used domestically. A 2012 Citigroup report said that if Saudi oil demand continued to grow at current rates, the country could be a net oil importer by 2030. But while acknowledging that Saudi Arabia would one day stop using oil, gas and coal, Mr Naimi said calls to leave the bulk of the world’s known fossil fuels in the ground to avoid risky levels of climate change needed to be put “in the back of our heads for a while”. “Can you afford that today?” he asked other conference speakers, including British economist, Nick Stern, author of a 2006 UK government report on the economics of climate change. “It may be a great objective but it is going to take a long time.”
The Bank of Japan on Friday kept its massive monetary stimulus program intact, as widely expected, and revised up its assessment of the economy, but analysts remain unconvinced the central bank is done with its easing campaign. In an 8-1 vote, the central bank pledged to increase base money at an annual pace of 80 trillion yen ($660 billion) through purchases of government bonds and risky assets. In a statement, the BOJ maintained that the world’s third-largest economy has continued to recover moderately.
“The (BOJ) economic assessment was more upbeat than at previous meetings. Policymakers no longer see a sluggish recovery in some areas of private consumption, but now judge consumer spending as ‘resilient’ without qualification,” Marcel Thieliant, Japan economist with Capital Economics, wrote in a note. The decision followed the latest growth data from Japan on Wednesday that showed the economy expanding an annualized 2.4% in the first quarter, better than expected and following the 1.5% annualized growth in the fourth quarter. “It came as no surprise that the Bank of Japan left policy settings unchanged today, and the apparent strength in Q1 GDP suggests that additional easing in July is off the table,” said Thieliant.
Still, market watchers say further easing is inevitable down the line with the consumer inflation rate far from the BOJ’s target of 2%. Nationwide consumer inflation rate stood at 0.2% in March. Since embarking on the quantitative easing program in April 2013, the BOJ expanded the program just once, in October last year. “We continue to think that the BoJ will be forced to opt for additional easing into October as the board’s inflation rate forecast is turning out too optimistic. Triggers for additional easing moves will be downshifts in expected inflation rates and material softening of ex-energy CPI,” Hiromichi Shirakawa, managing director of Japan economics at Credit Suisse, wrote in a note.
Crash of all crashes.
Western Australia is facing serious problems. Plunging commodity prices are forcing iron ore mines to shut, mining companies to cut jobs, and tax revenue for the state coffers to plummet. But one of the big casualties in this painful process that hasn’t received a lot of attention is the WA property market. Many investors have been left high and dry by the drop in property values, which is having a flow-on effect in the capital. While property prices march forward in Sydney and Melbourne, it is a very different story on the ground in both Perth and the mining towns where many investment properties now lie empty.
Rental returns in mining towns have dropped by as much as 50%, according to the president of the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia, David Airey, with Karratha and Port Hedland among the biggest losers. Where they once commanded high rents and high sale prices, the towns are now struggling to attract either. “If you borrowed $1 million for a property in Karratha that used to be worth $1.2 million then you might be under water,” Mr Airey says. According to Richard Young, CEO of Perth-based Caporn Young Estate Agents, the situation is dire in some pockets. He recently heard of a house in Port Hedland that was bought a few years ago for $1.2 million and attracted a bid of $320,000 at auction recently. “That was the highest offer they could secure,” Mr Young says.
What’s it worth to you?
Greece has revealed it’s been asked by the US to prolong anti-Russia sanctions. However, Athens stressed Russia is a strategic ally and the ‘sanction war’ is causing it an estimated loss of €4 billion a year. “I was asked to support the prolongation of the sanctions, particularly in connection with Crimea. I explained the Ukrainian issue was very sensitive for Greece as some 300,000 Greeks live in Mariupol and its neighborhood, and they feel safe next to the Orthodox Church, ” Defense Minister Panos Kammenos is cited as saying on the Ministry of National Defense website on Wednesday. Russia is Greece’s ally and a friendly country, our countries have “unbreakable ties” of common religion, and we have economic ties as well, the Minister told Deputy US Defense Secretary Christine Wormuth in Washington.
