Sunday, February 28, 2010

Iceland's vilified bankers have fled abroad

REYKJAVIK (AFP) - A year after Iceland's stunning economic collapse, most of the directors of its failed banks have fled abroad, tired of angry verbal attacks and the red paint daubed on their homes and cars.

A year ago, the small North Atlantic nation saw its oversized financial sector crumble amid the global credit crisis, as the government took over the three biggest banks and the stock market suspended all financial shares.

With the country on the brink of bankruptcy, Icelanders took to the streets to vent their fury over having lost their savings and their jobs -- while inflation soared and the currency plunged -- all because of the actions of what they saw as a few overly-aggressive and out-of-control bankers.

According to Iceland's special prosecutor investigating the collapse of the banks, 50 to 60 people from the banks' top layers of management have been taken in for questioning so far -- but no charges have been pressed to date.

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William S. Burroughs - Burroughs The Movie (1985)

Things your body can do after you die

 1. Get married

Death is no obstacle when it comes to love in China. That's because ghost marriage -- the practice of setting up deceased relatives with suitable spouses, dead or alive -- is still an option.

Ghost marriage first appeared in Chinese legends 2,000 years ago, and it's been a staple of the culture ever since. At times, it was a way for spinsters to gain social acceptance after death. At other times, the ceremony honored dead sons by giving them living brides. In both cases, the marriages served a religious function by making the deceased happier in the afterlife.

While the practice of matchmaking for the dead waned during China's Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s, officials report that ghost marriages are back on the rise. Today, the goal is often to give a deceased bachelor a wife -- preferably one who has recently been laid to rest. But in a nation where men outnumber women in death as well as in life, the shortage of corpse brides has led to murder.

In 2007, there were two widely reported cases of rural men killing prostitutes, housekeepers, and mentally ill women in order to sell their bodies as ghost wives. Worse, these crimes pay. According to The Washington Post and The London Times, one undertaker buys women's bodies for more than $2,000 and sells them to prospective "in-laws" for nearly $5,000.

2. Unwind with a few friends

 Today, most of us think of mummies as rare and valuable artifacts, but to the ancient Egyptians, they were as common as iPhones. So, where have all those mummies gone? Basically, they've been used up. Europeans and Middle Easterners spent centuries raiding ancient Egyptian tombs and turning the bandaged bodies into cheap commodities.

For instance, mummy-based panaceas were once popular as quack medicine. In the 16th century, French King Francis I took a daily pinch of mummy to build strength, sort of like a particularly offensive multivitamin. Other mummies, mainly those of animals, became kindling in homes and steam engines.

Meanwhile, human mummies frequently fell victim to Victorian social events. During the late 19th century, it was popular for wealthy families to host mummy-unwrapping parties, where the desecration of the dead was followed by cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.

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Elinor Ostrom wins Nobel for common(s) sense

For one thing, she is the first woman to receive the prize. Her Ph.D. is in political science, not economics (though she minored in economics, collaborates with many economists, and considers herself a political economist). But what makes this award particularly special is that her work is about cooperation, while standard economics focuses on competition.

Ostrom's seminal book, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, was published in 1990. But her research on common property goes back to the early 1960s, when she wrote her dissertation on groundwater in California. In 1973 she and her husband, Vincent Ostrom, founded the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University. In the intervening years, the Workshop has produced hundreds of studies of the conditions in which communities self-organize to solve common problems. Ostrom currently serves as professor of political science at Indiana University and senior research director of the Workshop.

Fran Korten, YES! Magazine's publisher, spent 20 years with the Ford Foundation making grants to support community management of water and forests in Southeast Asia and the United States. She and Ostrom drew on one another's work as this field of knowledge developed. Fran interviewed her friend and colleague Lin Ostrom shortly after Ostrom received the Nobel Prize.

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The political philosophy of Oscar Wilde

The renowned playwright Oscar Wilde once said, “A man who can dominate a London dinner-table can dominate the world.” At the height of his career in 1895, Wilde dominated London dinner-tables, stages, and opinion. Two of his plays opened that year to rave reviews by both critics and the public. His epigrams and activities were repeated — often by him — in the best of homes while his philosophy of art and life were printed in newspapers of note. Wilde was intensely admired and intensely disliked because he was, among other things, a propagator of radical ideas.

Aesthetically, Wilde advocated art-for-art's-sake — the theory that art should be judged on its own merits rather than upon the morality or politics it expressed. Personally, he declared pleasure to be the purpose of life even though the Victorian era surrounding him assigned that role to “duty.” He was also homosexual. These aspects of Wilde have been documented in hundreds of books and essays but Oscar Wilde “the libertarian” and advocate of social reform has received comparatively little attention.

In the book Liberty and the Great Libertarians, Charles Sprading includes an excerpt from Wilde's essay “The Soul of Man Under Socialism.” This essay and the lengthy poem “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” — of which Benjamin Tucker published the first American book edition in 1899 — are Wilde's most important political works. Wilde was primarily a playwright, a poet, and a novelist who only occasionally strayed into political theory. His importance as a libertarian stems from the events and consequences of his life as much or more than from his political writing. This is particularly true in the area of penal reform.

Part of the reason Wilde's libertarianism is overlooked is because like many 19th-century libertarians, including Tucker himself, Wilde sometimes called himself a “socialist.” Just as the term “liberal” has evolved, however, the term “socialist” was often used in a different way than it is today.

“The Soul of Man under Socialism” is Wilde's most direct commentary on politics but the ideal of socialism expressed is confused and contradictory. For example, Wilde assumes socialism will create a society in which production problems are solved and machines perform all drudgery, leaving the individual free to express himself. Thus, self-expression or “individualism” is the goal of Wilde's socialist vision. Individualism is defined as the ability to pursue artistic goals without submitting to the “tyranny of want.” Wilde presents a paradox: namely, embracing “the collective” will not only result in individualism but also in artistic expression without social or state control. Thus, the essay does not argue for socialism on economic or moral grounds but on rather naive artistic ones.

Wilde's arguments against private property are equally vague, contradictory, and aesthetic. Wilde believed private property had a “decaying” effect on man's soul. “It [private property] has made gain nor growth its aim,” he explained. “So that man thought that the important thing was to have, and did not know that the important thing was to be.”

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House Democrats in disarray over anti-torture provision

By Muriel Kane, Raw Story

Democratic leadership in the House was in disarray last night after having to withdraw the 2010 Intelligence Authorization Act, moments before it was to have been voted upon, as the result of a controversial anti-torture provision.

The amendment was added in the House Rules Committee late on Wednesday and had not previously been vetted in committee. It would have criminalized the most extreme forms of "enhanced interrogation" and provided stiff sentences for intelligence officers or medical professions who engaged in them.

Republican opposition caused the Democrats to attempt to remove the provision from the bill on Thursday by a unanimous consent agreement. When the Republicans refused to go along, the Democratic leadership was forced to pull the bill entirely.

In the wake of the debacle, there was confusion as to how the provision had gotten into the bill, and Democratic leaders appeared to be attempting to distance themselves from it.

The American Prospect had reported earlier that the amendment was proposed by House Intelligence Committee Chair Sylvestre Reyes (D-TX). After the withdrawal of the bill, however, Politico cited Democratic sources as saying that "House Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter attached the provision to the bill Wednesday over the objections of other House leaders." One source told RollCall (reg. req.), "No one wanted it in there," and Rep. Jane Harmon (D-CA) insisted, "It's a mystery how that language got in there."

Ayn Rand as big admirer of serial killer

There's something deeply unsettling about living in a country where millions of people froth at the mouth at the idea of giving health care to the tens of millions of Americans who don't have it, or who take pleasure at the thought of privatizing and slashing bedrock social programs like Social Security or Medicare. It might not be as hard to stomach if other Western countries also had a large, vocal chunk of the population who thought like this, but the US is seemingly the only place where right-wing elites can openly share their distaste for the working poor. Where do they find their philosophical justification for this kind of attitude?

It turns out, you can trace much of this thinking back to Ayn Rand, a popular cult-philosopher who exerts a huge influence over much of the right-wing and libertarian crowd, but whose influence is only starting to spread out of the US.

