Emboldened by anti-austerity referendum, Tsipras to address European Parliament on Wednesday
by: Lauren McCauley
In the wake of Greece’s historic ‘No’ vote this weekend, European leaders are scrambling to cement a new deal after the resounding rejection of the austerity program that has heretofore dominated fiscal policy and conversation.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz confirmed that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will address parliament plenary on Wednesday morning. Tsipras is expected to put forth a new written proposal for financial aid, one that reflects the wishes of the people—who on Sunday voted overwhelmingly against the latest bailout offer, which would have imposed further austerity and economic hardship.
On Tuesday, European heads of state are meeting in Brussels to discuss the pending economic crisis. According to reports, Tsipras will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande ahead of the evening’s leaders’ summit to discuss his plan. Tsipras is expected to call for the country’s €323bn ($356bn) debt to be reduced by up to 30 percent, with a 20-year grace period, BBC reports.
Also on Tuesday, the newly appointed Greek Financial Minister Euclid Tsakalotos was sworn in, taking the place of Yanis Varoufakis who on Monday announced his resignation. Though European lenders had reportedly urged for Varoufakis’ resignation as a condition for the continued talks, experts expect Tsakalotos to maintain the same aggressive anti-austerity stance as his predecessor.
Greece native Harry Konstantinidis, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Boston, says he expects Tsipras to present a program “that re-establishes collective bargaining and shifts the burden of adjustment on the wealthier strata of the Greek population rather than on pensioners and low-income people.”
“Of course,” Konstantinidis added, “the likelihood of such a plan being accepted is slim.”
Meanwhile, Greek banks will remain shut on Tuesday and Wednesday and the European Central Bank further increased pressure on the country’s financial system by refusingMonday to increase the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) for Greece.
As the standoff between Europe’s financial elite and the leftist Syriza leadership—now emboldened by the recent referendum—comes to a head, experts are calling for an “ethical approach” to Greece’s economic crisis.
In a column Wednesday, leading economist Jeffrey Sachs—himself a proponent of global capitalism—argues that, in the interest of preserving the eurozone, the onus is on Merkel to step in and propose a “fresh start” for Greece by easing the country’s debt burden. Because, Sachs says, “it is the right thing to do and because it accords with Germany’s own experience and history.”
“To do otherwise at this stage would create an irreparable split between Europe’s rich and poor, and powerful and weak,” Sachs writes.
That idea of an ethical approach to the Greek crisis might sound absurd to readers of the financial press, and many politicians will undoubtedly consider it naive. Yet most European citizens could embrace it as a sensible solution. Europe rose from the rubble of World War II because of the vision of statesmen; now it has been brought to the verge of collapse by the everyday vanities, corruption, and cynicism of bankers and politicians. It is time for statesmanship to return – for the sake of current and future generations in Europe and the world.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
Fifty-two-nation Trade in Services Agreement uses trade regulations ‘as a smokescreen to limit citizen rights,’ says labor leader
Days ahead of another round of secret international negotiations, WikiLeaks on Wednesday released what it described as “a modern journalistic holy grail: the secret Core Text for the largest ‘trade deal’ in history.”
That deal is the Trade in Services Agreement, or TISA, currently being negotiated by 52 nations that together account for two-thirds of global GDP. Those nations are the United States, the 28 members of the European Union, and 23 other countries, including Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, Taiwan, and Israel. According to WikiLeaks, TISA “is the largest component of the United States’ strategic neoliberal ‘trade’ treaty triumvirate,” which also includes the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Pact (TTIP).
“Together, the three treaties form not only a new legal order shaped for transnational corporations, but a new economic ‘grand enclosure,’ which excludes China and all other BRICS countries,” declared WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assangein a press statement. What’s more, it adds, “[a]ll three treaties have been subject to stringent criticism for the lack of transparency and public consultation in their negotiation processes.”
The texts published Wednesday cover everything from financial services to telecommunications to migrant labor protections.
“TISA is exposed as a developed countries’ corporate wish lists for services which seeks to bypass resistance from the global South to this agenda inside the WTO, and to secure an agreement on services without confronting the continued inequities on agriculture, intellectual property, cotton subsidies, and many other issues.”
—Our World Is Not For Sale
Overall, the leak provides further evidence of how “a self-selected group of mainly rich countries” plans to “bypass other governments in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and rewrite its services agreement in the interests of their corporations,”reads an expert analysis penned by University of Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey. “It also makes the new risks from TISA to governments’ right to regulate in their national interest much clearer.”
Or, as the Our World is Not For Sale network said in a statement: “TISA is exposed as a developed countries’ corporate wish lists for services which seeks to bypass resistance from the global South to this agenda inside the WTO, and to secure an agreement on services without confronting the continued inequities on agriculture, intellectual property, cotton subsidies, and many other issues.” The group has been sounding the alarm on TISA since 2013.
