If you happen to be a Palestinian government employee, chances are you will receive only half your usual salary this month. The other half will only be available when international donors find it in their hearts to make up for the huge shortage of funds currently facing the Palestinian Authority (PA).

With a deficit standing at around $640 million, the PA government of Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad is experiencing one of its worst ever financial crises. However, the Palestinian economy is not a real economy by universally recognized standards. It survives largely on handouts by donor countries. These funds have spared Israel much of its financial responsibility as an occupying power under the stipulations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. They have also propped up a Palestinian leadership that tries to secure its own survival by serving the interests of major donors.

The funds, however, are now drying up. This could be due to a political attempt to dissuade PA President Mahmoud Abbas from seeking recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN next September. PA officials have been greatly angered by the shift, blaming donor countries – including Arab countries – for failing to honor their financial commitments.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, Secretary-General of the PLO, spoke of an ‘unprecedented’ crisis to Voice of Palestine Radio. “The situation has become very complicated for the Palestinian Authority because of the failure of the Arab countries to fulfill their financial promises.”

Fayyad suggested it was an ‘irony’ that the current crisis comes at a time when the PA had reduced its reliance on foreign aid by almost half – from $1.8 billion in 2008 to $970m – according to the Jerusalem Post. Now, even this half is being slashed, as only $331m of the pledged $970m has been received.

Top PA officials are yet to openly connect the dots between the withholding of funds and the political reality in Palestine. Fayyad insisted that “the crisis does not cast doubt on our preparedness for the establishment of the state,” while Abed Rabbo asserted that the crisis would not halt PA efforts to seek an independent statehood along pre-1967 lines.

The PA undoubtedly understands the financial cost of any political adventure that is deemed unfavorable to Israel – especially since they are constantly reminded of the ‘historic ties’ and ‘shared values’ that unite Israel and the United States.

One such reminder was the huge margin at the US House of Representatives in July 2007. It was an “overwhelming 406-6 vote,” reported AFP, where US lawmakers “warned the Palestinians that they risk cuts in US aid if they pursue UN recognition of a future state not defined in direct talks with Israel.” The message echoed another vote on a similar resolution in the US Senate. 

Such unquestioning support for Israel by the US serves to make life much easier for Israeli diplomats. They now need to focus less on the US than on European countries that have promised to back the PA statehood initiative.

The PA is of course very vulnerable to threats, despite their insistence to the contrary. Once the US and others start to wave the withholding-of-funds card, any solid PA political program usually falters into perplexing and even self-defeating political babble. The lack of certainty in the PA’s political language could be attributed to fear that a single decision to withhold funds coupled with an Israeli decision to hold taxes collected on behalf of the PA, the government would not last for more than mere weeks.

One ought to remember that the West Bank and East Jerusalem are Occupied Territories. Deprived from even a semblance of territorial sovereignty and presiding over a donation-based national economy, the PA has no political independence outside the permissible margins allowed by the US and Israel, countries that are hell-bent on defeating the Palestinian national project.

The PA has been grappling with this strange situation since its inception in 1994. Being a guardian of Palestinian national interests and simultaneously satisfying Israel’s political interests and US expectations is an impossible feat. That enigma has almost always been settled at the expense of the Palestinians themselves. The latest casualty has been the unity deal signed between Hamas and the PA’s ruling party, Fatah, in Egypt on April 27.

The unity was essential for a cohesive political program to be formed towards Palestinian rights and possible statehood. When the agreement was officially signed early May, it was assumed that various committees would be able to quickly finalize the process aimed at setting a date for future elections and bringing to a complete end the four-year feud between the two factions.

However, a counter Israeli strategy was immediately forged. On May 4, as Palestinians celebrated their unity, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led the counter campaign from London. “What happened today in Cairo is a tremendous blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism,” he told reporters (as reported by Reuters). The US echoed Netanyahu’s foreboding words, EU countries responded ‘cautiously’, and the arm-twisting began.

Once again, Abbas and the PA were faced with a dilemma around priorities. National unity in Palestine was to suffer yet another blow. “The Palestinian president does not want to wage two diplomatic battles for recognition of an alliance with the Islamic militants and for a U.N. nod to statehood at the same time,” said a PLO official (as quoted by the Associated Press and Ha’aretz).

The UN vote “would be a largely symbolic step that the Palestinians hope will nonetheless improve their leverage against Israel,” according to the AP report. ‘Symbolic’ maybe, but is a priority that Abbas feels comes ahead of urgently needed national unity and a unified political program. 

Meanwhile, PA forces – trained and armed by the US and in constant coordination with the Israeli army – reportedly arrested 68 Hamas members in recent weeks, according to a report by Maan News Agency, citing a Hamas statement.

While Abbas is now leading a diplomatic mission to drum up support for his UN initiative, Fayyad is trying to collect funds to prop up the PA economy for a few more months. Meanwhile, Palestinian national unity – without which Palestinians will remain hopelessly fragmented and vulnerable to external pressures and foreign priorities – remains merely ink on paper.

 Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of www.PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), available on Amazon.com.

Greece and the Euro: Towards Financial Implosion

July 14th, 2011 by Prof Rodrigue Tremblay

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” 

Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist and professor, Nobel Prize 1921

“It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.”

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), 3rd President of the United States (1801-09)

“Having seen the people of all other nations bowed down to the earth under the wars and prodigalities of their rulers, I have cherished their opposites, peace, economy, and riddance of public debt, believing that these were the high road to public as well as private prosperity and happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), 3rd President of the United States (1801-09)

On the 4th of July, the credit agency Standard & Poor called  Greece what it is, i.e. a country in de facto financial bankruptcy.  No slight of hand, no obfuscation, no debt reorganization and no “innovative” bailouts can hide the fact that the defective rules of the 17-member Eurozone have allowed some of its members to succumb to the siren calls of excessive and unproductive indebtedness, to be followed by a default on debt payments accompanied by crushingly higher borrowing costs.

Greece (11 million inhabitants), in fact, has abused the credibility that came with its membership in the Eurozone.  In 2004, for instance, the Greek Government embarked upon a massive spending spree to host the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, which cost 7 billion euros ($12.08 billion). Then, from 2005 to 2008, the same government decided to go on a spending spree, this time purchasing all types of armaments that it hardly needed from foreign suppliers. —Piling up a gross foreign debt to the tune of $533 billion (2010) seemed the easy way out. But sooner or later, the piper has to be paid and the debt burden cannot be hidden anymore.

Greece’s current financial predicaments (and those of other European countries such as Spain, Portugal, Ireland and even Italy) are not dissimilar to the ones Argentina had to go through some ten years ago. In each case, an unhealthy membership in a monetary union of some sort led to excessive foreign indebtedness, followed by a capital flight and a crushing and ruinous debt deflation.

In the case of Argentina, the country had decided to adopt the U.S. dollar as its currency, even though productivity levels in Argentina were one third those in the United States. An artificially pegged exchange rate of one peso=one U.S. dollar held for close to ten years, before the inevitable collapse.

Indeed, membership in a monetary union and the adoption of a common currency for a group of countries can be a powerful instrument to stimulate economic and productivity growth, with low inflation, when such monetary unions are well designed structurally, but they can also turn into an economic nightmare when they are not.

Unfortunately for many poorer European members of the euro monetary union, the rules for a viable monetary union were not followed, and its unraveling in the coming years, although deplorable, should be of no great surprise to anyone knowledgeable in international finance.

What are these rules for a viable and stable monetary union with a common currency?

1- First and foremost, member countries should have economic structures and labor productivity levels that are comparable, in order for the common currency not to appear persistently overvalued or persistently undervalued depending on any particular member economy. An alternative is to have a high degree of labor mobility between regional economies so that unemployment levels do not remain unduly high in the least competitive regions.

2- Secondly, if either one of the two above conditions is not met (as is usually the case, since real life monetary unions are rarely “Optimum Currency Areas”), the monetary union must be headed by a strong political entity, possibly a federal system of government, that is capable of smoothly transferring fiscal funds from surplus economies to deficit economies through some form of centrally managed fiscal equalization payments.

This is to avoid the political strains and uncertainty when the standards of living rise in surplus regional economies and drop in regional deficit economies. Indeed, since the regional exchange rates cannot be adjusted upward or downward to redress each member country’s balance of payments,  and since the law of one price applies all over the monetary zone, this leaves fluctuations in income levels and employment levels as the main mechanism of adjustment to external imbalances. —This can turn out to be a harsh remedy.

Indeed, such a system of income or quantity adjustment rather than price adjustment is somewhat reminiscent of the way the 19th century gold standard used to work, albeit with a deflationary bias, except that it was expected to have price and income inflation in surplus countries and price and income deflation in deficit countries, caused by money supply expansions in surplus economies and money supply contractions in deficit economies. In a more or less formal monetary union, we are left with income inflation and deflation while the central bank holds the rein on the overall price level.

3- A third condition for a smoothly functioning monetary union is to have free movements of financial and banking capital within the zone. This is to insure that interest rates are coherent within the monetary zone, adjusted for a risk factor, and that productive projects have access to finance wherever they take place.

In the U.S., for instance, the highly liquid federal funds market allows banks in temporary deficit in check clearing to borrow short-term funds from banks in a temporary surplus position. In Canada, large national banks have branches in all provinces and can easily transfer funds from surplus branches to deficit branches without affecting their credit or lending operations.

4- A fourth condition is to have a common central bank that can take account not only of inflation levels but also of real economic growth and employment levels in its monetary policy decisions. Such a central bank should be able to act as lender of last resort, not only to banks, but also to the governments of the zone.

Unfortunately for the Eurozone, it currently fails to meet some of the most fundamental conditions for a smoothly functioning monetary union.

Let’s look at them one by one.

-First, labor productivity levels (production per hour worked) vary substantially between the member states. For example, in 2009, if the index of productivity level in Germany was 100, it was only 64.4 in Greece, nearly one third lower. In Portugal and Estonia, for instance, it was even lower at 58 and 47 respectively. What this means is that the euro, as a common currency, may appear undervalued for Germany but overvalued for many other members of the Eurozone, stimulating net exports in the first case but hurting badly the competitiveness of other member countries.

-Secondly, and possibly an even more important requirement, the Eurozone lacks the backing of a strong and stable political and fiscal union. This leaves fiscal transfers between member states to be left to ad hoc political decisions, and this creates uncertainty. In fact, there are no permanent mechanisms of equalization payments between strong and weak economies within the Eurozone. —For this reason, we can say that there is no permanent economic solidarity within the Eurozone.

-Thirdly, the designers of the Eurozone elected to limit the European Central Bank to a narrowly defined monetary role, its central obligation being to maintain price stability, while denying it any direct responsibility in stabilizing the overall macroeconomy of the zone and preventing it from lending directly to governments through money creation, if needs be. —For this reason, we can say that there is no statutory financial solidarity within the Eurozone.

Finally, even though capital and labor mobility within the Eurozone is fairly high, historically speaking, it is far less secured, for instance, than it is the case with the American monetary union.

In retrospect, it seems that the creation of the Eurozone in 1999 was more a political gamble than a well-thought-out economic and monetary project. This is most unfortunate, because once the most estranged members of the zone begin defaulting on their debts and possibly revert to their own national currencies, the financial shock will have real economic consequences, not only in Europe, but around the world.

Many economists think that the best option for Greece and the rest of the EU should be to engineer an “orderly default” on Greece’s public debt which would allow Athens to withdraw simultaneously from the Eurozone and to reintroduce its national currency, the drachma, at a debased rate. This would avoid a prolonged economic depression in Greece.

Refusing to accept the obvious, i.e. an orderly default, would please Greece’s banking creditors but will badly hurt its economy, its workers and its citizens. That’s what bankruptcy laws are for, i.e. to liberate debtors from impossible-to-repay debts.

Of course, the most debt-ridden nation on earth is not Greece, but the United States.

Let me say this as a conclusion: If American politicians do not stop playing political games with the economy, a lot of Americans are going to suffer in the coming months and years, and this will spill over to other countries.

With Europe and the United States both in an economic turmoil, this is very bad news for the world economy.

Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay is a professor of economics (emeritus) at the University of Montreal and a former Minister of Trade anbd Industry in the Quebec government. He is the author of “The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”,

Please visit the book site at: TheCodeForGlobalEthics.com/

Send contact, comments or commercial reproduction requests (in English or in French) to: [email protected]

VIDEO: A Full-Scale NATO Ground Invasion of Libya is Imminent

July 14th, 2011 by Andrew Gavin Marshall

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The Media’s Endless Propaganda for War

July 14th, 2011 by David Swanson

Nailing Rupert Murdoch for his employees’ phone tapping or bribery would be a little like bringing down Al Capone for tax fraud, or George W. Bush for torture. I’d be glad to see it happen but there’d still be something perverse about it.

I remember how outraged Americans were in 2005 learning about our government’s warrantless spying, or for that matter how furious some of my compatriots become when a census form expects them to reveal how many bathrooms are in their home.

I’m entirely supportive of outrage. I just have larger crimes in mind. Specifically this:

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
“Article 20
“1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.”

The Fox News Channel is endless propaganda for war, and various other deadly policies. As Robin Beste points out,

“Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers and TV channels have supported all the US-UK wars over the past 30 years, from Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands war in 1982, through George Bush Senior and the first Gulf War in 1990-91, Bill Clinton’s war in Yugoslavia in 1999 and his undeclared war on Iraq in 1998, George W. Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with Tony Blair on his coat tails, and up to the present, with Barack Obama continuing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and now adding Libya to his tally of seven wars.”

In this video, Murdoch confesses to having used his media outlets to support the Iraq War and to having tried to shape public opinion in favor of the war. That is the very definition of propaganda for war.

The propaganda is, also by definition, part of the public record. Although that record speaks for itself, Murdoch has not been shy about adding his commentary. The week before the world’s largest anti-war protests ever and the United Nation’s rejection of the Iraq War in mid-February 2003, Murdoch told a reporter that in launching a war Bush was acting “morally” and “correctly” while Blair was “full of guts” and “extraordinarily courageous.” Murdoch promoted the looming war as a path to cheap oil and a healthy economy. He said he had no doubt that Bush would be “reelected” if he “won” the war and the U.S. economy stayed healthy. That’s not an idle statement from the owner of the television network responsible for baselessly prompting all of the other networks to call the 2000 election in Bush’s favor during a tight race in Florida that Bush actually lost.

Murdoch’s support for the Iraq War extended to producing support for that war from every one of his editors and talking heads. It would be interesting to know what Murdoch and Blair discussed in the days leading up to the war. But knowing that would add little, if anything, to the open-and-shut case against Murdoch as war propagandist. Murdoch had known the war was coming long before February 2003, and had long since put his media machine behind it.

Murdoch has been close to Blair and has now published his book — a book that Blair has had difficulty promoting in London thanks to the protest organizing of the Stop the War Coalition. Yet Murdoch allowed Mick Smith to publish the Downing Street Memos in his Sunday Times. Murdoch’s loyalty really seems to be to his wars, not his warmakers.

John Nichols describes three of those warmakers:

“When the war in Iraq began, the three international leaders who were most ardently committed to the project were US President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Prime Minister John Howard. On paper, they seemed like three very different political players: Bush was a bumbling and inexperienced son of a former president who mixed unwarranted bravado with born-again moralizing to hold together an increasingly conservative Republican Party; Blair was the urbane ‘modernizer’ who had transformed a once proudly socialist party into the centrist ‘New Labour’ project; Howard was the veteran political fixer who came up through the ranks of a coalition that mingled traditional conservatives and swashbuckling corporatists.

“But they had one thing in common. They were all favorites of Rupert Murdoch and his sprawling media empire, which began in Australia, extended to the ‘mother country’ of Britain and finally conquered the United States. Murdoch’s media outlets had helped all three secure electoral victories. And the Murdoch empire gave the Bush-Blair-Howard troika courage and coverage as preparations were made for the Iraq invasion. Murdoch-owned media outlets in the United States, Britain and Australia enthusiastically cheered on the rush to war and the news that it was a ‘Mission Accomplished.’”

Bribery is dirty stuff. So is sneaking a peak at the private messages of murder victims. But there’s something even dirtier: murder, murder on the largest scale, murder coldly calculated and played out from behind a desk, in other words: war.

Murdoch is a major crime boss being threatened with parking tickets.

I hope he’s brought down, but wish it were for the right reasons.

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee chased Richard Nixon out of town for the wrong reasons. The full House impeached Bill Clinton for the wrong reasons. And the worst thing the U.S. government has done in recent years, just like the worst thing News Corp. has done in recent years, has not been spying on us.

It’s no secret what drove public anger at Nixon or what drives public anger at Murdoch. But, for the sake of historical precedent, it would be good for us to formally get it right.

Charge the man with selling wars!

David Swanson is the author of “War Is A Lie” 

http://rootsaction.org

http://warisacrime.org

http://davidswanson.org

-[I]n terms of foreign policy, there is no major difference between Barack Obama and his predecessor. And Mr. Panetta only explicitly presented what is implicit in Obama’s “Change that never was there” policy.

The newly appointed US Defense Secretary made his first foreign tour in his new capacity. Not surprisingly, the two countries he visited were Iraq and Afghanistan, where the US is waging two of its current three wars. Also unsurprisingly, the topic of Libya arose now and again.

Leon Panetta, the former CIA director and before that the White House Сhief of Staff during President Bill Clinton’s tenure, has for a long time been one of the most prominent behind-the-doors figures in the US establishment. Now, things have changed – in his capacity of the Defense Secretary he has become a public figure, whose words sometimes matter much more than he himself would like them to.

Panetta’s inexperience as a public politician has been noticed by many observers. In Iraq and Afghanistan he made it his goal to visit as many US military units and meet as many US soldiers as the short visit allowed. He did not spare words in praising the soldiers, saying that the main aim of his tour was to personally thank every US soldier for his/her courage and sacrifices. In this respect he tried to copy his predecessor Robert Gates, who is still very popular among the US troops and whose priority always was the welfare of the soldiers.

At the same time, observers have noticed several slips of the tongue and even gaffes in Mr. Panetta’s remarks. Speaking to the US soldiers about their presence in Iraq he said, “The reason you guys are here is because on 9/11 the United States got attacked.” Well, this used to be part of George W. Bush’s rhetoric back in 2003, when he tried to connect Saddam Hussein’s regime with the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Most Democrats, including the current President Barack Obama, have always rejected such claims.

Also, speaking about Libya, Panetta said that the central U.S. objective is “to do what we can to bring down the regime of Gaddafi.” This also goes counter to the official US line that the US engagement in the war against Gaddafi aims only at protecting the civilians.

Other gaffes in Mr. Panetta’s speeches included using harsh and sometimes rude wordings in characterizing some individuals and phenomena (like calling Osama bin Laden “that son of a bitch” or Iraq – “a damned country” having “a hell of a lot of resources”). All this might seem funny for observers in the US characterizing the new Defense Secretary’s personally. But for an outside observer, these gaffes really disclose the inner and deeply concealed trends dominating the actions of the present administration.

Indeed gaffes and slips of the tongue are hardly to be expected from a person of Mr. Panetta’s standing and experience. Therefore, they reflect the real intentions of the current administration whose topmost representative would not like to pronounce himself.

It is clear that the campaign in Libya with the US participation has long ago ceased to be aimed at “protecting the civilians” and will not stop until Gaddafi is removed from power. But one would not expect Obama to state it publicly. Hence the burden was taken by his Defense Secretary whose words could – should the need arise – be explained by his “inexperience”.

As for Iraq, the question why the US troops are still there and why they invaded the country back in 2003 has no plausible answer. Saddam Hussein was never connected with Al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction were never found there. But the US troops are still in Iraq. Mr. Panetta was simply forced to give at least some explanation. And coming back to George W. Bush’s rhetoric was only too natural.

This brings us to a conclusion that has been looming for some time. In fact, in terms of foreign policy, there is no major difference between Barack Obama and his predecessor. And Mr. Panetta only explicitly presented what is implicit in Obama’s “Change that never was there” policy.

Stop NATO e-mail list home page with archives and search engine:
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The size of this military operation under a UN sponsored “humanitarian mandate” is mind boggling.

NATO’s stated objective is to save lives:  “The aim of Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR is to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under attack or threat of attack.”

In a bitter irony, Western public opinion is broadly supportive of this humanitarian endeavor which is carried out under the principle “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P). Each of the strike sorties results in countless deaths and injuries of civilians. The media has largely obfuscated the causes and consequences of this war.

According to NATO’s most recent release (July 14, 2011),

A total of 15,061 sorties, including 5,673 strike sorties, have been conducted since the beginning of the NATO operation (31 March 2011, 06.00GMT)

The text of the release is indicated in ANNEX below.

ANNEX

http://www.nato.int/nato_static/assets/pdf/pdf_2011_07/20110714_110714-oup-update.pdf

14 July. Allied Joint Force Command NAPLES, SHAPE, NATO HQ

(more information: www.jfcnaples.nato.int

Mission

NATO took control of all military operations for Libya under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1970 & 1973 on 31 March 2011. The aim of Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR is to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under attack or threat of attack.

The mission consists of three elements: an arms embargo, a no-fly-zone and actions to protect civilians from attack or the threat of attack.

Over the past 24 hours, NATO has conducted the following activities associated with Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR:

Air Operations

Since the beginning of the NATO operation (31 March 2011, 06.00GMT) a total of 15,061 sorties, including  5,673 strike sorties*, have been conducted.

Sorties conducted 13 JULY: 130

Strike sorties conducted 13 JULY: 50

*Strike sorties are intended to identify and engage

“1,108 Libyans killed in NATO attacks”

July 14th, 2011 by Global Research

Libya’s prosecutor general has said that NATO airstrikes have killed more than 1,100 civilians and injured thousands of others since the end of March.

Mohamed Zekri Mahjubi told foreign journalists in Tripoli on Wednesday that he intends to prosecute NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Libyan courts for “war crimes.”

“As NATO secretary general, Rasmussen is responsible for the actions of this organization which has attacked an unarmed people, killing 1,108 civilians and wounding 4,537 others in bombardment of Tripoli and other cities and villages,” Mahjubi was quoted by AFP as saying.

The prosecutor general pressed other charges against Rasmussen, saying the NATO chief sought to murder Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

Mahjubi also accused Rasmussen of “deliberate aggression against innocent civilians, the murder of children as well as trying to overthrow the Libyan regime.”

The Libyan official said the NATO chief seeks to change the regime in Libya and establish a new government under his control with the aim of exploiting the country’s oil.

NATO has carried out hundreds of air attacks over Libya with the claimed aim of protecting civilians against Gaddafi forces.

The NATO chief met representatives of the Libyan opposition-backed Transitional National Council in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss the way forward in the North African country.

Rasmussen said NATO operations in Libya would continue. However, he added that it was time to find a political solution to the crisis.

NATOs Responsibility to Protect: a lie that shows that people will believe anything if it emanates from an invested authority, has been blown out of the mediterranean waters!

The Canadian military is exploring a way to cut costs and speed up the movement of troops and equipment by building several new northern bases

OTTAWA: It is costly to operate in the vast and inhospitable Arctic. But the Canadian military is exploring a way to cut costs and speed up the movement of troops and equipment by building several new northern bases.

Along the way it could help to strengthen the country’s Arctic sovereignty claims by placing additional boots on the tundra throughout the year.

The plan, sketched out in a study that was commissioned by the force’s operational support command, is a variation of the one put in place for overseas operations.

Barebones transportation hubs — essentially a suitable landing strip and storage facility — at strategic spots around the globe make it more efficient when soldiers are called out to a global hot spot in a pinch.

Just this week, Defence Minister Peter MacKay was in Kuwait to announce an agreement to use the country as a transit point for equipment coming out of combat in Kandahar and making the long journey home to Canada.

The military is looking at a domestic variant of those overseas hubs.

The plan could result in remote bases and a small-but-permanent military presence in far-off communities.

Locations could include Alert, Inuvik, Whitehorse, Rankin Inlet, Iqaluit or Nanisivik, according to the technical memorandum prepared by the research wing of the military last year.

The Canadian Forces says no decision has been made to go ahead with the construction of new hubs.

That could change.

“The hub concept referred to in this report is just one of many ideas being examined at the time to enhance our capabilities up in the North,” said Navy Lt. Greg Menzies.

The report is premised on the priority that the Conservative government has placed on a more rigorous defence of Canada’s territorial sovereignty in the North, where countries including Russia, Denmark and the United States are currently staking their claims to land and underwater territory.

“To maintain its sovereignty over its northern region, Canada will need to develop enforcement and surveillance capabilities for the Arctic,” the report says.

To that end, it envisions scenarios that could call for a military response in the North…

Currently, the Canadian Forces relies on the Canadian Rangers for operations in the North. More complex search and rescue requirements are handled out of an air force base in Winnipeg.

But this new plan would see the force’s hulking C-17 transport aircraft be loaded with personnel, supplies and a disassembled military helicopter — likely at CFB Trenton in Ontario — and dispatched to the northern hub. There, the helicopter would be reassembled and the Arctic hub would be used as a base for the mission.

The military wouldn’t speak to the costs of mounting an operation in the Arctic, but said the total budget for its annual northern exercise, Operation Nanook — which involves moving ships, aircraft, helicopters and about 1,000 personnel into the Arctic Circle — is about $15 million.

“The Canadian Forces are ready to execute all potential military tasks in Canada’s North and we’re always looking at ways to improve our response to possible threats in the North,” Menzies said.

Stop NATO e-mail list home page with archives and search engine:
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Stop NATO website and articles:
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The Murdoch News Corp Scandal

July 14th, 2011 by Global Research

14 July 2011

Murdoch’s News Corp. � an empire built on ethically-dubious practices
Russiatoday.ru Today at 00:30 RT
Rupert Murdoch�s push to expand in the British media has come to a halt. His embattled empire has announced the drop of its bid to take control of UK�s largest satellite broadcaster BSkyB, following News Corp�s…”

US politicians add to the heat on Murdoch’s empire
The Independent – Media RSS Feed Today at Midnight
In a dangerous development for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, prominent United States Senators have demanded that the firm be investigated under US corruption laws over payments made to British police officers.”

Rupert on the run: News Corp’s UK future in doubt as MPs turn on Murdoch
The Independent – Media RSS Feed Today at Midnight

The prospect of Rupert Murdoch abandoning his British media interests became a real possibility last night as News Corp dropped plans to take control of BSkyB and it emerged that the media mogul has discussed selling his News International newspaper titles.”

Media mogul should be quizzed on oath about hacking, says Cameron
The Independent – Media RSS Feed Today at Midnight
Rupert Murdoch should be questioned by the public inquiry into the phone hacking scandal, David Cameron said yesterday.”

13 July 2011

Freedom Rider: Rupert Murdoch and Media Corruption
The Greanville Post Yesterday at 18:32Posted by Addison dePitt
Print Friendly
By BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

The bottomless cesspool that was Rupert Murdoch�s London tabloid News of the World is gone, but the ruthless corporate politics of its master still hold sway in the U.S. and Britain. Murdoch is the great vampire of media corruption and consolidation on both sides of the Atlantic. But he is not a solitary villain. �Murdoch was not the only media beneficiary when the FCC allowed him and others to consolidate their power and influence.� All corporate media are truth thieves.”

BSkyB bid dropped amid ‘firestorm’
The Independent – Media RSS Feed Yesterday at 18:22

Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch today withdrew News Corporation’s �8 billion bid to take over satellite broadcaster BSkyB in a dramatic response to the ‘firestorm’ of public and political anger over phone hacking at the News of the World.”

Senator says News Corp. hacked 9/11 victims
Russiatoday.ru Yesterday at 17:33RT
A US Senator said on Tuesday that he expects to �find some criminal stuff� if the United States investigates phone hacks he alleges Rupert Murdoch�s News Corp. carried out in the States.”

Murdoch drops BSkyB bid as PM flounders in House
Morning Star Yesterday at 17:01
The phone-hacking maelstrom left Prime Minister David Cameron reeling today and forced media mogul Rupert Murdoch into a humiliating withdrawal of his bid for BSkyB.”

Video: UK parliament bids to scupper Murdoch media deal
William Bowles.info Yesterday at 17:00InI
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation has endured a torrid day at the hands of members of the UK parliament

The media rot spreads far beyond Murdoch
Morning Star Yesterday at 16:34
It seems that journalists at national newspapers have been quick to condemn the disgraceful and unethical journalistic practices at the News of the World while conveniently forgetting – or hoping we have forgotten – their own complicity in the decline of journalistic standards in Britain.”

Video: Murdoch Shaped British politics for 40 Years
William Bowles.info Yesterday at 16:06InI
Leo Panitch : Murdoch used sex scandal journalism to attack left-wing of the Labor Party and later helped create Tony Blair”

Murdoch waves white flag
Russiatoday.ru Yesterday at 15:55RT
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has dropped News Corporation’s $12-billion bid to buy out the multi-billion dollar broadcaster BSkyB after unprecedented pressure from the UK parliament and Prime Minister David Cameron.”

News Corp withdraws bid for BSkyB
BBC News Yesterday at 14:30
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation announces that it is dropping its planned bid to take full ownership of BSky”

AUDIO: Murdoch ‘master of universe’ no more
BBC News Yesterday at 13:47
Lord Ashdown tells Radio 5 live Breakfast that Rupert Murdoch has considered himself ‘master of the universe’ for too long.”

The Murdoch Empire Could Be Undone”: British Phone Hacking Scandal May Prompt U.S. Criminal Probe
Democracy Now! Yesterday at 13:[email protected] (Democracy Now!)

The British phone-hacking scandal engulfing Rupert Murdoch�s media empire has crossed the Atlantic, and could impact his maze of interests in the United States.”

Murdoch�s News Corp Generated $10.4 Billion Profits And Received $4.8 Billion In �Taxes� From The IRS By Tyler Durden
William Bowles.info Yesterday at 12:05InI
Call it the gift that keeps on giving (if one is a corporation that is): the US Tax system, so effective at extracting income tax from America’s working class, is just as ‘effective’ at redistributing said income tax at the corporate level. Case in point: News Corp, which after generating $10.4 billion in profits over the past 4 years, and which would have been expected to pay the IRS $3.6 billion at the statutory corporate tax rate, instead received $4.6 billion back from Uncle Sam.”

Video: Bent Cops on Parade By Craig Murray
William Bowles.info Yesterday at 11:02InI
Aren�t members of parliament amazing? Suddenly they all have noticed that the Murdoch influence is a cancer in society, which is something the rest of us have known for 30 years. Equally suddenly they have noticed that Andy Hayman is a lying buffoon, whereas before they took him as a great bastion against terrorism whose every word must be treated with respect.”

Inquiry at Murdoch Australia firm
BBC News Yesterday at 10:20
The head of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire in Australia says he will conduct an inquiry into all payments made to contributors since 2008.”

12 July 2011

Murdoch agrees to face MPs:
The Independent – Media RSS Feed Today at 17:43
Rupert Murdoch, his son James, and News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks have agreed to appear before MPs next week to answer questions about the phone hacking scandal, it was revealed tonigh”

Senior police fumble over News International case
Morning Star Today at 17:14
The best brains of the Metropolitan Police astonished MPs today with a brazen display of incompetence over their failure to investigate a tsunami of hacking by Murdoch journalists.”

Brown savages ‘underworld’ links of News International
Morning Star Today at 17:07
Former prime minister Gordon Brown lashed out at News International today, alleging that Rupert Murdoch’s news giant had links with the ‘criminal underworld.’”

Praise for minister’s U-turn on BSkyB
Morning Star Today at 17:06
The National Union of Journalists and MPs have welcomed the government’s decision to refer Rupert Murdoch’s bid to take over BSkyB to the Competition Commission.”

Fox Media Show Skips Murdoch Scandal
Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting Today at 16:51Peter Hart
Fox News Channel airs a weekly media criticism show called Fox News Watch. Disgraced New York Times reporter Judith Miller is one of the panelists because…well, it’s Fox.”

News Corp blow as Conservatives set to back BSkyB motion
The Independent – Media RSS Feed Today at 16:30
The pressure on Rupert Murdoch intensified today after it emerged that all three main parties are set to back a parliamentary motion calling for him to abandon his bid to take over the whole of BSkyB.

Clouds gather over Rupert Murdoch�s News Corporation
Russiatoday.ru Today at 16:08RT
The Sun and the Sunday Times, two other popular newspapers which are part of Murdoch�s News Corporation, have been accused of using illegal ways to obtain private data. Meanwhile, shares in Murdoch�s empire are…”

Murdoch’s press must meet its end
Morning Star Today at 16:07
Owen Jones calls for a radical shake-up in the structure of our media outlets

Orwell and the Killing of the News of the World
New Left Project Today at 15:24
by Jamie
A guest post by Richard Lance Keeble*
One of the most intriguing aspects of the News of the World�s final issue on 10 July was its prominent use of a quotation by George Orwell � on the back page and again as the opening paragraph in the Page Three editorial. In full, the quote reads:”

MPs request Murdochs at hearing
BBC News Today at 15:24
Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks are asked to appear before a Parliamentary inquiry next week.

Sleaze of the world
Recent articles from SocialistWorker.org Today at 06:00 Nicole Colson
The closure of Britain’s News of the World has many people cheering–and putting the blame right where it belongs: on media baron Rupert Murdoch.”

News Corp talks tough after new twist in BSkyB bid saga
The Independent – Media RSS Feed Today at Midnight
James Murdoch’s long-cherished dream of taking over the broadcaster BSkyB was yesterday delayed when the bid was referred for a full investigation by the Competition Commission.”

Gordon Brown’s shock that his family medical records were hacked
The Independent – Media RSS Feed Today at Midnight
The crisis engulfing Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire dramatically worsened last night when it was claimed that private investigators working for The Sun and The Sunday Times targeted the former prime minister Gordon Brown.”

Brown’s shock that his family medical records were hacked
The Independent – Media RSS Feed Today at Midnight
The crisis engulfing Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire dramatically worsened last night when it was claimed that private investigators working for The Sun and The Sunday Times targeted the former prime minister Gordon Brown.”

Brown accuses two more Murdoch titles
The Independent – Media RSS Feed Today at Midnight

The crisis engulfing Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire dramatically worsened last night when it was claimed that private investigators working for The Sun and The Sunday Times targeted the former prime minister Gordon Brown.”

As the scandal grows, could Murdoch exit Britain altogether?
The Independent – Media RSS FeedToday at Midnight
Will Rupert Murdoch abandon British newspapers entirely? After the dramatic demise of the News of the World, speculation was rife last night that the News Corp media empire might seek to sell off News International to protect the rest of its business from the fallout of the hacking scandal.”

Could Hack Scandal Spell Trouble for Murdoch’s U.S. TV Licenses?
Fairness & Accuracy In ReportingYesterday at 21:39Peter Hart
As noted by an account on the TVNewser blog (7/11/11), on ABC’s This Week panel there was some talk of Rupert Murdoch losing his U.S. television licenses over the News of the World phone hacking scandal”

Further specific evidence has emerged that there is a strong racist element within the rebel forces, including at command level, and it is the stated intention of these forces to ethnically cleanse areas they capture of their dark-skinned inhabitants.

Racism amongst the rebels including at command level

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, journalist Sam Dagher pointed out the obvious fact that the Libyan war is aggravating ethnic tensions in that country. The article talks about the fate of Tawergha, a small town 25 miles to the south of Misrata, inhabited mostly by black Libyans, a legacy of its 19th-century origins as a transit town in the slave trade:

Ibrahim al-Halbous, a rebel commander leading the fight near Tawergha, says all remaining residents should leave once if his fighters capture the town.  “They should pack up,” Mr. Halbous said. “Tawergha no longer exists, only Misrata.”

Other rebel leaders are reported as:

“calling for drastic measures like banning Tawergha natives from ever working, living or sending their children to schools in Misrata.”

In addition, according to the article, as a result of the battle for Misrata:

nearly four-fifths of residents of Misrata’s Ghoushi neighborhood were Tawergha natives. Now they are gone or in hiding, fearing revenge attacks by Misratans, amid reports of bounties for their capture.

Amid allegations of black mercenaries and stories of mass rape by the inhabitants of Tawergha, Sam Dagher reports on further evidence of the racism amongst the rebel forces:

Some of the hatred of Tawergha has racist overtones that were mostly latent before the current conflict. On the road between Misrata and Tawergha, rebel slogans like “the brigade for purging slaves, black skin” have supplanted pro-Gadhafi scrawl.

The racial tensions have been fueled by the regime’s alleged use of African mercenaries to violently suppress demonstrators at the start of the Libyan uprising in February, and the sense that the south of the country, which is predominantly black,  mainly backs Col. Gadhafi.

