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Mon, 29 Aug 2016
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Pirates of the Aegean: Who profited from the $440 billion Greek bailout? Not the Greeks

© Reuters
Protesters wave Greek and EU flags in front of the parliament building, in Athens, Greece, June 30, 2015.
Hundreds of billions of dollars in loans haven't helped the Greek economy or its people.

This week marks the first anniversary of the 2015 Greek debt crisis, the third in that country's recent history since 2010. Last Aug. 20-21, 2015, the 'Troika'—i.e., the pan-European institutions of the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB), plus the IMF-imposed a third debt deal on Greece. Greece was given US$98 billion in loans from the Troika. A previous 2012 Troika imposed debt deal had added nearly US$200 billion to an initial 2010 debt deal of US$140 billion.

That's approximately US$440 billion in Troika loans over a five year period, 2010-2015. The question is: who is benefitting from the US$440 billion? It's not Greece. If not the Greek economy and its people, then who? And have we seen the last of Greek debt crises?

One might think that US$440 billion in loans would have helped Greece recover from the global recession of 2008-09, the second European recession of 2011-13 that followed, and the Europe-wide chronic, stagnant economic growth ever since. But no, the US$440 billion in debt the Troika piled on Greece has actually impoverished Greece even further, condemning it to eight years of economic depression with no end in sight.

To pay for the US$440 billion, in three successive debt agreements the Troika has required Greece to cut government spending on social services, eliminate hundreds of thousands of government jobs, lower wages for public and private sector workers, reduce the minimum wage, cut and eliminate pensions, raise the cost of workers' health care contributions, and pay higher sales and local property taxes. As part of austerity, the Troika has also required Greece to sell off its government-owned utilities, ports, and transport systems at 'firesale' (i.e. below) market prices.


Gun stash found inside former Fox News head Roger Ailes office

© AP Photo/ Richard Drew
Two guns were discovered in the office of recently departed Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. His lawyer claims the weapons are permitted and were purchased legally.

The two handguns, a Smith and Wesson and a Glock, were accompanied by ammunition. Susan Estrich, Ailes' attorney, said, "Roger has a permit for those two guns," explaining that the 76-year-old executive is licensed to carry a handgun in New York "for his personal protection," and that "Those guns are licensed and appropriate."


Lavrov and Kerry wrap up 12-hours-long talks in Geneva

© Александр Щербак/ТАСС
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have rounded up the talks on Syria, which they have been holding in Geneva for more than 12 hours.

Coordination of Moscow and Washington's efforts in fighting with terrorists in Syria was the main issue on the agenda.

Talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that lasted more than 12 hours were dominated by discussions of the situation in Syria and Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a news briefing here upon their completion.

He said he was thankful to Lavrov for speding the whole day at the table of negotiations, adding that the talks had been long but constructive.

Comment: Kerry also reiterated the US line on 'barrel bombs' and the use of chlorine gas by Assad ahead of the UN report: Russia urges 'caution' on UN's Syria chemical weapons report, will discuss it with US.


Light wars: N. Korea threatens to fire at lighting equipment of US, S. Korean troops near its border

© KCNA / Reuters
North Korea has threatened to fire at lighting equipment being used by the US and South Korean militaries at a village inside the Demilitarized Zone.

An official statement by the North's Korean People's Army accuses US and South Korean troops of initiating "deliberate provocations" by targeting North Korean posts with the lights. The accusations were cited by AP.

The statement comes just a few hours after the UN Security Council slammed North Korea for launching four missiles over the last two months.


Turkey intervenes in Syria with US support: The end for Kurdish autonomy or independence?

Fierce fighting broke out in Hasakah, in northeast Syria last week, pitting the Syrian government's National Defense Forces (NDF) against US-backed Kurdish YPG and Asayish security forces. Control of the city is divided between the Syrian government and the Kurds, and after a relatively peaceful relationship, the question has to be asked: what incited the clashes?

The Syrian army reported a ceasefire violation on 16 August of the YPG firing mortars at their positions. The Governor of Hasakah, Mohammad Za'al al-Ala, said that Kurdish forces blocked the Hasakah-Qamishli road last week and prevented the military, police and security forces from joining other forces. An apparent ceasefire agreement has been struck, although it reads more as a capitulation by the Syrian government and NDF forces. The YPG had earlier called for Syrian government forces to leave the city, which this agreement insists upon. The map below, showing the encirclement of loyalist/NDF forces suggests this may be a wise strategic withdrawal.
The ceasefire came into effect at 2pm on Tuesday, following Kurdish YPG efforts to capture the government-held areas of the city. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the YPG is now in control of nearly all of Hasakah.


