Published: Thursday 15 November 2012
As the movement for that strong social safety net grows around the world, and locally here at home, the mandate is clear: Austerity is not the answer.

Amaia Engana didn’t wait to be evicted from her home. On Nov. 9, in the town of Barakaldo, a suburb of Bilbao in Spain’s Basque Country, officials from the local judiciary were on their way to serve her eviction papers. Amaia stood on a chair and threw herself out of her fifth-floor apartment window, dying instantly on impact on the sidewalk below. She was the second person in two weeks in Spain to commit suicide as a result of an impending foreclosure action. Her suicide has added gravity to this week’s general strike radiating from the streets of Madrid across all of Europe. As resistance to so-called austerity in Europe becomes increasingly transnational and coordinated, President Barack Obama and the House Republicans begin their debate to avert the “fiscal cliff.” The fight is over fair tax rates, budget priorities and whether we as a society will sustain the social safety net built during the past 80 years.

The general strike that swept across Europe Nov. 14 had its genesis in the deepening crisis in Spain, Portugal and Greece. As a result of the global economic collapse in 2008, Spain is in a deep financial crisis. Unemployment has surpassed 25 percent, and among young people is estimated at 50 percent. Large banks have enjoyed bailouts while they enforce mortgages that an increasing number of Spaniards are unable to meet, provoking increasing numbers of foreclosures and attempted evictions. “Attempted” because, in response to the epidemic of evictions in Spain, a direct-action movement has grown to prevent them. In city after city, individuals and groups have networked, creating rapid-response teams that flood the street outside a threatened apartment. When officials arrive to deliver the ...

Published: Tuesday 13 November 2012
“Austerity opponents say the strike isn’t intended to grind down Europe’s already weakened economy, but to send a clear message to governments and the Troika that austerity cuts aren’t working to solve the debt crisis, but instead are worsening the problem.”

Austerity has spawned general strikes in individual countries across the troubled European Union. But this week may see something to add to the union’s tensions: a coordinated, multi-national mega-strike. Organized labor plans a general strike against the E.U.’s austerity policies, borderless and spanning the south of the continent. With more than 25 million people out of work, Europe’s biggest unions have vowed to lead marches and demonstrations on Nov. 14 that unite opposition parties, activist movements like Spain’s M15 and a growing sea of unemployed to challenge their national governments, banking leaders, the IMF and EU policymakers to abandon austerity cuts ahead of a high-stakes budgetmeeting in Brussels later this month.

What makes Wednesday’s strike even more threatening to Europe’s managerial elite is the strong support it is receiving from traditional labor groups that rarely send their members into the streets—foremost, among them, the European Trade Union Confederation, representing 85 labor organizations from 36 countries, and totaling some 60 million members. “We have never seen an international strike with unions across borders fighting for the same thing—it’s not just Spain, not just Portugal, it’s many countries demanding that we change our structure,” says Alberto Garzón, a Spanish congressman with the United Left party which holds 7% of seats in the Spanish Congress. “It’s important to understand this is a new form of protest.”

The strike is expected to cause near or total shutdowns of the ...

Published: Tuesday 13 November 2012
The corporate state, faced with rebellion from within and without, does not know how to define or control this rising power, from the Arab Spring to the street protests in Greece and Spain to the Occupy movement.


The presidential election exposed the liberal class as a corpse. It fights for nothing. It stands for nothing. It is a useless appendage to the corporate state. It exists not to make possible incremental or piecemeal reform, as it originally did in a functional capitalist democracy; instead it has devolved into an instrument of personal vanity, burnishing the hollow morality of its adherents. Liberals, by voting for Barack Obama, betrayed the core values they use to define themselves—the rule of law, the safeguarding of civil liberties, the protection of unions, the preservation of social welfare programs, environmental accords, financial regulation, a defiance of unjust war and torture, and the abolition of drone wars. The liberal class clung desperately during the long nightmare of this political campaign to one or two issues, such as protecting a woman’s right to choose and gender equality, to justify its complicity in a monstrous evil. This moral fragmentation—using an isolated act of justice to define one’s self while ignoring the vast corporate assault on the nation and the ecosystem along with the pre-emptive violence of the imperial state—is moral and political capitulation. It fails to confront the evil we have become. 

“The American Dream has run out of gas,” wrote the novelist J.G. Ballard. “The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now. …”

Liberals have assured us that after the election they will build a movement to ...

Published: Monday 5 November 2012
“The medical community already suspects that economic downturns put an increased strain on mental health — recent studies in Greece, Spain and Italy have found a trend in rising suicide rates as those European countries face recessions fueled by misguided austerity policies — but this study is the first to focus on the Great Recession’s impact on Americans.”


A new analysis finds that the suicide rate among Americans increased four times faster between 2008 and 2010, after the housing bubble burst and the subsequent economic downturn began to take effect, than it did in the eight years before the Great Recession.

The medical community already suspects that economic downturns put an increased strain on mental health — recent studies in Greece, Spain and Italy have found a trend in rising suicide rates as those European countries face recessions fueled by misguided austerity policies — but this study is the first to focus on the Great Recession’s impact on Americans. After analyzing state-level unemployment and suicide rate data through 2010, researchers concluded that this economic crisis may have hurt Americans’ mental health more than any other economic event:

“The magnitude of these effects is slightly larger than for those previously estimated in the United States,” the authors wrote. That might mean that this economic downturn has been harder on mental health than previous ones, the authors concluded. [...]

Every rise of 1 percent in unemployment was accompanied by an increase in the suicide rate of roughly 1 percent, it found. A similar correlation has been found in some European countries since the recession.

Researchers estimated that the U.S. suicide rate was increasing by about 0.12 deaths per 100,000 people between 1999 and 2007 — but when the recession hit in 2008, the rate began increasing by an ...

Published: Thursday 1 November 2012
It is always unfortunate when people lose their jobs, but in this case it would be for a good cause.


One of the major growth industries in Washington is the promotion of budget hysteria. Well-funded groups have weekly, if not daily, events designed to hype the country’s budget situation. Much of the national media, most importantly the Washington Post, have enlisted in this effort, devoting both their opinion and news sections toward this goal.

