Category: Activism


Anti-government protesters gather on and around barricades at a road block in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Jan. 26, 2014. (SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

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Bloomberg

Ukraine Braces for March on Parliament as Putin Resumes Bailout

By With assistance from Patrick Donahue Feb 17, 2014 4:01 PM CT

Ukraine’s opposition will march on parliament to pressure lawmakers struggling to end a deadly three-month political standoff, jeopardizing compromises that eased tensions over the past week.

Vitali Klitschko, a former boxing champion, and Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a lawmaker and former central banker, plan to lead thousands of demonstrators today on the first mass action outside their Independence Square compound since Jan. 19, when the last attempt to reach parliament erupted in clashes with police.

“If politicians don’t make a decision tomorrow, we the people will,” Serhiy, a 23-year-old from the Lviv region near Poland, said inside the encampment yesterday, wearing camouflage and a bulletproof vest adorned with a paper “self defense” badge.“We’ve had enough. We’re fighters. We haven’t come here to listen to talks. If we decide to act, we’ll act.”

Klitschko and Yatsenyuk are seeking to overturn constitutional changes that strengthened Russia-backed Yanukovych’s powers and put Ukraine on a path toward European Union membership. The standoff began Nov. 21, when Yanukovych pulled out of a free-trade deal with the EU, opting instead for President Vladimir Putin’s offer of $15 billion of aid and cheaper gas. It turned bloody on Jan. 22, when three activists were shot dead.

Russian ‘Hardball’

Russia, which stopped buying bonds from Ukraine’s cash-strapped government after Yanukovych’s Russian-born prime minister, Mykola Azarov, resigned on Jan. 28, said yesterday it will resume purchases this week. Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov made the announcement just as Klitschko and Yatsenyuk were meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to seek financial and political backing to form a new government.

“Russia is playing hardball,” Alexander Valchyshen, head of research at Investment Capital in Kiev, said by phone. “Russia gave a clear signal that it knows who’ll be the next prime minister, that it’s ready to financially support him, and that no other players are acceptable here.”

Yanukovych, 63, will submit his candidate for prime minister this week, Speaker Volodymyr Rybak told reporters yesterday, after meeting with the president. Yatsenyuk rejected Yanukovych’s offer to become premier on Jan. 25.

Merkel Sympathy

Merkel told Yatsenyuk and Klitschko yesterday that the EU will “do everything” it can to help Ukraine out of the crisis, according to government spokesman Steffen Seibert. She also expressed sympathy for the “legitimate concerns” of Ukrainians, Seibert said in Berlin.

The standoff has hurt Ukraine’s bonds and helped push its foreign-exchange reserves to a seven-year low. The yield on the nation’s dollar debt due in June fell 83 basis points to 22.157 percent yesterday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The hryvnia weakened 0.9 percent to 8.86 per dollar, extending this year’s loss to 7 percent.

“Let’s form columns here at 8 a.m. on Tuesday and march to parliament,” Oleh Tyahnybok, who heads the nationalist Svoboda party in parliament, told tens of thousands of protesters at Independence Square on Feb. 16. “We need you to press them.”

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Be prepared: Wall Street advisor recommends guns, ammo for protection in collapse

 

By PAUL BEDARD | DECEMBER 26, 2013 AT 12:33 PM

 

 

 

A top financial advisor, worried that Obamacare, the NSA spying scandal and spiraling national debt is increasing the chances for a fiscal and social disaster, is recommending that Americans prepare a “bug-out bag” that includes food, a gun and ammo to help them stay alive.

 

David John Marotta, a Wall Street expert and financial advisor and Forbes contributor, said in a note to investors, “Firearms are the last item on the list, but they are on the list. There are some terrible people in this world. And you are safer when your trusted neighbors have firearms.”

 

His memo is part of a series addressing the potential for a “financial apocalypse.” His view, however, is that the problems plaguing the country won’t result in armageddon. “There is the possibility of a precipitous decline, although a long and drawn out malaise is much more likely,” said the Charlottesville, Va.-based president of Marotta Wealth Management.