Bolivia in the cross-hairs: U.S. ramps up hybrid war efforts in wake of Chinese-Russian strategic partnerships with Bolivia

Editor's Note: Andrew Korybko's Context Countdown episode from 19 August predicted the onset of Hybrid War against Bolivia, which has now come true with the breaking news that the rioting 'opposition' kidnapped and killed the country's deputy interior minister. We're therefore publishing his transcript from that show to inform our readers about the background context to these events and share Korybko's forecast from that time)

So I was scanning Telesur's website the other day and a pretty interesting story caught my eye. It said that Bolivia had begun exporting 10 tons of lithium to China as the start of what the country hopes will flourish into a multimillion-dollar partnership in the near future. The reason why this is such a big deal and I'm talking about it with you all is because lithium is an integral component of most of our cell phones and electric car batteries, and estimates vary over the size of Bolivia's deposits, with the article saying that the government says it holds 70% of the global total, while the US retorts that this is just about 7%, or 10x less. Regardless of what the actual number really is, the fact that China - the factory of the world - is able to diversify its imports of this rare earth mineral strengthens Beijing's supply strain security with this strategic commodity, and it also pairs well with the billion-dollar coltan investment that it made in the Congo a few months back and which I also covered at the time on Context Countdown. Taken together, China is positioning itself for dominance in the cell phone and electric car industries, which will make it a future leader in these industries.



Hungary and Czech Republic speak out in favor of European army

© Elvis Barukcic / AFP
The drive to create a joint European army appears to be gaining momentum with the Czech Republic and Hungary both speaking out in favor of deeper defense ties on the continent, in moves which are likely to rile NATO.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has championed the move to create a joint defense force on a number of occasions, says that a joint European army was needed to ensure security.

"We should list the issue of security as a priority, and we should start setting up a common European army," he said on Friday, during a meeting between Hungarian, Czech, Polish, Slovak leaders and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Warsaw, as cited by Retuers.

In July, Orban, who is a staunch critic of the EU's migration policies, said that the union must look to create its own military following the United Kingdom's decision to leave the bloc.

"We need a real army, in which there'll be understanding; in which the orders are given to the same language," the Hungarian PM said.

Light Sabers

Lavrov in marathon talks with Kerry in Geneva over Syria crisis

© AFP/File | Natalia Kolesnikova
Russian FM Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart John Kerry have met in Geneva to discuss a peaceful solution to resolve the Syrian crisis. They have been in talks behind closed doors for hours with the UN's Syria envoy making an unexpected visit.

The meeting of the two top diplomats' meeting is taking place at the President Wilson Hotel in Geneva. The discussion that by far has taken over 10 hours and is still not over is hoped to lead the restart of peace talks on a political transition in Syria.

The two were joined by the UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura. It was not clear during the day whether the UN Syria envoy would join the negotiators to share his views on how to put an end to the five-year war.

The main point of the negotiations is to involve "the prospects of arranging a close coordination of Russia's and US efforts in fight against terrorist groups in Syria," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said earlier.


Prime Minister of Slovakia calls on EU to end anti-Russian sanctions

© Stephane Mahe / Reuters
Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has once again called on the European Union to put an end to the sanctions imposed on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, saying they have proved ineffective.

The call to withdraw the sanctions came after a meeting between Fico and Russian President Vladimir Putin that was held in Moscow on Thursday.

"I personally think that it's time to address the subject rationally and admit that they harm both the EU and Russia," the Slovak PM wrote in a post on his Facebook page accompanied by a photo from his meeting with the Russian president.

The matter of sanctions is expected to be discussed during the EU foreign ministers' meeting next week that Slovakia will chair, as it currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

"They [sanctions] did nothing for (solving) the sensitive issues which they were supposed to deal with. We agreed with Vladimir Putin that our common goal is to restore our trade ties," Fico added.


Abedin emails: 1/3 are 100% redacted, deemed 'too sensitive' for Congress

© redstatewatcher.com
Judicial Watch's release this week of 725 pages of State Department emails involving Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin demonstrates the Obama administration considers a large percentage of the emails sent through Clinton's private server too sensitive for Congress or the American public to read. Of the 725 pages, more than 250 pages were 100 percent redacted, many with "PAGE DENIED" stamped in bold.

Judicial Watch said the new cache includes previously unreleased email exchanges in which former Abedin "provided influential Clinton Foundation donors special, expedited access to the secretary of state." Judicial Watch added that in many instances, the preferential treatment provided to donors was at the specific request of Clinton Foundation executive Douglas Band.

"The Abedin emails reveal that the longtime Clinton aide apparently served as a conduit between Clinton Foundation donors and Hillary Clinton while Clinton served as secretary of state. In more than a dozen email exchanges, Abedin provided expedited, direct access to Clinton for donors who had contributed from $25,000 to $10 million to the Clinton Foundation," Judicial Watch said in a statement announcing the release. "In many instances, Clinton Foundation top executive Doug Band, who worked with the Foundation throughout Hillary Clinton's tenure at State, coordinated closely with Abedin."

100 percent redaction

Previous releases of Clinton emails have forced the Obama administration to admit highly sensitive State Department information was transmitted over Clinton's private email server.

On July 7, Charles McCullough, the inspector general of the intelligence community for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, admitted his office did not have the security clearances required to read the emails transmitted over Clinton's private email server that Congress was demanding to see.

See C-SPAN video of McCullough's testimony:

Comment: The noose is tightening. Will it be in time to save the nation???