Unfortunately for the deficit-crisis industry, the facts may stubbornly refuse to cooperate. Any discussion of the deficit requires separating out the short-term and the long-term story. The short-term story is very simple. The economy collapsed in 2008 when the housing bubble burst. That is the story of the large budget deficits that we have seen in the last five years: full stop.

Fans of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) can go back to see their projections from January of 2008, before CBO recognized the consequences of the bursting bubble. The deficit had been a modest 1.2 percent of GDP in 2007. The deficit was projected to stay near 1.0 percent of GDP over the next three years until the end of the Bush tax cuts was projected to push the budget into surplus in 2012. Even if the Bush tax cuts had not been allowed to expire the country can literally run deficits of 1.0-2.0 percent of GDP forever.

There were no huge new permanent spending programs or tax cuts put in place in 2008 or 2009. The deficit soared because the recession sent tax revenue plummeting and caused spending on programs such as unemployment benefits to jump. There were also temporary measures designed to ...

Published: Tuesday 16 October 2012
The amount of damage being inflicted on countries around the world by bad economic policy is astounding.

There is an old story from the heyday of the Soviet Union. As part of their May Day celebrations they were parading their latest weapon systems down the street in front of the Kremlin. There was a long column of their newest tanks, followed by a row of tractors pulling missiles. Behind these weapons were four pick-up trucks carrying older men in business suits waving to the crowds.

Seeing this display, the Communist party boss turned to his defense secretary. He praised the tanks and missiles and then said that he didn’t understand the men in business suits. The defense secretary explained that these men were economists, and “their destructive capacity is incredible.”

People across the world now understand what the defense secretary meant. The amount of damage being inflicted on countries around the world by bad economic policy is astounding. As a result of unemployment or underemployment, millions of people are seeing their lives ruined. The current policies have led to trillions of dollars of lost output. From an economic standpoint this loss is every bit as devastating as if a building had been destroyed by tanks or bombs. And people have lost their lives, due to inadequate health care, food and shelter, or as a result of the depression associated with their grim economic fate.

If an enemy had inflicted this much damage on the United States, the countries of the European Union, or the countries elsewhere in the world that have been caught up in this downturn, millions of people would be lining up to enlist ...

Published: Friday 12 October 2012
Published: Friday 12 October 2012
“The selection surprised many as it comes at a time when much of Europe is facing an economic crisis that threatens the EU’s future. Just this past week, thousands of Greeks protested in Athens against a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel who has pushed Greece, Spain and Ireland to enact deep austerity measures.”


The European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize earlier today for its historic role in uniting the continent. Committee chair Thorbjoern Jagland praised the EU for transforming Europe "from a continent of wars to a continent of peace." The selection surprised many as it comes at a time when much of Europe is facing an economic crisis that threatens the EU’s future. Just this past week, thousands of Greeks protested in Athens against a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel who has pushed Greece, Spain and Ireland to enact deep austerity measures. For more, we go to London to speak with Tariq Ali, political commentator, historian, activist and editor of the New Left Review. "My initial response was to burst out laughing. Because this Nobel Peace Prize committee, basically run by clapped out former politicians in Norway, never fails to amuse and disappoint,” Ali says. “To give the prize to the European community, at a time, effectively, when economically, it is promoting unemployment, creating real class divides in virtually every country in Europe, where it has led to enormous violence on the streets of Greece, because of the policies being pushed by the EU ... it is a complete and utter joke."

Published: Thursday 4 October 2012
Republicans will blame their defeat in November on the Fed’s monetary stimulus (if not on the ineffectiveness of Mitt Romney’s blunder-filled campaign).

James Carville, Bill Clinton’s chief campaign strategist in 1992, famously expressed a bit of established insider wisdom about winning elections: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Incumbents win if the economic outlook is rosy, and are vulnerable – as George H. W. Bush was – when times are hard. Indeed, throughout Europe – in France, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom – governments have been turned out of office in the face of a crisis that they have seemed unable to address.

By this standard, President Barack Obama should now be in a hopeless situation. According to United States Census data, household income fell in 2011 for the fourth consecutive year. Unemployment remains persistently high, despite the $787 billion stimulus package in 2009, and house prices, though recovering slowly, remain far below their pre-2008 peak.

And yet Obama seems likely to be reelected in November. One reason is that there is no reliable way to render an instant judgment about ...

Published: Tuesday 25 September 2012
People are calling it the “Fall of Rage,” pouring into the streets of Madrid and other Spanish cities to tell their leaders that budget cuts and austerity measures are not working — that with unemployment skyrocketing amid the second recession in four years, “enough is enough.”

On Saturday, thousands rallied in front of key buildings including the Madrid stock exchange, the Bank of Spain and several ministries. The protest, organized by the M-15 platform and composed of indignados and others under the slogan “Deconstructing Lies, Building Alternatives,” served as a preview for the rally to be held Tuesday, Sept. 25, when thousands are expected to surround the Spanish Congress during a plenary session and demand that the government, lawmakers and the king resign.

“We want to go a step beyond the other protests because after many marches, rallies, strikes and even campsites, nothing has changed,” said Mercedes Garcia, a spokesperson for the Occupy Congress action. “Our final goal is to show that democracy is outside Congress, not inside.”

The public's disgust with politics is at its peak since the Franco' dictatorship fell in 1975. In polls, Spaniards rate the political class as their third highest concern, only after unemployment and the economic crisis. Data released by the Center for Sociological Research showed that 79 percent of the country does not believe politicians will meet the current challenges.

“We feel our democracy has been stolen and we have no power ...

Published: Sunday 9 September 2012
Published: Sunday 2 September 2012
Published: Saturday 1 September 2012
Published: Thursday 30 August 2012
“The coming unrest in Europe will likely include a demonstration of German dissatisfaction as well as a strong showing of French frustration and anger in addition to rioting and unrest in Spain, Greece, and other financially unstable countries.”

While widespread, violent riots over running the streets of Europe may not be in the near future, there are strong indications that Europe is in for a tumultuous autumn. The combination of the of the general feeling of helplessness brought about by the Eurozone economic crisis, the resentment felt by voters who elected anti-austerity government officials only to find their leaders are toothless, and the rise in food prices due to extreme weather patterns have the potential to bring about widespread protest in Europe. The coming unrest in Europe will likely include a demonstration of German dissatisfaction as well as a strong showing of French frustration and anger in addition to rioting and unrest in Spain, Greece, and other financially unstable countries.