 

Marotta said that many clients fear an end-of-the-world scenario. He doesn’t agree with that outcome, but does with much of what has people worried.

 

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Washington DC Area Walmart Workers, Community Supporters Join Nationwide Protests

UFCW400 UFCW400

Published on Nov 29, 2013

Walmart workers and community supporters in the Washington, D.C. area today protested against Walmart—the nation’s largest retailer—joining 1,500 protests across the nation in one of the largest mobilizations of working families in American history. Workers in the Washington, D.C. area were joined by tens of thousands of Americans in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Seattle, Sacramento, Miami, Minneapolis and other locations who called on Walmart to end illegal retaliation and publicly commit to improving labor standards, including providing workers with more full-time work and $25,000 a year. At a protest at the Walmart store located on Richmond Highway in Alexandria, Va., nine people, including one Walmart worker, were arrested in an act of civil disobedience calling for an end to the exploitation of Walmart workers by their company.

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Fast Food Giants Starve Workers’ Wages, Gorge on Taxpayers: Report

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Demonstration outside McDonald’s in Times Square in support of employees on strike New York November 29, 2012. (Reuters/Andrew Kelly)As the nation’s largest fast food giants continue to push back against the ongoing fight for better wages by fast food workers across the country, a report released Monday reveals a world in which those companies are “pocketing massive taxpayer subsidies” as they feed their CEOs’ growing paychecks.

According to the report, Fast Food CEOs Rake in Taxpayer-Subsidized Pay, published by the Institute for Policy Studies, current tax code allows corporations such as Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, and McDonald’s “to deduct unlimited amounts from their income taxes for the cost of stock options, certain stock grants, and other forms of so-called ‘performance pay’ for top executives,” meaning that the more corporations pay their top earners, the less they pay in federal taxes.

As IPS reports, over the past two years, CEOs of the top six publicly held fast food chains brought home over $183 million in deductible “performance pay,” which in turn reduced their companies’ taxes by an estimated $64 million.

As Sarah Anderson from IPS points out in an op-ed Monday, $64 million is enough to cover the average cost of food stamps for 40,000 American families for a year.

Fast food profits, in this way, come at the taxpayer’s expense from two sides: while CEOs’ paychecks expand and corporations pay less in taxes, those companies have simultaneously worked “to keep low-level workers’ wages so low that many must rely on public assistance.”

As another report from UC Berkeley recently showed, low-wage fast-food jobs currently cost the American public nearly $7 billion a year, as 52% of fast food workers, including those who work full-time, are payed so little they must rely on safety net programs including Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, as well as Earned Income Tax Credit payments.

“What makes all this even more galling is that these fast food giants are pocketing massive taxpayer subsidies for their CEO pay while fighting to keep their workers’ wages at rock bottom,” writes Anderson.

“All of the big fast food corporations are members of the National Restaurant Association,” Anderson writes, “which is aggressively working to block a raise in the federal minimum wage to a level that would let millions of fast food workers make ends meet without public support.”

Meanwhile, across the country workers are fed up with low wages and have embarked on a series of local and national strikes against their fast food employers over the course of the past year.

On Thursday, fast food workers organized by groups Fast Food Forward and Fight for 15, with backing from unions such as the Service Employees International Union, will strike in one hundred cities across the U.S. at McDonald’s, Wendy’s and other fast-food restaurant locations, demanding a $15-an-hour wage.

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tocha shona

A volunteer loads food at the Capital Area Food Bank, Nov. 14, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Walmart collecting food donations to feed employees

11/18/13 04:45 PM Updated 11/19/13 08:15 AM

Organized labor, protesting workers and other activist groups have been saying for years that low-wage Walmart employees can’t afford to meet basic needs like food. Now, one Cleveland, Ohio, location is doing something about it: soliciting food donations from other workers.

In an employees-only section of the store, management has placed two bins underneath a sign reading, “Please donate food items here so Associates in Need can enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” local paperThe Plain Dealer reported on Monday. Walmart spokesperson Kory Lundberg told the newspaper that it is for employees “who have had some hardships come up.”

“This is part of the company’s culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships,” said Lundberg.

