Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Monday, December 28, 2015
A Chicago police officer, responding to a domestic disturbance call, shot and killed a 19-year-old student and his 55-year-old neighbor, a mother of five. The grieving mother of the teenager said she had been hoping to “get help” from police.
The police were responding to a call from a man named Antonio LeGrier, who said that his son appeared to be a "little agitated" and had been trying to bust open the door of his bedroom in the middle of the night. But a neighbor said the teenager had been armed with a metal baseball bat.
“Upon arrival, officers were confronted by a combative subject resulting in the discharging of the officer’s weapon, fatally wounding two individuals,” police confirmed in a statement, not releasing the officer’s name. Authorities said the matter remains under investigation.
The second victim was a 55-year-old neighbor, Bettie Jones, who had been celebrating Christmas with more than a dozen family members, and was shot “through the door,” according to her cousin. Jones had reportedly been asked to keep an eye out for the arrival of police.
“How are you just going to fire through the door?” wondered the grieving family. There was a single bullet hole in the wooden door, according to Reuters, however details of the incident remain unclear.
“You call for help and you lose someone… That has to stop,” Legrier’s mother Janet Cooksey said. She told local channel WLS-TV that her son was "having a mental situation” and sometimes would "get loud, but not violent."
Antonio confirmed his son had emotional problems, but said that it didn’t warrant him getting shot and killed, AP reported.
The incident follows a round of protests against Chicago police brutality, with more and more demonstrators calling for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s resignation and an investigation into his administration. Hundreds of people have been gathering on the streets of the city, claiming the police are killing civilians instead of protecting them.
Amid the protests, a Chicago police superintendent was forced to resign and the mayor created a special police accountability task force to review officers’ conduct.
The latest incident is another case of the police overstepping their boundaries, Carl Dix from the US Revolutionary Communist Party told RT.
“To say that they were confronted with an armed individual so they had to shoot…a bystander?! That makes no sense,” Dix says. He insist that in a normal society trained law enforcement personnel should know how to deal with a suspect armed with a baseball bat without killing him.
“But in this society police get to kill someone like that, and then they get the benefit of the doubt when the question gets raised,” he added.
Friday, December 25, 2015
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
These footages are NOT intended to be violent or glorify violence in any way. We are sharing this footage STRICTLY for the purposes of news reporting and educating. ANGEL OF APOCALYPSE is a channel where we strive to show people the videos that has been left out of the main-stream media.
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Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Monday, December 21, 2015
NEW YORK -- The New York City police officer who shot and killed unarmed Bronx teen Ramarley Graham has received nearly $25,000 in raises since firing the fatal shot almost four years ago -- all while the NYPD and federal government drag out their investigations of the incident.
Officer Richard Haste, 34, has earned $88,614 this fiscal year, according to public records listed in the Empire Center for Public Policy's SeeThroughNY database. That's compared to the $63,694 he earned in fiscal year 2012, the year he shot Graham inside the teen's Bronx home.
Haste has been stripped of his service weapon and placed on modified duty, or desk duty, since killing Graham. He currently works in the NYPD's motor fleet division, which maintains the department's cars.
Al O'Leary, spokesman for the city's largest police union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said Haste's raises were automatic.
Ramarley Graham was shot and killed in his apartment in the Bronx in 2012.
"Any raises that any police officer, detective, sergeant on up to captain gets is because it is contractually mandated as a result of an agreement between the city and the union that represents the title," O'Leary said. "So suggesting that there is something special or unusual in any raise for any non-managerial member of the NYPD, like Haste, is simply wrong. Everyone in that same title with similar time on the job (longevity pay) got what he got. That’s the way it works."
(Three black members of the NYPD's motor fleet division filed a lawsuit against the department earlier this year, saying they were denied promotions and raises that were given to their white colleagues.)
Haste earned a salary of approximately $76,000 in the 2015 fiscal year, according to Empire's records. He also received over $2,000 in overtime pay and $10,147 in "other pay," which Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center, said is a "designation for which there can be dozens, if not hundreds of categories, ranging from uniform allotment, to car allotment, to back pay, or cash out."
In fiscal year 2012, Haste earned a salary of over $53,000, plus nearly $9,000 in overtime and close to $4,800 in other pay.
That same year, a grand jury voted to indict Haste, but the indictment was tossed out because of a prosecutorial mistake. A second grand jury declined to indict Haste. Grand jury proceedings are sealed, and it's not known what evidence Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson presented to the jury.