Anti-austerity, and in some instances, anti-European Union, sentiments have swept Europe following the 2008 global financial crisis, in which loans to rescue failing economies such as Greece and Spain were dependent upon harsh budget cuts other austerity measures. Protests and riots with varying degrees of violence broke out in nations with faltering economies, largely motivated by a disdain for the policies they perceived as being forced upon them by the European Union. However, frustration concerning the state of the Eurozone is not confined to troubled nations such as Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Italy. Even Germany, generally considered the most powerful and economically stable country in the Eurozone, is faced with an increasingly stubborn public. The establishment of the European Stability Mechanism  has been ostensibly delayed until September 12th, when the German Constitutional Court will resolve a lawsuit brought by Germans who believe that the fund defies domestic laws READ FULL POST

Published: Wednesday 1 August 2012
Published: Wednesday 1 August 2012
“What does this all mean to the average person in the eurozone, or in Spain where unemployment just hit a record 24.6 percent? ”

World stock markets and European bond markets rallied last week in response to three words that came from the mouth of Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank (ECB):  The ECB would do “whatever it takes” to preserve the euro.  This was widely interpreted as a promise to intervene in the sovereign bond markets to push down borrowing costs for Spain and Italy.

What does this all mean to the average person in the eurozone, or in Spain where unemployment just hit a record 24.6 percent?  Or in developing Asia or Africa or Latin America – or even the U.S.?   Most importantly, it means that the ECB has always had, and continues to have, the power to end the immediate crisis in the eurozone, but has refused to do so.  Not for any of the economic reasons commonly believed – such as worries about sovereign debt or inflation.  Rather, they have refused to end the crisis for a nefarious political reason:  in order to force the weaker economies of Europe to accept a regressive political agenda – including cuts in minimum wages and pensions, weakening of labor laws and collective bargaining, and shrinking the state. 

The ECB and its allies feared that if they stabilized these bond markets, their leverage over the peripheral countries would be reduced.  So for more than six months now the ECB has refused to buy Spanish bonds, which would push down yields as it did in similar crises last year.  This is a nasty and dangerous game of chicken, because the ECB obviously doesn’t want to reach a point where the crisis spins out of control. What happened last week is that the ECB finally blinked, in ...

Published: Tuesday 24 July 2012
Published: Thursday 12 July 2012
“As Rajoy was making his announcement in parliament, the miners were in the streets, joined by thousands of regular citizens, all demanding that government cuts be halted. ”

As Spain’s prime minister announced deep austerity cuts Wednesday in order to secure funds from the European Union to bail out Spain’s failing banks, the people of Spain have taken to the streets once again for what they call “Real Democracy Now.” This comes a week after the government announced it was launching a criminal investigation into the former CEO of Spain’s fourth-largest bank, Bankia. Rodrigo Rato is no small fish: Before running Bankia he was head of the International Monetary Fund. What the U.S. media don’t tell you is that this official government investigation was initiated by grass-roots action.

The Occupy movement in Spain is called M-15, for the day it began, May 15, 2011. I met with one of the key organizers in Madrid last week on the day the Rato investigation was announced. He smiled, and said, “Something is starting to happen.” The organizer, Stephane Grueso, is an activist filmmaker who is making a documentary about the May 15 movement. He is a talented professional, but, like 25 percent of the Spanish population, he is unemployed: “We didn’t like what we were seeing, where we were going. We felt we were losing our democracy, we were losing our country, we were losing our way of life. ... We had one slogan: ‘Democracia real YA!’—we want a ‘real democracy, now!’ Fifty people stayed overnight in Puerta del Sol, this public square. And then the police tried to take us out, and so we came back. And then this thing began to multiply in other cities in Spain. In three, four days’ time, we were like tens of thousands of people in dozens of cities in Spain, camped in the middle of the city—a little bit like we ...

Published: Tuesday 26 June 2012
Published: Monday 25 June 2012
Even if a fatal calamity can be avoided, the division between creditor and debtor countries will be reinforced, and the “periphery” countries will have no chance to regain competitiveness, because the playing field is tilted against them.


At their meeting in Rome last Thursday, the leaders of the eurozone’s four largest economies agreed on steps towards a banking union and a modest stimulus package to complement the European Union’s new “fiscal compact.” Those steps are not enough. German Chancellor Angela Merkel resisted all proposals to provide relief to Spain and Italy from the excessive risk premiums that both countries are now confronting. As a result, the EU’s upcoming summit could turn into a fiasco, which may well prove lethal, because it would leave the rest of the eurozone without a strong enough financial firewall to protect it from the possibility of a Greek exit.


Even if a fatal calamity can be avoided, the division between creditor and debtor countries will be reinforced, and the “periphery” countries will have no chance to regain competitiveness, because the playing field is tilted against them. This may serve Germany’s narrow self-interest, but it will create a very different Europe from the open society that fired people’s imagination and propelled European integration for decades. It will make Germany the center of an empire and permanently subordinate the “periphery.” That is not what Merkel or the overwhelming majority of Germans stand for.

Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from George Soros, click here.

Merkel argues that it is against the rules to use the European Central Bank to solve eurozone countries’ fiscal problems – and she is right. ECB President Mario Draghi has said much the same. Indeed, the upcoming ...

Published: Saturday 23 June 2012
Published: Thursday 21 June 2012
“The CIE in Málaga was closed because of its ruinous condition – a situation that was long protested by activists.”


The closure of one of Spain’s eight immigration detention centers on Wednesday was celebrated by human rights groups, which for years have denounced the prison-like conditions in the centers.

“We are pleased with the closure of the Centro de Internamiento de Extranjeros (CIE – immigrant detention center) of Málaga, and we congratulate all of the organizations that took part in the struggle to achieve this,” Mamen Castellano, president of the NGO Andalucía Acoge (Andalusía Welcomes), told IPS.

The activist, who works for the rights of immigrants in the southern Spanish region of Andalusía, where Málaga is located, mentioned the “unnecessary suffering of thousands of people who were held there.”

