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​Belarus closes currency exchanges to shield against crisis

RT -

The purchase and sale of foreign currency at bureau d’change will be put on hold until 2017, except for transactions with the National Bank, the regulator said in a statement Monday. At the same time the purchase of foreign currency through the Belarusian Currency and Stock Exchange from the National Bank will be unlimited.

Last week Belarus, Russia’s close ally in the Eurasian Economic Union, faced its own ‘Black Friday’. The national currency lost 30 percent of its value shortly after the country’s national bank introduced a 30 percent tax for individuals and businesses purchasing foreign currency.The Belarusian ruble reached 14,150 against the US dollar, and 17,400 against the euro, with the net cost of $1 amounting to 11,000 Belarusian rubles, and €1 to 14,000.

Belarusian ruble falls off a cliff ... Good thing a number of my former students put some of their savings in gold! pic.twitter.com/WHpDTRphpq

— L (@duediligenceguy) December 22, 2014

“Based on the economic situation in the neighboring countries, first of all, in the Russian Federation, the Government and the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus have adopted a number of measures aimed at preventing the development of negative trends in the foreign exchange and financial markets of Belarus and promote the advantages of savings in Belarusian rubles," the National Bank explained in a statement.


The Belarus central bank also increased rates for the mandatory sale of foreign currency earnings from 30 to 50 percent. According to the regulator, as a result, the daily net demand for foreign currency on the stock exchange fell from $180 million to $3 million, and the daily outflow of deposits in Belarusian rubles decreased from $175 million (2 trillion Belarusian rubles) to $79 million (0.9 trillion Belarusian rubles).

In another attempt to try and protect itself from the ruble crisis last week Belarus agreed with Russia on fixing prices for exported goods in dollars, according to Belarus Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Rusiy. The two governments also agreed on what is called a ‘food balance’ for 2015, which they are to approve in January at a joint board of the Agricultural Ministries of Russia and Belarus.

On Sunday Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko visited Ukraine to discuss political and economic cooperation with his counterpart Petro Poroshenko. In the course of the talks Lukashenko said Belarus is ready to provide assistance to Ukraine anytime and noted an increase in trade despite the complicated situation in the Donbass region.

Despite sanctions, Russia’s biggest oil company pays off $7bn debt

RT -

The company is paying off lenders for money it borrowed when it acquired TNK-BP in March 2013. After the announcement was made, Rosneft stock soared 6 percent, increasing to 205 rubles.

“To service its debt the company does not need to enter the currency market, because it generates enough foreign currency earnings. Surplus balances are used on the market, in such a manner, the company positively affects the Russian currency market,” Igor Sechin, Rosneft’s CEO, said in a statement published Monday.

Last week, Russia’s Central Bank issued Rosneft $10.9 billion in freshly printed rubles. Sechin denied this money was used to pay off the company’s loans due December 21.

Rosneft asked for $3.3-4.2 billion (200-250 billion rubles), after its earlier request for $40 billion was rejected by the government. The company, along with Gazprom, the nation’s biggest gas utility, together has to pay off debts of $90 billion in 2015.

The Russian government has about $150 billion of debt it needs to redeem in 2015, much of which is foreign held. Sanctions now bar many state-owned Russian credit institutions from borrowing long-term money from Western capital markets.

In the future, Rosneft can look forward to advanced credit lines from China, which it has signed several oil supply deals with over the past two years.

Greek austerity ‘unprecedented’ assault on human rights

RT -

“While we accept that exceptional circumstances can require exceptional responses, the way policies were adopted and implemented in this context clearly failed to respect international standards,” FIDH president Karim Lahidji said.

The Greek authorities have “sacrificed nearly everything” to save its economy, he added.

The organization also said that the austerity measures and “a failure to tackle the fundamental social needs” have triggered a sharp rise in unemployment that has “exacerbated pre-existing inequalities.”

The government’s moves also forced the most “vulnerable” sections of the population to “pay the highest toll” in the crisis.

In particular, the minimum salary was reduced after February 2012 by 22 percent for the employees over 25, and a staggering 32 percent for those under 25, the FIDH said. Meanwhile, doctors were forced to refuse to treat patients and postpone key surgeries due to cuts in an already understaffed health system.

The organization said that not only the Greek authorities are to blame, with the EU and IMF also violating their “obligations under international law” that forced the struggling Greek economy into “draconian” bailout deals.

“Human rights violations appear as having simply been regarded as an acceptable collateral damage in a broader crisis management, or as a well-deserved answer to the ’Greek problem’. This is simply unacceptable,” FIDH’s Vice President Dimitris Christopoulos said.