This information has already been publicised, not just in the WSJ but also in the Black Star News

This video shows two men from Tawurgha captured by the rebels and interrogated for the cameras:

Disturbing as this video is – there are other absolutely horrific videos apparently showing public lynchings in Benghazi and Misrata.

The myth of black mercenaries leads to lynchings

Other evidence of the massacres of black people, which include the lynchings and murder of black soldiers of the Libyan army, guest workers from other African countries and dark-skinned Libyan civilians include a report from the BBC on 25 February which cited a Turkish construction worker as saying:

“We had 70-80 people from Chad working for our company. They were cut dead with pruning shears and axes, attackers saying: ‘You are providing troops for Gaddafi.’ The Sudanese were also massacred. We saw it for ourselves.”

On 27th February Nick Meo of The Telegraph reported from Al-Bayda that he had been shown mobile phone footage of a ‘captured mercenary‘ (presumably he means black person with a uniform) lynched from a street lamp as well as a ‘black African hanging on a meat hook.’

Amnesty International crisis researcher, Donatella Rovera spent the period from 27 February to 29th May in Misrata, Benghasi, Ajabiya and Ras Lanouf. Yesterday she was interviewed by Austria’s ‘The Standard’ and had this to say on the subject:

“We examined this issue in depth and found no evidence. The rebels spread these rumours everywhere, which had terrible consequences for African guest workers: there was a systematic hunt for migrants, some were lynched and many arrested. Since then, even the rebels have admitted there were no mercenaries, almost all have been released and have returned to their countries of origin, as the investigations into them revealed nothing.”

Who spread the myth and why?

So what accounts for the widespread popularity of this myth? It is, to be frank, an example of highly successful propaganda, appealing to the basest of racial stereotypes. The myth was highly important in gaining consent for the operation in Libya, in order to cover up and justify the massacres  of black people taking place.

The myth of black mercenaries was spread by certain political leaders and bodies including the National Transitional Council in Benghazi, British Defence Minister Liam Fox and NATO spokesperson Oana Longescu .


 
According to Amnesty, allegations of “African mercenaries” have led to the lynchings

The viagra myth

On the viagra myth, beloved of the ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, Donatella Rovera had this to say:

“No one really took that seriously did they? On the 21 March, after the first air strikes on Gadaffi’s troops outside Benghazi, a young man who worked in the media centre presented us with many boxes of the potency drug. He claimed to have found them in the destroyed tanks. The vehicles had been completely burnt out, but the packaging looked brand new. I can not believe that anyone took him seriously.”

NATO enabling human rights abuses

So is NATO actually “protecting civilians” – or is it rather supporting rebels, some of whom who intend to harm dark-skinned Libyans and ethnically cleanse areas over which they take control?

The information contained in this post, is widely known and has been reported in the Independent and other newspapers, so NATO can not claim ignorance of the facts.

As this is being written, the”brigade for purging slaves and black skin,” is advancing on Tawurgha, supported by NATO strikes from the air and on the ground by Special Forces. A rebel commander has declared the intention is to wipe the town off the map and we have already seen the lynchings of black people and the driving out of black people from Ghoushi.

By continuing to escalate the conflict in Libya, allowing the arming and supporting the rebel side, providing bombing support to enable them to advance and refusing to implement a cease-fire as demanded by the United Nations and African Union, NATO is enabling serious abuses of human rights and NATO officials will certainly be held to account.

British diners could unwittingly be supporting Iceland’s whale hunt as a major UK fish wholesaler continues to source seafood from an Icelandic company linked to the killing of endangered fin whales fish sales to the UK and Europe are important in keeping their whaling vessels in business. Consumers are being urged to question the source of the fish at more than 10,000 fish and chip shops across the UK after new research linked it to the controversial Icelandic whale hunt.

Although commercial whaling is banned, countries like Iceland, Norway and Japan are still allowed to hunt whales for ‘scientific research’.

Iceland is now accused of breaking international agreements by catching and selling large quantities of whale meat to Japan. Japan’s own industry has stalled recently under pressure from activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the country’s recent earthquake.

Iceland’s biggest whaling company Hvalur has killed 273 endangered fin whales and exported more than 1,200 tonnes of fin whale meat and blubber to Japan since 2008, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), in a trade worth estimated US$17 million.

The EIA says Icelandic businessman Kristján Loftsson and his firm Hvalur are the ‘driving force’ behind the whale trade. Loftsson organised the opening of a company Misaka Shoji in 2009 to import Icelandic whale meat into the lucrative Japanese market – generating an estimated US$7 million in profit already, according to the EIA.

Classified by many countries as an endangered species, the fin whale is the second largest animal in the world after the blue whale with around 30,000 believed to be left in the North Atlantic.

UK links to whale slaughter

Investigations by the EIA and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) have now linked Iceland’s whale hunt to one of the UK’s most popular dishes.

Doncaster-based Warners Fish Merchants Ltd supplies scores of UK restaurants, fish and chip shops and hotels with cod and haddock sourced from HB Grandi, one of Iceland’s biggest fishing companies.

HB Grandi’s facilities have been used to process meat from fin whales hunted by Hvalur.

What’s more Hvalur’s managing director Kristjan Loftsson is deputy chairman of HB Grandi. Arni Vilhjalmsson, chairman of Hvalur, is also chair of HB Grandi.

When contacted by the Ecologist, HB Grandi, which exports half of all its fish to the UK, said it didn’t hunt whales itself but had in the past leased one of its buildings to Hvalur for processing whale meat. It also admitted its biggest shareholder was a company called Vogun, owned by Hvalur.

Campaigners have been calling on Iceland to ban its hunt and trade of whales.

But ahead of the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission this week, the WDCS say international pressure is unlikely to change Iceland’s support for its whale hunt.

It says consumer pressure on the industry could see it eventually collapse. ‘Iceland’s whalers are struggling to make a profit in order to revive their industry. That makes revenue from fish sales to the UK and Europe important in keeping their whaling vessels in business,’ says WDCS whaling campaigner Sue Fisher.

‘If we can make people aware of this situation and get them asking questions the next time they pop into their chip shop, UK fish distributors like Warners will think twice about where it sources its fish. British consumers will help make it hard for Hvalur to continue its cruel business.’

No one from Warner’s Fish Merchants was available to comment. Kristjan Loftsson failed to respond to the Ecologist.

There is much angst among people of conscience over the fate of Freedom Flotilla II, but by effectively scuttling it, Israel is really just hammering more nails in its own coffin. 

The efforts by Israel to prevent Freedom Flotilla II from leaving Greece have been largely successful. Of the original 10 ships, only the French ship Al-Karama (dignity) with 10 activists including French politicians, which sailed from the French Corsica two weeks ago, and the sabotaged-and-repaired Juliano (named after Juliano Meir Khamis, the murdered Israeli director of Jenin’s Freedom Theatre), were able to elude the Greek coastguard as of early this week.

Then Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman telephoned Sierra Leone ‘s President Ernest Bai Koroma and persuaded him to withdraw his country’s flag from the Swedish Juliano, giving the Greek coast guard the opportunity to block the ship in Heraklion. Though Al-Karama was apprehended by the Greeks while refueling at sea near Crete , it managed to give them the slip and is still chugging along, the lone survivor.

The Spanish Gernika (named after Picasso’s 1937 mural against fascism) is still in port along with the remaining ships, though 20 Spaniards are occupying their embassy — six of them on a hunger strike. Activists haven’t given up hope that the Gernika, another French boat the Louise Michel, the Italian Stefano Chiarini, the Freedom for All and the Methimus II — all sequestered or sabotaged — will still prevail.

Israeli special operatives were able to dive in Greek and Turkish waters to sabotage some of the ships, including the Juliano and the Irish Saoirse (sabotaged in Gocek , Turkey ). Both vessels had their propellers damaged — if they had not discovered the damage, they could well have sunk at sea.

“Anonymous” (Israeli) complaints of unseaworthiness were used by Greek authorities to delay other ships. The Greeks, clearly acting on Israeli-US orders arrested the captain of the American ship, and then did the same to his crew members who went on a hunger strike outside the US embassy in Athens on 4 July, the anniversary of American independence.

The Canadian ship Tahrir had actually departed after its captain decided he was endangering the crew by remaining in the port, with Israeli frogmen liable to conduct further acts of sabotage. Spokesman Dylan Kenner explained that the Greek coast guard illegally boarded the ship and towed it back to port. When the passengers refused to identify the captain of the ship, all 50 of them were taken into custody.

The Tahrir finally threw in the towel when Greek authorities suddenly demanded new papers, knowing organisers would not be able to produce them on short notice. Ditto the US Audacity of Hope.

The Israeli government has thus extended its illegal blockade of Gaza to Greek ports, Kenner argued. Greece offered to ferry the aid to Gaza in cooperation with the UN, an offer the activists turned down as “insufficient”, since their mission was also about the rights of the Palestinian people and not just about aid.

The response from Israel was delight at the Greek actions. In Jerusalem , Israeli President Shimon Peres told Greek President Karolos Papoulias, “I want to thank you for following the instructions of the United Nations secretary-general and stopping the Gaza flotilla… Israel always has its hand stretched out in peace.” Greece and Israel are currently carrying out joint military manoeuvres, the sixth in the past year.

The response of the US Congress was to vote 407–6 to suspend funds to the Palestinian Authority should it pursue a unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN in September. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said, “We stand by Israel as our most valued ally.”

In related news, another ship, the Spirit of Rachel Corrie from Malaysia , after seven weeks trying to break the siege, was finally allowed to unload its 32 tons of PVC pipes at the El-Arish port in Egypt , thanks to the direct intervention of Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, who assured activists that the pipes would reach Gaza . Their success coincided with the visit to Egypt of former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who is a staunch friend of Palestine . Malaysia does not recognise Israel and is one of the few countries with a principled stand against Israeli atrocities.

As the Flotillers licked their wounds, hundreds of Western activists attempted to enter Israel en masse 8 July in a “Flytilla” to show solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank . Israeli “intelligence” was prepared however, providing European airports with no-fly-lists of known peaceniks, preventing 350 from boarding their flights, in violation (what else is new?) of international law. More than 500 still made it to Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. Of them, 124 were arrested, 40 are now on a hunger strike after being denied access to lawyers and medical treatment, and 69 have already been deported.

As always, Israel achieves its narrow, tactical victories at the expense of its long term strategy of achieving respect as a legitimate nation; instead, isolating itself further as a rogue nation with no concern for human rights or the welfare of others, despised by most of the world. In a 2010 European opinion poll 60 per cent saw Israel as the greatest threat to world peace (74 per cent in the Netherlands ).

It extends its criminal siege of Gaza and occupation of the West Bank to Greek ports and European airports. It acts to encourage anti-Jewish sentiment where there is none, as it insists it speaks on behalf of the world’s Jews, its very raison d’etre being to act as a “safe haven” for them. The over-reaction by Israel to these peaceful protests, according to Gilad Atzmon, proves once again what Israel is all about: “the Jewish State is a closed society driven by ‘Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder’ fuelled by vivid imaginary fantasies of destruction.”

The Flotilla, composed of well-meaning, perhaps naive peaceniks, was never intended to best the world’s most dangerous and highly militarised society. With virtually all the world’s governments in thrall to Israel, its sole purpose was first, to show Palestinians that they have the world’s people behind them and to encourage them to keep up their heroic resistance, and second, to highlight just how reprehensible Israel is as a state, how unprincipled and untrustworthy as a partner.

By its actions, the Israeli government and its cheerleaders have unwittingly done their part in this pro-Palestinian public relations campaign. Whatever the fate of the Flotilla, it has acted as further fuel to the boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) campaign and the struggle to delegitimise Israel , or rather to assist Israel in its self-inflicted process of delegitimisation as an apartheid state.

Appropriately, this week, the seventh anniversary of the International Court of Justice ruling against the separation wall, the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) and the Palestinian Boycott National Committee called for an immediate and comprehensive military embargo on Israel . “The international community has a legal and moral responsibility to end their complicity with Israel ’s unlawful actions,” declared the FGM. This is the only way to pressure Israel to abide by international law, to stop attacking civilian ships in international waters and bombing civilians with white phosphorous.

Israeli politicians are smirking at their ability to stymie the Freedom Flotilla II. But, writes blogger Saker, this is a Pyrrhic victory for the Israeli ship of state. They are like those partying on the deck of the Titanic, who were oblivious to the fact that, thanks to their hubris, their ship would soon rest at the bottom of the ocean.

Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/ You can reach him at http://ericwalberg.com/ His Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games is available at http://claritypress.com/Walberg.html

Many in Washington are warning that – unless a compromise to raise the debt ceiling is reached – the U.S will default on its debt.

Moody’s has put the U.S. on a credit review for a possible downgrade due to the failure to reach a debt ceiling agreement.

Standard and Poor’s said earlier this month that it would likely consider the Greek bailout plan to be a default. And see this.

But the American situation is different – both because we are the world’s largest economy and because raising the debt ceiling is different from the Greek plan.

Right?

Hopefully. But as Zero Hedge notes:

China Daily has just reported that according to the notorious … Dagong rating agency, “The US’ sovereign credit rating is likely to be downgraded regardless of whether the US Congress reaches an agreement on raising its statutory debt limit. “If the debt limit is raised and the public debt continues to grow, it will further damage the US’ debt-paying ability, which is a key factor in Dagong’s evaluation, and we will consider lowering its ratings accordingly,” said Guan Jianzhong, chairman and CEO of Dagong. “If the raised limit fails to pass and the US faces default, the rating will be immediately and substantially downgraded,” he said. According to Guan, the downgrading is really just “a matter of time and extent”.

***

From China Daily:

***

Dagong’s rating was downgraded from AA on Nov 9 after the US government announced a second round of quantitative easing (QE2).

***

“Raising the limit is just a legislative measure to allow the government to borrow more money, but it does not change the fact that the US lacks momentum for economic growth,” Guan said, adding that if the inflation and unemployment rates remain unchanged, the US government might turn to QE3.

The fundamental problem is that the US’ ability to generate wealth is far from compensating its increasing debt, and “paying debts by borrowing more is not a solution,” he said.

Neither the $2 trillion QE nor raising the debt limit is an effective measure. And the sovereign debt crisis will continue,” Guan said, explaining that the US government spent huge amounts on consumption and social security, and had limited resources left for economic development

In fact, Dagong said last month that the U.S. had already defaulted.

Granted, Dagong is a Chinese rating agency which has a Chinese bias (just like Moody’s, S&P and Fitch have a U.S. bias … and they take bribes for higher ratings) and – as Zero Hedge notes in the above-linked article – Chinese and American rating agencies are in a war right now.

But a large German rating agency has also downgraded U.S. debt.

And S & P put the U.S. on a downgrade watch in April.

And as CNBC notes today:

A U.S. default isn’t a matter of “if” but “when,” David Murrin, chief investment officer at [UK-based] Emergent Asset Management, told CNBC.

“It’s inevitable that the U.S. will default—it’s essentially an empire which is overextended and in decline—and that its financial system will go with it,” he said.

The question is: Does the U.S. default when it is forced to by the outside world, probably the Chinese, or does it take the option to default on its own terms in such a way that it may have a strategic advantage, Murrin said.

And, yes, the Federal Reserve could go bust as well.

Why the US Won’t Leave Afghanistan

July 13th, 2011 by Pepe Escobar

Surge, bribe and run? Or surge, bribe and stay? How US military bases and the energy war play out in Afghanistan.

Among multiple layers of deception and newspeak, the official Washington spin on the strategic quagmire in Afghanistan simply does not hold.

No more than “50-75 ‘al-Qaeda types’ in Afghanistan”, according to the CIA, have been responsible for draining the US government by no less than US $10 billion a month, or $120 billion a year.  

At the same time, outgoing US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been adamant that withdrawing troops from Afghanistan is “premature”. The Pentagon wants the White House to “hold off on ending the Afghanistan troop surge until the fall of 2012.”

That of course shadows the fact that even if there were a full draw down, the final result would be the same number of US troops before the Obama administration-ordered AfPak surge.

And even if there is some sort of draw down, it will mostly impact troops in supporting roles – which can be easily replaced by “private contractors” (euphemism for mercenaries). There are already over 100,000 “private contractors” in Afghanistan.  

It’s raining trillions

A recent, detailed study by the Eisenhower Research Project at Brown University revealed that the war on terror has cost the US economy, so far, from $3.7 trillion (the most conservative estimate) to $4.4 trillion (the moderate estimate). Then there are interest payments on these costs – another $1 trillion.

That makes the total cost of the war on terror to be, at least, a staggering $5.4 trillion. And that does not include, as the report mentions, “additional macroeconomic consequences of war spending”, or a promised (and undelivered) $5.3 billion reconstruction aid for Afghanistan.

Who’s profiting from this bonanza? That’s easy – US military contractors and a global banking/financial elite.

The notion that the US government would spend $10 billion a month just to chase a few “al-Qaeda types” in the Hindu Kush is nonsense.

The Pentagon itself has dismissed the notion – insisting that just capturing and killing Osama bin Laden does not change the equation; the Taliban are still a threat.  

In numerous occasions Taliban leader Mullah Omar himself has characterised his struggle as a “nationalist movement”. Apart from the historical record showing that Washington always fears and fights nationalist movements, Omar’s comment also shows that the Taliban strategy has nothing to do with al-Qaeda’s aim of establishing a Caliphate via global jihad.  

So al-Qaeda is not the major enemy – not anymore, nor has it been for quite some time now. This is a war between a superpower and a fierce, nationalist, predominantly Pashtun movement – of which the Taliban are a major strand; regardless of their medieval ways, they are fighting a foreign occupation and doing what they can to undermine a puppet regime (Hamid Karzai’s).    

Look at my bankruptcy model

In the famous November 1, 2004 video that played a crucial part in assuring the reelection of George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden – or a clone of Osama bin Laden – once again expanded on how the “mujahedeen bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat.”

That’s the exact same strategy al-Qaeda has deployed against the US; according to Bin Laden at the time , “all that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the farthest point East to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaeda in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note, other than some benefits to their private companies.”

The record since 9/11 shows that’s exactly what’s happening. The war on terror has totally depleted the US treasury – to the point that the White House and Congress are now immersed in a titanic battle over a $4 trillion debt ceiling.  

What is never mentioned is that these trillions of dollars were ruthlessly subtracted from the wellbeing of average Americans – smashing the carefully constructed myth of the American dream.

So what’s the endgame for these trillions of dollars?

The Pentagon’s Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine implies a global network of military bases – with particular importance to those surrounding, bordering and keeping in check key competitors Russia and China.   

This superpower projection – of which Afghanistan was, and remains, a key node, in the intersection of South and Central Asia – led, and may still lead, to other wars in Iraq, Iran and Syria.

The network of US military bases in the Pentagon-coined “arc of instability” that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf and South/Central Asia is a key reason for remaining in Afghanistan forever. 

But it’s not the only reason.

Surge, bribe and stay

It all comes back, once again, to Pipelineistan – and one of its outstanding chimeras; the Turkmenistan/Afghanistan/Pakistan (TAP) gas pipeline, also known once as the Trans-Afghan Pipeline, which might one day become TAPI if India decides to be on board.

The US corporate media simply refuses to cover what is one of the most important stories of the early 21st century.

Washington has badly wanted TAP since the mid-1990s, when the Clinton administration was negotiating with the Taliban; the talks broke down because of transit fees, even before 9/11, when the Bush administration decided to change the rhetoric from “a carpet of gold” to “a carpet of bombs”.

TAP is a classic Pipelineistan gambit; the US supporting the flow of gas from Central Asia to global markets, bypassing both Iran and Russia. If it ever gets built, it will cost over $10 billion.

It needs a totally pacified Afghanistan – still another chimera – and a Pakistani government totally implicated in Afghanistan’s security, still a no-no as long as Islamabad’s policy is to have Afghanistan as its “strategic depth”, a vassal state, in a long-term confrontation mindset against India.    

It’s no surprise the Pentagon and the Pakistani Army enjoy such a close working relationship. Both Washington and Islamabad regard Pashtun nationalism as an existential threat.

The 2,500-kilometer-long, porous, disputed border with Afghanistan is at the core of Pakistan’s interference in its neighbour’s affairs.

Washington is getting desperate because it knows the Pakistani military will always support the Taliban as much as they support hardcore Islamist groups fighting India. Washington also knows Pakistan’s Afghan policy implies containing India’s influence in Afghanistan at all costs.

Just ask General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief – and a Pentagon darling to boot; he always says his army is India-centric, and, therefore, entitled to “strategic depth” in Afghanistan.  

It’s mind-boggling that 10 years and $5.4 trillion dollars later, the situation is exactly the same. Washington still badly wants “its” pipeline – which will in fact be a winning game mostly for commodity traders, global finance majors and Western energy giants.

From the standpoint of these elites, the ideal endgame scenario is global Robocop NATO – helped by hundreds of thousands of mercenaries – “protecting” TAP (or TAPI) while taking a 24/7 peek on what’s going on in neighbours Russia and China.     

Sharp wits in India have described Washington’s tortuous moves in Afghanistan as “surge, bribe and run”. It’s rather “surge, bribe and stay”. This whole saga might have been accomplished without a superpower bankrupting itself, and without immense, atrocious, sustained loss of life, but hey – nobody’s perfect.

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for the Asia Times. His latest book is Obama Does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at [email protected]

French government manoeuvres for resolution to Libyan war

July 13th, 2011 by Patrick O'Connor

The French administration of Nicolas Sarkozy appears to be stepping up efforts to strike a deal with the Libyan government aimed at sidelining Muammar Gaddafi and bringing the NATO bombardment of the oil-rich state to a conclusion. The diplomatic manoeuvres reflect the growing crisis confronting the US, France and Britain as their illegal military campaign enters its fifth month without succeeding in its primary objective of forcing regime change in Tripoli.

On Sunday, French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet declared that his government had demanded that the so-called Transitional National Council (TNC), based in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, begin talks with the Gaddafi government.

“The position of the TNC is very far from other positions,” Longuet stated, apparently criticising the demand of the “rebels” that Gaddafi quit power before any negotiations. “Now, there will be a need to sit around a table… We [NATO] will stop the bombardment as soon as Libyans speak to each other and the military from both sides go back to their barracks. They can now speak to each other because we are showing them that there is no solution with force.”

Longuet pointedly raised the possibility of Gaddafi remaining in office in some capacity, saying he could “be in another room in his palace with another title.”

Washington immediately rebuked the French defence minister’s remarks, highlighting continued tensions within the NATO alliance. A US State Department spokesperson declared that “there was confusion as to France’s position” and insisted that “it is time for Gaddafi to go.”

Also on Sunday, the Algerian newspaper El Khabar published an interview with Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, who claimed that negotiations were already underway with the French government. “The truth is that we are negotiating with France and not with the rebels,” Saif al-Islam said. “Our envoy to Sarkozy said that the French president was very clear, and told him, ‘We created the [Transitional National] Council, and without our support, and money, and our weapons, the council would have never existed’. France said: ‘When we reach an agreement with you, we will force the council to cease fire’.”

Paris denied these claims. It is clear, however, that some discussion is underway. Le Monde yesterday reported that Sarkozy had met with Gaddafi’s chief of staff, Bachir Saleh, a month ago. The president’s office refused to comment on the report.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé separately told France Info radio: “There have indeed been contacts, but it has not turned into a real negotiation. The Libyan regime is sending messengers everywhere: to Turkey, New York, Paris. We are meeting envoys who say to us: look, ‘Gaddafi is ready to go, let’s talk about it’.”

Juppé added: “There is a consensus on how to end the crisis, which is that Gaddafi has to leave power. That was absolutely not a given two or three months ago.”

This “consensus” now includes the African Union, according to the French foreign minister. On Sunday, Juppé visited the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia and afterward declared that leading officials in the body were “closer to the position of France and the coalition than before.” The African Union had previously collaborated with the Russian government in calling for an immediate NATO ceasefire and had left open the possibility of Gaddafi remaining in power.

In Paris yesterday, the National Assembly approved continued military operations in Libya, by 482 votes to 27, with deputies from Sarkozy’s UMP party and the opposition Parti Socialiste uniting behind the war effort.

Prime Minister François Fillon told the assembly before the vote: “A political solution in Libya is more indispensable than ever and it is beginning to take shape.” He offered no detail about the proposed “solution,” but insisted that it required “the departure of Colonel Gaddafi from power.”

France’s diplomatic manoeuvres are consistent with the central strategic objectives of the NATO war on Libya. The campaign has aimed at ousting Gaddafi from power and installing a client administration in Tripoli—largely comprised of senior Gaddafi regime figures—that would facilitate the major oil conglomerates’ exploitation of the country’s lucrative reserves and also provide Washington and its European allies with a platform from which to extend operations in neighbouring Tunisia, Egypt and across North Africa.

The military campaign, however, has failed to achieve these objectives—despite more than four months of continual bombardment, France’s arming of “rebel” fighters, the deployment of special forces and other “advisers” in Benghazi, multiple assassination attempts on Gaddafi and his family, and appeals to Gaddafi’s inner circle to turn on their leader. Negotiations are now regarded as a potential way of breaking the military stalemate.

These developments underscore the cynicism of NATO’s claims to be fighting for “democracy” in Libya. In reality, the Obama administration and its European partners are working to oust Gaddafi while preserving his repressive security apparatus. An unnamed “senior western diplomat” told the British Telegraph: “There is general recognition among western diplomats that the structure of the state existing in the western part of the country should not be completely disregarded in the event of a quick collapse of the Gaddafi regime.”

The Transitional National Council, itself largely comprised of previously long-standing government members, has reserved leading positions for further regime officials in the unelected administration to be installed in the event of Gaddafi’s downfall. One TNC member, Naji Barakat, has stated that there were only “30 to 40 people” in Tripoli with whom the TNC was unwilling to work.

The “democratic” credentials of the so-called rebel forces have been further exposed through the reign of terror imposed in the towns and villages they recently captured in the Nafusa Mountains, south of Tripoli.

A Human Rights Watch report today noted that “rebel fighters and supporters have damaged property, burned some homes, looted from hospitals, homes, and shops, and beaten some individuals alleged to have supported government forces.” A New York Times report from the village of Qawalish indicated that the anti-Gaddafi militia appeared to be imposing brutal collective punishment on tribespeople alleged to be government supporters, forcing entire communities to flee their homes before committing indiscriminate looting and arson.

The alleged threat of such actions being carried out by Gaddafi’s fighters was the central pretext for the NATO intervention—but now it is the imperialists’ proxy forces who are menacing civilians.

It remains to be seen what emerges from the French-led efforts to negotiate an end to the NATO campaign. The US, France and Britain are no doubt also stepping up preparations to further intensify the war, including the potential deployment of combat forces on the ground, in the event that the discussions prove fruitless.

François Fillon’s National Assembly address yesterday contained several thinly-veiled threats. According to a Reuters report, the prime minister declared that Gaddafi’s back was “against the wall,” while insisting that the objective was not to “eliminate” him. Fillon continued: “We have not reached the breaking point yet. But it’s now that we need to be firmer than ever. And it’s now that the international community must show itself to be unbending.” The purpose of the National Assembly vote and discussion, he declared, was to demonstrate to Gaddafi the “total determination” of France and NATO.

The ongoing exposure of systematic hacking of thousands of phones and computers by employees of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World lifts the lid on the rampant criminality of the corporate and political elite, in Britain and internationally. At least 7,000 people have had their phones hacked and their privacy invaded. The trawl for personal information has targeted a wide range of victims, from politicians and members of the royal family to the families of murder victims and soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

The scandal is revealing the thorough-going decay of democracy and all of the official institutions in Britain, including the major parties, Parliament, the judiciary and the media. The most powerful media corporation in Britain, which constantly trumpets the need for “law and order,” has presided over serious violations of the law, including hacking on what one MP called “an industrial scale.” It has done so year-on-year with virtual impunity.

Murdoch executives and reporters are notorious as well for threatening and bullying politicians and other notables who criticize the operations of News International or otherwise arouse the ire of the Murdoch family.

Now reports have emerged that a News of the World executive destroyed millions of potentially incriminating emails in order to thwart further investigations.

Both of the major parties, Conservative and Labour, are implicated in these crimes, not only because of their refusal to call to account News International, the parent firm of Murdoch’s British media outlets, but because of their intimate relations with Murdoch’s media empire. They never challenged the Metropolitan Police for accepting the patently absurd claim that these illegal practices were the actions of one rogue reporter and a private investigator, even as it surfaced that police officers had received tens of thousands of pounds in bribes from News of the World.

It was only after numerous civil cases had been taken out against the newspaper by celebrities whose phones were hacked that, in January, the Crown Prosecution Service announced it would review material held by police on phone hacking at News of the World to “assess if a fresh criminal trial is likely.”

Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday was forced to acknowledge official collusion with the Murdoch press, stating, “The truth is, we have all been in this together—the press, politicians and leaders of all parties—and yes, that includes me.”

He added, “During the last government, a police investigation was undertaken, it was inadequate and not enough was done. There were reports from the information commissioner and they went unheeded. There were select committee reports on phone hacking and there was no follow-up. Throughout all this, all the warnings, all the concern, the government at the time did nothing. And frankly, neither did the opposition.”

This mea culpa is Cameron’s attempt to limit the damage to his government from the scandal. It came the same morning as the arrest of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, Cameron’s head of communications until Coulson’s forced resignation in January. However, neither Cameron’s admission of responsibility nor his guarded swipe against former Labour governments do justice to the extent of the incestuous, decades-long relations between the Murdoch empire and Britain’s political elite.

Murdoch is forever associated with the Conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, and above all with Thatcher’s brutal assault on the working class. He cheered on her deregulation of the City of London, privatisations and tax cuts for corporations and the rich from which he benefited more than most. News of the World’s parent company, News International, carried out an infamous union-busting operation, sacking 6,000 print workers and transferring production to Wapping in London’s East End in 1986.

Then, after Murdoch decided that the Tories had exhausted their usefulness as a vehicle for attacking the working class and enriching the ruling elite, he switched support to Labour—which was more than ready to do his bidding. Murdoch dictated government policy to such a degree that Lance Price, a media advisor to former Prime Minister Tony Blair, called Murdoch “the 24th member of the Cabinet.” Price added, “His presence was always felt.”

Murdoch himself has publicly boasted of setting the agenda of the Labour government on Europe and “the breakdown of law and order in Britain.” The Murdoch press has relentlessly promoted wars of aggression, most notably the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. Blair telephoned Murdoch personally on three occasions in the days leading up to the US-British invasion.

Current Labour leader Ed Miliband is now posing as a critic of News of the World, seeking to make political capital out of Cameron’s relations with Coulson and Murdoch press executive Rebakah Brooks. This is a transparent fraud.

The News of the World hacking scandal first came to light in 2006 and was swept under the carpet by the Metropolitan Police, without challenge by the Labour governments of Blair and his successor, Gordon Brown. On April 9, an anonymous ex-minister told the Guardian that Murdoch had “relayed messages to Brown last year via a third party, urging him to help take the political heat out of the row, which he felt was in danger of damaging his company.”

It was only last month that Miliband himself attended News International’s summer party in London, alongside shadow chancellor Ed Balls, two of his closest advisers, Tom Baldwin and Stewart Wood, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander. The Guardian noted at the time that Labour luminaries outnumbered a Conservative delegation headed by Cameron and his wife, Samantha.

These relations underscore the travesty of the electoral process in Britain. State policy is determined not by the population’s choice to elect a Conservative or Labour government, but by a clique of billionaires that sets the agenda of all the major parties—of which Murdoch is a particularly influential member, thanks to his control of the media.

How does one account for the ability of employees of News International to engage in such rampant criminality without let or hindrance?

The official structures of politics and the media in Britain and internationally have become entirely divorced from and openly hostile to the interests of the general population. They have become the province of a plutocratic layer that acts without legal restraint.

Murdoch himself is widely acknowledged to be the most powerful man in Britain and one of the most powerful people in the world. He is the archetypal representative of a global financial oligarchy that has arisen on the basis of financial parasitism and an unprecedented growth of social inequality.

The narrow layer of the super-rich to which Murdoch belongs has dictated every aspect of political, economic and social life over more than three decades. His 175 or so newspapers and television channels, including Sky in Britain and Fox in the US, are widely viewed as kingmakers inside the political establishment.

Murdoch is the supreme purveyor of a particular type of gutter journalism, whose emphasis on sex scandals and the antics of the rich and famous is meant to divert and confuse the public and encourage the most backward sentiments.

In America, Fox News and the New York Post serve the same function as the Sun, News of the World (which Murdoch shut down on Sunday) and Sky TV in the UK, while the Wall Street Journal editorial page articulates the political agenda of the most reactionary sections of the US ruling elite. The Murdoch media befoul social and intellectual life with an unremitting torrent of right-wing social nostrums, warmongering, national chauvinism, glorification of “free enterprise,” and demands that essential services on which millions rely be slashed.

The most significant expression of the political and ideological putrefaction this has produced is found within the former social democratic parties, such as the British Labour Party. They all easily adapted themselves to Murdoch’s brand of politics, emerging as unabashed defenders of the savage austerity measures demanded after the 2008 financial crash.

The scale of the criminal activity that has been exposed at News of the World demands a full and public accounting. All of the major figures associated with News International, including Coulson, Brooks and Murdoch himself, must be questioned under oath as part of a full-scale criminal investigation. In any such inquiry, they should be joined by Blair, Brown, Cameron and their associates.

It is clear, however, that the British ruling class will not carry out such an investigation. Any inquiry under the control of the existing political establishment will be a cover-up, aiming to protect News International and its allies in the political establishment and state apparatus.

Justice will be secured, and the predatory and socially destructive activities of the media barons halted, only in connection with the development of a mass political movement of the working class that sets out to remove from power an elite which has demonstrated that it is entirely unfit to rule.

New Israeli law undermines core freedoms of expression

July 13th, 2011 by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East

 

On the evening of July 11, the Israeli Knesset passed a law that in effect prohibits its citizens from calling for cultural, academic or consumer boycotts of Israel. Under the new law, individuals or organizations urging a boycott may be sued for compensation by individuals or institutions claiming that they could be damaged by such a call. Evidence of actual damage will not be required. The law also applies to boycotts of goods produced in Israel’s illegal colonies (a.k.a. “settlements”) and of cultural or academic institutions in the colonies. Companies complying with such boycotts will not be allowed to bid on government tenders.

The law has drawn strong condemnation by dozens of prominent Israeli intellectuals, including celebrated writer Amos Oz, and by Israeli human rights and peace organizations. The Association of Civil Rights in Israel said it “will lead to unprecedented harm to freedom of expression in Israel and will bring justified criticism … from abroad.” Peace group Gush Shalom has petitioned the Supreme Court, asserting that the law is unconstitutional and anti-democratic. Within hours of the law’s passage, thousands of Israelis had registered their opposition to it via social media.

We urge Canadians and their lawmakers to express their opposition to this draconian law, which limits freedom of expression, virtually forcing Israelis to defend the illegal ‘settlement enterprise’,” says Thomas Woodley, President of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME). The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits occupying powers from transferring their own civilians into areas that they militarily occupy. However, successive Israeli governments have encouraged Israelis to settle in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT). The Israeli army has evicted Palestinians from their homes and land to enable the colonists to appropriate them.

The bill passed 47 to 38, although the Knesset’s legal adviser attorney Eyal Yanon had informed the MKs that parts of the bill were “borderline illegal.” The bill met with strong opposition in the Knesset, including a six-hour filibuster. MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) called it “cowardly” and “another law in a series of fascist laws drafted by the government.” MKs from a left-wing party, Meretz, the Arab parties and a centrist party, Kadima, also opposed the bill. Kadima blasted Netanyahu, saying he was “demonstrating … total capitulation to the extreme right which is taking over the Likud.”
 

Ahmad Karzai: From dishwasher to drug kingpin

July 13th, 2011 by Eric Walberg

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s younger half-brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, was killed in Kandahar on 12 July during a gathering in his house, according to Kandahar’s Canadian Governor Tooryali Wesa. He was shot in the head and chest with a AK-47 fired by Sardar Mohammad, a former bodyguard to another Karzai brother Qayyoum.

The 50-year-old Ahmad, a restaurant worker in Chicago before catapulting to fame on Hamid’s shirt-tails, was appointed chairman of the Kandahar Provincial Council in 2005. A ruthless autocrat, he was widely despised, and escaped multiple assassination attempts in the past, but his death nonetheless comes as a major blow to President Karzai in the homeland of the Taliban, and will set off a vicious power struggle to fill Ahmad’s shoes.

US ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann, the CIA’s station chief and their British counterparts pleaded with the president in 2006 to exile his brother, accused of drug dealing. Hamid angrily rejected these accusations and Ahmad stayed in place, rigging the 2009 Afghan presidential elections for him, as he continued to amass wealth, extorting kickbacks on construction contracts, even shaking down bus- and truck-drivers at police posts.  