The majority of Walmart employees reportedly make less than $25,000 annually, and many of them rely on food stamps. A case study compiled by the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce found that employees in one Walmart location received between $96,007 and $219,528 in food stamps over the course of a single year.

 

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breakingtheset

Published on Nov 7, 2013

Abby Martin speaks to the director of Project Censored, Mickey Huff, about the organization’s release of ‘Censored: 2014′ the annual publication of the top most censored stories in the corporate press, from the trial of Chelsea Manning to the Trans Pacific Partnership.
LIKE Breaking the Set @ http://fb.me/BreakingTheSet
FOLLOW Abby Martin @ http://twitter.com/AbbyMartin

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Published time: November 03, 2013 01:01

Thousands of people rallied in the town of Quimper in France’s Brittany region on Saturday calling for a complete end to the controversial “ecotax.” Police fired tear gas after demonstrators hurled stones and iron bars.

Farmers, food sector workers, fishermen, and others attended the protest, voicing concern over continuous layoffs and high taxes in the country.

Some demonstrators reportedly threw stones and iron bars at police as they gathered for speeches before marching into the city. Officers responded by firing tear gas and water cannons.

According to authorities, 10,000 people came out for the event. However, a protest organizer told French media that 30,000 people took part in the rally.

French protesters wore red caps resembling the 17th century revolt against King Louis XIV’s fiscal policies.

Protesters wearing red caps, the symbol of protest in Brittany, throw objects at a barricade held by French riot police during a demonstration to maintain jobs in Quimper, western France, November 2, 2013 (Reuters / Stephane Mahe)

Protesters wearing red caps, the symbol of protest in Brittany, throw objects at a barricade held by French riot police during a demonstration to maintain jobs in Quimper, western France, November 2, 2013 (Reuters / Stephane Mahe)

Demonstrators came out despite the government’s Tuesday decision to “indefinitely suspend” the green tax on heavy goods vehicles transporting over 3.5 tons of commercial goods. The move followed public outrage from farmers and food sector workers in Brittany. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault stressed that the move was “a suspension, not a cancelation” of the tax.

As the northernmost region has less rail infrastructure than the rest of France, local businesses and farmers claim they are being unfairly penalized because most goods there have to be transported by road.

Residents of Brittany are angry as layoffs continue in their largely rural region. The majority of cutbacks are focused on the agricultural sector.

“How are we supposed to produce products that are made in France, made in Brittany, with all these taxes? It’s impossible,” a market gardener told France 24.

France is battling high unemployment and increasing taxes. The latest data revealed that at least 3.2 million people are now looking for work in the country.

Meanwhile, Francois Hollande has become the most unpopular French president on record, according to an opinion poll conducted in October. Major complaints against the leader include tax hikes, unemployment, and immigration policy.

Hollande’s approval rating dropped to 26 percent among those questioned in the BVA poll – the lowest level of any French president in the survey’s 32-year history.

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(Image: robinhoodtax.org)

 

With Congress about to begin the next cycle of budget battles – mostly focused on how much more pain to inflict on Main Street communities across America – a far different message is bubbling up across the land.

Activists from across the land gathered in Washington October 29 to step up what has become an increasingly vocal demand for a change of priorities and tone – with a call to expand the revenue pie with a tax on Wall Street speculation, the Robin Hood tax.

“The fire in this room will light up the sky for a lot of people,” said Larry Hanley, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union surveying the room in the closing session of an action conference for the Robin Hood Tax campaign.

“We have a revenue crisis, and we know where the money is, it’s on Wall Street.” –George Goehl, National People’s Action

For the past two years, a movement has been building in the U.S., now endorsed by more than 160 local and national organizations who are calling for a sharp turn away from policies of austerity and more budget cuts with a financial transaction tax on stocks, bonds, derivatives and other financial instruments, paid by those very same banks, investment houses, hedge fund managers, and Wall Street traders who created the latest financial crisis.

Or as Hanley put it, “There’s been a 40 year crime wave and we’ve been the victims.”