Greece has lost more than €4 billion ($4.5 billion) as a result of the anti-Russia sanctions, he added. “Annually about 1.5 million Russian tourists visit Greece. We export agricultural products to Russia. I explained that the European Union does not reimburse losses to Greek farmers on these issues,” Kammenos said. Russia and Greece have been improving economic cooperation lately; last month Moscow invited Athens to become the sixth member of the BRICS New Development Bank. Greece said it was interested in the offer. The Greek government agreed a number of strategic deals with Russia during Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ visit to Moscow in April, including participation in the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project that will deliver Russian gas to Europe via Greece.
Two new laws that ban communist symbols while honouring nationalist groups that collaborated with the Nazis have come into effect in Ukraine, raising concerns that Kiev could be stifling free speech and further fragmenting the war-torn country in the rush to break ties with its Soviet past. The first law “on the condemnation of the communist and Nazi totalitarian regimes” forbids both Soviet and Nazi symbols, making something as trivial as selling a USSR souvenir, or singing the Soviet national hymn or the Internationale, punishable by up to five years in prison for an individual and up to 10 years in prison for members of an organisation. It also makes it a criminal offence to deny the “criminal character of the communist totalitarian regime of 1917-1991 in Ukraine” in the media or elsewhere.
The second law recognises controversial nationalist groups – including the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) – as “independence fighters” and makes it a criminal offence to question the legitimacy of their actions. While these two groups at different times fought both Soviet and German forces, they also collaborated with the Nazis and took part in ethnic cleansing. One of the authors of the law is the son of UPA leader Roman Shukhevych. Supporters of the laws say they are a way to build a national identity and condemn totalitarianism, but the legislation has been roundly condemned by academics and human rights organisations, as well as Ukrainian activists. While other eastern European countries have also banned communist symbols, Ukraine’s law is more wide-reaching than previous measures.
“..the mess that Obama’s people have created in Ukraine by their coup and subsequent ethnic-cleansing to eliminate the residents of Donbass, will take decades, if ever, to repair..”
International media have failed to highlight the ultimate failure of Washington’s policy in Ukraine, investigative historian Eric Zuesse emphasized, referring to remarks by US Secretary of State John Kerry in response to Petro Poroshenko’s oath to retake Crimea and the Donetsk Airport. “I have not had a chance – I have not read the speech. I haven’t seen any context. I have simply heard about it in the course of today [which would be shocking if true]. But if indeed President Poroshenko is advocating an engagement in a forceful effort at this time, we would strongly urge him to think twice not to engage in that kind of activity, that that would put Minsk in serious jeopardy. And we would be very, very concerned about what the consequences of that kind of action at this time may be,” John Kerry said during a press conference in Sochi, as cited by the historian.
Eric Zuesse stressed that the remark has clearly demonstrated that the Obama administration has thrown in the towel on Washington’s original plan for Ukraine, which was purportedly aimed at an all-out military invasion of the eastern regions. Victoria Nuland, who was responsible for the plan since the very beginning, is now sidelined, the expert underscored. According to Eric Zuesse, Obama has sent a clear message through Kerry to Ukrainian President Poroshenko, and indirectly to Nuland’s protégé Prime Minister Yatsenyuk as well as to outright Nazi Dmytro Yarosh, stating: “we’ll back you only as long as you accept that you have failed our military expectations and that we will be stricter with you in the future regarding how you spend our military money.”
So far, the Obama administration has shifted the goalposts and jumped at the opportunity to join the Normandy talks on Ukraine, the expert noted. “Merkel and Hollande thus won. Putin had decidedly won. Obama and the Nazis he had empowered in Ukraine have now, clearly, been defeated,” Eric Zuesse stressed. “But the mess that Obama’s people have created in Ukraine by their coup and subsequent ethnic-cleansing to eliminate the residents of Donbass, will take decades, if ever, to repair,” the expert added bitterly.