The NYPD Internal Affairs investigation has been ongoing since the day of Graham's death. The Department of Justice officially launched its investigation in September 2014.
And so while Haste -- who wasn't authorized by the department to talk to HuffPost for this story -- has received his pay raises, Graham's parents continue to wait, and wait, for the investigations to conclude. It's only then, they said, that they might get a full accounting of what happened to their son or an explanation for why Haste didn't go to jail.
Frank Graham, the slain teen's father, said hearing about Haste's pay bump made him "angry."
"This is what you do?" he said. "Reward these guys for killing innocent people? How is this possible? I'd like to ask the current mayor, the city council, the commissioner: How is this possible?"
Loyda Colon, co-director of the Justice Committee, a member group of Communities United for Police Reform, called Haste's raise an "outrage."
"Unfortunately, it's also one of many instances of officers who unjustly kill black and Latino/a New Yorkers being rewarded rather than held accountable," Colon said. "We just saw this happen with Kenneth Boss, one of Amadou Diallo's killers. About a month ago, James Connelly, who killed John Collado in 2011, was given an award at One Police Plaza."
"These are just a few examples," Colon continued. "This pattern sends a message to New Yorkers of color that their lives are not valued and a message to officers that brutality is not only condoned but encouraged."
On Saturday, during a rally with Rev. Al Sharpton in Harlem, Kadiatou Diallocondemned the NYPD for promoting Boss, one of the NYPD officers who, in 1999, shot and killed her unarmed son, Amadou Diallo.
“It was like a knife through my heart," Diallo said of Boss' promotion to the rank of sergeant last week. "Because I believe if someone, a police officer, has been empowered by holding his gun and going abusing it and killing innocent people, he should not be entitled to do the same work.”
The promotion was required by departmental policy, the New York Daily News reported.
Connelly, the other officer Colon mentioned, shot and killed John Collado in 2011 after Collado stepped in to break up a fight between Connelly and another man. Connelly was not in uniform at the time. He was not indicted for Collado's death. Last month, Collado's family reportedly protested outside police headquarters as Connelly received an award. It's unclear what the accolade was and why Connelly received it. Neither the NYPD or the Detectives' Endowment Association replied to a request for comment.
"I'm not surprised," Constance Malcolm, Graham's mother, told The Huffington Post when she learned about Haste's raise. Whenever an officer kills an innocent person, she said, they seem to "either get promoted or get a raise."
It sends a message to other officers, Malcolm added, that they can get away with misconduct.
And while Haste has carried on working at the NYPD, the four-year anniversary of Ramarley's death is approaching, she said, and "I still don't know what happened to my son."
On Feb. 2, 2012, the NYPD says a narcotics unit saw Graham “adjust his waistband” outside a Bronx convenience store -- a sign that the teenager might have had a gun. The police also suspected that Graham had recently participated in a drug deal.
According to the NYPD's account, Graham ran when the officers approached him. But surveillance footage shows him calmly walking up to his mother’s East 229th Street apartment building, opening the door and walking inside. Moments later, Haste and one other officer run up to the building, guns drawn, and attempt to kick down the door.
After about five minutes, the officers get inside the building, go up the stairs and knock in the door to the apartment. They did not have a warrant.
Haste then confronted Graham in the bathroom, where the teen was trying to flush a bag of marijuana down the toilet, according to the NYPD. Ramarley allegedly reached for his waistband during the confrontation, which prompted Haste to pull the trigger.
But no gun was found on Ramarley, nor anywhere in the apartment. He was unarmed.
Ramarley's grandmother, Patricia Hartley, and his 6-year-old brother, Chinoor Campbell, witnessed the shooting.
"Why did you shoot him? Why you killed him?” Hartley asked Haste, according to the account of events provided in the family's lawsuit against the city.
“Get the f**k away before I have to shoot you, too,” Haste allegedly responded, before pushing the tiny 58-year-old into a nearby vase.
Although Haste testified to two grand juries about the shooting, the testimonies were never made public. The family settled its lawsuit earlier this year for $3.9 million, precluding the NYPD from publicly defending Haste's actions in court.
Graham's family says it opted to settle the suit, which likely would have lasted years, so that young Chinoor wouldn't have to relive the trauma of his brother's death.
