Number of US hate groups jumps 20 percent since 2014

File photo for Members of the Ku Klux Klan face counter-protesters as they rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, Jul 8, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 21 February 2018
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Number of US hate groups jumps 20 percent since 2014

WASHINGTON: The number of US hate groups rose again in 2017, during President Donald Trump’s first year in office, and has surged 20 percent since 2014, a US civil rights watchdog said on Wednesday.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual census identified 954 hate groups in 2017, a 4 percent rise from the year before. The increase followed a 2.8 increase in 2016, and the most recent number represents a jump of one-fifth from 2014.
Among the more than 600 US white supremacist groups, neo-Nazi organizations rose to 121 from 99. Anti-Muslim groups increased for a third year in a row, to 114 from 101 in 2016, after tripling in number a year earlier, the report said.
“President Trump in 2017 reflected what white supremacist groups want to see: a country where racism is sanctioned by the highest office, immigrants are given the boot and Muslims banned,” Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, said in a statement.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In August, Trump came under under fire for saying “both sides” were to blame for violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a leftist counter-protester was killed.
He was also criticized for a string of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim comments, including using a vulgar term to describe Haiti and African countries in a White House meeting on immigration last month.
In a backlash to Trump, the number of black nationalist groups such as the Nation of Islam increased to 233 last year from 193 in 2016, the civil rights group’s report said. It also added two male supremacy groups to its census for the first time.
The report acknowledged that it likely failed to capture the full extent of hate groups in the United States. A growing number of extremist groups, especially those identifying with the alt-right, operate mainly online, it said.
Alt-right groups believe that white identity is under attack by multicultural forces.
The Southern Poverty Law Center report defines hate groups as organizations with beliefs or practices that demonize a class of people, usually for fixed characteristics.
In the past, some groups have criticized the Alabama-based organization’s findings, with skeptics saying it has mislabeled legitimate organizations as “hate groups.”


Greece ‘turning a page’ as eurozone declares crisis over

Updated 9 min 31 sec ago
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Greece ‘turning a page’ as eurozone declares crisis over

  • The eurozone ministers’ agreement comes nearly a decade after Athens finances spun out of control, sparking three bailouts and threatening the country’s euro membership.
  • EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici: “The Greek crisis ends here tonight.”

ATHENS: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday said the country was “turning a page” after eurozone ministers declared its crisis over as they granted Athens debt relief under a bailout exit strategy.
The eurozone ministers’ agreement comes nearly a decade after Athens finances spun out of control, sparking three bailouts and threatening the country’s euro membership.
“Yesterday we reached a historic agreement on Greece’s debt with the Eurogroup,” Tsipras told the country’s president, Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
“We are turning a page,” he said, adding that Greece had to remain on the path of reform.
Following the eurozone ministers’ hard-fought agreement declared earlier Friday, Greece is slated to leave its third financial rescue since 2010 on August 20.
“The Greek crisis ends here tonight,” said EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, after marathon talks in Luxembourg.
The deal was expected to be an easy one, but last-minute resistance by Germany — Greece’s long bailout nemesis and biggest creditor — dragged the talks on for six hours.
The ministers agreed to extend maturities by 10 years on major parts of its total debt obligations, a mountain that has reached close to double the country’s annual economic output.
They also agreed to disburse €15 billion ($17.5 billion) to ease Greece’s exit from the rescue program.
This would leave Greece with a hefty €24 billion safety cushion, officials said.
“The agreed debt relief is bigger than we had expected,” Citi European Economics said in a note.
“In particular, the 10-year extension of the EFSF loans’ maturity and most importantly the grace period on interest payments is a significant development,” they added.
“The Greek government is happy with the agreement,” Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said after the talks.
But “to make this worthwhile we have to make sure that the Greek people must quickly see concrete results... they need to feel the change in their own pockets,” he added.
The eight-year crisis toppled four governments and shrank the economy by 25 percent. Unemployment soared and still hovers over 20 percent, sending thousands of young educated Greeks abroad.
Optimism is tempered by Greece’s remaining fiscal obligations, which will demand serious discipline, observers say.
“This is a very tight program. A surplus of 3.5 percent to 2022 and 2.2 percent (on average) to 2060 is not easy at all,” Kostas Boukas, asset management director at Beta Securities, told Athens 9,84 radio.
“We’ll have to see if the pledges will be kept, especially as they depend on international developments as well,” he said.
Under pressure from its creditors, Greece has already agreed to slash pensions again in 2019, and reduce the tax-free income threshold for millions of people in 2020.
Further cuts will be made to maintain the 3.5-percent surplus, if necessary.
“It would be a terrible mistake to cultivate illusions that the end of the bailout means a return to normality,” said pro-opposition daily Ta Nea.
“What follows is tough oversight which no other country has experienced in a post-bailout period,” the daily said.
The European Commission has already specified that Greece will remain under fiscal supervision until it repays 75 percent of its loans.
Athens has received €273.7 billion in assistance since 2010, enabling it to avoid punishing borrowing rates on debt markets.
The International Monetary Fund, led by the tough-talking Christine Lagarde, welcomed the debt relief, but cited reservations about Greece’s obligations over the long term.
“In the medium term analysis there is no doubt in our minds that Greece will be able to reaccess the markets,” Lagarde said after the talks.
“As far as the longer term is concerned we have concerns,” she added.
The reform-pushing IMF played an active role in the two first Greek bailouts, but took only an observer role in the third in the belief that Greece’s debt pile was unsustainable in the long term.