One reason why most countries don't find the time to embrace her thinking is that Ayn Rand is a textbook sociopath. Literally a sociopath: Ayn Rand, in her notebooks, worshiped a notorious serial murderer-dismemberer, and used this killer as an early model for the type of "ideal man" that Rand promoted in her more famous books -- ideas which were later picked up on and put into play by major right-wing figures of the past half decade, including the key architects of America's most recent economic catastrophe -- former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan and SEC Commissioner Chris Cox -- along with other notable right-wing Republicans such as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Rush Limbaugh, and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.

The loudest of all the Republicans, right-wing attack-dog pundits and the Teabagger mobs fighting to kill health care reform and eviscerate "entitlement programs" increasingly hold up Ayn Rand as their guru. Sales of her books have soared in the past couple of years; one poll ranked "Atlas Shrugged" as the second most influential book of the 20th century, after The Bible.

So what, and who, was Ayn Rand for and against? The best way to get to the bottom of it is to take a look at how she developed the superhero of her novel, Atlas Shrugged, John Galt. Back in the late 1920s, as Ayn Rand was working out her philosophy, she became enthralled by a real-life American serial killer, William Edward Hickman, whose gruesome, sadistic dismemberment of 12-year-old girl named Marion Parker in 1927 shocked the nation. Rand filled her early notebooks with worshipful praise of Hickman. According to biographer Jennifer Burns, author of Goddess of the Market, Rand was so smitten by Hickman that she modeled her first literary creation -- Danny Renahan, the protagonist of her unfinished first novel, The Little Street -- on him.

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Man who broke the Bank of England, George Soros, 'at centre of hedge funds plot to cash in on fall of the euro'

A secretive group of Wall Street hedge fund bosses are said to be behind a plot to cash in on the decline of the euro.

Representatives of George Soros's investment business were among an all-star line up of Wall Street investors at an 'ideas dinner' at a private townhouse in Manhattan, according to reports.

A spokesman for Soros Fund Management said the legendary investor did not attend the dinner on February 8, but did not deny that his firm was represented.

At the dinner, the speculators are said to have argued that the euro is likely to plunge in value to parity with the dollar.

The single currency has been under enormous pressure because of Greece's debt crisis, plus financial worries in Portugal, Italy, Spain and Ireland.

But, it has also struggled because hedge funds have been placing huge bets on the currency's decline, which could make the speculators hundreds of millions of pounds.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Wall Street bonuses top $20bn

Despite calls for restraint in multi-million dollar pay packages, Wall Street bonuses jumped by 17% to $20.3bn (£13bn) for 2009 as America's financial services industry rebounded swiftly from the credit crunch to healthy profitability, according to New York's tax department.

New York state's comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, said the average taxable bonus on Wall Street was $123,850, a figure he described as a "bitter pill" for many people still struggling with record unemployment and ongoing economic weakness on the high street.

Bonuses at banks, fund management firms and stockbrokers are a crucial element in New York's income tax revenue and the state keeps a careful tally of each year's projected payout on Wall Street.

DiNapoli said the total bonus pool was down by about a third on 2007, when the financial crisis had yet to wreak unprecedented havoc on the markets. But he said Wall Street was on track to make an aggregate profit of as much as $55bn for 2009, a remarkable recovery after a $43bn loss in 2008.

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Health scandal of the decade -- Monsanto’s GMO perversion of food

In the 2010 growing season Monsanto plans to unleash its latest Frankenfood experiment on the American and Canadian public, a new version of genetically mutated corn with eight abnormal gene traits called Genuity SmartStax corn.  It is the culmination of an astonishing scandal that has been steadily building over the past decade.  During this time Monsanto's mutated seeds have grown to 90% of the U.S. soy crop and 85% of the corn crop – and wheat is next on their agenda.  Their efforts have been marked by corporate bullying and have drawn the attention of the Justice Department who is conducting an antitrust investigation.  All the while they have been spending millions on lobbying to fast track their agenda before the American public even realizes what hit them.  Europeans are livid about the lack of safety testing for this newest Monsanto experiment.  Monsanto is making an ominous power play to corner the worldwide market on food and seeds.  In the process they are adversely altering the very nature of food itself.

Few people would eat Monsanto's “food” if they understood what it was or knew that they were eating it.  President Obama and his family won't eat it.  Neither did the Bush family.  Even a Monsanto employee cafeteria rejects it.  This is no laughing matter.  Your health and the health of your children and grandchildren are at stake.  It seems more like a scene from a horror flick than something happening in modern day America.  Imagine your digestive tract turned into a Roundup herbicide factory and other warped genetic signals slowly and progressively rotting away your health.  Unlike acute food poisoning from infectious E.coli, it is a slow and insidious poisoning.

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Transcending Tribal Mentality by Caroline Myss

All of us are born into a “tribal mentality” of various forms. These include our family unit, religious background, country of origin, ethnicity, etc. The tribal mentality effectively indoctrinates an individual into the tribe's beliefs, ensuring that all believe the same. The structure of reality – what is and is not possible for the members of the group – is thus agreed upon and maintained by the tribe.

While the tribal mentality has definite benefits in terms of establishing common ground and ensuring group survival, it is not a conscious agreement. We are born into it. Yet at a certain stage, both personally and collectively, the tribal mentality must be challenged. People can then begin to recognize the need for a personal honor code independent of the tribe. If humanity is to progress, we need to learn how to treat everyone – regardless of tribal affiliation – with honor and respect.

Every one of us is plugged into the tribal mind. We support tribal belief patterns by directing a percentage of our life force into maintaining our affiliation with the tribe. This involves an implicit agreement to think like the tribe thinks, to evaluate situations and people the way the tribe does, and to believe in right and wrong according to tribal values and ambitions. As long as the tribal mentality within us remains unexamined, we unwittingly subject others to our tribal laws.

When we are plugged into tribal thought forms, we can easily believe in nonsensical prejudices held by the tribe. Tribal mentality allows us to hold harsh, judgmental positions or attitudes about an entire group of people: “All fat people are lazy,” or “all Irish are drunks,” or "all Muslims are terrorists" for example.

A rigid tribal thought form may have little truth to it, but individuals hold to such beliefs because that perspective is what the tribe has agreed to believe. Innocent children, born into the hatred and prejudice of their parents and ancestors, grow up inside a tribal mentality that sponsors an endless march toward war against the tribe's perceived enemies. People grow up hating other people – people they have never seen – based on group affiliation. This is the shadow side of the tribe.

Inevitably, some among us come to a point where we want to break out of the inflexible tribal mentality. At some point, these individuals want to explore, develop, and manage their own consciousness without the judgments and limitations of the tribal mind.

It is easy to spot these mavericks when they start to question and unplug from tribal mentality – they hang out on the periphery looking bored and restless, or whimsical and dreamy. Others may act out the agitated hot-head as they challenge tribal ways.  

The unspoken assumption of the tribal mind is that everybody loves being part of the tribe. And in many ways, we do. Knowing where and to whom we “belong” is crucial to our self-concept and sense of safety in the world. Yet when we begin the real deep journey of questioning, “What do I believe?” and start to individuate from the tribe, we often enter a dark night of the soul. It is, by necessity, a passage we take alone.

It's one thing to reject what we don't want to believe anymore. It's quite another to begin to explore what we do believe. All we know as we enter the dark night is that we can't go back – even when the tribe is the only world we've ever known.

At this critical point in our development, the tribe doesn't feel right anymore. It no longer offers us comfort. Previous feelings of security and familiarity begin to feel like a trap constraining our individuality and hampering our efforts to discover deeper levels of who we really are.

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Latvian 'Robin Hood' hacker leaks bank details to TV

As reported by the BBC:

An alleged hacker has been hailed as a latter-day Robin Hood for leaking data about the finances of banks and state-owned firms to Latvian TV.

Using the alias "Neo" - a reference to The Matrix films - the hacker claims he wants to expose those cashing in on the recession in Latvia.

He is slowly passing details of leading Latvian firms via Twitter to the TV station and has its audiences hooked.

The Latvian government and police are investigating the security breach.

Data leaked so far includes pay details of managers from a Latvian bank that received a bail-out.

It reveals that many did not take the salary cuts they promised.