Meanwhile, the NYPD Internal Affairs investigation into Graham's death is still ongoing, and the city remains tight-lipped about what happened that day.
Dr. Maki Haberfeld, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said that while there are many factors that can slow an investigation -- such as changes in police leadership or internal affairs staff -- she was "surprised" to hear that the investigation into Ramarley's death is still ongoing.
"Four years is not a normal amount of time," she said.
One possible explanation, she added, is that the Justice Department explicitly asked the department to withhold its findings until it concluded its own investigation, although such requests are "uncommon."
The NYPD did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York would only say that DOJ's investigation into Graham's death is ongoing.
Haberfeld added that "like with any criminal investigation, the longer the time, the lower the chances you're going to discover anything. You rely on the witnesses -- and people's memory, you know, that's not as efficient years later."
Hartford teacher Heather Zottolla, left, took a Facebook post by Shelley Best, right, personally, saying it insinuated "that because I'm white, I can't teach children in Hartford."
HARTFORD — Teacher Heather Zottola was at a training session for city educators on the evening of Sept. 2, hearing about ways they can better serve students of color — the bulk of Hartford's students — when she noticed one of the attendees angling a cellphone camera in her direction.
"I remember thinking, at first, 'Oh, she's taking a selfie.' Then I was like, 'Oh, look it, I'm in her picture,'" Zottola recalled this month. The woman, city board of education member Shelley Best, was seated only a few feet away in a downtown banquet room.
"What I should have said to her that night, what I thought to say to her, was, 'How did our selfie come out?' And just kind of get a feel for why she was taking it," said Zottola, 45, who did not know or recognize Best, an A.M.E. Zion minister, a social justice commentator, and one of two African Americans on Hartford's nine-member school board.
Back home that night, Zottola mentioned to her husband that a woman attending the dinner presentation had taken selfies — photos of herself — but that she seemed to intentionally include Zottola in the frame, "and I wonder why."
Hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Best's social media network had already learned the reason in real time as Best raised a blunt question about who was in the room that evening.
The head of the Hartford teachers' union, Andrea Johnson, would later say that she was "appalled" when she saw the Facebook post that would trigger pained conversations over teacher diversity and online civility.
All Zottola knew was that she felt uneasy when she went to bed that night.
The next morning, she asked one of the consultants at the multi-day training if he knew the woman who was taking photos. The man pulled up Best's Facebook page and showed it to Zottola, a magnet theme coach who has spent her 23-year teaching career at Noah Webster, a prekindergarten-to-grade 8 school in Hartford's West End.
Zottola had to leave the room to collect herself.
Hartford school board member Shelley Best’s “selfie” posted on Facebook ignited conversations on teacher diversity and online civility. This screenshot was included in a letter to Hartford school leaders complaining about the Sept. 2 post.
Best, 53, said she grew up in northwestern Connecticut in the 1960s, in Norfolk, where her father was an activist and Best was the only black child in her school.
"I know what it is to be 'the other,'" said Best, by way of explaining her mindset on that September evening. "I'm not just hyper-sensitive when I go into rooms. It's not like I'm not used to being 'the only.'"
But when she entered the banquet room with fellow board member Craig Stallings, the space felt "uncomfortable," Best recalled. The presentations that school board members usually sit through tend to involve hard chairs in a cafeteria or auditorium. "We didn't expect this to be a ... 'pass the hors d'oeuvres' kind of event," she said.
Best also noticed that among the roughly 50 people in the room — mainly school administrators, teachers and instructional coaches — all but a handful were white. Most were white women, such as Zottola, who conceded that has been the reality for a lot of the professional development sessions she has attended in the 21,000-student Hartford school system.
"As people of color, when we walk in a room and there's not many of us," Best said in an interview this fall, "we kind of look around and go, 'Oh, what did we walk into?' And that's what the feeling was: What is this?"
Best decided to sit up front. Once the presentation got underway, on classroom techniques that the district was piloting in a couple of schools, the lead consultant touched on the achievement gap and showed slides on the academic struggles of underprivileged children, particularly boys of color.
This is what Best remembered: A white female scholar illustrating her point with images of "sad, black males, little boys like this," said Best, mimicking a child's frown. "Like, sad, black boys who can't make it in school."
"The slideshow showed young black males failing," Best continued.