Much of the impetus of the campaign for the Wall Street tax has come from National Nurses United, the nation’s largest organization of nurses, who have sponsored marches and rallies for the Robin Hood movement and were among the major organizers of the latest conference. “Nurses come with the perspective of humanists who don’t give up on patients,” said NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro.

“Nurses see the fallout of the wretched economic policy in the U.S. and globally and see people who have run out of solutions. We see a community responding to our message, who understand what matters is what pressure we put on” the policy makers, said DeMoro, and the demand “for allocation of funding of programs that make up a society, not the priorities that the corporations set.”

As the conference opened Jennifer Flynn, managing director of Health GAP, discussed what the Robin Hood tax, as embodied in a U.S. bill, HR 1579, sponsored by Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, could mean.

“With $6 billion a year, we can end the AIDS pandemic within the next 30 years. With $50 billion we can create the largest job program ever. With less than $3 billion we can end homelessness. With less than $10 billion we can reverse many of the effects of climate change. With less than $100 billion we can provide healthcare for all in most parts of the world. With $60 billion we can transform our education system. That would still leave more than $200 billion for other needs that would be raised by HR 1579.”

“It’s our job to put the Wall Street tax at the center of American politics… Those who say it can’t be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” –Jim Hightower

The Robin Hood tax, said Bobby Tolbert of Vocal New York, “is a way to bring power back to the 99 percent. The Robin Hood tax is inevitable, it’s just a matter of time.”

“We have a revenue crisis, and we know where the money is, it’s on Wall Street,” said George Goehl, executive director of National People’s Action. “We’re going to ask the politicians are you going to stand with Wall Street or Main Street?”

The conference itself was a prelude to a briefing for Congress with leaders of the coalition, renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs, and the vice president of the European Parliament Anni Podimata, who will describe how 11 European nations are successfully implementing a similar tax. The briefing is to be held October 31, after which the activists intend to fan out on Capitol Hill to press legislators from 26 states to support the bill.

The activists will also unveil a new letter signed by 163 well known economists and financial experts, including former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Gar Alperovitz of the University of Maryland College Park, and Thomas Palley of the Economic Policy Institute supporting HR 1579.

One of those economists, Robert Pollin, economics professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, explained to the conference that “the basic idea is a tax on every financial transaction, the equivalent of a sales tax. Who pays the tax? The people who make trades every day on Wall Street.”

“With the financial transaction tax we can raise the revenue we need and discourage excessive speculation on Wall Street. It’s being done in the world’s second largest financial market, London and the fastest growing security markets in the world, including China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Russia. If they can do it, so can we,” Pollin said.

Sachs, also addressing the conference, cited polls showing 60 to 70 percent of Americans favor higher taxes on the wealthy, and “making the banks pay for what they did” in crashing the economy. Sachs, who is campaigning for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria noted that $5 billion invested in that effort “would save millions of lives,” and we know “where to find it.”

The 40 top hedge fund managers “took in $16.7 billion in pay last year, and the top tax rate they pay is just 15 percent.” That’s one target group for the Robin Hood tax, he noted. “We need these people to pay their fair share of taxes and their fair share of jail time,” Sachs said.

Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, cited a series of alarming signs of the ravages of the climate crisis, such as 180 communities in Alaska sinking into the water. “Climate change is affecting the air we breathe, the food we eat, the places we live, that’s why Friends of the Earth wants the Robin Hood tax.”

Amirah Sequeira of the Student AIDS campaign noted that “this tax could mean eliminating the crushing student debt we’re currently facing.”

“It’s our job to put the Wall Street tax at the center of American politics,” said former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower. “Those who say it can’t be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”

DeMoro called the tax a “non-reformist reform,” which Pollin noted would establish “a whole new way” of determining economic policy. “It’s not just Wall Street who will decide if we have revenue for a green economy or education. We can’t just let Wall Street make all those decisions.”

“It’s up to us,” DeMoro concluded, “to build a movement that changes society.”

Karen Higgins

Karen Higgins is a registered nurse and co-president of National Nurses United.