Other data shows that state-owned companies secretly awarded bonuses while publicly asking the government for help.

'Cult status'

The anonymous hacker claims to be part of a group - called the Fourth Awakening People's Army - that downloaded more than seven million confidential tax documents from the State Revenue Service. He is thought to be based in Britain.

Over a three month period they downloaded the private data of up to 1,000 companies.

Ilze Nagla, a TV presenter on the state-owned Latvian TV, told the BBC the hacker has attained cult status for some.

"A lot of people perceive him as a modern, virtual Robin Hood," she told the BBC.

"On the one hand of course he has stolen confidential data... and he actually has committed a crime. But at the same time there is value for the public in the sense that now a lot of information gets disclosed and the whole system maybe becomes a little more transparent," she said.

Latvia is currently in the middle of its worst economic crisis since it broke free from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Unemployment, at 23%, is the highest in the European Union and over the last two years economic output has dropped by almost a quarter.

Musical Innerlube: Pathological Lovers


The photography of Antoine D'Agata.


Skin cancer: healing clay & cansema applied

The documents in this section explore a single case of skin cancer treated with healing clay, cansema, and colloidal silver. Please note that the images included are very graphic. This study is freely provided as a public information service. While many skin cancers treated with Cansema are not as severe as the one this study documents, we strongly suggest a clinical diagnosis by a qualified medical practitioner, and if necessary qualified assistance from a licensed doctor practicing alternative medicine.

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Former police officer pleads guilty to Danziger Bridge shooting cover-up of stunning breadth

Admitting a cover-up of shocking breadth, a former New Orleans police supervisor pleaded guilty to a federal obstruction charge on Wednesday, confessing that he participated in a conspiracy to justify the shooting of six unarmed people after Hurricane Katrina that was hatched not long after police stopped firing their weapons.

The guilty plea of Lt. Michael Lohman, who retired from the department earlier this month, contains explosive details of the alleged cover-up and ramps up the legal pressure on police officers involved in the shooting and subsequent investigation. It's unclear when Lohman's cooperation with federal authorities began, but he presumably is prepared to testify against the officers he says helped him lie about the circumstances of a shooting he immediately deemed a "bad shoot."

Facts that Michael Lohman admitted to Lohman, who pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to obstruct justice, admits he failed to order the collection of evidence or canvassing of witnesses, helped craft police reports riddled with false information, participated in a plan to plant a gun under the bridge and lied to investigators who questioned police actions.

A spokesman for NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley said the chief did not have a comment about the guilty plea. Bob Young said Riley stands by the quote he made Tuesday, as news of the guilty plea broke. "We hope that justice is served," he said then.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Ray Nagin did not respond to a request for comment.

In a news conference after Lohman's plea, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said police must be held to the law.

"Police officers are there to protect us, and to protect the most vulnerable among us," he said. "Their jobs are to help individuals and protect us, not to hurt us. Sadly, sadly, we come across in the course of our work here...officers who violate their oaths of office, who occasionally violate their duties, violate their commitment to serve the public. And we take actions against those individuals wherever they violate federal law. We will continue to do that."

In the wake of the startling developments, defense attorneys for some of the six police officers and one former officer involved in the shooting maintained their clients' innocence.

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Plunder - The Crime of Our Time

Exposing the forces responsible for the loss of trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, massive foreclosures and the disappearance of retirement funds, Plunder: The Crime of Our Time investigates the unregulated fraud and theft that led to the market's collapse in fall 2008. Filmmaker Danny Schechter, Emmy Award-winning former ABC News and CNN producer, explores the epidemic of subprime mortgages, predatory lending, insurance scams, and high-risk hedge funds to illustrate the connection between the housing market and the economic collapse that followed. Schechter tells this story by speaking with bankers involved in these activities, respected economists, insider experts, and top journalists, including Paul Krugman, and convicted white-collar criminal Sam Antar. A must for economics, business, and sociology courses, as well as anyone who wants to understand the current financial situation.

Learn about 'Plunder,' and how to help, on Kickstarter:

In 2006, filmmaker Danny Schechter was denounced by some reviewers as an alarmist for his film 'In Debt We Trust,' which warned of the coming credit crisis. He was labeled a doom and gloomer, until the economy melted down, vindicating his warnings. His new film, 'Plunder: The Crime Of Our Time' is a hard-hitting investigative film that shows how the financial crisis was built on a foundation of criminal activity.

Judge Alex Kozinski: The Fourth Amendment is gone. "Welcome to the fish bowl."

Last week the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied an en banc rehearing of the case United States v. Lemus, which dealt with a warrantless police search of a suspect’s home after he was arrested outside of it. As a result of the 9th Circuit’s denial, the search will stand, which has left Chief Judge Alex Kozinski none too happy. In dissent, Kozinksi basically accused his colleagues of abandoning the Fourth Amendment:

This is an extraordinary case: Our court approves, without blinking, a police sweep of a person’s home without a warrant, without probable cause, without reasonable suspicion and without exigency—in other words, with nothing at all to support the entry except the curiosity police always have about what they might find if they go rummaging around a suspect’s home. Once inside, the police managed to turn up a gun “in plain view”—stuck between two cushions of the living room couch—and we reward them by upholding the search.

Did I mention that this was an entry into somebody’s home, the place where the protections of the Fourth Amendment are supposedly at their zenith?...

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Sick Of It All - "Step Down" EastWest Records

The 10 countries most likely to default

Dubai's economic meltdown was a warning sign of further sovereign default troubles for other governments.

CMA, a credit information specialist, tracks the world’s most volatile sovereign debt issuers according to percentage changes in their 5 year Credit Default Swaps.

On top of their list for the greatest sovereign risks are countries from the former Russian Eastern Bloc, conflict-torn nations, and an oil-rich dictatorship.

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Banks bet Greece defaults on debt they helped hide

Bets by some of the same banks that helped Greece shroud its mounting debts may actually now be pushing the nation closer to the brink of financial ruin.

Echoing the kind of trades that nearly toppled the American International Group, the increasingly popular insurance against the risk of a Greek default is making it harder for Athens to raise the money it needs to pay its bills, according to traders and money managers.

These contracts, known as credit-default swaps, effectively let banks and hedge funds wager on the financial equivalent of a four-alarm fire: a default by a company or, in the case of Greece, an entire country. If Greece reneges on its debts, traders who own these swaps stand to profit.

“It’s like buying fire insurance on your neighbor’s house — you create an incentive to burn down the house,” said Philip Gisdakis, head of credit strategy at UniCredit in Munich.

As Greece’s financial condition has worsened, undermining the euro, the role of Goldman Sachs and other major banks in masking the true extent of the country’s problems has drawn criticism from European leaders. But even before that issue became apparent, a little-known company backed by Goldman, JP Morgan Chase and about a dozen other banks had created an index that enabled market players to bet on whether Greece and other European nations would go bust.

Last September, the company, the Markit Group of London, introduced the iTraxx SovX Western Europe index, which is based on such swaps and let traders gamble on Greece shortly before the crisis. Such derivatives have assumed an outsize role in Europe’s debt crisis, as traders focus on their daily gyrations.

A result, some traders say, is a vicious circle. As banks and others rush into these swaps, the cost of insuring Greece’s debt rises. Alarmed by that bearish signal, bond investors then shun Greek bonds, making it harder for the country to borrow. That, in turn, adds to the anxiety — and the whole thing starts over again.

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Forest exile: Homeless New Yorkers camp out crisis

The recession has left many Americans in urgent need of shelter and with nowhere to go, forcing some to retreat to the woods. In the countryside, just one hour's drive from Manhattan, a shanty town of tents has sprung up. Anastasia Churkina meets the people for whom camping out, has become a way of life.

Kremlin responds to US-NATO threats

Russia Deploys Missiles on Western Frontier with European Union

by Anatoly Aliferov

The Iskander Missiles as the Guarantee of Normal Coexistence of Russia and Europe

Russia went public with the plan to deploy the Iskander missiles at its western frontier – in the Kaliningrad region or on the territories of neighboring countries, but the process of probing into Washington’s reaction is clearly taking too long. In politics, failure to appreciate the importance of acting quickly invariably creates problems, the above situation being a vivid example. The Iskanders are a remarkably potent weapon but it appears that Moscow risks playing the card as a minor element in the diplomatic game. One gets an impression that the threat to deploy the missiles in the Kaliningrad region has been aired too long for NATO on the whole or even Poland and the Czech Republic to take it seriously.