She noted that the only black man in the room was Stallings, a product of Hartford public schools. "If a man of color was presenting a presentation on the struggle of young black males in the classroom, and what we need to do to get young black males engaged — that's a different feeling."
Alternatively, Best said, what if "it was a slideshow of young black women failing, and I'm the only black woman in the room? How would I feel?"
That got Best stewing on this fact: In a Hartford school system where the vast majority of students are "black and brown," Best said, most of the people leading the schools, classrooms and curriculum are white. The district, which has tried recruiting prospects from historically black colleges and minority career fairs, has identified three-quarters of city teachers and half of school principals as white.
Nationally, about 82 percent of public school teachers are white, according to a 2013 U.S. Department of Education report.
When uploading her dour "selfie" to several thousand followers on Facebook, Best wrote this as the caption: "In a room full of folks talking about us (and the educational achievement gap) that don't look like us ... hmmmm ..."
Half of the photo showed part of Best's stern, bespectacled face.
To the right of Best was Zottola, fair-skinned with near-platinum blond hair in a black and periwinkle outfit, looking at the camera without a smile. The lighting is so bright in the image that one of her forearms blends in with the table linen.
Seated next to Zottola in the photo were two white colleagues from Noah Webster MicroSociety Magnet School: a literacy coach and Principal Jay Mihalko, both looking askance in Best's direction. The literacy coach, who declined to speak with The Courant, appeared concerned. All three saw that Best was including them in the frame when she snapped her selfie, Zottola said.
Although Best said her intent was to take a "crowd shot," the photo was clear enough that the educators' faces were recognizable.
"Look at the chick in the black and blue. Yikes," one commenter wrote, in reference to Zottola, on Best's public post that had attracted at least 165 "likes" and 50 comments from a racially diverse group of followers, most of them expressing support for Best.
"No one looks like they want to be there ... yall look pissed," someone else chimed in.
"I wonder what those 3 in the background are thinking?!?!?" another woman wrote.
After the initial distress of seeing herself in the photo, Zottola said, it was scrolling through the comments that made her "really upset." One of the first replies that a commenter posted was an old-timey photo of a little blond girl, her face scrunched up in disgust. It drew "likes" from eight people.
"I had to leave the room," Zottola recalled. "And I left not for a long time. I talked to myself: 'Just get over it, it doesn't matter.' I was, like, fighting with myself. 'Should I be upset about this? Should I not be?' I found, over time, I got more upset and more angry about it. And it was really more about the comments. ... I felt it was snowballing."
Zottola, a 2008 Hartford Teacher of the Year finalist and mother of two children who attend Hartford magnet schools, said she became more exasperated when someone created a crude meme out of Best's photo, cropping the image to focus on Zottola and her two colleagues. Best later said that she deleted comments on her post "that I thought were really rude."
Zottola wanted Best's photo to be wiped off the Internet, "to disappear." But her request to Best via Facebook went unanswered, she said, and after a plea to Hartford schools' central office — Zottola remembered getting a call from human resources "to let me know that they would be taking care of it" — the post remained on the social media site.
When Zottola first talked to The Courant, it was a few weeks after the controversy began. The Hartford Federation of Teachers had already complained on her behalf to the superintendent and the school board chairman, and so did her husband, who wrote a scathing letter to school leaders proposing that Best, a mayoral appointee whose term expires early next year, be removed from the board.
Dentist Paul-Henry Zottola of New Britain wrote that his wife was cyberbullied, and argued, in part, that Best "insulted an entire district of dedicated teachers as being unfit for that role because, as she puts it, they 'don't look like us.'"
"I think it would be the wrong message for the teachers of Hartford to think they're failing at their mission because they happen to be white," he told The Courant.
By the district's count, there are about 1,400 white teachers in city schools. An additional 226 Hartford teachers are black, 184 are Latino, and 34 are classified as "other."
Teacher diversity varies from school to school. At University High School of Science and Engineering, where about a third of students are black, district data show that 32 out of 36 teachers are identified as Caucasian, with no black teachers reported at the magnet school created under the longstanding Sheff v. O'Neill desegregation agreement.
A few blocks away at Rawson School in north Hartford, 12 of 40 teachers are identified as black.
Nearly two weeks after her original post, Best offered a Facebook mea culpa of sorts, saying she "inadvertently hurt people ... who happen to be some of the city's finest educators."