Whatever they thought of him, the American military readily rented properties he specially confiscated for them, including the former residence of Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Omar. The CIA paid him to organise several mercenary forces to help them kill Taliban, even as he was working with the Taliban behind the scenes. He had the support of US Senator John Kerry and even General David Petraeus: “President Karzai is working to create a stronger, more secure Afghanistan, and for such a tragic event to happen to someone within his own family is unfathomable.”  

Resentment against the king of Kandahar was long ready to explode, and his murder was welcomed by Kandaharans and Taliban alike. Though he unwittingly recruited even more Taliban than he helped kill, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi was happy to take responsibility for sending him on his way: “Today in Kandahar city, Hamid Karzai’s brother was killed during Operation Al-Badr. Ahmad Wali Karzai was punished for all his wrongdoings.” Qari’s comrade Mullah Adam Haji concurred: “Ahmad Wali was the best US friend and the Taliban’s worst enemy. He and his whole family have the blood of thousands of Taliban on their hands. His death is very good news for us.”

Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/ You can reach him at http://ericwalberg.com/ His Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games is available at http://claritypress.com/Walberg.html 

Petraeus at the Head of the CIA: Business as Usual?

July 13th, 2011 by Sherwood Ross

Nowhere in his discussion of how General David Petraeus will fare when he takes over the CIA in August does Washington Post columnist David Ignatius challenge the basic operation of the Agency itself. His article of July 8th asks what sort of agenda Petraeus will pursue and concludes, “America needs a great intelligence service, and it will soon have a director whose ambition matches the agency’s mission.”

Within the parameters of his vision, Ignatius’s article makes perfect sense. He is right on the mark when he writes, “This is a bruised organization, wounded by so many years of public criticism, and it needs a leader, not a martinet.” Where The Post columnist errs, however, is that “the many years of public criticism” does not cause him to reflect on whether the Agency is worth salvaging. This lack of questioning, much less exposing, what are essentially massive and ongoing criminal activities by the CIA directed from the White House typifies how far The Post has slipped since the days it refreshed the practice of journalism by exposing the Watergate scandal.

Ignatius writes that Petraeus will be a Director who told the Senators that confirmed his nomination he will listen to the dissenters and grumblers in the Agency and answer his own e-mail and that on some days he would even eat in the employee cafeteria. (Wow, what a guy, huh?)

Ignatius wrote his column after “spending a week with Patraeus’s entourage in Kabul,” and being the good reporter he is we may be rightly distressed by his observation that the CIA post, among other things, will allow Petraeus to stay with the fights in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are likely to shift to paramilitary-intelligence missions, once the uniformed troops leave.” (Italics added.)

This means these wars are liable to be continued just as the Obama regime is waging wars in Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan, and Libya, keeping them secret when it can and denying that they are wars when it can’t. It suggests the U.S. will keep up its deadly drone assassinations being waged without even the flimsiest pretext of legal authority and in spite of hundreds or thousands of innocent civilians who are being butchered. Not to be ignored, either, is incoming “Defense” head Leon Panetta’s remark July 9th in Kabul that the U.S. will keep 70,000 troops in Afghanistan until the end of 2014—a higher figure than announced by President Obama. According to The Washington Post of July 12, Panetta’s aides “scurried afterward to say he misspoke.”

Why the U.S. today needs one soldier stationed in the Middle East, where we are now widely reviled, confounds me. By now substantial majorities the American public, like their European cousins, want all their troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq, yet their elected officials betray the sound instincts of their citizenry.

“The best CIA directors,” Ignatius writes, “have cut through the mediocrity that can develop in a closed bureaucracy and demanded excellence. I hope Petraeus can do that, too.” The question Ignatius ignores is “excellence at what?” Bribing politicians and buying voters in foreign countries with U.S. tax dollars? Engineering the violent overthrow of governments? Arming one nation to fight another? Tracking down pro-democracy activists so totalitarian rulers can imprison them? Teaching torture techniques? Kidnapping suspects off the streets and flying them to other countries for torture and assassination in secret prisons concealed from the Red Cross? Creating killer drone attacks against suspects who turn out to be innocent? By the testimony of several former CIA officials, the Agency has been responsible, directly or indirectly, for causing millions of deaths.

We ignore, too, at our peril the enormous influence of this criminal Agency on the shaping of American foreign policy. Just retired “Defense” secretary Robert Gates was a former Director of the CIA. President Obama is a former CIA payroller of slavish allegiance to the Agency, who conveniently decided not to prosecute Bush era officials even when presented with allegations of their crimes—in violation of the U.S. Constitution. His predecessor George W. Bush also spent time on the CIA payroll and Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, was Director of the CIA before becoming President. What’s more, numerous former CIA officials hold positions of influence in the Federal bureaucracy.

The real issues concerning the CIA are not the management issues about which David Ignatius writes. They are the life-and-death issues about the CIA’s toxic poisoning of American values. The Agency has become precisely what President Harry Truman feared when he signed its enabling legislation: “an American Gestapo.” Its abolition would evoke cheers in scores of nations whose inhabitants have suffered dreadful punishments at its hands.

Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based media consultant who directs a public relations firm for good causes and writes on current affairs. He formerly worked as a reporter for major dailies and as a columnist for wire services. To comment or contribute to his Anti-War News Service, reach him at [email protected])

 

Europe and America: “Financially Burning”

July 13th, 2011 by Bob Chapman

Markets are what they are today because that is the way government wants them. The stock market has stayed up for quite some time, but the best earnings are fading. The Street is well aware of what has been happening for a number of years. They just do not say anything and go along with the program. They have come to overlook situations worldwide as well as in America, because they believe that, “The President’s Working Group on Financial Markets” won’t let the market fall.

There are not many professionals that believe there will be no extension of the short-term debt limit to $16.7 trillion. They do not believe default is possible. That tells us that extension has already, at least 80%, been discounted in the market. If approved, the event should not cause much of a future rally. Extension of hostilities in the Middle East could put further pressure on the market. There certainly will be much less debt created and that will change fiscal policy. It will tend to further slowdown an economy that cannot stand on its own. In fact, without an $850 billion stimulus it will not most certainly fall into minus GDP growth. If the economy is to stay in growth the Fed will have to create the funds for both the funding of Treasury and Agency debt and perhaps purchase more toxic waste. They own almost $1 trillion now whose value we cannot determine, and simultaneously fund the economy. If all of this does not take place then the economy will fall as will earnings and the market will as well. As you are well aware governmental, personal and corporate debt are overwhelming, which means it is going to take many years to try to pay this debt off. We do not see it ever being paid off. We expect a series of wars or a Third World War, which could cause a debt settlement by many nations, or in absence of a war there could be currency devaluations, revaluations and multilateral partial or full default.

The QE2 program was in effect for a year and unemployment did not improve in spite of stimulus 2, or the injection of $862 billion. Housing isn’t going to improve anytime soon, nor is commercial real estate, both of which could remain moribund for many years. By the end of the year home inventories could be 3 to 3.5 million residences. Government has done almost nothing to create substantial numbers of jobs, as our Congress allows transnational conglomerates to keep foreign profits tax free offshore and under free trade, globalization, offshoring and outsourcing gut our job market. No effort is made to stop it. We have lost 11.7 million jobs in 11 years and 440,000 corporations that have moved offshore. We ask, why doesn’t the President and Congress start here and as well clear the 30 million illegal aliens out of the country? The administration is more interested in selling 30,000 weapons to criminals who operate drug cartels. Unemployment is 22.6% and government has to stop lying about the numbers. Government now wants to change the CPI, so ever more bogus figures can be produced. Do not worry we will always have the true figures.

Under such circumstances how can consumers increase debt and spend more? They simply cannot and that will soon show up in consumption as a percentage of GDP, when it again hits 69% on its way to the long-term average of 64%. Yes, the ratio of household debt to disposable personal income has fallen from 130% to 150%, but with major unemployment will it return to 75% that existed during the last 25 years of the 20th century? Momentum is only headed in one direction and that is down.

We are not the only country with these problems, just look at England and Europe – they are in the same boat. In addition, their financial conditions are continuing to deteriorate. In Asia, Japan is trying to recover from its terrible destruction and China and others are raising interest rates and mandatory bank reserves to combat inflation.

The agreement on short-term debt extension will not include any meaningful budget cuts. They will just pile on more debt until the system collapses. For the paid-off politicians and those behind the curtain pulling all the strings it is just another game to control the populace and enslave them. The public is so entrapped they want debt extension and QE3. They do not care what the cost is they just do not want the game to stop and the music to end. Like in Greece if they can they want both parties out of government, but that is not going to happen unless there is a revolution. We will have a 10-year deficit reduction to bamboozle the people and it will mean little. Some higher taxes for the rich and more bread and circuses for the people. Future congresses are not gong to be bound by legislation they’ll just bypass it or pass offsetting legislation. This is really all a game of political posturing and theatre.

Low interest on mortgage loans still is not luring or qualifying many people to buy homes. Most buyers are speculators – many of which pay cash and rent the dwellings. Those millions of homes in lender inventory are not being sold or depleted. That inventory somehow is never mentioned in the mainline media coverage. It tells a good part of the whole story, America was overbuilt and it will take years to clear the inventory, as builders, build 550,000 new homes a year. That means lower prices and years of illiquidity.

The housing bubble is still being liquidated and as long as that is in progress there will be no American recovery. Manufacturing has in large part been shipped overseas, so what will create jobs and prosperity if housing and manufacturing are moribund? It certainly won’t be services that provide $10.00 per hour wages. The lost jobs paid $30.00 an hour. The tacks the US Congress and transnational conglomerates have taken are sure to destroy America as a first world nation. All they have done is enrich themselves and betrayed fellow Americans. Most banks are certainly insolvent and the government made the conscience decision to effectively nationalize housing. We believe that decision was made ten or more years ago, when we predicted this would be the outcome. If government owns all the houses the only people who can rent them are those that do what government tells them to do, such as where you will work and where you will live. This fits in perfect with fascist political and economic philosophy.

We are making major inroads into informing the US and world public about what is really going on, yet, at least 50% have no clue as to what is really going on. They are deeply in debt and psychologically they have been wiped out by real estate losses. They have no food storage; water filters or means to defend their families. They have no gold or silver to carry them through hard times. For years Wall Street and government anti-gold and silver propaganda has left them at best confused. They are totally unprotected and are very liable to end up in dire straights.

We again have been fortunate in predicting this past week’s moves in gold and silver. Gold rose almost $60.00, up some 6% versus euros and almost 4% in dollars. In many countries the yields are rising on government bonds and as we have said since 1967, that has been a harbinger of higher gold prices. Worldwide yields are at record lows, which means that yields have nowhere to go except up. Worse yet, debt is increasing everywhere if for no other reason than it is cheap to borrow. Add to the debts mix in a lack of confidence because of fiat currencies and you have major problems now and looking down the road. As time passes more investors will want gold and that means as currencies are dumped gold and silver will be the beneficiaries.

Investors are concerned because everything government does turns out poorly. Debt based money has always been a ticket for disaster. There is only the euro, which has about 5% gold backing, down from 15% ten years ago. As a result all currencies have lost an average of more than 20% annually versus silver and gold. That means there are some who just do not want paper if they can avoid it. In just the past ten years 60% of US debt has been added of the 97% loss since 8/15/71. Recently we have seen many sovereign-debt down grades, which should have taken place years ago. Why did they now all come at once? It is because those on Wall Street and at the Fed want investors looking at other nation’s problems, not America’s problems, which are 100 times worse than those of Greece and the other five European sovereigns.

Don’t forget the rating agencies are controlled by Wall Street; just look at their deliberate mis-rating of CDOs and MBSs. That should be proof enough. Just recently Germany refused to accept their ratings. They said they were bogus and politically charged. We realize the debt situation with these six countries is dire, and will worsen and more and more funds will be needed to pay interest to the bankers. Their market interest rates have risen and will continue to do so, at rates that will destroy these nations and perhaps the lending nations and the IMF as well. Delaying the inevitable is a very dangerous policy that will end up being terminal for all. If these nations that are in trouble cannot borrow they cannot recover. Austerity eliminates jobs and reduces government income in the form of taxes. Then the victims need more loans, which eventually cause collapse, as we saw in Argentina in the late 1990s. These countries cannot devalue their debts because they are trapped within the euro and the only way to recover is to default and leave the euro and go back to their original currencies. The elitist powers in Washington want the euro to collapse so that the US dollar remains the world reserve currency. This is currency war aided and abetted by the rating agencies captive subsidiaries of Wall Street.

How can a nation such as Greece with 11 million people pay off $675 billion? Obviously they cannot, so we see the exercise of one of destroying Greece, the other five nations, and eventually the euro. The key to the collapse of the weak euro zone members is that they cannot devalue and that is why they have to exit the euro, or remain in bondage for the next 50 or more years. The US on the other hand can raise the debt limit; euro zone members cannot do that. This is what the US has been doing since 2000 via the creation of money and credit and as a reflection of that in dollar terms is the rise of gold from $260 to $1,577 and silver from $3.50 to $50.00. That tells the whole story. Today it is worse as the US borrows about half the money it spends. Over the past three years that debt tripled at the rate of $1.5 trillion annually. Under present circumstances this scenario has to worsen, because just to maintain more and more money and credit has to be shoved into the system. We have just seen in Stimulus 1 and 2 and QE 1 and 2 that the results of almost $5 trillion in spending has brought two, six to nine months periods of growth that fizzled once the infusions ended. QE 3 is now upon us and the Fed will do the same thing again getting the same poor results. In the US economy the minute the money and credit stops the bottom falls out.

As we have said many times before the only way to end this crisis is to have a meeting of all nations. Revalue, devalue ad multilaterally complete debt default. That is what has been done in the past and that is what has to be done now. We know problems are far greater today than the past and the depression to follow will last for five or more years. That is far better than letting the system collapse, trying to rebuild and suffering 20 or more years of worldwide depression. Due to this indecision the crisis worsens with each passing day.

The world financial system has been built on sovereign debt once that system goes into crisis, which it is in the process of doing, and then the entire system will collapse. Europe is the beginning and we believe the interconnectivity will first take down Europe, then England, then the US, and in varying degrees the rest of the world, unless soon the meeting we mentioned begins.

The US needs to act and act quickly to bring about such a meeting – at least within the next few years. At the present pace the dollar problem could be stretched out for a number of years, but the longer it is stretched out the worst will be the final result. During the immediate timeframe the dollar’s world reserve status could be maintained, if the meeting’s held and the dollar returns to a gold standard.

Europe is figuratively financially burning. In Greece everyday there are demonstrations ranging from 200,000 to two million at any given time. The price of gold in euros hits a new high almost every day. The bankers and leadership in Europe are delusional. They simply refuse to face the reality they have created. The end of QE 2 is a joke. The Fed has not refrained from monetizing Treasury debt, as its balance sheet hit another high on July 6,2011. That was a total of $2.854 trillion, consisting of $1.625 trillion in Treasuries. The total was $600 billion plus $250 billion from reinvested funds. We had estimated more than a year ago participation of $900 billion net. This $850 billion will continue to be invested on a rolling basis. The maturities will dictate participation and how much more funds would have to be added to absorb 80% of Treasury issues and to stimulate the economy. As you can see the Fed has lied again and the crossover to QE 3 has been silent and seamless. There is no limit and as we pointed out long ago, there will be no limit. There cannot be because in the absence of perpetual funding comes collapses.

Skimming the Agricultural Development section of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation web site [5] is a feel-good experience: African farmers smile in a bright slide show of images amid descriptions of the foundation’s fight against poverty and hunger. But biosafety activists in South Africa are calling a program funded by the Gates Foundation a “Trojan horse” to open the door for private agribusiness and genetically engineered (GE) seeds, including a drought-resistant corn that Monsanto hopes to have approved in the United States and abroad.

The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) program [6]  was launched in 2008 with a $47 million grant from mega-rich philanthropists Warren Buffet [7] and Bill Gates. The program is supposed to help farmers in several African countries increase their yields with drought- and heat-tolerant corn varieties, but a report released last month by the African Centre for Biosafety [8] claims WEMA is threatening Africa’s food sovereignty and opening new markets for agribusiness giants like Monsanto.

The Gates Foundation claims that biotechnology, GE crops and Western agricultural methods are needed to feed the world’s growing population and programs like WEMA will help end poverty and hunger in the developing world. Critics say the foundation is using its billions to shape the global food agenda and the motivations behind WEMA were recently called into question when activists discovered [9] the Gates foundation had spent $27.6 million on 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock between April and June 2010.

Water shortages in parts of Africa and beyond have created a market for “climate ready” crops worth an estimated $2.7 billion. Leading biotech companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow are currently racing to develop crops that will grow in drought conditions caused by climate change, and by participating in the WEMA program, Monsanto is gaining a leg up by establishing new markets and regulatory approvals for its patented transgenes in five Sub-Saharan African countries, according to the Centre’s report.

Monsanto teamed up with BASF, another industrial giant, to donate technology and transgenes to WEMA and its partner organizations. Seed companies and researchers will receive the GE seed for free and small-scale farmers can plant the corn without making the royalty payments that Monsanto usually demands from farmers each season.

Monsanto is donating the seeds for now, but the company has a reputation for aggressively defending its patents. In the past, Monsanto has sued [10] farmers for growing crops that cross-pollinated with Monsanto crops and became contaminated with the company’s patented genetic codes.

In 2009, Monsanto and BASF discovered a gene in a bacterium that is believed to help plants like corn survive on less water and soon the companies developed a corn seed know as MON 87460. It remains unclear if MON 87460 will out-compete conventional drought-tolerant hybrids, but the United States Department of Agriculture could approve [11] the corn for commercial use in the US as soon as July 11. Monsanto plans to make the seed available to American farmers by next year.

GE crops like MON 87460 can only be tested and sold in countries that, like the US, are friendly toward biotech agriculture. WEMA’s target areas could add five countries to that list: South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique. The Biosafety Centre reports that WEMA’s massive funding opportunities pressure politicians to pass weak biosafety laws and welcome GE crops and the agrichemical drenched growing systems that come with them. Field trials of MON 87460 and other drought-tolerant varieties are already underway in South Africa, where Monsanto already has considerable political influence [12]. Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are expected to begin field trials of WEMA corn varieties in 2011.

The agency that is implementing WEMA is the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), a pro-biotechnology group funded completely by the US government’s USAID program, the United Kingdom and the Buffet and Gates foundations. The AATF is a nonprofit charity that lobbies African governments and promotes partnerships between public groups and private companies to make agricultural technology available in Africa. The Biosafety Centre accuses the AATF of essentially being a front group for the US government, allowing USAID to “meddle” in African politics by promoting [14] weak biosafety regulation that makes it easier for American corporations to export biotechnology to African countries. 

WEMA and AATF swim in a myriad alphabet soup [15] of NGOs and nonprofits propped up by Western nations and wealthy philanthropists that promote everything from fertilizer to food crops with enhanced nutritional content as solutions to world hunger. Together, these groups are promoting a Second Green Revolution [16] and sparking a worldwide debate over the future of food production. The Gates Foundation alone has committed $1.7 billion to the effort to date.

There was nothing “green” about the first Green Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s. As population skyrocketed during the last century, multinationals pushed Western agriculture’s fertilizers, irrigation, oil-thirsty machinery and pesticides on farmers in the developing world. Historians often point out [17] that promoting industrial agriculture to keep developing countries well fed was crucial to the US effort to stop the spread of Soviet Communism.

The Second Green Revolution, which is focused on Africa, seeks to solve hunger problems with education, biotechnology, high-tech breeding, and other industrial agricultural methods popular in countries like the US, Brazil and Mexico. 

Africa has landed in the center of a global food debate over a central question: with the world’s growing population expected to reach nine billion by 2045, how will farmers feed everyone, especially those in developing countries? The lines of the debate are drawn. The Second Green Revolutionaries are now facing off with activists and researchers who doubt the West’s petroleum and technology-based agricultural systems can sustainably feed the world.

The African Centre for Biosafety and its allies often point to a report recently released by IAASTD, a research group supported by the United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization, and others. IAASTD found that industrial agriculture has been successful in its goal of increasing crop yields worldwide, but has caused environmental degradation and deforestation that disproportionately affects small farmers and poorer nations. Widespread use of pesticides and fertilizer, for instance, cause dead zones in coastal areas. Massive irrigation projects now account for 70 percent of water withdrawal globally and approximately 1.6 billion people live in water-scarce basins.

Increasing crop yields is the bottom line for groups like the Gates Foundation, but the IAASTD recommends that sustainability should be the goal. The report does not rule out biotechnology, but suggests high-tech agriculture is just one tool in the toolbox. The report promotes “agroecology [18],” which seeks to replace the chemical and biochemical inputs of industrial agriculture with resources found in the natural environment.

In March, a UN expert released a report showing that small-scale farmers could double their food production in a decade with the simple agroecological methods. The report flies in the face of the Second Green Revolutionaries.

“Today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live – especially in unfavorable environments,” said Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report. “Malawi, a country that launched a massive chemical fertilizer subsidy program a few years ago, is now implementing agroecology, benefiting more than 1.3 million of the poorest people, with maize yields increasing from 1 ton per hectare to 2 to 3 tons per hectare.”

De Schutter said private companies like Monsanto will not invest in agroecology because it does not open new markets for agrichemicals or GE seeds, so it’s up to governments and the public to support the switch to more sustainable agriculture. But with more than a billion dollars already spent, the Second Green Revolutionaries are determined to have a say in how the world grows its food, and agroecology is not on their agenda. To them, sustainability means bringing private innovation to the developing world. The Gates Foundation can donate billions to the fight against hunger, but when private companies like Monsanto stand to benefit, it makes feeding the world look like a for-profit scheme.

Links:

[5] http://www.gatesfoundation.org/agriculturaldevelopment/Pages/default.aspx
[6] http://www.monsanto.com/ourcommitments/Pages/water-efficient-maize-for-africa.aspx
[7] http://www.gatesfoundation.org/leadership/Pages/warren-buffett.aspx
[8] http://www.biosafetyafrica.org.za/
[9] http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2012751169_gatesmonsanto29m.html
[10] http://www.percyschmeiser.com/conflict.htm
[11] http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/2011/05/ea_corn.shtml
[12] http://www.biosafetyafrica.org.za/index.php/20110516358/Activists-approach-Competition-Commission-to-Investigate-Monsantos-dominance-in-South-Africa/menu-id-100026.html
[14] http://www.aatf-africa.org/news/ministers_researchers_identify_benefits_of_biotechnology_canvass_passage_of_biosafety_bill/en/
[15] http://www.cgiar.org/centers/bios.html
[16] http://www.bayer.com/en/second-green-revolution.aspx
[17] http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe50s/crops_13.html
[18] http://www.agroecology.org/

Montreal, July 12, 2011 — According to CBC and the Toronto Star, a spokesman for Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister has indicated that Canada will oppose the Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood. The bid is expected to be voted on at the UN in September. Spokesman Chris Day said, “the only solution to this conflict is one negotiated between and agreed to by the two parties.” He added that, “one of the states must be a Jewish state and recognized as such, while the Palestinian state is to be a nonmilitarized one.”

Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations foundered in September 2010. One key trigger was Israel’s resumption of the building of illegal Jewish-only colonies (settlements) on Palestinian land. The other was the Netanyahu administration’s introduction of a new precondition for negotiations: that the Palestinians recognize Israel defined as “a Jewish state.” Israel’s transfer of its civilian population to the Palestinian territories it has militarily occupied since 1967 violates international law and has been repeatedly criticized by most UN members. Israel’s government has not clarified what it means by the term “Jewish state,” nor defined what it considers that state’s borders to be.

“Given Israel’s evident lack of commitment to a negotiated solution to the conflict, we are dismayed by the Canadian government’s rejection of the Palestinian bid for statehood,” says Thomas Woodley, President of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME). CJPME points out that the right to national self-determination is a right protected in international law. It is also important to note that the UN Partition Plan of 1947 initially called for the creation of a Palestinian State. UN members have an obligation to support the prompt creation of this state.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs spokesman did not indicate what Canada was prepared to do to pressure Israel to respect international law so that substantive peace negotiations can begin. CJPME also observes that despite Israel’s frequent lethal military actions against Palestinians, Day did not urge that Israel — the world’s fourth largest military power — too be a “nonmilitarized” state. CJPME believes Canada’s Middle East policy should express equal expectations for all parties to conflicts.

For more information, please contact: Patricia Jean Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East Telephone: 438-380-5410 CJPME Email – CJPME Website

What is of note here and something that should concern all U.S. citizens, is the increasing use of behavioral control, i.e. Torture units and human experimental techniques against prisoners, not only in California but across the nation. Indefinite confinement, sensory deprivation, withholding food, constant illumination and use of unsubstantiated lies from informants are the psychological billy clubs being used in these torture units. The purpose of this ‘treatment’ is to stop prisoners from standing in opposition to inhumane prison conditions and prevent them from exercising their basic human rights.”

Statement of Solidarity with the Pelican Bay Collective Hunger Strike on July 1st and announcement of participation by Corcoran SHU prisoners
(from California Prison Watch, californiaprisonwatch.blogspot.com)

On Friday, July 1, prisoners in California’s infamous Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison began a courageous and determined hunger strike. This then, very quickly, turned into a display of collective outrage and solidarity among prisoners throughout the state and beyond.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) initially tried to say the strike was fewer than two dozen prisoners. But they then had to admit that by their own count, more than 500 inmates refused food at Pelican Bay State Prison and that 6,600 prisoners in 13 different prisons participated in the hunger strike on the weekend of July 2-3.

This is an extremely significant and extraordinary development, something that challenges people on “the outside” to sit up and take notice. Many have been moved to support the prisoners in their just demands.

The Pelican Bay SHU is designed to subject prisoners to solitary confinement, isolation and sensory deprivation—indefinitely. Some prisoners have been kept in these completely inhumane conditions for years and decades. And the prisoners in the SHU write that they are fighting to let the world know the brutal injustices being done to them; and that they are risking their lives to send out a message that they are human beings! That they refuse to be treated like animals.

One of the ways prison officials maintain control is by pitting prisoners against each other by race and ethnicity, and exploiting and promoting other divisions among prisoners. But this hunger strike is crossing barriers that usually divide prisoners—building unity to fight the horrendous conditions they all face. The New York Times reported, “The hunger strike has transcended the gang and geographic affiliations that traditionally divide prisoners, with prisoners of many backgrounds participating.”

A prisoner from Ohio writing in solidarity with the hunger strike said: “We are all a part of the same fabric of oppression within these walls; we all experience the same or similar conditions in some form or fashion. That’s why I believe it’s very necessary for us to come together, put down the knives for a moment & demand the kind of meaningful change needed to produce better conditions & to combat abusive ‘power holders’ in ways that foster collective resistance. Case in point—the brothas in Georgia (work stoppage demonstration) & the brothas out in Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit (SHU).” (Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity, prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com)

Solidarity Spreads

On the first day of the strike, 43 food trays were refused (out of 52) in Pod D1 of the Pelican Bay SHU. The nine prisoners who didn’t refuse to eat are reportedly much older with serious health concerns. Prisoners reported that other units had similar numbers of nearly 100% participation.

On the second day, the hunger strike spread into the General Population (GP). And prisoners at 13 of California’s prisons protested in solidarity with the hunger strike at Pelican Bay. At Corcoran and Folsom State prisons, more than 100 prisoners participated in the hunger strike. And a number of prisoners at the Ohio State Penitentiary refused their food trays for 24 hours.

Molly Porzig, a spokeswoman with the group Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, said, “They are protesting conditions that they say are torturous and inhumane. They feel the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will not make any meaningful or long-term change until they start dying, and they’re willing to take it there.” (thecrimereport.org/archive/2011-07-hung-strike-ca-folo, July 8, 2011)

According to reports, the CDCR began deliberately spreading disinformation that they hoped would make it seem like the strike was winding down or over. On Thursday, July 7, they said the number of prisoners refusing meals was 1,700 inmates at seven prisons.

First of all, as of July 9, according to prison activists following the situation, at least 2,000 prisoners at 11 California prisons were on hunger strike. There is a hard-core group of 50 prisoners in the highest-security special isolation wing in the SHU who say they will refuse to eat until their demands are met. And it is very significant that over 6,600 prisoners in many different prisons refused to eat in the first few days, in solidarity with the hunger strike at Pelican Bay.

A statement from prisoners in the SHU at Corcoran Prison said:

“It is important for all to know Pelican Bay is not alone in this struggle and the broader the participation and support for this hunger strike and other such efforts, the greater the potential that our sacrifice now will mean a more humane world for us in the future.” (From commondreams.org/newswire/2011/07/05-6)

On July 4, the website prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.com reported: “Prisoners across the US are showing their solidarity with the Pelican Bay SHU Prisoners by joining the hunger strike for varying lengths of time (like Corcoran, Folsom, CCI Tehachapi, Calipatria and Centinela State Prisons in CA and Ohio State Penitentiary), or by bravely writing statements, letters, or calling people outside to relay messages to the Pelican Bay hunger strikes.” It went on to say, on July 7, that “Thousands of prisoners have come together in solidarity with the prisoners at Pelican Bay SHU, while being locked up in brutal conditions themselves. This massive resistance and support is a testament to people’s undying will and ability to build collective power in the face of disappearance and death.”

The Demands

The prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU are protesting inhumane conditions of torture—which includes complete isolation for 22 1/2 hours a day in windowless cells. They have five demands, including an end to long-term solitary confinement, collective punishment, and the practice of “debriefing,” which amounts to forced interrogation on gang affiliation.

One of the main reasons prisoners get sent to the SHU is because prison officials label them as affiliated with a gang. And once a prisoner is put in the SHU, just about the only way they can get out is through “debriefing.” Many prisoners are put in the SHU simply because they have been labeled as gang members (by prison officials or another prisoner); and then the way these prisoners can get out of the SHU is to get “debriefed,” to give information (that can be totally false) that is used to target other prisoners; those that have been “informed on” are then put in the SHU. Other demands include decent food, rehabilitation and education programs, warmer clothing and a phone call each week.

The SHU is a “prison within prison” where prison officials and guards—not juries—determine that a prisoner will be put in conditions of isolation. And this is not just going on at Pelican Bay—many other prisons in California and all over the country have similar maximum-security, extreme-isolation units where prisoners face vicious brutality and physical and psychological torture.

The statement from prisoners at Corcoran said:

“All of the deprivations (save access to sunlight); outlines in the five-point hunger strike statement are mirrored, and in some instances intensified here in the Corcoran SHU 4B/1CC Section isolation gang unit. Medical care here, in a facility allegedly designed to house chronic care and prisoners with psychological problems, is so woefully inadequate that it borders on intentional disdain for the health of prisoners, especially where diabetics and cancer are an issue. Access to the law library is denied for the most mundane reasons or, most often, no reason at all. Yet these things and more are outlined in the P.B.S.P. SHU five core demands.” (from California Prison Watch, californiaprisonwatch.blogspot.com)

The System Strikes Back

The kind of torture that goes on every day in U.S. prisons is something most people have been totally unaware of. And the system has done all it can to wage a huge ideological battle to convince people that prisoners are getting just what they deserve and that putting these criminals in prison makes things safe for “the rest of us.”

But this hunger strike has the potential to spur millions of people to learn about the horrific realities of life in these prison hellholes. There is the potential for many of those “on the outside” to feel compelled to speak out against what is being done to prisoners. And reports indicate this hunger strike can provide a platform for the prisoners, as well as their families, to rally others to fight for the rights of prisoners, not just in this strike, but as an ongoing struggle.

One of the ways the system justifies what it does to prisoners is to put a gang label on them—which essentially puts them in the category of the “worst of the worst” who don’t deserve to be treated like human beings. Terry Thornton from the CDCR said: “The department is not going to be coerced or manipulated. That so many inmates in other prisons throughout the state are involved really demonstrates how these gangs can influence other inmates, which is one of the reasons we have security housing units in the first place.” (New York Times, July 7, 2011)

But to this we have to say: no matter what they have done—or not done, no human being deserves to be treated like this; no human being should be treated like an animal; no human being should be tortured and subjected to isolation and sensory deprivation that will drive them crazy. And anyone on the outside with an ounce of humanity should expose and fight against what is being done to the prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU and other maximum security torture chambers throughout the USA.

Civil rights groups have reported that the CDCR has refused to negotiate with the hunger strikers, even though advocates for the prisoners have a representative team in place. And Carol Strickman of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children says there have been reports that the CDCR is violating a federal mandate by canceling some or all medication to hunger striking prisoners. This is not only illegal but an especially cruel form of punishment against prisoners who are fighting to be treated like human beings.

Thornton has also claimed that the prisoners have other ways of having their demands heard. She said, “There are appropriate ways of registering your concerns, and even though this hunger strike has been peaceful, this is not the way to register those concerns.” (sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/07/08/BA9U1K7SE3.DTL)

But many prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison remember what happened in June 2001, when over 1,000 prisoners at Pelican Bay and other SHU prisons went on a hunger strike for two weeks. That strike was ended when the CDCR agreed to re-evaluate cases of “gang validation.” And now, 10 years later, the prisoners are still protesting the whole unjust practice of debriefing.

Prisoners in Corcoran Prison—another site of the torture of prisoners in California—issued a statement of support that said, “When approved means of protest and redress of rights are proven meaningless and are fully exhausted, then the pursuit of those ends through other means is necessary.” (sfbayview.com/2011/Corcoran-shu-prisoners-join-pelican-bay-hunger-strike)

“We are human beings!”

These prisons within prisons were started in the 1960s—for what prison officials called the “worst of the worst.” These SHUs were used to isolate and punish political prisoners. And for many decades now, thousands of prisoners have suffered in these torture chambers. And the system, through its officials, politicians, mainstream media, etc. has constantly justified this, saying that these prisoners have no one to blame but themselves; that they deserve to be treated like this; that society is a better place because they are locked up; that those on the outside should be glad that they are behind bars.

But first of all, we have to ask, what kind of a system is it that now incarcerates over 2.3 million people—the majority Black and Latino? What does it mean that the United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world?

This is a system that uses mass incarceration as a way to control the people. This is a system that for decades has carried out a so-called War on Drugs that is really a war on the people that has targeted a huge section of society and determined that they will live their lives behind bars, with no rights, with no chance to have an education, to see their families, to contribute to society in any way.

There are the thousands of prisoners who will spend most or all of their life in prison—not because they did a violent or horrendous crime, but because of mandatory sentencing laws and things like the “three strikes” rule which means you can be given long sentences for something relatively minor, if it is your third felony. This is a system that uses its state power—its laws, police, courts, bureaucracy and prisons—to repress and control the masses of people; to enforce the oppressive economic and social relations in this society, including the new ways Black people and other minorities are systematically oppressed.

Many innocent people are put behind bars, their lives ruined. Think of the fact that there have been many prisoners that have spent decades behind bars, sometimes on death row, before it turns out that they were framed up and railroaded, forced to confess to something they didn’t do, or found guilty on the basis of a prisoner who gave false information in order to make a deal with prison officials.

These striking prisoners are going up against a lot, they are risking a lot. And their actions aim to challenge everyone else to think about what this means. Revolution is hearing from many people who are inspired by how they are standing up—shining a light on and demanding an END to the way they are being tortured.

This hunger strike has the potential to impact how people look at prisons and prisoners, and the mass incarceration of millions. It can open people’s eyes to the horrible injustices that are going on—and cause them to reject the system’s justifications for their torture chambers. It can contribute to creating more favorable conditions for struggle against all the different ways the system oppresses the people. This struggle can shake up and challenge those who say “this is the way things are and you can’t change it.”

The solidarity statement from Corcoran prisoners (from California Prison Watch, californiaprisonwatch.blogspot.com) brings all this out sharply:

“Our indefinite isolation here is both inhumane and illegal and the proponents of the prison industrial complex are hoping that their campaign to dehumanize us has succeeded to the degree that you don’t care and will allow the torture to continue in your name. It is our belief that they have woefully underestimated the decency, principles and humanity of the people. Join us in opposing this injustice without end. Thank you for your time and support.”

Li Onesto is the author of Dispatches from the People’s War in Nepal and a writer for Revolution newspaper (www.revcom.us). She can be contacted at: [email protected]

Disintegrating Economic Recovery

July 12th, 2011 by John Kozy

The word ‘recover’ always has the connotation of “getting back.” But who is going to get back what when the economy “recovers”? Few at most. So what does an economic recovery look like? No one knows. The word ‘recovery’ can not be applied to objects willy-nilly. A sick person goes into the hospital to recover; a broken automobile is taken to a shop to be repaired. Automobiles do not recover. Neither do economies; they can only get better or worse, and specific information is needed to determine which. Few people realize just how close to the edge of disintegration America is. The Congress meets for one purpose and one purpose alone—to get reelected. The political posturing begins the day after each election, while the nation’s problems go unaddressed, and our media aid and abet the posturing. Such is America today. This recession/depression will never “recover.” Neither will America.