The CIE in Málaga was closed because of its ruinous condition – a situation that was long protested by activists.

Castellano said people should not forget “the history of sexual abuse of female inmates by police, and of fires and suicides” in the Málaga CIE, which opened in 1990 in an old
military barracks in the poor neighborhood of Capuchinos.

The Interior Ministry had ordered that the CIE be shut down because of the “ruinous state of the installations.” Over the space of 22 years, it housed 20,000 undocumented immigrants, and gained a reputation as the most inhumane of the country’s immigrant detention centers.

Spain’s immigration law states that the CIEs are “public establishments of a non-penitentiary nature, which answer to the Interior Ministry, for the detention and custody of foreigners subject to deportation orders.”

But non-governmental organizations, experts, and even government institutions say the CIEs are “prisons in disguise.” They also complain that undocumented immigrants are held up to 40 days in worse conditions than in prisons, after they are picked up for minor offences like traffic ...

Published: Wednesday 20 June 2012
Greece has no good options, but a serious contagion risk remains to be contained in order to prevent derailment of the fiscal and growth-oriented reforms in Italy and Spain.

I have just had the privilege of speaking at the main annual conference of Germany’s Economic Council, the economic and business arm of the Christian Democratic Union, the current governing party. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble were among the other speakers. It was an interesting event – and, more important, an encouraging one.

It seemed clear that Germany (or at least this rather large gathering of government, business, and labor leaders) remains committed to the euro and to deeper European integration, and recognizes that success will require Europe-wide burden-sharing to overcome the ongoing Eurozone crisis. The reforms in Italy and Spain are rightly reviewed as crucial, and there appears to be a deep understanding (based on Germany’s own experience in the decade and a half following reunification) that restoring competitiveness, employment, and growth takes time.

Greece has no good options, but a serious contagion risk remains to be contained in order to prevent derailment of the fiscal and growth-oriented reforms in Italy and Spain. In the face of high systemic risk, private capital is leaving banks and the sovereign-debt markets, causing governments’ borrowing costs to rise and bank capitalization to fall. This in turn threatens the functioning of the financial system and the effectiveness of the reform programs.


Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Michael Spence, click here.

Thus, the central European Union institutions, along with the International Monetary Fund, have an important role to play in stabilization and ...

Published: Monday 18 June 2012
Published: Wednesday 13 June 2012
“A what if scenario if the problems in Europe go from bad to worse.”

Consider the following scenario. After a victory by the left-wing Syriza party, Greece’s new government announces that it wants to renegotiate the terms of its agreement with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. German Chancellor Angela Merkel sticks to her guns and says that Greece must abide by the existing conditions.

Fearing that a financial collapse is imminent, Greek depositors rush for the exit. This time, the European Central Bank refuses to come to the rescue and Greek banks are starved of cash. The Greek government institutes capital controls and is ultimately forced to issue drachmas in order to supply domestic liquidity.

With Greece out of the eurozone, all eyes turn to Spain. Germany and others are at first adamant that they will do whatever it takes to prevent a similar bank run there. The Spanish government announces additional fiscal cuts and structural reforms. Bolstered by funds from the European Stability Mechanism, Spain remains financially afloat for several months.

"Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Dani Rodrikclick here."

But the Spanish economy continues to deteriorate and unemployment heads towards 30%.  Violent protests against Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s austerity measures lead him to call for a referendum. His government fails to get the necessary support from voters and resigns, throwing the country into full-blown political chaos. Merkel cuts off further support for Spain, saying that hard-working ...

Published: Saturday 2 June 2012
“As protesters have in Argentina, in Chile, in Spain and now in Canada, they banged pots and pans as they marched — a practice called casseroles or cacerolazo.”


Occupy Wall Street activists took to the streets of New York to march for affordable education and against police repression, in solidarity with the massive, ongoing student uprising taking place in Quebec and now spreading across the world. As protesters have in Argentina, in Chile, in Spain and now in Canada, they banged pots and pans as they marched — a practice called casseroles or   cacerolazo. Manissa McCleave Maharawal and Zoltán Glück, who recently wrote for WNV about their experience among the students in Montreal, discuss the aims and meaning of this kind of protest.

Over the course of the night, the march made its way from Washington Square Park up to Times Square, often stopping traffic in the middle of the street, and then ended at the Quebec government’s office at Rockefeller Center. For more details on the march see this collection of tweets and photos by WNV editor Nathan Schneider.

Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012
“The German philosopher Jürgen Habermas speaks of a ‘transformational reality’ – a complex word for a simple reality: divided we fall, whereas united, in our own complex manner, we may strive for ‘greatness’ in the best sense.”

The euro, many now believe, will not survive a failed political class in Greece or escalating levels of unemployment in Spain: just wait another few months, they say, the European Union’s irresistible collapse has started.

Dark prophecies are often wrong, but they may also become self-fulfilling. Let’s be honest: playing Cassandra nowadays is not only tempting in a media world where “good news is no news”; it actually seems more justified than ever. For the EU, the situation has never appeared more serious.


It is precisely at this critical moment that it is essential to re-inject hope and, above all, common sense into the equation. So here are ten good reasons to believe in Europe – ten rational arguments to convince pessimistic analysts, and worried investors alike, that it is highly premature to bury the euro and the EU altogether.


The first reason for hope is that statesmanship is returning to Europe, even if in homeopathic doses. It is too early to predict the impact of François Hollande’s election as President of France. But, in Italy, one man, Mario Monti, is already making a difference.

Follow Project Syndicate on Twitter and FacebookClick here to see more from Dominique Moisi.

Of course, no one elected Monti, and his position is fragile and already ...

Published: Saturday 19 May 2012
“White-collar criminologist and former senior financial regulator William Black addresses the grassroots reaction to austerity measures in Europe.”

White-collar criminologist and former senior financial regulator William Black addresses the grassroots reaction to austerity measures in Europe -- from the "Indignados" movement in Spain to the anti-bailout elections in France and Greece -- as well as in the United States, where the Occupy movement is re-emerging as the presidential campaign gets into full gear. 


AMY GOODMAN: Now, William Black, I wanted to end by asking you quickly about the economic crisis in Europe. In Spain, over 100,000 people took part in anti-austerity rallies Sunday. In Greece, anti-bailout parties won the nation’s recent election. And in France, François Hollande was sworn in today as France’s new president, becoming the first French Socialist in power since the ’90s. He recently said his enemy was the world of finance.