"I am sorry for the pain I caused the educators in the picture," Best wrote in a Sept. 15 posting. "That was not my purpose. The pain I felt is because there are not MORE people of color in rooms like this — teaching our children so our children can personally identify with people that look like them.
"More of US need to be in the room," Best continued. "Diversity makes a difference. If the cultural context were reversed and a room full of well meaning black folks were talking about the educational failure of white children — what would white advocates think or do? Yup. Race matters in America. Racial conversations often inflame us. I am sorry other people were hurt. This work is often painful."
Shelley Best’s follow-up Facebook apology on Sept. 15 included the original image that had upset Hartford teacher Heather Zottola. Zottola’s husband included this screenshot in his letter to city school officials.
Rather than appease her, Heather Zottola said the apology — she uses air quotes when discussing it — made matters worse, because Best shared the original photo again to accompany her words. Best also added the tagline, "thinking about institutional racism in education."
The new post triggered another flood of comments, some criticizing the educators for being offended, and many assuring Best that there was no need to apologize.
Another Hartford school board member, Robert Cotto Jr., wrote, "I was ok with your comments and protest when it happened." Zottola replied to his comment, "Are you saying ... it's ok for a board member to post an unauthorized picture of board employees and then allow awful comments and memes?"
Johnson, president of the teachers' union, said the whole episode had "devastated" Zottola, whom she described as a "very, very dedicated person and teacher," someone who has given school uniforms to students who could not afford them.
Johnson said she is fully aware that there are few minorities in the city's teaching ranks. Hartford school officials have outlined a diversity recruitment plan that includes an ongoing teacher preparation program for city students at Bulkeley High School, and partnering with local colleges on a recent state planning grant to help bring in and retain more black and Latino teachers.
But, Johnson said, "I'm of the belief that if you're going to take somebody's picture, you should have the courtesy to at least let them know."
During that rough first month when the image was online, Zottola's grade-school son would rub her back to console her. The emotions were raw — all her life, Zottola said, she has been teased for her pale complexion, so the social media outing, even if for "a great cause," felt like public humiliation.
Best "chose me, probably the whitest person in the room, to make her point, and I was just really hurt because she doesn't even know who I am and what I do for Hartford schoolchildren," Zottola said in late September.
"I feel like she made me her poster child for white teachers in Hartford. The insinuation, and what hurt me the most," she said, her voice cracking, "is she's saying that because I'm white, I can't teach children in Hartford."
Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez, when informed a few days later of Zottola's comments, spoke delicately about the situation. She leads city educators, but her boss, essentially, is the board.
"If I can do anything to help smooth over any hard feelings or misunderstandings," Narvaez said, "I'm happy to do what I can."
Within several days, Best's selfie could no longer be found on Facebook. The original post and follow-up apology were gone.
"I have to say, 50 percent of me feels so much better," Zottola said in early October. The other half was still consumed with a gnawing sense that she had been wronged.
"It just bothers me, it just bothers me to the core ... I hate to take it so personally, because maybe deep down she didn't mean to target me, but I know she targeted me on purpose," Zottola said. "That's the whole thing that's getting to me — you picked me. I know you picked me on purpose, and I know why you picked me."
'It's About The Cause'
Best was adamant that she did not single out Zottola for her skin color. She denies choosing her at all.
"'Room full of people' was the term. It wasn't, 'look at this woman behind me ...' — that would have been cyberbullying," Best said in her office at The Conference of Churches in Hartford, a faith-based nonprofit for whom she is president and CEO. "My intention was not angled at her. I wasn't targeting her because she's fair-skinned ... . She happened to be behind me. It wasn't about her."
"To me, social media is everywhere and I engage people using the tool of social media all the time," said Best, taken aback that one post had morphed into such "conflict" when she often muses on race, social justice and education, with inspirational quotes also sprinkled into her feed.
"If she's an ally, it wasn't about you," she said of Zottola. "It's about the cause. And what's tragic is that, what — this is now supposed to be an issue about this particular teacher and not the issue?"
Later that day, Mihalko, the school principal also in the photo, indicated he was trying to move on.
"Racism, hiring practices and the achievement gap are all very real issues that can be hard to talk about, and it's important that we all work together to come to a resolution and next steps on these areas," Mihalko said. "That's really my stance. I'm not sure it's worth my time recapping what happened in this instance."
