Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Moody's downgrades Greece to Caa3; World's 2.4bn lack sanitation facilities; A book club that terrified the Angolan regime

1 Moody’s downgrades Greece to Caa3 (San Francisco Chronicle) President Barack Obama and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi are discussing ways to keep Greece in the eurozone. Greece has suffered its fourth ratings downgrade this week, as Moody's investors service slashed the country's rating from Caa2 to Caa3, or just above default.

The agency said Greece was likely to default on its remaining privately held debt due to its impasse with lenders. "Events of recent months have illustrated the distance between what Greece's official creditors will demand as a condition of continued support over the coming years, and what Greece's institutions are able to do to meet those demands. This creates significant difficulties for the achievement of a long-lasting support agreement," it said.

Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said a deal with lenders could be reached after Sunday's referendum, while blaming creditors for the country's bank closures. "This is a very dark moment for Europe. They have closed our banks for the sole purpose of blackmailing what? Getting a "Yes" vote on a non-sustainable solution that would be bad for Europe," he said.

The European Central Bank's governing council has decided to maintain emergency liquidity funding for Greek banks at the same levels as before, a banking official said. The ECB has been keeping Greece's banks on life support while the country's left-wing government has negotiated for a bailout deal with creditors. Without the money, Greece could default and wind up leaving the euro.

2 World’s 2.4bn lack sanitation facilities (Khaleej Times) Some 2.4 billion people - one out of every three inhabitants of the planet - still have no access to sanitation facilities, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef has said. Of those, 946 million continue to defecate outdoors, a very problematic practice, because in many places it creates a continuous source of disease and pollutes the water supply.

"Until everyone has access to adequate sanitation facilities, the quality of water supplies will be undermined and too many people will continue to die from waterborne and water-related diseases," said Maria Neira, director of the WHO Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.

The UN, which refers to adequate sanitation as an entire system that hygienically separates human excrement from the population, set as one of its Millennium Development Goals the reduction by half of the number of people without access to such a system by 2015. That means that 77 percent of the world population should now have access to sanitation, a goal that will not be met by some 9 percentage points, or 700 million people.

According to Unicef and WHO, the lack of progress in this area also threatens to undermine child survival and the health benefits that were expected to be achieved by improving access to drinking water, another Millennium Development Goal that, in this case, has fortunately been achieved.

3 A book club that terrified the Angolan regime (Simon Allison in The Guardian) As a group of young Angolans gathered in the capital Luanda for their regular book club, authorities clearly felt the act of reading was so subversive that it was tantamount to a rebellion, and state security forces immediately intervened. Thirteen of the readers were arrested in a raid last week, along with two others for good measure. All have been detained and distributed across various prisons in the city.

This incident reveals much about modern Angola, where the exercise of basic rights – to assembly, to protest, the right to read – has become a subversive act. Some of those arrested have a political history: rapper Luaty Beirao has been arrested for protesting in the past, and Manuel Nito Alves was jailed for two months in 2013 for printing T-shirts critical of the president.

On the reading list were two books that give Angolan authorities sleepless nights. The first was Gene Sharp’s seminal From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation, which describes itself as “a blueprint for nonviolent resistance to repressive regimes”. The second was Angolan journalist Domingos da Cruz’s book, whose title translates as “tools to destroy a dictator and avoid a new dictatorship”. Da Cruz himself was among those arrested.

Since March 2011, the country’s youth movement has been calling for protests aimed at bringing down the president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos who has ruled Angola for 35 years. That a book club has become the definition of rebellion shows just how paranoid and insecure the state has become: fifteen young men are now in prison, because they dared to discuss a future different from the one Dos Santos has decreed.

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