That successful, inveterate liars consistently use a specific group of practices has been known for ages. They, for instance, give long winded answers to questions to distract and confuse the questioner, make assertions that can’t be easily refuted, and keep from saying very much that is specific, making it difficult to confirm or refute details. One prevalent way of doing this is to speak metaphorically.

Those of you old enough to remember the Vietnamese War may remember that whenever General Westmorland was asked how the war was going, he usually replied that there was “light at the end of the tunnel”

Of course there was; there is light at both ends of every tunnel. But no one ever knew which end he was talking about or if we were getting any closer to the end that would get us out. We all now know, of course, that we were not. Telling us that there was light at the end of the tunnel told us nothing at all; yet many were led to believe that “there is light at the end of the tunnel” was synonymous with “we were getting closer to victory” even though there is absolutely no logical relationship between these two assertions. Why did Westmorland always answer this way? The only reasonable answer is to avoid telling the truth.

Likewise, President Obama is addicted to vapid metaphors: the US still has a “big hole to fill,” “Headwinds” from the first half of 2011 are holding back the recovery,” “There are going to be bumps in the road,” and “on the right track”

The hole that needs to be filled is the lack of specificality in his speeches, but let’s just consider the ubiquitous “on the right track.” It’s very similar to “light at the end of the tunnel.” A train, for instance, can be on the right track but be going nowhere or perhaps even going backwards. When a train is on a siding, isn’t it on the right track? What does this metaphor tell anyone? What kind of evidence could be cited to refute it? It’s one of those perfectly safe, empty claims that people trying to hoodwink others make all the time.

But what has all of this to do with “recovery”? Well, just take a look at how the word is ordinarily used.

“My neighbor has recovered from pneumonia” usually means his previously impaired lungs are now working normally. They have gotten their normal functionality back.

”The police have recovered my friend’s stolen property” usually means that his property has been returned to him. He has gotten his property back.

“The speculator recovered the money he lost” means that he got the amount of money he lost back.

The word ‘recover’ always has the connotation of “getting back.”

But who is going to get back what when the economy “recovers”? Are the people who lost their homes going to get them back? No. Are the people who lost their jobs going to get them back? Not likely. Are the people who lost their savings for retirement going to get them back? Some may; most will not.

So what does an economic recovery look like? No one knows.

If the employed population rises to 94%, will the economy have recovered? What if the workers’ total compensation is only half of what it was before the recession/depression? Will it still be a recovery?

What if GNP exceeds the GNP before the downturn but employment only rises to 85%? Will that be a recovery?

What if the Dow goes to 50,000 but the average wage is only $4.00 and people are starving? Will that be a recovery?

You see, the word ‘recovery’ when used in relation to the economy is just another vapid metaphor. It means nothing. It means whatever anyone wants it to mean. It is not used to describe anything real or concrete. It is used to pull the wool over people’s eyes, to get them to believe what the speaker wants them to believe. If he wanted to tell you the truth, he’d use more specific words, such as, “a few more people are employed today than a month ago.” “The Dow is somewhat higher today than it was last quarter.” “The average wage is $5.00 less today than it was last year.” If anyone ignores the last of these, he could say the economy is recovering. But could he say that if he takes the third into consideration?

The word ‘recovery’ cannot be applied to objects willy-nilly. A sick person goes into the hospital to recover; a broken automobile is taken to a shop to be repaired. Automobiles do not recover. A diseased tree can be treated and recover; a broken stone cannot. An erroneous calculation can be corrected; it cannot recover. Neither can economies; they can only get better or worse, and specific information is needed to determine which.

When people don’t want you to know the truth or even what, if anything, they’re talking about, they use abstract words and metaphors. Looking carefully at the words people use is a sure way of identifying scoundrels. I am no oracle; I don’t have the slightest idea of what the President is up to. But I do know he’s not being honest with the American people. Neither are the members of his Cabinet or even the Congress.

Few people seem to realize just how close to the edge of disintegration America is. Engineers have been warning us for decades about our collapsing infrastructure. This year’s floods have demonstrated just how fragile our earthen dikes are. We have chosen the inefficient automobile as our basic means of transportation, but we lack the money to maintain our highways. Mr. Obama has recently spoken of building bullet trains while even our present railway system is slow and unsafe as two fatal accidents this week alone show. The war on drugs has been a monumental failure; yet we persist on fighting it. Even Congressmen admit that our government does not work.

The President last year initiated a “race to the top” in our public schools; today teachers are being laid off for lack of funding. Up until 2008, many people had lost confidence in all of our institutions except the financial system, but even that confidence has now evaporated. Given the number of people Americans have incarcerated, this nation must be either the most crime ridden the world has ever seen or the most repressed. Homeland Security has done little but annoy people; yet it refuses to change its policies. Two years ago, the Democrats enacted a comprehensive health care bill; today the talk is about reducing its benefits. Our once mighty manufacturing base has been dismantled; yet the government wants more free trade agreements to increase exports. State governments are too impoverished to continue providing even basic services. The number of homeless, impoverished, and hungry Americans is increasing. The number of employed along with their wages is declining. Our superbly equipped and trained military forces have not won a major war since World War II; yet we continually engage them. I suspect the greatest contributor to GNP is political contributions, sanctioned by the Supreme Court, made to buy off our representatives. The Congress meets for one purpose and one purpose alone—to get reelected. The political posturing begins the day after each election, while the nation’s problems go unaddressed, and our media aid and abet the posturing. Such is America today. This recession/depression will never “recover.” Neither will America.

John Kozy is a retired professor of philosophy and logic who writes on social, political, and economic issues. After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he spent 20 years as a university professor and another 20 years working as a writer. He has published a textbook in formal logic commercially, in academic journals and a small number of commercial magazines, and has written a number of guest editorials for newspapers. His on-line pieces can be found on http://www.jkozy.com/ and he can be emailed from that site’s homepage.

Big Banks Waging Warfare Against the People of the World

July 12th, 2011 by Washington's Blog

Michael Hudson is a highly-regarded economist. He is a Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, who has advised the U.S., Canadian, Mexican and Latvian governments as well as the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. He is a former Wall Street economist at Chase Manhattan Bank who also helped establish the world’s first sovereign debt fund.

Hudson says:

  • The European debt crisis is really financial warfare by the banks
  • Indeed, the banks are in warfare against the rest of society

In a separate interview, Hudson says:

  • What’s going on in Greece is exactly what’s going to happen in America in a couple of weeks.
  • The big banks are forcing their bad debts on government
  • They are also forcing governments to sell off national assets so the banks can install a “neo-feudalism”:

As I documented last month in a post entitled “America Is Being Raped … Just Like Greece and Other Countries”, America is in fact being subjected to the same type of plundering as Greece and Ireland.

Professor Hudson explained in 2008:

You have to realize that what they’re trying to do is to roll back the Enlightenment, roll back the moral philosophy and social values of classical political economy and its culmination in Progressive Era legislation, as well as the New Deal institutions. They’re not trying to make the economy more equal, and they’re not trying to share power. Their greed is (as Aristotle noted) infinite. So what you find to be a violation of traditional values is a re-assertion of pre-industrial, feudal values. The economy is being set back on the road to debt peonage. The Road to Serfdom is not government sponsorship of economic progress and rising living standards, it’s the dismantling of government, the dissolution of regulatory agencies, to create a new feudal-type elite.

I reported last year:

Foreign Policy magazine ran an article entitled “The Next Big Thing: Neomedievalism“, arguing that the power of nations is declining, and being replaced by corporations, wealthy individuals, the sovereign wealth funds of monarchs, and city-regions.

As I noted in 2009, a leading progressive economist that the true purpose of the bank rescue plans is “a massive redistribution of wealth to the bank shareholders and their top executives”.

As the wholly non-partisan Australian economist Steve Keen notes:

  • “This is the biggest transfer of wealth in history”, as the giant banks have handed their toxic debts from fraudulent activities to the countries and their people
  • The big banks blew bubbles – using fraud – because that’s the only way they could make obscene profits (see this for for details)

Indeed, this isn’t the “Great Recession”, it’s the Great Bank Robbery. The big banks have pillaged and looted the rest of the world.

And it is not only Greece which is losing its sovereignty … the big banks have turned America into a banana republic as well. Remember, the trillions in bailouts went to banks, not Main Street … and a large percentage of the bailouts went to foreign banks (and see this). And so did most of money from the second round of quantitative easing.

Indeed, the warfare by the big banks is global.

Postscript: If this sounds like breathless class warfare against the financial sector, remember:

  • The father of modern economics – Adam Smith – didn’t believe that inequality should be a taboo subject
  • Warren Buffet, one of America’s most successful capitalists and defenders of capitalism, points out:

There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war ….

  • Conservatives – as well as liberals – are against rampant inequality. But all Americans underestimate the amount of inequality in our country

Economic Abyss and Empire Run Amok

July 12th, 2011 by Global Research

The Global Economic Abyss


Big Banks Waging Warfare Against the People of the World
- by Washington’s Blog – 2011-07-12


Memo to Obama: “Create more jobs or resign”
- by Mike Whitney – 2011-07-11


Deficit Reduction Versus Democracy
- by Shamus Cooke – 2011-07-11


Geithner: “It’s Going to Feel Very Hard, Harder than Anything They’ve Experienced in Their Lifetime, For a Long Time to Come”
- by Washington’s Blog – 2011-07-11


Imperial Decline: Multi-Billion-Dollar Terrorists and the Disappearing Middle Class
- by James Petras – 2011-07-10

The crumbling empire has depleted the US treasury. The cost of war erodes any possibility of maintaining stable living standards for the American middle and working classes…

Of Course Unemployment Is Rising … Government Policy Is GUARANTEEING It
- by Washington’s Blog – 2011-07-10


Mounting Public Debt. The Looting of Federal Pensions, Social Security and Medicare
- by Bob Chapman – 2011-07-09

Rising Unemployment in America: US jobs report points to renewed downturn
- by Andre Damon – 2011-07-09


Why QE2 Failed: The Money All Went Offshore
- by Ellen Brown – 2011-07-09

World Bank Told to Stop Lending to Land Grabbers – Like Calyx Agro
- 2011-07-07

Egypt vs IMF: Time to Default?
- by Eric Walberg – 2011-07-07


Killing Old People Is Fiscally Responsible
- by David Swanson – 2011-07-07

Famine Threat In The Horn Of Africa
- by Barry Mason – 2011-07-06

The Economy Cannot Recover As Long As Inequality Continues to Skyrocket … But Government Policy Is INCREASING Inequality
- by Washington’s Blog – 2011-07-06


VIDEO: Debtocracy: Exposing the Greek Debt Crisis
Full-length documentary now on GRTV
- 2011-07-06

“Debtocracy” seeks the causes of the debt crisis and proposes solutions, hidden by the government and the dominant media.


How to Save the U.S. Labor Movement
- by Shamus Cooke – 2011-07-05


CEO Pay in US Soared 23 Percent in 2010
- by Barry Grey – 2011-07-05


No Solution to the Global Credit Crisis
Rising Gold and Silver Prices
- by Bob Chapman – 2011-07-03

The Real Cause of the U.S. Debt Crisis: Spiralling Defense Spending
- by Bruce Arnold – 2011-07-03


Economic Crisis and “Social Explosion”
- by Global Research – 2011-07-02


The Greatest Depression Has Only Begun
- by Global Research – 2011-07-02

Originating in 2008, the global economic crisis took the world by storm: banks collapsed, the “too big to fail” became bigger…


VIDEO: The End of the American Dream?
Find out what happened on GRTV
- 2011-07-01


The Empire Run Amok

The US missile defense shield will cover the entire territory of Europe
- 2011-07-12


Israeli Flags at South Sudan Independence Celebrations
- 2011-07-12


Protecting Israeli war crimes. Nuggets from a Nut House: From Netanyahu to Mladic
- by Prof Edward S. Herman – 2011-07-12


The True Costs of America’s Wars
- by Jack A. Smith – 2011-07-11


France Says NATO Bombing Has Failed
- by Dr. Franklin P. Lamb – 2011-07-11

Syrian protesters attack US, French embassies after ambassadors visited opposition stronghold
- by Bassem Mroue – 2011-07-11


VIDEO: Drone Wars: US Ramping Up Unmanned Air Strikes and Domestic Surveillance
New Sunday Report now on GRTV
- by James Corbett, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya – 2011-07-10


VIDEO: West Funnels Illegal Weapons Into Libya
On-the-ground report from Tripoli now on GRTV
- by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya – 2011-07-09

Moscow Confronts US-NATO on Syria. West’s Unilateral Pressure On Syria is Inadmissable
- 2011-07-09

US House votes against aid for Libya’s rebels
- 2011-07-08

U.S. Wants Gaddafi Toppled By September
- by Paul Joseph Watson – 2011-07-08


The Militarization of the Arctic.
- by Rick Rozoff – 2011-07-08


Interviews from Libya: What is Happening on the Ground
From Global Research’s Special Correspondent
- by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya – 2011-07-08


Dissecting a global empire and the US ‘war on terror”
The International Festival for People’s Rights and Struggles
- by Marya Salamat – 2011-07-08


Palestine’s ‘last village’ faces the bulldozers
Lifta to make way for Jewish vacation homes
- by Jonathan Cook – 2011-07-08

Breaking News. MEDIA LIES FROM LIBYA. REALITIES TURNED UPSIDE DOWN
Global Research report from Tripoli
- by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya – 2011-07-07


VIDEO: Operation Libya: Insurrection and Military Intervention
Hear the latest interview on GlobalResearchTV
- by Prof Michel Chossudovsky – 2011-07-07


Risk-Free And Above The Law: U.S. Globalizes Drone Warfare
- by Rick Rozoff – 2011-07-07

Unmanned aerial vehicles have no pilots on board, so the lives of U.S. service members are safe as Pakistanis, Afghans, Libyans, Iraqis, Yemenis and Somalis are torn to shreds by U.S. strikes.


The “War On Terror” Is A $6 Trillion Racket, Exceeding The Total Cost Of World War II
- by David DeGraw – 2011-07-06

Rejection by African Union of ICC’s Qaddafi arrest warrant reveals ICC as hoax
It’s Official: International Criminal Court has ZERO Mandate
- by Tony Cartalucci – 2011-07-06

NATO War Crimes: Red Cross alarmed by Libya situation, fears worse
- by Stephanie Nebehay – 2011-07-06

Yemen Continues to Inspire Amid Great Odds
- by Ramzy Baroud – 2011-07-06

Report: Ground Invasion of Libya Within Two Weeks
- by Paul Joseph Watson – 2011-07-05


NATO War Crimes: Depleted Uranium Found in Libya by Scientists
- by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya – 2011-07-05

France arms anti-Gaddafi forces
- by Julie Hyland – 2011-07-03


War Propaganda: Western Media Promotes NATO Terror Bombing of Libya
- by Stephen Lendman – 2011-07-03


Libya: Unending American Hostility
- by William Blum – 2011-07-03

Canadian military bases on foreign soil
- by Canadian Peace Congress – 2011-07-02


The Powers of Manipulation: Islam as a Geopolitical Tool to Control the Middle East
- by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya – 2011-07-02

Creating Political and Social Chaos. The New Model of “Calvinist Islam”


America: An Empire in Decline
Part 1: Dawn of a New Century
- by Devon DB – 2011-07-02

Since the Palestine Liberation Organisation led by Yasser Arafat recognised the state of Israel over 20 years ago, the general framework for a claims-ending solution accepted by the Israeli and Palestinian leadership has been a deal that would create a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. But now, two decades later, that framework has been completely exposed as a sham, and the number of people who believe such a solution is achievable, let alone worthwhile, is consistently dwindling.

So, do the Palestinians want a state? Or, perhaps more importantly, should the Palestinians want a state? This seems like a straightforward question with an even more straightforward answer. At the beginning of the Washington-led peace process and during creation of the Palestinian Authority in the mid-1990s the answer sure seemed to be a resounding ‘yes’. There were plenty of reservations about this strategy however, especially among Palestinians concerned that such a solution would disenfranchise the rights of refugees. Nevertheless, many Palestinians including the formal leadership was on board.

Today, the answer to this question is not so clear, and for good reason. In the course of 20 years of negotiations, Palestinians learned that the concept of a “state” that they had in mind was different from the one that Israel – their occupier – would permit them to have, and in turn different from what the United States was willing to support. Despite the “historic compromise” PLO leaders often refer to – the relinquishing of claims on 78 per cent of historic Palestine – a Palestinian state would not emerge on the remaining 22 per cent. Instead of getting closer to a territorially contiguous and sovereign political entity they could call a state, Palestinians were constantly facing increased Israeli colonisation of their territory.

Wanting a true state

The size of the territory allotted for this “state” continued to shrink with every new settlement home. The Israelis remained adamant about maintaining control over the air space and borders of any Palestinian state, retaining a military presence in the Jordan River valley (about 30 per cent of the West Bank), retaining the illegally annexed occupied Jerusalem and refusing a new Palestinian state to have an army. Essentially, this would be a state in name only, lacking the all important features of sovereignty, and would be the de facto continuation of the occupation with different window dressing.  

The question then is: do the Palestinians want this state? No, clearly not. In fact, the Palestinian cause was only about statehood insofar as a state could be a vehicle for realising Palestinian human and political rights. Since its inception, the Palestinian cause has been about two central issues 1) the right of Palestinians to live in Palestine (this includes the right of refugees to return to their towns and villages if they choose) and 2) the right to self-determination and sovereignty. It has never, contrary to Zionism, been about a fear driven desire for ethno-centric domination.

Public opinion polling of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza reveals that 74 per cent of Palestinians consider ending the occupation and achieving the right to return as the two most important Palestinian goals. The maximalist version of the concept of a Palestinian state permitted by the Washington sponsored Peace Process does not even accommodate the minimalist version of Palestinian rights.

Perhaps one reason the process has drifted into this morass is because the intended goal has focused on a Palestinian state in name only, without much regard for what that state would look like or whether it would afford Palestinians their rights. This peace process would seemingly go forward endlessly if it could loosely attach the concept of a state to any hilltop in the West Bank, so long as there was a Palestinian leadership willing to go along with it. Palestinians cannot and should not accept a “state” at any cost.

A strategy to end occupation

For 20 years, the Washington-led peace process has succeeded in doing one thing better than anything else; giving Israel every incentive to maintain its occupation. By assigning the policing responsibilities for the urban centers to the Palestinian Authority and having the Europeans and the Americans pay for this project, Israel has effectively retained the security domination and colonial usurpation benefits inherent in occupation without having to be responsible for any of the costs. It can build settlements in Palestinian land and steal Palestinian water, both acts in direct opposition to international law, but simultaneously ditch obligations it has to the population it occupies and use the ongoing Peace Process to deflect international criticism for obviating Palestinian self-determination.

This game has to end, and the continuation of a Peace Process that only encourages relentless Israeli occupation exacerbates the situation. It’s time for a dramatic shift in the Israeli/Palestinian dynamic which places costs where they belong, on the occupier. Whether this will be born out diplomatic initiatives at the United Nations, non-violent popular uprising, or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is still unclear. Perhaps it’s all of the above.

What we know for sure is that Washington’s insistence on a failed status quo has only proved costly for Palestinians and beneficial for Israel. Palestinians should not be subjected, or subject themselves, to engaging Israel in an arena they are cornered into and disadvantaged in, but rather should choose to meet them in an arena where the the playing field is fair or to their advantage. Increasingly, this is anywhere in the world outside of Washington.

Any new Palestinian strategy must put reversing this “cost-free occupation” dynamic at its centre. Israel will only end its occupation when pressured to do so and it must be made to realise that it is more costly to maintain the occupation than end it.

This article originally appeared in AlJazeera.net.

Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of the Palestine Center. This policy brief may be used without permission but with proper attribution to the Center.

Culture of Concealment: Corruption South Africa Style

July 12th, 2011 by Danny Schechter

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA: Twenty one years after Nelson Mandela walked free,  corruption has become the issue du jour in South Africa.

Even president Jacob Zuma who narrowly slithered out of a corruption trial before his election is blasting corruption in the ranks of the African National Congress which came to power as the morally superior alternative to an apartheid regime that shamelessly used the wealth it controlled to benefit Afrikaners and deprive the black majority of services.

“Let’s make a plan,” were the code words members of the all white National Party used to scheme ways of stealing state resources to benefit themselves, a cozy reality overshadowed by the vicious racial policies that outraged the world.

As the ANC prepared to win power democratically, there was concern among leaders that a deprived black majority might feel it was “their turn” and thus, their right to cash in on their political victory. Some of their leaders would soon be adopting the deceptive language of making “plans” as well.

On election day in l994, while millions were at the polls, I sat in the empty ANC Headquarters board room, in a building once owned by Shell Oil, and interviewed the late Joe Slovo, an ANC leader, a lead negotiator and former head of the movement’s military wing, who worried even then about the dangers of his comrades seeking to profit personally.

“If we are seduced by the fleshpots,” he told me for the film, Countdown to Freedom, that I was making on the election, “we will be finished.”

Fast forward to 2011, in the post Mandela and Mbeki era, and Slovo’s fears are now an acknowledged problem turning into a crisis that is splitting the ANC into factions and adding tensions to its long term alliance with the COSATU unions and the Communist Party.

While the ANC’s Youth League is demanding nationalization, its leaders like Julius “Juju” Malema have reportedly been on the take, profiting from what Archbishop Desmond Tutu called “the gravy train.” While they play the blame game seeking nationalization of the mines, youth unemployment skyrockets with youth leaders not making that a priority.

COSATU’s chief, Zwelinzima Vavi,  has been speaking out against a “predatory state on its way to becoming a banana Republic.” He denounces those who use the “levers of the state” to enrich themselves with high salaries, fancy cars and juicy government tenders/contracts that has led them to be ridiculed as “tenderpreneurs.”

In several high profile cases, top ANC leaders moved smoothly from politics to the private sector without flinching an eye. They took care of their needs and their comrade cronies. Upward class mobility displaced racial justice as their key concern. A leader of the mine workers in the fight against apartheid now runs McDonalds. Others became CEO’s of conglomerates and investment groups.

While individual corruption is pervasive with a former National Police Chief found guilty of having been in business with a Mafioso gangster,  and former ANC Defense Minister implicated in a multi-billion dollar arms deal with lots of illegal commissions and payoffs that have yet to be prosecuted, there are deeper institutional issues that are even more worrying because of what South Africa’s great writer Njabulo S. Ndebele calls a “culture of concealment,” the antithesis of transparency and accountability.

“The desire for and its concomitant culture or concealment are now spreading throughout the body politic, partly through proposed concealment legislation, partly through a militarized and brutal police force, partly through the patronage of cadre deployment, partly through the willingness of the voter to keep hoping, and partly through official self-righteousness in which truth is equated with government pronouncement.”

Mamphela Ramphele, a black power activist in her youth turned respected academic and World Bank official, fears that “South Africa’s young democracy is much more vulnerable and at greater risk than established Middle Eastern countries.” She blames the failure to transform South Africa’s educational system that has “left our young people at the mercy of those promising quick fixes.”

The youth culture here—as in other countries—showcases affluent life styles and blatant materialism that lead many to take corrupt and criminal short cuts to finance fancy and unsustainable life styles.

Inequality has deepened. Johannesburg’s Sunday Times reports,  “Despite being one of the poorest regions in the world, the number of super-wealthy individuals in Africa grew faster in 2010 than in any other region.” An official at the Daimler auto company told me that more Mercedes are sold in South Africa than Germany.

Egging all of this on are several big scandals in which the government is directly implicated as a key player barely enforcing conflict of interest rules.

• The Black Empowerment scams through which White-run companies co-opt a few blacks that get shares to advance their own agendas in the name of a phony racial balance and reparations. While some in the new black middle and upper class benefit, inequality is blatant. This has led to great cynicism and encourages greed. Money, not morality, is the driver in ANC sanctioned race to get rich quick.

•Big spectacles like the World Cup, subsidized by South Africa’s tax payers, made for a big party that left the country with a huge debt that has requires cutbacks in public services. The soccer body FIFA called the World Cup in South Africa their most profitable ever, but they are the ones who got the most along with the local companies they favored. The games benefited corporate marketers with FIFA keeping TV rights money and paying no taxes. The press mostly covered the games, not the insidious wheeling and dealing behind it. TV stations refused to show a critical documentary.

• The biggest scandal, bigger than the corrupt arms deal, and “Oilgate” in which funds from oil sales were siphoned into ANC party coffers, is happening now with the construction of two multi-billion dollar coal fire plants that will not only increase pollution but benefit the ANC directly through a supposedly independent investment trust partnering with Hitachi of Japan.

South Africa, which gave up its Israeli supplied nuclear weapons in the apartheid days is also now planning a huge new nuclear power plant, despite Fukushima and the risks. According to the Financial Mail, the leading business magazine, there are already “rumors of corruption and cronyism.”

Of course, corruption is rife in other countries too, some born of revolutions like China whose President recently sounded like Jacob Zuma in denouncing crimes by officials. In China, they shoot many corrupt bureaucrats; in South Africa, they are largely ignored if not rewarded. In fact, anti-curruption police units and public prosecutors have been sidelined.

The US certainly can’t lecture South Africa. I made a film, Plunder The Crime of Our Time, showing how our financial crisis is sparked by Wall Street crime in which U.S. banksters illegally transferred more wealth to themselves than the kleptocrats here could even conceive. The US now has more high net worth individuals than any other country.

I never imagined that the “new” South Africa, a country that I, and so many millions around the world fought for, would succumb so quickly to deep and blatant corruption. Much of it had its origins in the private sector’s “helping”/bribing willing politicians.

Its painful for me to write about this because I have been a believer in South Africa’s potential as a “Rainbow Nation” that has a lot to teach the world. It has improved the lot of millions even as poverty remains pervasive. There are great people here who sacrificed for their freedom and still struggle for the values and goals they believe in.

They know right from wrong.

An indictment of the corrupt few should not take our eyes off a majority that is conscious of where they have been and work hard to survive and prosper if possible.

At the same time, they too, are being put in jeopardy by what veteran journalist Allister Sparks calls “a corrupt game of greed.” If it is not combated, he warns, “it will be all downhill for the promising new South Africa.”

The faith in the promises of Nelson Mandela for a “better life for all” is running up against an avaricious and secretive clique in a party that operates like a “family” in the Costa Nostra sense, putting its own interests ahead of the public interest. The line between party and government is often blurred.

Mandela himself spoke to this shameful situation, “The symptoms of our spiritual malaise are only too familiar. They include the extent of corruption in both the public and private sector where office and positions of responsibility are treated as opportunities for self-enrichment … We have learned now that even those people with whom we fought the struggle against apartheid’s corrupt can themselves become corrupted.”

In South Africa, some activists have put their own twist on the slogan, “A Luta Continua” (The struggle continues) used by the liberation movement in neighboring Mozambique. They say here,  “The Looting continues.”

At least in South Africa, leaders and the press recognize the problem and speak out. Perhaps that’s something that politicians and financial leaders in the West, especially the United States, can emulate.

Media take note.

News Dissector Danny Schechter also wrote The Crime Of Our Time (Disinfo, 2010), a expose on financial crime. Comments to [email protected]

The US missile defense shield will cover the entire territory of Europe, including all Bulgaria, according to US Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher.

Tauscher, who is in charge of arms control and international security affairs at the US State Department, has made the statement Monday, during a meeting in Washington DC with a group of Members of the European Parliament, including former Bulgarian Foreign Affairs Minister, Ivaylo Kalfin.

The Undersecretary confirmed the new American concept is to cover the entire territory of the Old Continent with all Bulgarian regions, which were not included in the earlier draft.

Tauscher further informed that talks between Washington and partners in Eastern Europe are in an advanced stage and the exact location of the radars is being ironed out at the moment.

The meeting also included a discussion about the reform of NATO and about disarmament.

Former US Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, Commander of the US Army Forces Command and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, was also present at the meeting.

Powell voiced the opinion of the US Administration, recently expressed by Defense Secretary, Robert Gates that Europe must be more active in NATO’s missions in order to have its stability guaranteed in the future.

Stop NATO e-mail list home page with archives and search engine:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/messages

Stop NATO website and articles:
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com

From the middle of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth imperialism was the dominant national ideology, transcending class and party divisions. Britain was saturated in the ethos and attitudes of empire. They infused plays and books and, later, films. They informed school textbooks. They inspired paintings, prints and engravings. They filled newspapers and magazines. They figured in advertisements and packaging. The impact was arguably greater than that of any previous dominant ideology because its pre-eminence coincided with the rise of the mass market and the mass media. – ‘Imperialism and juvenile literature’ edited By Jeffrey Richards. Manchester University Press, 1989

So what’s changed? Not much really. Today of course, the ideology of imperial expansion now masks itself as ‘humanitarian intervention’ or ‘democracy-building’.

Our Victorian ancestors were less coy about colonizing, claiming to be on a ‘civilizing mission’. But ‘civilizing’ the Libyans, the Iraqis or the Afghans would be a step too far in these allegedly politically correct times but it’s the same thing by another name.

Yet the abyssmal failings of Western ‘democracy’ are all around us. We have governments that regardless that an ‘opposition’ exists are effectively one-party states and have been ever since the early years of the 20th century. From 1945 to 2009 it was a Tory/Labour ‘coalition’ and now we’re back to the pre-WWI war Tory/Liberal version. It makes little difference that every five years we vote for one or the other. Successive governments are an intrinsic part of an ossified and corrupt state self-’regulated’ for generations�and it still is�the expenses scandals and now the News of the World/News Corp fiasco notwithstanding.

The ever-expanding scale of the criminal enterprise that is Murdoch’s News Corp, reveals the awful truth about capitalism’s version of democracy; namely that it only works for those in power and for those with power. For a single corporation to have direct access and control at the very heart of government smacks of the days of William Randolph Hearst, made famous by Orson Welles in Citizen Kane, where rich and powerful individuals are able to determine the fate of a nation.

The questions that are never asked

Rupert Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB appeared to be dead in the water last night after proof emerged that executives at his British newspaper empire mounted a cover-up of the full scale of alleged criminal wrongdoing at the News of the World. — ‘News International knew hacking was widespread in 2007‘, The Independent, 11 July 2011

When Rebekah Brooks, then editor of the News of the World (NotW), blurted out in a Commons committee in 2007 that the NotW was paying cops for information, it slid, Teflon-coated right off the backs of our ‘independent’ media, never mind the MPs who were listening at the time! Now it’s mea culpas all round.

It’s become a cliche that Murdoch’s four major newspapers (The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and the now defunct News of the World) between them can make or break governments but it’s true, or at least it was until the utterly corrupt relationship between the corporate/state media, the political class and the police/legal system fell apart.

At the same time, the Met cop in charge of investigating the phone hacking allegations, John Yates (who doubles as head of the anti-terrorism unit), was never challenged over his conclusion that there was nothing further to investigate beyond the two people convicted of phone hacking at the NotW.

“In a letter to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, took issue with the evidence given to the committee last week by Acting Deputy Commissioner John Yates. Mr Yates had repeatedly stressed the inquiry had been limited by Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) advice that officers had to prove messages had not been heard by their intended recipients before they were intercepted.” — ‘Prosecutor questions evidence of Met’s Yates‘, The Independent, 6 April, 2011

In other words, Yates decided what lines of inquiry should and should not be pursued. He chose the absolute minimum, ignoring 4000 or so emails and texts that were in his possession. These questions and many more are only now being addressed in the MSM, but is the MSM asking the right questions?

‘Not a big deal’ – former NoW reporter on phone hacking‘ — BBC News 5 July, 2011

There is more than a little irony involved in that what got the ball rolling were the revelations that the NotW had been hacking the cellphones/emails of murdered teenagers and soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and what has been obvious for years, the collusion of the police in covering up evidence that would implicate the NotW hierarchy in the hacking/bribery scandals. Instead, a private investigator and an NotW journalist did time.

The ‘outrage’ expressed by the MSM only got up a head of steam following the exposure that the murdered Milly Dowler and dead imperial soldiers had had their phones hacked as well as those of the ‘celebs’! The very people the NotW makes its money from! Not a good move, image- or advertizing-wise.

This is the irony: it didn’t make waves when four years ago, we found out that the NotW was not only hacking emails and phones but bribing cops and colluding with the police to suppress evidence, but it matters now that it’s Milly Dowler or a soldier in Afghanistan. And this is not just a British issue:

Murdoch’s media empire includes Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Post. Murdoch has enormous political and cultural influence over our media. In fact, Murdoch’s hand-picked selection to run the Wall Street Journal was longtime loyalist Les Hinton, who oversaw News Corp’s British newspapers during the height of News of the World’s alleged hacking activity. Hinton twice testified to the UK parliament that he had conducted a rigorous inquiry into the papers he oversaw and claimed hacking was limited to one reporter. That’s right: Hinton, who ran the show for Murdoch as phone hacking became standard operating procedure, is now publisher of the one of the largest newspapers in the U.S. — Media Matters for America, 11 July 2011

No wonder the word ‘toxic’ has been appearing with increasing frequency in the MSM, a word that parallels the state’s ‘loss of legitimacy’ in its significance. Such events put the fear of God in the ruling elite. Put the two together and you’d think that it would be obvious that it’s not only about corporate/state power ganging up to suppress knowledge of the unholy alliance that exists between Murdoch’s News Corp and the ruling political class. And not just News Corp. And not just the News of the World. And not just the current government, Labour had an equally comfortable, incestuous relationship with Murdoch’s empire. It’s about a global conglomerate, News Corp deciding what kind of government we get and of course, what kind of economy.

BSkyB

Ed Miliband: “I won’t rest until we ensure this deal cannot go ahead until after criminal investigations are complete”

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said Rupert Murdoch should “drop the bid for BSkyB” which he said was “untenable” in the light of phone hacking allegations.’ — ‘Drop BSkyB bid, Miliband tells Murdoch‘, BBC News 11 July 2011

BSkyB is the pearl in the pig’s ear (the pig being the NotW, now shuffled off to the slaughterhouse, the bits to be reassembled as the Sun on Sunday no doubt). This is what all the fuss is about. �9 billion a year income for Murdoch. And just how fearful the elite are of the implications of the NotW scandal we learn that Murdoch’s attempt to take complete control of BSkyB is no longer on, News Corp have withdrawn their bid. Another step too far for a ruling elite once more in disarray.

Clearly the ‘Digger’ didn’t just come over to the UK to fire/promote or whatever, Rebekah Brooks but to talk to the government about what to do about a crisis that has the potential bring about the fall of the government, if the media goes for the jugular. An unlikely occurrence given as it is just as culpable by ignoring the obvious and publishing the mundane and titillating instead of actually investigating these events when they first emerged. This is why we need Wikileaks.

But if it was okay for the government to okay Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB before, why is it now ‘not a fit and proper person’ to have a virtual media monopoly in the UK now?

“Ofcom, the media regulator [sic], is to consider whether News Corporation would make a “fit and proper” owner of satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

/./

“”[Ofcom] regards evidence that the News of the World’s newsroom was out of control for many years as relevant to a judgement on whether News Corporation would be a fit-and-proper owner of BSkyB,” our correspondent said.” — ‘BSkyB bid: Ofcom wants ‘fit and proper’ information”, BBC News 11 July 2011

It’s pretty obvious that the coverups that the ruling elite thought would work, that is the collusion between the police, government and News Corp to hide the true extent of the illegal activities of News Corp staff has unravelled in truly spectacular fashion. The latest ‘revelation’ concerns the fact that as far back as 2002 the police knew that the murdered girl Milly Dowler’s phone was being hacked (and her emails deleted by the hackers) though apparently they did nothing about it, not even informing her parents. It just gets worse. And to add fuel to the fire there are now allegations surfacing that both the The Times and The Sun have been at it as well. No wonder Murdoch is thinking of selling off all his UK newspaper holdings, after all it’s clear that owning them was not expressly about making money but using them to influence government to the advantage News Corp and capitalism in general.

�The truth is, we have all been in this together�the press, politicians and leaders of all parties�and yes, that includes me.� — David Cameron

What an admission! The question to ask is: will any of the mea culpas make any difference to a corporate/state media that is both the cause and effect of the current crisis? What emerges firstly is a state media ‘regulation’ framework (OfCom) that is toothless and expressly designed to the bidding of the corporations. And the MSM ‘regulates’ itself through the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), yet another toothless institution, now thoroughly discredited. In other words it’s a replay of the Financial Services Commission created allegedly to ‘regulate’ the banking/financial services sector.