Board Chairman Richard Wareing said he received "many letters and calls" on the controversy, and believes that while Best did not intend to offend, "her remarks were destructive and hurtful and not reflective of how the board feels about its educators and the work they do."
Stallings, the board member who attended the Sept. 2 training with Best, said he understood why she was frustrated, but found that "what she was trying to do was lost in the fact that the image was of three unsuspecting teachers."
"What we're trying to do is unite ... so it was counterproductive," Stallings said.
Zottola sat in her school office on a rainy night this month, wavering between moments of admitted bitterness and wondering whether she has a right to be upset. She saw ugliness in the social media comments, and many white coworkers, "fired up" after the post went online, had validated her anger, she said.
But Zottola said she realized the situation was more complicated when she asked her assistant principal, one of the few black educators at the training, what she thought of Best's Facebook post. The response Zottola heard was along the lines of, well, Best has a point.
"I'm here on purpose," said Zottola, whose email signature includes the famed Nelson Mandela quote, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
"I get that I don't look like a lot of the kids that I teach," Zottola said, "but to me, it doesn't matter, and to them —" She sighed.
"I get both sides of it. I get we always need role models ... but I don't think I'm a bad role model, not looking like some of my kids. You know what I mean? I struggle with that a lot."
Across Europe birth rates are tumbling. The net effect is a ‘perfect demographic storm’ that will imperil economic growth across the continent
When Spanish business consultant Alejandro Macarrón started crunching the numbers behind Spain’s changing demographics, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “I was astonished,” said Macarrón. “We have provinces in Spain where for every baby born, more than two people die. And the ratio is moving closer to one to three.”
Spain has one of the lowest fertility rates in the EU, with an average of 1.27 children born for every woman of childbearing age, compared to the EU average of 1.55. Its crippling economic crisis has seen a net exodus of people from the country, as hundreds of thousands of Spaniards and migrants leave in the hope of finding jobs abroad. The result is that, since 2012, Spain’s population has been shrinking.
Record numbers of economic migrants and asylum-seekers are seeking to enter the European Union this summer and are risking their lives in the attempt. The paradox is that as police and security forces battle to keep them at bay, a demographic crisis is unfolding across the continent. Europe desperately needs more young people to run its health services, populate its rural areas and look after its elderly because, increasingly, its societies are no longer self-sustaining.
In Portugal, the population has been shrinking since 2010. For many analysts, the question now is how low can it go, with projections by the National Statistics Institute suggesting Portugal’s population could drop from 10.5 million to 6.3 million by 2060. According to prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho: “We’ve got really serious problems.”
In Italy the retired population is soaring, with the proportion of over-65s set to rise from 2.7% last year to 18.8% in 2050. Germany has the lowest birthrate in the world: 8.2 per 1,000 population between 2008 and 2013, according to a recent study by the Hamburg-based world economy institute, the HWWI.
The UK’s population reached 64.6 million by mid-2014, a growth of 491,000 over the previous year, according to the Office for National Statistics. On average, Britain’s population grew at a faster rate over the last decade than it has done over the last 50 years.
Macarrón is astonished at the reluctance of Spanish authorities to address what he calls a direct threat to economic growth as well as pensions, healthcare and social services. He and a few friends took it upon themselves to begin tackling the issue, starting the non-profit group Demographic Renaissance in 2013, with the aim of raising awareness of the crisis.
“Most people think we’re only talking about something that will be a problem in 50 years, but we’re already seeing part of the problem,” he said. “If current numbers hold, every new generation of Spaniards will be 40% smaller than the previous one.”
A political knock-on effect is the overwhelming political power of the grey vote. Macarrón points to the crippling austerity measure put in place during the economic crisis: “During the same time frame, expenditures on pensions rose by more than 40%. We’re moving closer to being a gerontocratic society – it’s a government of the old.”
The region of Galicia is one of the few in Spain that has addressed the issue. The population of this north-western region has been shrinking, leaving it home to the nearly half Spain’s abandoned villages. More than 1,500 settlements – once home to schools, businesses and filled with children – now sit abandoned, overgrown with weeds and bushes.
In 2012, the regional government launched a multi-pronged initiative to address the falling fertility rate, with plans to roll out measures such as home and transport subsidies for families and radio advertisements urging women to have more children. But it is still estimated that Galicia’s population could shrink by 1 million residents in the next 40 years, a loss of just under one third of the region’s population.
