Friday, March 5, 2010

Greece: Taking to the streets

The newly announced austerity measures have brought a new wave of protest. Demonstrations are taking place all over the country and a general strike is underway in the public sector.

Some videos from the actions in Athens:

'Only collapse will change American system'

For decades, US musicians and artists have used their position to fight for social justice, often holding the government to account. But according to the band Thievery Corporation, the platform for doing so has changed.


1991 by Daniel Greaves

Leaked documents reveal GOP plan to use scare tactics to raise money

National GOP leaders are doing damage control today after a Politico scoop lifted the curtain on the party's plan to tap voters' "fear" in the coming campaign season. The PR problem started when an absent-minded attendee at the Republican National Committee (RNC) confab on February 18 in Boca Grande, Florida, left a 72-page document from its 2010 strategizing session in a hotel room. Today, Politico reporter Ben Smith's expose is making headlines.

The memo tracks the fundraising presentation that RNC Finance Director Rob Bickhart delivered to the RNC's $2,500-a-head annual retreat. The best path to victory in 2010, the document advises, is for Republican candidates to depict themselves as the best hope for resisting the "trending toward socialism" taking shape in a Democrat-dominated Washington.

[ ... ]

The embrace of harsh rhetoric and the swipes at the large donor set seem to signal the GOP establishment's growing comfort with employing tactics associated with the activist Tea Party movement—and with plying Tea Party sympathizers for cash. Of course, it isn't unusual for parties out of power to court controversy and play with fire to rile up donors and grass-roots activists. The RNC has caught heat for fundraising tactics in the past, most recently when it was caught sending out fake census forms to raise money. And Democrats have shown a demagogic streak in the past, depicting George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as Bond-like supervillains and playing up alleged GOP plans to kill Social Security to rally voters behind a popular entitlement program.

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Greece paralysed by fresh national strike

From Earth Times:

Athens - A nationwide strike against austerity measures was set to paralyse Greece Friday, with government departments, municipal offices, banks, hospitals, schools and transport services all shutting down. The 3-hour strike and demonstration called by Greece's largest private and public sector labour unions will force the closure of government ministries, state services, municipal offices and banks beginning at noon, while schools will remain closed for the day.

Athens announced the latest in a series of public sector cuts this week, aimed at pulling debt-plagued Greece from the brink of a bankruptcy which has also threatened the stability of the euro.

Meanwhile Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou was due in Berlin Friday for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel, the leader of Europe's largest economy and widely seen as holding the veto over any EU bail-out of Greece.

Hospitals were functioning with emergency staff as doctors also joined in the walkout and journalists are also joining the strike from 0900 until noon.

Rail and road transport across the country have been cancelled for 24-hours while air traffic controllers called a four-hour walk-out beginning at noon.

Olympic Air and Aegean said they was forced to cancel more than 20 flights and reschdedule the times for another 74 domestic and international flights.

The country`s national theatre cancelled all productions for Friday and the Actor`s Union also agreed to strike.

The two main unions, which represent 2.5 million workers or roughly half of the country`s workforce urged workers to demonstrate on Friday and to hold a mass 24-hour strike on March 16.

The new budgetary measures, the third in recent months, include cutting public sector bonuses by 30 per cent, freezing pensions, a new tax on luxury goods, alcohol and cigarettes and increasing consumer taxes - including a 21 per cent sales tax.

"The measures are unjust and will only hurt the lower and middle-classes and push the country into a deeper recession with higher unemployment," said GSEE union President Giannis Panagopoulos.

Hundreds of demonstrators from the country's labour group PAME reportedly blocked Athens` two luxury hotels, the Hilton and the Grand Bretagne, on Friday preventing tourists and guests from entering or leaving the buildings.

Elsewhere in Athens, hundreds of employees of former state-owned Olympic Airways continued to occupy the General Accounting Office in central Athens, blocking roads outside.

More than 4,000 employees were laid-off after Olympic Airways was sold to Marfin Investment Group Holdings after several unsuccessful privatisation attempts in 2009.

Greece is now awaiting support from the European Union after announcing a new wave of cuts, worth some 4.8 billion euros (6.5 billion dollars) in a bid to avert bankruptcy.

Greece's newly elected Socialists admitted to the EU last October that its budget deficit had reached a staggering 12.7 per cent of GDP in 2009.

The country's 300-billion-euro mountain of debt and its accountancy deceptions have shaken faith in the strength of the euro, with EU partners fearing that the unstable market will spread to other eurozone members that have big deficits, such as Spain and Portugal.

Opinion polls conducted before the latest set of measures showed more than half of those surveyed backed the government`s efforts to deal with the crisis, but the unions are stepping up pressure with more protests.

Greece has pledged to cut its deficit from 12.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009 to the 3-per-cent limit prescribed by the European Union by 2012, with a 4-percentage-point reduction envisaged in 2010.

The state of Greece`s troubled public finances nearly sparked a run on the euro, and hiked the country`s borrowing costs.

