Coordinated Attacks in London

Share this

The UK capital saw 3 notable attacks Saturday. including on London Bridge, at Borough Market, and at Vauxhall. London authorities are currently saying that the London Bridge and Borough Market are connected and are being treated as “terrorist” actions, but the Vauxhall is currently considered separate.

The attacks include a vehicle hitting pedestrians and stabbings.

There were fatalities in addition to many people being injured.

The use of vehicles as the weapon of choice for violent Muslim attackers in Europe is of a special concern as it doesn’t even require the special and somewhat technical knowledge and supplies as do explosives, the other go-to weapon.

The last big attack in London was a week and a half ago (May 23) at the Ariana Grande concert. England has been on “serious” threat level of an Islamist attack for a long time now, but after the concert bombing the threat level was raised to “critical” because authorities feared attacks on public and cultural sites may be imminent. It was then reduced to “serious” again.

UK security officials have spoken about the phenomena, and the general tone is that they already stop a lot of attacks each year, but they can’t stop them all.

‘EU Is Risking Itself’ – George Soros

Share this

Multi-Track Europe – Dysfunctional institutions – Peaceful Brexit – Reinvented EU

The American billionaire warned the EU this week that it was risking its own existence because of “dysfunctional institutions, a persistent austerity policy and outdated treaties.

“If the European Union carries on with business as usual, there is little hope for an improvement,” Soros said.

The Hungarian-born speculator had a lot of advice to give the EU. He said EU countries are interested in more control over their territory, not less as in the EU “ever closer union” doctrine. The UK had already voted to leave the EU, and populist trends in other countries were growing, so the EU should offer a “multi-track” Europe rather than a “multi-speed” one, in order to offer member states more options.

The three things Soros particularly stressed the EU improve their stance on: territorial disintegration, the refugee crisis, and the lack of adequate economic growth.

The upcoming Brexit negotiations would be important, Soros said, so the EU should behave with a “constructive spirit” and resist any urge to try to punish the UK. Brexit will already be damaging and harmful to both sides.

He said the EU should use Brexit negotiations to introduce far-reaching reforms and be “radically reinvented.”

Swiss Court Fines Man for Liking Defamatory Comment

Share this

The original post on Facebook was about whether animal rights groups should be allowed to take part in vegan street festivals, and it became discussed heatedly.

Several people were fined by the courts for making comments it deemed defamatory, and one man was fined for “liking” some comments which accused an animal rights activist of racism and antisemitism.

That activist was Erwin Kessler, who brought the lawsuit against the participants.

According to the court, “the defendant clearly endorsed the unseemly content and made it his own,” when he hit the “like” button.

Gotland Remilitarized

Share this

Sweden is fortifying its island against potential incursion by Russia. They are conducting military exercises on the island.

The island was demilitarized 12 years ago, assuming then that Russia had become weak or non-threatening. But in light of recent Russian military activity in Crimea and Ukraine, Sweden has stepped up defenses.

Gotland has a strategic location, near to Russian Kaliningrad and also Latvia. From the island, both air and sea can be affected by military forces.

Sweden, one of the non-NATO European countries, is going to re-introduce conscription and will increase military spending 11% over the next 5 years.

Trump at NATO Meeting

Share this

The president met with other world leaders in Brussels this week — a meeting for an organization he last year called “obsolete” in the city he last year called a “hell hole.”

Analysts noted that world leaders seemed somewhat dismayed about Trump’s continued insistence they pay more money. Trump reminded them many nations owe large amounts for their defense.

Trump also met with the two leaders of the EU, another institution previously heavily criticized by Trump, and with France’s new leader Macron.

Assange’s Sex Charges Dropped

Share this

Julian Assange has been holed up in a room in London for years after being given refuge by Equador in their London embassy building. In 2010, he was charged with sex crimes in Sweden — a couple of women he was involved with at the time made complaints not long after Wikileaks published video and other documents of American military activities in the Middle East — and Assange fled to England. British courts in 2012 ruled Assange should be given up to Sweden, and Assange violated his bail to flee to the embassy.

He has lived indoors since then, only making public appearances from a balcony or via the internet.

The case has been repeatedly reviewed by Swedish courts, and now they have found that in the interests of proportionality it is not worth continuing. Essentially, authorities made the decision because all legal options had been exhausted and because the prosecutor wasn’t working harder to pursue the matter.

The Swedish public prosecutor wrote in a statement, “In view of this, and that to continue with legal proceedings would require Julian Assange’s personal appearance in court, there is no longer any reason to continue with the investigation.”

The validity of the charges have always been questioned. There have been claims the charges were politically motivated because the U.S. government was very upset with the recent leaks.

