Archive | September 24, 2013

Not Only French Workers Protest Attacks on Pensions*

French Workers Protest Attacks on Pensions*

By G. Dunkel

Some 370,000 protesters came out in 200 demonstrations throughout France on Sept. 10., showing a groundswell of opposition to the new government-proposed pension “reforms.”

Right-wing governments proposed similar “reforms” in 1993, 1995, 2003, 2007 and 2010 but now that there is a “Socialist” government, headed by President François Hollande and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, European financiers see it as an opportune time to force pension austerity down the throats of French workers.

The Socialist Party in France has a long history of serving French imperialism and the interests of the bourgeoisie. They have justified this law by pointing to the financial crisis in the pension system, at the same time that they are cutting taxes and reducing the amount businesses have to contribute.

The four union federations that called the one-day general strike — the CGT (General Workers Confederation), FO (Workers Force), Solidaire and the FSU (United Union Federation), composed mainly of teachers — say the turnout sets the groundwork for sustained struggles against pension austerity.

Franch’s left parties — the Party of the Left, the French Communist Party and the New Anti-capitalist Party — sent significant contingents to these protests.

FO’s Secretary General Jean-Claude Mailly was quoted in the Sept. 10 newsletter of the Parti Ouvrier Independent: “This is not the tsunami, you cannot get three million people [the turnout in the 2010 protests] out every time. But going beyond the activist circles, it is a good mobilization.”  He noted that the numbers  are higher than those for last spring’s rallies, which drew 200,000 people out to oppose a law imposing “labor flexibility.”

Solidaire has called for follow-up meetings within a week to plan future actions.

While this was a strike, it wasn’t aimed against any particular employer; it was a political strike against a bad parliamentary proposal.


Detroit’s Emergency Manager Plans Early Payoff of Top Banks

By James Brewer

In a move that illuminates the class character of the Detroit bankruptcy proceedings, the city’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, is proposing to pay off two banks before all the rest of the city’s creditors, including retired workers who are owed their pensions.

This week Orr’s legal team is appealing to the bankruptcy court to allow the city to pay at least $250 million to UBS and Bank of America immediately, as part of an agreement to “unwind” a complex interest rate swap agreement. The proposal amounts to a payment of the two banks of between 75 and 82 cents on the dollar, far more than Orr is proposing to pay other obligations.

On Monday, US Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes delayed a hearing on the proposal, with city officials requesting more time. Other wealthy bondholders are upset at the deal because it may mean that they get less money on their own claims.

The $250 million payment is for interest incurred and includes a sizable termination fee for a default-swap loan made in 2006 to enable the maintenance of payments to the pension fund. The deal was pushed by the two banks with the claim that interest rates were almost certain to go up. The city agreed to pay a fixed rate of 6.3 percent, while UBS and Bank of America would pay the difference between the actual market rate interest and the agreed upon fixed rate.

The collapse of the economy in 2008-2009 and the response of the government created the opposite situation: interests plummeted, creating a disaster for the city and a boondoggle for UBS and Bank of America. The city has been saddled with the interest debt at well above market rates, exacerbating the financial crisis and making Detroit more vulnerable to the financial predators who now are assailing it.

The Detroit News cites Robert Brooks, a professor of finance at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, who points out that Detroit is among many cities that made “bad bets” on interest rates.

“They bought the story line in ’06 that rates were at an all-time low and they should lock this in with a swap. .. making the bet that rates were going to go up.”

Brooks added, “It’s kind of like gamblers ruin —now that I’m underwater, let’s double down.”

Orr’s office says there is no choice but to terminate the swap arrangement because the two banks control access to $15 million a month in casino tax revenue as part of an agreement made in 2009 to avert a much larger payout.

University of Maryland law school financial derivatives expert Michael Greenberger said, “He gave the banks a big, wet sloppy kiss. Why should the banks get 75 to 82 cents on the dollar, but the Detroit workers get 10 cents on the dollar? Whose life is destroyed by this?”

Unwinding the swap with UBS and the Bank of America entails the payment of huge termination fees demanded by the banks. Patrick O’Keefe, CEO of a Detroit-area financial restructuring firm said, “It makes almost no sense to unwind a swap because whatever you pay in a premium has to get factored into what you’re going [sic] pay.” Because the swap arrangements are tied to the duration of the pension bonds which expire in 2029 and 2034, the banks are free to levy large fees in order to end them.

The complex chain of events leading to the forced bankruptcy of the city all involve the operations of financial institutions plundering the assets of Detroit.

The proposal of Orr’s office has nothing to do with freeing funds for “reinvestment in this city to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the citizens,” as Orr testified last week, but rather to cherry-pick the existing revenues to ensure the profits of the largest creditors.

The proposals of the emergency manager to end retiree health care and slash pensions expose the real intentions of the financial dictatorship imposed on the citizens of Detroit.