Secondly, it’s all too obvious that the media’s cosy relationship with the state extends way beyond the News Corp affair. All the major media employ journalists who have close working relationships with the various arms of government to the point where access to their sources are dependent on them ‘doing the right thing’. The degree to which they ‘switch sides’ is made all too obvious by the scandal of Cameron employing the former editor of the NotW, Andy Coulson (now under arrest) under whose watch as they say, the hacking, bribery, pay-offs and coverups took place. (The elite has no shame.)

How can such a press be considered free or independent in any real sense of the word? Controlled either by the state or three large corporations, the MSM plays an intrinsic role in maintaining the status quo and it does it quite openly. Until now that is…

i

Israeli Flags at South Sudan Independence Celebrations

July 12th, 2011 by Global Research

Images of Israeli flags at the celebrations of the independence of South Sudan have been widely circulated and commented upon in the Arabic-language media, though they appear to have received no attention in the English-language media.  E.g.:

Broadcast by BBC Arabic

Israeli Flag at South Sudan Independence Celebration
Published online by Al Jazeera on 9 July 2011

Israeli Flag at South Sudan Independence Celebration
Published online by Rum Online on 9 July 2011

Cf. “The [Israeli] Foreign Ministry attaches great significance to South Sudan and appointed a special coordinator to deal with the subject several months ago.  The ministry has been exchanging secret messages with the government of South Sudan for a long time.  In October 2010, the president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, declared that Israel is not an enemy and that he will weigh diplomatic relations with it, including the opening of an Israeli embassy in the capital, Juba” (Ilan Lior and Barak Ravid, “Israel to Recognize South Sudan as Independent State,” Haaretz, 8 July 2011).

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The nuggets keep piling up as  the United States continues its course toward the abyss, pulling the rest of the world with it. Imagine, 29 standing ovations for Benjamin Netanyahu’s May 24th speech by the members of the U.S. congress, who once again displayed  their loyalty to a foreign state, their contempt for international law, their racism, and their support of Israeli apartheid and serious ethnic cleansing. Joseph Biden has stated publicly that he is “a Zionist” and that both when a member of the Senate and as Vice President helping Israel was his highest priority (“the center of my work as a United States Senator and now as vice president of the United States.”).

It is now routine for U.S. politicians to openly pledge allegiance to Israel , and they readily turn over large resources to Israel at the same time as they are reducing them for U.S. citizens. (This applies fully to President Obama, who bragged to AIPAC that “Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority.  It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels.  It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies.  And it’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels. That includes additional support – beyond regular military aid – for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system.”) 

The U.S. political leadership is also guilty of  protecting Israeli violations of  international law, war crimes, state terrorism, and disregard of UN resolutions and court decisions, including consistent support for Israel ’s systematic dispossession (ethnic cleansing) operations. How indignant these politicians (and the mainstream media) were over dispossession  and ethnic cleansing in civil war-ridden Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and what a contrast with the standing ovations for ethnic cleansing carried out inside the tail that wags the flea-ridden dog! The words, behavior and actions of the fleas, if done in support of an Arab-dominated state, would be found immoral, in violation of anti-terror laws, and treasonous. The racist double-standard here is breathtaking.

Similarly, it is striking to see how the rule of law has been rendered so clearly inoperative in other matters supposedly bearing on “national security.” It is notable how readily and completely a leader like Obama, an expert on constitutional law, and one who had so explicitly committed himself to return us to that promised land, has followed in its abandonment in what Tom Engelhardt aptly calls a “post-legal” state. (“Are We Living in Post-Legal America ?,” TomDispatch.com, May 30, 2011). This is applicable across the board: no prosecutions for authorizing or  carrying out torture; for illegal spying on U.S. citizens; or for illegal war-making. In fact the Obama administration has engineered the renewal of  the U.S. Patriot Act and has made no attempt to eliminate the 2006 Military Commissions Act. It has aggressively pursued war protesters  and extended executive privilege to the right to assassinate U.S. citizens at will. With the Libya war, the administration has carried out a straightforward violation of the War Powers Act requirement that  congress must sanction a war not in self-defense, an action that Obama had specifically promised to avoid.

The war against Libya is also one more U.S.-NATO war of aggression in violation of the UN Charter. It is true that the global war lords did get the Security Council to vote them powers to protect civilians under Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973, but both before and after these resolutions were passed the NATO-mafia war lords had announced “regime change” as their goal. And they have been extending their bombing raids throughout Libya , killing civilians on an ever-increasing scale, and certain to do to Libya what the United States has done to Iraq (mass killing, mass refugee generation, and devastation).

Mladic and Impunity

 

It is a bit mind-boggling to see Human Rights Watch, Richard Goldstone, Ban Ki-moon, and a stream of pundits and officials claim that the arrest of Ratko Mladic shows that the world has conquered “impunity.”  This was also supposedly proved by the International Criminal Court’s (ICC’s) issuance of indictments of, and then arrest warrants for, Gaddafi and one of his sons and brother-in-law.  Kofi Annan had already announced years ago that with the creation of the ICC impunity was at an end, and here we can see its Kafka-esque truth as officers and leaders of tiny states on the U.S. hit-list are brought to book!  The brazenness of these claims is breathtaking.

In March 2003 George Bush and Tony Blair invaded Iraq in violation of the UN Charter and were responsible for the million or more Iraqi deaths that followed.  The leader of the ICC, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, was repeatedly asked to investigate and pursue this crime, but he found that the “threshold of gravity” was not reached in this case for proof of “willful killings.”  This was all just collateral damage, and not deliberate!  (Actually, even in Texas if you shoot and kill somebody while going after a different target, you are guilty of murder.) But the relatively tiny killings by Gaddafi in response to a rapidly growing and at least partly foreign-sponsored armed insurgency were willful and demanded a rush-to-action.  No white person has ever been indicted by the ICC under this new anti-impunity regime—and of the 20 persons who had been indicted through mid-2011, all 20 were African, the three Libyans being the only non-black Africans. And by another amazing coincidence, two of the greatest black African killers, Paul Kagame ( Rwanda ) and Yoweri Museveni ( Uganda ),  who happen to be U.S. clients, have also not been indicted.  In short, the real impunity rule, of long standing, is that leaders of the Western great powers who have not been defeated in war (as Hitler was), and their clients, have impunity. Their targets do not.

When Milosevic was first indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in May 1999, he was accused of  responsibility for some 340 victims, only 45 of them having died in the months prior to NATO’s bombing war (from March 24 on) in the almost surely mythical “Racak massacre” of January 15, 1999 (see “Mythical Bloodbaths” in Herman and Peterson, The Politics of Genocide [Monthly Review Press, 2010]).  But in considering a petition that NATO leaders be indicted for its killings of civilians in its 1999 bombing war, this was ruled out by Carla Del Ponte on the grounds that (1) these killings were not deliberate, and (2) with only 500 admittedly killed by NATO, this was too few to constitute crimes of war—that is, whereas for Milosevic, the “threshold of gravity” was 340 deaths, for NATO, 500 was too small (see the superb discussion in Michael Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder  [Pluto Press, 2004], Chap. 6).  In short, these cases had nothing to do with justice but reflected the same dichotomy of impunity for the de facto aggressor violating the UN Charter, on the one hand, and sure guilt for the Great Power’s target by that Power’s corrupt agent, the ICTY, on the other hand (see John Laughland’s Travesty: The Trial of Slobodan Milosevic and the Corruption of International Justice [Pluto Press, 2007]).

When the arrest of Ratko Mladic in the Serbian village of Lazarevo was announced on May 26, this was generally greeted  as a positive  achievement for international justice, given the uniformity, passion and assurance of the media, and even a substantial contingent of supposedly liberal and left analysts, that he was a murderous villain. But this reflects a remarkable propaganda system, that can swallow and honor real mass killers like Clinton, Bush, Blair, Kagame, and Sharon, and yet in the former Yugoslavia pursue Milosevic, Karadzic, and Mladic, but not Croatia’s wartime President Franjo Tudjman, nor the Bosnian Muslim’s wartime President Alija Izetbegovic, nor the former Kosovo Liberation Army leader become the newly independent Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. In a civil war context there are always nasty episodes of ruthless killings, and the multi-sidedness of this in the Balkan wars was very briefly revealed in single Washington Post and Toronto Star profiles of the Muslim commander of Srebrencia, Naser Oric, who openly bragged to John Pomfret and Bill Schiller of an episode in which he killed 114 Serbs, showing these reporters videos of beheaded victims.  The Serb analyst Milivoje Ivanisevic listed the names of 3,262 Serbs killed in the Srebrenica vicinity prior to the July 1995 “massacre,” a large majority civilians (2,382). These have been “disappeared” in the discussions of Srebrenica, helping make the July killings inexplicable except for some ethnic cleansing or even genocidal  plan.

There is nothing comparable to Oric’s admissions to Pomfret and Schiller in any evidence ever used to implicate Mladic. His initial Srebrenica-related indictment for “genocide” by the ICTY in November 1995 preceded their gathering of any evidence on Srebrenica (not even a single grave was investigated until 1996), and when the ICTY forensic analysts finished their collection and evaluation of grave evidence in 2002, the manner of death in the vast majority of the 1,919 sets of mortal remains exhumed up to that point was unclear, but the majority of the relative small number of remains whose manner of death could be determined (477 sets, or 24.8 percent) were likely combat victims rather than victims of executions. (See the two chapters that Ljubisa Simic contributed to the volume edited by Stefan Karganovic, Deconstruction of a Virtual Genocide [Belgrade: Srebrenica Historical Project, 2011], pp. 69-88, and pp. 89-104.)

There were evidently hundreds of executions, but Mladic’s role in ordering these executions was surely no clearer than Oric’s role in ordering the deaths of many more Serb civilians in the Srebrenica area prior to July 1995. The main “evidence” of any Mladic role in Srebrenica executions was given in the testimony of Drazen Erdemovic, a mercenary and truly “protected witness” of the ICTY, whose performance (and ICTY protection—against verification) is actually a high point in showing the thoroughgoing politicization of the ICTY and hence of the compromised case against Mladic. (About which, see the devastating account in Germinal Civikov’s Srebrenica: The Star Witness, Trans. John Laughland [ Belgrade : NGO Srebrenica Historical Project, 2010], reviewed by me in Z Magazine, January, 2011.)

The True Costs of America’s Wars

July 11th, 2011 by Jack A. Smith

During his speech on Afghanistan June 22, President Obama revealed that “Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war.” He knew this was a deceptive understatement, as did everyone who keeps close watch on the Bush-Obama wars all these years.

Few Americans , however, have closely followed Washington’s 21st century wars of choice, so a trillion probably sounds right to them, but that amount in 10 years — when the annual cost of air conditioning alone for the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq amounts to $20.2 billion a year — is  way off base.

(It’s difficult to conceive of one trillion, so we’ll repeat a method we’ve used before: Sixty seconds comprise a minute. One million seconds  comes out to be about 11½ days. A billion seconds is 32 years. And a trillion seconds is 32,000 years.)

The latest objective estimate for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, made public June 29, is between $3.7 trillion and $4.4 trillion (140,800 years), according to the research project “Costs of War” by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies.

The university assembled a team of economists, anthropologists, political scientists, legal experts, and a physician to do this analysis, which included future costs for veterans care and interest on war debts to be paid over the next few decades.

The medical costs are huge. “While we know how many U.S. soldiers have died in the wars (just over 6,000),” the report pointed out, “what is startling is what we don’t know about the levels of injury and illness in those who have returned from the wars. New disability claims continue to pour into the VA, with 550,000 just through last fall.” This doesn’t even include the thousands of deaths and injuries among quasi-military contractors. There are about as many contractors as troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s impossible to precisely predict the interest costs on these wars. In 2010, $400 billion of our tax money went toward paying off past war debts as far back as the Korean War of the early 1950s. We’ll pay war debts indefinitely because Washington is always borrowing to plan for or start new wars. So far, the U.S.-led NATO war for regime change in Libya is costing American taxpayers about a billion. The Pentagon has blueprints ready for many different kinds of future wars, from small counter-terrorism escapades, to cyberspace and outer space conflicts, to nuclear war, all the way up to World War III.

The Brown University figures may turn out to be underestimates. A few independent studies over the years have been somewhat higher but were brushed aside by the White House and the mass media. This may happen to the Brown calculations as well.

The respected Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard Professor Linda Bilmes wrote a book three years ago estimating the cost of the Iraq war only, based on data collected in 2006. It was titled “The Three Trillion Dollar War.” They based their calculations on the “hidden” costs of the war that include enormous medical care expenses over the next 50 years for tens of thousands of badly wounded soldiers, other benefits, equipment replacement, and interest on war debts.

Stiglitz and Bilmes calculated in 2008 that the combined cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars would be between $5 and $7 trillion.  They called these adventures the “credit card wars.” Using a somewhat different methodology a few years ago, the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, estimated the Iraq war ultimately will cost $3.5 trillion. They didn’t include the Afghan war.

Assuming Obama is reelected, the Bush-Obama wars — including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen (and Somalia, where the U.S. is now engaged in drone strikes), plus the wars in Obama’s final years — will certainly top $5 trillion in real costs.

In this connection, we cannot forget that current Pentagon spending of around $700 billion a year represents a huge increase since 2001, when it totaled about $380 billion. (By comparison, during this same time period, military spending by Iran — portrayed by Washington, Tel-Aviv and Saudi Arabia as the greatest danger to peace in the Middle East — dropped from $9 billion in 2001 to $7 billion in 2010.)

But Defense Department expenses are only half the story. Double the Pentagon’s $700 billion for a true estimate of the amount of money the U.S. spent on war-related issues  last year. That’s $1.4 trillion a year for the United States. How is this possible?

Instead of just discussing the Pentagon budget, it is essential to also consider Washington’s various other “national security” budgets. That of course includes the costs of Washington’s 16 different intelligence services, the percentage of the annual national debt to pay for past war expenses, Homeland Security, nuclear weapons, additional annual spending requests for Iraq and Afghan wars, military retiree pay and healthcare for vets, NASA, FBI (for its war-related military work), etc. When it’s all included it comes to $1,398 trillion for fiscal 2010, according to the War Resisters League and other sources.

It’s not enough just to take note of the money Washington spent on stalemated wars of choice. It’s fruitful to contemplate where our $5 trillion Bush-Obama war funding might have been invested instead. It could have paid for a fairly swift transition from fossil fuels to a solar-wind energy system for the entire U.S. — a prospect that will now take many decades longer, if at all, as the world gets warmer from greenhouse gases. And there probably would have been enough left to overhaul America’s decaying and outdated civil infrastructure, among other projects.

But while the big corporations, Wall Street and the wealthy are thriving, global warming and infrastructure repair have been brushed aside. States are cutting back on schools and healthcare. Counties and towns are closing summer swimming pools and public facilities. Jobs and growth are stagnant. The federal government is sharply cutting the social service budget, and Medicare et al. are nearing the chopping block.

Meanwhile, be assured that despite a bit of fixing here and there, the military and national security budgets will remain essentially unchanged.

France Says NATO Bombing Has Failed

July 11th, 2011 by Dr. Franklin P. Lamb

One of the jokes heard at this week’s massive pro-government Friday post prayer rally at Green Square (in most of the other Arab countries Fridays are days of rage against the government du jour, but in Libya Friday prayers are followed by massive pro-Qadaffi rallies, attended two weeks ago by close to 65% of Tripoli’s population) is about how each morning Libya’s leader, following early morning Fajr prayers dons his formal uniform, complete with those huge epaulets, and salutes the small NATO flag he tapes to his bathroom mirror as he moves from place to place dodging NATO drones and assassins.

“Our leader does this”, one young lady informed me first with a wide smile and then growing serious, “because the NATO bombing of Libyan civilians, which the US/NATO axis claims Qaddafi is doing, has caused his popularity to skyrocket among our proud and nationalist tribal people. I am one example of this. Yes, of course we can use some new blood and long overdue reform in our government. Which country cannot? But first we must defeat the NATO invaders and then we can sort out our problems among our tribes including the so-called “NATO Rebels.”

Since the beginning of the NATO operation (3/31/11) the alliance has conducted nearly 15,000 sorties, including close to 6000 bombing missions according to NATO’s media office in Naples, Italy ([email protected]). The most recent attacks reported on 7/9/11 included 112 sorties and 48 bomb/missile attacks, and that is about average.

The two most active Embassies in Libya these days are the Russian and the Chinese. On 2/25/11, according to the Bulgarian Embassy staff, which was falsely rumored to be currently handling US consular services, whereas it appears no one is doing here in Libya), the US Embassy essentially ordered all EU and NATO Embassies to pack up and join their chartered plane and boats. Libyan officials tell visitors that they were shocked by the fast exodus. “They did not even say goodbye. Suddenly they were on their way to the airport,” one Foreign Ministry advised during a meeting last week.

The Russian and Chinese leadership has grown increasingly critical of NATO’s actions in Libya and are now firmly demanding an immediate and permanent ceasefire. Some cynics here are pointing out that these countries, unlike NATO, know exactly what they are doing and it includes the realization that they have an excellent chance to obtain many billions of dollars in lucrative contracts, which every official interviewed here has sworn, not one Libyan Dinar of which will ever again go to any NATO country, when its aggression is finally repelled. It is partly this realization that it’s “all or nothing” that keeps the US and its potent military asset, NATO, focused on assassinating Colonel Qaddafi and breaking his civilian support base. If Qaddafi lives, NATO loses and so do the current major oil industry contractors who are reportedly becoming depressed seeing reports of all the Russian and Chinese businessmen arriving in Libya.

NATO, Diplomatic, and Congressional sources confirm that the Obama Administration erred badly in thinking that Libya’s regime would collapse “in a few days, not weeks” as Obama assured the American public who has to pony up the estimated $5 billion thru July 31, 2011 costs. Obama’s egregious miscalculation may cost him his presidency if the economy does not.

As one student at Tripoli’s Al Fatah University commented, “What your American government has done in the region to destroy yourselves since 9/11 is amazing to Libyans. Now you are going to fight us? Why? You already had all our oil you wanted at a bargain prices, we stupidly put our sovereign funds in US banks and we did not even bother Israel much. Every day that NATO bombs it kills more Libyan civilians. We sacrificed nearly 1/3 of our population or more than one million of our brothers and sisters expelling the Italians 70 years ago. Doesn’t anyone in your government study history? We are not Bahrainis or Syrians. We are armed and will use our weapons. Among the errors our leadership has made, one of the worst is that it believed the US agreements we made in 2004. The Iranians and North Koreans laugh at us for trusting you and giving up our nuclear and biological weapons programs. Believe me dear, if Qadaffi leaves power you will miss him because the Libyan people will be tougher against your projects than he has been.”

On Sunday 7/10/11 France seemingly allied itself with Russia and China in calling on NATO to immediately stop its counterproductive and counterintuitive bombing, as more countries witness public demonstrations against NATO’s actions in Libya. French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said in Paris that it was time for Qaddafi loyalists, which France acknowledges have been rapidly increasing in number, and Libyan rebels “to sit around a table to reach a political compromise” because, he said, “there was no solution with force.”

NATO and the Obama administration can have no part of a dialogue because they will be the major losers if peace comes to Libya without Qadaffi leaving power.

No sooner had the French Defense Minister spoken on 7/12/11, reflecting also the views of the British and Italian military, than the US State Department issued a statement insisting that “the United States will continue efforts as part of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) coalition to enforce a U.N. Security Council-authorized no-fly zone in Libya designed to protect civilians under threat of attack, the State Department said. The spokesman did not mention that the no-fly zone was achieved back in March in 48 hours and that no Libyan aircraft have flown since. Mission accomplished 100 days ago.

Hilary Clinton repeated her earlier words, “Our efforts in Libya will take time, but let there be no mistake that the political, military, and economic pressure on Qaddafi continues to grow. The allies will continue to increase pressure until the Libyan people are safe, their humanitarian needs met, and a transition of power is fully under way.”

And so it goes. On 9 July 2011, NATO claimed its aircraft carried out another “precision strike on a pro-Qaddafi missile firing position near Tawurgha, south of Misrata. According to its media office, “NATO intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance were conducted over a period of time to ascertain the military use of the site. It was confirmed as being used to launch indiscriminate attacks on Libyan civilians in the area and a staging area by pro-Qaddafi villagers, including planning attacks on rebel forces near the port and city of Misrata.” The next morning, 7/10/11, local inhabitants denied that the farm had any military activity on the property and an examination of the farm buildings failed to discover any.

NATO is getting hammered by critics, including during its press conferences, especially by reporters from such groups as Jane’s Defense Weekly who know a thing or two about weapons and war. Last week Jane’s ridiculed the NATO commander who claimed that seeing satellite dishes on roofs were evidence of a particular site being a “Command and Control Center.” Jane’s found that assertion silly.

Congressional sources have been demanding answers from NATO, including the following incidences of civilian deaths caused by NATO’s bombs and rockets (70% of which are US supplied, raising serious legal and political questions under the 1976 US Arms Export Control Act) and which were forwarded by a Congressional NATO liaison staffer for comment. The exact cases sent to NATO from the US Congressional included the following with a demand for an explanation:

1. On May 13, 2011, a peace delegation of Muslim religious leaders having arrived in Brega to seek dialogue with fellow Sheikhs from the east of Libya, was bombed at 1 a.m. in their guesthouse by two US MK 82 bombs. Eleven of the Sheikhs were killed instantly and 14 were seriously injured. NATO claimed the building housed a “Command and Control Center.” All witnesses and the hotel owner have vehemently denied this claim.

2. During the early morning of June 20, 2011, 8 US missiles and bombs supplied to NATO targeted the home of Khaled Al-Hamedi and his parents and family. Fifteen family members and friends were killed, including Khaled’s pregnant wife, his sister and three of his children. NATO said it bombed the home because it was a military installation. Witnesses, neighbors and independent observers deny there was ever any military installation or troop presence on the property.

3. In late June, 2011 on the main road west of Tripoli, a public bus with 12 passengers was hit by a TOW missile killing all the passengers. NATO claimed that public buses are being used to transport military personnel. Foreign observers, including this one, unanimously aver that they have not seen military personnel in Tripoli, including tanks; APC’s or even military equipment.

4. On June 6, 2011, at 2:30 a.m. the central administrative complex of the Higher Committee for Children in central Tripoli, two blocks from this observer’s hotel, was bombed with a total of 12 bombs/rockets. The complex housed the National Downs Syndrome center including its records and vital statistics office, the Crippled Women’s Foundation, the Crippled Children Center, and the National Diabetic Research Center.

5. On June 16, 2011 at 5 a.m. NATO bombed a private hotel in central Tripoli, killing three people and destroying a restaurant and Shisha smoking bar.

NATO response was to thank the Congressional office for the “interesting” information and then to explain, as NATO has been doing ad nauseum recently, that, “By using civilian sites for military purposes, the Qadhafi regime has once again shows complete disregard for the welfare of Libyan civilians.”

NATO’s response continued, “Clearly, the main issue for NATO are allegations of civilian casualties, but it’s important that we put those allegations in context of the NATO mission. Each and every civilian death is a tragedy. Obviously, more than we would like to see, sometimes, due to a technical failure, one of our weapons does not strike the intended military target. We deeply regret these tragic accidents and we always convey NATO condolences to the families of all those who may have been involved.”

NATO’S response continued: “When NATO believes we have caused civilian casualties we will say so and we will do it as swiftly as we can establish the facts. If you look at our track record after nearly 15,000 sorties and nearly 5,000 strike sorties you can see we have taken utmost care to avoid civilian casualties and will continue to do so. Finally let me assure your Office that our mission fully complies with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 and our mandate remains to use all necessary means to prevent attacks and the threat of attack against civilians and civilian populated areas.”

As international pressure builds on the White House to call off the NATO bombing campaign, several proposals are being discussed within the African Union, the Russian and Chinese Embassy’s, and even between the “NATO rebels” and representatives of the Libya government in Tripoli.

One possible scenario might be for Libya to offer Obama and NATO a fig leaf which would include Colonel Qadaffi “retiring to his tent to write and reflect” while dialogue takes places among the Libyan people, including the tribes and 600 plus Peoples Congresses which of course should have been allowed to take place as Congressman Dennis Kucinich and others insisted back in February, 2011 before NATO invaded.

Franklin P. Lamb, LLM, PhD is the Director of Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace, Wash.DC-Beirut. Lamb is doing research as a board member for the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign-Lebanon in Libya. Please check their website for UPDATES and sign their petition HERE. He is reachable c\o [email protected] or [email protected]

 

At the Bilderberg Conference host Daniel Vasella provided a helicopter to be used for free by the Police of the Canton Grison. Critics of the Meeting consider this as evidence of creeping privatization of the police force.

St.Moritz. – The police is neutral, they neither distinguish between rich and poor, nor between VIPs and normal citizens. To the police only the law counts, the ones that don’t comply, will be held accountable. This self- proclaiming principle of a democratic state is viewed by critics of the Bilderberg Conference as being endangered. A source of suspicion is a photo published recently by the blog alles-schallundrauch.blogspot.com.

The picture shows a helicopter of army-green color, which wasequiped with markings of the Police of the Canton of Grison on its side. As the license number reveals, the helicopter belongs to the company Japat AG, a 100% subsidiary of Novartis. The vehicle was possibly used exclusively for the transporting of Novartis executives.Thomas Hobi, press spokesperson of the Police of Canton of Grison confirmed the helicopter in question was used by the police for transport and air surveillance. The helicopter was provided for use free of charge by the host organization of the meeting. it is important to know that Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella was this years host of the Bilderberg Conference at the “Suvretta House”. People of influence from politics and economics are invited to this private international meeting. The agenda as well as the list of participants usually remain secret.

Swiss Legislator demandes Parliamentary Investigation Comity

A prominent critic of the mystery- shrouded meeting is Jura- based National Councilor of the Swiss Peoples Party Dominique Baettig. He confirmed on inquiry that he will lounge a petition to establish a Parliamentary Investigation Comity (PUK), which aims on shedding light one the procedures of this years conference. In the petition hi asks for instance: “Why could Mr. Vasella provide his helicopter to the police and what are the costs of this corruption?” For Baettig the lending of a helicopter means a first step to privatization of state and police. “This procedure is a bad sign for the separation of state  and private sector.

Concealed license plates

Manfred Petritsch was the one to post the helicopter image on the internet. As a blogger he regularly writes critical articles on government and economics and as an outspoken opponent of the Bilderberg Conference he was also present in St.Moritz.

After the helicopter deal he no longer believes in the police of Crison’s neutrality.

“Wen the CEO of a leading global corporation lends his helicopter to the police, it’s clear one who’s side they are, certainly not on ours.”  For Petritsch it becomes also clear that the police distinguished between VIPs and normal citizens at least during the Bilderberg Conference by the fact that many cars of Bilderberg participants had their license plates covered up without interference of the police.

Government does not understand concerns.

Councilor of State Barbara Janon- Steiner does not understand the fuzz abate the borrowed helicopter. The Head of the Crison Justic Departement denies a conflict of interest as regarded by Bilderberg critics. Attendees the meeting included people that are protected by the vienna treaty, wherefore the Grison Police imposed security in collaboration with the Federal Security Service. “In order to fulfill this mission, we needed a helicopter anyway. That beeig provided by the host organization was as direct contribution to the costs of security. At least, in this way, we could avoid additional costs.” According to Janin- Steiner, the Bilderberg Group will contribute a substantial sum to the overall costs of the meeting. “The contribution will be several times that to be paid by the public.”

Memo to Obama: “Create more jobs or resign”

July 11th, 2011 by Mike Whitney

Abysmal. That’s the only way to describe Friday’s job’s report.

And, on top of that, the unemployment rate has been heading higher for the last 3 months. It’s now at 9.2 percent a full two years into the recovery. That’s unprecedented. Where are the jobs, that’s what everyone wants to know.

This is beyond disappointing. The stock market has regained most of the ground it lost since it touched bottom in March 2009, but the real economy is still stuck in the mud. Just look at the data. Here’s a clip from economist Tim Duy who sums it up perfectly:

“…the labor force fell, the participation rate fell, the employment to population ratio fell, the number of employed plummeted, and the number of unemployed climbed. Private nonfarm payrolls gains a paltry 57k, and the drag from government cutbacks pulled the overall jobs gain to just 18k. Far short of the numbers needed to even hold unemployment steady.” (“Grim”, Tim Duy, Fed Watch)

Get the picture? It’s all bad. And guess what? Those “18,000 new jobs” falls within the Labor Depts margin for error, so there could actually be “no new jobs”. Will that wake up Obama? Probably not.

How do you light a fire under Washington, that’s the question? Is Congress even aware that we’re undergoing a major jobs crisis or are they too busy bickering over tax cuts for fatcats or how much money they can divert from Social Security to Wall Street?

Look; the official rate of unemployment is over 9% and rising. The real rate is much higher.

The states are firing tens of thousands of teachers and public employees every month because they need to balance their budgets and they’re not taking in enough revenue. The stimulus is dwindling (which means that fiscal policy is actually contractionary in real terms) And the 10-year Treasury has dipped below 3 percent (as of Monday morning.) In other words, the bond market is signalling “recession”, even while the dope in the White House is doing his utmost to slice $4 trillion off the deficits.

Does that make any sense?

Maybe if you’re Herbert Hoover, it does. But it makes no sense at all if you were elected with a mandate to “change” the way Washington operates and put the country back to work. Obama is just making a bad situation worse by gadding about in his golf togs blabbering about belt tightening. It’s enough to make you sick.

Just think of the message Obama is sending our trading partners. By refusing to spend more on stimulus, Obama is announcing to the world that his administration will do nothing to rebuild the middle class and shore up flagging global demand. They’ve got to love that in China! Instead, he wants to make increase the pain, by cutting off the bloodflow of Federal spending while households are still are still digging out from the losses they sustained after the housing bubble burst. That will just make it harder for people to patch their balance sheets and get back to normal. Doesn’t Obama see that?

Do you know what it’s going take to find jobs for all the people who want them? According to economist Gary Burtless from the Brookings Institution, “To bring the adult employment rate back to its pre-recession level, we would need to add about 11 million new jobs. At the pace of job growth we have seen since the start of the year, that task may take decades.”

And here’s more from the New York Times:

“The economy needs to add about 150,000 jobs a month just to keep up with normal population growth. The protracted stretch of weak-to-moderate job creation over the last two years has left many of the people who lost jobs during the recession increasingly desperate. There are now 14.1 million unemployed, with 6.3 million of them having searched for work for six months or longer. Including those who are working part time because they cannot find full-time work and those who have stopped looking, the broader unemployment rate is now 16.2 percent, its highest level since December 2010.” (“Job Growth Falters Badly, Clouding Hope for Recovery”, New York Times)

So, we’re in trouble, right? Big trouble. Not only are we not creating jobs, the administration is not providing sufficient resources to the states so they can keep the people who ARE employed still working. It’s madness.

Some of this can be attributed to supply disruptions in Japan or problems in Europe, but not very much. And, yes, the Fed should get some of the blame for fiddling the money supply with QE2, it’s wacko bond buying program that sent gas and food prices through the roof. That slowed consumer spending enough to discourage business owners from hiring more workers. But QE2 is not the real problem. The real problem is that the recovery is running out of steam because the government is reducing its spending and consumers aren’t in a position where they can make up the difference. So, it gets down to this: Either we get a second round of stimulus or unemployment is going to climb even higher and growth will continue to flag. It’s one or the other.

Nemački rekvijem za evro

July 11th, 2011 by Thomas Darnstädt

Lideri evrozone već četrnaest meseci ređaju spasonosne planove, susreću se na napetim sastancima na vrhu, svađaju se oko labavih kompromisa i sve više povećavaju rizike za Evropsku Uniju. Takođe već četrnaest meseci izbegavaju da pogledaju istinu u oči: ne može se dalje ovako. Evro, onakav kakav je bio smišljen, više ne postoji, a evropska monetarna unija više ne funkcioniše. Ono što je sada potrebno je plan B.

Nedostatak demokratskog legitimiteta jemaca je danas glavni hendikep u zajedničkom upravljanju krizom. Prošlo je vreme suptilnih debata kako bismo saznali da li evropski Parlament uključuje građane u odluke Saveta i Komisije na fer i srazmeran način. Kada stvari postanu ozbiljne, kao što je to trenutno slučaj, odluke više ne donose organi koji su, globalno gledano, demokratski, već šaka lidera koji se više manje tajno sastaju na samitima.

MIROVNI PLAN I EKONOMSKI RAT

Sve to ljuti građane. Dužnička kriza je oborila već dve evropske vlade, u Irskoj i Portugaliji, a uskoro će se isto to desiti verovatno i u Španiji i Grčkoj. Ni za Nemce nije ništa lakša situacija. Linija rascepa deli kontinent na dva dela: na one kojima je sve više potreban novac i na one koje moraju to da finansiraju. Isfrustrirani Grci napadaju Nemce, a Nemci napadaju Grke, Portugalce, Špance i Italijane. Evropska Unija, politički projekat koji bi trebalo kontinentu da donese mir, verovatno će se pretvoriti u ekonomski rat između zemalja članica.

Evro, stvoren sa ciljem da trajno poveže Evropu, je postao pretnja broj jedan za budućnost kontinenta. Raspad monetarne unije bi unazadio Evropu za desetak godina – udarac od kojeg se možda nikada neće oporaviti, naročito zato što nove azijske sile prete njenom položaju. Zato evropski lideri brane evro po svaku cenu. I zbog toga smišljaju toliko spasonosnih planova. Žele da kupe vreme. Nadaju se da će se tržišta smiriti i da će njihove reforme delovati.

I pored svih pomoćnih mera i rizika koje jemci podnose, bolesne države evrozone su i dalje na istom mestu kao i pre godinu dana: na ivici provalije. Premije za rizik njihovih državnih obveznica su dostigle nove rekorde i Grcima je potreban svež novac kako bi izbegli bankrot. Rizik krize stiže i druge zemlje evrozone i daleko je od kraja. Ako stvari prikažemo shematski, Evopska Unija ima dve opcije. Prva je radikalna: evropski lideri bi sve zaustavili i napustili bolesne države njihovoj sudbini. Druga opcija je pragmatičnija: te države bi, htele-ne htele, nastavile da idu svojim putem, ali pomoću mera štednje i moleći se za oporavak. Ni jedno od ta dva rešenja ne bi bilo jeftino.

PONOVNO UVOĐENJE DRAHME

Šok terapija bi trebalo da funkcioniše na sledeći način: zemlje evrozone će napustiti Grčku svojoj sudbini kada se budu razočarale u ostvaren mali napredak i zbog nedostatka svetlosti na kraju tunela. Posle potrošenih milijardi, one više ne žele da išta daju Atini. Grčka bi ubrzo postala insolventna jer ne bi mogla da dođe do pozajmica. Pošto grčke kreditne institucije još uvek podržavaju veliki deo državnog duga, bankarski sektor bi mogli da zadese lančani bankroti. Ovakav pristup preti i da zarazi ostale države. Ako Grčka zapadne u bankrot van svake kontrole, investitori bi verovatno odbili da ulažu i u druge bolesne države. Tako da bi i druge banke bile ugrožene u tako izazvanoj lančanoj reakciji.

Naspram scenarija sa neizbežnim posledicama, mnogi ozbiljno razmišljaju o krajnjem rešenju: da Grčka napusti monetarnu uniju i da ponovo uvede drahmu. Ovu ideju je imala i vlast u Atini pre par nedelja, a sada je takođe podržavaju i svetski renomirani stručnjaci iz ekonomije. Podržava je na primer Nuriel Rubini, ekonomista sa Univerziteta u Nju Jorku. Prema tom čuvenom ekonomisti, jedini način da Grčka povrati svoju konkurentnost je da devalvira svoju sopstvenu valutu. Po njegovim argumentima, sve finansijske krize su pokazale da jedino devalvacija nacionalne valute može da povrati ekonomiju na dobar put.

Ali kriza ne bi stala sa isterivanjem Grčke. U stvari, ona bi mogla da postane još gora. Državni dugovi bi mogli da promene devizu preko noći. Njihova vrednost bi pala jako brzo zbog devalvacije drahme, a grčki zajmoprimci bi jedva otplaćivali svoje dugove. Banke bi opet bile pod pritiskom ne samo u Grčkoj već i u ostatku evrozone. I opet bi morale da se uspostave mere pomoći bankarskom sektoru.