FRANÇOIS HOLLANDE: [translated] My real enemy doesn’t have a name or a face or a party. He’ll never run as president, and so he’ll never be elected, although he does govern. My enemy is the world of finance.


Published: Friday 11 May 2012
“Spain does not want the poor to pay the cost of economic adjustment, nor does it want to limit anyone's economic, social and cultural rights.”

An expert body of the United Nations has warned the Spanish government that the severe budget cutbacks it is applying must not undermine its commitment to upholding the economic, social and cultural rights of the country's people.


Austerity measures imposed by the government of centre-right Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy could have "a negative and disproportionate impact on the enjoyment of those rights," said the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR).


Committee Chairperson Ariranga Govindasamy Pillay, a native of Mauritius, said these concerns will definitely appear in the final conclusions of its review of Spain's compliance with the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to be released on May 18.


The Committee, made up of 18 independent experts from different regions of the world, monitors observance of the Covenant by the 160 states that have ratified it since its adoption in 1966 and its entry into force in 1976.


Two particular events mark the case of Spain, which was discussed this week, said expert Jaime Marchán of Ecuador, the Committee's rapporteur on the report presented by Spain.


One was the elections in November last year, won by the People's Party, which replaced the government of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) led by former prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, in power since 2004.


The second feature mentioned by Marchán was "the persistence of a very severe economic crisis whose direct negative and devastating impacts have often interfered with maintenance of basic levels of protection for economic, social and cultural rights."


In his assessment of Spain's compliance, the rapporteur recalled that since 2004 the country has taken measures to promote economic, social and ...

Published: Tuesday 1 May 2012
Published: Friday 27 April 2012
That war, with US soldiers, Latinos, blacks and working class Americans, plus hundreds upon hundreds of war planes that dropped tens of thousands of bombs, sorties they called them, killed over 2 million Vietnamese people and injured that many more, men, women and children and like recent US bombing of Iraq, also demolished the country.

The US-Viet Nam war was a war of aggression against a people who never, not once, set foot on US soil to kill or bomb this country. It was not a war for freedom, as the apologists of the empire like to say.  That war, with US soldiers, Latinos, blacks and working class Americans, plus hundreds upon hundreds of war planes that dropped tens of thousands of bombs, sorties they called them, killed over 2 million Vietnamese people and injured that many more, men, women and children and like recent US bombing of Iraq, also demolished the country.

Of course the war generals also implemented the popular slogan "destroy the village in order to save it" which in practical terms ravaged the countryside with special killing platoons, assassinating and massacring villagers, such as the infamous attack on My Lai. Additionally and indiscriminately, they also used napalm, the war’s freedom chemical of choice, on those people. The napalm automatically affected thousands of soldiers, including Latino combatants.

That war was no different than the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the war against that other colonial power, Spain, the recent coup de tat against President Manuel Celaya and the democratically elected government in Honduras, and this one in particular hits the veins, the war on Mexico, where we lost over half of the territory. Indisputably history says, they have all been fabricated. No exceptions. The United States of America, with manifest destiny as its guiding moral civilizing light, has perpetually, engaged in wars of expansion, pillage and the stealing of conquered lands and their natural resources, that is oil and natural gas amongst many others.

Essentially, that's how the foundation of this country was laid. It started with the stealing of the land from the native indigenous people of America -the ones who gave us thanksgiving- then slaughtering them, and the remainder placed in reservations. Some like the ...

Published: Sunday 8 April 2012
“On average, 25 percent of European’s youth labor force is unemployed and yet another 25 percent only has a precarious, low paid job, even though most of unemployed young people possess high educational qualifications, including university diplomas.”

According to official figures, the unemployment rate affecting people under 25 years of age has reached 50 percent in Spain, 48 percent in Greece, 35 percent in Portugal, and 31 percent in Italy. Youth unemployment is also high in Ireland (30 percent), France (23 per cent), and Britain (22 percent). 

On average, 25 percent of European's youth labor force is unemployed and yet another 25 percent only has a precarious, low paid job, even though most of unemployed young people possess high educational qualifications, including university diplomas. 

In all these countries affected by high sovereign debt and economic recession, conservative governments have imposed drastic cuts in public spending, reduced social welfare programs and pensions and increased taxes, especially those paid by consumers, among other austerity measures. 

These programs have deepened economic slumps and fiscal difficulties across Europe. 

As the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) announced on Mar. 29 in its more recent economic assessment for the G7, the seven most industrialized countries of the world, "Our forecast for the first half of 2012 points to robust growth in the United States and Canada, but much weaker activity in Europe, where the outlook remains fragile." 

"We may have stepped back from the edge of the cliff," the OECD’s chief economist Pier Carlo Padoan cautioned, "but there’s still no room for complacency." 

Padoan also warned that the Eurozone’s three largest economies - Germany, France, and Italy – might have shrunk by an average of 0.4 percent during the first quarter of the year. 

The German economy already suffered a slowdown of 0.2 percent during the last quarter of 2011. Given the OECD ...

Published: Monday 2 April 2012
Published: Sunday 1 April 2012
Despite ongoing conflicts between the largest unions and 15M, several weeks ago the movement’s key organizations — including neighborhood assemblies, Democracies Real Ya, Yo No Pago and the Platform of People Affected by the Mortgage (PAH) — announced their support for the general strike and started working to make it a success.

Last Thursday, people across Spain made a show of force in a general strike, at a scale ranging from the government estimate of 800,000 to the 4 million claimed by the unions. It was timed to challenge new reforms that are expected to make it easier for employers to fire workers, dealing a blow to organized labor.

The 15M movement, which began with occupations in the central squares of cities around the country last year, played an important role in the strike’s success. Despite ongoing conflicts between the largest unions and 15M, several weeks ago the movement’s key organizations — including neighborhood assemblies, Democracies Real YaYo No Pago and the Platform of People Affected by the Mortgage (PAH) — announced their support for the general strike and started working to make it a success.

