Category Archives: Europe

Archaeologist says he’s found Aristotle’s tomb

That’s the claim.

Don’t expect any body to turn, since the Greek philosopher was cremated when he died in 322 BC at the ripe old age [in those days] of 62, and it’s his ashes that are supposed to lie beneath the marble floor on the Chalcidice peninsula of northwestern Greece.

From To Vima:

A domed building and altar that was discovered in the ancient city of Stagira in 1996 is likely to be the tomb and monument of ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. A report in the Kathimerini newspaper, the official announcements will be made on Thursday, at the international conference on Aristotle.

Archeologist Kostas Sismanidis, who was worked on the dig in ancient Stagira, where the philosopher was born in 384 BC, explained that while there is no proof that the tomb belonged to Aristotle, there are very strong indications to support such a claim.

According to Sismanidis the location, view and other construction details strongly indicate that the building was used as a tomb for the great philosopher.

Greek Reporter has a video with a reconstruction of the temple:

Aristotle’s Tomb Found in Greece

More from Greek Reporter:

“I have no hard proof, but strong indications lead me to an almost certainty,” said archaeologist Kostas Sismanidis who made the claim of finding Aristotle’s tomb.

In his extensive research, Sismanidis first established that the tomb belongs to an important person, one who deserves to have such a lavish and respected tomb.

Then, based on three different biographies and other written testimonies and analyses, written at different time periods and by authors of different origin, he comes to the conclusion that the remains of Aristotle were transferred from Chalkis, where he died, to Stagira.

Here is an excerpt from Sismanidis’ report citing an Aristotle biography written in latin by Leonardo Azetino: “Stagira, had been destroyed by Philip, and Aristotle managed to convince the King to reconstruct the city and wrote the laws and the government system himself… His fellow citizens honored him for his actions and established annual celebrations and festivals after his name while he was still alive.”

We leave the last word to Keep Talking Greece:

The grave is inside a complex of divergent buildings dated form the Archaic period over the Byzantine and modern times. The location is on the slope of the northern tip of Stagira.

Apart from the buildings remains and walls, there are numerous findings “ of good quality, unpainted or painted pottery, which is represented by shells, plates, goblets [and other small items.] More than 50 coins with Alexander the Third, cut in Amphipolis and Thessaloniki as well as cons of his descendants.”

According to findings and research, “an altar was in the middle of the building where Aristotle’s grave was found.”

Quote of the day: On the looting of Europe’s South

From Pal Craig Roberts, Assistant Secretary oif the Treasury under Ronald Reagan and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal, writing in Counterpunch:

Greece is being destroyed by the EU that it so foolishly joined and trusted.  The same thing is happening to Portugal and is also underway in Spain and Italy.  The looting has already devoured Ireland and Latvia (and a number of Latin American countries) and is underway in Ukraine.

The current newspaper headlines reporting an agreement being reached between the IMF and Germany about writing down the Greek debt to a level that could be serviced are false.  No “creditor” has yet agreed to write off one cent of the debt.  All that the IMF has been given by so-called “creditors” is unspecific “pledges” of an unspecified amount of debt writedown two years from now.

The newspaper headlines are nothing but fluff that provide cover for the IMF to succumb to presssure and violate its own rules. The cover lets the IMF say that a (future unspecified) debt writedown will enable Greece to service the remainder of its debt and, therefore, the IMF can lend Greece the money to pay the private banks.

In other words, the IMF is now another lawless Western institution whose charter means no more than the US Constitution or the word of the US government in Washington.

Massive protests over labor law sweep France

We begin with a video report from euronews:

France: Strike raises stakes in showdown over labour reforms

Program notes:

With pumps at more than 4,000 petrol stations in France now partially or fully dry, the showdown between the government and the hardline CGT union over contested labour reforms intensified on Thursday.

Nationwide blockades and rallies, travel disruption and a strike at the country’s nuclear power plants are putting more pressure on Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls who insists the law won’t be withdrawn.

From Sputnik, raw footage of confrontations today in Paris between activists and police:

French Protest Against Labor Reform

Program notes:

France’s trade unions took to the streets of Paris once again to voice their opposition to French labor reform. Almost 19,000 French nationals have participated in a nationwide rally in Paris. The protest turned violent as police clashed with mask-wearing young demonstrators.