Na kraju bi monetarna unija verovatno bila podeljena na dve grupe: s jedne strane bi bile zemlje sa jednom jakom monetom, a s druge strane zemlje koje bi se vratile svojoj nacionalnoj valuti, i to slaboj. Ovakvo rešenje podržavaju kritičari evra, kao što je Vilhelm Neling, bivši član administrativnog saveta Bundesbanke.

On je sa grupom istomišljenika bezuspešno podneo tužbu federalnom sudu protiv uvođenja evra, i trenutno tuži državu zbog fonda za spasavanje evra. Ustavni sud bi uskoro trebalo da donese odluku.

Druga alternativa raspadanju monetarne unije nije nimalo manje opasna i direktno bi dovela do „unije transfera”, koja je već odavno na snazi posle godinu dana bdenja nad Grčkom. „Evropski mehanizam finansijske stabilnosti” (MES), stalni fond podrške evru, koji treba da stupi na snagu 2013. godine, bi bila još jedna etapa na tom klizavom putu. Krajnji scenario bi mogao ovako da izgleda: deficitarne države bi finansirale severne zemlje članice, a krediti bi se pretvorili u nepovratnu pomoć i bez naplatnih kamata.

STALNA UNIJA TRANSFERA

Monetarnu uniju bi zamenila finansijska unija, a zadužene države bi postale države pod infuzijom, zavisne od pomoći njihovih ekonomski čvršćih komšija – kao Medzođorno u Italiji ili Valonija u Belgiji. Kako bi se ova eventualnost sprečila, mnogi ekonomisti i finansijski stručnjaci preporučuju da se što pre ostvari politička unija Evrope oko jedne jake centralne vlade.

Međutim, stvari nisu tako jednostavne jer povećana integracija neće obavezno eliminisati ekonomske neravnoteže. A to najbolje znaju Nemci koji su imali slično iskustvo pre dvadeset godina za vreme stvaranja monetarne unije između dve Nemačke. Nemačka marka je 1. jula 1990. godine zamenila staru istočnonemačku marku po stopi 1:1. Posle samo tri meseca, Istočna Nemačka se ujedinila sa Federalnom Republikom.

To je postao model monetarne unije kombinovane sa političkom unijom. Ali oni koji su verovali da će brzo ujedinjenje omogućiti amortizaciju ekonomskog šoka kojeg je prouzrokovalo monetarno ujedinjenje dve Nemačke, ubrzo su se razočarali. Ekonomske neravnoteže su se zaista i povećale. Na hiljade istočnonemačkih preduzeća je otišlo pod stečaj jer nisu uspevali da podignu svoju produktivnost na nivo zapadnih standarda. Stopa nezaposlenosti se naglo povećala, a finansijski transferi između dve Nemačke su brzo prešle milijardu. Istočni deo Nemačke i danas teško hramlje iza zapadnog dela.

Zaključak: nemačko ujedinjenje ne treba da služi kao model, već treba da nas inspiriše na oprez. Ono nam pokazuje kako jedna loše smišljena monetarna unija može jako brzo da se pretvori u uniju stalnog transfera. Takav jedan model i onako ne bio u skladu sa evropskim sporazumima – trebalo bi doneti nove sporazume, koje treba da usvoje svi nacionalni parlamenti, ili čak da ih prihvate svi građani putem referenduma. Ali dotle nije nemoguće da će narodi Evrope i njihovi predstavnici već odlučiti o budućnosti monetarne unije. U Atini ili u Lisabonu na primer, ako se reforme budu sudarile sa otporom naroda. Ili u Berlinu – kada budu morali da plate milijarde za bankarske garancije.
 

Prevod za Novi Standard Svetlana MAKSOVIĆ

Tekst na srpskom jeziku možete naći na http://standard.rs/vesti/41-svet/7818-pigl-nemaki-rekvijem-za-evro-.html

Originalni tekst možete naći na Der Spiegel http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-79054996.html

BEIRUT – Syrian government supporters smashed windows at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus on Monday, raised a Syrian flag and scrawled graffiti calling the American ambassador a “dog” in anger over the envoy’s visit to an opposition stronghold, witnesses said.

French Embassy guards in the Syrian capital fired in the air to hold back loyalists of President Bashar Assad’s regime who also attacked that compound to protest the French ambassador’s visit last week to the same restive city, Hama, in central Syria. Protesters smashed embassy windows and shattered the windshield of a diplomatic SUV outside the compound. The French Foreign Ministry said three embassy workers were injured.

Both the U.S. and France accused Syrian security forces of being too slow to respond to the attacks. And France said Syria was not living up to its international commitments to protect diplomatic missions and allow envoys freedom of movement.

“The people want to kick out the dog,” read graffiti written on the wall of the U.S. embassy, along with another line cursing America. The protesters smashed the embassy sign hanging over one gate.

Assad’s regime called the French and American ambassadors’ visits to Hama last week interference in the country’s internal affairs and accused the envoys of undermining Syria’s stability.

U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford on Thursday visited Hama where he was greeted by friendly crowds who put flowers on his windshield and olive branches on his car, chanting: “Down with the regime!” The State Department said the trip was to support the right of Syrians to demonstrate peacefully.

The protests erupted after Ford harshly criticized the Syrian government’s crackdown on a popular uprising that has raged over the past four months.

The U.S. said no embassy personnel were hurt in the melee and there was no immediate word on any other casualties.

The mob also attacked the residence Ford shortly after protesters breached a wall and stormed the embassy compound, U.S. officials in Washington said. They said no one was injured on the attack on Ford’s home, which is not part of the embassy compound, but that there was damage to his residence.

Marine guards quickly dispersed the mob, the officials said.

A U.S. official said the Obama administration will formally protest the attack and may seek compensation for the damage. The official said the State Department would summon a senior Syrian diplomat on Monday to condemn the assault and demand that Syria uphold obligations to protect foreign diplomatic missions.

Because the Marine guards reacted quickly, the attackers were not able to break into any buildings on the compound, the official said. But the attackers damaged the chancery building.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Syrian security forces were slow to respond to the attack.

At the French embassy, there was a similar scene.

The French flag was removed and replaced with a Syrian one.

“God, Syria and Bashar. The nation that gave birth to Bashar Assad will not kneel,” read graffiti written outside the embassy. One witness said three protesters were injured when guards beat them with clubs. The witness asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Hiam al-Hassan, a witness, said about 300 people were at the French Embassy while hundreds targeted the American diplomatic compound.

“Syrians demonstrated peacefully in front of the French embassy but they were faced with bullets,” said al-Hassan.

Another protester at the French Embassy, Thuraya Arafat, 58, said: “I am here to find out why the French ambassador visited Hama. Did he go there to meet armed gangs?”

Some 1,600 civilians and 350 members of security forces have been killed since demonstrations began, activists say. Syria blames what it calls “armed gangs” and Muslim extremists for the violence.

On Sunday, Ford attacked the Syrian government for allowing pro-government protests while beating up anti-regime demonstrators. The pro-Assad protests in Syria are known as “mnhebak,” or “we love you.”

“I have not seen the police assault a “mnhebak” demonstration yet,” Ford wrote on the embassy’s Facebook page. “On July 9, a “mnhebak” group threw rocks at our embassy, causing some damage. They resorted to violence, unlike the people in Hama, who have stayed peaceful.”

“And how ironic that the Syrian Government lets an anti-U.S. demonstration proceed freely while their security thugs beat down olive branch-carrying peaceful protesters elsewhere,” he said. “I saw no signs of armed gangs anywhere not at any of the civilian street barricades we passed,” Ford added.

On Sunday, the State Department complained that pro-government demonstrators threw tomatoes, eggs and rocks at the embassy over the weekend to protest Ford’s visit to Hama. There were no reports of injuries, but a senior department official said two embassy employees were pelted with food during the 31-hour demonstration.

Monday’s protests coincided with government-organized talks in Damascus on possible political reforms after four months of unrest.

However the talks did not stop Syrian forces from pressing their crackdown on the opposition.

Before the embassy attacks, Syrian troops stormed the country’s third-largest city with armoured personnel carriers and heavy machine-guns, a rights activist. At least two people were killed and 20 wounded in the attacks in Homs, activists said.

The clashes in Homs in central Syria suggest the Assad regime will not ease its four-month-old crackdown on the opposition despite proposing some political changes.

Vice-President Farouk al-Sharaa called Sunday for a transition to democracy in a country ruled for four decades by the authoritarian Assad family dynasty. But the talks, which wrap up Monday, are boycotted by the main anti-government factions and are unlikely to produce any breakthroughs to immediately end the bloodshed.

The two days of meetings, however, were seen as a major concession by Assad’s regime after the most serious challenge to its rule.

In Homs, an activist in the city told The Associated Press clashes occurred after security forces on Sunday killed the son of an anti-regime tribal leader. The unrest lasted until 5 a.m. (0200 GMT) Monday.

Street lights were turned off then troops started entering neighbourhoods, shooting with heavy machine-guns atop Russian-made armoured personnel carriers, said the activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.

He said some people cowered in their bathrooms during the height of the assault. At least one person was killed and 20 wounded, the activist said.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, the London-based director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also said forces pushed into parts of Homs.

Deficit Reduction Versus Democracy

July 11th, 2011 by Shamus Cooke

Listening to Congress debate deficit deduction is like listening to a den of lions discuss the welfare of zebras. In both cases the debate is very one-sided. Democrats and Republicans sound disagreeable on TV, but their arguments differ by the tiniest of degrees (like lions fighting over how best to eat a zebra.)

The zebras in this case are U.S. working people, who are not seeing their interests represented by their so-called representatives. Instead of fixing the national deficit in the way that the vast majority of Americans would like, only the opinions of a tiny minority of very rich people are being considered. Both political parties are uniting to reduce the deficits on the backs of working people.  

For example, Obama’s chief of staff, William Daley, spoke recently about the budget deficit and the need for massive cuts to social programs, which include Social Security and Medicare: 
 
“Everyone [Democrats and Republicans] agrees that a number around $4 trillion [in cuts] is the number that will make a serious dent in our deficit…He [Obama] didn’t come to this town to do little things. He came to do big things.” (July 10th, 2011).  

In a recent presidential address Obama said: “Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can’t afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing, and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs.”

This is the language of the right wing, which is now the language of both the Democrat and Republican parties. In reality, the U.S. government could easily access trillions of dollars in revenue; it simply chooses not to. Both political parties refuse to discuss how raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations could easily fix the current deficit issue on both the federal and state levels. The ONLY mention of taxing the rich is in the context of the Bush tax cuts, which some Democrats would allow to expire in the coming year; but it’s very possible that Democrats will “compromise” on this issue yet again.  

Even economist and liberal Obama-backer Paul Krugman put two and two together when he said:

“in fact, if all you did was listen to his [Obama's] speeches, you might conclude that he basically shares the GOP’s diagnosis of what ails our economy and what should be done to fix it.” (July 8th, 2011).
  
The rich and corporations have always hated Social Security and Medicare; they’d rather not pay taxes towards these programs at all. It lowers their profits. And ONLY this perspective is being shared on the mainstream media and being discussed in the halls of Congress. If massive cuts are made to these federal programs at the expense of millions of working people — without substantially raising taxes on the wealthy — then the safety net in the U.S. will have been critically injured.  

How would the vast majority of working people in this country like the deficit to be fixed? Poll after poll has indicated that cutting Social Security and Medicare is VERY unpopular, while raising taxes on the wealthy is extremely popular. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll reported that 78 percent of Americans are opposed to cuts in Medicare, while 72 percent favor taxing the rich. (April 20th, 2011).

But polls are just one way of expressing popular opinion, i.e. democracy. Another alternative is massive street mobilizations. In Greece the majority of people have exposed the anti-democratic policies of their government, which is trying to impose massive cuts to social programs to fix Greece’s budget problems. Sound familiar? If the Greek government doesn’t change course it will have zero popular backing, i.e., it will be a dictatorship. Obama’s silence on this situation in Greece is very telling.  

In order to follow the Greek and Wisconsin examples of massive mobilizations, there must be an organizational push within working class organizations to make it happen. A resolution adopted unanimously by the Executive Committee of San Francisco Labor Council on July 5, 2011 expresses this vision: 

“The big question now is what the labor movement will do to meet this challenge confronting working people and the great majority. The choice is clear: either confine labor’s protest against cuts in the social programs to pronouncements opposing them, coupled with lobbying; or combine these efforts with an all-out mobilization of the rank-and-file and our allies to prevent the cuts from being enacted.”

The San Francisco Labor Council resolution also encouraged all sectors of labor to organize “a campaign to mobilize support for “No Cuts or Concessions! Tax the Corporations and the Rich!” in the streets — where it counts the most — and in every corner of the nation.”  

Democracy is no longer expressed in the halls of Congress nor in the White House and must therefore be transferred to the streets.  


Shamus Cooke
is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (
www.workerscompass.org)  He can be reached at [email protected]

References

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/11/us/politics/11debt.html?hp
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/08/opinion/08krugman.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/53455.html

AP notes:

Many Americans will face hard times for a long time to come.

***

Geithner says will be some time before many people feel like the country is recovering.

Geithner tells NBC’s “Meet the Press” that it’s a very tough economy. He says that for a lot of people “it’s going to feel very hard, harder than anything they’ve experienced in their lifetime now, for a long time to come.”

Of course, Geithner is a large part of the reason that it will be so hard.

As I pointed out in May:

Geithner has been a big part of the problem.

He’s previously said that his job as head of the New York Fed wasn’t as a regulator, even though one of the Fed’s core jobs is to regulate. As Dylan Ratigan writes:

In Geithner’s own words during confirmation hearings in March: “First of all, I’ve never been a regulator…I’m not a regulator.” According to the New York fed bank’s Web site, that was your job!!

Quoting from the Fed’s website: “As part of our core mission, we supervise and regulate financial institutions in the Second District.” That district of course is the epicenter for bailed out banks and billion dollar bonuses.

***

Indeed, as I’ve previously noted:

Tim Geithner told the Today Show that:

It’s “deeply unfair” that some financial institutions that got taxpayer-paid bailouts are emerging in better shape from the recession than millions of ordinary Americans.

Geithner also argued that President Barack Obama had no choice when confronted with a financial crisis.

“As the president has said, we had to do some very unpopular things,” Geithner said. “People looked at what had happened.”

“It’s not fair. It’s deeply unfair,” he said. “He (Obama) had to decide whether he was going to act to fix it or stand back … and that would have been calamitous for the American economy.”

There are only a couple of minor inaccuracies in Geithner’s statements:

The government hasn’t done anything to fix the economy

Geithner’s entire approach is wrong, because the economy can’t recover until many of the “financial institutions that got taxpayer-paid bailouts [and] are emerging in better shape” arebroken up

The government has been anemic in addressing unemployment

Moreover, it is not like their approach fell on them and they couldn’t do anything about it. Geithner … and the boys made a conscious decisionto side with the oligarchy at the expense of the people.

As Simon Johnson and James Kwak write:

[There was a] point at which the government had to decide if it would defend the financial oligarchy from populist outrage, or whether it would reform the financial system that brought us the financial crisis and severe recession. We do not think it was an easy choice. But ultimately Obama and his advisers chose to bet on the bankers they knew. The result has been even larger banks and an even more concentrated financial sector.

***

Geithner ended the interview with this pearl of wisdom:

“What happened in our country should never happen again,” he said. “People were paid for taking enormous risks. It was a crazy way to run a financial system.” Geithner said, “It’s the government’s job … to do a better job of restraining that kind of risk-taking.”

Indeed … too bad that Geithner and the boys are still encouraging that kind of risk-taking.

Geithner was, of course, largely responsible for much of the failure of the government to restrain risk-taking in the first place.

As William Black points out:

Mr. Geithner, as President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York since October 2003, was one of those senior regulators who failed to take any effective regulatory action to prevent the crisis, but instead covered up its depth.

Geithner was also complicit in Lehman’s accounting fraud [and seethis].

And pushed to pay AIG’s CDS counterparties at full value, and then to keep the deal secret.

And as Robert Reich notes today, Geithner was “very much in the center of the action” regarding the secret bail out of Bear Stearns without Congressional approval.

([G]eithner and his buddies helped blow the bubble and try to cover up wrongdoing on Wall Street.)

Geithner has been equally bad as Treasury boss. Indeed, there is hardly a single independent economist who thinks he has been responding appropriately to the economic crisis.

Sorry to say, but Geithner has long been a yes-man to the powers-that-be, who ships pallets of money wherever he is told without question or any follow-up or tracking whatsoever.

Even worse, Geithner has been called an idiot by Nassim Taleb and a “con man” by Time Magazine.

***

And because Geithner (along with Bernanke) have insisted that the big banks be bailed out at Main Street’s expense, that the status quo be protected instead of reformed, and that the U.S. insure the debts of the too big to fails, the next crisis will be even bigger than the last.

“The Stones Will Cry Out”

July 11th, 2011 by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

A scandal erupted in mid-June and marred an exhibit in Paris at UNESCO which featured traditional stone crosses from Armenian church architecture known as Khachkars. These unique sculptures and reliefs had been included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in November 2010.(1) The exhibit, co-sponsored by the Republic of Armenia’s Culture Ministry and inaugurated in the presence of numerous diplomats, artists, historians, and clergy, would have celebrated a magnificent tribute to the Khachkar tradition had it not been for the fact that at the last minute UNESCO erased all mention of where the stone crosses featured in photographs were to be found. The explanation for the elimination of the place names locating the pieces, as well as of a huge map of historic Armenia designating those locations, was that, since the Khachkars were not all on the territory of the Republic of Armenia , but could also be found in present-day Azerbaijan and Turkey , it would be better to maintain silence.

But, there is no way to maintain silence: “The stones will cry out.” And they did. Representatives of the Collectif VAN (Vigilance Armenienne contre le Negationnisme), present at the opening, protested with an open letter to Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO. (2) In the letter, they argued that not only does it violate academic practice to fail to mention the location of art works in such an exhibit, but, by ignoring their location, the exhibitors were rendering themselves complicit in a wild distortion of the historical record. To ignore the place names is to conceal the historical presence of the Armenian people and civilization in that vast region.

Travellers through eastern Anatolia and present-day Azerbaijan will find some Khachkars in their places of origin – although thousands have been deliberately destroyed — and will make the historical connection.(3) It is not only the beautiful stone crosses but the wealth of religious monuments — be they chapels, churches, cathedrals, or monasteries – populating that geographical region that bear testimony to the physical and cultural presence of Christian Armenians since the fourth century. As Italian art historian Arpago Novello identified, this religious art was an integral part of the Armenians’ identity. “The Armenians’ tenacious attachment to the Christian religion,” he wrote,” testified by the thousands of crosses erected or sculpted almost everywhere and for every occasion, and by the extraordinary wealth of sacred buildings, was not merely a spiritual matter but a prime feature of their very identity and a symbol of their physical survival.”(4)

Yet that very presence is subject to denial and distortion. My brother, my husband, and I experienced this during a journey through eastern Anatolia in May. In place of the historical record we encountered mythology, with its own personages, events, and causality. In this mythological landscape, we were not in historic Armenia, let alone Western Armenia, but in eastern Turkey, in one of the Anatolian provinces, and everything we might have expected to recognize from past historical accounts had disappeared or had been transformed into something else, often into its very opposite.

We were travelling as part of a small group of Armenian Americans who sought to retrace the steps of parents and ancestors, to visit their villages and towns where they were born and lived before the genocide. It was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. We had scattered pieces from our parents, like names of villages, descriptions of some localities, and we had read the accounts of eye-witnesses to the Genocide, like Johannes Lepsius, Jakob Künzler, Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, and others. But when we looked at a present-day map of Turkey , we more often than not found nothing resembling the place names. Our German guide book did not offer much help.

Without Armen Aroyan, our tour guide who has 25 years’ experience in accompanying pilgrims through the region, and our driver, who spoke both Turkish and Kurdish, we would never have found our way.

By asking at various points along the way, we did find Mashgerd, my father’s village. We learned it is no longer Mashgerd but Chakirtash, as the sign indicating entry into the town indicated: Chakirtash Köyüne (community), it said, Hos Geldiniz (Welcome). My father spoke of the Old Country in rapturous terms, telling us that the mountains, rivers, rolling hills, and green pastures in Maine in northern New England where we had a summer home, reminded him of those childhood surroundings in Mashgerd. His aunt, Anna Mirakian, who found him after the war and took him to America , described the town’s rich landscape in her memoirs as a paradise on earth. “The people of Mashgerd,” she wrote, “having abandoned their homes, fields, farms, orchards, and gardens, were being deported with broken and inflicted hearts from their heaven-like birthplace with tears in their eyes.” (5)

The mountains, green hillsides, and rivers were still there, but the size of the village has shrunk considerably. As soon as we climbed down from our minibus, the local villagers streamed out of their modest homes to greet us, displaying the same warm hospitality we were to receive everywhere. They offered us Ayran, a yogurt drink which we knew as Tun, as well as tea. They asked if we had come to look for buried treasures, since many Armenians had buried their valuables before being deported, in hopes of recovering them at a later date. No, we assured them, we were not seeking buried treasures, but treasures of another sort.

Here in Mashgerd what we were looking for was the church in which, as my father had recounted, the townspeople had been locked for four days before being taken out to be killed. “There is no church here,” the villagers told us to our dismay. There was a church some kilometers away that we could reach on foot, they said, but none in the town. That church may have been the St. Sargis cathedral which my father’s aunt wrote about. In her memoirs, she referenced a magnificent church in what was called the Lower Village : “Located on the banks of the Euphrates , Van Gyugh was a beautiful, lush green village,” she wrote. “The magnificent and glorious St. Sargis cathedral, where Easter services were held every year, was located there.” (6). But that was not the church my father meant. No, he said it was in Mashgerd, near the center of the village. Although the villagers had no knowledge of such a church, we knew there must be one, first, because wherever there was a sizable Armenian community there was a church or at least a chapel; secondly, because my father had written about its being in Mashgerd. And, his aunt had also spoken of a church there right in the center of the village.

 After a long while, a very, very old man then appeared and said, yes, in fact, there was a church – kilise – in the town. He led us down a dirt road, past a fountain, and pointed to a large structure which at first did not look at all like a church. It was not shaped like other Armenian churches we knew, with their round central structures mounted on dodecagons or other polygons, rounded arches, and conical domes, but was oblong and had a flat roof. Then the old man pointed to certain bricks cemented into the façade, which had undeniable Armenian characters inscribed on them: names, dates, and khachkars; they were stones, our guide Armen explained, which had perhaps been taken from the cemetery and used in building the church, according to a custom known throughout the area. Or, they were bricks with khachkars designed to be part of the façade. So this was indeed a church, and it must have been the one my father knew! The shape of the church turned out to be one of many traditional Armenian church designs, known as the “long church,” and was similar to those churches in Artsathi, north or Erzerum, or to the one in Dirarklar. (7) Both are unadorned, with no round apses and had wooden roofs.

Back in 1916, when the people were let out of the church after four days and taken to the center of the town, my father who was eight years old at the time had run for his life, and managed to reach his grandmother’s house about 100 yards away. Her house had a stable in the back where he hid. I walked that distance in several different directions from the church and the nearby central square looking for a dwelling that would fit that description, and I found several. Which one might have been his grandmother’s house? His aunt also referred in her memoirs to her “ancestral Kokats – hay and stable – located in the center of the town,” which might have been the same dwelling. Which one was it? There was no way of telling.

Locating Tzack, my mother’s village, was not so easy, also because it was no longer known by that name, but was called Inn in Turkish. How different it was from her descriptions! At that time, there were about 100-150 families in Tzack, now, the villagers told us, the only inhabitants were 3 brothers and their families. An old woman, well into her 70s, welcomed us warmly and, hearing that we were Armenian Americans, told us that she herself was half Armenian. Her mother had been saved as a child and been married off to a Turkish man. “I remember only,” the woman said, “that she always cried. She had lost everything, everyone, all her family.” She went on to tell her own story. “I too was married to a Turkish man,” she said wistfully, “and as a bride I also did nothing but cry.” Visibly shaken by the recollection, she excused herself: “I have high blood pressure and cannot speak much longer.”

My mother’s grandfather had been a well-to-do landowner with rich agricultural land including vineyards that covered the hillsides. All I saw was one lonely wine stock twisting up a stone wall over a gate supporting a thatched roof to the woman’s house, with some grapes hanging down. Two or three chickens trotted across the dirt path, looking for something to peck at. Peering behind the house with the grapevine, I saw a terrace with bee hives and bees swarming around. I remembered that a cousin of my mother’s, the son of the woman who had found her and taken her to America, always kept bees in Watertown, Massachusetts, and would bring us honey combs. This was apparently a family tradition that they had maintained from the Old Country.

As we walked down from her dwelling and reached the main dirt road, we saw on the other side of it a vast plain studded with ruins of buildings. Stones, two or three piled on top of one another in neat rows, stood there where houses had once been, all organized in blocks, with walkways or streets in between. The stones were the remnants of homes, shops, and businesses in a highly developed settlement. Walking along the grass was like picking one’s way through stone foundations of ancient Roman settlements.

Another piece of the jigsaw puzzle was Agin (Agn), the town where my mother’s adoptive Turkish parents lived. There are two towns with similar names, one south of Arabkir, the other, to the north. Armen reckoned the latter must be what we were looking for, since it was within walking distance (perhaps several days’) from Tzack, which dovetailed with my mother’s account of the distance. Today it is known as Kemaliya, named after Mustafa Kemal. The story goes that after a visit to the place, Ataturk reportedly raved about how lovely it was, whereupon it was renamed and restored. It was nothing like the other villages we had seen. The main street was lined with beautifully renovated wooden facades, giving it the air of a Swiss chalet ski resort. There was a building housing a museum which bore the unmistakable architectural traits of a lovely Armenian church with its graceful arches.

What we were looking for in Agin was the mosque on whose steps a Turkish shepherd had laid my infant mother. He had found her, the only survivor among a field of corpses of women and children who had been taken from Tzack and shot. As was the custom with foundlings, he took her to the town, perhaps his home, and left her on the mosque steps, where a gendarme named Omar found her and took her in. Omar’s wife, who was childless, did not want the baby because it was Giavour (Christian), and because she felt she was too old to bring up a child, so she took her back to the mosque the following day and placed her again on the steps. While Gulnaz chatted with her lady friends, the child crawled over to her and tugged on her skirt, which she took as a sign from Allah that she should take care of her, and she did.

The mosque was very old and very beautiful, built in 1070, restored in 1960 and again in 2005, located in the center of the village on a street going up from the main street. In front of the mosque was an open area like a small piazza, which was where perhaps Gulnaz and her lady friends had sat.

On the way to Erzincan, where we would spend the night before proceeding to Kars , we stopped at Kemagh Gorge. Standing on the bridge over the river, we gazed up at the rocky ledges on both sides. It was from those lofty heights that Armenian men, lined up two by two and tied by the wrists, were thrust down the gorge, after having been bayoneted in the ribs by their murderers.(8) Although the name Kemagh Gorge rings with an ominous tone to the ears of anyone familiar with the history, a newcomer to the site would have no way of knowing what he was seeing. There is a plaque fitted into the stone on one side of the bridge, but it makes no mention of the tens of thousands of Armenians pushed to their deaths into the river. Instead, the plaque commemorates six Turkish soldiers who had perished in a tragic automobile accident some years back.

In Zatkig, a village along the road to Kars , we came upon another small church bearing testimony to its Armenian past. In 1915, that province had a population of about 150,000, ten percent of whom were Armenian. On the wall of the 10th century church, though in ruins, were bits of frescoes visible, painted in blue and white. Stones had been walled into the formerly open arches, and the structure, also of the long church type, was now being used as a storage place for wood. From the abundance of hay in the back, it appeared that it may also have been being used as a stable.

A similar image greeted us just prior to our entry to Erzurum , a city that was part of the ancient Armenian kingdom at the end of the 4th century: the ruins of a church with grass growing on what once was its roof. It looked like hair sprouting from the head of a Benedictine monk which should have been shorn.

But in Kars , our next stop, the church we visited stood out in magnificent contrast. The Apostles Church , built by King Abbas in 937, had been turned into a mosque in 1064. For a brief period of forty years beginning in 1878 during the Russian occupation, it served again as a Christian place of worship. At that time the Russians built on four porticos at four entrances, adding a distinctly Russian flavor. Then it was a museum between 1969-1980, and again became a mosque in 1994.

But there could be no mistake about it – this was a church. The majestic reliefs on the upper portion of the façade under the dome between the arches are easily identifiable as the twelve apostles, at least, to anyone familiar with church architecture and iconography. The sign in English, placed there for the benefit of foreign tourists, gives no hint as to who worshipped there before it became a mosque. It said the church had been built by one “Bagratid King Abbas (932-937)” and listed its subsequent functions. The word “Armenian” was nowhere to be found. Who the Bagratids were was left to the imagination.

The same mythological reality greeted us at Ani, the magnificent ancient city which once was the capital of the Armenian kingdom. Two large plaques on the side of the city’s ancient walls inform the visitor of Ani’s long illustrious history, again without reference to the word “Armenian.”

It was Ashot III (952-977), king of the Bagratids, who built Ani, the capital city “with its 1001 churches.” This was clearly a metaphor, but just as clearly evidence of the fact that a large number – hundreds – of churches had graced the rolling hillsides and nested in the cave-like apertures along the steep slopes of the gorge down to the Ahurian River . One such edifice was the Church of St. Gregor of Abughamrents, erected in the middle of the 10th century, perhaps by Abughamrents Pahlavani. The structure based on a dodecagon ground plan, is still standing with its dome, though the lower portions of the external façade are damaged.

The Church of the Redeemer, completed in 1035-1036, was also associated with the Pahlavani family, built by Ablgharib, son of Gregor. The interior, which measures 15 meters in diameter, is articulated in eight large niches, all of them once graced with murals. The structure today is a shadow of its former self, literally a half circle of the original structure. But since historically accurate photographs from the later 19th century exist, reconstruction is eminently feasible.  

The Church of St. Gregor built in 1215 by Tigran Honents, is a domed hall standing on a hilly mound.  The triangular slit apertures and arch shapes on the facades appear here for the first time in Armenian architecture together as external decorative elements. This church hosts the most beautiful and best preserved frescoes both inside the structure and on the outer walls, frescoes that cry out for restoration.

And the masterpiece of church architecture in Ani is the cathedral, an imposing structure which, despite its advanced state of decay, still displays a proud sense of majesty. According to the account of a contemporary historian, Stephan of Taron in the tenth century, the Bagratid King Ashot died in 977 and was succeeded by his son, Smbat who ruled from 977 to 989. Smbat commissioned the master architect Trdat to build a magnificent church and he set about the task. In the year 989, the year of Smbat’s death, an earthquake hit Constantinople , causing immense damage to the Santa Sophia church. A crack in the wall had burst under the impact of the earthquake. One person who knew what to do was Trdat, a famed stone mason, who had drawn up a plan and had built a model of the Santa Sophia church. So he went to Constantinople and used them as the basis for its reconstruction. Once that had been done, Trdat returned to Ani, and set to work on the cathedral.(9)     

When we left Ani and set out on the road to Van we were confronted with one monument which very prominently featured the word “Armenian.” This was something built between 1995 and 1997 in Igdir and modeled on the genocide memorial in Montebello , California ; the Igdir structure honors the memory of Turkish martyrs killed by Armenian assassins. The monument, which houses a museum with numerous photographs, commemorates Turkish diplomats and other public figures who were assassinated by terrorists belonging to the ASALA movement. According to the plaques inside the building, up to one million Turks (!) fell victim to them.

The next stop on our itinerary, Van, boasts of an ancient history stretching back to 800 B.C. when the Urartuans built the massive walls and fortress which enclosed the huge settlement whose houses are now buried under mounds of earth. Van was also the site of a spirited Armenian resistance against the Young Turks in 1915, one of the few which succeeded. Nearby we visited the Varakavank monastery with its seven churches. Last year, the Archbishop Ashjian had complained that the site was unkempt, and had asked that it be cleaned up. Happily, with funds collected for the effort, local residents swept it clean, and we found it in orderly condition.

The highpoint of our pilgrimage was Akhtamar. This is perhaps the most beautiful Armenian church ever built, with its unique bas reliefs depicting scenes from the old and new testaments. Its harmonious architectural forms gain in majesty by virtue of its location, high on a hill on an island in the green-blue-turquoise-colored Lake Van , surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Akhtamar has gained special significance over the past year, both artistic and political. The façade of the church has been fully restored, including the bas reliefs, the most magnificent such restoration effort in Turkey . (10) And in September 2010, Turkish authorities allowed a church service to be celebrated there, for the first time in 95 years. An altar piece with a depiction of the Virgin Mary with child, which was brought for the first service, remains.  Now the church should host the divine liturgy once a year. We were allowed to sing the Lord’s prayer (Hayr Mer) inside one chapel, but when Armen started filming the event, a guard told him to turn off the camera.

Though it defies belief, there is not one mention at the site of the fact that Akhtamar was and is an Armenian church. The architect was a monk named Manuel, who had built a palace for Gagik I, King of Vaspurakan, and between 915 and 921, he erected the church at Akhtamar. Though this is documented by historian Thomas Artsruni, there is no mention at the site today of who Manuel was, or what church he belonged to. This fact — perhaps even more than the controversy surrounding the 2010 service, the disagreements regarding who should or should not attend, or whether or not the cross could or should be placed on the top of the church — captures the psychological dilemma in official Turkey ’s attitude towards the Armenian question.

The official refusal of the Turkish establishment to acknowledge the 1915 Genocide has led it to attempt to deny the very existence over a thousand years of an Armenian civilization and culture. Because to acknowledge the existence of that tradition would lead to the question: what happened to that civilization? Why was it destroyed? How was it destroyed? Thus to say or to write, “This was an Armenian church” is so charged with associations that one prefers to avoid the words.   

But such an enterprise is futile. No amount of denial can eradicate the fact that such a civilization did exist in Anatolia since time immemorial. The stones do cry out, and increasing numbers of visitors from the Armenian Diaspora are travelling through the region and hearing the wonderful tales that the stones have to relate. Ordinary Turkish citizens, like the many we met during our visits to the villages and towns, had no problems in acknowledging the past. In Peshmashen on the way from Elazig to Arabkir, residents told us that their forefathers had been resettled there from Greece and the Balkans in the population transfer after World War I. They had been brought in to inhabit the homes and farms left empty after the expulsions and killings of Armenians. They swore that their forefathers had had nothing to do with the genocide and they were telling the truth. In Kharpert, local townspeople showed us historical photographs of the Euphrates College that had been replaced by another building. Many people spontaneously offered stories about their Armenian grandmothers, or mothers, as in Tzack. In Arabkir, the neighbors remembered with affection Sarkis, the last Armenian in the town who had died last year at the age of 95.

The problem lies not with the Turkish people. In fact, there is a wave of ethnic rediscovery sweeping across Turkey , whereby hundreds if not hundreds of thousands of Turkish citizens are uncovering their Armenian roots and working through their family histories.

The problem lies not with them, but with the Turkish establishment who, as Hrant Dink put it, has been suffering from “paranoia” as a result of the historical burden of the Genocide. To protect the paranoia, the Turkish establishment has perpetuated the fantasy of denial, even going to absurd lengths of trying to rewrite a history of the region which omits the Armenian presence.

As any clinical psychiatrist will attest, overcoming such paranoia must involve facing reality. This means acknowledging the historical record, not only recognizing the Genocide perpetrated by a specific Young Turk regime in a specific time frame and circumstances, but acknowledging the existence of the Armenian component – cultural, political, and religious – as an integral part of the history of what is today’s Turkey. The most appropriate approach would entail cooperative efforts by the Turkish authorities with Armenians, from the Republic of Armenia and the Diaspora, to restore and rebuild the artistic treasures of the Christian tradition, to rehabilitate that contribution to world civilization, and to reopen the houses of worship. The role of UNESCO should not be to provide cover for the distortion of history, but to let the stones cry out.

Muriel Mirak-Weissbach is the author of Through the Wall of Fire: Armenia – Iraq – Palestine: From Wrath to Reconciliation, 2009. She can be reached at [email protected] and www.mirak-weissbach.de.

 

Notes   

1. http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/fr/RL/00434

2. http://www.collectifvan.org/article.php?r=0&id=55039

3. Azeri bulldozers mowed down thousands of Khachkars in an Armenian cemetery in Jolfa, Nakhichevan, and the photograph of the cemetery prior to the destruction was displayed at the UNESCO exhibit.