Early on, there appeared an anonymous blog called 29M sin Miedo (M29 without Fear). It invited workers to speak out against intimidation from their companies about the prospect of the strike, such as threats of dismissal or demands for signed statements about whether they intended to strike or not. The blog, which collected as many as 250 complaints, achieved a double objective: it made these abusive practices visible, and it provided a list of companies to picket on the day of the strike.

The 15M movement’s collectives followed suit with their own initiatives, including leafleting, public meetings about the overhaul of labor rules, caceroladas (the banging of ...

Published: Friday 30 March 2012
Published: Thursday 29 March 2012
Published: Saturday 4 February 2012
“Prospective buyers of Italian ten-year bonds should look at the longer-term impact of deficit cutting on the debt level, which is pretty certain to be positive.”

Europe seems to be obsessed with austerity. Country after country is being forced by either the financial markets or the European Union to start cutting its public-sector deficit. And, as if this were not enough, 25 of the 27 EU member states have just agreed on a new treaty (called a “fiscal compact”) that would oblige them never to have a cyclically adjusted budget deficit of more than 0.5% of GDP. (For comparison, the United States’ budget deficit in 2011 was close to 8% of GDP).

But, as the European economy risks falling into recession, many observers are asking whether “austerity” could be self-defeating. Could a reduction in government expenditure (or an increase in taxes) lead to such a sharp decline in economic activity that revenues fall and the fiscal position actually deteriorates further?

This is highly unlikely, given the way our economies work. Moreover, if it were true, it would follow that tax cuts would reduce budget deficits, because faster economic growth would ...

Published: Sunday 29 January 2012
“The most recent phase of the advanced economies’ frenzied search for growth took different forms.”

With the world’s industrial democracies in crisis, two competing narratives of its sources – and appropriate remedies – are emerging. The first, better-known diagnosis is that demand has collapsed because of high debt accumulated prior to the crisis. Households (and countries) that were most prone to spend cannot borrow any more. To revive growth, others must be encouraged to spend – governments that can still borrow should run larger deficits, and rock-bottom interest rates should discourage thrifty households from saving.

Under these circumstances, budgetary recklessness is a virtue, at least in the short term. In the medium term, once growth revives, debt can be paid down and the financial sector curbed so that it does not inflict another crisis on the world.

This narrative – the standard Keynesian line, modified for a debt crisis – is the one to which most government officials, central bankers, and Wall Street economists have subscribed, and needs little elaboration. Its ...

Published: Thursday 26 January 2012
“That supposed solution leaves half the eurozone relegated to the status of Third World countries that have become highly indebted in a foreign currency.”

The measures introduced by the European Central Bank last December, especially the Long Term Refinancing Operation (LTRO), have relieved the liquidity problems of European banks, but have not cured the financing disadvantage of the highly indebted member states. Since high-risk premiums on government bonds endanger the capital adequacy of banks, half a solution is not enough.

Indeed, that supposed solution leaves half the eurozone relegated to the status of Third World countries that have become highly indebted in a foreign currency. Instead of the International Monetary Fund, it is Germany that is acting as the taskmaster imposing tough fiscal discipline on them. This will generate both economic and political tensions that could destroy the European Union.

I have proposed a plan that would allow Italy and Spain to refinance their debt by issuing treasury bills at around 1%. I named it in memory of my friend Tomasso Padoa-Schioppa, who, as Italy’s central banker in the 1990’s, helped to stabilize that country’s finances. The plan is rather complicated, but it is legally and technically sound. I describe it in detail in my new book Financial Turmoil in Europe and the United States.

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European authorities rejected my plan in favor of the LTRO. The difference between the two schemes is that mine would provide instant relief to Italy and Spain. By contrast, the LTRO allows Italian and Spanish banks to engage in a very profitable and practically riskless arbitrage, but has kept government bonds hovering on the edge of a precipice – although the last few days brought some ...

Published: Wednesday 18 January 2012
“Banks hoard cheap money which doesn’t help populations, exacerbating the damaging economic effects. Unfortunately, this won't end any time soon.”

The markets (read: traders with big books at mega financial firms and hedge funds) weren’t particularly shocked by last week’s wave of heavily pre-broadcast S&P sovereign debt downgrades. For months, the question wasn’t ‘if’, but ‘when.’ True to form, just as with the US downgrade, S&P’s reasons skated the surface of prevailing wisdom – governments have too much debt, and not enough income. That’s only a fraction of the story.

Nowadays, when any sovereign (including the US) gets downgraded by a rating agency, it's not just because its debt repayment ability is questionable (the publicized logic of rating agencies), but because it incurred more expensive debt to float its banking system. It chose to subsidize banks over people.

The S&P likes moving on Friday nights. It was on a Friday night that it downgraded US debt to AA+ from AAA. On Friday night, January 13, 2012,  it downgraded France and Austria from AAA to AA+, and 7 other European countries, too; Cyprus, Italy, Portugal, and Spain by two notches; Malta, Slovakia, and Slovenia, by one notch. Portugal, Cyprus, Ireland and Greece are at junk status. Germany’s AAA rating is intact.

Nowhere in S&P’s statement about “global economic and financial crisis”, did it clarify that sovereigns were hit due to backing their largest national banks (and international, US ones) which engaged in half a decade of leveraged speculation. But here’s how it worked:

1) Big banks funneled speculative capital, and their own, into local areas, using real estate and other ...

Published: Friday 30 December 2011
“There is no safety net as we make the transition to a potentially new life, new identity, new community.”

Poised on the threshold of a new year, I’m again drawn to a metaphor for the challenges and opportunities we face in this urgent time of ours: the crossroads.

Two roads intersect, and now we confront an unavoidable choice. Do we carry on as we always have—or do we, with courage and imagination and verve, make a dramatic course correction?

While it may be too early to definitively rank 2011 as the year of the Great Nonviolent Turning (even greater things may be coming in the new year or in the years that will follow it; or, on the contrary, the passage of time may reframe this period entirely), the events of the past twelve months—from Tunisia to Egypt, from Greece to Spain, from Chile to Jeju Island, from China and Russia to a more or less Occupied America—have signaled a growing determination for a qualitative shift.