The women in question are ones who each met Assange at conferences he was a speaker at and had consensual sex. Later on, the two women discussed Assange, and afterwards laid charges for forms of non-consensual sex (alleged to have happened in addition to the consensual sex). One of the charges was molestation, one was for unlawful coercion, and one was rape, according to Swedish law (the alleged acts had to do with not wearing condoms although the woman said he must and sex while the partner was sleeping). Originally, Swedish prosecutors didn’t think there was evidence of rape and that the molestation charge would still go forward but it wasn’t serious enough for a warrant. The lawyer for the 2 women made an appeal to a special department and after police interviewed Assange, the director of prosecution reopened the case for rape.

Over time, the molestation and unlawful coersion charge was dropped because Swedish authorities ran out of time to question Assange, and the UN found Assange was being arbitrarily detained and should be compensated for “deprivation of liberty.” The rape charge was the only one remaining until now, although Assange may still be found in contempt of court for violating his bail and fleeing.

British authorities have said Assange will be arrested if he leaves the embassy. The expectation is that he would then be extradited to the U.S.

Macron Still Faces Challenges

Share this

The French president-elect, the youngest leader of the country since Napoleon and a man who was unknown a year ago, could find himself without much power to act if he doesn’t quickly form a movement to win a majority in the French national assembly.

In the run up to the election, two candidates were chosen from a dozen, with Macron getting voter support from 24% of French citizens and Le Pen getting 22%.

Between the two candidates, Macron won a decisive victory, getting 65% of the votes in an election in which relatively few people went out to vote for either option. In all, less than a third of the country voted for the president in the election.

Evidence of how divided France is can be seen in the 35% garnered by Le Pen, whose political views are considered extreme and very different from those of the new president, who was the first choice of less than a quarter of the French public. Another important statistic: 40% of France is against the EU (which represents globalization in Europe), which Macron is in favor of.

Analysts said that there has never been a similar situation in French political life.

First Pack of Wolves in Denmark in 200 Years

Share this

Scientists might know the general whereabouts of up to 40 wolves in the country, but they are keeping the location secret because they fear public attention would have a negative impact on the wolves, which haven’t existed in Denmark for 200 years.

It’s thought the current inhabitants are making their way from Germany, about 500 kilometers away. One was spotted in Jutland 5 years ago.

The big news is of a recent sighting of a pair on CCTV, male and female, which generally only come together briefly to mate. Scientists predict there may be cubs within the the next year or two.

In other Northern European countries as well, a slight increase in wolves has been reported. They are harassing farmers and killing sheep and deer.

France: No Mainstream President

Share this

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen advance to the final round of the French election set for May 17.

Macron is a politically inexperienced former investment banker in favor of staying in the EU and reforming French economic laws. His supporters often consider Le Pen extremist.

Le Pen is anti-immigration and is in favor of laws restricting some public displays of Muslim culture, such as head scarves, in favor of “France first.” The group that supports this candidate is considered fairly far-Right, and they value more control for France, including being allowed to regulate the borders, manage their currency (devalue it if they want to), and to have tools to combat the ill effects of globalization.

Both candidates combined received less than 50% of the vote, so many people will be making a second choice in the election.

Humanitarian crisis in Greece with closure of ERT news organization and mass layoffs

Humanitarian crisis in Greece with closure of ERT news organization and mass layoffs
Share this

THESSALONIKI, Greece — Over the past weeks, many hours of airtime and many inches of newspaper columns have been dedicated to the controversy of Greek national debt. The “modest proposal” presented by the Greek Government for debt renegotiations has drawn the attention of media across Europe.

The Greek side of the debate has voiced great concern about the austerity policies applied with bailout packages by the International Monetary Fund, European Commission and European Central Bank. Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, has urged for time to deal with the furthering humanitarian crisis taking place within the country.

Recent reforms forced by the current Greek Government since 2011 include cuts to salaries, pensions, jobs in the public services and increased taxation have helped feed an unprecedented financial crisis which has eventually turned into a social one.

Employment statistics provide testimony to the above; Greece is on the top of Eurostat’s unemployment rates table for December, 2014, with 25.8 percent unemployed. In other words, approximately 1.5 million people are jobless.

2,656 jobless in one night

The instance of the Hellenic Public Broadcasting Corporation in Radio and Television (ERT) is a symbolic act reflecting the brutal austerity policies adopted in Greece. On June 11, 2013, the spokesman of the then Greek Government, Simos Kedikoglou, issued a statement announcing that ERT had been a corrupt and expensive organization encumbering on tax payers’ money and should stop broadcasting. A legislative act was issued by Greece’s Conservative-led coalition government the same day of Kedikoglou’s statement.

“ERT is a case of an exceptional lack of transparency and incredible extravagance. This ends now,” Kedikoglou claimed. The operations of the historic worldwide network went off air overnight. Police troops cleared the headquarters of ERT in Agia Paraskevi, Athens, cutting off the power and seizing all equipment the day after.

Outrage over the event of the “black” monitors — as people widely referred to the ERT’s shutdown – was massive. Within the night, more than 2,600 workers across ERT’s Radio, TV and Arts departments were dismissed. According to reports, a large number of them have not yet received salaries for the last months before the closure, nor their legally-entitled redundancy payments.

