For over a year, we’ve heard dire warnings that Greece is teetering on the brink of a catastrophic financial collapse. The country has already been bailed out by the European Union once, but more money is required. Complicating this problem is the fact that a meltdown of the Greek economy would likely trigger serious problems or a domino-like collapse in countries like Spain and Italy.
As the European finance ministers debate the size, scope, and conditions of a second Greek bailout, the country has become increasingly volatile. Riots and demonstrations are happening on a regular basis. And last week, two of the protests degenerated into violent outbreaks that torched buildings and destroyed millions of dollars in property.
We happened to be in Rome this weekend with Glenn Beck (on an unrelated project), and it was decided that a quick visit to Athens might offer some eyewitness clarity on the situation. Beck stated that he hoped to gain a deeper understanding of the problems faced by the Greek people. The details of the trip will be shared on radio and television today. Plus, a mini-documentary on “The Real Face of Greece” and what Glenn discovered on this trip will also be seen this week on GBTV.
Our crew landed in Athens on Saturday night, just before midnight. The beautiful countryside and virtually new superhighway that led us to the city seemed to be in complete contradiction with what we were hearing about the country. Everything on this road appeared to be new and in great shape. Our driver informed us that the beautiful toll road was built for the 2004 Olympics, using German bond money. He also added that the Germans were still sharing in the toll revenues.
From our well-informed host we also learned:
Wages in Greece have fallen 25% in the last couple of years.
Unemployment sits at a staggering 20%. (Youth unemployment is considerably worse, hovering in the 45-50% zone.)
Inflation is also a concern… Fuel costs have rise 100% in two years and more increases are expected.
Small businesses, the lifeblood of any economy, are folding. Half of them could close this year, further crippling Greece.
The general sentiment of the Greek people is one of concern for their future, but there is also no willingness to accept the austerity cuts mandated by the eurozone finance ministers.
After a brief visit to the Acropolis, we stopped by the Greek Parliament building where the protests are regularly held.
The plaza was empty. However, we heard stories from the soldiers and citizens explaining that a one-hour protest had happened earlier in the day. (Apparently it was Halloween weekend in Greece and there were costumes to be donned and parties to attend.)
Our next stop was the Ministry of Arts and Sciences. This is a beautiful complex that has been repeatedly tagged with graffiti by the anarchists.
Translation: “If the revolution will not happen peacefully, then it will happen violently. Anarchy!”
On both sides of the main entrance to the beautiful building we found graffiti that was pro-Communism and pro-revolution. One popular sentiment just stated “Anarchy = Freedom.”
As we talked with more passersby about the situation, two self-proclaimed anarchists approached us. They were in a zombie-like state, both carrying beers but appearing to be under the influence of something else as well. They asked what we were doing. We said that we were trying to understand the riots and the graffiti. One kept repeating that “Anarchy equals Freedom.”
Next, we drove to see one of the burned out buildings from last week’s riots. Our driver told us that the universities offered a unique protection to the rioters and anarchists. If anyone is being pursued by the police and manages to get on university property, the police cannot arrest them without a warrant, and the warrant must be authorized by the university’s president. Virtually all of the university presidents have refused to approve these warrants, rendering the schools as sanctuaries.
Beck heard this and remarked, “The universities have replaced the churches.”
The previous weekend a local shopping mall and office complex was firebombed by the rioters.
We spoke with Con (as in Constantino), a man who owns a security company hired to protect the building. Con told us that the rioters tossed Molotov cocktails inside the stores on the first floor and then lay down in the streets surrounding the area. This road blocking action prevented fire departments from getting to the building for two hours and allowed the fire to burn out of control. The police have also warned Con that intelligence reports say another attack on the building could happen within the next day or two.
At least two other buildings have suffered a similar fate as the mall, both of them banks.
The downtown area surrounding the Parliament building is littered with graffiti, many well-fed and friendly stray dogs can be seen everywhere, and an alarming number of homeless people shuffle along the streets with a glazed look in their eyes. In one case we witnessed a man shooting up in the doorway of a store where he planned to spend the night.
It is no secret that Greece is in serious trouble. Decades of out of control government spending on social programs that have now become an untouchable right in the minds of many Greeks are at the heart of the problem. Something must be done or the economy will collapse under its own weight.