“I seriously doubt whether any human rights concerns were ever raised in designing and implementing the country’s ‘rescue’ plans,” he added.

FIDH is by no means the first group to accuse European authorities of implementing harsh austerity: In 2013, Oxfam blasted the measures in a report that threatened 25 million people could be living in poverty by 2025 unless the cuts are canceled.

The austerity measures have been implemented in Greece for the last four years: cuts to public services, as well as higher taxes were pre-conditions for bailouts to keep the banks solvent.

Controversial Arizona sheriff to challenge Obama immigration order in court

RT -

The sheriff of Maricopa County has been breathing fire about Obama's plan to grant legal status to about a half of the illegal immigrants currently living in the US. Arpaio is known for his crackdown on illegal immigration in Arizona, one of the states most heavily crammed by the influx of undocumented people from across the border with Mexico.

In his formal complaint, the sheriff warned that Obama's "unconstitutional act" would have a "serious detrimental impact" on his duties and responsibilities. “For instance, among the many negative effects of this executive order, will be the increased release of criminal aliens back onto streets of Maricopa County, Arizona, and the rest of the nation,” he wrote last month.

On Monday, in the first courtroom battle over the controversial initiative, Arpaio's lawyer Larry Klayman will try to convince a judge, nominated by Obama, that the immigration system isn't really "broken,"

Klayman and Arpaio argue that the president violated the Constitution by doing an end-run around Congress, and that his actions were not authorized by Congress.

"President Obama and others recite that the immigration system of the United States is broken," Klayman wrote in a court filing. "It is unmistakable that the only thing that is broken about the nation's immigration laws is that the defendants are determined to break those laws."

In his lawsuit, Arpaio alleges that Obama's immigration policy will enable more people to enter the country illegally and commit crimes. Among the evidence in the case is a set of Arpaio press releases and letters to Homeland Security officials that say that over 35 percent of immigrants living in Maricopa County illegally who wound up in Arpaio's jails in 2014 were repeat offenders, signifying in the sheriff's view that DHS has done a poor job of deporting criminals, AP reported.

READ MORE: Pennsylvania judge rules Obama’s immigration action unconstitutional

Under the immigration program, Homeland Security would prioritize the removal of immigrants who present threats to national security, public safety or border security. DHS officials could deport someone once it's determined that removing the person would serve a federal interest.

"This theory is speculative and unsubstantiated,"
the Justice Department argued in its own court filing, saying that Obama's policy placed greater emphasis on removing criminal aliens and recent border crossers.

It's not the first time Klayman has taken Obama to court. In October, the conservative petitioned the Homeland Security Department to start deportation proceedings against Obama, alleging that he had falsely claimed US citizenship.

In 2013, he sued the Obama administration over the NSA's collection of phone data. He is also representing families of members of Navy SEAL Team 6, who killed Osama bin Laden. Klayman argues the Obama administration put them at risk by disclosing their identities. In the past Klayman brought legal action against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He is the author of two books, one of them entitled "Whores: Why and How I Came to Fight the Establishment."

Last week, a Pennsylvania federal court judge ruled in a deportation case that Obama had exceeded his powers when he announced his order on immigration policy. The judge’s ruling was made in an unrelated criminal case, and has no consequences for the president’s action, however.

Putting Time Out In Time Out: The Science of Discipline

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader points out this story at The Atlantic about new research and approaches in the science of discipline. "At the end of a gravel road in the Chippewa National Forest of northern Minnesota, a group of camp counselors have gathered to hear psychotherapist Tina Bryson speak about neuroscience, mentorship, and camping. She is in Minnesota by invitation of the camp. Chippewa is at the front of a movement to bring brain science to bear on the camping industry; she keynoted this past year's American Camping Association annual conference. As Bryson speaks to the counselors gathered for training, she emphasizes one core message: At the heart of effective discipline is curiosity—curiosity on the part of the counselors to genuinely understand and respect what the campers are experiencing while away from home....She is part of a progressive new group of scientists, doctors, and psychologists whose goal is ambitious, if not outright audacious: They want to redefine "discipline" in order to change our culture. They want to rewrite—or perhaps more precisely said, rewire—how we interact with kids, and they want us to understand that our decisions about parenting affect not only our children's minds, but ours as well. So, we're going to need to toss out our old discipline mainstays. Say goodbye to timeouts. So long spanking and other ritualized whacks. And cry-it-out sleep routines? Mercifully, they too can be a thing of the past. And yet, we can still help our children mature and grow. In fact, people like Bryson think we'll do it better. If we are going to take seriously what science tells us about how we form relationships and how our mind develops, we will need to construct new strategies for parenting, and when we do, says this new group of researchers, we just may change the world."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

$300,000 in gold missing from Ukraine Central Bank after swapped for lead bricks

RT -

“A criminal case has been opened and we are now carrying out an investigation to identify those involved in the crime,” a spokesman for the Odessa police force is quoted by Vesti.