If this is the case and the powerful weapon is depreciated due to the evident lack of determination to use it, the adversary has reasons to conclude that the threat is nonexistent. In other words, NATO feels free to go on expanding east in line with its strategy and to disregard Russia’s objections as verbiage.

Recently Russian Minister of Defense and vehement proponent of the army reform A. Serdyukov inadvertently contributed to NATO’s resolution to make inroads into the post-Soviet geopolitical space. He said in Finland on February 19 that if Europe poses no threats to Russia there would be no Iskanders in the Kaliningrad region – they would be deployed only if threats emerge.

What does Serdyukov’s ‘if” amount to? The question is what new threats from the West does the Russian Defense Minister need to realize what is going on? The US stated with utmost clarity that its missile defense infrastructures would be sited in Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria. Other countries – Georgia and Turkey – will possibly also host them in the future. Is that not enough? Shall we wait for more? The threats are listed in Russia’s official military doctrine. Washington audaciously explains that it plans to site the missile shield in the proximity of Russia’s borders to neutralize the missile threat posed by North Korea and Iran. The authors of such “explanations” must be making fun of Russia.

M. Delyagin and V. Sheyanov exposed the folly of the above “defensive mentality” idly anticipating new threats in their The World Upside Down. Its carriers discern potential threats in the world around them but overlook entirely the opportunities linked to them. Failure to overcome the legacy of losing the Cold War and of under-performing during the past two decades breeds the “defensive mentality” in the ranks of Russian leaders that dooms the country to new defeats.

Gen. L. Ivashov wrote that Russia’s current military doctrine, military reform, and strategic arms control proposals are not synchronized and, moreover, are in disagreement over an array of significant issues. Is this not a promise of the coming new defeat?

You might ask how the Iskanders could help given the current state of Russia’s military affairs? An attempt to answer the question is made below.

The Iskander (NATO Reporting name SS-26 Stone) is a mobile theater ballistic missile system of a new generation superior to both other Russian missile systems (Skud-B, Tocka-U) and foreign analogs (Lance, ATACMS, Pluton, etc.). Designed by the Kolomna Machine-Building Design Bureau, the Iskander is built to suppress fire positions, air and missile defense systems, aircrafts at aerodromes, communication and control systems, and civilian infrastructures. The stealth technology is employed in the Iskanders which makes them invisible to radars. The Iskander performs evasive maneuvers and is immune to interception. It can be launched in complete darkness and can hit mobile targets with the precision of 2 m. At present no other missile system in the world boasts a comparable set of capabilities. The Iskander can be operated in combat continuously for 16 hours and is equivalent to nuclear weapon in terms of its overall potential.

If the decision to deploy Iskanders in the Kaliningrad region was actually made back when Russian President D. Medvedev mentioned the option for the first time, and undisguised preparations for the delivery of the missiles to the Russian enclave commenced (regardless of the situation around the US missile defense) now Moscow would not have to worry about responding to the US plan to station missile interceptors in Romania and Bulgaria. It is clear that the relations of partnership and mutual respect between Europe and Russia, which rank high on the list of Moscow’s priorities, could only be strengthened as the result.

Luckily, it is not yet late. There is still a chance that the Iskanders would serve as the guarantee of normal coexistence of Russia and the Atlantist Europe.

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Arundhati Roy on the Palestinian / Israeli Conflict

Segment from the film "We.." where Arundhati Roy speaks about the Israeli / Palestinian conflict in the middle east. Historic references, who funds it, and more.

Ukraine's Tynoshenko's withdrawal linked to delay in delivering highly advanced Russian S-300 Air Defense System to Iran

As a strategic analyst, what I do for my readers, is to connect the dots in Grand Strategy, military and economic strategy, and geopolitics. Often the dots do not seem to have any connection on the surface, but behind the scenes have a vital reason to be connected.

Such is the case with the Ukrainian presidential election, and the withdrawal of the Prime Minister Yulia Tynoshenko's legal challenge to the outcome of the election, and the delivery of the highly advanced S-300 Air Defense Missile System by Russia to Iran.

It was clear that neocon candidate, blond bombshell, Yulia Tynoshenko lost the election to the pro-Russian candidate. This was something that all the international observers agreed on. But the 'knives were out' for a 'battle royal' over the Ukraine - a battle between the international neocon/global banking cartel and Mother Russia. Suddenly, in a most unlikely move that surprised her supporters, Tynoshenko has dropped her challenge. You have to remember that the Ukraine has been a part of Russia, in the Russian Empire and then in the USSR, for hundreds of years. To the Russians, the Ukraine is as much a part of their nation as New York and New Jersey are to the Americans. The Russian Government considers that the matter of the outcome of the election to be a matter of vital national importance - those are words used to describe reasons to go to war regardless of the grave risk of such a war.

The Russians would not give in on 'western' demands to support much tougher sanctions on Iran and now suddenly the near-by (to Russia) Georgian republic is again 'heating up', threating another Georgian-Russian war with new supplies of American and Israeli military hardware. However, the Russians were willing to trade delaying the very high tech S-300 Air Defense System delivery to Iran for a neocon defeat/withdrawal in the Ukraine. Yulia Tynoshenko was 'thrown a bone' by being promised to be allowed to stay as Prime Minister for a while, but make no mistake about it, she was ordered to comply and she accepted in quick order as the good little neocon puppet she is.

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The Land Is Ours, Pure Genius, Wandsworth Eco-Village (1996)

The Land Is Ours - 'Pure Genius' Wandsworth Eco Village (1996) - 6 min - Aug 5, 2008
I was one of the Oxford based organisers and press spokespeople for the Easter 1996 Wandsworth Ecovillage so here is what I consider the best film made about our bit of practical eco living political theatre.
Wandsworth (Guinness site) John Pendragon and other residents comment on how and why they got involved in the TLIO occupation of the Guinness site just East of Wandsworth Bridge at Easter 1996. In May 1996, 500 The Land Is Ours (TLIO) activists occupied 14 acres of derelict land along the banks of the River Thames in Wandsworth. The land, owned by Guinness, had been vacant for six years, but was scheduled to be the site of a superstore (the ninth within a 1.5 mile radius) and luxury apartments. A pre-fabricated roundhouse was constructed, raised-bed veggie gardens were planted and a small village was built out of recycled materials. Local campaigners, particularly a guy called Kirk, were involved in building and running the eco-community, and thousands of folks came to visit. After holding the "Pure Genius" occupation for almost six months, 150 people on site were ousted by bailiffs acting for Guinness and the eco-village was flattened. The site was due to be designated as a nature conservation site by the London Wildlife Trust the next day.
Incredibly, Guinness won an Ecology Sponsorship Award in Geneva the same week that they ordered the eviction.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Photographers protest in Trafalgar Square

Thousands of photographers gathered in Trafalgar Square to protest against police stop-and-search tactics.

Musical Innerlube: Shadowfax - New Electric India

Harvard fellow calls for genocidal measure to curb Palestinian births

From Political Theatrics:

A fellow at Harvard University's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Martin Kramer, has called for “the West” to take measures to curb the births of Palestinians, a proposal that appears to meet the international legal definition of a call for genocide.

Kramer, who is also a fellow at the influential Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), made the call early this month in a speech at Israel's Herzliya conference, a video of which is posted on his blog (”Superfluous young men,7 February 2010).

In the speech Kramer rejected common views that Islamist “radicalization” is caused by US policies such as support for Israel, or propping up despotic dictatorships, and stated that it was inherent in the demography of Muslim societies such as Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip. Too many children, he argued, leads to too many “superfluous young men” who then become violent radicals.

Kramer proposed that the number of Palestinian children born in the Gaza Strip should be deliberately curbed, and alleged that this would “happen faster if the West stops providing pro-natal subsidies to Palestinians with refugee status.”

Due to the Israeli blockade, the vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza are now dependent on UN food aid. Neither the UN, nor any other agencies, provide Palestinians with specifically “pro-natal subsidies.” Kramer appeared to be equating any humanitarian assistance at all with inducement for Palestinians to reproduce.