Analysts say social unrest is likely to do little to calm international investors, who have dragged down the value of the euro and boosted the risk premium on buying Greek government bonds in recent weeks amid fears that Greece could default on its debt.

Athens will need to present further belt-tightening measures by March 16, when it is due to present its first monthly report to the European Commission on the state of its public finances.

Twelve New England towns demand 9/11 reinvestigation

A new movement to reinvestigate the 9/11 attacks is gaining pace in the US. With major public support, 12 towns are set to decide whether to ask the federal government for a new independent probe.

New York is dubbed as the Empire State for its wealth and resources and is rightfully regarded as America's most famous city, a beacon of fashion, finance and fast paced action.

New Hampshire is the Granite State of so-called self sufficiency. Less flash and cash, most famous for hosting the first U.S. presidential primary.

New York and New Hampshire are more than 200 miles apart, but for all that distance, the two US locations intersect on one issue: the 9/11 attacks. While it was in Manhattan where three buildings fell, the people of Keene, New Hampshire are pushing for a new probe to find out why.

At 81 years old, Gerhard Bedding devotes nearly all his time to the Vote for Answers campaign. Though the movement for a new 9/11 investigation began in the Big Apple, it's seeing more success in New Hampshire.

“This is so central to the future of this country. There is no future, as far as I'm concerned, if we do not get to the bottom of this, because we steep in lies upon lies, and soon we do not know what is what anymore,” Bedding said. “I do believe truth matters.”

Apparently, so do thousands of others. Twelve towns are making a new 9/11 inquiry a ballot box issue this spring. Voters heading to the polls will vote on a non-binding resolution that supporters hope eventually sparks momentum and legislative power nationwide.

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Gordon Brown to stop courts issuing arrest warrants for foreign officials

The move follows an outcry over a series of attempts to detain high-profile figures during trips to London, including Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli foreign minister.

Under the proposals, the Crown Prosecution Service will take over responsibility for prosecuting war crimes and other violations of international law.

It will end the current system in which magistrates are obliged to consider a case for an arrest warrant presented by any individual.

Writing for the The Daily Telegraph, Gordon Brown says he will set out proposals to put the CPS in sole charge of judging the merits of any case brought under international law.

Labour MPs have been told the changes will be set out to the Justice Select Committee today and the government will legislate after consultation.

Senior Israeli officials had spearheaded the protests, expressing disappointment that Britain allowed private individuals to use its courts to allege war crimes and other human rights violations.

Mrs Livni, who is currently leader of the opposition, was forced to cancel a trip earlier this year after discovering a pro-Palestinian group had secured an arrest warrant for alleged crimes committed during last year's military operation in Gaza.

She hailed the change but said the government had moved too late to prevent damage to Britain's international reputation.

"The current situation in the UK enables the more cynical elements to take advantage of the system. The warrant that was issued against me according to the legislation was an absurd use of this law," she said.

"A change in the law is necessary and should have been made before, not for Israel but for the UK and any other country in the world that fights terrorism – the same terrorism that prevents us from achieving peace."

Israeli officials said the development had damaged British influence in the Middle East by hampering official visits to consult on the peace process.

Mr Brown said the introduction of the right to prosecute international crimes in Britain had been right and necessary but that the process had been abused by activists.

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Are we headed for a Soviet-style collapse? - Dmitry Orlov

Complete video at

Author Dmitry Orlov explains his notion of "Superpower Collapse Soup," and compares the modern United States to the USSR prior to that country's collapse in the early 1990s. Orlov argues the two nations are similar in a number of ways, including shortages in the production of crude oil, an expanding military budget, a severe trade deficit, and ballooning foreign debt.


With vintage Russian black humor, Dmitry Orlov describes the social collapse he witnessed in Russia in the 1990s and spells out its practical lessons for the American social collapse he sees as inevitable.

The American economy in the 1990s described itself as "Goldilocks" - just the right size - when in fact is was "Tinkerbelle," and one day the clapping stops.

As in Russia, the US made itself vulnerable to the decline of crude oil, a trade deficit, military over-reach, and financial over-reach. -- The Long Now Foundation

Dmitry Orlov is an engineer and a writer on subjects related to Peak Oil. He was born in Leningrad and moved to the United States at the age of 12. Orlov was an eyewitness to the collapse of the Soviet Union over several extended visits to his Russian homeland between the late 1980s and mid-1990s. He has a BS in Computer Engineering and an MA in Applied Linguistics. His latest book is Reinventing Collapse (June 2008). His article Closing the Collapse Gap compares the collapse-preparedness of the USA and the USSR.

~ Via ~

Mysterious deaths of 9/11 Witnesses (MUST SEE)

So many 9/11 witnesses or people who would seem to have knowledge of the cover up have been mysteriously dying. This all can't be a coincidence.

Shooting suspect may have had 9/11 conspiracy

Pentagon police patrol the Pentagon after a shooting in Washington, Thursday, March 4, 2010. A gunman coolly drew a weapon from his pocket and opened fire at the teeming subway entrance to the Pentagon complex Thursday evening, wounding two police officers before being shot and critically wounded, officials said.