 

 

 

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Germany wants the Robin Hood tax – and Europe’s voters do too

No argument against a financial transaction tax has stood up to scrutiny, so politicians must resist lobbying and see sense

Angela Merkel at an EU summit in Brussels

Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats look set to prioritise a Robin Hood tax in Germany. Photograph: Isopix/Rex Features

The path to implementing a tax on financial transactions (known as the FTT) was never going to be smooth. This week’s announcement that the expected coalition between Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats in Germany will prioritise the tax’s implementation, is a sign that the proposal remains on track. But any measure that taxes or regulates financial markets and banks will always meet concerted opposition.

In recent weeks, this has been growing from some quarters. The latest criticism, from France’s central bank governor Christian Noyer, was splashed on the front page of Monday’s Financial Times: “France central bank chief says Robin Hood tax is ‘enormous risk'” ran the headline. As this extremely small tax is to be implemented by 11 European countries, it is appropriate to ask: an enormous risk for whom?

Certainly it will impact on trades with short time horizons – high-frequency traders, whose computer algorithms fire off thousands of trades in microseconds, will undoubtedly have their business dramatically curtailed. Yet this will significantly reduce rather than create risk. Many regulators are concerned about the risk of this high-frequency trading, which now accounts for over half of trades on the London Stock Exchange. As demonstrated by the infamous flash crash of May 2010, when liquidity drained from the market and the Dow Jones index dropped 9% in a matter of minutes, it poses a threat to wider economic stability.

 

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Sky News

Rome: Clashes As Thousands March The Streets

 

Protesters threw smoke bombs and bottles at police in Rome as demonstrations against austerity measures in Italy turned violent.

 

Riot policemen frame demonstrators during a protest in downtown Rome

Video: Rome: Protesters Clash With Police

 

 

Demonstrators have clashed with police in Rome as tens of thousands of people marched through the city to protest against unemployment, government cuts and construction projects they say take money away from social services.

 

The protesters turned over rubbish bins in front of the Economy Ministry and set several bins on fire.

 

Using sticks and clubs, they attacked police in riot gear. The police responded by charging the protesters and chasing them up side streets.

 

The demonstrators, who infiltrated a mostly peaceful protest, threw smoke bombs, eggs and bottles at the ministry and broke the window of a nearby bank.

 

A protester clashes with a Guardia di Finanza policeman in front of the Ministry of Finance building in downtown Rome
A protester clashes with police in front of the Ministry of Finance

 

Police said 15 of the most violent protesters have been arrested and two policemen have been injured.

 

In another area along the demonstration route, police defused a large firework with a bullet inside, which they said could have caused serious damage had it gone off.

 

Protesters also set off smoke bombs and fireworks along the route and many planned to camp out during the night in front of the Infrastructure Ministry.

 

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Italian protesters take on police during mass march against austerity budget (PHOTOS)

 

Published time: October 19, 2013 19:29
Edited time: October 19, 2013 21:41

Violence broke out between police and demonstrators in Rome on Saturday as tens of thousands took to the streets to protest Italy’s new budget.

 

 

Thousands of people march during an anti-austerity protest on October 19, 2013 in Rome. (AFP Photo / Alberto Pizzoli)

Thousands of people march during an anti-austerity protest on October 19, 2013 in Rome. (AFP Photo / Alberto Pizzoli)

 

We are laying siege to the city!” chanted the crowd, as a small minority pelted the police and government buildings with water bottles and eggs.

A group of protesters turned over garbage bins and set some of them on fire in front of the Economy Ministry.

Members of the Guardia di Finanza protect themselves as they stand in front of the Economy minister during clashes on the sidelines of an anti-austerity protest on October 19, 2013 in Rome. (AFP Photo / Alberto Pizzoli)

Members of the Guardia di Finanza protect themselves as they stand in front of the Economy minister during clashes on the sidelines of an anti-austerity protest on October 19, 2013 in Rome. (AFP Photo / Alberto Pizzoli)

Police say they confiscated tear gas canisters and rocks from some of the radicals in the predominantly youthful crowd and found chains stashed away along the route of the march.

Organizers estimated that 70,000 people took part in the protest, while authorities placed the number closer to 50,000.

With this budget the government is continuing to hurt a country which is already on its knees,” said Piero Bernocchi, leader of the left-wing COBAS trade union that was behind the demonstration.