He added, “Israel's present sanctions on Gaza have a political aim — undermine the Hamas regime — but if they also break Gaza's runaway population growth, and there is some evidence that they have, that might begin to crack the culture of martyrdom which demands a constant supply of superfluous young men.” This, he claimed, would be treating the issue of Islamic radicalization “at its root.”

The 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, created in the wake of the Nazi holocaust, defines genocide to include measures “intended to prevent births within” a specific “national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”

The Weatherhead Center at Harvard describes itself as “the largest international research center within Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences.” In addition to his positions at Harvard and WINEP, Kramer is “president-designate” of Shalem College in Jerusalem, a far-right Zionist institution that aspires to be the “College of the Jewish People.”

Pro-Israel speakers from the United States often participate in the the Herzliya conference, an influential annual gathering of Israel's political and military establishment. This year's conference was also addressed by The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and, in a first for a Palestinian official, by Salam Fayyad, appointed prime minister of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.

Kramer's call to prevent Palestinian births reflects a long-standing Israeli and Zionist concern about a so-called “demographic threat” to Israel, as Palestinians are on the verge of outnumbering Israeli Jews within Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories combined.

Such extreme racist views have been aired at the Herzliya conference in the past. In 2003, for example, Dr. Yitzhak Ravid, an Israeli government armaments expert, called on Israel to “implement a stringent policy of family planning in relation to its Muslim population,” a reference to the 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Christians face sectarian violence in South Asia

Pakistani Christian Beaten for Refusing to Convert to Islam

Brothers converted by Muslim cleric who raised them leave him for dead.

KALLUR KOT, Pakistan, February 22 (CDN) — The four older Muslim brothers of a 26-year-old Christian beat him unconscious here earlier this month because he refused their enticements to convert to Islam, the victim told Compass.
Riaz Masih, whose Christian parents died when he was a boy, said his continual refusal to convert infuriated his siblings and the Muslim cleric who raised them, Moulvi Peer Akram-Ullah. On Feb. 8, he said, his brothers ransacked his house in this Punjab Province town 233 kilometers (145 miles) southwest of Islamabad.
“They threatened that it was the breaking point now, and that I must convert right now or face death,” Masih said. “They said killing an infidel is not a sin, instead it's righteousness in the sight of Allah almighty.”

Masih begged them to give him a few minutes to consider converting and then tried to escape, but they grabbed him and beat him with bamboo clubs, leaving him for dead, he said.

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Punjab: clashes between Christians and Hindu extremists, Protestant church burned

Authorities in Batala, a town of Punjab, have partially removed curfew after clashes broke out last February 20 between Hindu extremists and the Christian minority. To violence was sparked by the publication of a cartoon with a picture of Jesus raising a beer in one hand and holding a cigarette in the other. The chief minister of Punjab condemns the blasphemous image and promises an iron fist against anyone who "foments sectarian hatred." Bishop Anil Couto, Bishop of Jalandhar, invites the faithful "to peace and brotherhood." 

The cartoon, published by a publisher in Delhi, has sparked protests from the Christian community of Batala, a town in the district of Gurdaspur in Punjab. On 20 February the city streets were the scene of violent clashes between Hindus and Christians, who wanted the closure of shops and businesses. Activists of Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Shiv Sena - Hindu extremist groups - waged a guerrilla war on the Christians, injuring to 10 people, damaging several shops and the burning of the Salvation Army Mukhi Fauj church, the city's oldest and best known.   

To stem the violence, local authorities have imposed a curfew, which has been partly removed today. A police official says that they want to give people the possibility to "to leave their homes for shopping or other necessities." He also adds that "the level of alert" remains high to prevent new clashes. 

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Bangladesh: War crimes trial process to begin in March-April

From Dhaka's New Age daily:

Law minister Shafique Ahmed said on Wednesday that the government would appoint an investigation agency and a panel of prosecutors by March-April for trial of war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence.

'I cannot give you any specific date for holding the trial. But there is no doubt that we will conduct the war crimes trial since it is our election pledge,' Shafique told reporters when he was asked to reply whether the appointments of the chairman, investigators and prosecutors would be made within March 26.

Shafique was speaking to newsmen after he visited the courtroom named international war crimes tribunal set up at the old High Court building for holding trial of the war crimes.

Home minister Sahara Khatun, Planning minister AK Khandker, state minister for law Quamrul Islam, housing and public works minister Abdul Mannan Khan, liberation war state minister ABM Tazul Islam, and leaders of the sector commanders' forum and Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee accompanied Shafique Ahmed.

'We will appoint the investigation agency as soon as possible,' Sahara said while she was asked when the home ministry will appoint investigation officers to probe the offences of the war crimes.

The court-room, in which the then former chief justice of the then East Pakistan used to sit, has been refurbished with sitting arrangements for prosecutors, investigation officers, media and observers from home and abroad, among others, for conducting the war crimes trial.

Asked whether the government had prepared any list of suspected criminals in connection with war crimes, the minister said the investigation agency would identify the persons who were involved in war crimes during the country's war of independence.

Replying to a query whether the suspects of the war crimes will be arrested soon, Shafique said, 'They (suspects) will be arrested when the investigation into the crimes will start.'
Expressing the need for holding trial of the war crimes, Sector commanders' Forum secretary general Harun-or Rashid said, 'We have lost at least 3,000 freedom fighters who witnessed the crimes during the war of independence since the present government had decided to hold the trial.'

Harun also urged the government to select one particular ministry which could coordinate matters related to holding of the war crime trials.

Citigroup warns customers it may refuse to allow withdrawals

John Carney reports for Business Insider:

The image of banks locking their doors to keep customers from making withdrawals during a bank run is what immediately came to mind when we heard that Citigroup was telling customers it has the right to prevent any withdrawals from checking accounts for seven days.

"Effective April 1, 2010, we reserve the right to require (7) days advance notice before permitting a withdrawal from all checking accounts. While we do not currently exercise this right and have not exercised it in the past, we are required by law to notify you of this change," Citigroup said on statements received by customers all over the country.

What's going on? It seems that this is something of an error. The seven day notice policy only applies to customers in Texas, Ira Stoll reports at The Future of Capitalism. It was accidentally included on customer statements nationwide.

"Whatever the explanation, it doesn't exactly inspire confidence in Citi," Stoll writes.  "But it's hard to believe a bank would be sending out a notice like that on its statements."

UPDATE: According to Stoll, Citi issued a statement saying that it has been required to make this change by Federal regulations--and it no longer sounds like it's limited to Texas:

Update: Citibank has now released the following statement by way of explanation: "When Citibank moved to unlimited FDIC coverage in 2009, we had to reclassify many checking accounts to allow for immediate withdrawals in order to ensure all customers qualified for the additional coverage. When we moved back to standard FDIC coverage with most major banks in 2010, Citibank decided to reclassify those accounts back to make them eligible again for promotional incentives. To do so, Federal Reserve Reg D requires these accounts, called NOW accounts, to reserve the right to require a 7-day notice of withdrawal. We recently communicated this technical requirement to our customers. However, we have never exercised this right and have no plans to do so in the future."

Taking Liberties

The trailer:

Freedom of Speech. Right to Privacy. Innocent Until Proven Guilty. Prohibition from Torture. TAKING LIBERTIES will reveal how these liberties have been systematically destroyed by New Labour, and the freedoms of the British people stolen from under their noses amidst a climate of fear created by the media and government itself.

Full video may be viewed here.

Ayn Rand: engineer of souls

Excerpt from the article by Anthony Daniels:

Rand's virtues were as follows: she was highly intelligent; she was brave and uncompromising in defense of her ideas; she had a kind of iron integrity; and, though a fierce defender of capitalism, she was by no means avid for money herself. The propagation of truth as she saw it was far more important to her than her own material ease. Her vices, of course, were the mirror-image of her virtues, but, in my opinion, the mirror was a magnifying one. Her intelligence was narrow rather than broad. Though in theory a defender of freedom of thought and action, she was dogmatic, inflexible, and intolerant, not only in opinion but in behavior, and it led her to personal cruelty. In the name of her ideas, she was prepared to be deeply unpleasant. She hardened her ideas into ideology. Her integrity led to a lack of self-criticism; she frequently wrote twenty thousand words where one would do.