Here the symbol of the crossroads is especially apt. Traditionally it signifies, not an arbitrary or simplistic decision (Coke or Pepsi?), but a momentous choice: a turning point, a decisive situation, or a set of life-altering options. The worldwide movement for nonviolent change that has been gathering momentum this year seems to be placing before us such immense choices: Radical economic disparity or sustainable equality? Oligarchy or democracy? Militarized culture or a more nonviolent civil society?

These are not minor alternatives. Real change of this magnitude will require profound structural metamorphosis. This will not appear out of the blue. Nor will it happen merely because we wish it so. Instead, it will depend on movements that derive their power from a deep transformation of personal and social consciousness and identities; a willingness to let go of certain reliable (if debilitating) assumptions about how the world is ordered; and a commitment to face the consequences for taking these still as yet unclear steps for change.

The crossroads in its deepest sense may also be useful ...

Published: Thursday 22 December 2011
“The negotiating teams at the troika surely must know that the path they are following can only lead to further crises.”

At this point the sovereign debt crisis in Europe is almost getting boring. We’ve seen the same script played out over and over with country after country. The basic story is the markets begin a run on the debt of a country: Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain etc.

The troika, the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Union (EU), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) then demand a series of austerity measures. In addition, they sometimes demand measures unrelated to fiscal policy, such as a lower minimum wage in Ireland or weaker employment protection legislation in Italy, that are intended to weaken workers’ bargaining power. As a quid pro quo, the troika then arranges enough bond purchases or other supports to get through the immediate crisis.

Of course these measures don’t actually solve the underlying problem. If the troika took the steps needed to ensure that the indebted countries got past this crisis, it would lose the ability to demand further austerity and other steps that weaken welfare state supports for workers. The troika is not willing to give up its leverage at this point.

That is why the ECB repeatedly declares its refusal to guarantee support for sovereign debt any time it seems as though the financial markets believe that it is committed to supporting the debt of the troubled borrowers. This insistence by the ECB, coupled with the other policies it pushes to stifle growth, ensures that the crises will continue. The same countries will have to keep coming back for another dose of punishment and new countries will be added to the list as the contagion of slumping demand, deteriorating bank balance sheets, and dwindling confidence spreads.

The negotiating teams at the troika surely must know that the path they are following can only lead to further crises. Their medicine of austerity is irrelevant to the disease that is afflicting the debt-burdened countries.

Most immediately they are suffering ...

Published: Saturday 3 December 2011
“Crisis is often invoked as the midwife of revolutionary change, and here are Greece, Italy, Spain and even France at various levels of crisis, with political orthodoxy and the normal order of things increasingly discredited.”

It looks as though the eurozone may be in a decisive meltdown, which is just fine in my book. The sooner we get back to francs, lire, punts, drachmas and the rest of the old sovereign currencies, the better.

It used to be as much a part of going to France to change money and be handed a bundle of notes featuring the devious Cardinal Richelieu as choking on Gauloise smoke. Instead, those francs are now replaced by the characterless but somehow always expensive euros.

The argument against the eurozone is that hard-faced Euro-bankers — their killer instincts honed at Goldman Sachs, Wall Street's School of the Americas — have the power to act as the bully-boys of international capital and impose austerity regimes from Dublin to Athens, scalping the poor to bail out the rich.

Now the end of the eurozone does not mean the end of the European Union. They're different. There are 17 nations in the former, 27 in the latter. Britain, for example, has never been in the eurozone, which is why the currency exchange in London will, in return for your worthless dollars, hand you bank notes with the Queen's portrait on them.

At the moment, the European Union has virtually no tax collecting powers. Its annual haul is about 1 percent of the EUs gross domestic product. By comparison, the U.S. government collects about 20 to 24 percent of GDP.

Throughout the entire Eurocrisis, there has been a basso profundo chorus from the Eurocrats that what's needed is a lot more centralizing. In the words of Wolfgang Munchau at the Financial Times on Nov. 28, the EU needs "a fiscal union": "This would involve a partial loss of national sovereignty, and the creation of a credible institutional framework to deal with fiscal policy, and hopefully wider economic policy issues as well."

I've read many editorial paragraphs with this same bullying timbre — that what the whole European enterprise needs is an ...

Published: Wednesday 23 November 2011
“As winter arrives and police crack down, how can occupiers keep their movement alive—and help it grow? Veteran activists share lessons from Spain's Indignados.”

We write this letter as participants in the movements, and as an invitation to a conversation. We hope to raise questions about how we continue to deepen and transform the new social relationships and processes we have begun … to open the discussion towards a common horizon.

The evictions and threats to the physical occupations in the United States have again raised the question of the future of the movement. The question isn’t whether the movement has a future, but what sort of future it will be. For example, should our energy be focused on finding new spaces to occupy and create encampments? Should we be focused more in our local neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces? Is there a way to occupy public space with horizontal assemblies, yet also focus locally and concretely?

A look at the recent history of a movement similar to Occupy—the Spanish indignados or May 15 movement—can shed some light on the opportunities and urgency of this new ...

Published: Saturday 5 November 2011
“Today’s protesters are asking for little: a chance to use their skills, the right to decent work at decent pay, a fairer economy and society.”

The protest movement that began in Tunisia in January, subsequently spreading to Egypt, and then to Spain, has now become global, with the protests engulfing Wall Street and cities across America. Globalization and modern technology now enables social movements to transcend borders as rapidly as ideas can. And social protest has found fertile ground everywhere: a sense that the “system” has failed, and the conviction that even in a democracy, the electoral process will not set things right – at least not without strong pressure from the street.

In May, I went to the site of the Tunisian protests; in July, I talked to Spain’s indignados; from there, I went to meet the young Egyptian revolutionaries in Cairo’s Tahrir Square; and, a few weeks ago, I talked with Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York. There is a common theme, expressed by the OWS movement in a simple phrase: “We are the 99%.”


Published: Saturday 5 November 2011
“Here, as elsewhere, people are outraged at what feels like a rigged game – an economy that won’t respond, a democracy that won’t listen, and a financial sector that holds all the cards.”

The biggest question in America these days is how to revive the economy.

The biggest question among activists now occupying Wall Street and dozens of other cities is how to strike back against the nation’s almost unprecedented concentration of income, wealth, and political power in the top 1 percent.