The reason for the massive action is a set of labor “reforms” imposed by the socialist-in-name-only government of French President François Hollande

BBC News summarizes the main point of the government’s new rules:

  • The 35-hour week remains in place, but as an average. Firms can negotiate with local trade unions on more or fewer hours from week to week, up to a maximum of 46 hours
  • Firms are given greater freedom to reduce pay
  • The law eases conditions for laying off workers, strongly regulated in France. It is hoped companies will take on more people if they know they can shed jobs in case of a downturn
  • Employers given more leeway to negotiate holidays and special leave, such as maternity or for getting married. These are currently also heavily regulated

The Deutsche Presse-Agentur covers the government’s response to the strike:

[Prime Minister Manuel] Valls said there could be some changes to labour legislation, which is aimed at easing employment regulations on issues such as dismissal practices and negotiating rules. But he rejected the possibility of entirely withdrawing the reforms as national strikes drew out fuel blockages and disrupted traffic across France.

“I am always open when some aspect should be improved, but on the main lines of the text, particularly article 2, there is no question of touching it,” said Valls on broadcaster BFM-TV. “We cannot cede to a desire to make the government fold by blocking the economy.”

Article 2 of the legislation changes the labour code to give working hours agreements at company-level greater clout than those made by unions at industry-level.

French President Francois Hollande, in Japan for the G7 summit, was quoted by French media voicing his support for Valls’ position.

Members of the umbrella CGT union, one of the seven unions that called for the nationwide strike, have called for a complete withdrawal of the legislation. Secretary General Philippe Martinez called for Hollande to live up to promises he made while a candidate.

From France 24, an interview with a representative of the union organizing the massive job action:

France Labour Law strike chaos: “We want more social rights for the workers”

Program note:

Benjamin Amar, member of the General Confederation of Labour, CGT – Val de Marne, came to the studio to explain his organization reaction while the strikes and demonstrations continue in the country.

Lots more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Today in Euroausterity: € for Greece, Spain warned

First, the good news for greece. . .

Following adoption of yet more pay and pension cuts plus some take hikes and the promise to sell off more of the national resources, the Troika finally coughs up the cash.

From To Vima:

After an 11-hour meeting in Brussels, the Eurogroup finally concluded and came to a decision regarding the bailout review, funding and Greece’s debt.

According to the Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem, 10.3 billion euros will be paid out to Greece in two installments; one for 7.5 billion euros in June and one after the summer, when a number of prior actions have been implemented.

In relation to Greece’s public debt, the Eurogroup chief stated there was an agreement for a solution in three stages, with short and long-term measures, as well as a long-term mechanism.

eKathimerini covers the downside for the coalition government:

[G]overnment officials admitted in private that the deal fell short of what they had been hoping for, particularly because the eurozone had resisted the IMF’s call for immediate and unconditional debt relief for Greece over the course of the program.

Another concern for the coalition is the lenders’ demand that it make changes to the legislation passed through Parliament on Saturday, such as lifting the restriction on the sale of nonperforming loans that are backed by state guarantees, before any funds can be disbursed.

Athens was also told that it would have to reach reform milestones in the fall before it could receive the second tranche of bailout funding. The first installment, which is set to be released in the coming weeks, will be 7.5 billion euros, while the second one will reach 2.8 billion.

The prospect of having to vote through more measures was not at all well received by SYRIZA MPs as they feel they have already taken on a considerable burden over the last few weeks, when they passed two multi-bills containing a wide range of measures.

Then on to Spain and that warning, via El País:

As if the European economy did not have enough to deal with, with stunted growth levels, a seemingly endless crisis in Greece and a global slowdown, the European Central Bank (ECB) has detected another risk: the populist movements mushrooming across the continent.

In its latest Financial Stability Review, the agency headed by Mario Draghi has alerted that growing popular support for these movements could delay what it views as necessary reforms. And the three countries where the political risk is higher are Spain, France and Greece.

“Reform implementation may have become more difficult, as political risks have increased considerably in almost all euro area countries since the onset of the global financial crisis,” reads the report, which was released on Tuesday.

