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Moldovan protesters call on government to resign

Protesters in the ex-Soviet country have called for the government to resign over the disappearance of $1.5 billion from banks. The demonstrations were organized by two pro-Russian parties in the nation's capital. More than 20,000 protesters on Sunday marched through the streets of the capital Chisinau demanding the resignation of Moldova's pro-European government. Pro-Russian parties organized the demonstration in a bid to unseat the government led by Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet after it was discovered that over $1.5 billion disappeared from three Moldovan banks prior to 2014's parliamentary elections. The state-owned Savings Bank, Social Bank and Unibank were placed under the control of the National Bank of Moldova, which covered the losses through state cash reserves, prompting a crisis of confidence among many Moldovans left to foot the bill. Chanting "down with the thieves," the protesters also called on leaders of a number of state institutions to step down, including the heads of the central bank, attorney general's office and the country's anti-corruption commission. Police surrounded the buildings of Moldova's institutions, including parliament, in response to the mass demonstrations. The latest demonstrations come amid a two-week visit by an International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation, during which the global financial institution said a new loan was unlikely to materialize. Earlier this month, Moldova's central bank governor resigned in response to previous protests. The former Soviet nation is considered one of Europe's poorest countries.

Protesters in the ex-Soviet country have called for the government to resign over the disappearance of $1.5 billion from banks. The demonstrations were organized by two pro-Russian parties in the nation’s capital. More than 20,000 protesters on Sunday marched through the streets of the capital Chisinau demanding the resignation of Moldova’s pro-European government. Pro-Russian parties organized the demonstration in a ... Read More »

Apple enters refugee crisis with donations

Apple has enabled its customers to make a "financial donation" to aid refugees in Europe. CEO Tim Cook told employees the company will also make a donation in hopes of easing "the hardship so many are enduring." American technology giant Apple enabled a function on its operating system's App Store allowing iPhone and MacBook consumers the ability to make a donation to the Red Cross in response to Europe's largest refugee crisis since World War II. "Help people affected by the refugee and migration crisis across the Mediterranean Sea and in Europe by making a financial donation to the American Red Cross," the company said on the App Store's donation page. The move comes as the EU struggles to cope with the mass influx of refugees from war-torn countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Meanwhile, a message from CEO Tim Cook posted on Apple's Intranet site said that the company would be making a "substantial donation" to relief agencies responding to the refugee crisis. "Apple is making a substantial donation to relief agencies which provide humanitarian aid to refugees in Europe and around the Mediterranean," Cook said. Cook also noted that donations from employees would be matched "2-for-1" if made to the Red Cross campaign or select others. "Apple is dedicated to advancing human rights around the world. We hope the actions we're taking will help make the situation less desperate for some and ease hardship so many are enduring," Cook concluded. Earlier this week, Google also said it would be contributing to easing the refugee crisis, stating it would match at least $5.5 million (4.86 million euros) of donations made through its dedicated page. According to the website, it has already raised 10 million euros ($11.28 million) "globally for refugees and migrants," which will be donated to its relief partners Doctors without Borders, International Rescue Committee, Save the Children and the UN Refugee Agency. The EU witnessed 213,000 first time migrants apply for asylum within its borders between April and June of this year.

Apple has enabled its customers to make a “financial donation” to aid refugees in Europe. CEO Tim Cook told employees the company will also make a donation in hopes of easing “the hardship so many are enduring.” American technology giant Apple enabled a function on its operating system’s App Store allowing iPhone and MacBook consumers the ability to make a ... Read More »