Rand believed all people to be possessed of equal rights, but she found relations of equality with others insupportable. Though she could be charming, it was not something she could keep up for long. She was deeply ungrateful to those who had helped her and many of her friendships ended in acrimony. Her biographer tells us that she sometimes told jokes, but, in the absence of any supportive evidence, I treat reports of her sense of humor much as I treat reports of sightings of the Loch Ness monster: apocryphal at best.

A passionate hater of religion, Rand founded a cult around her own person, complete with rituals of excommunication; a passionate believer in rationality and logic, she was incapable of seeing the contradictions in her own work. She was a rationalist who was not entirely rational; she could not distinguish between rationalism and rationality. Of narrow aesthetic sympathies, she laid down the law in matters of artistic judgment like a panjandrum; a believer in honesty, she was adept at self-deception and special pleading. I have rarely read a biography of a writer I should have cared so little to meet.

The Russian tradition to which Rand belongs is not that of Gogol, Turgenev, and Chekhov but that of Dobrolyubov, Pisarev, and Chernyshevsky: that is to say, of angry literary and social critics, pamphleteers and ideologues. She was neither fully a philosopher, nor fully a novelist, but something in between the two—the characters in her novels are not creatures of flesh and blood but opinions on legs, and her expository prose has the quality of speechifying. This is not to say that a woman of her intelligence and life experience had nothing interesting to say or no insights to convey. She did, on occasion, put things very well. She was often shrewd, seeing the dangers of statism very clearly, when few others did.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sibel Edmonds: The traitors among us


by Brad Friedman
for HUSTLER MAGAZINE – March 2010

SIBEL EDMONDS, a former FBI translator, claims that the following government officials have committed what amount to acts of treason. They are lawmakers Dennis Hastert, Bob Livingston, Dan Burton, Roy Blunt, Stephen Solarz and Tom Lantos, as well as at least three members of George W. Bush's inner circle: Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz and Marc Grossman. But is Sibel Edmonds credible?

“Absolutely, she's credible,” Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told CBS's 60 Minutes when he was asked about her in 2002. “The reason I feel she's very credible is because people within the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story.” Edmonds's remarkable allegations of bribery, blackmail, infiltration of the U.S. government and the theft of nuclear secrets by foreign allies and enemies alike rocked the Bush Administration. In fact, Bush and company actually prevented Edmonds from telling the American people what she knew—up until now.

John M. Cole, an 18-year veteran of the FBI's Counterintelligence and Counterespionage departments, revealed the panic of upper-echelon officials when Edmonds originally started talking back in 2002. “Well, the Bureau is gonna have to try to work something out with Sibel,” Cole said an FBI executive assistant told him at the time, “because they don't want this to go out and become public.”

But they couldn't “work something out with Sibel” because, it seems, she wasn't looking to make a deal. Edmonds says she was looking to expose what she believed to be the ugly truth about the infiltration of the U.S. government by foreign spies. They were enabled, Edmonds claimed, by high-ranking U.S. officials and insider moles planted at nuclear weapons facilities around the nation.

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Rachel Corrie's family bring civil suit over human shield's death in Gaza

The family of the American activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza seven years ago, is to bring a civil suit over her death against the Israeli defence ministry.

The case, which begins on 10 March in Haifa, northern Israel, is seen by her parents as an opportunity to put on public record the events that led to their daughter's death in March 2003. Four key witnesses – three Britons and an American – who were at the scene in Rafah when Corrie was killed will give evidence, according the family lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein.

The four were all with the International Solidarity Movement, the activist group to which Corrie belonged. They have since been denied entry to Israel, and the group's offices in Ramallah have been raided several times in recent weeks by the Israeli military.

Now, under apparent US pressure, the Israeli government has agreed to allow them entry so they can testify. Corrie's parents, Cindy and Craig, will also fly to Israel for the hearing.

A Palestinian doctor from Gaza, Ahmed Abu Nakira, who treated Corrie after she was injured and later confirmed her death, has not been given permission by the Israeli authorities to leave Gaza to attend.

Abu Hussein, a leading human rights lawyer in Israel, said there was evidence from witnesses that soldiers saw Corrie at the scene, with other activists, well before the incident and could have arrested or removed her from the area before there was any risk of her being killed.

"After her death the military began an investigation but unfortunately, as in most of these cases, it found the activity of the army was legal and there was no intentional killing," he said. "We would like the court to decide her killing was due to wrong-doing or was intentional." If the Israeli state is found responsible, the family will press for damages.

Corrie, who was born in Olympia, Washington, travelled to Gaza to act as a human shield at a moment of intense conflict between the Israeli military and the Palestinians. On the day she died, when she was 23, she was dressed in a fluorescent orange vest and was trying to stop the demolition of a Palestinian home. She was crushed under a military Caterpillar bulldozer and died shortly afterwards.

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AE911Truth Press Conference Video

Richard Gage, AIA founder of Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth held a national press conference on Friday February 19th, 2010 to announce the important milestone of 1,000 licensed architects and engineers who demand a new investigation into the 9/11 events.

To learn more about the conference, click here.

Dr. Steven Jones, Prof David Ray Griffin and Erik Lawyer, founder of Firefighters for 9/11 Truth were also part of this historic conference in San Francisco, CA.

Video of press conference is available here.

Iran-Pakistan-China: The oil pipeline NATO doesn't want

From Stratfor:

China, Pakistan: The Drivers Behind a Possible Natural Gas Pipeline


China has reportedly said that it will join Pakistan and Iran in a proposed natural gas pipeline project if India bows out. While an Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project was never in the cards, a plan for an Iran-Pakistan-China pipeline actually has some merit.


China is ready to join Pakistan and Iran in building a natural gas pipeline, provided that India does not move ahead with its own plans to do so, Pakistan's Daily Times reported Feb. 11, citing unnamed sources. The proposed Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline has been on the table for years, and with good reason. It faces so many obstacles that it has almost zero chance of ever being built. A China-Iran pipeline, on the other hand, has potential for a number of reasons.

In order for a natural gas pipeline project to be viable, it requires five key ingredients: a source of natural gas, a consumer, someone willing to pay for developing it, a route that makes sense and someone with the organizational capacity to put it all together. While the IPI pipeline has the first two — Iran has plenty of natural gas reserves, which Pakistan and its neighbors are eager to consume — it lacks the other three.

Pakistan is less than willing to foot the bill for its own energy infrastructure (which has led to a lack of outside investment in Pakistan's energy sector), while India's organizational capabilities in this arena can best be described as schizophrenic. Neither country is willing (or able) to make up for the other's shortcomings. Additionally, it makes very little sense to create a pipeline route that would boost the mutual energy dependence between two states that have nuclear missiles permanently aimed at one other.

China, however, has the cash, capabilities and political will to make a “replacement” Iran-Pakistan pipeline happen. Since China's economic growth — and the resulting need for energy supplies to fuel that growth — is tied to political stability, China has the political will to bring energy projects to fruition. Its deep pockets and organizational experience ensure that China also has the ability to act upon that will. It already has worked its magic on energy projects in Central Asia and has toyed with the idea of building an underwater pipeline from Oman to Pakistan, with energy supplies ultimately to be shipped to China.

China is particularly keen on securing energy supplies that can be shipped over land routes. Supplies shipped over water are much easier for the United States to interrupt, given its uncontested control of the seas. Should U.S.-Chinese tensions ever rise sufficiently, the United States essentially could shut down China without firing a shot, simply by turning off its energy imports. While this is certainly not an immediate threat, land-based supply lines would reduce China's dependence on the goodwill of the U.S. Navy. (It should be noted that the Oman option is a less attractive route than Iran-Pakistan, since it marries the expense of a transcontinental pipeline with the vulnerability of a water route. Oman sits on the “wrong” side of the Gulf of Oman.)