The news was first reported by Odessa’s State Ministry of Internal Affairs.

READ MORE: Where has all Ukraine's gold gone?

A preliminary investigation suggests the gang had someone working for them inside the bank that forged the necessary paperwork to allow the sale of the fake gold bullion. It’s also been discovered that bank staff were not regularly checked when entering or exiting the premises.

Since the discovery, the National Bank no longer buys precious metal over the counter, as it cannot be sure of its authenticity, says the First Deputy Head of the National Bank of Ukraine, Aleksandr Pisaruk.

The National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) has confirmed the theft of several kilograms of gold in the Odessa region. The cashier involved has apparently fled to Crimea, Vesti Ukraine reports. Criminal proceedings began on November 18, even though the scam apparently took place between August and October.

In November, the Central Bank reportedly lost $12.6 billion in gold reserves, putting the total stockpile at just over $120 million.

However, the Central Bank reports that foreign currency and gold reserves stood at $9.97 billion at the end of November.

French TV star fired after call for Muslims' deportation to avoid ‘chaos & civil war’

RT -

Eric Zemmour was dropped from the iTELE channel from the chat show he has been a participant of for over a decade. This followed remarks he made, published in Italy’s Corriere della Sera, where he said, “Muslims kept themselves to the suburbs” and the “French were forced to move out,” The Local reported. He also stated that the 5 million or so Muslims living in France “should be deported to avoid chaos and civil war.”

L'éviction d'Eric Zemmour d'itelé n 'est pas une bonne nouvelle pour la démocratie #policedelapensée

— Eric Ciotti ن (@ECiotti) December 20, 2014

The removal of Eric Zemmour from iTELE is not good for democracy

The TV station’s decision to fire Zemmour, born to Jewish parents in Algeria who emigrated to France in the 1950s, was welcomed by the journalists union SNJ, who said the move was a “strong decision” and was also supported by the anti-racism watchdog SOS Racisme.

What an ugly French bigot Eric Zemmour yet hailed as a hero by some in increasingly Islamophobic Europe http://t.co/2OoLhe79pA

— Antony Loewenstein (@antloewenstein) December 22, 2014

The channel's director, Celine Pigalle, told French newspaper Le Figaro, where Zemmour was also a columnist, “We are very careful to respect freedom of expression.” Meanwhile, Bruno Le Roux, who is the leader of the Socialist Party, said Zemmour’s thinking seemed to date back 70 years to the period around World War II.

“It's time for TV shows and newspaper columns to cease harboring such statements,” Le Roux wrote on his blog. “Islamophobia is racism and is not part of the Republic.”

The interview with Corriere della Sera was conducted two months ago, but the scandal only came to light when it was translated by the left-wing politician Jean-Luc Melenchon, who used to be France’s Education Minister.

READ MORE: 'Shut your trap, Merkel!' French MEP slams German Chancellor over call for more cuts

Melenchon published the interview on his blog in French in which he said Zemmour was calling for the “deportation” of Muslims in France, even those who had been born in the country.

In its report, The Independent noted that the word “deportation” has a dark history in France, as it is associated with the sending of hundreds of thousands of Jews during the Second World War to death camps across Europe.

Zemmour says that he never used the word in this context. Meanwhile, the Italian journalist who conducted the interview said the TV star did not mean that Muslims should be deported, but repatriated.

La censure de #Zemmour par @itele est détestable ! #CanalMoins MLP

— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) December 19, 2014

The censorship of Zemmour by i-Tele is louthsome

The TV personality was supported by the far-right National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, who said the move to fire Zemmour was “loathsome censorship” in a tweet.

Zemmour is also well known for his bestselling book, “The French Suicide,” which has sold in excess of 250,000 copies. It touched on problems in French society, which he believes stem from increased immigration, feminism and homosexuality.

The TV star’s sacking came a day before a mentally unstable driver, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” deliberately crashed into a crowd of pedestrians in the French city of Dijon, which left two people in seriously injured in hospital.

On Saturday, a French man armed with a knife stormed a police station at Joue-les-Tours near the city of Tours and stabbed three police officers, also reportedly shouting “God is great” in Arabic. The attacker was shot dead by police.


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