For southern Europe, migration within the EU has become a grave problem. Hundreds of thousands of Portuguese have left, hoping to find better opportunities abroad. Coelho has said the next 10 to 15 years would be decisive in reversing the trend. If no action is taken, he said last year, “these issues will only be solved by a miracle.”
The EU’s Eurostat agency estimates that by 2050, Portugal will be the country in Europe that is home to the smallest proportion of children, with just 11.5% of the population expected to be under the age of 15. Toy shops and hundreds of schools are closing while petrol stations and motels are being converted into nursing homes.
Coelho has called on the EU to make falling birthrates a priority in the next five years. “This question has a dimension that is not strictly national,” he said, pointing to labour legislation and “the manner in which urban life is organised.”
Last year he created a commission dedicated to coming up with proposals to reverse the country’s dwindling birthrate. Led by Professor Joaquim Azevedo from the Catholic University of Portugal, a recent report by the commission warned that failure to reverse the demographic crisis could leave Portugal “unsustainable in terms of economic growth, social security and the welfare state.”
“We are losing our population, as we know. These matters are crystal clear,” said Azevedo. “ It is a reality. Facts are facts and that is what is happening.”
Ad hoc political solutions at a national level are failing. Italy has tried to overcome its bleak demographic outlook with initiatives ranging from pension cuts to a baby bonus, but the statistics are not on their side.
The country’s falling birthrate has multiple causes, such a lack of financial security that prompts many Italians to live with their parents well into their 30s. The difficulty for mothers to return to the workplace also means women must make considerable sacrifices if they decide to have children.
With the fertility rate falling from 2.37 in 1970 to 1.39 in 2013, the government is encouraging Italians to have children. Prime minister Matteo Renzi announced plans last year to give low-income couples a monthly “baby bonus” of €80 (£57), but he is well aware finances are only a small part of the problem. Last year an estimated 91,000 Italians emigrated, a sharp increase from the 50,000 that did so in 2011. The youth jobless rate hit 44.2% in June, while overall it stood at 12.3%.
In Germany last week there was a rare piece of good news. Germany’s birthrate was found to be higher than it has been for 13 years, thanks to the 33,000, or 4.8%, more babies born last year than in 2013. Nevertheless, the scale of the demographic crisis Europe’s largest economy faces has finally hit home. For decades there have been far more deaths (last year 153,000 more) than births in Germany. Those women who do give birth are bearing relatively few (on average 1.4) children. Experts say to keep the population at its current rate, that would need to rise to just over two.
By 2060 the government expects the population to plunge from 81 million to 67 million, a decrease that is being accelerated by depressed areas in both eastern and western parts of the country that are haemorrhaging large numbers. The UN predicts that, by 2030, the percentage of Germans in the workplace will drop 7% to just 54%. No other industrial land is as starkly affected – and this is despite a strong influx of young migrant labourers.
In order to offset this shortage, Germany needs to welcome an average of 533,000 immigrants every year, which perhaps gives context to the estimate that 800,000 refugees are due to come to Germany this year.
Only Scandinavia appears to be weathering the demographic storm with any success, partly thanks to generous parental leave systems, stable economies, and, in the cases of Sweden and Norway, high net immigration.
“We do face an ageing population but the problem is not so alarming due to relatively high fertility rates,” says Nizar Chakkour of Statistics Sweden.
Chakkour He puts the high fertility rates down to social support for parents. “One common explanation [for the fertility rate] is that in Sweden it is possible to combine motherhood with a working life,” he argues. “It is not only the parental leave: it is also the subsidised childcare and the gender equality.”
For Swedes, improving the demographic profile is advanced as one of the most powerful arguments in favour of immigration. At a meeting in Brussels in June, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven enjoined other European countries follow his country’s example.
“I am not going to sweep under the carpet the fact that it’s a major challenge at the moment,” he said of Sweden’s high levels of asylum applications. “But it is also an asset. We must recognise that if we do not do this now, we are going to have a gigantic problem in a few years.”
Immigration also props up the fertility rate and Britain and France have received a similar fillip to its population growth as a result.
But across huge swaths of the European Union, longstanding communities are disappearing and the social burden on the young is becoming unsustainable. Meanwhile, in Kos, Lampedusa and on the Hungarian border, tens of thousands plead to be allowed in.