IMF changing tack on Greece

Latin Americans and Asians are happy that they do not need the help of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But, Europe can no longer function without it. What's behind the IMF's interest in Greece? With loans totaling approximately $25 billion, Greece is currently the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) most important customer. "The IMF has crossed the 'point of no return'," says Rolf J. Langhammer from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy in northern Germany. "Basically, it should have walked away at an earlier point in time. Now, it's too late." The economist from Kiel, who has advised international organizations like the World Bank, the EU and German ministries, understands well why many of the 188 members of the IMF are not enthusiastic about the fund's extraordinary attentiveness to Athens. Many developing countries feel that Greece is a rich European industrial country. "Many developing countries think, 'you have always been tough with us but you are always making exceptions for the rich Europeans,'" says Langhammer. They wonder why they should have to pay for a country in the euro zone. The professor feels there is a "great deal of logic" behind the question. Change of direction in Washington? It seems paradoxical: The term debt relief is a taboo in Latin America, Asia and Africa but that is exactly what Greece asked the IMF for. On August 14, the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, made the organization's position clear by saying, "It is crucial for Greece's debt sustainability that its European partners commit themselves to significant debt relief, which goes far beyond the measures taken so far." The IMF's concerns about the sustainability of Greek debt, however, actually reflect self-interest. "We know that from the Latin American debt crisis in the 1980s," recalls the economist Langhammer. "Then they argued that a haircut would increase the chances serving the interest payable on the remaining debt." Does the fund simply defend the interests of its members by investing their money well? "The IMF is shouting as loud as it can so that no one gets the idea that it could possibly take part in a haircut," says Jürgen Kaiser, the coordinator of Jubilee Germany, a German NGO that promotes fair and transparent bankruptcy rules. Christine Lagarde lacks explanations "Situations may arise in which other lenders may ask, 'why are you not around when it comes to debt relief?'" he explains. In the end, there are no rules that say that IMF is given priority ahead of other creditors. Debt expert Kaiser finds the matter of distributing the debt burden after a haircut "quite intriguing." If Greece were granted debt relief and the IMF were asked if it would partake in it, then Lagarde would have problems explaining, says Kaiser. The IMF had problems explaining what happened in 2002 as well. At that time, more and more emerging and developing nations distanced themselves from the organization. Sustained growth rates allowed them to form foreign exchange reserves and enabled them to pay off their debts. The IMF lost its customers and was forced to look around for new business opportunities. New fields of opportunities inadvertently opened up in 2009 during the world economic crisis. At that time, IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn took a chance. "The IMF gained influence during the world economic crisis," recounts Kaiser. The IMF now has access to approximately 300 billion dollars. "Even if crises erupt elsewhere, the IMF's involvement in Greece would not prevent the IMF from awarding emergency loans elsewhere," he says. "There is no competition for funds." What are sustainable debts? Kaiser thinks a haircut for Greece is still possible, even though the IMF will be involved in the third bailout package. "They have bought themselves a little bit of time. Until the next deadline," he reckons. The programs that Athens must now implement are based on the same "illusory figures that have been forced on the country the past five years." The IMF and the ESM, the European Stability Mechanism, came closer when the controversy over the definition of debt sustainability broke out this week. Now, the debt amount itself is not decisive, but the servicing of debt, instead. Europe's lenders claim to have given Athens the best conditions possible to service its debt to the IMF, argues the ESM. Langhammer considers the changed approach long overdue. "The sky may fall in on Greece, but Greece will continue to exist as a state. A country is an infinite investment object," he says and adds, "Economically, it is complete nonsense to think that a country will pay back its debts. It is more important that a country is able to meet its interest payment obligations on a regular basis."

Latin Americans and Asians are happy that they do not need the help of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But, Europe can no longer function without it. What’s behind the IMF’s interest in Greece? With loans totaling approximately $25 billion, Greece is currently the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) most important customer. “The IMF has crossed the ‘point of no return’,” ... Read More »