“Even after austerity has proven to be disastrous, with debt rising, the economy crumbling, and unemployment soaring, they still continue with these policies.

 

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Jorge Reyes Jorge Reyes

Published on Sep 14, 2013

Attention!! (updated sept. 14, 2013) Download & Share before is remove!

Urgent Message from Anonymous to Mankind…

http://www.digitaljournal.com/article…

https://www.facebook.com/nuestrofutur…
https://www.facebook.com/MillionMaskM…
https://www.facebook.com/events/50502…
http://www.zeemaps.com/view?group=654…

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Anonymous launches video ahead of the Million Mask March

By Justin King

The collective behind the global protest that will occur on November 5th in over 150 countries launched a YouTube video today to raise awareness of the march.
Organizer of the Washington, D.C. event, John Fairhurst, explained that, as with many things within Anonymous, the event has taken on a life of its own. Saying that there are whole websites dedicated to the event, which he has no direct affiliation with. Anonymous is a leaderless collective that thrives on ideas, and once an idea is proposed and accepted, the originator of that idea steps back into the faceless crowd of supporters and joins everyone else that has elected to support the idea. The idea of a global march occurring simultaneously in cities around the world resonated within Anonymous. There are publicly organized protests occurring in over 50 U.S. cities and in almost every developed nation’s capital. The collective has established an event map to keep track of the different demonstration sites. Many countries where open protesting is prohibited have been organizing their events in secret and are not included on the map.
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Municipal police demonstrate during a general strike in Athens on July 16, 2013.

Municipal police demonstrate during a general strike in Athens on July 16, 2013.
Tue Jul 16, 2013 1:37PM GMT
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The latest austerity measure is required by the country’s international lenders, including the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in order for Athens to start receiving EUR 6.8 billion (USD 8.9 billion) of fresh aid.”

Thousands of Greeks have staged a substantial rally in the capital city of Athens to protest against a bill that includes plans to cut thousands of civil service jobs.

At least 16,000 protesters gathered outside the parliament in Athens on Tuesday, shutting down municipal services by disrupting public transport and medical work.

The massive walkout came after unions called for a general strike against fresh austerity measures the government is imposing in order to receive billions of euros in bailout loans.

The latest austerity measure is required by the country’s international lenders, including the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in order for Athens to start receiving EUR 6.8 billion (USD 8.9 billion) of fresh aid.

The Greek bill is expected to be passed on Wednesday, placing 4,200 public workers, including teachers, school wardens, and municipal police under so-called redeployment.

By the end of this year, some 25,000 civil servants must be redeployed overall and an additional 4,000 fired in order for the country to receive the tranche in bailout rescue loans.

Greece is experiencing its sixth year of recession, which has forced it to impose harsh austerity measures over the past four years in return for multi-billion-euro international bailouts to avoid defaulting on its debt.

The measures are deeply unpopular among the population as citizens have seen their pensions cut and their salaries reduced by up to 40 percent.

Furthermore, the country’s overall unemployment rate has reached a level not seen in its modern history as it stands at 27 percent; the rate is at a shocking 64 percent among the youth.

GMA/PR/SS

 

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June 10, 2013 | By Rainey Reitman

Today, a bipartisan coalition of 86 civil liberties organizations and Internet companies – including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, reddit, Mozilla, FreedomWorks, and the American Civil Liberties Union – are demanding swift action from Congress in light of the recent revelations about unchecked domestic surveillance.

In an open letter to lawmakers sent today, the groups call for a congressional investigatory committee, similar to the Church Committee of the 1970s. The letter also demands legal reforms to rein in domestic spying and demands that public officials responsible for this illegal surveillance are held accountable for their actions.

The letter denounces the NSA’s spying program as illegal, noting:

This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens’ right to speak and associate anonymously and guard against unreasonable searches and seizures…

The letter was accompanied by the launch of StopWatching.us, a global petition calling on Congress to provide a public accounting of the United States’ domestic spying capabilites and to bring an end to illegal surveillance.