Most of the Greek people seem to understand that their current situation is unsustainable, but they also are sympathetic to the protesters. It is this position that seems to render the Greeks incapable of taking action that could save their country.
This attitude was clearly evident when Glenn Beck asked, “Who is at fault for the violence and destruction, the banks or the protesters?” One citizen paused for a second and remarked, “They’re both criminals.”
Over a dozen Islamic worshipers were arrested Sunday after they hurled stones at Christian tourists near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem:
According to a police spokesperson, three officers were injured in the ensuing kerfuffle.The Jerusalem Post reports the disturbance started after rumors spread about “right-wing Jews” trying to reclaim area mosques and build a third Jewish temple:
Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben Ruby said the protesters were reacting to reports that a group of right-wing Jews bent on destroying the mosques and building the Third Temple on the site planned to ascend to the Temple Mount en masse, similar to rumors of an attempt led by former Likud primary candidate Moshe Feiglin last Sunday.
Palestinian sources claimed over the weekend that a group of Jews would attempt to storm the Temple Mount in order to “strengthen Israeli sovereignty over the site,” according to the Jordanian newspaper.
Police said no Jews were at the Temple Mount during the altercation. The site remained opened to tourists throughout the day.
Three suspects were arrested on the scene while 10 others were arrested after exiting the al Aksa mosque, the Post reports.
School Tells Mom to Declare Son ‘Racist’ After He Asks Classmate ‘Are You Brown Because You Come From Africa?’
A mother in the UK is furious after her son’s school asked her to sign a slip acknowledging her son made a racist remark after it interpreted an inquiry the boy made on the playground as a “racist incident.”
Hayley White, 29, says she was called to her son’s school in Hull after he apparently asked a classmate, “Are you brown because you come from Africa?” The school believes the question by seven-year-old Elliot Dearlove wasn’t innocent.
“When I arrived at the school and asked Elliott what had happened, he became extremely upset,” White said, according to the Daily Mail.
“He kept saying to me, ‘I was just asking a question. I didn’t mean it to be nasty’ and he was extremely distressed by it all.”
White said she was asked to read a copy of the school’s zero-tolerance policy on racism, then told to sign a sheet of paper declaring her son was guilty of such an act.
“I was told I would have to sign a form acknowledging my son had made a racist remark which would be submitted to the local education authority for further investigation,” she said.
“I refused to sign it and I told the teacher in no way did I agree the comment was racist. My son is inquisitive. He always likes to ask questions, but that doesn’t make him a racist.”
The local city council, however, is standing by the school. “There is a statutory duty to report any incident that is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
White is now trying to get her son transferred out of the school.
The local member of parliament, Karl Turner, believes that “common sense” should make it obvious the boy wasn’t being racist.
“[H]aving spoken to Hayley, I’m satisfied that her seven-year-old son, Elliott, was not being racist in his remarks but just inquisitive,” he said, according to the Daily Mail.
“It seems the matter has been taken out of all proportion and common sense seems to have gone completely out of the window.”
Common sense, though, doesn’t seem to reign when it comes to allegedly racist incidents in UK schools. The Daily Mail reports that, just last year alone, more than 20,000 students aged 11 or younger were reported for hate crimes, which included such acts as using the word “gaylord.”
Read the full story at the Daily Mail.
BANGKOK (The Blaze/AP) — The three Iranian men detained for allegedly plotting bomb attacks in Bangkok on Israeli diplomats had more than terror on their minds in Thailand. Police said Friday that they had also cavorted with prostitutes at a beach resort.
The news comes as Thai authorities announced they were searching for two more suspects in the botched bomb plot, including a possible explosives specialist who may have been training the Iranians.
The foiled plan was discovered Tuesday when explosives in the men’s rented house blew up by mistake, forcing them to flee. Two were detained in the Thai capital, and a third was captured Wednesday in neighboring Malaysia as he reportedly tried to return to Iran.
After flying into the southern city of Phuket on Feb. 8, the men moved to Pattaya and stayed there for at least two nights before heading to Bangkok. Located 45 miles (70 kilometers) southeast of the Thai capital, Pattaya is particularly notorious for its sleazy sex industry and large contingent of prostitutes.