Some 50 bodies found aboard migrant boat off Libya

The bodies of around 50 people have been found in the hull of a migrant boat off the coast of Libya. Some 439 refugees were rescued by Swedish forces from the wooden boat. According to Italy's coastguard, the Swedish ship Poseidon made the morbid discovery on Wednesday after being sent to help a stricken vessel. "Unfortunately there were around 40 people dead in the hold," Swedish coastguard spokesman Mattias Lindholm told AFP news agency. "The bodies are currently being transferred to the Poseidon," he added. The Poseidon ship had been patrolling the area as part of the Triton search and rescue mission, lead by EU border agency Frontex. Increasing calls for help Shortly before discovering the bodies, the Swedish vessel also picked up 130 migrants from a rubber dinghy in the same area. The rescue was on Wednesday was just one of 10 requests for assistance received by the coast guard's operations center that day. Libya-based smugglers are currently taking advantage of calm seas to send migrants to Europe on hugely overloaded boats. A spokeswoman for the Italian coastguard said an Irish ship was also in the process of rescuing up to 500 people from another boat. EU crisis Europe is struggling to cope with a record influx of refugees and migrants as people flee war-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Many more are seeking land routes via the Balkans. The International Organization for Migration at least 2,365 people have died this year during the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea - up from 1,779 in the same period of 2014.

The bodies of around 50 people have been found in the hull of a migrant boat off the coast of Libya. Some 439 refugees were rescued by Swedish forces from the wooden boat. According to Italy’s coastguard, the Swedish ship Poseidon made the morbid discovery on Wednesday after being sent to help a stricken vessel. “Unfortunately there were around 40 ... Read More »

US stocks up sharply after opening bell

The Dow jumped several hundred points as trading started in the US. A six-day losing streak may finally come to an end. European markets were undecided, wondering what effect China's interest-rate cut may have. US stocks opened sharply higher on Wednesday, following losses on six consecutive trading days. The Dow was up 2.2 percent within minutes but pared some of its gains later, not being able to defend the 400 points it added as trading started. Markets in London, Paris and Frankfurt were all down by more than 1 percent upon opening on Wednesday, but recovered fully in the afternoon, touching positive territory before sliding again. Germany's DAX ended the day down 1.29 percent and once again dropped below the 10,000-point-mark. The weak start was largely expected after volatile trading in Shanghai saw the market there fluctuate wildly between gains as high as 4.29 percent and losses as low as 3.85 percent. Shanghai stocks eventually closed down 1.27 percent, a much less worse performance than the last three days of trading, in which investors saw roughly 20 percent of stock value wiped out. Japan's Nikkei fared more favorably, rising 3.2 percent as investors went on a bargain hunt following six days of falling shares. Outside Japan, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares also crept up 0.2 percent. In Europe, the markets cast off gains they had made a day before when China's central bank cut interest rates and lowered the cash-on-hand requirements for banks in an attempt to lift slumping shares. Market lag In initial trade, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index lost 1.3 percent, Frankfurt's DAX 30 tumbled 1.69 percent and the CAC 40 in Paris dropped 1.44 percent. The lag in the German DAX left it 20 percent below a record high reached in April. Some of the biggest losses in Germany were felt by the software maker SAP and the luxury automaker BMW. Commodities also fell sharply, with the price of copper dropping at the prospect of slowing demand from China, the world's leading consumer of metals. Bank stocks also fell due to their exposure to the massive sell-off among Chinese investors. But some analysts are still confident that a number of stocks could recover in a few months time. Strategists at Morgan Stanley, for instance, identified for clients 20 shares they considered to be "oversold." BMW was one of them.

The Dow jumped several hundred points as trading started in the US. A six-day losing streak may finally come to an end. European markets were undecided, wondering what effect China’s interest-rate cut may have. US stocks opened sharply higher on Wednesday, following losses on six consecutive trading days. The Dow was up 2.2 percent within minutes but pared some of ... Read More »