The groups call for a number of specific legal reforms, including reform to the controversial Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the “business records” section which, through secret court orders, was misused to force Verizon to provide the NSA with detailed phone records of millions of customers. The groups also call on Congress to reform the FISA Amendment Act, the unconstitutional law that allows, nearly without restriction, the government to conduct mass surveillance on American and international communications. The letter and petition also demand that Congress amend the state secrets privilege, the legal tool that has expanded over the last 10 years to prevent the government from being held accountable for domestic surveillance.

As Mark Rumold, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who focuses on government transparency and national security, says, “Now is the time for Congress to act. We don’t need a narrow fix to one part of the PATRIOT Act; we need a full public accounting of how the United States is turning sophisticated spying technology on its own citizens, we need accountability from public officials, and we need an overhaul of the laws to ensure these abuses can never happen again.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is urging concerned netizens to join this campaign by signing their names to StopWatching.us.

Full text of the open letter:

Dear Members of Congress,

We write to express our concern about recent reports published in the Guardian and the Washington Post, and acknowledged by the Obama Administration, which reveal secret spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on phone records and Internet activity of people in the United States.

The Washington Post and the Guardian recently published reports based on information provided by a career intelligence officer showing how the NSA and the FBI are gaining broad access to data collected by nine of the leading U.S. Internet companies and sharing this information with foreign governments. As reported, the U.S. government is extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time. As a result, the contents of communications of people both abroad and in the U.S. can be swept in without any suspicion of crime or association with a terrorist organization.

Leaked reports also published by the Guardian and confirmed by the Administration reveal that the NSA is also abusing a controversial section of the PATRIOT Act to collect the call records of millions of Verizon customers. The data collected by the NSA includes every call made, the time of the call, the duration of the call, and other “identifying information” for millions of Verizon customers, including entirely domestic calls, regardless of whether those customers have ever been suspected of a crime. The Wall Street Journal has reported that other major carriers, including AT&T and Sprint, are subject to similar secret orders.

This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens’ right to speak and associate anonymously and guard against unreasonable searches and seizures and protect their right to privacy.

We are calling on Congress to take immediate action to halt this surveillance and provide a full public accounting of the NSA’s and the FBI’s data collection programs. We call on Congress to immediately and publicly:

1. Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;

2. Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;

3. Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Access

Advocacy for Principled Action in Government

American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression

American Civil Liberties Union

American Civil Liberties Union of California

American Library Association

Amicus

Association of Research Libraries

Bill of Rights Defense Committee

BoingBoing

Breadpig

Calyx Institute

Canvas

Center for Democracy and Technology

Center for Digital Democracy

Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights

Center for Media and Democracy

Center for Media Justice

Competitive Enterprise Institute

Consumer Action

Consumer Watchdog

CorpWatch

CREDO Mobile

Cyber Privacy Project

Daily Kos

Defending Dissent Foundation

Demand Progress

Detroit Digital Justice Coalition

Digital Fourth

Downsize DC

DuckDuckGo

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Entertainment Consumers Association

Fight for the Future

Floor64

Foundation for Innovation and Internet Freedom

4Chan

Free Press

Free Software Foundation

Freedom of the Press Foundation

FreedomWorks

Friends of Privacy USA

Get FISA Right

Government Accountability Project

Greenpeace USA

Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA)

Internet Archive

isen.com, LLC

Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)

Law Life Culture

Liberty Coalition

May First/People Link

Media Alliance

Media Mobilizing Project, Philadelphia

Mozilla

Namecheap

National Coalition Against Censorship

New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC

Open Technology Institute

OpenMedia.org

Participatory Politics Foundation

Patient Privacy Rights

People for the American Way

Personal Democracy Media

PolitiHacks

Privacy and Access Council of Canada

Public Interest Advocacy Centre (Ottawa, Canada)

Public Knowledge

Privacy Activism

Privacy Camp

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

Privacy Times

reddit

Represent.us

Rights Working Group

Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association

RootsAction.org

Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic

Sunlight Foundation

Taxpayers Protection Alliance

TechFreedom

The AIDS Policy Project, Philadelphia

TURN-The Utility Reform Network

Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center

William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI)

World Wide Web Foundation

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