The Iranians hung out with several female sex workers during their stay there, and one of the women was brought to Bangkok to identify the suspects on Thursday, said Lt. Col. Noppon Kuldiloke, a senior immigration police investigator in southern Thailand.
A cellphone image taken by one of the women, published by the Bangkok Post with an article headlined “Suspects partied in Pattaya,” purportedly showed the three Iranians at a Middle Eastern bar or restaurant surrounded by hookah water-pipes, two of them cradling women in their arms. The men posed for the photo around a low, drink-filled table on which there appeared to be at least one bottle of beer.
The woman who took the image said one of the now-detained suspects, Mohammad Kharzei, had asked her to escort him “because he was not good at speaking English,” according to the Bangkok Post.
She said she brought two companions for Kharzei’s friends, and they had drinks and played snooker together. The woman detected nothing awry, except when one of the Iranians “barred her from approaching a closet” in his hotel room, the newspaper reported.
The botched plot has ratcheted up tensions between Iran and Israel, which is accusing Iran of waging a covert campaign of state terror that included a bombing Monday in New Delhi that tore through an Israeli diplomatic vehicle, wounding an Israeli diplomat’s wife and driver, and a failed bomb attempt the same day in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
Iran has denied responsibility for all three bomb plots, and blames the Jewish state for the recent killings of Iranian atomic scientists.
Thailand’s national police chief said Thursday that the detained Iranians were plotting to attack Israeli diplomats, citing the similarity of so-called “sticky” bombs that can be attached magnetically that were used in New Delhi and Tbilisi.
Thai police released the security camera images above of the three Iranian bomb suspects. From left to right, they are Saeid Moradi, Mohammad Kharzei and Masoud Sedaghatzadeh.
Moradi’s legs were blown off when explosives he was carrying detonated as he was walking on a Bangkok street, as The Blaze reported.
Though the motives of the bombers are not known, this would not be the first time terrorists have solicited prostitutes or used pornography. This, while at the same time denouncing the West’s so-called loose sexual values.
Senior al Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki – the American-Yemeni imam who was killed in September by missiles fired from an American Predator drone flying over Yemen – preached for violent jihad and hesitated to shake hands with women, but according to a New York Times profile, he also patronized prostitutes.
Three of the 9/11 hijackers reportedly called a prostitute to tryst with them in a Boston area hotel in the week leading up to the fateful attack.
Among the items recovered from the computer files found in Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound were a “considerable quantity of pornographic videos.”
(AP) — Oil prices jumped to a nine-month high near $105 a barrel Monday in Asia after Iran said it halted crude exports to Britain and France in an escalation of a dispute over the Middle Eastern country’s nuclear program.
Benchmark crude was up $1.75 to $104.99 per barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier in the day, it rose to $105.21, the highest since May. The contract rose 93 cents to settle at $103.24 per barrel in New York on Friday.
Brent crude was up $1.52 at $121.10 per barrel in London.
Iran’s oil ministry said Sunday it stopped crude shipments to British and French companies in an apparent pre-emptive blow against the European Union after the bloc imposed sanctions on Iran’s crucial fuel exports. They included a freeze of the country’s central bank assets and an oil embargo set to begin in July.
Iran’s Oil Minister Rostam Qassemi had warned earlier this month that Tehran could cut off oil exports to “hostile” European nations. The 27-nation EU accounts for about 18 percent of Iran’s oil exports.
The EU sanctions along with other punitive measures imposed by the U.S. are part of Western efforts to derail Iran’s disputed nuclear program, which the West fears is aimed at developing atomic weapons. Iran denies the charges, and says its program is for peaceful purposes.
Oil prices were also boosted by China’s decision to boost money supply in a bid to spur lending and economic growth. China’s central bank said Saturday it will lower the ratio of funds that banks must hold as reserves, a move that frees tens of billions of dollars.
Oil has jumped from $96 earlier this month amid optimism the global economy may grow more this year than previously expected. J.P. Morgan raised its Brent crude price forecast to as high as $135 from $120.
“Building economic momentum has the potential to pull oil prices higher for the next 12 to 24 months,” J.P. Morgan said in a report.
In other energy trading, heating oil added 0.6 cent to $3.22 per gallon and gasoline futures rose 1.4 cents to $3.22 per gallon. Natural gas jumped 9.2 cents to $2.66 per 1,000 cubic feet.