Tsipras proposes referendum to heal Syriza rift over Greece bailout terms

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called for his divided Syriza party to hold a snap referendum to overcome the divisions. Ructions appeared within the party following Greece's agreement with creditors this month. Addressing Syriza's central committee on Thursday, Tsipras called for Syriza to hold an emergency congress next month, adding, however, that a referendum as soon as Sunday would be acceptable if leftist dissenters demanded a quicker solution. "I propose to the central committee to hold an emergency congress to discuss being in power as leftists, our strategy in the face of bailout conditions," he told the 200-strong decision-making Syriza committee. "But there is another view, which is respected, that doesn't accept the government's analysis and believes there was an alternative available in the early morning hours of July 13," the Greek prime minister said, referring to the day he accepted the bailout agreement to avoid a Greek eurozone exit. Tsipras is believed, however, to be in favor of an emergency congress, as this would enable him to bring in new Syriza members and take advantage of the wider public support he has achieved over the past two years. Far-left revolt Tsipras' proposals on Thursday came amid mounting rebellion among Syriza's far-left lawmakers. They accuse the party of betraying its anti-austerity roots by agreeing to the conditions of the country's 86 billion euro ($94 billion) bailout deal. Earlier this month, over 30 Syriza lawmakers refused to vote for reforms which are necessary for Greece to receive the financial aid. Included in the tough measures are wide-ranging market reforms, numerous spending cuts and tax increases. Tsipras defended the government's decision to agree to the creditors' conditions, however, saying that a "Grexit would have forced Greece into devaluation and returning to [the] IMF for support." "We were forced to compromise and accept a recessionary program that was not our choice," he added.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called for his divided Syriza party to hold a snap referendum to overcome the divisions. Ructions appeared within the party following Greece’s agreement with creditors this month. Addressing Syriza’s central committee on Thursday, Tsipras called for Syriza to hold an emergency congress next month, adding, however, that a referendum as soon as Sunday would ... Read More »

Angela Merkel arrives in Albania amid Greek crisis

German Chancellor Angela Markel has arrived in Albania on a two-day visit, which includes Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The countries' desire to join the European Union has been complicated by the ongoing Greek crisis. Angela Merkel was to hold meeting with Albanian President Bujar Nishani later on Wednesday and was also scheduled to address a conference of German and Albanian businessmen. Earlier in the day, Merkel met with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in the capital Tirana, confirmed Steffen Seibert, the German chancellor's spokesman, via Twitter. Merkel is the second German chancellor since 1999 to have visited Albania, one of the poorest countries in Europe. Albania, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have long been campaigning to join the European Union, but the three countries' mutual rivalries have complicated matters, as has the current crisis in Greece. In the wake of the debt dispute with Athens, EU officials are expected to lay out tougher conditions to accept countries with troubled economies. The Greek debt crisis has also affected the economies of the poor states in the Balkans, which are economically dependent on Athens. The potential impact of the crisis is likely to be on Merkel's agenda during her meetings with the leaders of the three nations. Trade, energy and bilateral and EU relations will also be discussed. In her weekly video address on Saturday, Merkel, however, said the Balkans states had a good chance of joining the EU. "In all the difficulties that we currently have, there has been progress," she said, adding that the prospects for EU membership would also help these countries resolve their inter-regional disputes. Merkel is expected to arrive in the Serbian capital Belgrade on Wednesday evening where the Serbian president, Aleksandr Vucic, is to receive her, the statement from Berlin said. She would also talk to civil society representatives at a breakfast meeting on Thursday. Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina would be Merkel's last stop in the Balkans visit, where she will hold crucial talks with President Denis Zvizdic and visit an exhibition on the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.

German Chancellor Angela Markel has arrived in Albania on a two-day visit, which includes Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The countries’ desire to join the European Union has been complicated by the ongoing Greek crisis. Angela Merkel was to hold meeting with Albanian President Bujar Nishani later on Wednesday and was also scheduled to address a conference of German and Albanian businessmen. ... Read More »