“These rising political risks at both the national and supranational levels, as well as the increasing support for political forces which are seen to be less reform-oriented, may potentially lead to the delay of much needed fiscal and structural reforms,” adds the document.

Quote of the day: A dirty campaign’s toxic legacy

While Norbert Hofer [previously], presidential candidate of the far-Right Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs [Austrian Freedom Party, or FPÖ] lost Sunday’s election by 31,000 votes out of 4.6 million ballots cast, his campaign has left a deep stain on Austria, writes Cathrin Kahlweit of Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Her words are of exceptional relevance here in the U.S., where another candidates will lead his own party’s ticket in November’s presidential election in a campaign fueled by the same resentments, anti-immigrant fear-mongering, and Islamophobia employed so effectively by Hofer:

[R]egardless of the election outcome, the country has changed dramatically over the last several months. Sensationalist media, the FPÖ and even some in the Christian democratic and conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) have jumped on the bandwagon with hyperbolic platitudes splashed all over social networks: There is talk of an “increasing crime rate,” a belief that “women can’t walk the streets alone anymore,” and even that “foreigners are all rapists and murderers.”

Hatred and contempt are suddenly acceptable, because they’re directed at others — outsiders. That’s what Hofer suggested in his final speech, when he said foreigners who care about Austria may stay, “but those who follow ISIS, or rape women, must go.”

Gross generalization and defamation have become widespread, with hateful comments parroted back by a public that passively absorbs them. The election campaign drifted far away from its stated goal of finding the right person to represent the country, attract investors, mediate and connect.

At the end of the day, Hofer could claim victory, even if he didn’t become president. He demonstrated a clear path for how a right-wing leader can rise to power: to sweep the country “clean” with an iron broom, to set limits to the current establishment, to restore the old order. Those in Austria who still see shades of gray, and who favor a moderate approach, are lost right now.

With the ballots counted and Van der Bellen elected, the real fight for Austria has just begun.

Spanish Prime Minister’s secret Troika promise

Spain’s prime minister is the target of outrage today after one of the country’s leading newspapers revealed a secret promise he’d made to the a Troika member promising to inflict yet another round of austerity on a country already wracked by high unemployment and a stumbling economy.

The Troika, comprised of the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary, disperses funds to bail out countries effectively bankrupted by the collapse of their banks at the start of the Great Recession.

From El País:

The Spanish political scene was in turmoil on Monday after EL PAÍS revealed the contents of a letter that acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy sent to the European Commission.

In the letter, Rajoy said that if he is re-elected at the upcoming elections of June 26, he is “prepared to adopt new measures, if required, in order to meet the [deficit] target.”

In public, Rajoy, of the Popular Party (PP), has denied that Spain will require any further spending cuts following a raft of unpopular measures that were taken at the height of the economic crisis.

Spain’s population has already been hit with pay and pension cuts and selloffs of public property in previous rounds of austerity, yet the promised economic recovery has failed to transpire.

From the National Institute of Statistics, here are the latest jobless percentages for Spain’s provinces, with the national rate represented by the darker bar:

BLOG Spanish jobless

Chart of the day: Euro deaths, medical inadequacy

BLOG Eurodeaths

From Eurostat [PDF]:

In the European Union (EU), 1.7 million persons aged less than 75 died in 2013. Among them, around 577,500 deaths (or 33.7% of total deaths) could be considered as premature, as they could have been avoided in the light of medical knowledge and technology. Heart attacks (184,800 deaths) and strokes (almost 94,000 deaths) accounted together for almost half (48%) of these total avoidable causes of death of people aged less than 75.

This information on avoidable deaths through optimal health care (i.e. amenable deaths) comes from a report issued by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. The concept of avoidable mortality is based on the idea that certain deaths (for specific age groups and from specific diseases) could be ‘avoided’ – meaning they would not have occurred at this stage – if there had been timely and effective health care in place.

This indicator on amenable mortality is aimed to be used in a global context of health system performance assessments. Assessing the performance of health care systems is of increasing importance in the EU. While the amenable mortality indicator is not meant to be a definite or unique measurement of the quality of health care in the Member States, it provides some indication of the quality and performance of healthcare policies in a country.