An Iran-Pakistan-China pipeline would not come without its drawbacks, however — the greatest of which stems from Pakistan's internal instability. A pipeline route from Iran to China most likely would enter Pakistan in the southwestern region of Balochistan and pass northward across Punjab into the non-Pashtun (eastern) areas of the North-West Frontier Province through the Federally Administered Northern Areas, and then into Chinese-held areas of Kashmir. This route would avoid the Pashtun areas, where there is a jihadist insurgency under way, but it still would be vulnerable to attacks by tribal ethno-nationalist Baloch insurgents. It should be kept in mind, however, that the Pakistani state has cracked down harder on the Balochis than on the jihadists, which has limited the former to a low-intensity insurgency.

None of this is to say that the Iran-China pipeline will or will not happen. For the moment, it remains merely a rumor. However, amid all the other chatter about potential pipelines, this one actually has some possibility of success.

US plays spoiler in India-Pakistan pipeline accord
By Siddharth Srivastava

NEW DELHI - India's 10-day campaign to tie up a deal on a fresh source of energy has met with resistance from the United States. Reports, confirmed by Foreign Ministry officials in New Delhi, say the US has warned Pakistan of sanctions if it goes ahead with the proposed $4 billion, 2,600-kilometer Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. The US has been seeking democratic reforms in Iran and a clampdown on its nuclear program, which the Iranians maintain is for peaceful purposes.

The latest US threat comes in the wake of a marathon nine-hour meeting between Indian and Iranian officials in Tehran that reiterated both countries' firm commitment toward building the pipeline. Apart from the pipeline issue, India signed a US$22-billion deal to buy liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Iran over 25 years starting 2009. India recently signed a LNG deal with Qatar as well to tide over its energy shortages.

Pakistan's newspaper Dawn, as well as The Times of India, quoted officials in Washington saying that the US warned Pakistan of sanctions if it went ahead with the project, disregarding US concerns over Iran's nuclear plan. This is despite Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khurshid M Kasuri making a strong plea in favor of the pipeline given the potential revenue ($700 million in transit fees alone) and the country's need for energy security. Kasuri, who was in the US last week, impressed upon US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that Pakistan cannot abandon the project. However, the US believes that given the $1-billion-plus yearly aid that it has been advancing to Pakistan since 2002, the country should fall in line.

It's understood that Rice suggested to Kasuri that Pakistan should look at other options, including a pipeline from Qatar or the central Asian republic of Turkmenistan. Rice reportedly said that even if the US gave up its resistance to the pipeline, powerful groups within the US Congress would ensure that the project is derailed.

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Pipeline: India dare not defy Washington. Pakistan & Iran just did

The signing of the Iran-Pakistan pipeline and the release of Mumbai suspect Saeed on the eve of Richard Holbrooke's visit to Islamabad can be described in one word–Defiance. The signatures thumb their nose at the US sanctions on Iran and the release of the most hated person in Delhi asks India to read between the lines (read the finger between the index finger & second finger). It must have taken the PPPP all the guts it could muster, but the bottom line is that Mr. Gilani has prevailed and the pipeline deal between Tehran and Iran has been signed.

India dare not defy Washington. Pakistan just did.

This is not just a steel pipe running over barren land. This is a rope which ties Iran and Pakistan together in an embrace from which there is no retreat. This is the beginning of putting life into the dormant ECO (Economic Cooperation Organization. This is the resurrection of the RCD (Regional Cooperation for Development).

Iran and and Pakistan have been talking about the pipeline for more than a decade. However it took a personal effort from the Pakistani president and the Iranian leadership to finally push the deal through. From the very beginning, the US has opposed the Iran Pakistan pipeline for two reasons. It wanted the TAPI pipeline, and it it wanted Iran outside the pipeline grid.

In the end Iran and Pakistan won.

For a few hours it was touch and go. For the first time in the history of Tehran-Islamabad relations, the Pakistani ambassador had to face a mild demarche from Tehran. What is curious is the fact that even the demarche did not blame the Pakistani government, it blamed foreign powers staging the attack from Pakistani territory. PM Gilani and President Zardari went into overdrive, arrested every one of the named Jundallah agents and shipped them to Iran. The Pakistanis also sent the elite Pakistani commandos to chase down the Mossad and RAW agents who are supporting Jundullah. Apparently the concrete actions and the general visibility of CIA and the MI6 in Iran told the Iranians who the culprits behind Jundulllah are. The CIA has been spending $450 million to destabilize Iran, fomenting trouble in Iranian Krudistan, the Iranian Azeris, and Khuzistan (aka Arabistan). The apparent cooperation of the BLA, and Jundallah told Tehran reams about the “conspiracy” that is being hatched. The BLA did't do any favors by acknowledging the fact that they and Jundullah have an office in Tel Aviv.

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If India opts out, China may join IPI: Pak

Pakistan has sent a proposal to China asking it to join the $7.5-billion Iran-Pakistan- India (IPI) gas pipeline project if New Delhi pulls out of the venture.     

The Chinese government submitted a preliminary report to the Pakistani government seeking more information on the project.     

The report was submitted after President Pervez Musharraf, on his recent visit to China, asked his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao to join the project.      

Subsequently, Pakistan sent a proposal asking China to join the project in case India pulls out, the Daily Times quoted a senior petroleum ministry official as saying.       

Pakistan has also asked the Chinese government to conduct a feasibility study for the pipeline project.      

There has been no progress on the project since talks were held between India and Pakistan in Islamabad in April. The Indian government is yet to respond on the issue of the transit fee to be paid to Pakistan for Iranian gas transported across its territory.        

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who also holds the petroleum portfolio, is expected to hold talks on the project when he visits India on June 27.        

The petroleum ministry official said that if India pulls out of the project, the additional gas volume of 1.05 billion cubic feet per day would either be consumed by Pakistan or sold to China.       

Iran has no objection to China joining the pipeline project if India pulls out of the venture, the official said.

Iran-Pakistan Pipeline: Iran's New Economic Lifeline

While the world's eyes are focused on Iran and Pakistan, little attention has been paid to the two countries' recent decision to move ahead with their plans to connect their economies via a 1,300-mile natural gas pipeline  to export some 150 million cubic meters of Iran's South Pars field gas to Pakistan per day. The 25-year deal which was signed in the sidelines of a regional summit that brought together Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Tehran on May 24 may seem like a standard energy project. It isn't. This deal could have profound implications for the geopolitics of energy in the 21-century, for the future of south Asia as well as for America's ability to check Iran's hegemony in the Persian Gulf.

For both Iran and Pakistan the pipeline project would be highly beneficial. Iran sees in the pipeline not only an economic lifeline at a time when the US and its European allies are trying to weaken it economically but also an opportunity, should the pipeline be extended to either India or China, to create an unbreakable long term political and economic dependence of billions of Chinese and Indian customers on its gas. Pakistan, for its part, views the pipeline as the solution to its energy security challenge. Pakistan's domestic gas production is falling and its import dependence is growing by leaps and bounds. By connecting itself with the world's second largest gas reserve, Pakistan would guarantee reliable supply for decades to come. If the pipeline were to be extended to India it could also be an instrument for stability in the often tense Pakistan-India relations. Under any scenario of pipeline expansion which makes Pakistan a transit state Islamabad stands to gain from transit fees hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

Implications for the great powers

For the Obama administration the signing of the pipeline deal is a diplomatic setback which could undermine its policy of weakening Iran economically. Unlike the Bush Administration which was free to vocally oppose the project, including some unequivocal statements in opposition to the project by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Obama team chose to remain mute on the issue be it in order to facilitate rapprochement with Tehran or due to its reluctance to burden US-Pakistan relations at a volatile time when the Taliban is at Islamabad's gate. Should the worst happen and a Taliban style regime take over Pakistan, the economies of the world's most radical Shiite state and that of what could be the world's most radical Sunni state would be connected to each other for decades to come like conjoined twins.