French government to shut down Uber after violent protests

French Interior Minister Cazeneuve has assured that low-cost car service UberPop will be closed. A violent taxi drivers' protest drew strong criticism from France government, but the cabbies are also getting their wish. Bernard Cazeneuve, who met with representatives of taxi drivers' unions on Friday, said he would meet UberPop officials and tell them that their service is "illegal." "It must, therefore, be closed," Cazeneuve said. "The government will never accept the law of the jungle." In the mean time, Cazeneuve said, "the vehicles of UberPOP drivers should be systematically impounded when they are openly breaking the law." UberPop, a US ride-hailing app, allows customers to hire rides with people operating their private cars - at prices far below the cost of a conventional cab. The company has been operating in Paris since 2011, and claims to have 400,000 customers per month in France. A French law came into force in January banning any service that connects passengers with unlicensed drivers, however, Uber filed a legal challenge against the law and a final verdict is not expected before September. The ban does not apply to the separate licensed-chauffeur service called UberX. Uber recently announced plans to expand its services into three more French cities. French cabbies complain that UberPop drivers can undercut them due to much lower costs as they are not subject to the 250 hours of mandatory training that they have to undergo to get their licenses, nor are they required to carry the same insurance. This has prompted some government officials to express concerns about the safety of passengers using the service. Violent protests Traffic in parts of Paris and a number of other French cities was brought to a halt on Thursday as taxi drivers held nationwide protests against UberPop. The drivers refused to provide service to passengers at major airports and train stations, blocking major thoroughfares, such as the ring road around Paris - and even torching cars. On Friday, French President Francois Hollande condemned the protests as "unacceptable violence in a democracy, in a country like France," but also said the UberPop service should be taken off the road. Even Courtney Love, the wife of deceased US rocker Kurt Cobain, was caught up in Thursday's chaos at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, issuing several fraught Tweets of what she described as a "hostage" situation. Among the other targets disrupted by the striking cabbies were the airport and main train station in the southern port of Marseille. Police eventually used tear gas to break up that protest. Prime Minister Manuel Valls also lashed out at the taxi drivers for tarnishing France's reputation. "These incidents give a deplorable image to visitors of our country." Taxi drivers in other European countries have also held protests against Uber, and the service has been banned in Germany.

French Interior Minister Cazeneuve has assured that low-cost car service UberPop will be closed. A violent taxi drivers’ protest drew strong criticism from France government, but the cabbies are also getting their wish. Bernard Cazeneuve, who met with representatives of taxi drivers’ unions on Friday, said he would meet UberPop officials and tell them that their service is “illegal.” “It ... Read More »

EU leaders approve voluntary plan to resettle migrants

European leaders have agreed on a voluntary scheme to share refugees after a heated debate on the Mediterranean migrant crisis. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for more solidarity among member states. After seven hours of debate over the thorny issue of where migrants to the EU should live, the European Union leaders finally agreed Friday morning on a voluntary scheme that would see EU's member states taking in migrants who cross into the bloc on the Mediterranean Sea. While agreeing to the resettlement plan in principle, leaders were not able to work out many details for the new process. People fleeing war and poverty in North Africa and the Middle East are seeking refuge in European countries with most of the people turning up on the shores of Italy and Greece or being rescued at sea. Some 40,000 Syrian and Eritrean asylum seekers are currently camped in Italy and Greece, whereas another 20,000 are outside the EU. A record number of 60 million people fled their homes in the conflict zones last year, according to the United Nations. At least half of them are children. Some 80,000 migrants have arrived in Italy since the start of the year. The European Commission had pushed for a mandatory quota system to divide migrants among EU states, but in a heated discussion on Thursday, many European leaders rejected the idea. "It was a very intensive debate," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters after the meeting. She called the migrant crisis "the biggest challenge I have seen in European affairs in my time as chancellor." Merkel demanded more effort and solidarity from EU countries when dealing with the crisis. Current rules call for the country where migrants enter the EU to determine whether they are permitted to remain in the 28-member bloc. Voluntary or obligatory? "I am in favor of a quota, I am in favor of an obligation, I am in favor of a common asylum policy," Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said on Thursday ahead of the summit. But Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said the nations could not be forced to share the burden of the incoming refugees. She said she favored a voluntary system, which she called an "honorable" way to treat migrants. According to Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas, richer EU nations should take in more refugees than the poorer states. "The share of the burden should be fair," he said. European Commission plans for deciding how many migrants a country would take did took many factors into account, including a nation's economic situation. Expressing his frustration at the outcome of the conference, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said there was an urgent need to find a mechanism to help the migrants. "It doesn't matter if it is voluntary or mandatory; it is whether it can help 60,000 refugees," Juncker told media in the early hours of Friday. Sharing the load Frontline states such as Italy, Greece and Malta have long argued that their EU peers should share responsibility for accommodating and processing migrants. Tensions erupted in the past two weeks on the border between Italy and France, where hundreds of refugees were blocked from crossing to the French side. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi lashed out at the EU over its response to the migrant crisis during the summit. "If that's your idea of Europe, you can keep it," Renzi told the conference participants. "Either give us solidarity or don't waste our time." A record of some 219,000 people crossed the Mediterranean in 2014, with Eritrea, Somalia and Syria among the countries from which most refugees came. More than 100,000 have already made the perilous journey this year, while about 2,000 have died or are missing. The EU has been looking for UN support to take action against the smugglers, who have profited from the turmoil within Libya, where most of the migrants begin their sea journey. Intervention has been made more difficult by the fact that two governments are vying for power in the country. More migrants arrive in Italy As EU leaders haggled in Brussels, more refugees landed in Italy on Friday. A Swedish navy ship brought 497 migrants - mostly from Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan - to the Italian port city of Catania after they were rescued in the waters south of Sicily. According to the captain of the ship, the migrants were at sea "for 10 or 12 days, and they hadn't had any food or water. Several of them were quite dehydrated."