Related Topics:  

CVS Flu Shot Kills 23 Senior Citizens

Your Age Matters to Them

Imperialist France by Moonlight

Colonial France out for Niger’s Uranium*

Family that Homeschooled their Children Harassed from Germany to France, the US and Back Again*

France Leads Neocolonial Carve-up of Syria*

From Liberation to Re-enslavement

Egypt: Silencing all Voices Accept the One it Wants to Hear*

Egypt: Silencing all Voices Accept the One it Wants to Hear*

By Chris Fry

Armed to the teeth by the U.S., the Egyptian military regime under General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is brutally attacking not only the conservative Muslim Brotherhood, but also a wide range of progressive groups and individuals, including striking workers, journalists and the Palestinians in Gaza. The U.S. has continued to provide guns and ammunition to the military regime — up to $1.3 billion’s worth annually. (New York Times, Aug. 25)

The Barack Obama administration has not even declared the military takeover in Egypt a coup. Such a declaration would mean a cutoff of the massive weapons assistance that the U.S. provides to Egypt’s military.

Late this spring, thousands of Egyptians poured into the streets to protest the repressive government of President Mohammed Morsi. On July 3, using these protests as a cover, the Egyptian military conducted a coup and overthrew the government, placing Morsi in prison. The new regime declared a “state of emergency,” which permits the military and police to smash all dissension from their iron-fisted rule.

On Aug. 14, police and troops attacked two “camps” of peaceful protesters in Cairo, made up mostly of members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Thousands were killed, and thousands more were arrested. Human Rights Watch described this incident as “the most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history.”

Since then, the regime has cracked down on progressive groups and individuals. In Suez, police and military units broke up a strike of steelworkers, who were demanding more pay, health benefits and the rehiring of a dozen fired workers. The regime charged strike leaders with being “Islamist” and arrested them.

A newspaper supporting the military takeover, Youm El Saba, quoted the regime’s labor minister as blaming the Muslim Brotherhood for inciting strikes in several cities.

Tarek Loubani, a Canadian physician with Palestinian roots, and John Greyson, a progressive Toronto filmmaker, were arrested and held while simply trying to walk back to their Cairo hotel.

Five workers for the religious website Islam Today were arrested for simply calling the military takeover a coup.

In the delta province of Beheira, soldiers shot and killed Tamer Abdel Raouf, the local head of the official newspaper, Al Ahram, at a checkpoint, even though the car bore a press badge from a meeting with the governor. A witness said that Raouf was shot in the head while turning the car slowly, according to a soldier’s instruction. No apology was issued, and the witness himself was arrested by the military regime.

Two prominent members of the “April 6” group, which participated in the “Arab Spring” movement against Mubarak, were arrested for “spying for Western powers to stir unrest in Egypt.” These are the exact same charges that the infamous Mubarak regime used against progressives for opposing his dictatorship.

Prosecutors have even opened an investigation of young protesters calling for the military to remove Mursi. They are being accused of “disturbing the public order” by criticizing the release from prison of the former U.S.-backed dictator, Hosni Mubarak.

In the last month, the Egyptian military has destroyed 150 tunnels that bring much-needed food, construction materials, fuel and medicines into Palestinian Gaza.

Threats from the police and military have been stepped up. Egypt’s Interior Ministry “affirms that it will confront with utmost decisiveness practices such as blocking roads or obstructing traffic.” (Press TV, Sept. 14)

Meanwhile, the military regime is holding secret court hearings for Mubarak, which seemed to be aimed to “vindicate” the former dictator and blame his brutal repression on the Muslim Brotherhood.

The crackdown has reduced the numbers of public demonstrations by the regime’s opponents, but armed resistance to the military junta has broken out in the Sinai and other regions.

Although the U.S. government has criticized the brutality of Egypt’s military government, it is clear that imperialism has no real objection to using the Egyptian military as a battering ram against the people’s uprising that was and is the Arab Spring.

End U.S. military shipments to Egypt now!


Related Topics:

Egyptian Military Trials of Civilians is Challenged*

Egyptian Arrested for Naming Donkey after General*

Egypt Journalist Faces Military Court Over ‘Lies’

The Sacred Spirit of Water*

The Sacred Spirit of Water*

Water is a living organism, water is sacred, water is life, water is worth defending and protecting for those yet unborn. Rivers and lakes in Alberta don’t stop at provincial borders. These rivers and lakes flow throughout Canada and the United States, therefore everyone will be affected by the ominous bills which have become law.

This means the previous 2.5 million lakes and rivers that were protected have been diminished to only 62 protected rivers and 97 lakes. If you enjoy the benefits of the Canadian outdoors, camping, canoeing, boating, fishing, for that matter clean drinking water, you need to ask yourself how will you be impacted by the sale of your water resources?

Treaties stand in the way of the federal government. Traditional treaty territories within Canada protect the natural resources and within these traditional territories the four legged, the winged, and those within the waters, all your relations, will no longer be protected, as well as your human rights.

The government has cut 186 million dollars from the First Nation water and waste water action plan and sunsetted the entire program. The government ignored the calls to provide the First Nations with the basic services other Canadians have become used to.

Related Topics:

The Hopi Call for Water Rights

Water: The Privatization of Our Birth Right

What Would You Give for a Drop of Water!?

Texas Texas Water Radiation Cover-Up!

Israel: Thou Shalt Not Drink Water

Signing Lead Out of Our Drinking Water

Those Urban Water Fountains!

Clean Water a Luxury in E. Californian Schools

Libya: NATO Poisoning the Purest Water in the World

Nestlé’s Selling You Your Water!

When the Waters Were Changed

The Fluoride Call is Being Heard!