Almost 2 years since then, the heart of ERT is still beating, 300 kilometers away from Athens in the Greek vice-capital, Thessaloniki. Christina Siganidou, an active journalist and anchorwoman for ERT for the past 19 years, is among the last 60 people remaining in service in the newsroom of the ERT online broadcasting from Stratou Avenue, Thessaloniki.

(Photo; Konstantinos Koulocheris)

“The overall experience has been amazing so far,” she said. “We have became a solid team working voluntarily with the assistance of a few members of the technical staff trade union of ERT.”

Critics and political circles claimed that the corporation was one of the most expensive state-owned broadcasters in Europe, with a 328 million euros funding per year, but nevertheless ERT was profitable considering the vastness of its coverage, not only nation-wide but also globally with its own satellite service.

The experienced anchorwoman then referred to the political interests that have been largely involved with the hiring policies of the corporation over the past decades. When asked about issues of opacity and extravagance within ERT practices, Siganidou admitted that indeed “there were scandals in the operation of ERT, but the responsibility for these is not the staff, but those who forced the ‘black.'”

Siganidou also referred to the closure of ERT as a dreadful act of censorship of the Media, placing further blame on the management of the public broadcaster during past years.

The prospect of cathartic reforms of ERT’s structure and practice has been the topic of a major debate between the staff trade union, POSPERT, and the State. Most of the proposals involved strict fiscal and hiring regulations, but the talks have not brought any definite results.

Sissy Gerogianni had been in the newsroom for 18 consecutive days by the day we talked. She joined ERT in 2000 as a staff secretary. “We will remain here for as long as we have to, she told me. “If someone would have told us that we would stay on here for 20 months as unpaid volunteers, we wouldn’t have believed them.”

On the day of the “black,” Gerogianni explained, “police troops didn’t try to re-occupy the offices because they used us as an alibi to provoke further social unrest.” Referring to the future, Gerogianni declared that everyone at the office had expectations about the new elected government. “We never accepted our dismissals, and this is why we are still here.”

Christos Avramidis is another member of the ERT’s newsroom for the past 12 years who remains in his position despite the closure of the organisation.

On the occupation of the facilities in Thessaloniki and the fact that police troops didn’t try to “clean-up” and seize the building as they did in ERT’s headquarters in Athens the day of the “black,” Avramidis claimed that “they wouldn’t get in while they were passing anti-social laws through heavy taxation of the working class at the time.”

He also  noted that,  “this was a victory for the workers’ movement not only here, but wider, across the whole country.”

New broadcaster in the post-ERT era


In the aftermath of the closure of ERT, the Greek government announced the establishment of a new low-cost public broadcaster with Radio, TV and Internet departments to fill the gap left by ERT. New Hellenic Radio Internet and Television (NERIT) broadcasted nationwide less than one year after ERT’s closure, on the May, 4, 2014. ERT employers still are not acknowledging the existence of the newly-formed public broadcaster.

A few blocks away from ERT’s newsroom, at Aggelaki street in the Greek vice-capital, is the NERIT office. Xanthos Chitas, a former ERT news director since 1992 is now working for the organization.

“The effort to make a new public broadcaster in the post-ERT era was the right thing to do,” Chitas remarked as our interview began. “I don’t know and I don’t think that ERT was indeed an expensive operator. I have no evidence for it — and it would be wise for anyone with evidence to speak when it comes to blaming such an institution as ERT was.”

Chitas is not an advocate of the decision to close ERT. “I am against the ‘black signal.’ I don’t think that anyone agreed to what happened. It was unacceptable,” he argued. “It was censorship of freedom of speech in the media. ERT had the biggest geographical and population coverage. It was unacceptable to close it the way they did it, especially for the staff — both journalists and technicians. Those who are still there deserve more than just credit.”

In a review of the facts since the “black” of ERT, many have linked the government’s call to shut down the public broadcaster to private corporations’ convenience. In this regard the former journalist of ERT, and now member of NERIT’s crew, claimed that “this act had nothing to do with austerity, as many said, nor opacity within ERT. It was an act that privileged the private digital network operators that provide a digital terrestrial television transmission network in Greece — something that ERT was doing by 2013.”

At the time of writing, ERT employees are still on service, operating an online TV program from Thessaloniki available online as well as across 17 local radio stations in the Greek countryside, as wekk as a news’ portal. Their demonstrations have been supported by the majority of the labour population in Greece and European media corporations. The new-elected coalition government of SYRIZA and Independent Greeks political parties has promised to reopen the public broadcaster in the near future.

The instance of ERT is not the only instance of controversy in the regard of labour rights in Greece. Similar cases in both private and public sectors mirror the negative employment landscape, such as mass dismissals from Hellenic Coca-Cola by 3E Limited and school teachers’ and janitors’ dismissals reflect a crucial part of Greece’s dire job market. The redundancies account for more than 18,000 jobs within in one year.

Analysis by Konstantinos Koulocheris