European leaders have agreed on a voluntary scheme to share refugees after a heated debate on the Mediterranean migrant crisis. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for more solidarity among member states. After seven hours of debate over the thorny issue of where migrants to the EU should live, the European Union leaders finally agreed Friday morning on a voluntary ... Read More »

Europe’s peaceful period ‘now over,’ says Polish defense minister

Observing NATO maneuvers, Poland's Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak has said that Europe's "time of decades of peace after the Cold War is over." His comments come as the EU faces a growing number of crises. Speaking on Thursday in Poland, following the first full exercise of NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) or spearhead, Siemoniak said Europe must now do more to defend it's itself due to the increasing number of crises erupting around the continent. "It's not only the Ukrainian and Russian crisis, but also [the "Islamic State"] and a number of different crises in northern Africa," he said. "I think it's a task for all of us to persuade the public that they should be ready to do more before it's too late." Biggest reinforcement since Cold War NATO head Jens Stoltenberg joined Siemoniak in the Polish town of Zagan on Thursday to observe the NATO maneuvers. The Western military alliance was "implementing the biggest reinforcement of our collective defenses since the end of the Cold War," Stoltenberg said on Wednesday. The move came after Russia announced that it would add more than 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles to its nuclear arsenal this year. Moscow was responding to reported US plans to deploy heavy weapons to its apprehensive eastern European NATO allies, with Putin saying the US-led alliance is "coming to our borders." US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland played down Russia's plans on Thursday, however, saying that that "those kinds of announcements when made publicly … obviously have a rattling effect." "When we look at what is actually happening inside Russia it is far less dramatic," she said. Poland 'ready' for US equipment Siemoniak also said on Thursday he had been in talks with US Defense Secretary Ash Carter over placing equipment in Poland and in four other eastern NATO nations. As far as far as logistics and organization were concerned, he said Poland was ready for the move. "I expect a decision in the coming weeks and I hope it will be a positive one," Siemoniak added. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who was also in Zagan, called the stationing US weapons in eastern Europe "an appropriate defensive measure."

Observing NATO maneuvers, Poland’s Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak has said that Europe’s “time of decades of peace after the Cold War is over.” His comments come as the EU faces a growing number of crises. Speaking on Thursday in Poland, following the first full exercise of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) or spearhead, Siemoniak said Europe must ... Read More »

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