As Common Dreams reported last month, previous leaks demonstrated TISA is aimed at further privatizing and deregulating vital services, from transportation to healthcare, with a potentially devastating impact for people of the countries involved in the deal, and the world more broadly.
For example, the Government Procurement (GP) annex, which covers purchasing by all government agencies of services such as construction or infrastructure maintenance, “creates an international legal regime which aims to deregulate and privatize the supply of services—which account for the majority of the economy across TISA countries,” according to WikiLeaks.
In her analysis of that section, Third World Network legal adviser Sanya Reid Smith states that the GP text aims to “undermine the deliberate government policies of a number of developed and developing TISA countries which try to promote their domestic services companies and hence local employment including for Indigenous peoples, etc. through GP laws and policies.”
Another section leaked Wednesday is TISA’s Transparency Annex—but the “transparency” covered in the text has nothing to do with increasing public awareness about the corporate-friendly trade deal.
“There is deep irony whenever governments make commitments to ‘transparency’ in contemporary pro-corporate treaties that are negotiated under conditions of extraordinary secrecy.”
In fact, WikiLeaks explains, “[t]he draft Annex aims to make governments more transparent to global commercial actors, creating obligations to notify and consult with transnational corporations on decisions and measures which may affect their interests.”
“There is deep irony whenever governments make commitments to ‘transparency’ in contemporary pro-corporate treaties that are negotiated under conditions of extraordinary secrecy,” the WikiLeaksanalysis reads.
“Transparency” in this TISA text means ensuring that commercial interests, especially but not only transnational corporations, can access and influence government decisions that affect their interests—rights and opportunities that may not be available to local businesses or to national citizens.
Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), spoke to that irony in a statement published alongside the TISA leak. “Once again WikiLeaks reveals what we cannot learn from our own government, a government that defaults to prefer giant trade deals that effect generations of Americans shrouded in secrecy until they are virtually adopted,” he said.
Referencing the Trade Promotion Authority bill signed by President Barack Obama on Monday—which will allow Obama to ram the TISA, TPP, and TTIP through Congress with minimal input from lawmakers—Cohen added: “Today’s leaks…reveal once again how dangerous Fast Track authority is when it comes to protecting citizen rights vs. corporate rights. This TISA text again favors privatization over public services, limits governmental action on issues ranging from safety to the environment using trade as a smokescreen to limit citizen rights… TISA is as big a blow to our rights and freedom as the Trans Pacific Partnership and in both cases our governments secrecy is the key enabler.”
Deborah James of the OWINFS network doubled-down on that sentiment: “Given the added dangers of the recently-approved Fast Track provisions which would apply to a potential TISA, we call on governments to abandon negotiations on this corporate wish list and focus on strengthening public interest regulation and the democratic process.”
On average, police shot and killed someone who was in mental crisis every 36 hours in the first six months of this year,’ reveals Washington Post
by: Deirdre Fulton
One quarter of the men and women shot and killed by police in the first six months of 2015 were “in the throes of mental or emotional crisis,” according to a new analysis published by the Washington Post on Tuesday, suggesting that law enforcement officers lack training on how to deal with the mentally ill.
“On average, police shot and killed someone who was in mental crisis every 36 hours in the first six months of this year,” write journalists Wesley Lowery, Kimberly Kindy, and Keith L. Alexander.
Responding to a dearth of federal data on such killings, the Post is compiling a database of every fatal shooting in the United States by a police officer in the line of duty in 2015, along with details about each incident—including the race of the deceased, the circumstances of the shooting, and whether the person was armed—sourced from local news reports and independent databases, such as Killed by Police and Fatal Encounters.
The Post database shows that in the first six months of this year, 461 people have been shot to death by police—including 123 killings “in which the mental health of the victim appeared to play a role, either because the person expressed suicidal intentions or because police or family members confirmed a history of mental illness,” the Post reports.
The analysis continues:
Nearly a dozen of the mentally distraught people killed were military veterans, many of them suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their service, according to police or family members. Another was a former California Highway Patrol officer who had been forced into retirement after enduring a severe beating during a traffic stop that left him suffering from depression and PTSD.
And in 45 cases, police were called to help someone get medical treatment, or after the person had tried and failed to get treatment on his own.
For example, Common Dreams reported earlier this year on the shooting death of a homeless and mentally ill man in Los Angeles, who news outlets said had been living in a tent on Skid Row for a few months after spending a long stretch in a mental health facility. “That man never was a threat,” one witness told the Los Angeles Times. “The amount of officers present at the time could have subdued him.”
In interviews, the Post reports, current and former police chiefs cited insufficient or inappropriate training as well as “severe budget cuts for psychiatric services” as reasons for the deadly encounters.
“This a national crisis,” Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told the Post. “We have to get American police to rethink how they handle encounters with the mentally ill. Training has to change.”