There are emerging signs that the suspect in a Pentagon subway station shooting may have harbored resentment for the military and had doubts about the facts behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The suspect, John Patrick Bedell, died after exchanging gunfire with two police officers.

In an Internet posting, a user named JPatrickBedell wrote he was determined to see justice for the 1991 death of a Marine in California. The death was ruled a suicide but has long been the source of coverup theories. The writer said the case would be a step toward revealing the truth behind 9/11.

The user also railed against enforcement of marijuana laws.

The screen name can be linked to the suspect in Thursday's attack through documents about a marijuana arrest that were posted on the site, which match the date of birth of the shooter and official court records available online.

~ Link ~

RIGHTS-GERMANY: 'Catholic Church Protects Paedophile Priests'

By Julio Godoy

BERLIN, Feb 28, 2010 (IPS) - The Catholic Church has for decades protected paedophile priests and clerics who sexually abused children from judiciary prosecution, according to German theologians, law experts, and internal church documents.

The church hierarchy's complicity was confirmed recently through thousands of denouncements against numerous priests in Germany. In practically all the cases, the abusers were only transferred from one jurisdiction to another and never legally prosecuted.

Similar cases of sexual abuse of children within Catholic schools and other institutions, with impunity for the abusers, have been documented in such countries as Austria, Australia, France, Italy, the Philippines, Spain, and the United States.

In Germany, the denouncements started last January, when Klaus Mertes, director of the Catholic Canisius high school in Berlin, in an open letter addressed to former students, apologised for the sexual abuse priests had inflicted on them in the 1970s and 1980s.

In the letter, Mertes said that he knew "since years" of the abuse, and called them "systematic and years-long." He also urged the victims to reveal the precise the nature of the abuse and encouraged them to ''break the wall of silence" maintained around the cases.

Much attention has fallen on the Canisius high school, managed by the Jesuit order, and rated as one of the best educational institutions in Germany.

On Feb. 14, Mertes said at a press conference that the number of cases of sexual abuse at Canisius reached "the hundreds" and suggested that the Catholic church pay financial reparations to the victims.

The Berlin-based lawyer Manuela Groll, who legally counsels several of the victims of the Canisius school, confirmed Mertes' estimations. "I receive new denouncements practically every day," Groll told IPS. "I am sure the number of victims reaches three digits."

Since Mertes' revelations, hundreds of other cases of paedophilia perpetrated by priests have been confirmed in numerous other Catholic schools across Germany. Much of the abuse goes back to the 1960s and 1970s, but some it was committed as late as 2002.

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Venezuela's CANTV: What should a 21st century "socialist" telecommunications company look like?

Daniel Chavez interviewed by Nick Buxton for the Transnational Institute

Venezuela's revolution has often been tied to the slogan “Socialism in the 21st Century.” What might that might mean concretely in changes under way in the renationalised state telecommunications company, CANTV?

TNI fellow, Daniel Chavez has been part of a team of international advisers working with Venezuelan researchers and CANTV to review the the state telecommunications company's history and put forward proposals for converting it into an effective socialist public company.

Tell us about the history of CANTV.

CANTV is the second largest company in Venezuela after the energy giant PDVSA. It not only provides telephone services, both landline and mobile; it also provides internet, satellite coverage and will soon provide digital TV (IPTV). It has gone through the usual history of many utilities in Latin America, firstly starting as a private company, then nationalised in 1953, before being privatised in 1991. In 2007, it was renationalised.

According to neoliberal ideologues at the time, CANTV was privatised for two main reasons: the first was that the services were bad and the second was that the state didn't have enough money to make necessary investments in the context of global technological change. Of course, similar arguments were made throughout Latin America and around the world to justify the wave of privatisation of water, electricity, health, education, telecommunications and other public services.

In Venezuela, the process was led by President Carlos Andrés Peréz in what was called the Gran Viraje (Great Turning) in which other companies were also privatised, such as ports and productive industries. That was also the beginning of the virtual privatisation of PDVSA, which for several years (until President Chavez's government regained control) theoretically remained in the hand of the state but was effectively managed as a private company.

So why was it re-nationalised?

CANTV was renationalised in 2007, as part of the broader Bolivarian project of recovering public ownership and management of strategic companies. Chavez had earlier threatened the company with nationalisation, after its refusal to attend to the demands of company employee pensioners.

Under the new Bolivarian legislation, telecommunications was declared a human right. This was a major challenge to the dominant paradigm, which views telecommunications from a profit-centered perspective.

Many analysts agree that telecommunications is essential for many dimensions of human development, but generally this hasn't been translated into public policy. The Bolivarian government argued that CANTV was failing to meet its social commitments as a privatised company, as agreed in the original contract signed in 1991; for example most investment was being made in coastal regions and the northern part of Venezuela as these was profitable, denying access to poorer, indigenous and geographically isolated communities.

Our research also showed that while the company was profitable and paying taxes, most of the dividends were going abroad as the main shareholder of the company was a US multinational giant, Verizon. Now those resources are being invested within the country.

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