The two questions are related. With so much income and wealth concentrated at the top, the vast middle class no longer has the purchasing power to buy what the economy is capable of producing. (People could pretend otherwise as long as they could treat their homes as ATMs, but those days are now gone.) The result is prolonged stagnation and high unemployment as far as the eye can see.

Until we reverse the trend toward inequality, the economy can’t be revived.

But the biggest question in our nation’s capital right now has nothing to do with any of this. It’s whether Congress’s so-called “Supercommittee” – six Democrats and six Republicans charged with coming up with $1.2 trillion in budget savings — will reach agreement in time for the Congressional Budget Office to score its proposal, which must then be approved by Congress before Christmas recess in order to avoid an automatic $1.5 trillion in budget savings requiring major across-the-board cuts starting in 2013.

Have your eyes already glazed over?

Diffident Democrats on the Supercommittee have already signaled a willingness to cut Medicare, Social Security, and much else that Americans depend on. The deal is being held up by Regressive Republicans who won’t raise taxes on the rich – not even a tiny bit.

President Obama, meanwhile, is out on the stump trying to sell his “jobs bill” – which would, by the White House’s own estimate, create fewer than 2 million jobs. Yet 14 million people are out of work, and another 10 million are working part-time who’d rather have full-time ...

Published: Wednesday 26 October 2011
“Since May, Chilean students have been staging protests demanding that the government make education free to all.”

At first glance, the synchronized protests that took place in more than 900 cities around the globe on Oct. 15 seemed to indicate that Occupy Wall Street had achieved a kind of worldwide resonance.

But the truth is more complex. Many of the protests elsewhere grew out of movements that pre-date Occupy Wall Street and out of frustrations that, though similar in some ways, are also specific to their countries.

Here’s a look at the origins, demands and affects of five of these global protests, as well as the criticism they’ve faced.

In Chile, Students Protesting for Free Education Occupy Schools

The Santiago protest in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street took place during a week of ongoing national demonstrations. Since May, Chilean students have been staging protests demanding that the government make education free to all.

Secondary school students have occupied their schools, sleeping on the floor and holding their own classes. Last week, protesting students  READ FULL POST 6 COMMENTS

Published: Sunday 23 October 2011
“There are three possible responses to this state of affairs. The first relies on intervention by the central bank in the event of a threat to the sovereign-debt market.”

Since the summer, the continuing installments of the Greek crisis have concealed a worrying process of fragmentation in the eurozone. Indeed, there are several grim indicators of this development.

First, the spread between banks’ borrowing rate and the zero-risk rate has been climbing since July. Financial institutions with liquidity increasingly prefer to deposit their cash with the European Central Bank, which has had to resume its lending to banks. The same thing occurred in the 2007-2008 crisis, though the shift is less acute this time, and is confined to the eurozone. In London and New York, the interbank market is still working; nevertheless, there is reason for concern.

Second, cross-border banks are charging higher interest rates to firms in southern Europe than they are to comparable firms in northern Europe, which is worsening the situation for crisis-hit economies. This fragments Europe’s supposedly unified market. And, instead of combating this trend, northern European regulators are amplifying it by limiting financial institutions’ exposure to southern European banks.


Published: Wednesday 24 August 2011
“Too often, politicians and pundits refer to non-Muslim terrorists as just being “deranged.”

Too many Americans think the term "terrorism" only applies to Muslims. Christians, Jews, atheists, agnostics, Unitarians, or Quakers who commit unspeakable acts of horror often aren't deemed to be real terrorists.

Consider what happened after right-wing Norwegian gunman Anders Breivik killed 77 people in July. The first response from the U.S. corporate press to this savage bloodshed, including Washington Post blogger and columnist Jennifer Rubin, was that he must be a Muslim, maybe one affiliated with the al-Qaeda terrorist network. When that assumption proved false, he quickly became just another deranged young man.

Why do so many of us only worry about Muslims? For starters, there's a lot of oil, gas, and other high-value resources in the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa, right where many Muslims reside.

In the old days, Western powers simply went in and took whatever they wanted. There was no United Nations or world press to demand fair play. The great battles of the day were among those powers themselves, rather than with the natives who got trampled, colonized, and enslaved. For many years, the big struggles were between colonial powers like Britain, Spain, and France. For much of the 20th century, the Soviet Union duked it out with the United States.

Times have changed. False conscience has intruded. Beginning around World War II, countries were supposed to have a good reason before invading or occupying other nations. The United States, currently a lone superpower, has become saddled with the bothersome task of finding excuses for attacking these oil-bearing lands, at least those whose leaders we haven't already bought off.

Paramount among the excuses for invasion is "terrorism." We used it to justify our wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, with Iran potentially coming down the pike.

The more Washington can equate terror with the residents of those countries, ...

Published: Monday 8 August 2011
"What the ECB has failed to recognize is that its own policies are making it more difficult for these countries to make their loan payments."

The European Central Bank (ECB) is run by people who are not very good at economics. They continue to adhere to a fundamentally wrongheaded view of the economy and the central bank’s role within it. Unfortunately there is no internal pressure for change because, like the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, acceptance of the ideology is the price for admission into the clique of economists who can influence the ECB.

The central tenet of ECB dogma is that the central bank should target a low inflation rate (2.0 percent) and pretty much ignore everything else in the economy. In the last decade this meant ignoring the massive housing bubbles that were driving the economies of Ireland and Spain. The bank was happy all through the period in which the bubbles were growing to ever more dangerous levels because it was hitting its inflation targets.

More recently, the ECB has been raising interest rates even as most of the eurozone economies remain mired with high unemployment. These interest rate hikes slow growth and job creation. Higher interest rates also exacerbate the fiscal problems facing heavily indebted countries, since they make it more expensive for them to service their debt.

In other lines of work, the disastrous consequences of the ECB’s recent and current policies would get people fired. However, no one is really in a position to fire the ECB bank president and top staff, so they could in principle continue their failed policy approach indefinitely.

But there is hope. Because the people running the ECB are not very good at economics, they keep running into difficulty with their plans to "rescue" Greece, Spain, and the other eurozone countries facing fiscal crises. As a result, they have to continually run back to these countries and work out new loan packages. Each package involves new and more onerous conditions for the debtor countries.

What the ECB has failed to recognize is that its own policies ...

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