While for America the pipeline is an anathema, for Russia it is an opportunity. For several months now, Moscow has been concerned that Iranian gas might compete with Russian exports on the European market. A constituency within the European Union that seeks to lessen its dependence on Russia has been advocating the construction of the Nabucco pipeline to pump Caspian Sea gas to Europe which would bypass Russia. It is therefore in Russia's interest to derail the Nabucco project by diverting Iran's gas away from Europe and locking it to the Asian market which for Russia is secondary (80% of Gazprom's export profits come from the Western European market). To this end Gazprom is keen to participate in the Iran-Pakistan pipeline project. "We are ready to join the project as soon as we receive an offer," Russia's deputy energy minister Anatoly Yankovsky said. This makes the Iran-Pakistan pipeline an irresolvable bone of contention between Washington and Moscow. While for the US the pipeline is a net geopolitical loss, for Russia it is another way to perpetuate its stranglehold over Europe. China also stands to potentially gain from the pipeline. Iranian gas will flow to the Balochistan province port of Gwadar, built with Chinese financing, in the Arabian Sea from where the gas could either be shipped to China either as LNG or run through a proposed pipeline going north, also financed by China, along the south-north Karakoram Highway, the highest paved international road in the world, connecting China's Xinjiang region with Pakistan's northern areas across the Karakoram mountain range.

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And a related news item:

China opens a major gas pipeline from Central Asia

The opening of a major natural gas pipeline linking Turkmenistan to western China is another sign of rivalry among the major powers seeking domination of the energy-rich region of Central Asia.

The presidents of China, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan attended the opening ceremony of the 1,833-kilometre pipeline on December 14. Natural gas will be pumped from the Saman-Depe field in eastern Turkmenistan via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to the western Chinese province of Xinjiang, then through China's main west-east pipeline to end users in 14 Chinese provinces and cities. When fully functional in 2012-13, the pipeline will deliver 40 billion cubic metres of gas annually—equal to over half China's current gas consumption (77.8 billion cubic meters in 2008).

At the ceremony, Chinese President Hu Jintao described the pipeline as “another platform for collaboration and cooperation” between China and Central Asia. In return for access to the region's huge energy reserves, China is building infrastructure and providing cheap loans to the Central Asian republics. Beijing's broader aim is to bring the region within its own political and strategic orbit.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Kenneth Rexroth: The May Revolt in France

From Rexroth's San Francisco 1968-1969

120 years have gone by and we are back where we were in 1848, the year of revolutions. The European empire of espionage, terror, subversion and wholesale bribery of cabinet ministers that had been set up by the Austrians and English with the unwieldy aid of the Russians broke down. As barricades went up in the streets of the capitals of Europe the comfortable classes found the whole thing incomprehensible. They looked back on forty odd years of what they considered peace and prosperity — The Happy Society. The revolutionists were disorganized, naïve, and basically without real leaders. Almost all the leading intellectuals were passionate supporters of the revolutionary movement but largely for personal and melodramatic reasons, although the most astute were aware of the fundamental change in the moral foundations of society that the masses were demanding.

This was a period in which Marx brought to its final definition his theory of human self-alienation. The terms were those of the left wing followers of Hegel, but he was certainly not alone in diagnosing the fundamental cause of the world ill. Throughout the intervening generations all but a handful of romantic anarchists have assumed that the fundamental problem, the radical divorce of man from his work, men from one another, and man from himself, would be solved indirectly by political and economic change. Today we have, over most of the world, either welfare states or state capitalism — total government control of the means of production and distribution. Human self-alienation has not decreased but increased, everywhere.

So has the incomprehension of the comfortable classes. They say to blacks, “What is it you people want? Give us a program. The Supreme Court has guaranteed that you are just as equal as we are.” To the young, “We gave you everything your heart desired; we sent you to the most expensive schools; your sports car cost twice as much as our Buick. All you ever had to do was ask. Why are you living in this filthy room, sleeping with twenty people on the floor, taking dope and living on popsicles?” They say to the police, “I tried to be a real pal to him; only last week I bought him the most expensive outboard motor. I simply can't believe my eyes as I see him hanging there.” They are totally, absolutely, utterly and incurably incapable of realizing that they have made life intolerable.

A generation ago the great Jesuit scientist and philosopher Teilhard de Chardin said, “The revolutions of the past hundred years have been for political and economic objectives. The great revolution of the latter part of the twentieth century will be to change the quality and meaning of life.” Thank God he said it. I must have quoted it one hundred times trying to get some inkling of what's happening into the heads of the straight and square world.

Youth, blacks, the starving inhabitants of the neocolonial world, are alienated by definition. They are not alienated on the job — like a worker on the assembly line whose conditions of life and work turn him into a mindless appetitive automaton, lured on from day to day through a world empty of all human values by the bait of meaningless commodities dangled before him in the idiot box. American college students, the blacks in Hunters Point, the Indians of India or Arizona dying of malnutrition in mud huts, are outside the society and look at it as a whole. What they see is unadulterated moral horror, made doubly evil and terrifying by the fatuous boasts of idiot politicians — The Great Society, The Happy Society, You Never Had It So Good and by college administrators who are superprogressives and can quote Paul Goodman, A.S. Neill, Signora Montessori, at the flip of a punched card, and militant civil rights advocates who are passionate practitioners of high-toned miscegenation.

Probably the most significant thing about the explosion in France is the revelation of the moral bankruptcy of the establishment. Neither the General nor the leaders of the Communist Party had the faintest idea of what it was all about. De Gaulle had no explanation except the sublimely comic one that it was all due to the Communists. The Communists, with just enough insight to be really scared, indiscriminately denounced the revolt — both of the rank and file leaders of the striking workers and of all the youth — with savage, unbridled abuse. The terms of this slanging match were derived from the political argot of a bygone age. De Gaulle might have been Clemenceau attacking Jaurès. The Communist bureaucrats picked their vocabulary from the records of the Moscow trials.

Most significantly the labor bureaucrats united in striving to behead the movement with “pork chops” — as American labor slang has it, with wages and hours sops. But the French working class are as well off as any in Europe except the Swedes and the West Germans. They did not rise for wages and hours, although they may give up if sufficiently bribed. Every effort was made by the left politicians and trade union bureaucrats to create antagonism between youth, the workers and the peasants who were just beginning to join the revolt. What all these people (“piecard artists” is the old American labor slang) were united in defending was Their Way of Life and it was this the revolt was against.

Whatever the temporary settlement in France, this rejection of the immense, deadly system of false values which has ruled the age of commerce and industry will not stop. The sentiment is shared by the millions within the counterculture all over the world who are under attack from university presidents, ghetto police and CIA-subsidized politico-militarists. Their Way of Life is unbearable and they are passing over to the assault.

[June 1968]

NOTE: For the situationists' accounts and analysis of the May revolt, see The Beginning of an Era and May 1968 Documents. For a little taste of the spirit of the revolt, see May 1968 Graffiti.

Henry Miller - Bathroom monologue

Needless to say, this is adult-only material...

MI5 facing five more torture investigations

A senior lawyer in the office of Baroness Scotland, the attorney general, has been studying the cases of five British men alleged to have been unlawfully detained and tortured in Pakistan with the complicity of MI5.

Baroness Scotland is expected to decide this week whether there is sufficient evidence to refer the cases to Scotland Yard for a full investigation.
Ali Dayan Hasan, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, said he has been given evidence from Pakistani officials that MI5 and MI6 officers knew about the torture but continued to take part — directly or indirectly — in interrogations.

Allegations of complicity in the torture of Britons have become MI5's biggest crisis of recent years.

There has been a backlash in Whitehall amid the belief that human rights lawyers and Islamic activists are, perhaps unwittingly, helping the cause of Islamic extremism.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph earlier this month, Jonathan Evans, the director-general of MI5, issued a passionate defence of the Security Service against the "conspiracy theory" that it covered up its involvement in torture.

It came after Lord Neuberger said that there was a "culture of suppression" at MI5.

Baroness Scotland called in detectives over two cases last year, including that of Binyam Mohamed, the former Guantánamo Bay detainee who was tortured by the CIA.

An MI5 officer who questioned Mr Mohamed in Pakistan is the subject of the Metropolitan police inquiry into whether he broke international laws on torture.

Detectives are also examining the role of MI5 in the case of Shaker Aamer, an inmate of Guantanamo Bay whose family lives in London, and an MI6 officer is under investigation over a British resident illegally detained in Pakistan in 2002.

The five new cases being considered include that of a 24-year-old medical student, identified only as ZZ, who was allegedly abducted off the street and tortured for two months in a building opposite the British deputy high commission in Karachi. Towards the end of his detention, he says, he was questioned by two British intelligence officers.

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