4. Alpago Novello, “Armenian Arachitecture from East to West,” in The Armenians, Rizzoli , New York , 1986.

5. Anna Mirakian,  Wounds and Pains: A Child-Bereft Mother, Aprilian Genocide Series, No. 10, p. 25.            

6. Ibid., p. 16.

7. Josef Strzygowski, Die Baukunst der Armenier und Europa, Kunstverlag Anton Schroll & Co., G.M.B.H. in Wien, 1918. All the historical material pertaining to the church architecture mentioned in this article is drawn from this seminal work. Most valuable are the photographs in this work, all taken in the later 19th-early 20th century, long before the First World War. They show many of the churches as relatively intact. The cathedral in Kars , for instance, is shown before the Russian porticoes were added.   

8. Christopher J. Walker, “World War I and the Armenian Genocide,” in The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times, Volume II, Foreign Domination to Statehood: The Fifteenth Century to the Twentieth Century, edited by Richard G. Hovannisian, Macmailla, New York, 2004, p. 247.

9. Strzygowski, op. cit.

10. Etching of many of the Akhtamar reliefs, done by graphic artist Sartorius prior to the restoration, are available for purchase, and the proceeds go to finance continuing research on the Genocide based on documents of the German Foreign Ministry during World War I. See www.armenocide.net

VIDEO: Dužničko ropstvo Jugoslavije

July 10th, 2011 by Boris Malagurski

The Illegal State Murder of Humberto Leal Garcia

July 10th, 2011 by Bill Van Auken

The execution of Humberto Leal Garcia, carried out Thursday by the state of Texas, is symptomatic of the deep-going crisis of American capitalist society, characterized by criminality abroad and brutality at home.

Leal, a 38-year-old Mexican citizen who had lived in the US since the age of 2, was strapped to a gurney and injected with lethal drugs. As the deadly mixture entered his blood stream, Leal called out twice, “Viva Mexico!”

He had been convicted and sentenced to death more than 16 years earlier for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl. His case, along with those of 50 other Mexican citizens condemned to death in the US, became the subject of a 2004 International Court of Justice ruling that the cases of all 51 must be reviewed because they had been denied assistance from the Mexican consulate. Under the Vienna Convention, to which Washington is a signatory, consular access is a right granted to all individuals arrested for crimes outside their own country.

In the case of Leal, like those of the other Mexicans on death row, consular access was literally a life-and-death matter, determining whether they comprehended their rights under US law and were provided with competent attorneys, as opposed to, in Leal’s case, a court-appointed lawyer who had repeatedly been suspended and reprimanded for incompetence and ethics violations.

Texas Governor Rick Perry and the US Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 ruling, refused to block the execution, despite appeals by the Obama White House, the Justice Department, the United Nations and the government of Mexico. The UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions and torture justifiably described Leal’s execution as “an arbitrary deprivation of life” and said the conditions to which he had been subjected during the previous 16 years on death row “amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment according to well-established standards in international law.”

As in 2008, when Texas put to death another Mexican national covered by the International Court of Justice ruling, the governor maintained that international courts and international law have no bearing in the state of Texas.

Perry no doubt saw the execution as an asset in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. In this, he was only following in the footsteps of George W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton, both of whom demonstratively took time off of their presidential campaigns to oversee judicial murders when the two men were governors.

Leal was the seventh person put to death by the state of Texas this year. It has scheduled eight more executions between now and September.

The United States is the only advanced capitalist country to retain capital punishment, a method of state murder that has been abolished by two-thirds of the world’s countries as a relic of barbarism. It is one of the top five in terms of executions, along with China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

In arguing for the Supreme Court to grant a stay of execution, the Obama administration made no criticism of the death penalty itself, nor did it even make an appeal on behalf of Leal’s rights as he faced the death chamber.

Rather, it argued strictly on the grounds of national interest. The US solicitor general told the high court that Leal’s execution would cause “irreparable harm” to “foreign-policy interests of the highest order.” It would, the appeal argued, have “serious repercussions for United States foreign relations, law-enforcement and other cooperation with Mexico.”

In short, the Obama administration’s concerns related not to democratic rights or even international law, but rather the continued collaboration with Mexico’s government in waging a bloody drug war that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, militarizing the US-Mexican border, and reaping profits off of the exploitation of labor south of the border.

In rebuffing the administration’s appeal, the court’s right-wing, rabidly pro-death penalty majority referred contemptuously to its “free-ranging assertions” about foreign policy implications of the execution and concluded that it failed to make “a persuasive legal claim.”

The court’s majority rejected the administration’s plea that the execution be put off because of pending legislation in Congress that would mandate hearings for Leal and others affected by the World Court’s ruling. It maintained that if providing such hearings “had genuinely been a priority,” a law mandating them “would have been enacted by now.”

That argument cannot be refuted. Upholding international law and defending democratic rights is by no means a priority within any section of the US ruling establishment or its two major parties.

The contempt shown for world opinion and international law in the Texas execution is not some aberration, but rather the outcome of deep-going and protracted political and social processes.

Washington played a leading role in the creation of the International Court of Justice, established by the United Nations Charter in 1945, and accepted its jurisdiction. Forty years later, however, the Reagan administration withdrew its acceptance of the court’s general jurisdiction after it found the US guilty in connection with the CIA’s terror war against Nicaragua. It still accepted the court’s writ in regard to the Vienna Convention, which was seen as a useful instrument for protecting US diplomats and citizens abroad. However, the Bush administration withdrew from that jurisdiction as well following the ruling regarding the Mexican nationals on US death rows.

Over the past decade, Washington’s contempt for international law and democratic rights has further escalated, with the waging of multiple illegal wars of aggression and the use of criminal methods such as “extraordinary rendition,” detention without trial and torture. This has been mirrored at home with a relentless assault on basic democratic rights. That this is not merely the outcome of the ideology of one administration has become undeniable, as the Obama White House has deepened the militarist and anti-democratic policies of Bush.

These methods are rooted in the historic crisis of US capitalism and the extreme levels of social inequality that pervade American society, rendering any genuine democracy untenable. Judicial murder and the incarceration of millions of Americans are the response of a ruling elite that can provide no progressive solution to the economic and social crisis and fears the prospect of renewed class struggle and social upheaval.

The defense of democratic rights, and with it the abolition of the death penalty and the dismantling of the US military, intelligence, police and prison apparatus, is a task that can be undertaken only by the working class on the basis of a struggle for the socialist reorganization of society.

The US government (White House and Congress) spends $10 billion dollars a month, or $120 billion a year, to fight an estimated “50 -75 ‘Al Qaeda types’ in Afghanistan ”, according to the CIA and quoted in the Financial Times of London (6/25 -26/11, p. 5).  During the past 30 months of the Obama presidency, Washington has spent $300 billion dollars in Afghanistan , which adds up to $4 billion dollars for each alleged ‘Al Queda type’.  If we multiply this by the two dozen or so sites and countries where the White House claims ‘Al Qaeda’ terrorists have been spotted, we begin to understand why the US budget deficit has grown astronomically to over $1.6 trillion for the current fiscal year.

During Obama’s Presidency, Social Security’s cost-of-living adjustment has been frozen, resulting in a net decrease of over 8 percent, which is exactly the amount spent chasing just 5 dozen ‘Al Qaeda terrorists’ in the mountains bordering Pakistan .

It is absurd to believe that the Pentagon and White House would spend $10 billion a month just to hunt down a handful of terrorists ensconced in the mountains of Afghanistan .  So what is the war in Afghanistan about?  The answer one most frequently reads and hears is that the war is really against the Taliban, a mass-based Islamic nationalist guerrilla movement with tens of thousands of activists.  The Taliban, however, have never engaged in any terrorist act against the territorial United States or its overseas presence. The Taliban have always maintained their fight was for the expulsion of foreign forces occupying Afghanistan .  Hence the Taliban is not part of any “international terrorist network”.  If the US war in Afghanistan is not about defeating terrorism, then why the massive expenditure of funds and manpower for over a decade?

Several hypotheses come to mind:

The first is the geopolitics of Afghanistan :  The US is actively establishing forward military bases, surrounding and bordering on China .

Secondly, US bases in Afghanistan serve as launching pads to foment “dissident separatist” armed ethnic conflicts and apply the tactics of ‘divide and conquer’ against Iran , China , Russia and Central Asian republics.

Thirdly, Washington’s launch of the Afghan war (2001) and the easy initial conquest encouraged the Pentagon to believe that a low cost, easy military victory was at hand, one that could enhance the image of the US as an invincible power, capable of imposing its rule anywhere in the world, unlike the disastrous experience of the USSR.

Fourthly, the early success of the Afghan war was seen as a prelude to the launching of asequence of successful wars, first against Iraq and to be followed by Iran , Syria and beyond.  These would serve the triple purpose of enhancing Israeli regional power, controlling strategic oil resources and enlarging the arc of US military bases from South and Central Asia, through the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean .

The strategic policies, formulated by the militarists and Zionists in the Bush and Obama Administrations, assumed that guns, money, force and bribes could build stable satellite states firmly within the orbit of the post-Soviet US empire.  Afghanistan was seen as an easy first conquest the initial step to sequential wars.  Each victory, it was assumed would undermine domestic and allied (European) opposition.  The initial costs of imperial war, the Neo-Cons claimed, would be paid for by wealth extracted from the conquered countries, especially from the oil producing regions.

The rapid US defeat of the Taliban government confirmed the belief of the military strategists that “backward”, lightly armed Islamic peoples were no match up for the US powerhouse and its astute leaders.

  

Wrong Assumptions, Mistaken Strategies:  The Trillion Dollar Disaster

Every assumption, formulated by these civilian strategists and their military counterparts, has been proven wrong. Al Qaeda was and is a marginal adversary; the real force capable of sustaining a prolonged peoples wars against an imperial occupier, inflicting heavy casualties, undermining any local puppet regime and accumulating mass support is the Taliban and related nationalist resistance movements.  Israeli-influenced US think-tanks, experts and advisers who portrayed the Islamic adversaries as inept, ineffective and cowardly, totally misread the Afghan resistance.  Blinded by ideological antipathy, these high-ranking advisers and White House/Pentagon civilian-office holders failed to recognize the tactical and strategic, political and military acumen of the top and middle-level Islamist nationalist leaders and their tremendous reserve of mass support in neighboring Pakistan and beyond.

The Obama White House, heavily dependent on Islamophobic pro-Israel experts, further isolated the US troops and alienated the Afghan population by tripling the number of troops, further establishing the credentials of the Taliban as the authentic alternative to a foreign occupation.

As for the neo-conservative pipe dreams of successful sequential wars, cooked up by the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, Feith, Abrams, Libby et al, to eliminate Israel’s adversaries and turn the Persian Gulf into a Hebrew lake, the prolonged wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan has, in fact, strengthened Iran’s regional influence, turned the entire Pakistani people against the US and strengthened mass movements against US clients throughout the Middle East.

Sequential imperial defeats have resulted in a massive hemorrhage of the US treasury, rather than the promised flood of oil wealth from tributary clients.  According to a recent scholarly study, the military cost of the wars in Iraq , Afghanistan and Pakistan have exceeded $3.2 trillion dollars (“The Costs of War Since 2001”, Eisenhower Study Group, June 2011) and is growing at over ten billion a month.  Meanwhile the Taliban “tightens (its) psychological grip” on Afghanistan (FT6/30/2011, p. 8).  According to the latest reports even the most guarded 5-star hotel in the center of Kabul, the Intercontinental, was vulnerable to a sustained assault and take over by militants, because “high security Afghan forces” are infiltrated and the Taliban operate everywhere, having established “shadow” governments in most cities, towns and villages (FT 6/30/11 p.8).

Imperial Decline, Empty Treasury and the Specter of a Smash-Up

The crumbling empire has depleted the US treasury.  As the Congress and White House fight over raising the debt ceiling, the cost of war aggressively erodes any possibility of maintaining stable living standards for the American middle and working classes and heightens growing inequalities between the top 1% and the rest of the American people.  Imperial wars are based on the pillage of the US treasury.  The imperial state has, via extraordinary tax exemptions, concentrated wealth in the hands of the super-rich while the middle and working classes have been pushed downward, as only low paid jobs are available. 

In 1974, the top 1% of US individuals accounted for 8% of total national income but as of 2008 they earned 18% of national income.  And most of this 18% is concentrated in the hands of a tiny super-rich 1% of that 1%, or 0.01% of the American population, (FT 6/28/11, p. 4 and 6/30/11, p. 6). While the super-rich plunder the treasury and intensify the exploitation of labor, the number of middle income jobs is plunging:  From 1993 to 2006, over 7% of middle income jobs disappeared (FT 6/30/11, p. 4).  While inequalities may be rising throughout the world, the US now has the greatest inequalities among all the leading capitalist countries. 

The burden of sustaining a declining empire, with its the monstrous growth in military spending, has fallen disproportionately on middle and working class taxpayers and wage earners.  The military and financial elites’ pillage of the economy and treasury has set in motion a steep decline in living standards, income and job opportunities. Between 1970 -2009, while gross domestic product more than doubled, US median pay stagnated in real terms (FT 7/28/11, p. 4).  If we factor in the added fixed costs of pensions, health and education, real income for wage and salaried workers, especially since the 1990’s, has been declining sharply.  

Even greater blows are to come in the second half 2011:  As the Obama White House expands its imperial interventions in Pakistan, Libya and Yemen, increasing military and police-state spending, Obama is set to reach budgetary agreements with the far right Republicans, which will savage government health care programs, like MEDICARE and MEDICAID, as well as Social Security, the national retirement program.  Prolonged wars have pushed the budget to the breaking point, while the deficit undermines any capacity to revive the economy as it heads toward a ‘repeat recession’.

The entire political establishment is bizarrely oblivious to the fact that their multi-hundred- billion-dollar pursuit of an estimated 50-75 phantom Al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan has hastened the disappearance of middle income jobs in the US .

The entire political spectrum has turned decisively to the Right and the Far-Right.  The debate between Democrats and Republicans is over whether to slash four trillion or more from the last remnants of our country’s social programs.

The Democrats and the Far-Right are united as they pursue multiple wars while currying favor and funds from upper 0.01% super-rich, financial and real estate moguls whose wealth has grown so dramatically during the crisis!

Conclusion

But there is a deep and quiet discomfort within the leading circles of the Obama regime:  The “best and brightest” among his top officials are scampering to jump ship before the coming deluge: the Economic Guru Larry Summers, Rahm Emmanuel, Stuart Levey, Peter Orzag, Bob Gates, Tim Geithner and others, responsible for the disastrous wars, economic catastrophes, the gross concentration of wealth and the savaging of our living standards, have walked out or have announced their ‘retirement’, leaving it to the smiling con-men - President Obama and Vice-President ‘Joe’ Biden – and their ‘last and clueless loyalists’ to take the blame when the economy tanks and our social programs are wiped out.  How else can we explain their less-than-courageous departures (to ‘spend more time with the family’) in the face of such a deepening crisis?  The hasty retreat of these top officials is motivated by their desire to avoid political responsibility and to escape history’s indictment for their role in the impending economic debacle.  They are eager to hide from a future judgment over which policy makers and leaders and what policies led to the destruction of the American middle and working classes with their good jobs, stable pensions, Social Security, decent health care and respected place in the world.

As many writers have reported, the latest jobs report is dismal.

In fact, as I have demonstrated, unemployment may rival the Great Depression.

These bad numbers caught many by surprise. But as I repeatedly noted, government policy guarantees rising unemployment.

For example, I wrote last September:

I predicted a growing, long-term unemployment problem last year.

***

In fact, as demonstrated below, the government’s actions have directly contributed to the rising tide of unemployment.

The Government Has Encouraged the Offshoring of American Jobs for More Than 50 Years 

President Eisenhower re-wrote the tax laws so that they would favor investment abroad. President Kennedy railed against tax provisions that “consistently favor United States private investment abroad compared with investment in our own economy”, but nothing has changed under either Democratic or Republican administrations.

For the last 50-plus years, the tax benefits to American companies making things abroad has encouraged jobs to move out of the U.S.

AP noted last year:

Corporate profits are up. Stock prices are up. So why isn’t anyone hiring?

Actually, many American companies are — just maybe not in your town. They’re hiring overseas, where sales are surging and the pipeline of orders is fat.

***

The trend helps explain why unemployment remains high in the United States, edging up to 9.8% last month, even though companies are performing well: All but 4% of the top 500 U.S. corporations reported profits this year, and the stock market is close to its highest point since the 2008 financial meltdown.

But the jobs are going elsewhere. The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, says American companies have created 1.4 million jobs overseas this year, compared with less than 1 million in the U.S. The additional 1.4 million jobs would have lowered the U.S. unemployment rate to 8.9%, says Robert Scott, the institute’s senior international economist.

“There’s a huge difference between what is good for American companies versus what is good for the American economy,” says Scott.

***

Many of the products being made overseas aren’t coming back to the United States. Demand has grown dramatically this year in emerging markets like India, China and Brazil.

Most of the Emergency Money Went Abroad

In addition, a large percentage of the bailouts went to foreign banks (and see this). And so did most of money from the second round of quantitative easing.

That’s not going to help the American worker.

Continuing on with my post from last September:

The Government Has Encouraged Mergers

The government has actively encouraged mergers, which destroy jobs.

For example, the Treasury Department encouraged banks to use the bailout money to buy their competitors, and pushed through an amendment to the tax laws which rewards mergers in the banking industry.

This is nothing new.

Citigroup’s former chief executive says that when Citigroup was formed in 1998 out of the merger of banking and insurance giants, Alan Greenspan toldhim, “I have nothing against size. It doesn’t bother me at all”.

And the government has actively encouraged the big banks to grow into mega-banks.

The Government Has Let Unemployment Rise in an Attempt to Fight Inflation

As I noted last year:

The Federal Reserve is mandated by law to maximize employment. The relevant statute states:

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Open Market Committee shall maintain long run growth of the monetary and credit aggregates commensurate with the economy’s long run potential to increase production, so as to promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.

***

The Fed could have stemmed the unemployment crisis by demanding that banks lend more as a condition to the various government assistance programs, but Mr. Bernanke failed to do so.

Ryan Grim argues that the Fed might have broken the law by letting unemployment rise in order to keep inflation low:

The Fed is mandated by law to maximize employment, but focuses on inflation — and “expected inflation” — at the expense of job creation. At its most recent meeting, board members bluntly stated that they feared banks might increase lending, which they worried could lead to inflation.

Board members expressed concern “that banks might seek to reduce appreciably their excess reserves as the economy improves by purchasing securities or by easing credit standards and expanding their lending substantially. Such a development, if not offset by Federal Reserve actions, could give additional impetus to spending and, potentially, to actual and expected inflation.” That summary was spotted by Naked Capitalism and is included in a summary of the minutes of the most recent meeting…

Suffering high unemployment in order to keep inflation low cuts against the Fed’s legal mandate. Or, to put it more bluntly, it may be illegal.

In fact, [many] leading economists say that – under Mr. Bernanke’s leadership – America is suffering a permanent destruction of jobs.

For example, JPMorgan Chase’s Chief Economist Bruce Kasman toldBloomberg:

[We've had a] permanent destruction of hundreds of thousands of jobs in industries from housing to finance.

The chief economists for Wells Fargo Securities, John Silvia, says:

Companies “really have diminished their willingness to hire labor for any production level,” Silvia said. “It’s really a strategic change,” where companies will be keeping fewer employees for any particular level of sales, in good times and bad, he said.

And former Merrill Lynch chief economist David Rosenberg writes:

The number of people not on temporary layoff surged 220,000 in August and the level continues to reach new highs, now at 8.1 million. This accounts for 53.9% of the unemployed — again a record high — and this is a proxy for permanent job loss, in other words, these jobs are not coming back. Against that backdrop, the number of people who have been looking for a job for at least six months with no success rose a further half-percent in August, to stand at 5 million — the long-term unemployed now represent a record 33% of the total pool of joblessness.

And see this.

In fact, the Fed intentionally curbed lending by banks in an attempt to stem inflation, [and see this] without addressing whether public banks could provide credit.

The Government Has Allowed Wealth to be Concentrated in Fewer and Fewer Hands

… FDR’s Fed chairman Marriner S. Eccles explained:

As in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When their credit ran out, the game stopped.

***

When most people lose their poker chips – and the game is set up so that only those with the most chips get more - free market capitalism is destroyed, as the “too big to fails” crowd out everyone else.

And the economy as a whole is destroyed. Remember, consumer spending accounts for the lion’s share of economic activity. If most consumers are out of chips, the economy slumps.

And unemployment soars.

As former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich wrote yesterday:

Where have all the economic gains gone? Mostly to the top.

***

It’s no coincidence that the last time income was this concentrated was in 1928. I do not mean to suggest that such astonishing consolidations of income at the top directly cause sharp economic declines. The connection is more subtle.

The rich spend a much smaller proportion of their incomes than the rest of us. So when they get a disproportionate share of total income, the economy is robbed of the demand it needs to keep growing and creating jobs.

What’s more, the rich don’t necessarily invest their earnings and savings in the American economy; they send them anywhere around the globe where they’ll summon the highest returns — sometimes that’s here, but often it’s the Cayman Islands, China or elsewhere. The rich also put their money into assets most likely to attract other big investors (commodities, stocks, dot-coms or real estate), which can become wildly inflated as a result.

***

THE Great Depression and its aftermath demonstrate that there is only one way back to full recovery: through more widely shared prosperity.

***

And as America’s middle class shared more of the economy’s gains, it was able to buy more of the goods and services the economy could provide. The result: rapid growth and more jobs. By contrast, little has been done since 2008 to widen the circle of prosperity.

And see Wednesday’s extensive post on government policy increasing inequality.

The Rich Love Unemployment

As Mark Provost has pointed out - the rich love high unemployment.

Because all branches of government and the Federal Reserve are wholly captured by the top .1% (and see thisthis and this), they are not very motivated to decrease unemployment.

Indeed, the government has made it official policy to protect the fat cats instead of helping the little guy.

Not “More Stimulus” Versus “Debt Reduction” – But Policy for the Wealthiest Versus Policy for the People

As I noted in December, Keynesians who think more stimulus will fix everything and conservatives who think that cutting the debt will solve our problems are both painting with too broad a brush:

I am not really pro- or anti- any school of economics … I am simply fordoing what will work and against doing what won’t work.

As I pointed out on August 11th:

“Deficit doves” – i.e. Keynesians like Paul Krugman – say that unless we spend much more on stimulus, we’ll slide into a depression. And yet the government isn’t spending money on the types of stimulus that will have the most bang for the buck: like giving money to the states,extending unemployment benefits or buying more food stamps - let alone rebuilding America’s manufacturing base. See thisthis and this. [Indeed, as Steve Keen demonstrated last year, it is the Americancitizen who needs stimulus, not the big banks.]

***

Keynes implemented his New Deal stimulus at the same time that Glass-Steagall and many other measures were implemented to plug the holes in a corrupt financial system. The gaming of the financial system was decreased somewhat, the amount of funny business which the powers-that-be could engage in was reined in to some extent.

As such, the economy had a chance to recover (even with the massive stimulus of World War II, unless some basic level of trust had been restored in the economy, the economy would not have recovered).

Today, however, Bernanke, Summers, Dodd, Frank and the rest of the boys haven’t fixed any of the major structural defects in the economy. So even if Keynesianism were the answer, it cannot work without the implementation of structural reforms to the financial system.

A little extra water in the plumbing can’t fix pipes that have been corroded and are thoroughly rotten. The government hasn’t even tried to replace the leaking sections of pipe in our economy.

In truth and in fact, the government’s policies are not only not working to stem the rising tide of unemployment, they are making it worse.

Forget the whole “Keynesian” versus “deficit hawk” debate. The real debate is between good and bad policy.

The following articles provide details:

Government Policy Caused America’s Unemployment Crisis

The Fed Is Saying One Thing But Doing Something Very Different

The Rising Tide of Unemployment in America: How Bad Will It Get, And What Can We Do?

Even Greenspan Admits that Moral Hazard and Fraud are the Main Problems

Another Nobel Economist Says We Have to Prosecute Fraud Or Else the Economy Won’t Recover

Double Dip In Housing Largely Caused By Failure to Prosecute Mortgage Fraud

5 Reasons We Must Break Up the Giant Banks

No Wonder the Economy Isn’t Improving

Indeed, the government hasn’t spent money on the right kind of things to stimulate employment, and the “stimulus” money is really going to big banks and the military.See this and this.

And the government’s lame attempts to prop up asset prices and leverage have failed miserably, so that malinvestments can’t be cleared, and so we have a stagnant,zombie economy which prevents job creation. 

In other words, we have the worst possible world, where neither Keynesian or Austrian wisdom are being followed, but the country is being plundered by the richest and everyone else is suffering.

VIDEO: West Funnels Illegal Weapons Into Libya

July 9th, 2011 by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Japan’s 11 March catastrophe at its six-reactor Daichi Fukushima nuclear power complex has had global repercussions, hardly surprising given the trillions of dollars invested in civilian nuclear energy over the last five decades. Ironically, just a year ago the nuclear power industry saw itself on the verge of a renaissance, with worldwide concerns about global warming causing many to reconsider the merits of nuclear energy, which produces no greenhouse gases.

Events in Japan changed all that, and hit the “big three” exporters of civilian nuclear power technology hard – the U.S., France and the Russian Federation.

While the first two may have thrown up their collective hands in despair Moscow is rising to the challenge, seeing a potential silver lining in the nuclear cloud.

Quite aside from finishing Iran’s controversial Bushehr nuclear reactor, Russia’s nuclear industry is now offering a wide variety of services, from constructing NPPs to decommissioning them.

Last week Chilean Senators Guido Girardi, Jorge Pizarro, Fulvio Rossi and Gonzalo Uriarte flew to Moscow, where they met with various high level government officials, including Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko, who, according to a report in Santiago’s “El Mercurio” reportedly “surprised” the delegation by offering to build a nuclear plant in Chile. The nonplussed South American legislators responded that after the events in Japan it was “unthinkable” to build in Chile because the idea faced “great public opposition.” Ever willing to be accommodating, Shmatko then promised his help in developing a pilot project for tidal energy in Chile.

Such shilling aside, Russia’s state nuclear concern Rosatom according to its press office has formed a special company, Rosatom Finance, to provide foreign currency funding to its enterprises. Rosatom Finance is registered in Cyprus and is wholly owned by OJSC Atomenergoprom and will provide financial support to Russian companies involved in nuclear energy such as CJSC Atomstroiekhsport, which builds nuclear power plants abroad, nuclear fuel producer TVEL and nuclear materials exporter Techsnabekhsport, among others.

Working the anti-nuclear side of the street however, which has grown far broader in the last four months, Rosatom has recently been in discussions with Germany’s Siemens on a broad array of nuclear issues, including assisting in closing down Germany’s nuclear power plants. Ever upbeat, Rosatom Deputy General Director Kirill Komarov told reporters, “We can look at different types of partnership, not just nuclear reactors, but at nuclear medicine or the closure of nuclear power plants.”

Komarov’s roseate comments build on more than two years of contacts, as in 2009 Siemens and Rosatom announced plans to work together to build nuclear reactors, but the incipient partnership was subsequently scuttled because of objections made by French nuclear company Areva, a former partner of Siemens, which saw the proposed Berlin-Moscow nuclear axis as a breach of a contractual non-competition clause.

Despite previous jealousy from Paris, Areva like a coy coquette is now in fact a partner with Rosatom and according to Komarov, part of a consortium supplying the Belene nuclear power plant in Bulgaria. Ever the optimist, Komarov added that Rosatom is “ready to discuss new wide-ranging relationship options with Areva, from mining uranium to fourth generation reactors.”

Russia is positioning itself to become the Home Depot of the global civilian nuclear industry, offering everything from construction to decommissioning. It would seem in Moscow that every cloud, even those laden with cesium-137, has a silver lining, or at least one lined with euros.

Government debt will be in the vicinity of $1.5 trillion this year. Ever since May 16th short-term debt has been frozen at about $14.3 trillion. Up until May 16th the year-to-debt fiscal debt was $783.135 billion. That means if no August 2nd agreement is reach, $275 billion will be needed up to August 2nd, a total of about $700 billion will be needed by 9/30/11, the end of the fiscal year. Those funds are to come from federal pensions, Social Security and Medicare. How will these funds be paid back? We do not know, but we would guess there could be legislation to commandeer private pensions, 401Ks and IRAs. On the other hand an alternative is for the Fed to create $700 billion and buy the Treasury debt. That alone, with normal funding, could reach over $2 trillion. That means they would have to create another additional $850 billion to keep the economy from slipping into a great dark pit. That means additional net funds that would have to be created out of thin air of close to $3 trillion. That means mega inflation 2 to 3 years down the line. In addition the US debt to GDP should be more than 100% by the end of the fiscal year 9/30/11.

We guess the Fed can keep interest rates near zero until borrowers finally get fed up with low returns and a loss in principal, as the dollar deteriorates. It was four years ago when rates were 5-1/4%. Rates in time will return to that level and cause economic and financial devastation. We can also assure you Treasury buyers are not driving rates down and bond prices up, the Fed can take full credit for that. Those who seek safety in low interest Treasuries are giving up purchasing power. In today’s markets there is no such thing as safety.

There are those that believe it is time to start to raise interest rates and that the time for stimulus is past. They are probably correct, but the problem is the economy cannot stand on its own. Although deflationary depression will come eventually to force it now would mean a great war or series of wars would now have to begin.

It also has become self-evident to the populace or at least half of Americans that we cannot keep amassing debt and boosting the economy with stimulus. Their fears are reflected via much higher inflation and major unemployment, both of which are worsening daily.  They have experienced three years of this, so to be told by the President, the Fed, the Treasury and Wall Street that what they are experiencing is transitory, reaches deaf ears.

Another grandstanding act by the President and his handlers was the latest release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve – only enough to replace one days worldwide consumption. This was supposed to show the administration’s concern that Americans were paying too much for gasoline and inflation was cutting their purchasing power. Their attempt was a failure, but the sale brought in badly needed cash to fund the growing deficit. We believe that was really what the exercise was all about. The move also had its negative affects on the commodity and gold and silver markets, at least for a few days. The failure of these financial and economic false flag operations shows you the underlying weakness of the financial and economic structure and the strength of commodities and gold and silver. Every move Wall Street and banking makes lasts only days or a week, then it is right back to the forceful underlying trend. We believe these elitists are now starting to question whether what they are doing will work. An example was the massive naked short covering not seen in years in gold and silver. JPM, HSBC and others lost the battle in silver and capitulated by covering. This was a major event. They knew the RICO class action lawsuit against them was about to be announced, so they covered a good portion of their shorts that were being used to suppress silver prices. Gold reacted by rising almost $35.00 and closing up $32.60 and silver rising $2.25 and closing up $1.80. The professionals know what this means. The cartel has suffered a huge defeat and if JPM and HSBC lose in court, which they should, it will cost the elitists tens of billions of dollars. The question is how will they arrange to transfer the losses to the public, or will the losses be big enough to take JPM and HSBC under. Only time will tell, but the result will be less control over gold and silver markets and a slight move back to free markets. They cannot take too many losses like this. What it shows you is that these people can be beaten and that we will win this war against these criminals.

Over the past few years, lenders have cut back on lines of credit, which has made many Americans unable to access affordable credit. The engine that has driven the economy for many years, cheap available credit, has come to an end and accessibility will become more difficult in the future. A few years ago we noted the availability of credit was beginning to be reduced and in time would reduce consumption. Over those ensuing years many Americans are no longer in the credit system because they cannot meet lending or regulatory qualifications. This is a direct reflection of 22.6% unemployment and massive home foreclosures. The unemployment numbers are even worse than meet the eye. The statistics define the private sector too broadly. In May, the distortion continued with private businesses adding 83,000 jobs of which 34,000 were in health care, social services and education, which are all subsidized. Thus, the real addition was 49,000. Over the past two years 980,000 jobs were added, 7.7 million jobs lost and of 8.4 million jobs lost so far in the inflationary depression only 291,000 have been added. If you cover 11 years instead of five years, 11.7 million have been lost. Real private sector employment was 83.1%. In 12/09 the number was 83.8% and in 1950, 86.2% or a 3.6% drop.

The government needs to revive domestic manufacturing, because foreign nations deliberately devalue their currencies and pay slaves wages. The only thing that can change this is tariffs on goods and services. Thus, tightened lending standards and horrible unemployment keep homebuyers from buying into that monstrous inventory for sale. Never mind buy buying a house, those unemployed cannot open a bank account nor do they own a debit or credit card. Credit scores may have risen to 696, the highest in at least four years, but it doesn’t help the unemployed. The other underlying cause is that consumers simply have too much debt, even though delinquencies have fallen 30% in two years. Those with jobs are doing ok, but persistently higher inflation is eating big chunks of their power to consume.

What America is seeing today is a flat lining economy. When the credit crisis began, and it is not over, real GDP fell 4%, vs. 25% in the early 1930s. Can you imagine where the economy would be without the bailout of the financial sector, government and to a lesser degree the economy? We are talking about perhaps $5 trillion that we know about. If you take away unemployment, extended unemployment, food stamps, Medicaid and various other social services, we could be in the same spot today as we were in the 1930s. We have been without recovery for almost five years. At least the Great Depression had recovery in 1933 and 1934. We may not have a WWII on the horizon, but we sure have many perpetual wars for perpetual peace. Today the excuse is rogue states and terrorists, which are just excuses to have more undeclared wars.

We have to laugh at noted economists who continue to bleat about unemployment in the 1930s that was 25% and today it is only 9.1%. In the 1930s U3 was 25.2% and U6 was 37.6%. Today U3 is 9.1%, U6 is 16.3% and if you extract the birth/death ratio it is 22.6%.  There were two recoveries in the 1930s, but both aborted. Over the past few years we have seen transitory gains and actually very little result for some $4.3 trillion in spending. Even so-called conservative economists use government-generated statistics, which they know are bogus. How can they hope to come up with the correct answers for future economic and financial problems? In addition most do not get involved in geopolitics, which severely hampers prospectives and projections. Along those lines those who wish for lower commodity prices are engaging in wishful thinking. Not only do we see fire, draught and floods, but we also see geopolitical dislocation and a flight from stock and bond markets to the safety of commodities, gold and silver. That is not going to end anytime soon.

Economists still see recovery without tariffs, recovery, which always eludes them. For several years workers have worked to a maximum of their ability and they still can compete with the emerging world, due to almost zero interest rates. Employers when confronted with a choice of hiring more employees choose to move the work to offshore locations. Attitudes such as this seal the fate of working Americans.

As you can see corporate America has lost its direction. They have become creatures of internationalism, participating in the extinction of the US and its world reserve currency, the dollar. The culture in corporate America is decidedly corruption augmented by government’s drive to implement corporate fascism very reminiscent of Germany and Italy in the 1930s, which was a trial run for today’s government.

The world’s problem is debt – too much of it. Corporate America, particularly Wall Street, thinks debt creation can go on indefinitely as they continue to loot America. The US economy is doing a slow motion swan dive and the corporatists do not care because they believe they’ll become part of this new World Order. What they do not understand is they are stuck in neutral, as they proceed with their looting operations.  Worse yet all, or almost alll of the gold belonging to America citizens is gone. The US dollar is like so many other fiat currencies. People often ask, what currency should be in and the simple answer is none, except to function from month-to-month. The record is there one for all to see, all currencies have on average lost value versus gold and silver for 11 straight years. What more can be expected as deficits for all countries mount year after year? This is why almost all governments are trapped. They have to continue to create money and credit or their economies will collapse. The problems are still all there. Greece and the other five lame ducks, the euro and the EU. The European banking system is still staring over the abyss. We have no debt extension. 4% of the SPR has been sold with no net effect on the oil price or availability. To refill the salt domes will be very costly, while in the meantime government has more money to waste. While all this transpires the military industrial complex is laughing all the way to the bank.

The result is investors continue to flee to gold and silver albeit in small numbers. All gold and silver investments only aggregate 0.8% of Americans. What will prices be when 15% of Americans become involved, as that number did in 1980? The success of gold and silver are just a direct reflection of monetary profligacy and the debasement of the US dollar. For the past 2-1/2 years gold has taken over as the only real currency and the dollar can only regain status by again backing the currency with gold. After the recent criminal correction in gold, silver and commodities in just three days, as we predicted the losses have been regained. The suppression cartel is losing its power and soon will become a nonentity. Very soon all will see new highs.

The big question is why hasn’t government and the Fed tried to solve the economic situation? The answer is they have no intention of doing so, because they want the public on their knees economically and financially so they can impose World Government. We have news for them, this time they are going to lose and lose it all. Yes, there is going to be a great war or a series of wars you won’t escape that. These criminals are not going down without a fight and it will be a very nasty struggle.

The banker situation in Greece, that is the rape and looting of the country, is a set piece of what bankers intend to do in all countries.

As we enter the twilight of the American nation we have never been so overwhelmed by the servile incompetence of Congress and its entourage of bureaucrats. We call them team A and team B. As each administration changes the participants change, but their length of service lingers on for many years. They represent the same masters who control them from behind the scenes with the same mission, but with slightly different approaches in order to make it seem change is being made. A great many of these servants from academia although very bright, never had an original thought in their life, never have worked in the business world and all are disciples of John Maynard Keyes and his corporatist fascist philosophy. Is it any wonder our nation is in the state it is in?

These are the same geniuses who created massive increases of money and credit starting 11 years ago, only to cap it off with QE1 and QE2 and stimulus 1 and 2, that have only served to rescue an insolvent financial sector and a corrupt insolvent government, which is still in progress. Wall Street and banking have been treated to massive amounts of money supplied by American citizens, who have seen their life savings foreclosed on. They borrow from the Fed at almost zero percent interest rates to invest in higher yielding bets, and wild speculation in totally rigged, manipulated markets. Just to show you how Wall Street’s rigged game works a number of major firms go for months without having a losing trading day. That is impossible unless the game is rigged, which it is for certain elitist, Illuminist corporations. These profit centers are created to offset the massive losses sustained in bad loans, mortgagees and from other speculations. Banks were leveraged 70 to 1 on average. It is now 20 to 40 to one, up from a normal 9 to 1. As a result government sees only 20% of its debt offerings being bought by Americans and foreigners. The remainder is being bought by the Federal Reserve, which for the most part creates money and credit out of thin air to meet these needs.

The unemployment rate rose for a third consecutive month in June, as the US economy added far fewer jobs than new workers, according to the latest jobs report released Friday by the Labor Department. The report confirms a new downturn in the labor market amid the Obama administration’s campaign to cut government jobs and spending.

The US economy added 18,000 jobs, less than one-fifth of the 105,000 that economists predicted in a poll conducted by Bloomberg News. The unemployment rate hit 9.2 percent, up from 9.1 percent in May, and 8.8 percent in March. The number of unemployed people grew by over half a million over the past three months.

The White House responded to the report with a press statement calling for more spending cuts. “We’ve got to rein in our deficits and get the government to live within its means,” said Obama. “The sooner that the markets know… that we have a serious plan to deal with our debt and deficit, the sooner that we give our businesses the certainty that they will need,” he said.

It is precisely the deficit reduction policies of the Obama administration that bear much of the blame for the renewed economic downturn. The bad performance of the private sector, which created only 57,000 jobs this month, was compounded by 39,000 job losses in the public sector. The largest portion of these losses came from education workers, with 13,200 laid off in June. A total of 18,000 people were laid off by local governments last month, 7,000 by state governments, and 14,000 by the federal government.

Stocks fell sharply at the start of trading Friday, but improved slightly throughout the day, no doubt propped up by Obama’s assurances that he would not allow the second month of abysmal jobs figures to stop his plan to cut corporate taxes and regulations while slashing government spending.

The latest report further revised downward the payroll figures for April and May, by 15,000 and 29,000 respectively. This means that the number of jobs created in May, already disastrous at the initial estimate of 54,000, was actually 25,000.

Other indicators of the economic situation were equally bad. The average duration of unemployment rose for the second consecutive month to 39.9 weeks, up from 34.8 weeks a year ago. The average duration of unemployment is now more than double its level during the five years before the crisis, when the average unemployment spell was 18 weeks.

chart 1

The average workweek fell 0.1 hour to 34.3 hours, a figure likely to indicate more layoffs in the future. Average hourly earnings fell by 0.1 percent, representing only the second fall in nominal wages since 2003. Average hourly earnings have grown 1.9 percent over the past year, compared with a 3.6 percent increase in consumer prices, meaning that real wages have fallen 1.7 percent over the past year.

chart 2

The employment-population ratio, which shows the number of people employed as a portion of the total working age population, fell from 58.4 to 58.2 percent. This figure was over 63 percent in 2007, so it has plummeted five percentage points during the course of the downturn. The US needs to create between 100,000 and 200,000 jobs each month to keep up with population growth.

Every sector of the economy did poorly in June. Manufacturing created only 6,000 jobs, which were more than offset by construction, which lost 9,000 jobs. Finance lost 15,000 jobs as banks cut back on the number of employees on their payrolls.

The U-6 unemployment rate, which counts both the unemployed and underemployed, rose to 16.2 percent, up from 15.8 percent in May. The teen unemployment rate likewise rose to 24.5 percent, up from 24.2 the month before.

The White House and both big business parties responded to the disastrous figures with calls for more austerity. Throughout the political establishment, the framework of discussion revolves around budget-cutting, which, in an economic contraction, translates into a policy of high unemployment.

The second downturn in the labor market is in large part the result of the austerity policies of the US public sector, which has laid off two thirds of a million people over the past year on the federal, local, and state levels. These job cuts have rippled throughout the economy, causing even more layoffs in the private sector.

This downturn takes place amid the European credit crisis, an economic contraction in whole swaths of Europe, and a slowdown in Asia. Figures released last month show manufacturing at a two-year low in China, at its lowest in 21 months in Britain, and at the lowest level in 18 months in Europe as a whole.

Amid all this, corporate profits are expected to be higher than ever in the second quarter of 2011. After hitting a new record in the first quarter of this year, profits are expected to be up 13.6 percent over the second quarter of last year, according to an analysis by Brown Brothers Harriman reported earlier this month in the Wall Street Journal.

These consistently rising corporate profits in the midst of a renewed economic downturn are not a fluke or aberration, but rather the direct result and goal of the policies collaboratively pursued by Obama and the Republicans. Every measure proposed by the White House has as its aim the direct enrichment of the ruling class through lower corporate taxes, falling wages, and the elimination of restrictions on corporate abuses.

The rising unemployment level is the outcome of a political attack upon the working class conducted by both parties. There will be no improvement in the labor market until workers launch an independent struggle against austerity and unemployment. This requires a break with the Democratic and Republican parties, and the building of the Socialist Equality Party as the representative of working people.

Yesterday morning, Andy Coulson, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s former director of communications and a former editor of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World, was arrested. He was released on police bail later that day after being questioned over phone hacking and bribes paid to police officers by the tabloid newspaper.

The former royal editor of News of the World, Clive Goodman, was questioned separately and also released on bail.

The newspaper is at the centre of allegations of widespread phone hacking, cash payments to police officers and other illegal practises. The revelations do more than threaten Murdoch’s vast business empire. Coulson’s arrest epitomises the way in which the scandal has engulfed the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government and the entire political establishment, and threatens to discredit all of the major parties and institutions of the state.

Only the day before, News International (NI), the parent company of Murdoch’s British newspapers, had announced that the 168-year-old News of the World, which dominates the Sunday newspaper market, would cease publishing. Some 200 staff are to lose their jobs as a result of the closure. It is understood that there are plans to open a Sunday edition of the Sun, the daily sister tabloid of News of the World.

The decision to close the newspaper was described by some as “bold” and “astonishing.” It was, in fact, the least Murdoch could do to try and stem the tide of revelations that become more damaging daily.

For years, News International, a UK subsidiary of Murdoch’s News Corporation, has insisted that allegations of phone hacking concerned only a few celebrities and involved only “rogue reporters.” In 2007, private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and royal correspondent Clive Goodman were jailed for hacking the mobile phones of members of the royal family. Since then, several million pounds have been paid out by News International in compensation to various celebrities in return for their silence.

In recent days, however, the rogue reporter defence became impossible to maintain as it became clear that thousands of people were subjected to such practises. These included child murder victims and their relatives, together with the families of the victims of the 2007 London terror bombings and of soldiers killed serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The criminality did not stop there. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is now investigating cash payments to serving police officers in return for confidential information. Brian Paddick, the former metropolitan police deputy assistant commissioner, told the BBC this week of officers collecting up to £30,000 at a time in envelopes at the McDonalds restaurant near the News International headquarters. It is alleged that Coulson, who was the editor of News of the World between 2003 and 2007, authorised the payments.

NI executives are also accused of lying to Parliament. Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, the current chief executive of News International and editor of News of the World from 2000 to 2003, both gave evidence to parliamentary select committees that only one journalist was involved in phone hacking.

In an emergency debate in parliament on Wednesday, Labour Party MP Tom Watson alleged that NI was involved in attempts to destroy incriminatory e-mail evidence. Watson used his parliamentary privilege to state, “We now know that NI had entered the criminal underworld.”

On Friday afternoon it was confirmed that police are investigating the alleged deletion by a News International executive of millions of emails from an internal archive in India. Separately police in Glasgow are reported to be investigating the evidence given by Coulson and NI in the 2010 perjury trial of former Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan. By closing News of the World, NI clearly hopes to bury the evidence and protect Brooks and Murdoch himself.

Watson has said in parliament that James Murdoch, the son of Rupert Murdoch and chair of NI, should face criminal charges. He declared: “It is clear now that he personally, without board approval, authorised money to be paid by his company to silence people who had been hacked and to cover up criminal behaviour within his organisation. This is nothing short of an attempt to pervert the course of justice.”

Among those who received payments was Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association. James Murdoch approved a £700,000 ($1.1 million) out of court settlement.

Another major factor for Murdoch is to protect his planned £8 billion takeover of BSkyB, a satellite broadcasting company. Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, was due imminently to approve the deal, despite opposition. It is now understood that Hunt will delay his decision. BSkyB shares fell heavily on the news.

Cameron is equally desperate to put an end to the affair. On Friday, he was forced to announce two separate inquiries into the scandal surrounding News of the World. At a press conference, his statement indicated the extent of the crisis posed before the political establishment. “The truth is, we have all been in this together—the press, politicians and leaders of all parties—and yes, that includes me,” he said.

The escalating scandal surrounding the Murdoch media empire in Britain is a devastating indictment of the political system and exposure of the putrefaction of democracy in the UK. All of the major parties have prostrated themselves before the arch-reactionary Murdoch, who made his name and built his empire by smashing unions and destroying the wages and conditions of workers.

Murdoch backed Tony Blair and the Labour Party during most of Labour’s 13-year reign beginning in 1997, and then switched to the Conservatives and Cameron, backing his election in 2010. With Murdoch’s support, Cameron has launched a historic assault on what remains of the welfare states in Britain.

The entire political establishment, police and others, have been shown to be entirely beholden to a handful of financial oligarchs with Murdoch standing in the front rank.

Cameron’s inquires pledge is intended to bury this essential fact. He said there would be one inquiry led by a judge into what happened at the newspaper and the failure of police to act earlier. But, he insisted, “the bulk of this inquiry can only happen when the police investigation has finished.” This means that it could be delayed for months, if not years.

Labour leader Ed Miliband had previously led calls for an inquiry headed by a judge. Miliband clearly hopes that he can put some distance between the Labour Party and the Murdoch press. Any genuine inquiry would be just as damaging for Labour as for the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

The issue that should properly be investigated is not merely the actions of the Murdoch media empire, but those of the political elite and the police in covering for such criminality year after year. Cameron said in his statement that his government is consulting “now with select committees and others on the terms of reference, remit and powers” of an inquiry. Miliband is to meet with Cameron next week to discuss inquiry arrangements.

The purpose of all such talks will be to ensure that everything possible is done to minimise the political fallout from the latest revelations.

Geoffrey Robertson QC, who heads the Media Legal Defence Initiative, has already rejected Cameron’s assertion that an inquiry must wait until the police investigation is complete. He insisted that this is not a legal requirement. “If we want to get to the bottom of what is a really groundbreaking public scandal, we need to set up an inquiry that starts immediately,” he said.

The second inquiry is to involve a panel of experts to look at the “culture, ethics and practices of the British press.” Through such means, the government hopes to deflect from the specific allegations against NI and kick the scandal into the long grass. With examples ranging from the Bloody Sunday massacre in Northern Ireland, to the death of Iraq War whistleblower Dr. David Kelly and the lies used to justify the war, the British ruling elite are past masters at using inquiries that drag on for years to whitewash crimes and prevent those responsible from being held accountable.

FM considers West stance on unilateral pressure on Syria inadmissible 

MOSCOW: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov considers inadmissible the situation when the West puts pressure only on the Syrian authorities in order to normalise the climate in the country.

“The position of our Western partners is that they insist on putting pressure on one side – the government and the president,” Lavrov said in an interview with Rossiya 24 Channel on Thursday.

“We consider this approach wrong. We want the same approach to be used towards Syria like as in Yemen,” the Russian minister pointed out.

“In any case the actions are inadmissible when peaceful civilians die. It is inadmissible to use force and violence by the opposition and make demonstrators a target for police,” he said.

“We spoke about it without disguise and we continue to speak about it,” Lavrov added.

In June, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Russia came against a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria and the country’s position remains unchanged.

“In the context of the discussions currently underway in New York I want to rivet your attention on a statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after the SCO summit in Astana. Lavrov said we came against a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria,” the diplomat said.

“Our position has been outlined by the Russian president some time ago and it remains unchanged,” Lukashevich said.

He considers a dialogue, which is proposed by Syria’s authorities, an optimal way to settle the situation in the country. “We confirm that the dialogue, which is proposed by Syria’s authorities, is an optimal way to settle the situation,” Lukashevich stressed.

“We believe that it should be substantiated and ensure further path to the deep democratic reforms, including the democratic renovation of the Syrian state and society, sustainable economic development and the observance of human rights and freedoms,” the diplomat said.

At the same time, Lukashevich noted that the situation in Syria “remains extremely tense”. “These days mass media have reported on peaceful protest actions, as well as armed actions by extremists and militants’ attempts to seize certain settlements in border regions that led to killings of civilians, law enforcers, destroying state institutions and fearing the peaceful population,” the diplomat said.

“As a result of the Syrian army’s actions the authorities placed control over all regions as a whole,” he added.

Lavrov also said Russia was against submitting Syria’s issue to the U.N. Security Council.

Russia “is against submitting the Syrian issue to the U.N. Security Council”, he said.

This issue was also in the focus of the G-8 summit in Deauville.

President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia did not favour sanctions against Syria but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must ensure democratic transformations.

While discussing sanctions against Syria, one must remember that the United States and the European Union have already endorsed such, he said. “As a rule, the number of sanctions is immaterial for results. No one has been pushing for sanctions at the UN Security Council,” he added.

“I had a telephone conversation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad about two days ago. We do not favour sanctions. We think that President al-Assad must pass from words to deeds and really hold democratic transformations in his country: to give the voting right to the opposition, to amend election laws and to prevent violence in opposition actions,” he said.

President Medvedev said he hoped that the reform policy declared by the Syrian leader would be very energetic, the Kremlin reported.

“Medvedev expressed the principled position of the Russian Federation on the events in and around Syria and expressed the hope that the reform policy declared by Bashar al-Assad would be held very energetically and in a broad dialog with the national public,” the Kremlin said.

Al-Assad said that the Syrian administration “was doing everything to ensure the free and peaceful expression of will by Syrian citizens. At the same time, the Syrian administration will not allow radical and fundamentalist groups to operate. The reform policy is the course to be implemented consistently and dynamically.”

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Why QE2 Failed: The Money All Went Offshore

July 9th, 2011 by Ellen Brown

On June 30, QE2 ended with a whimper.  The Fed’s second round of “quantitative easing” involved $600 billion created with a computer keystroke for the purchase of long-term government bonds.  But the government never actually got the money, which went straight into the reserve accounts of banks, where it still sits today.  Worse, it went into the reserve accounts of FOREIGN banks, on which the Federal Reserve is now paying 0.25% interest. 

Before QE2 there was QE1, in which the Fed bought $1.25 trillion in mortgage-backed securities from the banks.  This money too remains in bank reserve accounts collecting interest and dust.  The Fed reports that the accumulated excess reserves of depository institutions now total nearly $1.6 trillion.    

Interestingly, $1.6 trillion is also the size of the federal deficit – a deficit so large that some members of Congress are threatening to force a default on the national debt if it isn’t corrected soon. 

So here we have the anomalous situation of a $1.6 trillion hole in the federal budget, and $1.6 trillion created by the Fed that is now sitting idle in bank reserve accounts.  If the intent of “quantitative easing” was to stimulate the economy, it might have worked better if the money earmarked for the purchase of Treasuries had been delivered directly to the Treasury.  That was actually how it was done before 1935, when the law was changed to require private bond dealers to be cut into the deal.   

The one thing QE2 did for the taxpayers was to reduce the interest tab on the federal debt.  The long-term bonds the Fed bought on the open market are now effectively interest-free to the government, since the Fed rebates its profits to the Treasury after deducting its costs.   

But QE2 has not helped the anemic local credit market, on which smaller businesses rely; and it is these businesses that are largely responsible for creating new jobs.  In a June 30 article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Smaller Businesses Seeking Loans Still Come Up Empty,” Emily Maltby reported that business owners rank access to capital as the most important issue facing them today; and only 17% of smaller businesses said they were able to land needed bank financing.      

How QE2 Wound Up in Foreign Banks 

Before the Banking Act of 1935, the government was able to borrow directly from its own central bank.  Other countries followed that policy as well, including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand; and they prospered as a result.  After 1935, however, if the U.S. central bank wanted to buy government securities, it had to purchase them from private banks on the “open market.”  Former Fed Chairman Marinner Eccles wrote in support of an act to remove that requirement that it was intended to keep politicians from spending too much.  But all the law succeeded in doing was to give the bond-dealer banks a cut as middlemen.   

Worse, it caused the Fed to lose control of where the money went.  Rather than buying more bonds from the Treasury, the banks that got the cash could just sit on it or use it for their own purposes; and that is apparently what is happening today.

In carrying out its QE2 purchases, the Fed had to follow standard operating procedure for “open market operations”: it took secret bids from the 20 “primary dealers” authorized to sell securities to the Fed and accepted the best offers.  The problem was that 12 of these dealers – or over half — are U.S.-based branches of foreign banks (including BNP Paribas, Barclays, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, UBS and others); and they evidently won the bids.   

The fact that foreign banks got the money was established in a June 12 post on Zero Hedge by Tyler Durden (a pseudonym), who compared two charts: the total cash holdings of foreign-related banks in the U.S., using weekly Federal Reserve data; and the total reserve balances held at Federal Reserve banks, from the Fed’s statement ending the week of June 1.  The charts showed that after November 3, 2010, when QE2 operations began, total bank reserves increased by $610 billion.  Foreign bank cash reserves increased in lock step, by $630 billion — or more than the entire QE2.  

 

 In a June 27 blog, John Mason, Professor of Finance at Penn State University and a former senior economist at the Federal Reserve, wrote:  

In essence, it appears as if much of the monetary stimulus generated by the Federal Reserve System went into the Eurodollar market. This is all part of the “Carry Trade” as foreign branches of an American bank could borrow dollars from the “home” bank creating a Eurodollar deposit. . . .

Cash assets at the smaller [U.S.] banks remained relatively flat . . . . Thus, the reserves the Fed was pumping into the banking system were not going into the smaller banks. . . .  

[B]usiness loans continue to “tank” at the smaller banking institutions. . . .

The real lending by commercial banks is not taking place in the United States. The lending is taking place off-shore, underwritten by the Federal Reserve System and this is doing little or nothing to help the American economy grow.  

Tyler Durden concluded: 

. . . [T]he only beneficiary of the reserves generated were US-based branches of foreign banks (which in turn turned around and funnelled the cash back to their domestic branches), a shocking finding which explains . . . why US banks have been unwilling and, far more importantly, unable to lend out these reserves . . . .  

. . . [T]he data above proves beyond a reasonable doubt why there has been no excess lending by US banks to US borrowers: none of the cash ever even made it to US banks! . . . This also resolves the mystery of the broken money multiplier and why the velocity of money has imploded. 

Well, not exactly.  The fact that the QE2 money all wound up in foreign banks is a shocking finding, but it doesn’t seem to be the reason banks aren’t lending.  There were already $1 trillion in excess reserves sitting idle in U.S. reserve accounts, not counting the $600 billion from QE2. 

According to Scott Fullwiler, Associate Professor of Economics at Wartburg College, the money multiplier model is not just broken but is obsolete.  Banks do not lend based on what they have in reserve.  They can borrow reserves as needed after making loans.  Whether banks will lend depends rather on (a) whether they have creditworthy borrowers, (b) whether they have sufficient capital to satisfy the capital requirement, and (c) the cost of funds – meaning the cost to the bank of borrowing to meet the reserve requirement, either from depositors or from other banks or from the Federal Reserve. 

Setting Things Right

Whatever is responsible for causing the local credit crunch, trillions of dollars thrown at Wall Street by Congress and the Fed haven’t fixed the problem.  It may be time for local governments to take matters into their own hands.  While we wait for federal lawmakers to get it right, local credit markets can be revitalized by establishing state-owned banks, on the model of the Bank of North Dakota (BND).  The BND services the liquidity needs of local banks and keeps credit flowing in the state.  For more information, see here and here.  

Concerning the gaping federal deficit, Congressman Ron Paul has an excellent idea: have the Fed simply write off the federal securities purchased with funds created in its quantitative easing programs.  No creditors would be harmed, since the money was generated out of thin air with a computer keystroke in the first place.  The government would just be canceling a debt to itself and saving the interest. 

As for “quantitative easing,” if the intent is to stimulate the economy, the money needs to go directly into the purchase of goods and services, stimulating “demand.”  If it goes onto the balance sheets of banks, it may stop there or go into speculation rather than local lending — as is happening now.  Money that goes directly to the government, on the other hand, will be spent on goods and services in the real economy, creating much-needed jobs, generating demand, and rebuilding the tax base.  To make sure the money gets there, the 1935 law forbidding the Fed to buy Treasuries directly from the Treasury needs to be repealed. 

Ellen Brown is an attorney and president of the Public Banking Institute, http://PublicBankingInstitute.org. In Web of Debt, her latest of eleven books, she shows how the power to create money has been usurped from the people, and how we can get it back. Her websites are http://webofdebt.com and http://ellenbrown.com 

US House votes against aid for Libya’s rebels

July 8th, 2011 by Global Research

The US House of Representatives has voted to prevent the Pentagon from supplying weapons, training or advice to Libyan rebels.

The House voted to deny funding for direct help to the rebels although a proposal to stop US participation in Nato-led air strikes was defeated.

Correspondents say there is strong Congressional opposition to US involvement in the conflict.

Opponents say President Obama should have sought Congress’s approval first.

The House voted 225-201 to stop any money from the defence spending bill being spent on equipment or training for rebels trying to oust Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi.

The measure needs Senate approval and to be signed by President Obama before becoming law.

Republican Representative Tom Cole, who sponsored the measure, said Congress had “allowed the president to overreach in Libya”.

“We should not be engaged in military action of this level unless it is authorised and funded by Congress,” he said.

‘Wrong message’

However, Senator John McCain, also a Republican, said the vote was “deeply disturbing”.

He said he shared frustration over President Obama’s “lack of consultation” with Congress over the conflict but added: “This action sends the wrong message to both Gaddafi and those fighting for freedom and democracy in Libya – especially with Gaddafi clearly crumbling.”

On a more positive note for President Obama, the House voted 229-199 against a measure that would have barred funds for US participation in the Libya mission.

The amendments were being debated as part of a $649bn (£406bn) defence spending bill.

Although the bill includes no funds for the Libyan operation, the Pentagon has said it can cover the costs with existing funds.

Last month, representatives voted overwhelmingly to deny President Obama authority to continue US participation in the operation in Libya, but rejected a bid to cut off money for the conflict.

Mr Obama says he does not need additional congressional approval, as US forces are simply supporting Nato.

U.S. Wants Gaddafi Toppled By September

July 8th, 2011 by Paul Joseph Watson

The United States and France have set a deadline of September 2nd to topple Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, with NATO powers ready to inflict a crushing blow if Gaddafi refuses to step down peacefully, according to Israeli intelligence sources based in Washington.

As we reported on Monday, NATO is reportedly preparing for a full ground invasion in order to oversee a final “coup de grace” that will manifest itself as a “large-scale, all-out military bid to kill or oust” Colonel Gaddafi.

NATO powers are looking to end the war in Libya within the next two months so that the conflict will be over by the time Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy convene for a crucial Israeli-Palestine peace summit in Paris on September 2nd. Obama and Sarkozy’s credibility as peacemakers will be completely undermined if they are still overseeing attacks on Libya, which is why a desire to bring the bombardment to an end is gaining greater urgency.

With Washington eager to prevent the Palestinian Authority from attaining full status as a member of the United Nations, as PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas prepares to file a request with the UN Security Council next week, a ploy to defer the move that will allow the US government to negotiate a peace deal on its own terms is instead in the works.

However, Obama and Sarkozy’s plan to meet with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the French capital on September 2nd is wholly dependent on the war in Libya being finalized by that time.

“According to the US-French plan, it will take place shortly after the Libyan war is brought to a close – ideally by a four-way accord between the US, France, Muammar Qaddafi and the Libyan rebels or, failing agreement, by a crushing NATO military blow in which the United States will also take part. The proposed accord would be based on Muammar Qaddafi’s departure and the establishment of a power-sharing transitional administration in Tripoli between the incumbent government and rebel leaders,” reports DebkaFile, an Israeli intelligence-gathering outlet that has proven accurate in the past.

The September deadline is also interesting considering other reports based on intelligence sources that suggest Israel is planning a surgical strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities in September as a means of distracting from and ultimately derailing the prospect of Palestinian

“The US and French presidents hope to be credited at home and in the Middle East with a triple feat: two diplomatic breakthroughs in the Middle East and a US-French victory in Libya. To this end, negotiations are going forward with the concerned parties,” states the Debka report.

Should NATO receive assurances that Gaddafi is willing to negotiate, there will be no need to launch a full ground invasion, but US troops are prepared for that eventuality. As we reported last month, sources from Ft. Hood, Texas as well as CENTCOM contacted us to reveal that the 1st Calvary Division (heavy armor) and III Corps were being deployed to Libya, but the timeframe wasn’t until October, which will be too late if Obama wants to get the job finished before the summit in Paris.

Gaddafi’s determination to cling to power and the resistance offered by large areas of the country who still support his regime ensures that NATO’s timetable for ending the conflict is not set in stone, and the war could drag on for many more months.

Earlier this week a senior Russian official told the Kommersant newspaper that Gaddafi had offered to give up power in Libya on the condition that his son would be allowed to run in a follow-up election. However, similar rumors of Gaddafi’s plans to step down or flee have circulated before and turned out to be baseless.

Chatter arising out of the recent Bilderberg Group meeting in St. Moritz, at which NATO chief Anders Rasmussen was reportedly in attendance, suggested that the bombardment of Libya would be intensified in order to achieve regime change.

In a bid to circumvent the Obama administration’s failure to obtain Congressional approval for the war, the Pentagon recently moved to transfer $5 billion in funds to pay for replacing bombs already used in Libya during the 801 attack missions flown by U.S. warplanes over the last three months, despite previously asserting that no replacements would be needed. This suggests that another massive bombardment is in preparation.

World Population to Hit Seven Billion by October

July 8th, 2011 by Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 7, 2011 (IPS) – The United Nations commemorates World Population Day next week against the backdrop of an upcoming landmark event: global population hitting the seven billion mark by late October this year.

According to current projections, and with some of the world’s poorest nations doubling their populations in the next decade, the second milestone will be in 2025: an eight billion population over the next 14 years.

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), told IPS seven billion represents a challenge, an opportunity and a call to action.

On World Population Day Jul. 11, he will be launching a campaign called “7 Billion Actions”.

“It will engage people on what it means to live in a world with seven billion people and encourage action on issues that affect all of us,” he added.

Together, he said, “we can forge the future with young people, advance rights for girls and women, and safeguard the natural resources on which we all depend.”

The rise in population is expected to have a devastating impact on some 215 million women who want – but do not have – access to quality reproductive health and family planning services.

Tamara Kreinin, executive director of Women and Population at the U.N. Foundation, told IPS, “With the world’s population poised to cross the seven billion mark in October 2011 and continue to grow over several more decades, this unmet need is only likely to increase.”

She said the quality and availability of family planning services is instrumental in interrupting the inter-generational cycle of poverty and creating stronger, more stable families and communities.

Investing in voluntary family planning programmes gives women the tools to make critical decisions about the size of their families and spacing of their pregnancies, she noted.

Kreinin said meeting the need for family planning would result in a 32-percent decrease in maternal deaths, and reduce infant mortality by 10 percent.

Dr. Osotimehin told IPS protecting reproductive health and rights “is fundamental to our collective future and sustainable development”.

“Together, we can meet the needs of some 215 million women in developing countries who want to plan and space their births but do not have access to modern contraception,” he said. “Together, we can prevent the deaths of 1,000 women every day from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.”

He said there is also an opportunity and responsibility to invest in the world’s 1.8 billion adolescents and youth aged 10 to 24.

They constitute more than a quarter of the world’s population and almost 90 percent live in developing countries.

“Every young person deserves education, including sexuality education, and access to comprehensive health services,” he noted.

With the right policies, investments and social support, young people can enjoy healthier lives free of poverty and enhance prospects for peace and stability, he added.

“As the most interconnected population, young people are already transforming society, politics and culture. By more actively engaging women and young people, we can build a better future for all generations,” Dr. Osotimehin declared.

The world’s five most populous countries are China (1.3 billion), India (1.2 billion), the United States (310.2 million), Indonesia (242.9 million) and Brazil (201.1 million).

A new study titled “Africa’s Demographic Multiplication”, released last month and commissioned by the Washington-based Globalist Research Center, points out that Africa’s population has more than tripled during the second half of the 20th century, growing from 230 million to 811 million.

As a result, Africa has become more populous than Europe. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country at 158 million, is expected to grow to 730 million by century’s end, making it larger than Europe’s projected population of 675 million.

Nigeria is currently the only African country with a population exceeding 100 million.

But 10 other countries in the African continent are expected to join that club before the close of the century: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Jose Miguel Guzman, chief of the UNFPA’s Population and Development Branch, told IPS that globally, the population growth rate is not as high as it has been in the past.

Fertility decline in most countries of the world has contributed to a decline in population growth rates.

“But if we take into consideration least developed countries (LDCs) or most of the sub-Saharan countries, the situation is quite different,” Guzman said.

In most of these countries, he said, fertility is still high, and the rate of growth is also high.

In some cases, it is as high as three percent, which implies that the population in these areas will double in about 20 to 25 years.

The date for the eight billion population milestone is projected now to be 2025, he predicted.

Kreinin told IPS that in many countries, every dollar spent on voluntary family planning saves at least four dollars that would otherwise be spent treating complications arising from unplanned pregnancies.

Despite the low cost and many benefits of voluntary family planning, world leaders have not placed a priority on its funding.

Emerging countries are spending about half of what they pledged at the historic 1994 International Conference on Population Development (ICPD) for reproductive health spending, while developed countries, including the U.S., have provided less than a quarter of the promised spending, she added.

She said U.S. investment in international family planning has traditionally been strong, but support peaked in 1995 and has declined significantly since.

Although in nominal terms funding has recovered in recent years, Kreinin said, it still remains 40 percent below peak funding levels when adjusted for inflation, even as the unmet need continues to grow. (END)

“Nobody’s above the law,” President Barack Obama declared in 2009, as Congress contemplated an investigation of torture authorized by the Bush administration.

But Mr. Obama has failed to honor those words. His Justice Department proclaimed its intention to grant a free pass to Bush officials and their lawyers who constructed a regime of torture and abuse. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced last week that his office will investigate only two instances of detainee mistreatment. He said the department “has determined that an expanded criminal investigation of the remaining matters is not warranted.” Holder has granted impunity to those who authorized, provided legal cover, and carried out the “remaining matters.”

Both of the incidents that Holder has agreed to investigate involved egregious treatment and both resulted in death. In one case, Gul Rahman froze to death in 2002 after being stripped and shackled to a cold cement floor in a secret American prison in Afghanistan known as the Salt Pit. The other man, Manadel al-Jamadi, died in 2003 at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He was suspended from the ceiling by his wrists, which were bound behind his back. Tony Diaz, an MP who witnessed al-Jamadi’s torture, reported that blood gushed from his mouth like “a faucet had turned on” when al-Jamadi was lowered to the ground. These two deaths should be investigated and those responsible punished in accordance with the law.

But the investigation must have a much broader scope. More than 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody, many from torture. And untold numbers were subjected to torture and cruel treatment in violation of U.S. and international law. Gen. Barry McCaffrey said, “We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.”

Detainees were put in stress positions, including being chained to the floor, slammed against walls, placed into small boxes with insects, subjected to extremely cold and hot temperatures as well as diet manipulation, blaring music, and threats against themselves and their families.

At least three men were waterboarded, a technique that makes the subject feel as though he is drowning. Pursuant to the Bush administration’s efforts to create a link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times. Abu Zubaydah received this treatment on 83 occasions.

American law has long recognized that waterboarding constitutes torture. The United States prosecuted Japanese military leaders for torture based on waterboarding after World War II. The Geneva Conventions and the U.S. War Crimes Act make torture punishable as a war crime.

Lawyers in the Bush Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, including John Yoo and Jay Bybee, wrote the torture memos. They redefined torture much more narrowly than the Convention against Torture and the War Crimes Act, knowing interrogators would follow their advice. They also created elaborate justifications for torture and abuse, notwithstanding the absolute prohibition of torture in our law. When the United States ratified the Convention against Torture, it became part of U.S. law under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. The convention says, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Yoo have all said they participated in the decision to waterboard and would do it again. Thus, they have admitted the commission of war crimes.

Maj. Gen. Anthony Taguba, who directed the investigation of mistreatment at Abu Ghraib, wrote, “there is no longer any doubt as to whether the [Bush] administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

Taguba’s question has been answered. None of those lawyers or officials will be brought to justice. Outgoing C.I.A. Director Leon Panetta said, “We are now finally about to close this chapter of our agency’s history.” Ominously, David Petraeus, incoming C.I.A. Director, told Congress there might be circumstances in which a return to “enhanced interrogation” is warranted. That means torture may well continue during Obama’s tenure. This is unacceptable.

Not only is torture illegal; it doesn’t work and it makes people outside the U.S. resent us even more. High-level interrogators such as F.B.I. agent Ali Soufan have said the most valuable intelligence was obtained using traditional, humane interrogation methods. Former F.B.I. agent Dan Coleman agrees. “Brutalization doesn’t work,” he observed. “Besides that, you lose your soul.”

Marjorie Cohn is a professor of law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and editor of “The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse” (NYU Press, 2011).

Voronin urges EU to publicly denounce Basescu’s WWII statements

The head of the Republic of Moldova’s Communist Party, former President Vladimir Voronin, yesterday criticised President Traian Basescu’s recent comments about the Second World War and demanded that the EU publicly denounce the Romanian head of state for his words, Pro TV Chisinau reported.

In a TV show on June 22, President Basescu said he would have done the same as Marshal Ion Antonescu did during the war, when joining Germany in invading the Soviet Union. “We had an ally and we had a territory to recover (e.n. Moldova). If I had faced the same conditions I would have done it,” Basescu argued.

“The president of a EU member state labelled as correct the actions of a war criminal and Nazi executioner, Antonescu, by whose actions more than 300,000 people were exterminated,” Voronin said yesterday.

Basescu’s comments were fiercely criticised by the opposition and large parts of the public, but also by Russia, which said the head of state was practically trying to justify his country’s decision to join the war against the Soviet Union on Hitler’s side. Moreover, it was reported that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also had some very tough comments on Basescu during the NATO-Russia council earlier this week. Asked to comment on the reports, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen refused.

“President Medvedev talks about this matter in a confidential diplomatic framework and in the terms appropriate for this framework. The Romanian envoy to NATO replied in the same framework and the same terms,” he said. NATO envoy Sorin Ducaru too refused to make any comments.

http://www.itar-tass.com/en/c154/181545_print.html

Itar-Tass
July 8, 2011

Moldova’s former Pres urges EU to condemn Romanian Pres statement.

CHISINAU: Moldova’s former President Vladimir Voronin on Thursday expressed surprise over the absence of reaction on the part of the European Union to the remarks made by Romanian President Trajan Basescu regarding Hitler’s aggression against the USSR in 1941.

Basescu said earlier this week he would have sent Romanian soldiers to take part in the occupation of the USSR along with Hitler’s forces in 1941.

Romanian dictator Ion Antonescu did send Romanian troops to war against the Soviet Union in June 1941.

‘We’re indignant over Basescu’s statement,” Vladimir Voronin said Thursday as he met in Chisinau with European Council President Herman van Rompuy. “In actual fact, Basescu, who is president of an EU member-state, justified the war criminal and butcher Antonescu, whose immediate involvement – in the punitive operations – took away the lives of more than 300,000.”

“Now Basescu says that if he had been in Antonescu’s position seventy years ago, he, too, would have ordered the troops to cross the river Prut,” Voronin said.

“We expect condemnation of these statements,” Voronin said.

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